Friday, January 26, 2018



 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter,
was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.

He first found his own brother Simon and brought him to Jesus.

Jesus looked at him and said,

"You are Simon the son of John;

you will be called Cephas" — which is translated Peter.
John 1:35-42

Jesus was right! The church is like a huge dragnet that scoops up a little of everything from the depths of the sea, like a field of weeds and wheat growing together, like a banquet attended by the good and bad alike!   Today’s self-righteous Pharisees, like the self-righteous Pharisees of old, are scandalized by this reality, the reality that the church is, and always has been, a hodge-podge  of  sinners and saints! These self-righteous types like to distance themselves from “undesirables,” painting themselves as man’s gift to God while looking down on the weak and sinful.  Jesus would not join them today, just as he did not join them 2,000 years ago!

In another place, we have the scene of Jesus inviting tax collectors and sinners to join him and his disciples to dinner.  Jesus obviously held these dinners quit often and obviously these crowds of rejects had a great time at his dinner parties because the Scriptures tell us that Jesus earned the nicknames of “glutton” and “drunkard” in the religious establishment. Coming upon this scene, this “holier-than-thou” group of Pharisees objected vehemently, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Overhearing their criticism, Jesus responds, without apology, lays this on them: “Those who are well do not need a doctor! Sick people do! I did not come to call the righteous but sinners!”

If the church is like a dragnet that scoops up a little of everything  from the depths of the sea, then Jesus must have scraped the bottom of the pond to come up with this motley crew that we have come to call “apostles.”  A few years ago, I came across a funny memo addressed to Jesus about the apostles he is about to choose. It is sent from a fictional consulting firm in Jerusalem! It may be funny, but it makes a profound point! Let me read a section to you.

 Jesus, Son of Joseph

 Woodcrafter Carpenter Shop

 Nazareth   25922
Dear Jesus:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; we have not only run the results though our computer, but we have also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however,  shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man.

We wish you every success in your new adventure.

Sincerely yours,
Jerusalem Management Consultants

“God’s ways are not our ways.” How many times have we heard that remark? Well, it is absolutely true and the Scriptures are full of examples where God seems to relish in picking losers, crooks, idiots and incompetents to do his most important work. We read about the call of Abraham and Sara. They were 99 and 90 respectfully when they were called to begin the most important family in history! A little old, don’t you think? When he need a mother for Jesus, who did he pick but an engaged teenager from nowhere!  A little risky, don’t you think? Are we surprised that Jesus would pick such a shaky foundation on which to build his church: a liar, a couple of mama’s babies, two Middle Eastern terrorists, an agnostic and a tax collector? The only reason I can figure out for these kinds of decisions is to let us know loud and clear that it is God’s work, not our effort or expertise, that counts! It’s not about our efforts. It’s about God’s goodness!

Most of my life I have struggled with feelings of not being good enough, no doubt results of some serious emotional abuse when I was a child. “You will never amount to anything!” “You can’t do anything right!” “You’re a hopeless case!” My feelings of not being good enough are not as severe as they used to be, by a long shot, but traces of them are still there and those old feelings can be triggered almost without warning. Many of you know what I am talking about. They are irrational feelings, for the most part, but they are still there.  I have been battling feelings of not being good enough like a wildfire these last several weeks. One incident in particular triggered them “big time!” The Pope recently told a group of newly ordained priests in Rome that they must be “perfect.” Since I have never felt like I could adequately measure up to the expectations that people place on priests, those words went right through me. It has taken me over 30 years to quit beating myself up for not being perfect and be consoled that my best was good enough for God. I don’t want to go back! I won’t go back!

It is the gospel message  has helped me more than any psychologist! The word “gospel” means “good news.” The “good news” is this :our best may not be good enough for this world, but it is good enough for God! God loves us without condition! As the first reading puts it, “God proves his love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” God’s  love is freely given without any need on our part to earn it. God loves us flaws and all!  “People see externals. God sees into the heart.” “God chooses the weak and made them strong in bearing witness to him.” Jesus filled these weak, flawed and sinful bunch of men with the fire of his love and gradually made saints of them! In his ministry Jesus specialized, not in ritual temple service, but in helping people who feel bad about themselves, feel worthy: the poor, women, children, the diseased, the ostracized and the marginalized: people who did not feel good enough!

