Thursday, October 12, 2023



It is my will, then, that in every place people shall offer prayers with blameless hands held aloft, 
and be free from anger and dissention.
I Timothy 2:1-8

The reading I refer to today is from Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, his young partner in ministry. He urges Timothy, and everyone else, to offer petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving to God for everyone, since God wants everyone to be saved. This may be a good time to talk about the purpose of prayer.

I still remember standing in front of church a few years back having a discussion with some farmers about whether to pray for rain. The majority thought it was a good idea. Whatever their personal beliefs about the effectiveness of such prayer, the majority were not about to show any doubt in front of their pastor. One man, however, risking the ridicule of the more pious, stepped up to the plate. “Why pray? God’s going to do what God’s going to do anyway.”

That discussion raised prayer’s most fundamental question: “What is the purpose of prayer?” The majority of the farmers believed that their prayers might influence God to pay attention to their plight and send the rain they wanted. The minority believed that what the majority wanted didn’t matter to God and they would have to accept whatever God already had in mind to do with his rain.

Both, however, approached the situation with one of the most basic misunderstandings about prayer. The purpose of prayer is not to inform God about our needs nor to influence God to change his mind about meeting our needs. The purpose of prayer, fundamentally, is to get us to change and want what our good God wants to give us.

In this regard, my prayer has changed radically in the last part of my life. I used to pray that I would get assigned to the parish I most wanted, that I would win the lottery or that I would get an “A” on a test. I was usually disappointed in the short run, but in the long run God gave me all I needed and then some. The parish I least wanted turned out to be better than what I wanted. I didn’t win the lottery, but I have never been in serious want, either. I didn’t always get an “A,” but I did graduate with pretty good grades. All in all, I have to admit that if I had gotten all that I asked for, my life would not be as full as it is today. 

My prayer now is more about asking God to help me trust him with the things that happen in my life. My prayer now is not about trying to change God or asking him to change my circumstances, but asking God to change me so that I can accept or change my circumstances, knowing that great blessings often lie hidden within circumstances that only appear to be bad at the present time.

When you pray, do you ask God to change and conform to your will, or do you ask God to change you to conform to his will? This change of focus could radically change your prayer life for the better.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023




Pay attention to how you hear: to the one who has, more will be given; and one who has not, will lose even the little he thinks he has.
Luke 8:16-18

This odd little gospel may sound at first like a social justice complaint, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.” That’s exactly what it says, but it means that there is a profound truth, a universal law, behind its shocking words. “The one who has will get more and the one who has not will lose what he has.” 

The person who is physically fit and keeps himself so will be able to lift more weight, run farther and feel better all around, while the one who lets himself go flabby, will be able to lift less weight, not be able to run as far or as fast and will probably have more things like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The person who saves some of his money and invests it wisely will become richer, while the one who is a spendthrift and wastes his money on gambling and unwise purchases will probably end up losing whatever he has.

The person who has faith and feeds that faith with regular prayer and spiritual reading will end up with an even stronger faith, while the one with little faith, who skips church, skips prayer and skips any spiritual reading will, no doubt, lose what little faith he had! 

Maybe we could summarize the great truth behind the passage today, “The one who has will get more and the one who has not will lost what he has,” these two popular phrases - “Choose it or lose it.” or “If you are not busy being born, you are busy dying.”

Winston Churchill said, “Nothing gets better by leaving it alone.” In fact, when we “leave things alone” the natural process of entropy sets in – we start coming unglued, we start declining, we begin to rot!  Entropy is that spontaneous and unremitting tendency in the universe toward disorder unless there is an opposing force working against it. People, like homes, when they are left alone fall into decay. Even fruits and vegetables, unless something is done to “preserve” them, begin to rot! When we “leave ourselves alone,” we commit what I call “personal and spiritual suicide.”

I have concluded that there are two secret ingredients to becoming all that we can be. (1) The first ingredient is a passionate commitment to personal excellence – to loving who we really are – loving ourselves enough to care about becoming our best selves. Really loving oneself does not mean papering oneself. Rather, it means doing hard things for one’s own good.

(2) After a passionate commitment to who one is, to being the best version of ourselves, the second ingredient in really loving oneself is a passionate commitment to vocational excellence.  If you strive to be the best at what you have been called to do in life, you will get better at it. If you choose the “good enough to get by” path, you will become known for your mediocrity. 

