Thursday, December 31, 2015

Merry 7th Day of Christmas!

2015 has been a year of new life for me.  I wonder what God will help me make of 2016.
As I began writing I heard a powerful reading of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, Ring Out, Wild Bells, published in 1850.  Here is the beginning and end of it:

Ring out wild bells, to the wild sky
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring happy bells across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true....

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand years of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

(I so wish I could share a picture with you.  Maybe in the new year?)

Monday, December 28, 2015

Merry 4th Day of Christmas

I've spent the afternoon sending Christmas cards.  It feels good to remember and be in touch with people I haven't heard from in a year.  I think it was Dickens who said, "Memory burns brightest at Christmas!"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Merry 3rd Day of Chistmas!

Touch Hands. This poem by William Henry Harrison Murray is an old favorite of mine, made more meaningful by recent events:
Ah, friends, dear friends, as years go on
  and heads get gray,
  how fast the guests do go!
Touch hands, touch hands,
  with those that stay.
Strong hands  to weak,
  old hands to young,
  around the Christmas board, touch hands.
The false forget, the foe forgive,
  for every guest will go
  and every fire burn low
  and cabin empty stand.
Forget, forgive, for who may say
  that Christmas day may ever come
  to host or guest again.
Touch hands!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry 2nd Day of Christmas!

Family has changed enormously over the centuries.  As we see more and more variety, it might be good to remind ourselves that love, not biology, is what makes a family.
That certainly was true for Mary and Joseph.  He was not the biological father of Jesus, but in love he accepted Jesus as his son and showed a father's love and care for the boy.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

A little girl
Had wandered in the night, and now within
The shadows of a broken stall, was waiting,
While  the night winds and the breath of time
Were moving over her...
Starlight moving imperceptibly.
The drift of time.  And then a moment's fall,
The last that we should know of loneliness.
A sign, unheard within the dark, and then...

She wrapped him up in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger.

And then
She knelt and held Him close against her heart,
And in the midnight, adoration fused
With human love, and was not separate....

This is God's chosen way with men,
To take men's way: and so the streets she walks
And all the roads, the shepherd and the shepherds'
Sheep, the winds, the firelight, Israel's hills,
Will find just this, no more, a woman plain
Upon the earth, and in her arms, a Child.

(from John W. Lynch's A Woman Wrapped in Silence)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Gift of Life

Being in the hospital, I missed last Christmas.  This year as I decorate and send cards, I am often deeply moved at the thought that I am alive to do these Christmas things again. 
Life is the best Christmas gift, not only life in the Spirit, but also life in my body.  A new heart in every way.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Brilliant Religious Thinker

Yesterday I said that "2nd Isaiah" probably came to his confession of one God along with other Jews in the Babylonian Exile.  Upon further reflection I like to think, rather, that he was a brilliant, unique, religious thinker.  (I thought of Einstein in science.)  In  2nd Isaiah's own deep prayer and individual meditation, he becomes convinced that there is only one God.  He feels impelled to tell others.  He is bold enough to put in the mouth of God these words: "Besides me there is no god."
For 2nd Isaiah the one God is responsible for the entire cosmos, the God of the natural world and the God of history.  This one God has the care of all the nations (gentiles) and intends to save them all.  2nd Isaiah links monotheism with universal salvation.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

One God

I was surprised to find out that the earliest explicit confession of monotheism in the Bible is Isaiah 44:6: "I am the first and the last; besides me there is no God."  In case we missed it he repeats his confession twice in 45: 5-6: "I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides me there is no god....there is no one besides me; I am the Lord and there is no other."
The author of the second part of Isaiah, chapters 40:1-55:13, was living in Babylon during the Exile about 540 years before Jesus.  He probably did not arrive at this revolutionary insight all by himself. No doubt, he and his fellow Jewish thinkers in exile arrived at this conclusion as they looked askance at the many "gods" of the Babylonians.  The remarkable insight that there is only one God is so mind-blowing that it colors our whole way of reading the Old Testament even before Isaiah.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unrestrained Joy

"Unrestrained joy" is the phrase that Father Ray Brown uses to describe the scene in Luke's Gospel where Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth (1:39-45.)  The Divine saturates the scene and  envelops the two women and they brim over with joy.  Even the baby in Elizabeth's womb jumps for joy.
Teilhard de Chardin says, "Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God."

