Friday, April 28, 2017


Homily for April 29th, 2017: John 6:16-21.

          What began as a routine evening crossing of the lake soon turns into a nightmare for Jesus’ friends in their small boat. When they see a human figure approaching across the storm-tossed waves it is small wonder that they “began to be afraid.” It is Jesus. “It is I,” he calls out. “Do not be afraid!”

Like most people in antiquity, Jesus’ people, the Jews, regarded the sea as the domain of supernatural, demonic forces. To the Hebrew mind wind and waves were perilous: only God could master them. Repeatedly the psalms speak of God’s power to “rule the surging sea and calm the turmoil of its waves” (Ps. 89:10; cf. 93:3f; 107:23-30). By walking on the raging waves, and calming the stormy sea, Jesus shows himself to be acting as only God can do.

          This beautiful story speaks to each one of us individually. Somewhere in this church right now there may be someone facing a personal crisis: an illness, perhaps, your own or that of a loved one; a family problem; a humiliating failure; the sudden collapse of long held hopes, plans, and efforts. You are filled with fear. When you look down, you see only peril and ruin. But look up! Keep your eyes on Jesus. He still has power to save. 

          The story assures us that when the storm rages and the night is blackest; when we cannot see the way ahead; when we are bone weary with life’s struggle and our hearts fail us for fear, Jesus is close. He only seems to be absent. In reality he is never far from us. He knows at every moment the difficulties against which we contend. Across the storm waters of this world he comes to us and speaks the same words of assurance that he spoke to the terrified men in that small boat: “It is I, do not be afraid!”

That, friends, is the gospel. That is the good news.          


Thursday, April 27, 2017


April 30th, 2017: Third Sunday of Easter, Year A.  Luke 24:13-35.
AIM: To help the hearers appreciate God’s presence in his word.  
          This best known of all the resurrection stories, which we have just heard in the gospel, is also one of the most loved. Three elements of the story explain its appeal. First, it has an element of suspense: we know in advance the identity of the story’s central figure and are eager to see when the other people in the story will discover what we already know. Second, we can identify with the two friends of Jesus. They are not leaders, like Peter or Paul, but ordinary disciples like ourselves. Finally, the story appeals because it shows Jesus coming to his friends in the two ways he has always come: through word and sacrament. This aspect is worth pursuing further.
          After Jesus’ disappearance, his two friends recall that their hearts had been “burning within us while he spoke to us ... and opened the Scriptures to us.” Jesus could make people feel that God’s word was addressed personally to them. More than once the gospels record that “he spoke with authority,” and not like other religious teachers.  (Mt. 7:29 and parallels.)
          When you read God’s word, or hear it read in church, do you ever feel that the words are addressed personally to you? To do so, you must learn to listen. You must become still, opening your heart and mind to what the Lord wants to say to you. That takes time. How good to see people coming early to Mass, so that they have time to become quiet, prepared to listen to God’s word with open hearts and open minds. That is something people with children are seldom able to do. Once we begin to appreciate that Jesus comes to us through his word, we will be less apt simply to rattle off prayers mechanically. We shall be more aware that the words we speak to God in prayer mean something. Then, starting with the most familiar prayers like the Our Father and Hail Mary, we’ll pray them more slowly, more reverently.  
          Though the two friends of Jesus in today’s gospel feel their hearts burning within them as they listen to the Lord’s words, they recognize him only “in the breaking of the bread.” That is the earliest name for the Eucharist. But Jesus does not linger. At once he is gone. Jesus had not been brought back to his old life. That ended on Calvary. Jesus was raised to a new life, beyond death: a higher mode of existence no longer limited by the physical laws which govern life before death. In his book Jesus of Nazareth Pope Benedict, now retired, explains this by writing: “[Jesus’] presence is entirely physical, yet he is not bound by physical laws, the laws of space and time. ... He is the same embodied man, and he is the new man, having entered upon a different manner of existence” (p. 266, emphasis supplied).
          Jesus’ swift disappearance shows also that he did not come to these friends of his so that they could luxuriate in a great spiritual experience. He came to empower them to carry the good news of his resurrection to others. Under the influence of this unexpected and wonderful encounter they forget their weariness and the late hour, and return at once to Jerusalem with their unbelievably good news. Before recognizing Jesus, they had pressed him to stay with them, because evening was coming on. They had with them Him who is the light of the world. Had he left, it would have been dark indeed.
          Is your life dark? If so, perhaps it is because you are not journeying with Jesus Christ. One day you will come to the evening of life’s journey. Happy then if Jesus is with you, so that you can press him to stay: “when the shadows lengthen, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done” (Newman). Then he will stay with you, to take you to the place he has gone ahead to prepare for you (cf. John 14:2). 
          But that great encounter is still in the future. Here and now, if you wish to journey with Jesus Christ (and your presence here shows that, deep in your heart, you do), you must encounter him in the same two ways as those friends of Jesus did at Emmaus: through his word, and in the breaking of the bread – which is the Mass.   
          Let me conclude with some verses written as a meditation on this beautiful story of the appearance of the risen Lord to the two disciples at Emmaus. They are by Fr. Ralph Wright, a monk of our own St. Louis Abbey on Mason Road.

