Friday, March 16, 2018



I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I
will leave to the young an example of how to die
willingly and generously for the revered and holy law.
II Maccabees 6:28

It occurred to me recently that I seem to been attending a growing number of funerals down in my home parish for aunts, uncles, neighbors and old friends from growing up days.

One of those funerals was January (2013). It was for John A. O’Bryan, uncle of Father Bob Ray, and an outstanding member of our parish community. I went to school with many of his, and his wife Anna Rita’s, 14 children. His 37 grandchildren, 58 great grandchildren and 6 great, great grandchildren almost filled the church.

One of the things that stood out in the many good things said about him was his “legacy.” His blood legacy is obvious, but what was talked about more importantly was his other “legacy,” the personal example he set for his young descendants. I was reminded of the Old Testament giant, Eleazar, from the II Book of Maccabees.

Eleazar was a very old Jewish man who was given the choice of eating pork against the teachings of his sacred faith or be killed. He could have saved his life by “going along.” His friends even tried to help him devise a scheme where he merely “appeared” to eat pork. He made up his mind to remain loyal to the holy laws of God.

His reasons are worth quoting directly. “At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young men would think the ninety-year old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus dissimulate for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I bring shame and dishonor on my old age.”

“Even if for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” (II Maccabees 6:24-28)

Today I want to offer an encouraging word to all men and women, my age and older as regards our “legacies,” the examples we set and leave behind for the young. For many of you, it is for your children and grandchildren. For me, it is my 20 nieces and nephews, as well as parishioners, seminarians and college students where I used to do ministry.

Frankly, I am more and more scandalized and disgusted by the behavior of some adults and how it is affecting the young - from ugly, name-calling tweets from our President to the sexual promiscuity of many of their parents. It seems that all boundaries are falling even among people who should be examples to the young of how to live a life worthy of emulation. Adults are more and more involved in the excesses of youth. Meanwhile, the likes of Jerry Springer are making millions off their disgusting antics.

I often ask myself these days, “What will my many nieces, nephews, parishioners, seminarians and college students remember about me? Have I been kind, encouraging, generous, magnanimous and affirming toward them? Will they remember me as a credible example of fidelity and practicing what I have preached?” At this point, all I can honestly say is that I am trying!

Thursday, March 15, 2018



Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3

There is an appointed time for everything, 
and a time for every affair under the heavens. 

A time to give birth, and a time to die; 
a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; 
a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

A time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to be silent, and a time to speak.

A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.

I recognized that there is nothing better than to rejoice and to do well during life.

It's almost a year away, but my 2019 calendar just arrived. Believe or not, I need to start putting things down in it now. I am thinking it might be a bit presumptuous to start assuming that far in advance, but as the Boy Scouts say, "Be prepared!"

Do you know what you were doing on this day twenty-five years ago - March 3, 1993? I do! I went to a LCA banquet with Ms. Christy Brown. I am not sure where it took place or even what LCA stands for (maybe Louisville Central Area), but I know I went. I just checked my 1993 calendar.

Now what will I be doing March 3, 2019? Only God knows, but I have faith that it will be good!

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Serpents were biting people and many died.
So Moses made a bronze image of a serpent,
put it on a pole and made them look at it.
Numbers 21

If you have ever been in the hospital or flipped through the phone book looking for a physician, you’ve seen the image – two winged serpents wrapped around a staff. It is known as the caduceus. Even though there is some confusion with another "one snake" Greek symbol, it has been the symbol of the American medical profession for nearly a hundred years – a decidedly odd symbol for doctors until you begin to investigate where it came from and its underlying meaning.

This ancient symbol of healing is referred to in today’s first reading and the gospel. In their trek across the desert from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land, the People of God underwent all sorts of trials and troubles. The one mentioned today is their plague of biting winged serpents. After praying for delivery from this awful plague, God instructs Moses to make a bronze image of the same serpents, put it on a pole and invite the people to take a good hard look at it. When they looked at it hard and long, they recovered.

Now this may sound like some kind of voodoo magic, but it isn’t! It’s primitive psychology! All you future nurses, doctors, psychologists and mental health professionals, listen up! What Moses did here is still good practice! What he is saying here is that the road to healing is always through facing the problem and looking at it squarely. Failing to look at problems squarely is the best way to keep them going!

The worst thing you can do, if you have a mysterious lump on your body, is to pretend it isn’t there! You need to pay close attention to it and have a professional examine it carefully and as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look the other way and pretend that it isn’t there! Healing begins with noticing.  

The worst thing you can do, if you are having financial problems, is to keep on spending and pretending that the problem doesn’t really exist! If you are having such problems, you need to face some hard facts and get some help as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look away and pretend the problem does not exist! Recovery begins with facing that which is painful to face, squarely!

The worst thing you can do, if you or one of your friends has a drinking or drug problem, is to look away and pretend that it isn’t there! Reality must be faced squarly and help must be sought as soon as possible. The worst thing to do is to look away and pretend the problem does not exist! Recovery begins with facing facts squarely! That’s why people in AA must first of all say to themselves and others, “I am an alcoholic!” before their healing can begin!

We live in a world that has avoidance down to a fine art! If we don’t like something, we look away! Nowhere is it more obvious than the mushrooming credit card debt, when people spend and spend when they can barely pay the interest, even using one credit card to pay the interest on another!

Nowhere is it more obvious than in our national obesity problem. Instead of facing this problem individually, every time we sit down to eat, we keep stuffing our faces with massive amounts of bad food, while we wait for that magic pill that will melt fat away as we sleep. According to Dr. Phil’s new massive diet program, for the first time in our history the next generation will die younger than their parents because of obesity related problems.

Moses didn’t put it this way, but this is what he meant – all of us need to “wake up and smell the coffee” in several areas of our lives! As a culture, we are addicted to our denial. Whatever it is, we need to open our eyes and take a good hard look at reality and quit going to sleep just because it is comfortable and feels good for the moment!

And, yes, on a spiritual level, looking at Jesus dying on the cross – looking intently at it and understanding what it means – not looking away and not avoiding our responsibility in considering its implications - is the path to our eternal life as well!

Lent, my sisters and brothers, is about facing ourselves, facing our addictions and owning them, facing our shabby treatment of others and owning it and facing our sins and owning them. Lent is about taking a long, hard look at reality as a path to healing and forgiveness! Anything else is just a silly waste of time!