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Dark Lady

I have seen Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast is today, referred to as "The Dark Lady." She came in the color and appearance of a Mexican Indian to Juan Diego, a Mexican Indian.  It's the reason this story appeals to me.  Mary comes in the form with which Juan Diego is comfortable.
God's way with us is to take our way, to become Flesh.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In Our Midst

"O come, O come, Emmanuel!" we sing during Advent.  Emmanuel means "God with us," yet we are asking God-With-Us to come.  This Advent tension is present throughout the season.  This coming Sunday the prophet Zephaniah assures us, "The Lord your God is in your midst (3:17.)"  When we pray for God to come, it is not to bring God closer; God couldn't be any closer. We are praying that God will sharpen our awareness of God-With-Us and enlarge our welcoming love.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Year 2 Begins

My heart attack happened a year ago yesterday.
Love Who love us, thank You.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

All Humanity

When Luke quotes Isaiah in 3:1-6, he goes one line further than Mark and Matthew to include Isaiah's "and all humanity shall see the salvation of God."  Luke continues it to include the promise of universal salvation, a prominent theme in his Gospel.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Seeing Him

Sunday I read Truman Capote's A Christmas Story.  It comes closer than any fiction I know to capturing the significance of the Incarnation, God becoming flesh.  Capote tells how as a 7 year old he made Christmas preparations with his friend, who was "sixty something, though still a child."  Near the end of the story, as they lie in the grass, watching their kites cavort in the sky, she exclaims,
"I've always thought that a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord.  And I imagined that when He came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don't know it's getting dark.  And it's been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling.  But I'll wager it never happens.  I'll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself.  That things as they are, just what they've always seen, was seeing Him.  As for me I could leave the world with today in my eyes."

Saturday, November 28, 2015

eyes not his

In a night when I couldn't sleep I came across a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that helped me to go back to sleep and has stayed with me since.  He is not an easy poet.  Take some time with this ending to the poem:
...the just man...
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is--
Christ--for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanks, Love

Thanks, Love, for waking me on this Thanksgiving morning with the full moon shining on my face through a western window.
Thanks, Love, for a new heart, and for returning strength and wits, and for the gift of enjoying another Thanksgiving Day with my family.
Thanks, Love, for taking on flesh and coming to make Your home among us.
Thanks, Love, for the long, all too human tradition of our Catholic faith and for Pope Francis and the newness and mercy that he urges on us.
Thanks, Love, for our country and for the freedom of our way of governing ourselves.
Thanks, Love, for all the beauty that you lavish on us in nature and in art and poetry and fiction and music and movies.
Thanks, Love, for living in us and loving us beyond imagining, beyond deserving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Drawing Near

With the First Sunday of Advent, we begin reading from the Gospel According to Luke.  This is my favorite Gospel and the story of the Prodigal Son is my favorite passage in the Bible.  It seems strange but the first passage (Luke 21: 25-36) that we read this Sunday is an echo of Mark's "Little Apocalypse" which we heard two weeks ago as the end of the church year was approaching. 
Now as we begin to prepare ourselves to celebrate the long ago coming of Jesus, we remind ourselves that he will come again in the future.  He tells us in verse 28, " Your redemption is drawing near." 
It is a challenge as well as a comfort.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Power from Love

John designs the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate to help his readers think about what kind of power Jesus has (John 18:33-37.)  Pilate tries to put Jesus into the category of "king," but Jesus says, "That's not really what I am.  My power is very different from the kind of power you exercise."
Christ gets his power from love.  As we surrender more and more to his gracious love, we find ourselves wanting to love Jesus back and able to do that with his own love, willing to love others with the love of Jesus, even those we find unlovely. The love of Jesus reaching others through us transforms them into lovers like Jesus.  And so his influence spreads.
Pilate got his power from the emperor; Jesus gets his power from love.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A King?

