Monday, January 7, 2019



Keep Your Eye on the Prize
Encouraging Words for Discouraged Catholics 

Rev. J. Ronald Knott

Regional - Vine Grove, Kentucky
Diocesan-Wide - Louisville, Kentucky 


This was a Regional Lenten Mission In Saint Augustine Church in Lebanon, Kentucky

Cathedral of the Assumption Regional Parish Mission

Meade County Fair grounds County-Wide Lenten Mission

Epiphany Cathedral Lenten Mission in Naples, Florida

Saint John Paul II Parish Lenten Retreat,

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Herod or Magi - Cowardice or Courage?


King Herod - Man of Cowardice

The Magi - Men of Courage

In the days of King Herod, 
behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising
and have come to do him homage." When King Herod heard this,
he was greatly troubled. 
Matthew 2:1-12

As many of you know, I like to write. “Like” may be too mild of a word! It might be truer to say that I am “obsessive” about writing. Often, I write past midnight. Sometimes, I get up in the middle of the night, go downstairs and write for a half hour and go right back to bed. Most of you know that I was a weekly columnist for our diocesan paper for fifteen years. I decided to give it up two years ago and transfer some of that time to writing for my blog. In the last 25 years, I have published a total of 36 books – three of them last year.  Some are textbooks for seminarians. Some are homilies. Most are for spiritual reading. Some have been translated into Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese. The latest one is a book of humor with real stories from fifty years of ministry as a priest, many of them from my days as pastor of this Cathedral.  So far, one of the most common responses to that book is: “We laughed out loud!”

Last September, I finished a book entitled BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE: Choosing to Do Hard Things for Your Own Good.  This is a very personal, autobiographical book that traces decisions I have made since I was six years old that have led me to where I am today. When I gave into fear, I withered as a person. When I reached out in courage, I grew as a person. Many of the decisions I write about revolve around the decisions I made that led to my coming here, the decisions I made while I was pastor here and the decisions I have made since I left here. I wrote it as a personal whole-life review, but I also wrote it as a way to teach others about the benefits of facing down fear and embracing opportunities for personal growth and change.

This book came to mind when I prepared to preach on today’s gospel. What we have in the gospel today is a contrast of characters: King Herod, the paranoid self-focused narcissist and the Magi, the learned spiritual seekers out looking for God. If I had written a play, BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE, instead of a book, these would be the main characters.


King Herod had come to power in Galilee at age 25. He was a man of unusual powers, physical vigor and political astuteness. He was a master at political maneuvers, endowed with boundless energy and ambition. At the same time, his passions were wild and ungoverned. Especially in his later years, they degenerated into tyranny and brutality. He was filled with fear and insecurity. He would do anything to hold onto power. The slaughter of the innocents was in harmony with the violence and paranoia of his later years, especially about the possibility of losing his throne. He believed that there was only room for one “king” and it would not be this “newborn king” the Magi were looking for. He is a perfect example of the paranoia that comes from always trying to protect oneself and the status quo.


At the other end of the spectrum, we have the Magi. These guys were driven spiritual seekers from the east. They were men on a mission! And, yes, they were from present-day Iraq of all places! They were part of a tribe of priest-teachers to the ancient kings of Persia. They were men with an eye out for God. Their job was to watch the heavens for any unusual activity. Unusual activity among the stars was a sign to them that God was up to something. An unusually bright star, combined with a feverish search for God, meant they had to check it out. The star they followed even had a name. It was called “the birth of a prince.” Astronomers today believe there actually was a dramatic star-event about this time in history.  These seekers left everything that was comfortable and familiar to them and set out for new lands, for new insights and for new understanding.  Their search led them to Jesus.

My friends, these magi, these ancient spiritual seekers have a lot to teach us about spiritual and personal growth.  In a world of people obsessed with working on their outsides, accumulating material possessions and protecting their power, these men teach us about passionately working on our insides: pursuing the truth, stretching ourselves and our potential. The Magi were people in charge of their own passions. They were hungering and thirsting for holiness and they were willing to sacrifice everything to have it. They also teach us that spiritual growth is always a risk, always dangerous, always requiring great personal courage, but always worth it.

My little book, BETWEEN COURAGE AND COWARDICE, makes the case that we only become fully ourselves when we face our fears and bravely choose to do hard things for our own good.  The evasion of pain, the giving into fear, the preservation of the status quo, can be deadly when it comes to personal and spiritual growth. If we do not like who we are today, it is probably the result of hundreds and hundreds of small lazy choices made over many years.

The Magi have something to teach us about building a fuller life.  “Make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security.” Jon Krakauer