My friends, in the end, it is not about what you do for God, it is about what God has done for you. No matter what happens, remember this: you are valued and loved in God eyes, no matter what you’ve done or failed to do!  Look what out second readings says today: “He died for us while we were sinners.” Notice that it does not say: “He died for us because we shaped up!” God loves us, not because we deserve it, but in spite of the fact that we do not deserve it!

If Jesus can choose  Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, James, Thaddeus, Thomas, Matthew and Simon and use them for his work, he can choose people like you and me, flaws and all, to carry on that work! God did not love us because we are lovable. We are lovable because God loves us.  God’s love is pure gift. And before we go around judging others’ worthiness for God, let us own our own sins and failings. If God can have compassion on us, knowing all our sins and failures,  surely we can have compassion on each other.  As we say in the Mass, right before communion, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed!” 


Thursday, January 25, 2018


"Christianity can be easier suffocated with comfort, to the point that we forget who we are, than it can be terrorized with violence."

What the church shooters don’t get about Christianity’s strength

While millions of other Christians were singing hymns or opening their Bibles or taking communion Sunday, at that very moment, a gunman was opening fire on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. This, believed to be the largest church shooting in history, ended with at least 26 people killed, according to authorities.
Several children were among the fallen, including pastor Frank Pomeroy’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle. Whatever the shooter’s twisted objective might have been, we do know this: It won’t work.
The goal the gunman sought, to terrorize worshippers, has been attempted constantly over the centuries around the world by cold, rational governments and terrorist groups — all thinking they could, by the trauma of violence, snuff out churches, or at least intimidate those churches into hiding from one another. Such violent tactics always end with exactly the opposite of what the intimidators intend: a resilient church that, if anything, moves forward with even more purpose than before. Why?
Whether they’re crazed loners in the United States or jihadist cells in Syria or governing councils in the old Soviet bloc, these forces fundamentally misunderstand the source of Christianity’s strength in the first place.
Killers assume, after all, that gunfire or poison gas or mass beheadings will show Christians how powerless we are. That is true. They assume that this sense of powerlessness will rob the community of its will to be the church. That is false.
If they looked overhead, in almost any of the churches they attempt to destroy, these killers might see what they miss: the cross.
The church was formed against the threat of terror. Jesus himself stood before a Roman governor who told him the state had the authority to kill him, in the most horrific way possible — staking him to a crossbeam to bleed slowly to death before a jeering crowd. That’s, of course, exactly what Pilate did — and the empire’s intimidation seemed to work, at first.
Most of Jesus’ core followers went into hiding, out of fear they’d be endangered next. That’s exactly what crosses were designed to do: Their public display was to warn people that they could be the next in line.
The very ones who scattered, though, soon returned, testifying that they had seen the crucified Jesus alive. The result was an open proclamation of the Christian message that led to thousands joining themselves to the tiny persecuted movement. Within a matter of centuries, the terrorists themselves, the Roman Empire, would be gone, with the church marching forward into the future.
The reason was not that the church came to believe that it could find safety in the threats of violence. The reason was that the church came to conclude, in the midst of the violence, that death is not the endpoint.
The Christian gospel does not cower before death. Those who give their lives in witness to Christ are not helpless victims, in our view. In fact, the Book of Revelation maintains that those who are martyred are in fact ruling with Christ.
This is not in spite of the fact that they are killed. They triumph even as they are killed. That’s because they are joined to a Christ who has been dead and never will be again.
The day of the shooting was, for many churches, a day of remembrance for the persecuted church. Christians do not see as victims those around the world who are rooted out of their churches, even lined up and executed. We see in them the power Jesus promised us: the power that is made perfect in weakness.
To eradicate churches, our opponents will need a better strategy. They should see that Christianity can be easier suffocated with comfort, to the point that we forget who we are, than it can be terrorized with violence. Those who try to confront the church with the threat of death only remind the church that we were dead and are now alive in Christ.
The days ahead will be awful for the grieving community of Sutherland Springs. But one thing is certain: Come Sunday, they will be gathered again, singing and praying and opening the word. That church will bear witness to the truth that shaped them: Eternal life cannot be overcome by death. And over that church will be a cross.
Russell Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Special To The Washington Post

