Saturday, March 23, 2024


Be Responsible For the Words You Speak! 
Be Responsible For the Deeds You Do or Fail to Do!
Be Responsible For Whom You Have Become/Failed to Become! 


Thursday, March 21, 2024


When I was writing a weekly column in our diocesan paper called AN ENCOURAGING WORD for fifteen years, I was always on the look-out for ordinary people to affirm rather than for their weaknesses to condemn. I learned very quickly that you always see what you look for in this world - look for the bad and you will find it, look for the good and you will find it too! Yes, there is a lot of meanness, evil and cowardice, but there is also a lot of goodness, courage and heroism.

Today, I want to focus on a old lady who passes my condo on the sidewalk running along Eastern Parkway. I have included four zoom photos of her that I took when I happened to be looking out the window. She might take one of her "trips" every day or even twice a day or more, but I have no way of knowing. I have no idea who she is, where she comes from or where she is going, but I am amazed at her determination to not let her limitations and circumstances hold her back. 

I see her out on her motorized cart in all kinds of weather: rain, snow and bitter cold. She my be coming from her home down the street, the nursing home next door or just escaping her home-alone loneliness when her family is at work. She may be going to the Kroger behind my condo to pick up a few things, she may be visiting a friend down the street or she just might want to see what is going on in the neighborhood.

I don't know a thing about her, but she amazes me and inspires me as she whizzes down the sidewalk unescorted by hovering family members or caretakers. Worries about "what might happen" doesn't seem to phase her! Personally, I would probably worry about what I would do if the battery of my cart went dead or what I would do if a car accidently came up on the sidewalk and crushed me or how I would handle it if I were mugged by a thief - worries enough for me to stay home for safety sake. Not her! Her flimsy shoes (3rd photo) don't even seem to phase her! In the second photo below, she appears to be having a cigarette, but I was not sure! She exudes the air of a "woman on a mission" even if she is going nowhere in particular. I find this "one tough cookie" simply amazing! 

On one sunny day (March 13th), she was out again on her motorized cart. This time, at first I thought she was throwing out seeds or bread crumbs for the geese and ducks on our pond. Only when she got closer, did I realize she was cleaning the sidewalk of sticks and limbs that had fallen from the trees. I don't know how far down the sidewalk she had worked, but I watched her for almost a half-hour! 

Sometime around March 17, shocked, I ran into her in the Kroger parking lot maneuvering her cart through the traffic and parked cars! Now I know where she was going, but I still don't know who she is or where she came from! This time I realized that my eyes had probably not deceived me! I am pretty sure I actually saw smoke coming out of a cigarette she was enjoying as she rushed to finish it! 

I am amazed by her drive, determination and courage! Yes, she is one tough cookie! She is an inspiration to me! "Ain't nobody gonna slow her down!" 

Dylan Thomas 

Tuesday, March 19, 2024


Maybe it's because I am about to turn 80. Maybe it's because I do Masses at a nursing home. Maybe it's because I have met many of the severely handicapped orphans down in the poor Caribbean country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Maybe it's because I am fascinated with Dr. Sandra Lee, the TV dermatologist, who helps so many people with terrible skin diseases and deformities. Maybe it's all that together, but I find myself almost overcome with compassion for people who have to go through life suffering all day every day without much hope of relief.

When I was young, I found such scenes disgusting to look at and stayed as far away from them, even photos of them, as possible. Now my heart almost bleeds with compassion and sympathy for them and their situations. I want to hug them, hold their hands and at least pat them on the shoulder and try to offer them some comforting words.

There are several Scripture passages where we are told that Jesus was "moved with compassion" for the suffering people he met along the way. Each story moves me as well.

In Matthew 20:32-34, Jesus asked two blind men, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” It's what it says next that moves me. “Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.”

In Mark 1:40-42, we read about a man with leprosy who “came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed.” The man said, “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” It's what it says next that moves me. Again, Scripture reports, “Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be healed!’ Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed.”

There are other similar occurrences in Scripture. Each time Jesus feeds the multitudes, we are told, Jesus had compassion on them (Mark 6.34; Mark 8.2; Matthew 14.14). Often, when Jesus saw crowds of people who seemed lost, he was moved with compassion. Then there is Matthew 9:35-36. "Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Pope Francis has spoken a few times about the “gift of tears” or the “grace of tears.” He uses these expressions when speaking about appreciating great blessings or understanding great tragedies.

If we think about when we experience tears, we see that they come at the two extremes of life: great joy and great sadness. If someone can say he has never had tears, that means he has experienced neither great joy nor great sadness. Such a person surely has lived a life devoid of personal connections and empathy.

It’s one thing to intellectually understand each person is a gift from God; it is quite another to appreciate that in our heart and soul. Tears are a sign that we have loved, been loved, appreciate the preciousness of life, and can empathize with another human person’s suffering.

Maybe this growing sense of compassion that I am feeling comes from a person who has seen a lot, heard a lot and felt a lot over his 54 years of ministry - enough to enable him to be "moved with compassion?" I hope so! 