In his trial before Pontius Pilate Jesus tells the governor that his kingdom is not of this world.  How does kingship work in "the other world"?  Not by demanding obedience and ordering people around.  Jesus' strategy for conquering our hearts is vey simple - he loves us.
Over and over Jesus says to us, "You are precious to me.  No matter what you have done nor how low you have fallen, I cherish you.  I care what becomes of you."  His strategy works.  Such love is irresistible. We surrender.  His way of loving takes over our lives. 
How his rule will spread when every Christian on earth loves as Christ loves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Alpha and Omega

In the first vision of Jesus in Revelation he says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was and who is to come." (1:8)  Identifying himself as the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet expresses Christ's reign from the very beginning to the end of the world.  "I AM" is the name God revealed to Moses in the Burning Bush.  Here and elsewhere that name is developed into "who is and who was and who is to come." 
It is a vision of a Christ who reigns from all eternity into all eternity.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Prostitute as Christ

Dorothy Day and another woman were arrested for walking up 5th Avenue in NYC during a air raid practice when everybody was to have been off the streets.  Another way Day had of protesting war.  They were put in jail cell with prostitutes.  One of them approached Dorothy's companion.  Dorothy yelled at her in anger and sent her to the other side of the cell. 
During the night Dorothy remembered J.D Salinger's Zooey (which I wrote about in the last post).  She recognized that the prostitute was Christ.  The next morning she apologized to the prostitute for being so mean to her the night before.
How wonderful when a work of art can jolt us into recognizing Christ in those whom we find unattractive!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day's birthday was last Sunday.  She was born November 8, 1897, and died November 29, 1980.  What impressed me most about her was her awareness of Jesus living in others.  In an article she wrote in the late 1950's she quoted from J.D. Salinger's Zooey.  Franny has asked her brother Zooey why their oldest brother Seymour told her to polish her shoes before going on the radio and to do such a needless thing "for the Fat Lady."
Zooey replies, "There isn't anyone anywhere who isn't Seymour's Fat Lady.  Don't you know that?  Don't you know that secret yet?  And don't you know--listen to me, now--don't you know who that Fat Lady really is?...Ah, buddy.  Ah, buddy.  It's Christ Himself.  Christ Himself, buddy."
A mantra for me at 20, "The Fat Lady is Jesus Christ."

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Beauty without Pictures

It has been frustrating not being able to share with you some of the many beautiful pictures that I have taken in the last few months.  I have decided, however, to at least start writing again.  We have been having extraordinary weather for this time of year.  I often said that November was my least favorite month because the trees are bare and the snow hasn't arrived yet.  November this year has been full of the Glory of God.
I just spent more than an hour sitting down by the Lake in the late afternoon sun.  There was only the faintest ripple on the water.  I couldn't even feel a faint breeze on my skin.  The temperature in the low 70's kept me there longer than I had planned.  God comes in this Beauty.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Vicarious Suffering

Jesus living within us unites our suffering to his and transforms it so that it benefits others and contributes with his to the salvation of the world.
(I'm sorry that I still can't get some beautiful autumn scenery to attach to this blog.)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Still Striving

I'm ok, but haven't yet figured out how to get a picture on the blog.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

St. Therese of Lisieux

Her autobiography had a great impact on me when I read it 60 years ago.  It seems to me that her "Little Way" is right for our age: "Jesus does not demand great actions from us, but simply surrender and gratitude.  He has no need of our works, but only our love."
(Blame windows 10 again.  I can't figure out how I added yesterday's picture.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Let the Children

Many of us were charmed by Pope Francis' touching and blessing children.  The disciples of Jesus were not charmed.  In Mark 10:13-16 Jesus is annoyed with them for trying to keep children away from him.  He says, "Let the children come to me....for as such is the Reign of God."
In that time in history children were "nobodies."  None of the sentiment and concern that we show them today.  They were powerless, dependent, receptive.  Jesus says that's the kind of persons who make up the Reign of God.  We come as dependent as children and accept God's gift of gracious love.
(I recently got Windows 10 and have not until now been able to figure out how to compose a new blog)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Inclusive Church

