The Son of Man glorified…

The Gospel for the Fifth Week of Easter: John 13:31-35

31 When [Judas] had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once. 33 My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’ so now I say it to you. 34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. 35 This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Perhaps we should place this short gospel passage in context. The public ministry of Jesus has drawn to a close with Chapter 12.  Here in Chapter 13 begins the “private ministry” of Jesus preparing his disciples for his impending death.  John 13:1-17:26 is characterized by Jesus’ being alone with his disciples before his betrayal and arrest. While there may have been others present, such as those who were serving the meal, the focus is on the Twelve (so also Mt 26:20; Mk 14:17;  Lk 22:14). The section begins with an account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and the prediction of Judas’ betrayal (13:1-30). Then there is a lengthy section known as the farewell discourse, which consists of teachings (13:31–16:33) and a concluding prayer by Jesus (17:1-26). Continue reading

On being spiritual but not religious….

From Rabbi David Wolpe (, March 21)

“Spirituality is an emotion. Religion is an obligation. Spirituality soothes. Religion mobilizes. Spirituality is satisfied with itself. Religion is dissatisfied with the world. Religions create aid organizations….[T]he largest U.S.-based international relief and development organization…is World Vision, a Seattle-based Christian group.”

Certainly, not the last word on the topic, but certainly something to think about…

Francis of Assisi – The Word of God

Francis_ClareSmallSeveral weeks ago we described Francis’ love of the Eucharist.  For Francis the Eucharist is the primary way in which he sees Christ’s continuing Incarnation in the world.  It is the sign of the presence of Christ with the Church in his continuing salvific role.  That presence was respected by Francis and was shown by the directions he gave to his own brothers regarding Eucharistic reverence, and that he even directed his missionary brothers to carry pyxes, so if they encountered the Eucharist not properly cared for, they would be able to provide a suitable means to reserve the consecrated hosts.

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The Good Shepherd

Christ the Good ShepherdThis coming Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Easter, is often referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday” as the gospel comes from John 10. I thought I would share some notes I have assembled over the years…. as I note when I post such things, credits, footnotes and other such things are incomplete.  Please know the work of many true scholars makes this post possible.

John 10:27-30

27 My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

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Francis of Assisi – Integrating into the Church

Francis finished his military adventures and time as a prisoner of war in early 1205. It was during the latter part of 1205 into 1206 that Francis chose to “leave the world.”  In subsequent years , Francis’ model of following Christ began to attract other men to join him in the emerging way of life – even as the “way of life” was being discovered by Francis himself. Francis modeled the life, prayed with the brothers, exhorted them from time to time, and slowly the life began to take shape.

francis-innocentThe basic shape of the movement was not all that unique in Francis’ day. There were many other penitential and mendicant movements in the beginning of the 13th century in western Europe. – some scholars tallying 130 others. Interestingly, only one of them exists today: the Franciscan.  Why? Most scholars hold that it was because of Francis’ insistence on being “Catholic” and formally part of the Catholic Church.  There are several theories as to the reason for that insistence.  Like most things it is a complex reason, but likely primary among the reasons is Francis’ love of the Eucharist. But whatever the reasons, it is no surprise that in 1209 Francis and some of his brothers journeyed to Rome to seek an audience in a consistory with Pope Innocent III in order to receive formal recognition of his proposed way of life. Continue reading

The cords that bind and lead us…

francisbrnI am still waiting for the call from Rome telling me that I have been appointed Papal Household Swim Coach.  It has been a running joke in the office since the papal elections. So, it was somewhat humorous several weeks ago when the parish telephone rang – and on the other end was a call from Rome.  Wasn’t the swim coach call, but rather it was the Vicar General of the Franciscan OFM Order worldwide asking me to consider a new job.  It was not a pastoral job, but a full time job more akin to running a business – and in a place where people wear sweaters even in summer – as opposed to Tampa where sweaters are optional most of the year. I promised to pray about it Continue reading

Pope Francis – reforming from the inside out

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, there was a clear motif of collaborative ministry with his episcopal peers. It seems that way of ministering is continuing with his episcopal peers from the continents across the globe. Pope Francis continues to be a source of hope. How that hope takes shape, we will see – but for the moment all the signs seem to point us towards Hope

From John Allen: Pope taps eight cardinals to lead reform | National Catholic Reporter.

The Upper Room: all kinds of doors

all-kinds-doorsThere are all kinds of doors in life.

Doors that lead to new life.  We pass through them and life is changed.  Passing through the doors of high school graduation to the new world called college.  Entering a common life through he doors of marriage – or vows as a Franciscan friar.  What was the most significant/memorable door you have passed through into a new life? I bet almost everyone’s passing through was accompanied by trepidation, uncertainty – maybe a tinge of fear – and yet we commit and we pass through to new life.

