Called in the time of Coronavirus

One of the most frequent calls in all of Scripture is “Fear Not!” or one of its many parallel phrases. Perhaps were are not fearful per se in these, concerned for sure, but these are definitely confusing, stressful times. This pandemic affects numerous facets of life from the personal to the societal. It impacts each person in different ways. Whose life is not disrupted? Children from pre-K through college are at home as the educational institutions adapt to the digital classroom. Churches are closed. The local gathering spots offer take-out at best. Sports have disappeared from ESPN – well, live sports anyway. Cocktail hours, retreats and business meetings are now on Zoom. Your gym, YMCA, and the like are closed. Here in Tampa the bicycle shop business is booming, but only one person at a time. Not too often you see a line outside a bicycle shop. There is stress just managing the changes. There is stress wondering if the next person you meet is infected but asymptomatic, the next door handle tainted, and… well, you know your own stress risers and anxieties. Now imagine you are facing this uncertainty and have a mental illness. How much more challenging must it be to navigate this uncertainty? Continue reading

After all these years…

Arising early on Sunday morning, I prayed the Divine Office, sat for a bit in the church before the Real Presence of my Lord and Savior (there are advantages of living in a friary attached to the church), shaved (hadn’t done that in a few days, although you’d barely notice), and sat down to read the Tampa Bay Times, our local newspaper (digital version). Continue reading

The habit of Patience

So far this Advent, every pastor’s column has explored one of the many gifts that await us under the tree, that is, the cross of Christ. And there are some awesome gifts – to name the ones mentioned in previous weeks – forgiveness and mercy. Now we have arrived at the Third Week of Advent, Gaudete Sunday! The name comes from wording in Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!  It is another week, and another gift awaits. Like any kid in the days leading up to Christmas you have begun to peer under the tree, assessing the shapes, sizes and weight of gifts – and guessing what could possibly be under wraps. You have to wonder what other awesome gift is waiting right there under the tree, the cross of Christ. Let’s open up another gift!  But wait…it’s not Christmas yet.  What’s the rush? Christmas is only over a week away. Of course, when I was 7 years old, “only a week” seemed liked a lifetime. Now that I am 67, “only a week” is but the blink of an eye. I am much more patient about most things…. Not all things, most things. So, what’s the rush? Maybe we should practice a little patience? Continue reading

Prayer and the long defeat

In the epic novel The Lord of the Rings, the elves of Lothlorien admit that they are losing their forest lands. But they battle on. The describe their struggle as “fighting the long defeat.” This is source of the comment made by Paul Farmer, who has fought a “losing battle” for health care for the poor. In Tracy Kidder’s biography of Farmer called Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer says, “I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I’m not going to stop because we keep losing… I actually think sometimes we may win… So, you fight the long defeat.”

Reminds me of the persistent widow. Continue reading

Daily Bread

This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 17th Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:  Father, hallowed be your name,  your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread  4 and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.” Continue reading

Matthew 6:1-6,16-18

1 ”(But) take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.2 When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,4 so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.5 “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.6 But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Continue reading

The Gospel of Luke – The Time of Testing

Of course we all know that after the meal with his disciples that Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Actually, no gospel says that.  Matthew and Mark wrote that he went to a garden. John says he went to Gethsemane. Fuse them all together and you get the “Garden of Gethsemane.”  What does Luke say? Luke only calls it “the place.”  There is no garden specifically mentioned nor is Gethsemane.  Is it important? Well, it is a reminder to be attentive to the text before you and not meld the familiar stories and scenes from other sacred writers.  Each sacred writer has something distinctive that can be missed if one fuses all the details from other accounts. Continue reading

Sacred Heart and Hurricane Irma

As the whole State of Florida prepares for Hurricane Irma’s approach and landfall, we ask you all to keep the people of the Sunshine State in your prayers. The southwest coast of Florida seems to be in for the worst of it. Tampa and Tampa Bay region will also feel the full brunt of the storm. May God watch over us all and keep us safe.

For local followers of this blog, you can keep posted on parish events via our website.

Empathy and grace: parables

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3A Parable of Reversal? I tell you, the latter [tax collector] went home justified. We might object to God forgiving the tax collector. He doesn’t actually confess any sins. He makes no statement of repentance. He doesn’t offer to change his life. He doesn’t make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector Zacchaeus does). This appears to be very cheap grace. This parable probably should not be understood as an example story, but is it simply a story of reversal, as the final saying indicates. If the Pharisee is viewed as a villain and the tax collector a hero, besides the historical inaccuracies, the parable loses its power. They have only received what they deserved. There is no need for the reversal in this last verse. Continue reading

Empathy and grace: tax collector

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3The Tax Collector. 13 But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’

Consider what Luke has already recorded about Jesus vis-a-vis “sinners”

  • “I have not come to call the righteous to repentance but sinners.” (Luke 5:32)
  • …there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” (Luke 15:7)

Continue reading