It ain’t over

The early 20th century evangelist, Billy Sunday is reported to have said once that the best thing that could happen to any person would be to reach a moment of deep conversion, to be justified, to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, walk out of the revival tent, be hit by a truck, and killed instantly. There would be no backsliding, no withering under the scorching sun of modern life, and no chance to move from this one moment. Continue reading

The greatest of gifts

In today’s first reading, the epistle to the Galatians, the apostles makes clear that justification does come by works of the law: “For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse.” The Church has, from its earliest times, condemned “works salvation” as I mentioned in my reflection earlier this week pointing to the Pelagian heresy. That heresy held that, while not very likely, man possesses the ability apart from God’s grace to gain salvation. To believe that premise would make one a full-on Pelegian. Many in the Reformed and Protestant traditions would suggest that Catholics are semi-Pelegians. Continue reading

Faith and Works

If you grew up in the South in the 1950s and 1960s and were Catholic, you were someone who needed to be saved, at least in the estimation of your Reformed, Protestant and Evangelical brothers and sisters. Anytime was the right time to ask “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” – at the post office, the gas station, or the local Piggly-Wiggly (and “yes” it is a real store and not a fictional name created for the movies). Continue reading

God’s Favor

GraceDoes anyone here really understand bitcoin? It is a mystery to most of us, we really don’t know what it is or how it works – we sort of know – it’s like electronic money, right? In any case, we can figure out how to use it. I think it’s theological parallel is grace; the grace that St. Paul talks about in our second reading. “My grace is sufficient for you.” It’s short, sweet and to the point. Three times St Paul asked and the answer was essentially “No.” But grace is sufficient…. If he can figure out how to use it.

In Bible studies this passage always raises lots of questions. In the course of the dialogue I have always been struck by language we use surrounding the topic: sanctifying grace, actual grace, habitual grace, prevenient grace, sacramental grace, get grace, lose grace, fall from grace, a state of grace and more. Grace is part of the mystery of God and so we humans will ever want to describe it, categorize it, tame it, corral it – all in hopes we can discreetly and definitively understand grace. But it is a mystery. Continue reading


letter-homeThe world is a much smaller, more connected place.  Times change, technology changes, and it unfolds in different experiences. In an earlier post, A Persistent Memory, I mentioned that back in 1960 or so the Maryknoll missioners relied on letters and a trip home every 10 years or so. Today the Franciscan Lay Missioners live among the poor and disenfranchised – but that does not mean there is no internet or cell phones. The missioners report and communicate on social media, email, and so are able to connect the people where they live with people back at home in the United States. I served in the between times. Transportation was more easily facilitated, there was the possibility of telephone communications (most days only the possibility), and there were not any internet cafes. One communicated by hand written letters. The “turnaround time” between posting a letter to home and receiving a reply was 5 to 6 weeks. One adjusts to that schedule in ebb and flow of the everyday, but there are times when you want to reply immediately. There are times when you need information, decisions, and advice. Then 5-6 weeks is an eternity. Continue reading

The time given

Today’s first reading continues with the accounts in the Book of Genesis. We move from the story of Cain and Abel at the beginning of Genesis 4 to the story of Noah in Genesis 6. Let me fill in the highlights in between. The descendants of Cain are described in terms of violence (Lamech) and yet at the same time as craftsmen, nomads, and minstrels. We also learn that Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, who is described – not in terms of occupation – but in terms of the practice of worshiping God as Seth’s lineage “began to invoke the LORD by name.” (Gen 4:26). Genesis 5 is a genealogy of the generations from Seth to Noah. – and his sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Taking the text literally, between the sin of Cain and the Flood is a period of 1,600 years. Quite a long time to let things play out, so to speak.

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What’s yours is yours…

Talents4To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – each according to his abilities.”

Let me paraphrase the opening of our gospel to make a point or two. “A man going on a journey call in his servants and handed over to them his possessions. To one he gave five pounds of $1,000 bills. To another, two pounds of $1,000 bills, and to a third, one pound of $1,000 bills – to each according to their gifts, talents and abilities – he did not give one them more than he or she could handle.” Continue reading

Walking Grace

Take a moment and look back over the last 10 weekdays (or so) and consider the first reading for daily Mass. (If you look at today’s readings, you can use the calendar feature to quickly located the previous readings of the day). The readings are from the Acts of the Apostles. The readings tells the story of the early Christian Church growing out from the fear behind the doors of the Upper Room moving out to the world with a divine mission.  The salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus is now under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and is extending to include the Gentiles. And it is motley cast of characters that are being send, divinely chosen representatives: “witnesses chosen by God in advance” (Acts 10:41). Continue reading

Temperature, change and grace

I have two words for you this morning: “thermometer” and “thermostat.” Regular, routine, and household words we rarely give a second thought to: “thermometer” and “thermostat.”

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” Those are Jesus’ words from the gospel. They well could have been the prophet Jeremiah’s from the first reading. Jeremiah began his public ministry in the streets of Jerusalem when the good King Josiah was instituting religious reforms to bring the tribes of Judah and Israel back into covenant with God. It was the best of times. The people were being taught the Word of God and right worship – and Jeremiah was on the vanguard of the reforms. And so, it was for about 10 years. King Josiah died in battle and everything changed. Continue reading