Thursday, November 4, 2021


Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings,
who makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a barren bush in the wasteland that enjoys no change of season,
but stands in lava beds in the wilderness, a land, salty and uninhabited.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord; the Lord will be their trust.
They are like a tree planted beside the water that stretches out its roots to the stream:
It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green;
in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in company with scoffers.
Rather, the law of the Lord is his joy; and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted near streams of water, that yields its fruit in season;
Its leaves never wither; whatever he does prospers.

Psalm 1:1-3




Tuesday, November 2, 2021


All Souls Day

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.


I have given many funeral homilies in the the last 52 years. Looking back and looking forward, I am beginning to realize that probably much of what I said could have been at times a little too facile? Other people's deaths are much easier to talk about than talking about one's own death! Even at that, I am certainly not scared to either think about death, or write about it, or talk about it! 

My own death, while not something I obsess about, is something that crosses my mind a lot more than it used to. As I march toward my 78th birthday this coming April, I will have outlived my mother by 20 years and my father by 5 years. I will have outlived my maternal grandmother by 9 years and I will have outlived my maternal grandfather in just 4 years. I will have lived just as long as my paternal grandparents in just 3 years. Even though I hope to outlive all of them, I can hear the hounds of death barking over the horizon! 

I have 6 siblings. I am next to the oldest. I have an older sister. My next to the youngest sibling, a sister,  died 3 years ago. There were  35 in my ordination class of 1970. 9 of them have already died!  It is obvious that there are a lot more miles behind me than in front of me in the most optimistic of circumstances. I like the advice of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. who said that the awareness of death should make one want to live as consciously as possible before it overtakes you!  

I am not one to obsess about dying, even though it seems much more real than it did just ten years ago. I am certainly not like one of those saints from years ago who kept a skull on their writing desks with the words "Memento Mori," "Remember Death." No, instead, I have a pillow on my bed that says, "The Best is Yet to Come to remind me to "Carpe Diem," to "Seize the Day!" As I have said before, I try to have my end-of-life plans up to date, keep them filed away and try to forget them until it is time to update them again. Today, I want to focus my time and energy on making the most of the time I have left, not wasting it by dwelling on how little time I might have left! 

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may. 
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

Robert Herrick 

I have no children. I do not own a business. I have no monuments erected in my honor. Most of what I will leave behind will hopefully be a decent reputation, some good memories in the minds of those who have come across my path and maybe some of my printed, preached and hopefully remembered "encouraging words" to those hurting people who needed to hear them. That will have to be my legacy. 


Sunday, October 31, 2021



You shall love God with all your heart, with al your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.  

Mark 12:28b-34

Human beings have a way of complicating things. This is definitely true when it comes to religion. I like to compare organized religion to a beautiful antique table that has been covered with an accumulation of layers and layers of old paint that need to be stripped to recover its original beauty. 

Incapable of seeing that its real beauty has become invisible to the eye, some people tend to throw religion on the trash heap as worthless. Not being able to see the priceless antique below the old layers of paint, they put it in a yard sale and let it go for a $1.00 when, if they took it to Antique Roadshow, it would be appraised for millions of dollars. 

This was just as true of religion in Jesus’ day, as it is in our own day. Originally the lives of Jewish people had been guided by the Ten Commandments, but over time those ten commandments had been re-fined and de-fined into hundreds and hundreds of sub-rules and sub-categories until a simple religion of the heart had become so complicated and burdensome that an average person, who wanted to do the right thing, needed religious lawyers to help them find their way through it. What had started out as a simple set of guidelines for moral living had become, over time, a burdensome legalistic nightmare.

It is in this climate that a scholar of the law asks his question. “Of the hundreds and hundreds of religious laws on the books, which is the greatest?” The question he was asking Jesus was, in reality, “What is the bottom line?”

Jesus cuts through the accumulation of rules and regulations. He reduces the Ten Commandments to two, saying if you keep these two, you will have kept the whole law and the teaching of the prophets. What Jesus said was this: (1) if you love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, you will keep commandments one, two and three, serving God alone and no other, respecting his name and worshiping him regularly with the faith community; and (2) if you love your neighbor as yourself, you will keep commandments four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten: honoring your parents, not killing others, not committing adultery, not stealing what belongs to others, not lying, not lusting after other people’s relationships and not coveting what belongs to others. If you really keep these two commandments, loving God and loving your neighbor, you have kept the whole law and every part of it. 

This is the bottom line! This is the heart and essence of true religion! This is what really counts! Dedicate yourself to doing these things with your whole heart, soul and mind and you will be doing all that God asks of you! 

But there has always been a tendency for people to try to be religious without giving God their whole heart, mind and soul. When we do that, we usually seek clarifications about what we have to do and what we can get out of doing and still stay within the law: is this really work, is that really adultery, is this really stealing, what do you mean by keeping the Sabbath holy, is this really killing and what do you mean by honoring one’s parents? When we start down that road, we then end up needing a whole bunch of canon lawyers to help us make sure we don’t have to do any more than we have to!

Let me give you an example, using Commandment Three: “Keeping holy the Lord’s Day.”  A Catholic may ask, “What does that mean?” “How much of the Mass can I miss?” “How late can I arrive and how early can I leave?” Then the search is on for “what is the least I can do and still get by with keeping the Lord's Day!” 

It was this approach to religion that Jesus cut through. For Jesus, true religion was not so much about legal parsing as it was about giving God our whole hearts, souls and minds.  If you do that, you will have kept the rules because the whole purpose of the rules is to guide people toward that whole-hearted love.   

I am worried about the direction religion is taking these days in reaction to all this. In our country, failing to inspire people to change their behavior, many religious leaders are joining forces with politicians to enact laws to force people be good, whether they want to or not. Jesus himself was a victim of this kind of thinking when church and state created a coalition to kill him. Jesus inspired and invited people to turn their lives around. He did not resort to political power to force them to change, no matter how tempting it might have been. He left people free to choose to love God back or to walk away.  Religious enthusiasts' attempts to marry religion and politics is short-sighted and scary. Resorting to politics is a sure sign that they no longer have the ability to inspire and lead.  "Good" shepherds have convincing voices that people want to follow. Their sheep don't need to be "forced" or "driven." 

I am also worried about the direction our own church is taking these days. Faced with the painful reality that our church is no longer inspiring people to be good, there is a scary return to a legalistic approach and doctrinal debates. The last gasp of any dying organization is to come out with a newer and newer edition of the rulebooks. When they lose control of the big issues, they micro-manage the little issues. What people need is a joyful Christianity that is a source of life and hope, one that will light fires of love, self-sacrifice and transformation. That is the vision of Pope Francis. He believes that people want to be good, but they cannot be forced. They must be invited and inspired to that end.   

If people love God with their whole minds, hearts, souls and strength, and their neighbors as themselves, they don’t need a lot of laws. If they do not love God with their whole minds, hearts, souls and strength, and their neighbors as themselves, a million new laws won’t help!