Thursday, January 5, 2023




On the Theology of Death
Karl Rahner S.J.

One of the most important theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner was born in Germany in March 1904. He was the fourth of seven children, the son of a local college professor and a devout Christian mother. In 1922 Karl followed his older brother Hugo and entered the Jesuit community. He died in Austria in 1984.

"The great and sad mistake of many people, among them, even pious persons, is to imagine that those whom death has taken, leave us. They do not leave us. They remain! Where are they? In darkness? Oh, no! It is we who are in darkness. We do not see them, but they see us. Their eyes, radiant with glory, are fixed upon our eyes full of tears. Oh, infinite consolation! Though invisible to us, our dead are not absent.

I have often reflected upon the surest comfort for those who mourn. It is this: a firm faith in the real and continual presence of our loved ones; it is the clear and penetrating conviction that death has not destroyed them, nor carried them away. They are not even absent, but living near to us, transfigured: having lost, in their glorious change, no delicacy of their soul, no tenderness of their hearts, nor especial preference in their affection. On the contrary, they have, in depth and fervor of devotion, grown larger a hundredfold. Death is, for the good, a translation into light, into power, into love. Those who on earth were only ordinary Christians become perfect, those who were good become sublime."

Tuesday, January 3, 2023


You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel,
You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch,
You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch,
Your heart's an empty hole,
Your brain is full of spiders, you have garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch,
I wouldn't touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch,
You have termites in your smile,
You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch,
Given a choice between the two of you I'd take the seasick crocodile!

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch,
You're the king of sinful sots,
Your heart's a dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots, Mr. Grinch,
You're a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce!

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch,
With a nauseous super "naus"!,
You're a crooked dirty jockey and you drive a crooked hoss, Mr. Grinch,
Your soul is an appalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful
Assortment of rubbish imaginable mangled up in tangled up knots!

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch
You're a nasty wasty skunk,
Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Grinch,
The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,
"Stink, stank, stunk"!

Sunday, January 1, 2023


Given at Saint Leonard Church in Louisville, Kentucky

Last night, I completed my annual personal New Year’s Eve “at-home retreat.” Several years ago, I stopped accepting invitations to New Year’s Eve parties and started the practice of staying home by myself, reading over the journal I kept last year and preparing a new one for the year ahead. I even knelt down when the clock struck midnight! 

Instead of screaming, yelling and drinking with my “extrovert” friends, I used that time to remember the past year with gratitude and to focus on trying to open my mind to receive in faith what God has in store for me this year. This kind of retreat is not for everybody, but it works for an “introvert” like myself! Having done all that, I really feel that I want to put 2022 and Christmas behind me!

Because of that, as I read over the Scriptures for today I decided not to preach on another Christmas gospel, but rather to look for something in the readings that fits going into the new year and preach on that text instead! I looked for something that would be encouraging, something that would inspire you going into the new year. What caught my eye right off was this famous blessing in our first reading from the Book of Numbers.

Say to them: The Lord bless you and keep you!
The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!
The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!
Numbers 6:22-27

Even the opening words to the blessing, “say to them,” felt like it was being addressed to me! Here is what I felt called to do in this homily. I felt called to bless you and say to you: “May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the face of the Lord shine upon you! May he be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly! May he give you peace!

Those of you who know me, know that blessing you and encouraging you is my normal practice! For 15 years, I wrote a weekly column in The Record called “An Encouraging Word.” After 500 columns, I started a blog by the same name entitled “An Encouraging Word.” The personal philosophy behind my ministry as a priest has always been to look for goodness to affirm, rather than sins to condemn! I believe with all my heart that “we see what we look for!” If we look for sins to condemn in people, we will find plenty of them to condemn! However, I personally believe that the opposite is also true! If you look for goodness to affirm in people, you will find plenty of goodness and virtue to affirm!” I learned this growing up! From the time I was born, until I was about 21, it seemed that I was always being condemned because I was not perfect. Since I was not perfect, I was always left feeling “not being good enough!”

This was certainly true leaving St. Thomas Seminary here in Louisville! That training clearly focused on “sins to condemn.” When I entered St. Meinrad Seminary in the Fall of 1964, I entered into a new form of training that emphasized “goodness to affirm.” It changed my life and gave my ministry a new way to look at myself and to look out at you! I was never inspired to change and grow through condemnation, but I was inspired to change and grow through encouragement! So, today, I want to bless you and encourage you from this pulpit. Besides, who wants to come to church if you keep being beat up all the time? My firm belief is that most people, especially those who go to church, are doing the best they can under their circumstances. All they need is a little encouragement from the pulpit! So, I repeat it again as we begin another year. “May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the face of the Lord shine upon you! May he be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly! May he give you peace!”

What I like about New Year’s Day is that, in a way, we can start with a clean slate. We are invited to be thankful for the past, to be forgiven for our mistakes and to begin again! We can always hope and pray for an easier year this year, but we need to keep doing our best and trying to be prepared to handle whatever comes our way this year. As we think about this new year, we have a choice. We can live in constant anxiety or we can live in peace. Part of my New Year’s Eve retreat was to reflect on the words the priest us to say after the Lord’s Prayer in the old translation. “Deliver us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ!”

I am trying my best to live in peace, rather than anxiety!” I am not afraid of dying! I am not worried. Not because I have such a fine list of accomplishments, but because of what I know about how God loves! I am not scared of dying because of what our second reading says, “You are no longer a slave but an adopted son or daughter, and if an adopted son or daughter, then also an heir.” As adopted children of God, we are “in the Will!” We are destined to inherit heaven, not because of our goodness, but because of God’s goodness!

I am not afraid of facing God. I am afraid, however, of what I might have to go through till I do have to face God! My being able to handle things as they come is what scares me! If the future scares you and leaves you anxious, let me say to you again, “May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the face of the Lord shine upon you! May he be gracious to you! May the Lord look upon you kindly! May he give you peace!”

That blessing ends with the hope that God gives you “peace!” We say at every Mass, before communion, that “peace is Jesus’s last gift to us!” We need to understand what he meant by “the gift peace.” Looking around at all the chaos, suffering and evil rampant in the world, peace is not about a time free of problems. Peace comes from the knowledge that we know how it will all end. It is the knowledge that no matter how bad it is on a given day, evil will not have the last word! Goodness will triumph over evil. It is not up for grabs. It has already been decided so we need to keep that in mind as we go through times of suffering and setbacks! With that said, let me leave you with one of my favorite prayers going into 2023. It was composed by St. Francis de Sales who died in 1622.

“Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you so far, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will carry you in his arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering, or give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.”