Sunday, May 12, 2019



Even though MOTHER'S DAY is a civil holiday, rather than a Church feast, I want to wish all of you mothers, grandmothers, step mothers, foster mothers and various mother substitutes a very happy MOTHER'S DAY! 

My mother died on this day (May 12, 1976) of breast cancer at age 58. At the time, I thought she was old. I still miss her and wish I could talk to her.  


Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice…and they follow me.”
John 10:27

God speaks to me everyday, usually through people, often through events, and sometimes in dreams, but especially through the reading of Scripture. I feel it and I don’t doubt it and I try to carry on a constant dialogue with God in my heart as I go through each day.

One of the most life-changing dreams I ever had that led to a dramatic change in my understanding of God happened when I was about 30 years old.  Many of you know it because I have mentioned it often. It happened when I was serving as the first Pastor of Saint Peter Mission Church down in Monticello, Kentucky, south of Lake Cumberland.

In the dream I was on top of a small mountain. It had no trees or bushes or rocks. It had only very short green grass like a golf green. I was sitting in a folding lawn chair and God was sitting in one next to me. We were sitting side-by-side facing the setting sun without speaking. We were both smoking cheap King Edward cigars! I knew it was God, but I was afraid to look over. We just puffed on our cigars and watched the sun set on the horizon. Finally, God leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Ron, isn’t this wonderful!”  I woke from the dream at that point and the world looked forever different to me. All of the emotional chains that were holding me back had melted away. I felt a lightness in my heart that I had never felt before. It was OK to be me. I fully understood what it meant to be “created in the image and likeness of God.” I was that lost sheep that Jesus embraced. I was the prodigal son who made it home to an unexpected warm welcome. I felt that I could succeed and do some good things. For the first time in my life I felt that I was good enough for God just the way I was. This experience was the beginning of a new way of preaching. Instead of looking for sins to condemn, I started looking for goodness to affirm. I believe that the years following the dream prepared me to offer a clear message of “good news” that appealed to so many alienated Catholics which led to the rapid and consistent growth of this very Cathedral parish a few years later.

The only time I can remember anything like being spoken to by God directly was a few years ago, right after I left the cathedral. I was moping around the house in a funk, worried about whether the best part of my life was over, and worried whether I could ever get interested in anything else the way I was interested in the cathedral. My mind was obsessing with negative mind chatter. I was home alone. All of a sudden, I heard a voice, clear and distinct, that said, “Don’t worry!” It startled me. I look around thinking that it came from the TV. It wasn’t even on!  I thought I might have left the front door open and a friend had slipped in unheard. No one there!  I will never know for sure whether I really heard it or just imagined it, but, regardless, it was a very helpful message, a message that certainly guided me through that slump and the fear that I would never experience anything like my years at the Cathedral again!  

It has been twenty-two years since I left here as your pastor – and, yes, that voice was right! I didn’t have anything to worry about! I don’t have time to list the many wonderful things that I have experienced since I left here. To add icing on the cake, I get to come back almost every weekend after my long journey speaking to 165 priest groups in 10 countries and counting, teaching in the seminary, writing a column in the diocesan paper for 15 years (not to mention publishing 25 books and a blog) and now working in the Caribbean missions! “Don’t worry?” What the voice really meant was, “Don’t worry! I have more great things for you in the years ahead!  You can have more than one great thing!”  As Jesus said in another place, “Fear is useless! What is needed is trust!” Alexander Graham Bell once said, "When one door closes another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the ones which open for us." 

In our gospel, Jesus uses one of his very favorite images of himself – a good shepherd.  Today he focuses on the voice of the shepherd, his voice, God’s voice. The voice thing was extremely important in the shepherding business. Sheep roamed and fences were few, in that part of the world at that time. Flocks often mingled during day as they searched for the scarce grass among the rocks. When the time came for them to be penned up for the night, all a shepherd had to do was to call out in his certain, unique way and his sheep, and only his sheep culled themselves from all the others, simply by being able to distinguish his voice from all the other calling voices filling the air.

The question Jesus asks us to think about today is rather simple: as you graze through life, who’s voice do you pick out, from the many voices calling out to you? Which of those competing voices do you listen to for guidance and direction?  Do you listen consistently for the voice of Jesus to guide you or do follow one voice one day, another the next and still another the next?  Do you listen to Jesus on one issue, Hollywood stars on another, a talk show audience on another?  Maybe the only voice you listen to is that voice in your own head that tells you to take the easy way, the expedient way, the way that will get you what you want at that moment? The message today is simple: if you are going to claim to be a “Christian,” it is essential you know who Jesus was, what he taught and what he wants from you – and you can’t do that without listening carefully to his voice and to listen to his voice, you have to be able to recognize his voice from all other voices. 

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