Friday, March 17, 2017


March 18th, 2017: Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32.

Was the older brother short-changed? Don’t we have a sneaky feeling that his complaint was justified? Unlike his shiftless younger brother, he’d never left home. He’d never asked for his father’s money. Nor had he wasted what his father had been good enough to give him.   

All that is true. But the older brother=s reaction to his younger brother’s shame-faced return shows that the elder brother too was in a distant country: physically at home, but far removed from his father=s attitude of love. He never noticed his father=s grief all the time his brother was away. Now that he is home again, the elder brother refuses to acknowledge him. AYour son,@ the older brother calls him, as if to say: AYour son, perhaps, but no brother of mine.@ He is filled with resentment, envy, and hate. Yet the father does not condemn this son any more than he had condemned his younger son: AEverything I have is yours,@ he reminds the elder brother. Farther than that love cannot go. 

AWho in the story suffered the most?@ a Sunday school teacher asked the class after reading them this story. One of the brightest children answered at once: AThe fattened calf.@ Next to the fattened calf, however, comes the older brother who remains outside while the party goes on inside. He does not even taste the fattened calf he himself probably helped to raise. 

Or did he? Did he change his mind and go in after all? Jesus doesn=t tell us.  Jesus leaves the story open-ended. He does so because us wants us to supply the ending. This Mass C every Mass C is a celebration of our heavenly Father=s freely given love and forgiveness. The price of that forgiveness was the poured out blood of his Son, who, as St Paul tells us, “did not know sin, but whom God made to be sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We supply the ending to the story by confronting honestly the questions Jesus is putting to each of us right now:

Is the Mass for you a celebration of joy at your heavenly Father’s love, given not just to good faithful people like yourself, but to all, without limit? In other words C Have you heard the good news? Are you joining in its celebration?

Thursday, March 16, 2017


March 17th, 2017: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46.

          Opposition to Jesus has risen to a point where the religious leaders of his people are about to reject him. Jesus gives them a final, solemn warning: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit." The parable’swarning continues today: for our country, for us American Catholics, for each of us personally.

          First, the warning for our country. Few nations have been so blessed by God as ours. From small beginnings we have become the world’s only superpower. Jesus’ parable warns us that all our wealth and power will be taken from us, and given to others, if we are not willing to share with those less fortunate than ourselves the abundance God has given us. 

          The parable is also a warning to us American Catholics. The position of influence we enjoy in the Church, because of our numbers and financial resources, will be taken away from us and given to Catholics in Third World countries, if our Catholicism is complacent, conventional, and lukewarm — while theirs is dynamic, daring, enthusiastic. 

          For each of us personally Jesus’ parable is a warning that merely conventional, formal religion is not enough. And our religion is conventional if all it means, at bottom, is fulfilling a list of “minimum obligations”: dropping in at  Sunday Mass to get our card punched, avoidance of serious sin, but not much beyond that: little generosity, little love or consideration for others, because we’re too busy looking after Number One. How much would a marriage be worth in which the spouses were merely concerned to fulfill their “minimum obligations” to one another? Think about it!

          In the great family of God which we call the Catholic Church God lavishes on us treasures beyond counting: all his truth, all his goodness, power, and love (which the theologians call “grace”). He looks for our answering love in return. The treasures God bestows on us are meant to be used, not put away for safe-keeping. They are to be shared, not hoarded. If we fail to pass on to others what God so generously gives to us, we shall lose God’s gifts. We can’t keep them, unless we give them away! That is what Jesus’ warning words mean: “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

          Someone has said: It doesn’t take much of a person to be a Catholic Christian. But it does take all of him — or her — that there is!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


March 19th, 2017 : Third Sunday in Lent, Year A.  John 4:5-42

AIM: To encourage the hearers to deeper conversion to Jesus Christ.

           “Go, call your husband,” Jesus says to the Samaritan woman at the well.  To which she replies at once: “I do not have a husband.”