Happy Autumnal Equinox!  A time for change.
I've read that some Catholics object to Pope Francis' meeting with certain groups.
"John said to Jesus, 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.'  But Jesus said: 'Do not forbid him....For whoever is not against us is for us.' (Mark 9:38-40)"
Notice John says "he does not follow us."  John sees the disciples as an exclusive group.  Is it the group of disciples with whom the stranger has a problem?  It must not be Jesus because he is casting out devils in the name of Jesus.  What is it about the disciples that puts off the stranger? 
The passage challenges us to ask ourselves what is it about us Catholics and our leaders that keeps people from joining us, even though they believe in Jesus.  Perhaps we have been concentrating too much on who must be excluded.  Pope Francis represents a more inclusive Church.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flight 93 Revisited

On Tuesday a friend and I made a pilgrimage to the site in southwestern Pennsylvania where Flight 93 was crashed on September 11, 2001.  This monumental visitor's center is the most recent addition to the site. It is designed to trace the path of the crashing airplane as it came over the small hill and plunged into the earth about a mile farther on.
The stillness in the air encourages prayer.  My prayer to Love, whom we sometimes call God and Allah and Yahweh, is that we see how terrorism and racism contradict the truest beliefs of Christianity and Islam and Judaism.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Inexhaustible Future

Here is my oversimplified summary of the way John Haught offers for thinking about The Divine in his chapter, "Future."
Think about the transient character of this moment.  This moment is always giving way to the next.  Each next moment comes from the future. Often the future brings us what we long for, but after reaching a long sought goal or after having our dreams realized, we begin to feel an unanticipated emptiness when the initial joy of accomplishment begins to fade.
Our experience of the particular futures we have hoped for and been disappointed by convinces us that we are capable of growing indefinitely into an inexhaustible future that stretches out before us.  The name of this infinite and inexhaustible future is God.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One Such Child

Yesterday morning when I read next Sunday's Gospel (Mark 9:30-37) the first image that came to me was that of the dead body of the three year old migrant boy washed ashore on the Turkish coast.  In the Gospel Jesus says, "Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me."
On further reflection I thought of Jesus living in children waited to be adopted.  I thought of Jesus living in the children of our relatives and friends who may still seem lost.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Suffering Messiah

"Who do you say that I am?" asks Jesus halfway through Mark's Gospel (8:27-38.)  That is the central theme of this Gospel.  Peter answers that Jesus is the Messiah.  Jesus from now on will be at great pains to help the disciples understand that he is not simply a triumphant Messiah but a Messiah who must suffer before entering his glory.  Peter and the disciples don't want to believe that.
Neither do we.  We hate to think that the Cross is essential for Jesus and for any of us who want to follow him.  With the help of Jesus within us, we take up our cross.

Saturday, September 5, 2015


Karl Rahner, one of our best theologians in the last century, suggested we stop using the name "God" for a while because it calls up too many wrong ideas.  He thought it would be best that it be something future like "Whither."   I don't know what the German word might be, but the English would be something like "Where To?"
In his book, What Is God, John Haught says we can think about The Divine as the infinite, inexhaustible future.

Friday, September 4, 2015


My brother-in-law died Wednesday night.  Please pray for him and our family.

"Death is not extinguishing the light;
  it is putting out the lamp
  because the dawn has come."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


When Jesus healed a man who was deaf and had trouble speaking (Mark 7:31-37,) he said, "Ephphatha - Be opened."  While I am not deaf (at least not very) and I can speak without a lot of difficulty, I hear Jesus telling me to be open to hearing new ideas, even when I find them not to my liking.  He also enables me to find the words I need to share new ideas with others.

Saturday, August 29, 2015


As I work at understanding Depth as a way of thinking about God, I think of an image that has colored my prayer for 60 years.  It's from Bede Griffiths' The Golden Thread.
I am standing beside a deep, dark pit that seems to have no bottom.  I am not satisfied with the area around me.  From the pit I hear a voice calling, "Jump, my son, I'll catch you."  The dark pit is frightening, but my surroundings are not fulfilling.  I jump and find myself caught up in the loving arms of God.
(Clicking on the picture enlarges it.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Going Deeper

I want to try to understand a little better how John Haught's notion of depth helps me to think about The Divine.  No matter how deep we go into ourselves and others and nature, reality still evades full disclosure.  There is an inexhaustible depth beneath the surface of our impressions.
This inexhaustible depth of existence is one of the ways that we can think about God.  This depth of existence promises to give more substance to our lives  than what we can find on the surface. It is a kind of ultimate ground that is trustworthy.
(This is a feeble attempt to express Haught's reasoning.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


