Thursday, March 28, 2024


My First Mass 1970

My 50 +1 Anniversary Mass in 2021
delayed a year because of COVID

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life. 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.” 

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.

Did you know that the first record of the Eucharist was not the story of the Last Supper in the various gospel accounts. That came later. The very first record was the one we read today in our second reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians written in about 54 AD.
Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.
I Corinthians 11:23-26

The first Last Supper account from the Gospel of Mark was probably 66-70 AD, about 12 to 16 years later than the account we read from First Corinthians.

At the time of Paul, it was customary for Christians to hold an Agape meal (Love Feast) before the Eucharist. It was some sort of pot-luck dinner that the rich and the poor shared. However, in Corinth things had gotten a little out of control and the art of sharing was being lost. The rich would not share their food, but ate it in little exclusive groups by themselves, hurrying through it so they did not have to share, while the poor went with almost nothing. Some of them even got drunk at these meals. Did you know that Paul basically reams them out for this in this same letter we read from today?

Did you know that St. Clement of Alexandra had to write a letter to his people in the year 200 about the problem of lengthy mouth-to-mouth kissing during the sign of peace?

Did you know that in the year 350, the Council of Nicea outlawed the practice of kneeling during Mass as “novel,” preferring the older custom of standing as the proper way of praying at the Eucharist?

Did you know that the Mass changed from Greek to Latin in 384 "so that people could understand and participate." Even in the old Latin Mass, we had some hang-over Greek words - Kyrie Eleison is Greek, not Latin! That wasn’t changed again till 1963, when we went to English, for the same reason - "so people could understand and participate." 

Did you know that lay people had their parts of the Mass taken away around the year 1000 and they were not restored to them till Vatican Council II? Growing up the priest and the altar boys, and maybe the choir, interacted while people said the rosary or read along with their missals in silence. The Mass today is more like it was in the church’s early years than it was when most of us older members were growing up.

Did you know that tabernacles in churches did not really start till the 12th century and did not become standard until the 17th? Did you know that Protestants invented pews? Catholics had been using chairs, as we do in our Cathedral, just as they do in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome today and in most European Cathedrals? There weren’t even chairs in the early churches. People stood, even during long homilies. They did provide a bench along the wall for the sick and elderly.

Did you know that so few people were going to communion in the 13th century, because they considered it too sacred to receive, that the Pope had to make a law saying people must receive communion at least once a year? It came to be called our “Easter duty.” Did you know that veneration of the Blessed Sacrament at Benediction and the custom of Corpus Christi processions became a substitute for receiving communion during this period?

There is a lot of talk and effort going into a "Eucharistic Revival" and most of it seems to focus on "adoration of the Blessed Sacrament." For many people that seems to be a "real need" in the Church. On the other hand, after "doing this in memory of me" for the last 54 years, I think the emphasis seems a little misplaced. I think we can still promote the truth of "the real presence" while emphasizing the idea of "viaticum," bread for the journey and strength for the trip, rather than adoration. I like to place the emphasis on the Eucharist, "broken, shared and received" at Mass where we are participants, not Holy Hours, Benedictions and Eucharistic Processions where we are "spectators" rather than "communicants."  Those devotional practices came out of a period when people had moved from "eating and drinking his flesh and blood" as a way of letting it "change them" to "looking at his flesh and blood" without letting it get "inside them."  As Jesus said in John's Gospel (6:51-58), "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life. The one who feeds on me will have life because of me."


Tuesday, March 26, 2024


Of the more than 75 Parish Missions that I have conducted in Kentucky, Indiana and Florida, probably the most energetic and responsive was held this week seven years ago down in Marion County, Kentucky. St. Augustine Church in Lebanon was packed every night and the attendees sang gospel music at the top of their voices. It was a very, very memorable event that seemed to energize both the participants and those of us who provided the preaching and the music. It was an event I will never ever forget! 

Gospel Group Reflections
Even the choir loft was full.

Greeting old friends after one of the three-night sessions. 

