Sunday, June 17, 2018


... we walk by faith, not by sight,
yet we are courageous.

II Corinthians 5:6-10

I love those two dried up old Old Testament nomads, Abraham and his wife Sarah! They prove to me, over and over again, just how odd God can be in the way he does things, compared to the way we do things! 

Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their roots to this ancient couple. Scriptures tell us that Abraham and Sarah “had one foot in the grave,” Abraham being 99 years old and Sarah 90! They had been childless all their lives, but at those advanced ages God informs them that they were about to have a baby, the first of many, many descendants, descendants as numerous as the stars! Upon hearing this bit of news, we are told that Abraham falls to the ground laughing and Sarah snickers in her tent. After they quit laughing, they believed, hoping against hope, that what God promised, God could do! To their complete surprise, Sarah did become pregnant and delivered a son, Isaac. Interesting enough, the name Isaac means “laughter.”

Because of their faith, even when everything appeared to be completely and utterly impossible, they have been celebrated in the Sacred Scriptures as exemplars and models of faith for all believers including us!

Faith doesn’t amount to a tinkers damn, if it holds up only when the path is well lit!  Faith starts when darkness descends!  Faith becomes real when it is tested! The harder the test, the stronger the faith. Faith sometimes appears to be the stupidest response in face of the facts. Abraham and Sara’s faith was so strong that they actually believe what God promised in spite of the fact that every card was stacked against that promise coming to reality!  And yet God, as always, came through regardless of the so-called “obstacles.”

One of the things I have heard over and over again during the damnable sex scandal that rocked our church is this, “We will come out of this better than ever!” That, my dear friends, is a statement of faith! The person who makes a statement like that reveals that he actually believes Jesus’ promise that he “would be with us always, even to the end of time,” that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church.” The person who makes a statement like that  reveals that he actually believes in the process of dying and rising, not just in the resurrection as something that happened centuries ago. The person who makes a statement like that reveals that he has faith and not just a set of beliefs!

My fellow Catholics, these are tough times for all of us. Not only have victims been hurt and perpetrators had their lives ruined, we have all been victims of collateral damage! It has been a dark time for me and for you as well.  Like Jonah the prophet, “My heart has fainted within me.” Like Jeremiah the prophet, I was tempted to quit thinking about God, to quit speaking his name anymore.  I was so demoralized that some days I could barely function. It took so much energy just to go out in public and to stand here in front of you. I felt like something I loved had been clawed to shreds by cats. Every bone in my body wanted to give up. I am sure that some of you felt the same way? 

Why bother? Simply because God is faithful to us and so we must be faithful to him! Even when I hit a new bottom, feeling like I didn't have a shred of faith left, I knew that I could not give up! Like Abraham and Sarah, I knew that God had the power to turn even this situation around. My faith in God is the only thing that  kept me going. Even though I could not see the road ahead of me, I was convinced that Jesus, who has promised to be with us always, that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church, is still with us. As St. Paul puts it, “We walk by faith and not by sight.” I’m still standing! I am still going! I’m here to stay and I hope you are too! Faith is about the "big picture" and the "long haul!" Faith isn’t real faith unless it can survive a serious testing now and then! 

Let me end with a quote from Mother Teresa, a wonderful example of what faith really is! “What you spend years building, someone could destroy it over night: build anyway! If you find serenity and happiness, people may be jealous: be happy anyway! What good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow: do good anyway! Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough: give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God: it has never been between you and them anyway!”

Pray for your priests...and know that we are praying for you as well! Remember Abraham and Sarah who kept believing even when everything seemed completely and utterly impossible.

Speaking of so-called "impossible situations," please say a special prayer for me this week and next. I am leaving Wednesday for my 10th volunteer trip down to the island missions. At my age, it takes a lot out of me - especially the stress of traveling, the heat, the poverty and the almost hourly inconveniences! I will be giving a deacon retreat, filling in for a priest who had a stroke, visiting the two orphanages I help, meeting with the country's Minister of Health and finalizing plans for a computer camp for kids we are sponsoring in July. 

Why do I do it? I believe the words of Jesus that "to those whom much has been given, much is expected!"  I can't fix the world, but in my retirement I want to spend my last years "giving back" because I feel I have been so blessed, especially in my years as a priest!  It's the least I can do and I am more than willing to do it as long as I am able! For me, it beats playing golf! 

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