Tuesday, August 29, 2023



What is the meaning of "Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?" It means, "Is the end result worth the process to achieve it?" The idea behind this expression is that to make juice you must squeeze the fruit. This is especially common for orange juice. However, because making fresh orange juice is somewhat labor intensive, the person must decide if the delicious juice is worth all the work.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:38

I still remember being attacked at an ordination reception after I had spent twelve years in the seminary! I would have tried to answer her if she had simply asked, "Is the juice worth the squeeze?" However, she really didn't want an answer. She was angry, not at me personally, but at the Church I represented. She was there to rain on my parade!  "With all that education, you could have been something!" Since I had only been ordained a few hours, I just stood there speechless! I couldn't answer then, but I can certainly now! After 53 years of priesthood, I can say today with confidence that "the juice has certainly been worth the squeeze" - so much so that I can sum it up in four words. "Simply Amazed! Forever Grateful!"   

Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.
I Peter 3:3-4
Most of it is juvenile experimentation that only lasts a few years, but will surely be thrown aside in favor of something more lasting and beneficial in time. When you are young, not-so-well-thought-out choices are understandable, but as you get older they become more pathetic. So why bother with trendy things like nose rings, lip rings, fake eye-lashes, glue-on nails, multiple tacky tattoos, brand-named gym shoes, hair extensions, ear and tongue piercings, fancy hubcaps, loud mufflers, earlobe stretching, tight leggings, gaming hardware and the very latest cell phone? "Was that juice really worth the squeeze?" After investing all that money, have any of those trendy and expensive external ornaments and technologies made you a better person, a more attractive person, a happier person, a more capable, respected or loved person? I am pretty sure it hasn't! 

To age gracefully, we need to trade those external searches for an internal search - a search for that "hidden character of the heart that is expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition." In that search, we soon learn that "the juice is well worth the squeeze." 

Besides, in the nursing home old nose-rings and multiple wrinkled tattoos will probably only end up being glaring and embarrassing reminders of just how naive, immature and gullible we were in our youth!  The great thing about trends from our pasts like "bell-bottom trousers," "leisure suits," "mullets" and "tie-dyed shirts" of the 1960s is the fact that they were not "permanent," but easily "removed." Because "that juice was also not worth the squeeze," all we have to do to save face is to hide all our old photos and no one will even know just how gullible and tasteless we were back then!  

Sunday, August 27, 2023


You are Peter and upon this rock I will
build my church and the gates of hell
shall not prevail against it.
Matthew 16

I think I asked you these questions last year about this time, but if I didn't or you don't remember, let me ask you again! "Are you saved?" "Have you been “born again?" "Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior?" If you really want to make a Catholic squirm and sweat and doubt their religious upbringing, just corner one and rattle off that set of questions!

When I worked in the Bible Belt, down in the southern part of the state, Catholics, including myself, were often bombarded with those questions. More than one Catholic was left confused and bewildered. Their counterparts could date the precise hour they were “saved,” while Catholics stood there puzzled and confused.

Today's readings, one from Paul and another about Peter, gives us a perfect opportunity to talk about these questions. Does one have to have dramatic, certain and dated experience or can one grow toward God in an extended process, sometimes without a clear beginning and end? The truth of the matter is that we can celebrate both types of conversion experiences: Paul with his definite and certain experience of conversion at a particular moment and Peter with his long and extended process of conversion over time.

Many of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters look to the Apostle Paul as their hero and ideal. His conversion experience was dramatic and decisive. It was a shattering, clearly memorable confrontation with the person of Christ on the road to Damascus when he was on his way to hunt down Christians and kill them. After this dramatic u-turn in his life, he fanatically embraced and defended what he had recently persecuted and attacked. His conversion experience was so dramatic that the story is retold three times in the Acts of the Apostles and referred to three more times in various New Testament Letters. When it came to his conversion, Paul could remember the spot, the day, even the hour it happened.

Paul’s emphasis on personal-individual faith, his emphasis on dramatic decision and change, and evangelistic zeal have become the prototype and model of Christian conversion, especially for fundamentalist groups. Many of these groups attach a certain spiritual superiority to this type of conversion, leaving many people who have not had such an experience feeling inferior and second rate.

Roman Catholics, while respecting Paul’s experience, look to the Apostle Peter as their hero and model. Peter’s experience was very different. In today’s gospel, Peter does in fact make his profession of faith, but like many of us, it is the climax of a long and gradual insight into who Jesus was. Later in the same gospel, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus and abandoned him on the cross, only to come back later with a zeal and courage he had never experienced.

Even though some would like to suggest that everybody has to have a definite conversion experience that can be dated, the New Testament does not suggest a single stereotype for an authentic Christian conversion experience. Nicodemus, for example, who triggered the discussion with Jesus about what it means to be “born again” is an ambiguous illustration of conversion. We do not know whether Jesus persuaded Nicodemus or not. All we know is that he turned up to help out at the burial. The fact is the New Testament balances the dramatic conversion of Paul with the gentle and more subtle changes in people like Peter, Zaccheus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Lydia, Timothy and a whole list of saints, martyrs and converts.

Roman Catholics have often dismissed as silly emotionalism the dramatic and decisive conversions of fundamentalists, while fundamentalists have often dismissed the long and gradual conversions of other believers. But the fact is, the church has always welcomed both kinds of conversion experiences. God calls us in a variety of ways. If you have never had a "deeply emotional religious experience,” you need not feel inferior or apologetic. We all answer God’s call in our own way and in the way we are called, be it like Paul or Peter! So it’s not one way or the other, but both and more! Conversion, turning toward God, is a mystery and the variety of conversion experiences testify to the fact that God uses a variety of ways to call his children. Peter and Paul, missionaries for the same Lord, were called in different ways and responded to their calls differently. Both are part of the same church, share the same baptism and serve the same Lord!

With all that said, the fact remains that all of us, sooner or later, must choose or reject Jesus and the path he invites us to walk. We cannot let ourselves off the hook simply because others, even highly placed religious leaders, have failed to live up to their calls. Jesus calls each of us by name and each of us must respond to that invitation, no matter what others do or not do! As Jesus asks Peter in the gospel today, regardless of what others say about him, the question still comes to us individually, “And, you, who do you say that I am?”

Someday, may we all be able to say in the words of St. Paul to Timothy (II Timothy 4:7-8), "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance."

PS:I remember taking about this subject at Holy Name of Mary Church in Calvary, Kentucky. I reminded them of what one person said to me and my response. They said, "You preach like a Baptist!" I answered, "Thank you! Now if you people would sing like Baptists, we'd have a great Catholic parish here!"