Sunday, March 24, 2024



I am convinced that most people do not understand what Palm Sunday is about and I am not absolutely confident that I can explain it as well as it needs to be explained. I’ll try anyway!

To understand it, I think we need to go all the way back to the beginning. Remember, Herod was so paranoid about the baby Jesus being a “newborn king” that he had all the young boys in Bethlehem slaughtered – just in case. Jesus, Mary and Joseph escaped to Egypt for a few years.

Even when Jesus came out of obscurity to begin his ministry, we read at the beginning of Lent about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert as he discerned what direction his ministry should take – what God’s plan was for him.

One of the temptations Jesus was offered by the devil was to take the political power road – to become a king. We know that, even though Jesus concluded that this was not God’s path for him, people were always trying to make him a king. Even some of his apostles thought that that option was always on the table. Remember the story where James and John tried an end run around the other twelve by asking for the two best jobs in this new kingdom they thought he was going to set up in the near future.

We will read tonight that Judas was so disappointed with Jesus over this very issue that he tried to force Jesus hand to “get on with it,” only to see it backfire. When it didn’t work, he ends up committing suicide.

All this “king talk” among the people, all the dreams about power inside his inner circle and a rising tide of paranoia among the Roman occupiers was about to explode when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.

When Jesus and his band arrived in Jerusalem, the streets were clogged with religious pilgrims from everywhere. The air was full of tension. Jesus’ own popularity had reached a fever pitch, the religious leaders’ jealousy had reached the boiling point and the government’s worry had become paranoid. Everybody in authority, as well as Jesus, seemed to know that this trip smacked of a show down. Jerusalem was indeed tense when Jesus arrived for the Passover - something big was about to happen.

It was in this tense situation that Jesus came riding into the city, not quietly, but with total fanfare. Everybody noticed. This triumphant entry into Jerusalem was not some harmless little passion play. It was a deliberate move with dark possibilities. Everybody knew that the very presence of Jesus in Jerusalem at Passover could set off a riot.

‘When the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, throwing their coats on the road.’

Palm waving and the throwing of coats on the road were not just a nice gesture of welcome, spontaneously invented for this particular occasion. These gestures had major political overtones. In the past, when kings arrived to ascend their thrones, people threw coats on the road. Palm waving was a symbol of Jewish nationalism, synonymous with waving a rebel flag. Many in the crowds wanted a Jewish Messiah-King who would overthrow the hated Roman occupation and they thought Jesus could fit the bill. Even though Jesus had fought off several efforts of this kind, the crowds knew what kind of Messiah they wanted. They wanted a powerful revolutionary.

In response to the people’s misguided reception of him as a political, David-like, Messiah, Jesus deliberately came into the city on the back of a jackass, a pack animal. It was a powerful counter statement that simply went over the heads of the crowds. While they waved palms and chanted nationalistic slogans, by this action Jesus said, “No! I’m not the kind of king you imagine! My power is a spiritual power, not a political power!”

This “temptation,” the temptation to become a powerful political leader, had been proposed by Satan at the beginning of his ministry. The gospel tells us that Satan left him to wait for another occasion. It had been proposed to him, on various occasions, throughout his teaching days. Here it was again! Satan, in various guises, never gave up, even at the end. Jesus, consistent in his refusal, remained faithful to his call as a humble, peaceful, spiritual messiah to the end. Throughout history, the church has sadly from time to time given into the temptation to choose political power as a means to its goals, always with disastrous results. Again, in our own time, not convinced of the real effectiveness of spiritual power, some Christian communities have fallen for the temptation to take the short cut to achieve its mission by courting political power. What is their rational? It seems that they believe that if people won’t choose to be good, they need to be made to be good! Palm Sunday has a lot to teach the church, even today! My friends, our power is not a political power. It’s even more powerful than political power. It’s a spiritual power! Pope John Paul II had no armies, but he helped bring down communism just by his preaching and presence. That’s spiritual power! Pope Francis has no real political power, except in a one-square mile of ground inside the walls of the Vatican, but he has tremendous spiritual power. That is the real source of our power as well – the power that comes from authentic Christian living.