          “You are right,” Jesus responds. “For you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband.” She has tried her luck with five men. Now she is living with a sixth. Numbers in the Bible are often symbolic. Six is a number of imperfection, lack, or deficiency. Living with her sixth partner, the woman is in a situation of lack and deficiency. In none of these six relationships has she found what she is looking for.

          In the thought world of the Bible seven, on the other hand, denotes completeness, consummation, perfection. There are seven days in the week, seven petitions in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kgs 8:29-53). The most sacred object in the Temple, apart from the ark of the covenant, which contained the Ten Commandments, was the seven-branched candlestick, called even today by Jews the Menorah. When the Syrian general Naaman came to the prophet Elijah to be healed of his leprosy, Elijah told him to wash himself seven times in the nearby Jordan River (2 Kgs 5:10). There are seven petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. When Peter asks Jesus how often he must forgive his brother, and suggests seven times, Jesus tells him that the duty of forgiveness is unlimited: “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt. 18:22). The gospels record seven utterances of Jesus on the cross, and an appearance of the risen Lord to seven disciples after a night of fruitless fishing on the lake (Jn. 21:2).
         As this story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well unfolds, we discover that the seventh man in this woman’s life is Jesus. As she opens up to him, she finally experiences the satisfaction of her deepest longing and desires — of her heart’s thirst. 

          The story’s starting point, however, is thirst. Tired from his journey, Jesus sits down by the well and asks the Samaritan woman who is drawing water: “Give me a drink.” Jesus is thirsty. What could be more natural than for him to ask the woman to give him some of the water she is drawing to quench her own thirst? In reality, Jesus’ request was anything but natural. The woman herself finds it astonishing.  “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” she says. Jesus’ request violated two boundaries: first, the one which forbade him, as an observant Jew, to share a cup with a Samaritan; and second, the prohibition of any extended social interaction in a public place between a man and a woman not of his own family. 

          The ensuing conversation between Jesus and this woman, member of a people looked down upon and despised by the Jesus’ people, is the longest dialogue recorded in any of the four gospels. The gospel writer tells us that when Jesus’ disciples return from the village they are “amazed that he was talking with a woman.” If Jesus had remained within the boundaries of his time, he would hardly have spoken to this woman at all — or at least only briefly and superficially. A superficial contact could have produced only a superficial result. 

          In his concern for this unfortunate woman — member of a despised minority and with a messed up life — Jesus breaks the boundaries of his time. Unlike many modern evangelists, however, Jesus does not condemn. He does not threaten. He does not intimidate. Instead he invites the woman to give him a drink. Then he challenges her: “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” When she says she has no husband, Jesus affirms her: “You are right in saying I have no husband.” Finally he tries to enlighten her doubts. When she mentions the Messiah, Jesus responds: “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.”            

What is it about Jesus that makes such a tremendous impact on this woman?  Simply this: for the first time in her life she meets in Jesus a man who understands her and respects her; and the first man who knows her through and through, yet does not reject, condemn, or use her. In her excitement she forgets her water jar, and her thirst — as Jesus evidently forgets his own thirst — and runs back to the village to tell all her friends: “Come see a man who told me everything I have done.” She is so overjoyed finally to have found a man who satisfies her deepest longings that she wants to bring others to him. The convert has become a messenger and missionary to others. 

          Here in the Eucharist we receive, from these twin tables of word and sacrament, the living water of which Jesus speaks to this Samaritan woman. We need to come again and again. Why? Is it because the Lord gives us only a little each time? No! When God gives, he gives abundantly, even super-abundantly. We come repeatedly not because the Lord’s gift is limited, but because our capacity to receive is limited. We do not come, however, merely to get our spiritual batteries recharged; to fill up the tank for another week’s journey down the road of life. No, this is a personal encounter with One who loves us more than we can ever imagine; who values us more than we value ourselves. 

