Thursday, September 28, 2023



I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak his name no more. But then it becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in; I cannot endure it.
Jeremiah 20:9

I love stories about great saints who get so fed up with God that they finally “let him have it!” One of my favorite stories is about St. Theresa of Avila, maybe the greatest female mystic of our church. 

She traveled around Spain trying to reform the convents of her order that badly needed renewal. It was her practice to go to the chapel before one of these long and arduous trips to pray for a safe trip. After one such trip, when everything that could go wrong did go wrong, she stormed into the chapel and yelled, “Listen, God, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few.” 

Jeremiah  was called, against his will, to be a prophet. He tried to beg off, telling God he was too young, too inexperienced and totally unable to speak in public. 

God would not accept his excuses. He reluctantly said "yes." His prophetic preaching evoked deadly hostility. He was put in stocks, he was tried for blasphemy and he was imprisoned for desertion. He was even thrown into a well and left to die by his own relatives. 

Jeremiah grew not just tired of the abuse, he steamed with frustration. “Listen, God, you sweet-talked me into this job and then you abandoned me. I am a laughing stock. Your message has brought me nothing but ridicule and rejection all day long. I don’t even want to mention your name any more. I’m fed up. I’m finished. I’m out of here.” 

Then comes that famous “but” in his prayer. “I am furious with you on one hand, but then on the other hand your message is like a fire burning in my heart. It is imprisoned in my bones. I can’t help myself. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to.” 

Who hasn’t wanted to quit – quit the church, quit one's marriage, quit one's job or even quit being a parent? 

It is easy to be ordained, fun to go through a first Mass, exciting to get your first parish. However, one doesn’t really decide to be a priest until he has survived at least one of those dark moments when almost nothing about priesthood seems fun any more. It is then that one really chooses priesthood. 

It is easy to commit to a wedding, when you are in love and when everything is exciting. However, one really makes the decision to be married when the honeymoon is over, when one survives a crisis in their marriage. It is then that they either commit or run. 

As Jeremiah discovered, you don’t answer a call once, but over and over and over again. You don’t just say “I do” once, but “I do” again and again, especially in those dark and confusing times. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Then I shall say to myself, “You have so many good things stored up for years to come. Rest, eat, drink, be merry!” 
 Luke 12:19

There is an old Jackson Browne song, “Take It Easy,” that contains a line that has always stuck in my mind: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.” What he is referring to, of course, is that incessant inner dialogue that most of us have going on in our heads throughout the day.

Even though mind-chatter can be positive, for many of us it is more often than not quite negative. Though we work hard to improve our situations, our negative thinking keeps sabotaging our work, leaving us wondering why there seems to be no progress.

Are you aware of your inner dialogue? Some say that how much fulfillment you get in your life is directly proportional to the quality of your inner dialogue. Henry Ford was right when he said, “Those who think they can, and those who think they can’t, are both right.”

As a young man, I was told by several adults that I “could not do anything right” and that I “would never amount to anything.” That wasn’t helpful, but the bigger problem was that I had started believing them and feeding myself similar messages. It was only when I started feeding myself positive messages that I began to come into my own.

A positive experience of this dynamic came my way around 1983. Some people were telling me that I should publish my homilies. I always had an excuse. I did not have time. I did not have a publisher. The real problem was that I was still telling myself that I was not good enough to be a writer.

As my excuses were being shot down, it became clear to me one day that I needed to change my own self-sabotaging internal dialogue. I repeated encouraging messages to myself, daily, for two years until one day an editor from a publishing company mysteriously showed up. With 39 books in print, I can now say that I am a writer. As me and my youngest brother like to say to each other, "Anything worth doing is worth over-doing!" Encouragement was not universal. As one brother priest once said behind my back, "Oh, that Knott! He has never had a thought he hasn't published!" 

This dynamic works for our good as well as our undoing, especially if we resist positive messages and constantly feed ourselves negative messages. Victims of spouse abuse never make it out of their abuse as long as they think they don’t deserve anything better. It is only when they are able to say, “I deserve to be treated with respect,” and say it enough that they start believing it, that their freedom can be achieved.

Affirmations, litanies, mantras and prayers such as the “Jesus Prayer” have this in common: they are all a few words, repeated over and over again at regular intervals, until God opens the subconscious mind to accept them and then begins to go to work to bring them about. God doesn’t need to be persuaded to give, but the human heart often needs to be persuaded to receive.

How have you been talking to yourself lately? Have you been critical or encouraging? 

Sunday, September 24, 2023


What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Are you envious because I am generous?
Matthew 20:1-16a 

Of all the parables of Jesus, this is one of my very favorites. A parable is a little made-up story to make a point about God. Jesus came to reveal God, and because most of his audience was made up of simple people, he made up little pointed stories as a way to get his message across. It was a way to help them understand something they didn’t know by comparing it to something they did know.

The point that Jesus makes about God here in this parable is that God is nuts about us! The hero in this little parable is a vineyard owner and that vineyard owner is God himself. Jesus’ listeners were familiar with vineyard owners, but the owner in this story seems a little crazy in the way he operated his vineyard. You know what this vineyard owner did? He gave all his workers, even those who came in at quitting time, a full-day’s pay no matter how much or how little they worked for him because they all, no doubt, needed the income. 

There were two different audiences listening to Jesus that day and he wanted both audiences to hear him. (1) He spoke to the “religious types,” the ones who kept all the religious rules, and to the “non-religious types” who couldn’t, wouldn’t or hadn’t kept those religious rules. 

The message from this parable outraged the “religious types” who thought that God should love them more because of all they had done for God. To them, this parable was “bad news.” It was unfair. On the other hand, the “non-religious types” were bowled over to hear that God loved them with all his heart, in spite of the fact that they were able to do so little for God. To them it was “good news.” The message of this parable is not about God's fairness, but about God's generosity.

If Jesus wanted us to know that God loves us no matter how much or how little we do for him, then that parable has a pretty mind-blowing message. It sounds unbelievable! It sounds too good to be true! Because it sounds too good to be true, many cannot accept it or this parable has never been explained to them. Those who find it too good to be true try to tell us that Jesus must not have meant what he said so let’s help it make sense by adding a list of “yes, buts,” playing down the radicalness of this mind-blowing good news, saying “Yes, God loves you unconditionally, but, if, when, except.”

The reason why so many religious types were threatened by this parable was their fear that if people start believing its message, they would start doing anything they damned-well please!

These religious types today believe that what people really need to hear is more about the "fear of God." These people believe that fear is what keeps people in line. However, in my experience, what really happens is when people finally “get” this incredible message the opposite starts to happen. People start wanting to change their lives for the better – just like those who followed Jesus in his day. They started “hungering and thirsting” for holiness.

How about you? Do you really believe the message of this parable? Do you “get it?” Do you understand that God already loves you and you don't have to earn it? Do you understand that "grace" is when God gives you the good things that you don't deserve (unconditional love) and "mercy" is when God doesn't give you the bad things that you do deserve (condemnation)? Let me repeat that for emphasis! 

Once you accept this “good news,” once you begin to live that “good news,” God can slowly turn your spiritual life around and cause it to blossom in a very amazing way!  You will begin, maybe for the first time in your life, to love God, to love your neighbor and to love yourself with all your heart because you finally understand that God has always done that for you - even during those times when you didn't, or couldn't, love him back!

The “good news” today is this! God is always giving us a "full day’s pay" of love, no matter how late we show up to love him back!