Hungers, Empathy and Homecoming

“A man had two sons …” (Luke 15:11) – such is the beginning of the beloved and well-known Parable of the Prodigal Son. But you know Scripture doesn’t come with titles for such things. That’s just what the parable has always been called. But we could call it something else. The Parable of the Waiting Father? Or perhaps the Parable of the Petulant Older Brother? I guess it all depends on what draws your interest and attention. What about you? Where are your thoughts drawn: to the younger son’s selfish greed, the older son’s arrogant fury, or perhaps the patient father’s extravagant love? Continue reading

Controlling chaos

We friars assist as Catholic chaplains at Tampa General. It is not my first time as a hospital chaplain.  That was at Bethesda Naval Hospital. My time at Bethesda was at the beginning of the war in Iraq when the Marines were engaged in combat around Fallujah. Casualties were high. Every evening there was a chaplain assigned to the flight line to be there when marines, sailors, airmen and soldiers were medevac’d from the war zone. All of these service men and women were in grave medical conditions. I witnessed injuries that still left me amazed that the person was still alive. Alive with lives that would never be the same, never as they had planned. But the combat/trauma ICU and the flight line were not the hardest chaplain duty at Bethesda – at least not for me.  For me, the hardest ward was the NICU; the neo-natal intensive care unit. Continue reading

The well is deep

I own a bucket. I suspect you do also. So…what is your favorite story about your bucket? Seriously. Ok, not so seriously. We don’t think about buckets a whole lot. It is not like we have a plethora of “bucket stories.” They are just kinda’ there when we need them. You use ‘em, you put them away. Back in the closet, pantry, or garage ready for the next time. And when the “next time” comes” and we go to find them and they are missing from their assigned place, it is not like the world has ended. Perhaps annoyed or inconvenienced, but not ended. A lots of times, the task is generally not too big and we can work around the missing bucket. Continue reading

Fuel for courage

This is the 2nd Sunday of Lent and each year on this day our gospel is taken from one of the accounts of the Transfiguration – this year we take it from Luke. It is the same gospel we hear every August 6th on the Feast of the Transfiguration. This year I began to wonder why we proclaim this gospel on this Sunday. Last week, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus’ temptation in the desert – well, that seems like a perfectly good start to the Lenten season.  But why read the Transfiguration – why here on this 2nd Sunday of Lent? Is there a meaning, particularly Lenten, that we should hear and understand – apart from the meaning and message we would consider on August 6th? Continue reading

Precious and very great promises

Did you catch the language of the second reading when St. Paul talks about “the first Adam” and “the last Adam?” It is his reference to our human nature and, with God’s grace, our possibilities. St. Paul talks about the first Adam being an earthly creature – and that is a good thing. When God created this world, he pronounced his work to be good – and when we created the first Adam and Eve, he pronounced his work to be very good. We are the work of the divine potter who knew us before we were created in our mother’s womb. We are part of that divine, creative outpouring of love that is how and why the world was created and what sustains the world in being. Continue reading

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