Sing of one who walks beside us / And this day is living still,
One who now is closer to us / Than the thought our hearts distill,
One who once upon a hilltop / Raised against the power of sin,
Died in love as his own creatures / Crucified their God and King.
Strangers we have walked beside him / The long journey of the day,
And have told him of the darkness / That has swept our hope away.
He has offered words of comfort, / Words of energy and light,
And our hearts have blazed within us / As he saved us from the night.
Stay with us, dear Lord, and raise us / Once again the night is near.
Dine with us and share your wisdom. / Free our hearts from every fear.
In the calm of each new evening, / In the freshness of each dawn,
If you hold us fast in friendship / We will never be alone.


Homily for April 28th, 2017: John 6:1-15.

Following the miraculous feeding of the great crowd in the wilderness, AJesus realized that they would come and carry him off to make him king, so he fled back to the mountain alone.@ The people were so impressed with the great Asign@ which Jesus had performed, that they want to capture the power the had seen in Jesus, so that it would be theirs always.

You cannot capture Jesus Christ. You cannot apprehend him or hold him fast. He will always elude your grasp. ADo not cling to me,@ the risen Lord said to Mary Magdalene in the garden of the resurrection. She wanted to resume the relationship of emotional intimacy with Jesus which she had enjoyed during his public ministry. The time for that was past.  ADo not cling to me,@ Jesus told her. ARather, go to my brothers and tell them, >I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God!=@ (John 20:17)

Jesus says the same to us today: ADo not cling to me.” At the end of every Mass the Lord sends us to others: his brothers and sisters C and ours too. As we journey life=s way, with all its twistings and turnings, Jesus is always with us. He remains close to us, even when we stray far from him. But he does not belong to us. We belong to him. He will be with us always C but he will also be ahead of us.

When you come to walk the last stretch of life=s journey, which each of us must walk alone, you will find that you are not alone. Jesus will be walking with you. And he will be waiting for you at the end of life=s road. AI am going to prepare a place for you,@ Jesus says later in John=s gospel, Athat where I am you also may be@ (14:3). That is Jesus= personal promise to you C and to me. And when Jesus Christ promises something, he always keeps his promise.

Here, then, is a question to ponder. When you meet the Lord at the end of life=s road, will you be encountering a stern judge, before whom you shrink in fear? Or will you be meeting a familiar, dearly loved friend? The Lord in his goodness allows us to choose what the encounter will be like. It is the most important choice we shall ever have. 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Homily for April 27th, 2017: John 3:31-36.

          “He does not ration his gift of the Spirit,” we heard in the gospel. What does that mean? It means that God’s gifts are without limit.

When God gives, he gives totally and completely.

          Jesus showed that in his own life. When he turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, the quantity of water changed into wine would have kept the party going for a week. In every one of the six accounts of Jesus’ feeding a vast crowd in the wilderness, he gave them not just a snack. Always there was food left over, even after all had eaten to the full. When God gives, he gives not only abundantly, but superabundantly.

          Whether I offer Mass for one person, or for a hundred, does not affect the blessings that each receives. God’s blessings are infinite. We come again and again to Communion not because what we receive is limited, but because our capacity to receive is limited.

          Jesus goes on to say: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” We heard yesterday that believing in someone means trusting that person, and more: entrusting our lives to him or her. Friends and disciples of Jesus Christ are people who entrust their lives to him who is our best friend, our lover – but also our Savior, our Redeemer, our God in human flesh.   

          And note: Jesus does not say that we shall have eternal life. No. He speaks in the present tense. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” – here and now. The fellowship we have with the Lord Jesus continues on beyond death into eternity. That is God’s plan and design for your life, and for mine. And the only thing that can frustrate the fulfillment of that plan is our own final and deliberate No.

          That, friends, is the gospel. That is the good news.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Homily for April 26th, 2017; John 3:16-21.

At the center of every Catholic Church in the world is a cross. Why is the cross so important, and so central? Why, after two thousand years, has the cross lost none of its fascination and power?  The best answer is also the simplest: because the cross is a picture of how much God loves us. AThere is no greater love than this,@ Jesus tells us, Ato lay down one=s life for one=s friends@ (John 15:13).AGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son,@ we heard in the gospel. It was the most God had to give. That is why the cross is at the center of every Catholic Church in the world. That is why the cross is also at the center of the Church=s preaching.

