Seeing the Kingdom

“Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Luke 6:20)

Almost a quarter of a century ago, I was in the midst of formation to become a lay missioner with Franciscan Mission Service as a prelude to my time in Kenya.  Fr. Joe Nangle, a Franciscan friar, was our speaker that morning.  We had begun day with the Eucharist and the gospel was the same gospel we heard this morning.  “Blessed are you who are poor… for yours is the kingdom of God.”  Fr Joe told us that if he could only have one verse of Sacred Scripture for our formation, this would be it.  Within in were the two great challenges to all Christians, but perhaps especially so for Christians from the affluent countries of the world:  to learn to see the poor and to learn to see the kingdom of God in the world. And then he told us this story. Continue reading

Into the Deep

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)

My tale begins during my time at the US Naval Academy. There are two kinds of people who come to plebe summer – them’s that can swim and them’s that can’t.  I was one of the former. I had swum competitively since I was 12 years old, surfed since about the same age, and so swimming and water was as natural to me as breathing.  One of my service projects was as a volunteer swim instructor for other midshipmen who needed to learn to swim – not only a good thing for a naval office – but also a requirement for graduation. Continue reading

Wisdom and Love

Things “went south” pretty quickly after Jesus read the words from the prophet Isaiah, told the crowd that those prophetic words were fulfilled in their hearing, and then just sat down. How did things get so out of hand so quickly – from prayer to attempted homicide. When they got home, I wonder if they reflected on the whole incident? Did they take it into prayer and search for the presence of God in the midst of all that turmoil? Continue reading

The Porch Light

It is not all that unusual that people will tell me that they find themselves waking up on Sunday morning somewhat less-than-excited about coming to Mass. “Father, it is so the-same-thing week after week, I find my mind wanders, I don’t get much out it, too many times I receive Communion and just keep walking out the door” I will almost always ask them, “When are thinking about coming to church, who do you look forward to seeing” – and I ask that God, Jesus or the priest not be their answer. Almost always the reply is “no one” or “I really don’t know anyone at the parish – I just park, come in, receive Eucharist, and go home.” Continue reading

Being the Sign

They have no wine.” It is a simple line spoken by Mary to her son, Jesus. Spoken among the music, the dancing, the celebration, the servants working hard to hide their panic, and wedding guest having no idea that this celebration teeters on the edge of disaster. A simple line spoken in the midst of an account that St. John the gospel writer has filled with so much theological richness. Continue reading

Becoming Holy Families

When I began thinking about what I might preach on this, Holy Family Sunday, I began to think about the way the family appears on television – now and way back in the early days of television, the 1950s and 1960s. If you ask people who are 60 years old or older, what might be one of their favorite family shows, the answers might include “Father Knows Best.” Weekly we could tune in to see mom Margaret as the voice of reason or dad Jim as the thoughtful father offering sage advice whenever the kids Betty and Bud had a problem. They were held up for us as the perfect family. Of course, the family on “Leave it to Beaver” was pretty amazing – they also had mom, dad and two children – Wally and Theodore (whose nickname was “Beaver”). It was one of the first primetime sitcom series written from a child’s point of view. It was a glimpse of middle-class American boyhood. In a typical episode, Beaver gets into some sort of boyish scrape, then faces his parents for reprimand and correction. But in this series, neither parent was omniscient; the series often showed the parents debating their approach to child rearing, and some episodes were built around parental gaffes. Still, it was family. Continue reading

A blessing for others

“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord” (Luke 1:44-45)

There are certain persons in our lives who, when we see them, hear their voice, or just remember them, it can just bring a smile to our face, turn a rotten day into something special, or just make all thing joyous. They are the ones who can make us laugh when there is nothing to laugh about. They are the ones for and with whom bear hugs of greetings are just the thing. They are the ones we haven’t seen in years and yet it just seems like yesterday when we meet again. They are the one with whom we have common history, joys and sorrows, with whom we have weathered many a storm; the ones we trust absolutely.  Who are those persons for you?  Take a moment and bring their faces to your thoughts.  I’ll wait…. Continue reading

Choosing Joy

I love the way the first reading from Zephaniah speaks about God: “He will rejoice over you with gladness…he will sing joyfully because of you.” (Zep 3:17-18).  Because of you. Because of me. This divine joy is the very nature of God – creative; like an overflowing fountain – a fountain fullness. A joy that wants to be shared in wider and wider circles. A joy that asks us to join in the OT reading and the Psalm too – both telling us to shout for joy. The words of the second reading are the hallmark of Guadette Sunday: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I say again: rejoice.From God to us, it is a call for a universal chorus of joy. Continue reading

The Way to High Places

A couple of years ago I went hiking the high places of Summit County, Colorado. Tramping and hiking the old-fashioned way – with USGS topo map and compass.  On one of the days we headed out for Eccles Pass at the summit of the Meadow Creek trail, about 13,500 feet.  Once we got above 11,000 feet the trail and the markers were mostly covered in an early October snow.  Easy to lose your way.

It was at that point we ran into some other folks.  While we were headed to the Pass, they were looking for Lilly Pad Lake.  We had been there the day before and knew that it was about 2,500 feet lower in elevation and about 4 miles or so East.  They were hiking the new-fangled way with a hand-held GPS device.  And they showed us the dots on the screen and assured us the lake was nearby. Continue reading

A Promise big enough to save

 “The days are coming…[when] Judah will be made safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.” Such was the promise of the prophet Jeremiah to the beleaguered people of the City of David under the ominous cloud of war and death – the power of the Egyptian King Neco to the south and the armies of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to the north and east.  That was then. Where are the prophets now when Jerusalem is a divided city and the missiles of enemies have the City of David within their reach. Are the prophets now replaced by the anti-missile technology? Those system promise to protect Israel, but it cannot promise to save Israel, to make Jerusalem safe and secure.

There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world.” Continue reading