The Mantle

These days there is no shortage of devices to take photographs and videos. We have albums upon albums of memories: a newborn, the baptism, the first bicycle ride without training wheels, pictures of the school years, dropping that young adult at college, the wedding, and the pictures of the newborn. We record the person growing into an independent life. It is a visual record of a mantle being passed on as the child takes on the mantle of an adult. Continue reading

Forever changed

Do you enjoy magic shows? I do – they are just a lot of fun. Many years ago, as part of a white water rafting trip, we spent several days in Las Vegas. I took the opportunity to see one of the big-time, over-the-top, oh-my-gosh-how-did-he-do-that magic shows.  I am totally willing to suspend scientific inquiry long enough to accept the invitation, enter the moment, and be totally entertained. It is part mystery, part force of personality, coupled with flair, a sense of the dramatic, and showmanship that makes it enjoyable. Of course I was sitting next to a curmudgeon who kept leaning over to whisper, “I know how he did that.”  Since he was unwilling to leave the realm of knowledge and disbelief behind, he was not inclined to accept the performer’s invitation, did not enter into the mystery, and was unchanged by it all. Continue reading

It makes a 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. Continue reading

Everyday Pentecost

If we are attentive to Scripture we should be able to recall the Apostles’ reaction to their witnesses to the Resurrection:  let’s see….. went back to the Upper Room and hid, .. hmm…. they went fishing in their old haunts of Galilee … what else? … then went back to the Upper Room … then went out to witness the Ascension … and went back to the Upper Room.  At first glance it seems as though there is a lot of lollygagging going on. I mean what happened to Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”?  Not a whole lot of going, disciple making, baptizing or teaching going on.  What’s up with that?

Continue reading

On the borderline

When I was in seminary, our homiletics professor had lots of advice and pointers for the Sunday homily. 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 your explanation was likely to cross the borderline of orthodoxy and give an inaccurate or heretical version of the underlying theology.  Best to just keep it simple and well clear of the border. Continue reading

Your Go Bag

This week a friend of mine recommended an online documentary entitled “Mr. Tornado.” It was a PBS video about the life and work of Dr. Ted Fujita. He was a fascinating person who did so much ground-breaking work on tornados. We expect to hear meteorologists describe a tornado as Category F1 or F2 – all the way up to F5.  That is the Fujita scale which arose from his study of the 1974 Super Outbreak of 148 tornadoes that swept across 13 states, killing 300 people, causing billions in damage, and all in a 24 hour period. Having grown up in Florida I have some experience and images of vast storm damage – hurricane Donna in 1960. Donna was bad but paled in damage to the 1935 Labor Day storm, Andrew, Michael, Irma, Charley – and those are just the Florida hurricanes. The images from the 1974 tornado outbreak was horrific and brought back memories. So much destruction. So many things were destroyed. So many people lost everything.  Continue reading

It matters

Think of one person in your life who you just can’t believe is so wrong-headed about living in this modern world as a Catholic. That person whose politics make you wonder if they ever encountered Jesus in the gospels. That person who just… who just… “It doesn’t matter, I’m not talking to them anymore. It is a waste of time.”  Hold that thought. Continue reading

The cords of life

About ten years ago I was serving as Pastor at Sacred Heart in Tampa. I had been in Tampa for six years and had no aspiration or desire to be elsewhere. It was the year that Pope Francis was elected. The joke in the parish office was that I was waiting for a call from Rome telling me that I have been appointed Papal Household Swim Coach.  Oddly enough, it was only a few weeks after the election when the parish telephone rang – and on the other end was a call from Rome.  It wasn’t an offer to be  swim coach, but rather it was the Minister General of the Franciscan 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 a vowed Franciscan it was something I had to consider and take into prayer.

And then came the gospel for this week. Continue reading

Sent in Mercy

You encounter someone whose actions you judge as inconsiderate, hurtful, brusk, and dismissive. What do you do?  ….hold onto that thought. We’ll come back to it.

Today’s gospel has a month of Sundays worth of content about which one could preach. But I want to focus on these few, rich, amazing words: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”   Continue reading

…early in the morning, while it was still dark

“…early in the morning, while it was still dark…” and so Easter begins. Begins in the place and time when it is hard to see, difficult to be sure what we are seeing, making it harder to be sure what we will later remember. We all have our own experiences of joyous Easter celebrations. My own memories are of churches blooming into color after the somber decor of Lent, easter egg hunts with the cousins, the quest for the golden egg, and many other happy memories. Perhaps your memories are similar. Maybe so much so that we pass over the beginning: disciples stumbling around in the half-light when the memories of Good Friday loom large. Jesus was captured, tortured, and crucified. He was buried in a tomb hewed out of the side of a hill – a stone covered the entrance. Hope died with him. It is now the third day and these disciples move about in the not-yet-light. Continue reading