Compelling a Choice

Sometimes, another just says it succinctly and to the point. Bishop Robert Barron does that so well commenting on this morning’s readings. In John 14 as the Apostles continue to struggle with Jesus’ words preparing them for life after the Crucifixion and Resurrection, they want to know where Jesus is going, the way to follow, the truth of the meaning of all that is unfolding, and what will life be without Jesus to lead them. Jesus’ reply is elegant. 2,000 years later those same words are just as pointed and poignant. Continue reading

Starting Again

start-againToday’s gospel serves as a bridge between the Johannine account of the public ministry of Jesus and beginning of his passion and glorification. The verses close out the section of John’s gospel referred to as the “Book of Signs”

  • Changing water into wine at Cana (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum (John 4:46-54)
  • Healing the paralytic at Bethesda (John 5:1-15)
  • Feeding the 5,000 (John 6:5-14)
  • Jesus’ walking on water (John 6:16-24)
  • Healing the man blind from birth (John 9:1-7)
  • The raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)

It also includes the notable “I am” statements: living water, bread of life, Good Shepherd, and more… Continue reading

Sistine Rules

If you have been a visitor to Rome and to the Vatican – no doubt you have been present in the Sistine Chapel. Originally known as the Cappella Magna (‘Great Chapel’), the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1473 and 1481. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today, it is the site of the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment, both by Michelangelo.

Most days it is very crowded with the security guards, tour guides, and curators ever reminding people of two things: (a) silence and (b) no photography or videography inside the Chapel. The first is understandable, but do you know why the limitation on photographs and videos? Take a few minutes and read this interesting article that came across my desk. Enjoy!

Belief and Belonging

It’s a late December day in Jerusalem. Jesus is walking in the Temple area, and as usual, he’s drawing a crowd during the Feast of the Dedication (better known to us as Hanukkah). The people have come with a question. Perhaps they’ve heard one of Jesus’s enigmatic parables, or witnessed one of his miracles.  Or maybe they just want to trap him into saying something they consider blasphemous.  Whatever the motive, they ask: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Seems as an odd choice for a gospel so soon after Easter. How could we be “in suspense” after the Resurrection? But then again, maybe it tells us the truth about how faith works.

Continue reading

The Vine

Jesus-Apostles-vine-branch2This coming Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Easter (Year B) and the reading is from the Gospel of John 15:1-8. You can read a complete commentary here. Our gospel (vv.1-8) is the first portion of the remarkable “Vine and Branches” metaphor (John 15:1-17) from the Farewell Discourse following the Last Supper (John 14-16). Next Sunday we will hear vv.9-17. The Farewell Discourse is the centerpiece of the three sections that comprise the events of the Last Supper: Continue reading

In Christ Alone

So often the first or second reading does not form the core of a Sunday homily. In the US Catholic Bishop’s document “Fulfilled in Your Hearing, ” they are clear that the purpose of a homily to cast the light of the gospel into the lives of the listeners – and so, and rightly so, the gospel takes a preeminent place in the hearts and minds of Sunday worship. And yet there is beauty, truth and goodness in the other readings which, especially when from Acts of the Apostles or the Epistles, are the voice of a pastor speaking to a community of faith. Sometimes the words are comforting and sometimes challenging: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” How are we as Christians to understand this? Please take about 10 minutes and listen to a Sunday Sermon from Bishop Robert Barron unpack this one simple, challenging verse from Acts 4:12.

Being good shepherds

Christ the Good ShepherdAfter having graduated from the US Naval Academy – the first cauldron of forming leaders for the Navy and Marine Corp – and after finishing nuclear power training and submarine school, I reported as a bright shiny Ensign to my first submarine! I was ready to be a deep-diving, backing down full at crush depth, denizen of the deep – “Run Silent, Run Deep” and “Hunt for Red October” all rolled into one.

Turns out the submarine’s supply office had just been medically disqualified from serving on submarines, I was the next officer to walk aboard, and so the Captain assigned me as Supply Officer (and Food Service Office) for a submarine that was in a 30-day intensive dry dock refit in which they removed and replaced the galley. Yikes. How did I do? Well… that’s another story.

Continue reading

Francis and Nature, Part I

st-francis-of-assisi-birdsSt. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of Italy, merchants, stowaways, ecology, but most famously, of animals.  If one searches the internet, you can easily find all kinds of pious, ecologically insightful, and often amazingly-modern sounding quotes from St. Francis. And they are inevitably without a citation from one of Francis’ writings or at least a later Franciscan source writing about Francis. As I noted in the beginning of this series, Francis has always been reinvented and marketed as needed.  Perhaps the one book most responsible for casting Francis as the lover of animals and nature is a collection of stories – many miraculous and all very saintly – that first appeared in 1390 in Tuscany: the Fioretti (The Little Flowers). It should be noted that this is about 160 years after Francis’ death.

But can we say about St. Francis, the patron saint of animals? Continue reading

On the way to Damascus

Today’s first reading is about the conversion of St. Paul. It is an event in history that we note in reference to the place it transpired – the Road to Damascus. It is an event that inspired the great Italian artist, Caravaggio to create his masterpiece, The Conversion on the Way to Damascus. The artwork is located in the Cerasi Chapel of the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in Rome. Across the chapel is a second Caravaggio depicting the Crucifixion of Saint Peter. On the altar between the two is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Annibale Carracci.  It is quite the chapel.

Continue reading