Friday, April 7, 2023



Yet it was our infirmities that he bore,
our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses,
crushed for our sins;
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep,
each following his own way;
but the LORD laid upon him
the guilt of us all.

Though he was harshly treated, he submitted
and opened not his mouth;
like a lamb led to the slaughter
or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
a grave was assigned him among the wicked
and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong
nor spoken any falsehood.
But the LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked;
and he shall take away the sins of many,
and win pardon for their offenses.

Scapegoating is the practice of singling out a person or group for unmerited blame and consequent negative treatment. Scapegoating may be conducted by individuals against individuals (e.g. "he did it, not me!"), individuals against groups (e.g., "I couldn't see anything because of all the tall people"), groups against individuals (e.g., "He was the reason our team didn't win"), and groups against groups.

A scapegoat may be an adult, child, sibling, employee, peer, ethnic, political or religious group, or country. A whipping boy or "fall guy" are forms of scapegoat.

Scapegoating has its origins in a ritual of atonement described in chapter 16 of the Biblical Book of Leviticus in which a goat is released into the wilderness bearing all the sins of the community, which have been placed or pinned on the goat's head by a priest.

"Scapegoating" is the process in which the mechanisms of projection or displacement are used in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration, etc., upon another individual or group; the amount of blame being unwarranted. Scapegoating is a hostile tactic often employed to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group. Scapegoating relates to guilt by association and stereotyping.

Scapegoated groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: genders, religions, people of different races, nations, or sexual orientations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behavior from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.


Thursday, April 6, 2023


Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

I Corinthians 11:23-26

The Difference Between "Tradition" and "Traditional"

"Tradition" is concerned with essentials, while "traditional" is concerned with accidentals.

"Doing this in memory of me" is part of "Tradition." Doing it in Latin, with fiddle back vestments and facing the wall, is merely "traditional." As Pope John XXIII said in his speech at the opening of Vatican Council II, "the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another."

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”
Gustav Mahler

Tuesday, April 4, 2023



One of the mental battles that comes with aging is when to quit and when to keep going. Faced with the beginnings of a decline of both body and mind, aging people are faced with the truth of "entropy." "Entropy" is that natural, spontaneous and unremitting process of decline, decay and disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it.

One of my biggest fears as a priest is not natural death, but spiritual and emotional death, being here and being not here at the same time – gradually becoming “disengaged,” if you will! My biggest fear is turning into a priest who starts giving up before his time.

I decided this Holy Week to do one of my little in-home retreats and reflect a bit on this dilemma in the hopes that it might help me, and maybe others, to confront the temptation to cut back and disengage. "Dilemma" means "two horns." On one "horn" I am headed toward 80, while on the other "horn" I have been declared "quite healthy for my age." The question for me then is, "Just because I will soon be 80, do I have to start acting like I am 80?" Some people who are in their 80s are leading countries and huge organizations (President Biden and Pope Francis) while others are in nursing homes. I know some priests not yet in their 50s who are a mess physically. So far, I am lucky enough to have no joint problems, no high blood pressure and no heart disease.

However, mostly because of not liking to be so terribly inconvenienced, I find myself not wanting to travel any more because it is just "too much trouble." Second, tired of the worry and strain that comes with it, I have declared publicly that I do not want to ever take on another "building project." Third, partly because of subtle changing eye conditions, I don't like to drive at night and sometimes even try to avoid it during the day. As I approach 80, I am scared that the list of "what I don't want to do any more" might be growing and I do not like the thought that I might start adding to that list.

The word used by fourth century monks for this state was acedia. Acedia is not a disease, it’s a temptation – the temptation to disconnect, the temptation to stop caring, the temptation to stop making an effort. It is a temptation that can grow and harden into a persistent attitude of apathy and cynicism which is deadly to any kind of personal or spiritual growth. I find it fascinating that acedia, in its root, means negligence - a negligence that leads to a state of listlessness, a lack of attention to daily tasks and an overall dissatisfaction with life, of not caring or not being concerned with one’s self-care, with one's position in life or even the condition of the world and the Church. In other words, unlike clinical depression, it can be resisted. The sooner it is confronted the more success one has in turning it around.

We all know priests and married couples who woke up one day and found themselves in precisely that spot – with feelings of being stuck, with few options and little hope. Maybe we are, or have been, one of them! If we were to be honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we didn’t get there overnight. It happened because of extended neglect. We didn’t take the time to challenge our individual selves. Many marriages and religious vocations do not die of "natural causes." Too often, they simply die of "starvation!" We just “let things go!” I fear "giving into" such temptations for extended neglect. I want, and know I need, to nurture those opposing forces that work against the temptations toward neglect. As Bob Dylan used to sing, "If you're not busy being born, you're busy dying!"

