Thursday, June 15, 2023



No one pours new wine into old wineskins. New wine is poured into fresh wineskins.
Mark 2:22

One of my heroes is Philo T. Farnsworth. I have a framed quote of his hanging on a very visible wall in my house. It says, “Impossible things just take a little longer.”

If you don’t recognize his name, you should. He is credited with inventing television. He believed that with an open mind anything was possible. Look how far television, once labeled “impossible,” has come!

The reason Philo T. Farnsworth is a hero of mine is that I, too, believe that more things are possible than we can ever imagine. The realization of the impossible begins with an open mind. When I have consciously and deliberately kept my mind open, I have seen this dynamic unfold more times than I can count.

Negative thinking kills the possible. Here are a couple of examples from real life.

A shoe factory once sent two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding the shoe business. One sent back a telegram that said, “Situation hopeless. No one wears shoes.” The other sent back a telegram saying, “Great business opportunity. They have no shoes.”

Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, responded negatively to the idea of investing in computers in 1943 by saying, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” As late as 1977, Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corporation said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in his home.”

As a child, if I had not decided to reject it, I would have been a victim of this kind of negative thinking. Several significant adults in my life told me that I had no chance at all of making it through the seminary. I was even called a “hopeless case” by one seminary rector.

Because of these experiences, I stay in a mild state of irritation at our church when it seems unable to take advantage of the many opportunities staring it in the face even now. No wonder we have a vocation crisis. No wonder we are closing parishes. We are hopelessly mired in downward spiraling talk about both issues. Where are the can-do people who can see an alternative to our hopeless resignation?

Jesus tells us that God needs an open mind, a “new wineskin,” to do his work of making all things new. Mary understood this when she said “yes” to God. She knew that when an open mind cooperates with God, then “all things are possible.”

I pray for this kind of mind and heart. My prayer for this kind of mind and heart can be summed up in the words of Soren Kierkegaard when he said, “If I were to wish for anything I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of what can be, for the eye, which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”

Faith can move mountains.

A Reprint From My For The Record Column
April 6, 2006

Tuesday, June 13, 2023



You shall love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. 
Mark 12 

Love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? You mean I am supposed to put God in the very center and make God the most important consideration in my life? Most of us, to be honest, can’t say that God is that important to us. 

I would love to be able to say that God is always at the center my life, but sadly, I put myself and other things ahead of God sometimes. Some days I do better than others, but thankfully, God is very patient with me and loves me anyway. I have always taken comfort in knowing that my best is good enough for God. 

Today, I want to say a few more words about taking God seriously. None of us will ever measure up completely to the Great Commandment – the one that summarizes all other commandments – but this is the brass ring for which we all reach. To take God seriously, to seek to love him with all we have, there are things we must do.

 • We must want what God wants. To want what God wants means we have to understand the Scriptures, listen to the Spirit within us and stay consciously connected to God through prayer. 

• We must remember who we are. We are holy. We are holy not because of what we have done, but because we are “created in the image and likeness of God,” and, through our baptism, we are adopted children of God. We must accept our holiness, neither exaggerating nor denying who we really are. 

• We must want to live by the same values Jesus lived by: having a loving kindness toward all, especially the most weak and vulnerable, even our enemies; striving to do God’s will no matter the consequences; using Jesus’ own life as a pattern for our own. 

• We must be in command of ourselves, have a handle on our addictions and our passions, so that we can go in the way that God wants us to go. We must constantly question our own motives, making sure that we not only do the right thing, but also do it for the right reason. 

• We must never give in to hopelessness, whether it is about the future or about other people. We know the war against evil has already been won, even though we may continue to lose many painful battles. God’s kingdom will come, and nothing we do, not even the gates of hell, can stop it. 

• Regardless of our failures, loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength is something we should strive for, even though it is something we will never accomplish completely. God wants a relationship with us, even if it is rocky and imperfect. 

We are challenged to get serious about God, not in some loud, noisy and superficial way, but in a long haul and to the core-of-one’s-being kind of way. 

A reprint from my For the Record column
May 24, 2007

Sunday, June 11, 2023



Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him. The one who feeds on me
will have life because of me.
John 6:51-58

The Eucharist! The Lord’s Supper! The Blessed Sacrament, Holy Communion! The Breaking of Bread! The Mass! Throughout our 2,000 year history, we have used several words to describe what we do here today. One of my favorites words for the Eucharist is that old fashioned word “viaticum.” “Viaticum” was what we called the Eucharistic Bread when we gave it to those who were moments away from death. It was their last Holy Communion. The word “viaticum” means “nourishment you take with you when you set out on a trip.”

