What’s the difference?

We have all kinds of solemnities, feast days, and other special days in the church year. We commemorate happenings in the life of Christ: Mary’s visit from Gabriel, the birth of Jesus, the arrival of the maji, the Baptism of our Lord, the Transfiguration when the glory of Christ is revealed, Palm Sunday, the empty tomb and Resurrection of Easter, the glorious Ascension, the explosive coming of God’s spirit to the church at Pentecost … and then we have Holy Trinity Sunday.  And suddenly it is like we have moved from these great events in the life of Christ, and now…. tadah!!  We are celebrating… well… what are you celebrating this Sunday? Take a moment and make a list of the possibilities… (for my own part I am waiting… are you making the list or did you keep reading?) Continue reading

What does this mean?

And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim… At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language… They were all astounded and bewildered, and said to one another, “What does this mean?” But others said, scoffing, “They have had too much new wine.Continue reading

Save the Date Sunday

When I was in seminary, our homiletics professor had lots of advice and pointers for the Sunday homily – I am about to ignore one of the pieces of advice. The professor was pretty adamant about not explaining theology. And I mostly agree with his point – it can make a homily really dry and fill it with language that needs its own explanation. The professor’s final point was that you are likely to give an inaccurate or heretical version of the theology in any case.

The professor in Systematic Theology would also agree. He made the point that almost every early heresy in the early Church came from people trying to explain the Incarnation, trying to explain how it is that Jesus is vere Deus, vere homo – truly God, truly human. The words in the Gospel of John seem so simple: the Word became flesh. And indeed, the heresies of the first four centuries of the Church are filled with controversies, serious in fighting, involvement of the Roman Emperors, and sometimes armies were formed, and battles fought. Explaining theology can be very dangerous stuff. Continue reading

Things held dear

This spring has been a season of record-breaking floods across the Midwest, submerging farms, businesses and houses. The flooding this year could be worse than the historic floods of 1993, which devastated the region. In the coming days, the Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers are all at risk of spilling over their banks, levees, and inundating places like Sand Springs, OK, Jefferson City, MO, and a whole lot of small towns. The spillways in New Orleans are already open trying to get ahead of the coming waters. Places like Hardin, Ill., a village of about 900 people, sits in a particularly vulnerable spot on the Illinois River near where it flows into the Mississippi River. The city clerk updates river forecasts every 20 minutes to let the residents know if the village is about to become an island. It almost did on May 7th of this year. It will be a long weekend of watching and waiting. Continue reading

Last words, first things

If you knew this was your last week, your last day on earth, what would you tell the people you love? Would it be advice? Your hopes for them? Would it be the dreams you have? Perhaps, the gratitude and love in your heart?  What would be your last words to the ones you love? Beyond the fact we’d really not like to think about it, even if we were ready to do so, this is something difficult, daunting, and delicate. Continue reading

A name spoken

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

In many ways the stories of the Bible highlight people hearing God call their names and they respond by following. Noah heard his name called, built an ark, and saved lives. Abraham and Sarah heard their names called, traveled to a land not their own, and became our parents in faith. Moses heard his name and set his people free. The prophet Samuel heard his name called and responded, “Here I am Lord. Your servant is listening.” Hosea, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and all the prophets heard their names called and followed. Continue reading

Miserando atque Eligendo

We have a new mayor here in Tampa. Mayor Castor has been in public service for the majority of her adult years, served as Chief of Police and more. There are lots of folks that already knew what kind of leader she will be. Fulfilling positions of leadership is always at the forefront of organizations, politics, and more. It is always a good question for the Church. I have lived during the pontificates of seven popes and in my lifetime we have certainly had a wide variety of types and styles of leaders. In our history, we have had 266 of popes. We have had some spectacularly amazing leaders, saints in the making, and we have had some spectacularly horrific leaders, who would have been quite at home in Game of Thrones (so I hear, I actually haven’t seen it…).  All took up the Keys of Peter, with the same job description given Peter: feed my sheep; tend my lambs. The Pope is the most visible of leaders in the Church, but not the only ones with that same job description. The simple mandate, “feed my sheep; tend my lambs” applies to priests, pastors, parents, principals, police, and anyone who would lead – anyone who would answer the call to minister in the Holy Name of Jesus. Continue reading

Fear, Hope, and Being Sent

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)

It is Sunday evening, the third day after Jesus died. The disciples are gathered together in fear and confusion. Unsure of their next step. The one they thought Messiah, dead and buried – executed like a common criminal and lying in a tomb. Their leader gone and what remained was an overwhelming sense of shame because they knew they had deserted Jesus in his hour of need. And now they lived in fear. Fear of the next knock on the door. Fear of having left everything to follow Jesus…now what? A fear that seeps into the deepest regions of their being, hardening hearts and stiffening limbs; locking doors. Continue reading

Why do you believe?

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. (John 20:1-9) Continue reading

Letting things rummage around

holyweekBack in the day, before becoming a Franciscan, back when the rhythm of my day was set by clients, projects, and things of the workplace, I let a different pattern take hold for Holy Week. I always took vacation. I took time off to relax, visit people, take long bike rides and decompress so I would be ready to celebrate Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday.

But you know what? I have to admit, I did not pay a lot of attention to Palm Sunday. I wonder if I went to Mass and then to the office to clear up last minute things to make sure the week was free. Yet today is the gateway to Holy Week. Continue reading