Tuesday, January 23, 2018



If you were half-way there, you'd have to live to be one hundred forty-eight! It ain't goina' happen! 

In the meantime, just remember this! Everyday of your life has been a gift, and will always be, especially going forward!  

I find it curious that many people are afraid to talk about death - the only thing I know of that is certain - as if talking about it, brings it on! I'm not afraid to talk about it or write about it. 


"Time flies when you're having fun!" At seventy-four (almost), I am enjoying my life, but it seems that the weeks are flying by. I notice it most when I visit nursing homes. I go to two homes every week-end. It seems like the visits are every three or four days, instead of once a week. 

Now I am not in a panic yet, but I do think about death more than I ever did before! I find myself every once in a while, when I am quiet and by myself, wondering how my life will end. 

This is something new that has come with age.  I think about it more often - not is a morose way, but in a curious way. I wonder what my end will be like. I have questions. 

Will I die peacefully in my sleep - just never wake up? Will I get old and sick and linger? Will I die in a violent car wreck or maybe a plane crash? Will I die alone or surrounded by a couple of family members or friends? Will I be conscious or unconscious? Will I know what is going on or will I be "out of it?" Will I die at home, in a hospital or a nursing home? Will I get to make some choices or will someone else be burdened with that?  Will I die peacefully or wracked with pain? 

I have no  way of knowing. I know that it is pretty much out of my control. It would be nice to think about dying at the altar saying Mass, but I could just as well be found frozen to death on the sidewalk along Eastern Parkway with no clothes on because of dementia.  Whenever it happens, wherever it happens, I just hope it is in a socially acceptable situation! All I know for sure is that denial doesn't work!


Archabbot Timothy Sweeney, OSB, being buried in the monk's cemetery at Saint Meinrad Archabbey.  

Because I worked at Saint Meinrad for 14years, I get a free casket from the selections they sell commercially. I chose the simple monk's casket. 


I'll be buried at my home parish of Saint Theresa in Rhodelia.

I will be buried in the priest section of Saint Theresa Cemetery very near my parents and grandparents. 


I don't obsess about dying, but here are a few quotes about dying that I find very helpful as I "wait in joyful hope." 


Sunday, January 21, 2018




Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh according to the Lord’s bidding.
Jonah 3:1-5,10

As we said in the Confiteor at the beginning of Mass, we can sin in two ways – by what we do and what we fail to do. We can sin by excessively over-inflating our worth, by thinking too highly of ourselves, but we can also sin by devaluating ourselves, by thinking too little of ourselves. I talked about some of these ideas at the Parish Mission I presented here in this Cathedral last Lent. 

Narcissism is the term used to describe excessive vanity and self-centeredness. The condition was named after a mythological Greek youth named Narcissus who became infatuated with his own reflection in a lake. He did not realize at first that it was his own reflection, but when he did, he died out of grief for having fallen in love with someone who did not exist outside himself.

Narcissistic personalities are characterized by unwarranted feelings of self-importance. They expect to be recognized as superior and special, without necessarily demonstrating superior accomplishments. They exhibit a sense of entitlement, demonstrate grandiosity in their beliefs and behaviors and display a strong need for admiration. Bruce Barton said, “Conceit is God’s gift to little men.” Some believe their inflated self-importance has led to a disdain for those they feel are inferior, which might explain a rise in bullying and entitlement among the young.