Every time I hear that word "viaticum," I think of the day I was called to the hospital to be with the family of a farmer from down home who had been wounded in an awful tractor accident. The family wanted me to anoint him and give him communion. The doctors wanted me to help the family decide to turn off the machines who were artificially pumping his blood through a badly swollen body. I talked to the family for a while about turning off the machines and helped bring them to the place where they could make that decision in peace. I anointed him, and since he could no longer swallow, I decided to place the pix (a small gold container carrying the Blessed Sacrament) on his chest over his heart as they were turning off the machines. That gesture was the closest thing I could do to give him "viaticum," "bread for the journey and strength for his trip" back to God!

The fact of the matter is, we are invited to receive “viaticum” every Sunday, the first day of every week, as “bread for the journey and strength for the trip” to help us during the week ahead. This is not just any bread: when we eat this bread Jesus invites us to “feed on” his very flesh and blood. We go forward each week then with God’s power under our belts! Two other words closely associated with this meal make it even more life-giving and soul-strengthening. The word “parish” means a way station for pilgrims. Like one of those stagecoach stops in the old western movies, a “parish” is where spiritual pilgrims stop to refresh themselves before continuing on their trip. The word “companions” comes from the Latin words for “bread” and “with.” So “companions” are “people you eat bread with.” So, what are we here for? We are here as spiritual pilgrims on a journey to the Lord. Our “parishes,” are fueling stations where we receive “viaticum,” bread for the journey - places to be encouraged by our “companions,” other spiritual pilgrims with whom we share this Bread of Life.

One of my favorite parables is the parable of the wedding feast where Jesus teaches us that “the good and bad alike” are invited to come and “dine with him.” This parable, and others like it, have always raised the question about who is worthy to receive the Eucharist: even more, what is the purpose of the Eucharist? Is the Eucharist a reward for good behavior or the medicine sinners need to be healed? It is the church’s duty to protect the Eucharist from desecration, heresy and triviality. The church has done its job well over the centuries, but in a zealous attempt to protect the Eucharist, has it not ended up sometimes keeping it out of the very hands of those for whom it was most intended, those who most need it?

There may be another way to look at the Eucharist: not simply as a reward for good behavior, but more so as powerful medicine for the sick of soul. Jesus told stories like the parable I mentioned because he was under attack from religious leaders for welcoming sinners and eating with them! Jesus believed that by welcoming them and being with them, they would more likely be motivated and strengthened to let go of their sins and be transformed. Even Judas was invited to the last supper! He was not only invited, he was invited to sit in the place of honor. It was to Judas that Jesus gave the “choice morsel,” traditionally given by the host to the most honored guest!

Early Christianity preserved the idea of the Eucharist being medicine for sinners, placing the marginal and the wounded in the center of their communities in order to give them greatest care. As time went by, probably because of doctrinal and discipline concerns, the idea of “worthy and unworthy” crept in. Over time, feeling unworthy, people stopped going to communion, for all practical purposes, with Eucharistic adoration taking precedence over the reception of communion. It got so bad that the church had to finally mandate communion once a year. It was known as our “Easter duty” and it is still in effect today.

My own thinking in this matter has been affected greatly by 53 years of pastoral experience, especially by something that happened to me one day here at the Cathedral where we had a major outreach to disaffected Catholics. I was distributing communion. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw a woman who had come to see me the day before. She was divorced from an abusive husband and had remarried. She did not believe in divorce, but had successfully rebuilt her life. Even though she longed for the Eucharist, she had not received it since her divorce. She was crying. In front of me was a line of people, many of whom were validly married in the church. Some of them were coming toward me, looking around, winking and waving at friends, obviously not very conscious of what they were doing or how important it was! I don’t challenge the teaching of the church on the permanence of marriage, but I kept saying to myself: “We’ve got this “who’s worthy” thing all wrong! That woman needs this more than anybody in this line!”

This sacrament is cheapened, I believe, not so much by giving it to sinners who recognize their need for healing, but by giving it to unconscious people who care little about it, people who are not prepared to receive it, people who do not recognize the presence of the Lord. St. Paul put it this way to the church at Corinth, “Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup, because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drinking his own condemnation.”

Yes, I believe that the Eucharist is cheapened by those who receive it unconsciously, routinely and without awareness rather than those who have sinned and know they need it as the powerful medicine for their souls that it is!