Saturday, April 1, 2023


April Fools’ Day Pranks

In modern times, people have gone to great lengths to create elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes. Newspapers, radio and TV stations and websites have participated in the April 1 tradition of reporting outrageous fictional claims that have fooled their audiences.

In 1957, the BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees. In 1985, Sports Illustrated writer George Plimpton tricked many readers when he ran a made-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.

In 1992, National Public Radio ran a spot with former President Richard Nixon saying he was running for president again… only it was an actor, not Nixon, and the segment was all an April Fools’ Day prank that caught the country by surprise.

In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people when it announced it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell. In 1998, after Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” scores of clueless customers requested the fake sandwich. Google notoriously hosts an annual April Fools’ Day prank that has included everything from “telepathic search” to the ability to play Pac Man on Google Maps.

For the average trickster, there is always the classic April Fools' Day prank of covering the toilet with plastic wrap or swapping the contents of sugar and salt containers.

Sunday, March 26, 2023



“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
John 11:40

Jesus had a large circle of friends, both men and women. On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we get an inside glimpse at three of those friends: Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus from the little town of Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was that special place in the life of Jesus where he and his disciples could stop in, get some rest, enjoy a good meal and then go on their way! If you pay attention to the details of John’s gospel story about Martha, Mary and Lazarus, you soon realize just how close Jesus was to these people. This is a story about intimate friends, affectionate friends.

First, we know that this Mary was the Mary who kissed Jesus’ feet in public, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, and rubbing them with perfumed oil. (When was the last time anybody kissed your feet? You must be pretty close to somebody to do that, not to mention to do it in public!) Read down the text and you see that John underlines, again and again, just how intimate these people were with Jesus. Here’s what it says: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much.” “See how much he loved him!” They are even so close that one of these women can “chew him out” and get away with it: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” And finally, seeing Mary weep, we are told that Jesus began "to weep,” as well.

One usually thinks of this story as the “raising of Lazarus,” but Jesus’ raising of Lazarus actually occupies a very small part of this story. Of the forty-four verses that constitute this story, only seven of them take place at Lazarus’ tomb. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus is the climax of this story; it is not the center. This is a dialogue between Jesus and the two women about the power of God’s love in their lives.

In his gospel, John’s stories always have two levels: one on the surface which is true and another below the surface which is even truer still. This intimate story is meant to reveal to us not only the depth of their friendship, but also how intimate God’s relationship is with us! The pain of this family is the pain of God for all his people. By listening in to the dialogue, we are also taught what they were taught: the truth about the depth of God’s love for us, about God’s willingness to give us new life, and about God’s power over our worst enemy – death.

(1) We are taught about the depths of God’s love for us. One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a priest is to convince people of God’s unconditional love for them. Why is it that so many of us have been trained by people who have dismissed these intimate stories of God’s love and have combed through the Scriptures, piecing together condemning, judging, and damning messages that they turn into a religion? Why did they, and why do we, find those negative messages more believable? I have received more letters questioning my “too lenient notions of God’s love” than any other critical letters since I became a priest. Jesus revealed the “true God,” not that “false mean god” that people have created since Adam and Eve. Even in that story, God says to Adam and Eve, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11). In other words, “Who told you that you were bad, separated from me, and defective? I certainly didn’t!” Jesus came to talk us out of that mean God that we keep creating in our own minds. I can’t imagine trying to live my religion without being in love with God! I can’t imagine practicing a religion based on fear and dread!

(2) By listening in on the conversation between Jesus, Martha and Mary, we are taught also about God’s willingness to give us new life. This eternal life is on both sides of death. Death does not have the last word. Eternal life is not just some promise for the future; it is available to us right now. We are in it, as we speak! Through Jesus and in Jesus, those of us who are “dead on our feet” can be resurrected now. We can be “born again.” We can act boldly on our own behalf to live purposeful lives, to help others, and to claim the powers that lie dormant within us. One of my favorite old movies is Harold and Maude. This is Maude’s message to Harold throughout the movie: “Oh, how the world dearly loves a cage! There are a lot of people who enjoy being dead.” Jesus came, not just to bring a wonderful life after we are dead, but one starting right now! 

(3) And, as this gospel teaches us, God has power over our worst enemy – death. We live in a death-denying culture. Some of our expensive funeral practices would leave outsiders with the impression that we believe that we are going to come up with a cure for death someday! That makes about as much sense as leaving the runway lights on for Amelia Earhart. We don’t even know how to die. Modern medical technology, as wonderful as it is, robs us of the spiritual experience of “letting go” of this part of our life. Through Jesus and in Jesus, we are able to see in death that “life is changed, not ended.” I feel sorry for those who are conscious at death’s door without this faith.

Over the years, I have had the awesome privilege of talking to some very conscious people getting ready to die: especially those with AIDS and with cancer. Some were not pious people, but most were deeply spiritual. Some were able to tell me that they accepted their approaching deaths and they wanted to “do it well.” Some were extremely thankful for the “eternal life” they had already started to experience in this world. Some looked with “joyful hope” for the “eternal life” ahead of them. You know, if you’re facing death, it doesn’t get any better than that! I hope I can do half as well. I pray for the ability to be conscious, filled with gratitude and ready to go when the time comes! Yes, I want to be conscious! I want to choose to let go and leap into that great unknown, knowing that I will land in the arms of God!

The message to you in today’s gospel is this: God loves you very, very much. He wants you to enjoy the eternal life that you can start to experience right now, and he wants you to know that death does not have the last word. You can enjoy “eternal life” forever, yes starting right now!