When narcissistic people talk about church attendance, they usually say things like “I don’t go because I don’t get anything out of it!” “I, I, I!” When they say things like that they put themselves in the center of the picture. It’s all about them! Church attendance is really about giving, not getting. We go to Church to give God worship and praise! We go to learn to give and serve others!
When narcissistic people talk about marriage, they talk about what it will do for them. They are like the woman in the Guinness Book of Records with the most marriages. When she was asked about it, she said, “All I ever wanted was someone to love me!” No wonder she failed at it so many times. People who marry successfully get married to be love-givers, not love-getters! As Jesus said, “It is in giving that one receives!” Receiving is not a goal, but a by-product, of the marriage or ordination commitment. Narcissistic priests and marriage partners are always doomed to fail. For both priests and married partners, it is not about us, it is about those we are called to serve!

As I said last Sunday, when I was talking about our “calls,” or “vocations,” when narcissistic young people talk about what to do with their lives, they usually ask themselves “what do I want to do or what do I want to be” that will make me happy? The real question is not what do we want to do, but what is God calling me to do and be” that will lead me to happiness? Jesus was right, “Those who seek to save their lives will lose them, while those who seek to give their lives away, will save them.” Albert Schweitzer was right when he said, and narcissistic people will never get it, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found out how to serve.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, and narcissistic people will never understand it, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”

Pope Francis talks a lot about a “self-referential church,” in other words a narcissistic church. He says that when the Church does not look beyond itself, when it is always focused on itself, it gets sick. The Church is the moon and Christ is the sun. The Church exists to reflect the light of Christ to the world, not to live within herself, of herself and for herself.

The other extreme to narcissism is self-deprecation or the minimization and devaluation of oneself. Humility is about accepting the truth about who we are, without exaggerating it or minimizing it. “Humility” comes from the Latin “humus,” meaning “earth.” “Humility” means “grounded.” A truly “humble” person, truly in touch with his strengths and weaknesses, neither inflates his worth nor devalues it. Humility is ultimately about truth.

It is this truth that Jesus spent his ministry trying to teach. He taught it to the religious leaders of his day who were so arrogant and self-inflated that they started out talking about God and ended up thinking they were gods. He taught it to the marginalized of his day who were so beaten down that they did not recognize their own goodness and the image of God within themselves.

God has entrusted gifts to us to be used! When we do not use our gifts, even deny we have them, we neither serve God nor the people we are called to serve. Jesus told us that we are the light of the world, our light is not to be hidden, but shared with the world. When our light is shared, when our talents are invested, the credit is not to be absorbed by us as if we were the source of that light and those talents, but that credit is to be reflected back to God. Seeing our light and benefitting from our talents, people are to give God the glory and praise. There is great responsibility that goes with being the light of the world and having talents! It scares us. We tend to shy away from it.

In that arena, the prophet Jonah is a patron saint. Jonah was called to preach to the people of Nineveh. He considered himself a poor preacher on one hand and the Ninevites not worth saving on the other. To get away from his unwelcomed call, he went down to the docks and bought a ticket on the next ship sailing in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He thought he could outrun God!

In his version of a get-away-car, Jonah is pictured going to sleep in the bottom of his boat while a storm raged, a symbol today of “denial.” The psychologist Abraham Maslow calls such spiritual and emotional truancy the Jonah Complex: “The evasion of one’s own growth, the setting of low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudo-stupidity, mock humility.”

We are afraid of failure and success. A calling makes us wonder if we are good enough, smart enough, disciplined enough, educated enough, patient enough, and inspired enough. We manage our fear by “going to sleep,” “settling for too little” and “self-sabotage.”

The truth is this: all of us have answered “yes” in some areas and “no” in others. We both crave and fear becoming who we are called to be!

Thomas Merton was right, “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” Maybe our biggest sin is not what we do, but what we fail to do! Michelangelo put it this way. “The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”

May you want to be who you are - who God called you to be! You are talented! Invest your talents! The world is not served by your playing small!