Monday, January 17, 2022


There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be silent and a time to speak.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1;7

One of the advantages of "social media" websites is that it gives everyone a platform for their opinions. One of the disadvantages of "social media" websites is some people's tendency to use them to demean, criticize, gossip about, show off and put down other people's opinions, looks, political or religious perspectives and standing in the community.  The reason I do not have a Face Book account is that I have come to believe that its downside far outweighs its upside.

Instead, I decided several years ago to start this BLOG called "An Encouraging Word." It is an extension of my preaching ministry where I try to look for goodness to affirm, rather than evils to condemn. It comes from a long-held belief that there is still a lot of "goodness" out there, but it often gets little attention in the swamp of "badness." There are plenty of condemners of "what's wrong with everybody and everything" already out there so I have decided to speak mainly about "what's right" out there. 

Recently, I was given an opening and opportunity to publicly "leap into the fray" of a brewing collision of opinions. Such invitations are now coming daily and sometimes hourly. Sometimes I have entered the ring. This time, I have decided not to take the bait! Oh, I do have strong opinions about that issue and they boil under the surface. Inside, I am outraged. This time, however, I decided to simply  remove myself from that battlefield, say nothing and let my absence speak for me. I am not one to give up easily, but I believe that this situation requires a different response. Silence can sometimes be an even more powerful response than "using one's voice." For me, in this particular situation, saying nothing implies "non-complicity" in an even more  powerful and effective way than "speaking out." If you want a tennis game to end, you don't have to negotiate with the other player, all you have to do is quit hitting the ball back over the net! 

“You are most powerful when you are most silent. People never expect silence. They expect words, motion, defense, offense, back and forth. They expect to leap into the fray. They are ready, fists up, words hanging leaping from their mouths.
Alison McGhee


 "When your horse dies, get off! 
Cowboy Wisdom 




Sunday, January 16, 2022


It was at Cana in Galilee that Jesus

 began the signs that revealed his glory.

John 2:11


Jesus came to this world to teach us, by performing a series of "signs" or delivering "messages" about what heaven is going to be like!  There will be many as we follow his life this liturgical year, but today we read about the first of those "signs" or "messages."    


Now, you would think the first "sign" or "message" that he would want to deliver, right out of the gate, would be something more practical, like healing the physically, emotionally or spiritually sick. There were certainly plenty of them to go around! You would think that his first "sign" would be something practical like feeding those who were hungry. There were certainly plenty of them to go around!  Instead of multiplying loaves of bread to feed the hungry first or curing a few hundred lepers first or even healing a bunch of mentally disturbed people first, he went to a wedding reception and delivered a truck load of wine - somewhere between 120-180 gallons, in fact! What kind of "sign" or "message" is that?


If you line up the details of this reading, surely Jesus wanted to male a statement about abundance.  His first "sign" or "message" seems to say that, in the kingdom of heaven, there will be plenty.  In a culture where people routinely lived on the edge of starvation and want, for Jesus to make this wedding reception event his first "sign" or "message" was quite powerful.  A wedding is about fertility, new life, continuation, happiness and possibility.


Every detail symbolizes plenty and abundance.  Not only were the bride and groom's family there, along with their relatives and neighbors, but also Jesus, his disciples and even his mother!  Not only were the water jars now full of wine, we are told they were full to the brim!  This wedding was not a single day affair. Jewish weddings went on for a week, so this 120 -180 gallon infusion of extra wine toward the end of the week, didn't even count what the family had purchased in the first place and had already been consumed!  Not only was this new wine added to what was already supplied, this new wine was actually much better than what was served first, unlike most weddings when they pulled out the cheap stuff after people were pretty well two-sheets to the wind and wouldn't know any better!


This multiplication of wine was the first "sign" or "message" that Jesus performed to teach us about the kingdom that God has in store for us. The rabbis at the time of Jesus had a saying, "Without wine, there is no joy." So this "sign" or "message" wasn't as much about a wedding or wine as it was a "sign" or "message" about the joy that awaits us in the kingdom of God. As Jesus said, "I have come to bring you life - life to the full - life to the brim - a joy that is not stingily divvied out in thimbles, but "pressed down. shaken together and poured into our laps."  Saint Paul talked about it this way, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it even dawned on human beings the great things God has in store for those who love him." 


Jesus did not teach, as some assume, that this kingdom only awaits us in the afterlife. Jesus taught us that we are already in his kingdom. He wants us to start tasting it now, even though it will not come to its fullness until we enter heaven.  Think about it! We are partially in heaven already! All we have to do is have the eyes to see it!  Jesus said as much before he performed this first "sign" or "message."  In fact, these were the first words out of his mouth when he began his public ministry! "Metanoiete! Change the way you see so that you see that the kingdom of God is at  hand, right there in front of you!


The kingdom is already here? To that Jesus said, "Yes, it is! If you have the right eyes you can see it has begun! It is subtle, like yeast working in a batch of dough, but it is here! The "signs" that I perform - healing the sick, feeding the hungry and releasing those who are bound up - are "signs" that the kingdom is building. The "signs" that my followers, as they spread around the world in the years to come, will perform will be "even greater" because there will be millions of my followers "healing the sick, feeding the hungry and releasing those bound up."  Then someday, in the great by-and-by, there will be no sickness, no hunger and no imprisonment of any kind!”



One of the "signs" of the kingdom today is the work of Catholic Relief Services, carrying on the ministry of Jesus, delivering medicine, food and aid to desperate places. It should make us all proud that one of the most respected, most efficient and most trusted relief agency is Catholic Relief Services.  Another “sign” is the daily feeding of street people downstairs, at the Cathedral, something that has been going on for over 150 years! Through the donations and volunteering of disciples like us, the kingdom of God is shown forth, and will be shown forth, until there is no need for it when the kingdom comes to perfection in the world to come!  Then on that day, there will be no tornados, no earthquakes, no disease, no hunger, no thirst and no crying! On that day, when our lives will be "filled to the brim," there will be plenty for everybody! Until then, let's do what we can to help the suffering experience a little taste of heaven, right now!