Tuesday, September 13, 2022


"Try To Remember"
(from "The Fantasticks" musical)

Try to remember the kind of September
when life was slow and oh, so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
when grass was green and grain so yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
when you were a young and callow fellow,
Try to remember and if you remember then follow.

Try to remember when life was so tender
that no one wept except the willow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That dreams were kept beside your pillow.
Try to remember when life was so tender
That love was an ember about to billow.
Try to remember and if you remember then follow.

Deep in December it's nice to remember
although you know the snow will follow.
Deep in December it's nice to remember
without the hurt the heart is hollow.
Deep in December it's nice to remember
the fire of September that made you mellow.
Deep in December our hearts should remember then follow.

Sunday, September 11, 2022




Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus,
but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying,
“This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:1-32

In the religious establishment of his day, Jesus had a terrible reputation!  He talked so much about eating and drinking and accepted so many dinner invitations, even from public sinners and religious outcasts, that he earned the nicknames of “glutton,” “drunkard” and “friend of sinners!” As the gospels put it, the religious leaders were so shocked by the huge number of rejects and sinners who were hanging around Jesus that they “murmured” out loud, “This man welcomes sinners and even eats with them!”


In the scriptures, heaven is compared more to a fabulous banquet than anything else! How better to describe an idea like “heaven” to a bunch of people who were always on the edge of starvation than an “all you can eat buffet!” Not just a Denny’s buffet, but a “gourmet, all you can eat, cordon bleu buffet!”  Isaiah compares heaven to a “feast of rich food and choice wines,” then he adds, “juicy rich food and  pure choice wines!”


Jesus started his ministry talking about this feast that awaits us in heaven! The very first miracle that Jesus worked, at the marriage feast of Cana, was not the multiplication of bread, the basics of life, but the multiplication of wine, the celebratory part of life! Then the last thing Jesus did was to establish the Eucharist so that we could dine, not only with him, but on him, as often as we want,  until he comes again to take us to his table in heaven!


By dining with so-called “sinners” and “outcasts,” Jesus sent the message that all of us, (all of us, all of us), no matter how flawed we are, are created in the image and likeness of God and are loved by him! Because Jesus accepted them, enough to eat with them, the message these “sinners” and “outcasts” received from Jesus was that they too were acceptable to God!  One of my favorite parables puts it very clearly, the parable of the wedding feast.  In that parable, Jesus compares heaven to a royal wedding feast to which “the good and bad alike” are invited!  Being invited is not about our goodness, but about God’s generosity and forgiveness! Let me repeat that for emphasis! Being invited to the great feast of heaven is not about our goodness, but God's generosity and forgiveness!


Nowhere in the gospel is this idea driven home more, than in today's parables! (1) In one parable, God is compared to a shepherd who is so eaten up with love for his sheep that he does something remarkable. Instead of being happy with 99 out of 100, he leaves the 99 obedient sheep out in the wasteland to go looking for the one who was lost! Finding it, he calls in his friends and neighbors and holds a party! (2) In another parable, God is compared to a woman. You heard me! God is compared to a woman! This woman has a headpiece made of 10 silver coins. It was probably her dowry for marriage! She loses one in the dust of her dimly-lit mud-floored house! In a panic, she lights a lamp and scours the floor until she finds it! Finding it, she calls in her friends and neighbors and has a party! (3) In another parable, God is compared to a father with two sons. One son gets lost, leaves homes and gets down with the pigs. The other son stays home, follows all the rules and does all that is expected of him. Even before the lost son comes home, even before he has time to give his well-rehearsed apology, the father runs down the road to met him, puts a gold ring and a fabulous robe on him and throws a party. The point of all these parables is this: God loves us no matter what we do or fail to do  and God has a special place in his heart for the hurting! This message caused rejects, sinners and outcasts to flock to Jesus likes bees to flowers on one hand and angered the religious establishment to the point of frenzy on the other!  Because they believed God’s love was conditional, these religious authorities plotted and finally put Jesus to death for this revolutionary and dangerous new message!


If it is preached with clarity and conviction, this “good news” of God’s unconditional love for all people, especially the lost and hurting, is just as powerful today as it was back then! When I was pastor of the Cathedral of the Assumption, I preached this message to the outcasts and rejects of our day: street people, divorcees, gays, minorities of all kinds and people who had been judged, hurt and condemned by the church and society!  This message caused great numbers to flock there in great numbers to hear it!   


I could not have preached that message if I had not needed to hear it myself.  I preached it because I needed to hear it!  I have learned one thing in my almost fifty-two years as a priest: no matter how smart, materially blessed, talented, religiously orthodox or well-connected we are, there is a wounded part of all of us that needs to be healed and needs to be loved. That is just as true of the Pope as it is of the saddest street person!  

This fact reminds me of the movie, ON GOLDEN POND.  In that movie, Henry Fonda is an old man, frustrated with getting old and dependent. Filled with anger about his situation, he is demanding, hard-headed and mean-spirited. One day, after attacking his daughter, Jane Fonda, and leaving her in tears, her mother played by Catherine Hepburn, tries to console her by asking her to put it in perspective. She makes this beautiful insight into humanity, “My dear, if you care enough, you can look deeply and closely at him and behind all that, you will realize that he is doing the best he can!” 


My, friends, if God can see beyond our sins and weaknesses and see that person created in the image and likeness of God, then surely we can do the same for each other! The real monsters make the news every night, but most of us, I believe, are simply doing the best we can! We see externals. God sees into the heart.  The good news today is this! We don’t have to be perfect to be good enough for God!