          Like the Samaritan woman with her six partners, we may try to hide the messy situations in our lives. Jesus knows about them already. He does not excuse; but neither does he condemn — any more than he condemned the Samaritan woman.

          Toward the end of this long dialogue Jesus tells his disciples, returned now from the village: “Look up, and see the fields ripe for the harvest.” The woman, and the friends and neighbors she has brought from the village, are part of the harvest Jesus is talking about: simple folk, little people we might say, looked down on and despised by Jesus’ people — though never by him. Unlike so many leaders of Jesus’ own people, they do not ask for “a sign”: some dramatic proof which will compel their belief. They accept Jesus in the simple trusting faith of humble people everywhere. 

          “Look up, and see the fields ripe for the harvest,” Jesus says. Was that just long ago and far away? Don’t you believe it! Whenever, wherever, we find that thrills, success, power, or possessions cannot satisfy our deepest longings, we are thirsting (though we may not know it) for the living water that Jesus alone can give. Today, as in Jesus’ time, the fields are still “ripe for harvest.” That is absolutely certain. We have Jesus’ word for it.

          One thing alone remains uncertain. Do we truly want to be part of that harvest? The answer to that question lies in our hands. Jesus Christ is waiting for our answer — right now.    



March 16th, 2017: Luke 16:19-31.
Why was the rich man punished?  Not for anything he did, but for what he failed to do. He seems not even to have seen poor Lazarus as he went in or out of his house. Another question: Why did Lazarus go to heaven? We are not told that he did a single good deed. All we know about him, apart from his poverty, is his name: Lazarus. It means AGod is my help.@ So this Lazarus is not just a poor man, but a poor man who believes and trusts in God. That is why he is carried by angels to Abraham=s bosom in heaven: not because he was poor, but because of his trusting faith in God. 
The parable doesn’t say that at death the rich will become poor and the poor rich. Wealthy people who use their wealth to do good for God and others, experience happiness in this life and blessing in the next. Poor people who spend their lives in bitterness, envy, self-pity, and hate experience misery in this life, which may continue after death.
If the parable is a parable of judgment, it also contains good news. The judgment meted out to Lazarus B silent and passive throughout B tells us that the inarticulate, the weak, the poor, the marginalized and neglected, are especially dear to God. Lazarus, the man whom God helped, tells us that in the kingdom Jesus came to proclaim the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk and run without growing weary; those who hope in the Lord renew their strength and soar as on eagles= wings; the tone deaf sing like the Metropolitan Opera stars, René Fleming and Placido Domingo; the poor are made rich; the hungry feast at the banquet of eternal life; the sorrowful are filled with laughter and joy; and those who are persecuted because of the Son of Man receive their unbelievably great reward.
Somewhere in this church right now there may be a Lazarus: someone weighed down by illness, misunderstanding, injustice, loneliness, or poverty. The Lord is telling you: >Trust me always. I am with you. You are in my hands, now and always. And my hands are good hands.=   

Also in this church there may be someone who is rich. You have worked hard for what you have. You are grateful for what God has given you. But there is still an emptiness inside. To you the Lord is saying:  >Open your hands and your heart. There is a Lazarus at your door, maybe in your own family. Try to help that person. Sometimes all that is necessary is an affirming word, a kind gesture or a loving look. Remember, ‘whatever you do to one of these least sisters or brothers of mine, you do to me.’  Then one day I shall be able to say to you very personally the words I long to say to all my friends: AWell done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.@=  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


March 15th, 2017: Matthew 20:17-28.

          “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant,” Jesus says in today’s gospel. It is his response to the request made by the mother of the brothers James and John that he give them places of special honor in his kingdom. The petition may have come from the mother. It is clear, however, that she had the full backing of her two sons. For when Jesus asks if they can share the chalice of pain and suffering from which he will drink, the two brothers respond eagerly, “We can.” Clearly they have no idea what lies ahead for the Master they love and revere.