Many people associate the words Apreaching@ and Asermon@  with a list of Do=s and Don=ts: all the things we must first do or avoid before God will love us and bless us. Yet the gospel is supposed to be good news. Is it good news to be told that God won=t love us until we have kept enough of his rules to show that we are worthy of his love? That doesn=t sound like very good news to me.  It sounds like horribly bad news.

The One who hangs on the cross, to show us God=s love, says elsewhere in this gospel according to John: AI am the light of the world@ (8:12). And in today=s gospel he tells us that our eternal destiny is being determined, even now, by how we react to his light: "Everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.  But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God" (John 3:20f).

Are you walking in the light of Jesus= love? Or do you fear his light because of what it might reveal in the dark corners of your life which, like all of us, you try to keep hidden? We all have those dark corners. Now, in this hour, Jesus Christ is inviting you to put away fear. Come into the bright sunshine of his love. Once you do, the fire of Christ=s love will burn out in you everything that is opposed to his light. Then the reason for your fear will be gone. Then you will have no need to hide. You will be home. You will be safe: safe for this life, but also for eternity.

AWhoever believes in [Jesus Christ] will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their words were evil.@The eternal destiny of each one of us is being determined by our response to the light, and love, of Jesus Christ.  He is waiting for your response, right now.


Monday, April 24, 2017


April 25th, 2017, Feast of St. Mark: Mark 16:15-20.
Our gospel starts with Jesus’ parting command to his disciples: AGo into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.@ In the measure in which we try faithfully to fulfill this command, Jesus continues today to do what he promised to do when he gave the command: to confirm the gospel message by Asigns.@ In the pre-scientific world of the first century, there were signs appropriate to that age. Mark mentions them: the power to drive out demons, to speak new languages, immunity to deadly snakes and poisons, the power to heal the sick. 
Today=s signs are different: the worldwide example and inspiration of a Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, of Pope St. John Paul II, who soldiered on to the end despite bodily weakness, attracting at successive World Youth Days larger crowds than any rock star. The century which closed seventeen years ago brought us the sign of some twelve thousand Awitnesses for Christ@: women and men all over the world who, in the bloodiest of all centuries in recorded history, gave their lives for Jesus Christ. AThe age of the martyrs has returned,@ Pope St. John Paul II said as the twentieth century drew to a close. And in a great ecumenical service seventeen years ago in Rome=s Coliseum, where many martyrs shed their blood for Christ in antiquity, the Pope joined other Christian leaders in commemorating these twelve thousand witnesses to Christ.
Impressive as their witness is, and the other signs I have mentioned, perhaps the greatest of all today=s signs, which confirm the gospel message given to us by Jesus at his Ascension, is simply this: that after so much failure by Christians in history, and by the Church=s leaders and members in our own day; after so many frustrations, after so many betrayals – yes, and so many scandals -- and after so many defeats in the struggle to fulfill Christ=s missionary command C nevertheless, after twenty centuries, so many, all over the world, are still trying to be faithful. 


Sunday, April 23, 2017


Homily for April 24th, 2017: John 3:1-8.

          Most of those who responded to Jesus’ teaching by coming to believe in him were “little people,” as the world reckons such things. In today’s gospel we meet an exception. Nicodemus was member of the Sanhedrin, the elite 70-man Jewish ruling body that went back to Moses. He comes to Jesus at night. He doesn’t want his fellow Sanhedrin members, almost all of whom are either hostile to Jesus, or indifferent, to know about his visit. The night visit may also have a symbolic meaning. John’s gospel is rich in symbolism. Nicodemus is coming from the darkness of disbelief, or at least of weak belief, to the One who is the light of the world.

There was similar symbolism in the gospel for Tuesday in Holy Week, also by John. After Judas leaves the Upper Room where Jesus was celebrating his Last Supper with the twelve apostles, John tells us: “And it was night.” For Jesus, however, it was not night. “Now is the Son of Man glorified,” he cries out, “and God is glorified in him.”

Nicodemus has been impressed by Jesus’ miracles – which ones we are not told. Calling Jesus “Rabbi,” Nicodemus says: “We know you are a teacher come from God, for no man can perform signs and wonders such as you perform unless God is with him.” This stops far short of acknowledgement that Jesus is the Messiah. There were other holy rabbis who performed signs and wonders. 

This explains Jesus’ less than enthusiastic response. You cannot see God’s kingdom, he tells Nicodemus, unless you are “begotten from above,” in other words, “born of God as your Father.” A father “begets” the child whom a mother “bears.” Jesus’ meaning becomes clear only when he says: “No one can enter God’s kingdom without being begotten of water and the Spirit.”

That is what happened to each of us when we were baptized. Through the Holy Spirit, and the pouring of water, God our Father made us his children, brothers and sisters of his divine Son, Jesus, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. That is our eternal destiny. And the only thing can prevent the fulfillment of this destiny is our own deliberate and final No.