Not so with all doors  There are doors that lock us out.   Continue reading

The Annunciation – how not to roll out your campaign

I’m just saying… You have a great message – the greatest story every told. You should have started the campaign rolling in imperial Rome among the people of influence and prestige. Among the trend setters and people of influence.

But no.  You have to roll our this campaign in the hinterlands.  Can somebody even tell me where Galilee is? Can somebody tell me why the “face” of the campaign is this unmarried teenager?  She has no clout, no cachet.

Where are the message story boards, the pitches, the brand, the voice – where are the visuals….You’re killing me here.

This campaign is dead in the water.  It has no legs and will go no where.

Good God – do you even know what you are doing?

Just musing about the Solemnity of the Annunciation.  How about you?

What is ours to do

tn_2013 Holy Thursday foot washingThe days of Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter are very special, but these days just past seemed especially so. With the help of many people, we were able to do two new things this year: (a) use San Damiano as our place of Eucharistic Reserve following the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and (b) process through the streets of downtown Tampa as part of the celebration. Many, many people have called, emailed, or made a point to mention to me how special Holy Thursday was for them.  One email commented that in almost 70 years of Holy Thursdays, none had moved her spiritually as did that evening.

And Holy Thursday was just the start. The celebrations of Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday were just as moving and Spirit-filled. All of the Easter Sunday services were standing-room only with three of the morning masses having people extending out the front door onto the steps.  We friars were wondering if we should add more Masses on Easter Sunday – but the questions of when and where left us scratching our heads.

There just seemed to be a wonderful spirit about these celebrations. I wonder if the Holy Spirit has ushered in a new sense of Hope along with the election of Pope Francis.  Our Holy Father continues to demonstrate what is ours to do by simple acts of humility and direct words about how the love of Christ is to form us and our actions in the world.

At the Chrism Mass, the pope spoke directly to priests about their ministry – but they are words that should speak to each one of us who would carry the name “Christian:”

A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed. This is a clear test. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. Our people like to hear the Gospel preached with “unction,” they like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives, when it runs down like the oil of Aaron to the edges of reality, when it brings light to moments of extreme darkness, to the “outskirts” where people of faith are most exposed to the onslaught of those who want to tear down their faith. People thank us because they feel that we have prayed over the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens, and their hopes. And when they feel that the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ, has come to them through us, they feel encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord: “Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem,” “Bless me,” “Pray for me,” – these words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into prayer. The prayers of the people of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests…. (Pope Francis, Chrism Mass homily 2013)

Then at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday – celebrated in a youth detention facility – he washed and anointed the feet of young men and women, Catholic and not.  Words and action – simple yet speaking volumes.

But not all are so enamored with Pope Francis.  One group has called for Pope Emeritus Benedict to come out of retirement, take up again the Petrine Ministry and declare Francis an “anti-pope” before he destroys the Church. They hear the words of the Gospel, and their witness of Pope Francis washing the feet of the imprisoned is quite different from mine. Here is one view:

“I am a young, recently ordained priest. Tonight, I planned on preaching about the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood. How can I speak about such things – the self-offering of Christ, the 12 viri selecti – when our Holy Father is witnessing to something different? I feel like going up to the congregation and saying, “I don’t have any idea what the symbolism of the washing of the feet is. Why don’t we just all do what we want.”

Hmmm? When I look back on my life as a leader in the Navy and business, I wish I had “washed a few more feet.”  Perhaps not a literally as Jesus, but in a way that served others consistent with the mission, vision, and values of the company.

Christian ministry is about vision (the Kingdom of God), mission (go to the ends of the earth), and values (salvific service). It is not about doing what one wants. If one is a pastor, the people will do what you do. So? We should be asking if what we do is true, necessary, and helpful in the light of the Kingdom of God and salvation?  And do you let others know why you do what you do? In that moment our values are writ large; our struggles for holiness and a virtuous life are on display.

St. Bonaventure once wrote that humility is the guardian and gateway to all the other virtues. It seems to me that Jesus washing feet and the pope washing feet portrays the core value of what it means to serve as priest. Humility – while you are reviewing the parish finances, meeting with the bake sale people, after having heard hours of Holy Week confessions and you thought you might actually get lunch today, another person says, “Hey Father, can you hear one more confession?” – or one of a hundred other tasks that seminary never mentioned.  In that moment your sense of vision, mission, and action as priest will speak volumes about the model of priest one enacts.  The question is will it model Jesus? Will people see Jesus in our priestly ministry?  Will it encourage them to follow Christ? That is why we are ordained.

While I thought of all this in the light of the young, newly-ordained priest who is not enamored with Pope Francis, in truth, all the above is larger than ordination. This is why we are baptized. It is what is ours to do.

May God in his mercy, grace us to do what is ours.