It quickly becomes clear that the other disciples are equally clueless. They become indignant at James and John for staking out a claim before the other disciples can assert theirs. Patiently Jesus explains that this whole contest for honor is totally unacceptable among his followers. “Whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” And immediately Jesus ratifies this teaching with his own example: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

          We all need a measure of recognition and affirmation. But if finding that is central in your life, I’ll promise you one thing. You’ll never get enough -- and you'll always be frustrated. Look, rather, for opportunities to serve others and you will find happiness: here and now in this world -- and in the next the joy of eternal life with the Lord who tells us, later in this gospel according to Matthew: “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you do for me.”  

Monday, March 13, 2017


 March 14th, 2017: Mathew 23:1-12.
          “Call no one on earth father,” Jesus says in today’s gospel. Evangelical Christians charge that the practice of calling Catholic priests “Father” violates Jesus’ command. There is a simple response to this charge. Taking Jesus’ words literally would forbid us to use this word for our biological fathers. Nor can we take literally the following verse: “Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Christ.” Taken literally this would forbid us to call anyone “Mister,” since this title is merely a variation of the English word “master.” If despite this passage, it is legitimate to call men in our society “Mister,” and to call our biological fathers “Father,” why should it be wrong to call priests “Father”?
          All this is true. But we make things too easy for ourselves if we leave the matter there. We need to see the principle behind Jesus’ rejection of titles like “Father” and “Master.” What Jesus is condemning is not the titles themselves but an underlying mentality. Jesus is warning against the temptation of those who have spiritual authority in his Church to forget that they are first of all servants; and that they will themselves be judged by the authority they represent to others. The scramble for honors and titles is alive and well in the Lord’s Church. There is a saying in Rome which confirms this: “If it rained miters, not one would touch the ground.”
          Jesus’ warnings in today’s gospel have an obvious application to us clergy. Do they apply, however, only to Church leaders? Who are the people today to whom these other words in today’s gospel apply? “They preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen.” 
          It is not hard to find people in public life who fit that bill. Many public officials are truly public servants. Sadly there are also many exceptions. Hypocrisy, the yawning credibility gap between words and deeds, is a danger for all of us. The American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne writes: “No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
          It is God’s love, and his love alone, that gives us the courage to throw away our masks, to stop pretending to be other than we are. That is what God wants for us. Deep in our hearts that is what we too desire: just to be ourselves; to know that we are loved not in spite of what we are, but for who we are: daughters and sons of our heavenly Father, sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ.
          Once we stop pretending and truly accept the love God offers us as a free gift, we begin to discover what Jesus called “the peace which the world cannot give.”

Sunday, March 12, 2017


March 13th, 2017: Luke 6:36-38.

          At the end of the day there are, basically, two kinds of people. There are the Takers, and there are the Givers. Which are you? If you’re a Taker, I can promise you one thing. You will always be frustrated; because you’ll never get enough. It is only the Givers who are truly happy. They are the ones who receive from God, the giver of every good gift, the joy and peace which only the Lord God can give.

          At bottom this is what Jesus is talking about in the short gospel reading we have just heard. “Give and gifts will be given to you,” he tells us. And what we receive will be measured out to us in accordance with the generosity of our own giving. “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

          If we want God to be merciful to us, Jesus says, we must be merciful to others. If we want God to be generous in judging us – and is there anyone who does not? – then we must be generous in judging others.

          Lent is a time in which we try to grow spiritually. One way to do so is to examine ourselves, our attitudes, and our behavior. Am I quick to find fault with others? Do I try to avoid contact with people who rub me the wrong way? Do I easily look down on others who don’t have the gifts God has given me? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, or sometimes, then we need to ask the Lord to help us change.

          Nor should we wait to see if others show any sign of being willing to change. Start to make the necessary changes today. And you will discover what all generous Givers know already: God can never be outdone in generosity!