"This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," says Jesus in one of several passages in the Gospels where Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for their legalism (Mark 7: 1-23.)    Religious people must be careful not to make an idol of the law, holding it in place of God.  Richard Rohr has said that law is necessary, of course, but it is not the guiding star; it has been wrong and cruel too many times.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


One of the short prayers that I pray as I begin my morning prayer is, "You are in the deepest part of who I am."  I sense that there is an ever deeper part of me that I will always be reaching for.  I suspect that at the very bottom of who I am is a Depth that I can only begin to fathom.  John Haught says this is one way to answer his title's question, "What Is God?"  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


"Will you also go away," Jesus asks the Twelve (John 6:67.)  Some of his followers have found his teaching on eating his flesh and drinking his blood too much and have gone away. 
Joshua asks the Israelites who have been delivered from slavery in Egypt and have reached the promised land, "Choose this day whom you will for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15.)

Saturday, August 15, 2015


We pray to Wisdom for insight into the Eucharist and Assumption and into what God is.

Friday, August 14, 2015


The May before I retired I took a long trip by car to Florida.  As I drove from west to east across Georgia I saw a sign for President Roosevelt's home in Warm Springs.  It was not something that I had even thought of, but I immediately turned off to make a pilgrimage to the house where he died.  I decided to make the pilgrimage to thank him for Social Security which was making it possible for me to retire in two months.  The pension from my job would not have been sufficient.
80 years ago today President Roosevelt signed the law creating Social Security.  There was much objection to it from left and right, but it finally passed Congress.  It has now become so much a part of our American life that we don't even advert to it.  A great example of caring for the common good.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

God Beyond All Names

As I meditate on the book What Is  God I remind myself of St. Augustine's saying that, when we think we know God, then what we know is not God.  Even in any healthy human relationship we always want to know and understand the person better.  If we want to have a healthy relationship with God it is crucial that we keep growing in our knowledge and understanding of The Divine.  We each grow at our own pace.
In thinking about The Divine we are always limited to analogy and metaphor.  The more comfortable we get with ambiguity, the more we want to know how to think about The Divine. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Neither She nor He

(The spectacular cut in Sideling Mountain, Central Maryland)
In the introduction to his book, What Is God, Father John Haught thinks that using the neuter phrase "the divine" helps to express the fullness of a "Presence" that we cannot wrap our minds around.  We do not have human concepts or words that would completely capture what we mean by "God."  Not using male and female pronouns might help us to avoid thinking of The Divine in human-like images. 
We can rest in the all-surrounding Mystery that knows us and loves us without being at all like us.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Flesh and Blood

"Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in them." Perhaps these words are so familiar to our ears that we fail to realize how shocking they are.  In John 6:51-57 "flesh" and "blood" are used in four different sentences.  "Flesh" is used by itself in two other places.  The Greek verb that John uses means "munch" or "chew."  Most vividly, Jesus says, "whoever feeds on me."
In the earlier part of this long chapter, Jesus uses metaphorical language to talk about himself as the "bread from heaven." Here he switches to very realistic language to make it abundantly clear that the bread and wine are truly his flesh and blood.
(Clicking on the picture enables you to see how lovely my neighbor's flowers are.)

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Heaven Now

The view looking east from Sidling Mountain in central Maryland reminds us that our faith relationship with God already gives us a taste of the other world.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My Morning

Welcome to my morning! Welcome to my day!
The Light awakened me.
When Jesus talks about "eternal life" he's talking about our life with God now in this world that continues on into the other world.  "Whoever believes has eternal life." (John 6:47)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Divine

I am reading What Is God: How To Think About The Divine, by Jesuit John Haught.  The author is trying to help us move away from human-like (anthropomorphic) images of God and develop a notion of an immaterial, transcendent reality.  It might help to call this "The Divine" rather than "God."  This transcendent reality is not some impersonal energy.  It possesses "those qualities which constitute the dignity of human persons, that is, something like intelligence, feeling, freedom, power, initiative, creativity, etc. (though to an eminent degree.)"
For some years, now, I have been trying to think about The Divine in this way.  Haught's book is valuable in that effort.  I will blog more about it in the days to come.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon

Picture is from several years ago, but it was a blue moon.  Like any other full moon, but the 2nd one in a month.  Doesn't happen often.  Hence, "Once in blue moon."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy 50th!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Medicare!  President Johnson signed it into law on this date in 1965.  Having had open heart surgery in December, I am personally grateful to America's citizens. I am thankful, too, for all the people that Medicare has helped through the last 50 years.  I pray that we may make whatever changes are necessary to keep it effective.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Unending Presence of God

In high school seminary, as a punishment, I was required to write in long hand the sixth chapter of John's Gospel.  I have long forgotten what I was being punished for, but I have never forgotten John, chapter 6. 
At Mass we began reading from it last Sunday and will continue using it as the Sunday Gospel for four more weeks.  In the first half of what Jesus has to say, he is talking about himself as the bread of God "who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. (6:33)"  Jesus promises that faith in himself enables us to live now in the unending presence of God.

Monday, July 20, 2015


After all the rain we have had this summer, the water today was flowing over the falls in abundance.
One evening we were having pizza at Brenda's restaurant when four college age men were seated at the table next to us.  They ordered "Abundanza."  It's a 24 inch square pizza.  I had seen pictures of it, but never sat next to one.  When the waitress sat it on the table the guys bust out laughing and so did the all of us sitting around them.  It covered the entire table.  Needless to say the four guys finished it. 
Jesus cooks like an Italian!  He feeds 5,000 and has 12 basketsful of leftovers.  Whatever Jesus gives us, he gives in abundance.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

One New Humanity

As a Jewish follower of Jesus, Paul is eager to assure us Gentiles (non-Jews) that we are not left out, even though we were once far away, compared to Jews.  "In his flesh Christ has made both groups one (Ephesians 2:11-22.)  The passage seems strange to us, since we are used to thinking of ourselves, not the Jews, as the insiders. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Solitude and Rest

The view from Delphi in Greece down toward the Gulf of Corinth.
"Come away all by yourselves to a solitary place and rest a while," Jesus says to the apostles when they return from the work he has sent them to do (Mark 6:31.)  Solitude and rest are necessary for growth in our relationship with God.  For some of us it may be our porch; for others it may be a mountaintop.  God is always with us, but resting in solitude gives God a better chance to get at us.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


This year I made any "weed" welcome behind my house.
Mary Oliver's poetry has become a favorite of mine. 
In a poem she calls simply "Praying," she writes,

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
                                 (Thirst, p.37)

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Extravagant Love

The Letter to the Ephesians is a good summary of St. Paul's teaching, probably written by a disciple of Paul.   The author's main theme is the unity that Christ has established between Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews.)  In the first chapter he says "By Christ's blood we were redeemed, our sins forgiven through extravagant love."  Christ's sacrifice is also establishing unity in all creation.  God's plan, he says, is "to unite the entire universe through Christ."  Everything and everyone is connected in the risen body of  Jesus, a Jew.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Continuing the Work of Jesus

Jesus wants his work to continue so he calls and sends the Church.  To continue his work Jesus shares with us his own word and power.  "The Church is to go trusting this to be true, never contradicting that trust with the excess baggage of security and wealth that offer the world the image of unbelief."
(Fred Criddock, quoted in Imaging the Word, Vol. 3, p.250)

Monday, July 6, 2015

A Community Sent

The passage in Mark (6:6-13) where Jesus sends the Twelve on mission most likely also reflects the practice in Mark's community in the late first century and is a model for our 21st century Church.  Travel light as Light, free and fearless, facing down evil, agent of God's healing power, preaching God's Word of Love.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Consent of the Governed

We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness,
that to secure these rights
Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed....

Today is the day to ask ourselves if we really believe this
and act on it.  Do we vote?  Do we use our freedom for the
common good?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Free Together

"The truth will set you free....If the Son frees you, you will indeed be free," says Jesus (John 8:31,36.)  Too many think freedom means every man for himself.  The freedom that our founders declared in 1776 was freedom to govern ourselves.  They envisioned us using our freedom to work together for the good of all.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Christ Freed Us

"When Christ freed us," says St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians, "he meant us to remain free. (5:1)"
He tells us not to use our freedom for self indulgence, but for the common good.  Freedom enables us to make ourselves slaves, not to the Law, but to one another in love.
(I liked the picture too much not to use it.  Click on the picture to enlarge it.  You can see the flag better.)