Sunday, March 17, 2024



“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
John 11:40

Jesus had a large circle of friends, both men and women. On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we get an inside glimpse at three of those friends: Martha, her sister Mary and their brother Lazarus from the little town of Bethany, on the outskirts of Jerusalem. It was that special place in the life of Jesus where he and his disciples could stop in, get some rest, enjoy a good meal and then go on their way! If you pay attention to the details of John’s gospel story about Martha, Mary and Lazarus, you soon realize just how close Jesus was to these people. This is a story about intimate friends, affectionate friends.

First, we know that this Mary was the Mary who kissed Jesus’ feet in public, washing them with her tears, drying them with her hair, and rubbing them with perfumed oil. (When was the last time anybody kissed your feet? You must be pretty close to do that, not to mention doing it in public!) Read down the text and you see that John underlines, again and again, just how intimate these people were with Jesus. Here’s what it says: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much.” “See how much he loved him!” They are even so close that one of these women can “chew him out” and get away with it: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would never have died!” And finally, seeing Mary weep, we are told that “Jesus began to weep,” too.

One usually thinks of this story as the “raising of Lazarus,” but Jesus’ raising of Lazarus actually occupies a very small part of this story. Of the forty-four verses that constitute this story, only seven of them take place at Lazarus’ tomb. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus is the climax of this story; it is not the center. This is a dialogue between Jesus and the two women about the power of God’s love in our lives

In his gospel, John’s stories always have two levels: one on the surface which is true and another below the surface which is truer still. This intimate story is meant to reveal to us not only the depth of their friendship, but also how intimate is God’s relationship with us! The pain of this family is the pain of God for all his people. By listening in to the dialogue, we are also taught what they were taught: the truth about the depth of God’s love for us, about God’s willingness to give us new life, and about God’s power over our worst enemy – death.

(1) We are taught about the depths of God’s love for us. One of the biggest challenges I have faced as a priest is to convince people of God’s unconditional love for them. Why is it that so many of us have been trained by people who have dismissed these intimate stories of God’s love and have combed through the Scriptures, piecing together condemning, judging, and damning messages that they turn into a religion? Why did they, and why do we, find those negative messages more believable? I have received more letters questioning my “too lenient notions of God’s love” than any other critical letters since I became a priest. Jesus revealed the “true God,” not that “false mean god” that people have created since Adam and Eve. Even in that story, God says to Adam and Eve, “Who told you that you were naked?” (Genesis 3:11). In other words, “Who told you that you were bad, separated from me, and defective? I certainly didn’t!” Jesus came to talk us out of that mean God that we keep creating in our own minds. I can’t imagine trying to live my religion without being in love with God! I can’t imagine practicing a religion based on fear and dread!

(2) By listening in on the conversation between Jesus, Martha and Mary, we are taught also about God’s willingness to give us new life. This eternal life is on both sides of death. Death does not have the last word. Eternal life is not just some promise for the future; it is available to us right now. We are in it, as we speak! Through Jesus and in Jesus, those of us who are “dead on our feet” can be resurrected now. We can be “born again.” We can act boldly on our own behalf to live purposeful lives, to help others, and to claim the powers that lie dormant within us. One of my favorite old movies is Harold and Maude. This is Maude’s message to Harold throughout the movie: “Oh, how the world dearly loves a cage! There are a lot of people who enjoy being dead.” Jesus came, not just to bring a wonderful life after we are dead, but one starting right now!

(3) And, as this gospel teaches us, God has power over our worst enemy – death. We live in a death-denying culture. Some of our expensive funeral practices would leave outsiders with the impression that we believe that we are going to come up with a cure for death someday! That makes about as much sense as leaving the runway lights on for Amelia Earhart. We don’t even know how to die. Modern medical technology, as wonderful as it is, robs us of the spiritual experience of “letting go” of this part of our life. Through Jesus and in Jesus, we are able to see in death that “life is changed, not ended.” I feel sorry for those who are conscious at death’s door without this faith.

Over the years, I have had the awesome privilege of talking to some very conscious people getting ready to die: especially those with AIDS and with cancer. Some were not pious people, but most were deeply spiritual. Some were able to tell me that they accepted their approaching deaths and they wanted to “do it well.” Some were extremely thankful for the “eternal life” they had already started to experience in this world. Some looked with “joyful hope” for the “eternal life” ahead of them. You know, if you’re facing death, it doesn’t get any better than that! I hope I can do half as well. I pray for the ability to be conscious, filled with gratitude and ready to go when the time comes! Yes, I want to be conscious! I want to choose to let go and leap into that great unknown, knowing that I will land in the arms of God!

The message to you in today’s gospel is this: God loves you very, very much. He wants you to enjoy the eternal life that you can start to experience right now, and he wants you to know that death does not have the last word. You can enjoy “eternal life” forever – yes, starting right now!