The word used by fourth century monks for this state was acediaAcedia is not a disease, it’s a temptation – the temptation to disconnect, the temptation to stop caring, the temptation to stop making an effort. 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 or position or condition in the world. In other words, unlike clinical depression, it can be resisted. The sooner it is confronted the more success one has in turning it around.







Sunday, October 8, 2023


Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all 
understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-9

I would describe myself, in my early years, as an “anxious” person. To be “anxious” is to be “uneasy and apprehensive about something uncertain” or to be “worried.”  It’s all about that awful thing that might happen next.  Those of you who have lived with spouse abuse or lived with a raging alcoholic or drug addicted person know what I mean. Living in anxiety is a lot like living with a ticking time-bomb strapped to your leg – only day and night every day. It is living in dread, living on “pins and needles,” “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” waiting to “hit bottom” after falling. It is no way to live and only those who have been there understand what I am talking about.  

As a small child, anxiety was a simple passing experience – the terror of hiding under covers, wide-awake, after your older sister had told convincing ghost stories or during the height of a crashing, booming rainstorm.

As an older child, living in a house with a person who had a propensity for fits of anger and rage that came from nowhere, our home was an emotional mine field, loaded with unseen triggers. You never knew if your next step would set off an explosion of curse-filled name-calling – and worst of all, knowing that there was absolutely nothing you could do to prevent it. There was nowhere to run and nowhere to hide from it. You had to stand and take it only to have it return again without warning. 

As a young man still in school, anxiety was about the fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of rejection, fear of being laughed at and bullied, fear of not having enough to live on and the fear that “this” was going to be “as good as it gets.”

As a young priest, anxiety was about being threatened by the Klan, being scorned in public by some Protestant ministers for being a Catholic and for being a liberal Catholic by fundamentalist Catholics, being stalked by a knife wielding schizophrenic for welcoming fallen-away marginal Catholics back to church, watching years of work and dreams crack and almost fall to the ground in front of me, sleeping with one eye open for years after having my home burglarized three times, being ashamed of being a priest and of maybe being falsely accused during wave after wave of bad news during the sexual abuse scandal and waiting for the results of a biopsy that might have been cancer. 

As an older priest, anxiety had to do with three major disappointments when one great assignment ended and my plans for what I expected to do next burned and crash on the launch pad. It was only then that I found out that the Plan B that God had in store actually turned out better than the Plan A that I wanted to happen. It was then that I realized that all my anxiety had been one big waste of time.  

"Have no anxiety at all. The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds." 

At 79, this may be the most anxiety free time of my life. Today, I know “peace,” the opposite of “anxiety.”  I have a safe place to live. I have enough saved to live comfortably and a little saved for the future. I have a few successes behind me and I have a variety of wonderful small jobs to wake up to every day. I feel accepted by myself and loved by most of those who know me. 

Most of all, I discovered the cure for “anxiety.” I am more at peace now than I have ever been, because I have discovered the “good news” that Jesus came to bring. I have come to understand and know that I am loved by God, without condition, and in the end that everything is going to turn out OK, even if I may still have to face the challenges of old age, bad health and, God forbid, a painful death.  Yes, I have to admit that heading into 80, I have that feeling I used to get when I was walking across thin ice wondering when it would crack and I would suddenly find myself in a real crisis. However, because of the peace that God gives those who believe in his “good news,” I am confident that he will help me handle the rest of the way whatever comes my way because his way has always been the best way!     

"Have no anxiety at all. The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds." 

These words of Jesus were not only addressed to the terrified disciples, huddled together and cringing in fear, in that upper room after his crucifixion, as well as Paul to the anxious Philippians, these words are addressed to all of us today; whether you are a student worried about grades, finances or the fall-out of a bad choice made in the heat of passion; whether you are living in abusive relationship or an unsafe environment or with constant discrimination for being different; whether you are unemployed and in debt up to your ears or barely handling a chronic health problem; whether you are a single parent trying to make it on your own; whether you are religiously scrupulous and live in constant fear of a punishing God and can’t let go of it, Jesus addresses his words to you today. 'Peace be with you! Calm down! It’s going to be OK! When all is said and done, things are going to turn out just fine. I am with you! Trust me with a Plan B!'

Anxiety is worry about what might happenPeace is the awareness that everything will be OK no matter what happens.  Trust in God is the only way to peace. Peace is God’s gift to us and it is based on the “good news” that we are loved and that great things await us – because God said so!

Let me end with one of my favorite prayers by Saint Francis de Sales. 

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.