No, I do not want to "settle for too little" simply because I have let myself become lazy in my old age. I do not want to give into "exertion aversion." My doctor tells me there are a few things I can do to head off some physical disintegration (daily exercise, a good diet and semi-annual physicals) but I still believe there are lot of things I can do mentally to maintain what Pope John Paul II called "keeping up one's youthfulness of spirit, which is something that cannot be imposed from without." 

I know for a fact that the most important thing that I can do mentally is to keep saying "yes" to new opportunities to grow and change and to stand-up to any "exertion aversion."  Over the years, I have learned that spiritual and emotional suicide is the result of constantly saying "no" to those opportunities to grow and change. Going forward, I know that the solution to the dilemma that I now face involves this truth, “No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.”


Sunday, April 2, 2023


‘When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches
and went out to meet him, throwing their coats on the road.’

I am convinced that most people do not understand what Palm Sunday is about and I am not absolutely confident that I can explain it as well as it needs to be explained. I’ll try anyway! 

To understand it, I think we need to go all the way back to the beginning. Remember, Herod was so paranoid about the baby Jesus being a “newborn king” that he had all the young boys in Bethlehem slaughtered – just in case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to escape to Egypt for a while. 

Even when Jesus came out of obscurity to begin his ministry, we read at the beginning of Lent about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert as he discerned what direction his ministry should take – what God’s plan was for him. One of the temptations Jesus was offered by the devil was to take the road to political power – to become a king. We know that, even though Jesus concluded that this was not God’s path for him, people were always trying to make him a king. Even some of his apostles thought that that option was always on the table. Remember the story where James and John tried an end run around the other twelve by asking for the two best jobs in this new kingdom they thought he was going to set up in the near future.

We read today that Judas was so disappointed with Jesus over this very issue that he tried to force Jesus' hand to “get on with it,” only to see his plan backfire. When it didn’t work, he ends up committing suicide.

All this “king talk” among the people, all the dreams about power inside his inner circle and a rising tide of paranoia among the Roman occupiers was about to explode when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Jerusalem, the streets were clogged with religious pilgrims from everywhere. The air was full of tension. Jesus’ own popularity among the people had reached a fever pitch, the misguided hopes among his own disciples had reached a peak, the religious leaders’ jealousy had reached the boiling point and the government’s worry about a riot had become paranoid.  Everybody in authority, as well as Jesus, seemed to know that this trip smacked of a show down.  Jerusalem was indeed tense when Jesus arrived for the Passover - something big was about to happen. 

It was in this tense situation that Jesus came riding into the city, not quietly, but with total fanfare. Everybody noticed. This triumphant entry into Jerusalem was not some harmless little passion play. It was a deliberate move with dark possibilities.  Everybody knew that the very presence of Jesus in Jerusalem at Passover could set off a riot.

‘When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard
that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches
and went out to meet him, throwing their coats on the road.’

Palm waving and the throwing of coats on the road were not just a nice gesture of welcome, spontaneously invented for this particular occasion. These gestures had major political overtones. In the past, when kings arrived to ascend their thrones, people threw coats on the road. Palm waving was a symbol of Jewish nationalism, synonymous with waving a rebel flag. Many in the crowds wanted a Jewish Messiah-King who would overthrow the hated Roman occupation and they thought Jesus could fit the bill. Even though Jesus had fought off several efforts of this kind, the crowds knew what kind of Messiah they wanted. They wanted a powerful revolutionary.

In response to the people’s misguided reception of him as a political, David-like Messiah, Jesus deliberately came into the city on the back of a jackass, a pack animal.  It was a powerful counter statement that simply went over the heads of the crowds. While they waved palms and chanted nationalistic slogans, by this action Jesus said, “No! I’m not the kind of king you imagine! My power is a spiritual power, not a political power!” 

This “temptation,” the temptation to become a powerful political leader, had been proposed by Satan at the beginning of his ministry.  The gospels tell us that Satan "left him to wait for another occasion." It had been proposed to him, on various occasions, throughout his teaching days. Here it was again!   Satan, in various guises, never gave up, even at the end. Jesus, consistent in his refusal, remained faithful to his call as a humble, peaceful, spiritual messiah to the end.

Throughout history, the church has sadly from time to time given into the temptation to choose political power as a means to its goals, always with disastrous results. Again, in our own time, not convinced of the real effectiveness of spiritual power, some Christian communities have fallen for the temptation to take the short cut to achieve its mission by courting political power.  What is their rational? It seems that they believe that if people won’t choose to be good, they need to be made to be good! 

Palm Sunday has a lot to teach the church, even today!  My friends, our power is not a political power. It’s even more powerful than political power. It’s a spiritual power! Pope John Paul II had no armies, but he helped bring down communism just by his preaching and presence. That’s spiritual power!  Pope Francis has no real political power, except in a one-square mile of ground inside the walls of the Vatican, but he has tremendous spiritual power. That is the real source of our power as well – the power that comes from authentic Christian living! It’s not that we are “powerless” over the evils of this world!  It’s because so many of us keep our power pent-up! Can you imagine the power we would have if every so-called Christian actually walked that talk?