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Unearned Calling

At the beginning of his letter to the Galatians St. Paul swears that he received the Good News directly in a vision of the Risen Christ and began immediately to preach it.  Purely by God's grace he was changed from a persecutor of Christians to a powerful preacher of the Gospel (1:11-20.)
I think of how much more gradually and through many intermediaries God called me to preach the Gospel.  I too had done nothing to earn the calling. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Do you love me?

The evening after the longest day.
Jesus asked Peter three times, "Do you love me?"
Each time Peter replied, "Lord, you know I love you?"
Jesus three times, "Then shepherd my sheep."
Leadership among the followers of Jesus grows out of love.
He asks us also, "Do you love me?"

Monday, June 22, 2015

Solstice God

I sat on the deck for several hours last evening reading and watching the sun move toward the horizon on the longest day of the year.  As I lost myself in the Beauty and warmth of the sun, it became easy to understand how ancient peoples worshiped it and built places like Stonehenge and Newgrange to follow the sun.  I felt God's presence.  One of my nephews called, intensifying the awareness of God's presence and Love.  We talked until the sun sank out of sight.
The color didn't begin until the sun had disappeared.  I grabbed my camera and took lots of pictures. I think this was the best.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Even the wind and sea

"Do you not yet have faith?" Jesus asks us, as he asked the disciples, when we are feeling hopeless in the face of disasters of nature and of human devising, or in the face of personal troubles.
We doubt even when we hear Jesus give a command to the sea as someone might give a command to a dog. Literally translated the Greek has Jesus saying, "Quiet!  Be muzzled!"
Hearing that even the wind and the sea obey him inspires us to put ourselves entirely in the hands of  Jesus, confident that he is always with us and can save us from whatever evil threatens to destroy us. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

His Own Blood

The sanctuary of Canterbury Cathedral where St. Thomas Becket was martyred.
If the sacrifice of animals made people right with God, how much more so does the sacrifice of Christ. By his death on the cross Christ entered once for all into the sanctuary of God's presence with his own blood (Hebrews 9:11-14.)  His sacrifice is perfect.  It, therefore, does not need to be repeated.  It benefits every human being who ever lived from the beginning of time to the end.
Christ makes this perfect sacrifice of his own blood available to us in the wine of the Eucharist and invites us to drink.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

My Blood of the Covenant

The blood of sacrifice is a symbol of life that is  given to God.   Moses seals the covenant (agreement) between God and the Israelites by pouring half the blood of sacrificed bulls on an altar, a symbol of God, and sprinkling the other half on the people.  He says, "This is the blood of the covenant" (Exodus 24:3-8.)
At the Last Supper, as the disciples drank from the cup that Jesus had given them, he said "This is my Blood of the Covenant." (Mark 14:22-26)  On the Cross Jesus sealed the agreement between God and us by shedding his blood.  He makes that sacrifice available to us in the Eucharist.
I want to pay more attention to what I'm doing when I drink from the Cup at Mass.  Maybe you do too.

Monday, June 1, 2015


It happened yesterday after I had been swimming a bit and just lying around in the Lake.  A friend was swimming, another lying on a tube in the water, another sitting in a lawn chair reading her book.  I got out of the water and was sitting on the dock with the sun on my back.  Suddenly there's God!  A moment of beauty, everything in its place, harmony, contentment, deep peace, bliss.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Three distinct experiences of God

We experience our graciously loving God as father, mother, parent, who gives us life and keeps us in existence, looks out for us, provides for us.
We experience our graciously loving God as brother, sister, who saves us from danger and death, reconciles us with our parent, shows us how to grow up and become responsible to others.
We experience our graciously loving God as friend, lover, companion, who lives within us in the most intimate relationship, draws us into community, makes us eager to tell others about Jesus and  share Love with them.
At different times in our lives one of these experiences of God may appeal to us more than the other two, but every day we are swept into this Divine Circle of Love.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Holy Trinity

As difficult as it sometimes seems, speaking about God in a threefold way is essential for Christians if we are to pray truly "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  Speaking about God in a threefold way arose historically to express the experience the early Christians had of Jesus and of the Holy Spirit.
To oversimplify, we might say that they experienced the loving God in a threefold way as beyond them, with them, and within them.  They experienced God as utterly transcendent, completely beyond this world.  They experienced God as present historically in Jesus. They experienced God as immanent, intimately present as Spirit within them and within their community.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

53 Ups and Downs

Yesterday was my 53rd Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood.  I am astonished and deeply grateful to God for my being a priest all these years and for the many lives that I've touched.  In addition, here's some good and bad that stands out for me in the years that I have been a priest:
Pope John 23rd and Vatican Council II
Taking part in the March on Washington
Taking part in Protests against Vietnam War
Bought place at lake (see above)
Began living alone
Emotional Problems that led to successful psychological counseling
Bought row house
35 frustrating years as Council reforms were threatened
Retirement solitude and deeper prayer
Pope Francis and return to Vatican Council II values
Heart Attack and Open Heart Surgery
New lease on life

Friday, May 22, 2015

Spring Memories

Aren't these lilies of the valley lovely?  Very delicate.  One morning they showed up in a neighbor's yard where a tree had been cut down.  In just a few days they were gone.  They bring back wonderful memories of my childhood in spring.  I picked lilies of the valley from our yard and put them on a May altar made of an orange crate and a statue of Mary.
In our yard there was a forsythia and what we called "fire bush."  Then lilacs and irises (we called them flags.")  We had daffodils and tulips.  And we had a grove of apple trees that blossomed later.
What I notice now, but didn't notice then, is that these spring flowers pass quickly.  It is our spring memories that last.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Breath Who is Personal

Our vocal cords are silent until we send breath over them to create sound.  Flutes and trumpets are simply hollow tubes until someone's breath moves through them making music.  All we have are dying embers until we blow on them creating fire.  We are nothing without the Breath of God moving in us.
It is important for us not to think of God as like us, only greater, a supreme being.  That's why I keep suggesting more formless ways of imagining God, but always Love or Beauty or Breath is personal, knowing us and loving us.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Short of Breath

"Pneuma" is a Greek word that means "breath" as well as "spirit."  It is the source of our English word "pneumonia."  Reading it as "breath" when I meditated this morning gave me a new understanding of Acts 2:1-13.  The whole event is aimed at speaking, using breath to talk.
Luke doesn't say that Pentecost involved wind and fire.  He says there was a sound like a strong violent wind.  Imagine the roaring sound that the Breath of God made in the room.  He says that tongues like fire rested on each one of the disciples.  Imagine their tongues being moved by the Breath of God.  "They were all filled with the Holy Breath and began to speak in different tongues...." 
The Breath of God fills us and moves us to talk about Jesus. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Breath of God

"Then it pleased the king to raise a small feather from the ground and he commanded it to fly.  The feather flew, not because of anything in itself but because the air bore it along.  Thus am I a feather on the breath of God." 
That is how Hildegard of Bingen describes herself.  "A Feather on the Breath of God" is also the title of a CD of religious music that was composed by her.  She was one of the most remarkably creative personalities of  the Middle Ages.  She lived in in the 12th century in what is now Germany.  She was a visionary, naturalist, playwright, poetess, and composer.  Her friendship and advice were sought by popes, emperors, kings, archbishops, abbots, and abbesses.
"Breath" and "Spirit" are the same word in Greek, "pneuma."  It might help us to getter an expanded grasp of who the Holy Spirit is if we think "Holy Breath."  "They were all filled with the Holy Breath and began to speak in different tongues as the Breath enabled them. (Acts 2:4)"  The Risen Jesus "breathed on them and said 'Receive the Holy Breath. (John 20:22)" 
We are feathers on the Breath of God.

Friday, May 15, 2015


One of the ways that we, as Church, witness to Jesus is by community.  The members of a healthy community have a strong sense of belonging to one another, but they also welcome anybody.  A healthy community is not a clique.  There is one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6.)