October 22, 2022

A Homily for Saturday, 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II of the Weekday Readings

Ephesians 4:7-16.
Luke 13:1-9.

God risks, wastes, and lavishes time, work, and his overflowing, grace-filled, life-giving Spirit on us who are barren.

He does it NOT because he needs anything from us, but with the goal of enabling and helping us to uphold new life for ourselves.

If we are still fruitlessly unrepentant after his over-the-top generosity, he leaves that to us.

To be unrepentant is to be a fruitless tree that has no place in the orchard of the living.

In the original language of the Gospel, the word for repentance means literally change of mind.

Repentance is a change of mind about our own selves and about God.

The Word of the Lord in today’s first reading also upholds God’s over-the-top gifts, and calls us to a change of mind.

GRACE WAS GIVEN TO EACH OF US according to the measure of Christ’s gift— Christ who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might FILL all things.

... to EQUIP the holy ones for the work...
for building up the BODY of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of FAITH
and KNOWLEDGE of the Son of God,

to mature manhood
to the extent of the full stature of Christ....
we should GROW in every way into him who is the head, Christ,
from whom the whole BODY...
with the proper functioning of each part,
brings about the BODY’S growth
and builds itself up in love.

Going over-the-top, God the Father, in the Body and Blood of his Son, works the ground at the roots of our humanity, watering and fertilizing it with his Spirit.

For THIS we have come to his altar once again, as we have done daily and year after year.

Let us answer by choosing to change our minds, to grow, and to bear fruit.

October 13, 2022


It is tragic that some Catholics hate Pope Francis and wish him dead.

Christ was a scandal, a stumbling block. As far as his earthly neighbors could tell, he was merely a man of flesh and blood, and yet he dared to forgive sins with the authority of God. He dared to uphold that he had come down from heaven and was the Son of God. Asserting his authority to judge all the nations at the end of history, he upheld our relationships with other human beings as the deciding factor in whether we might merit everlasting glory in heaven or everlasting torment in hell. At the Last Judgment, the least of our fellow human beings in need will have been as “vicars” of Christ, and Christ will judge our care or neglect of them as care or neglect of himself as our Lord and God. [See Mt. 25:31-46]

Forty days after he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven. He did not leave behind for us anything he had written. Instead of leaving us a book, he chose to leave behind and send to us our fellow human beings.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” [Mt. 28:18-20]

They— mere human beings— were to dare to speak for him, just as he, a man of flesh and blood, dared to speak as God. The scandal that was Christ would continue in the scandal that is the Church and the human beings that make up the Church.

After he ascended into heaven, the first act of the human beings Christ left behind for us was to be of one accord with each other and devote themselves to prayer with each other. [See Acts 1:14]

The second act of those human beings was to renew their own number by seeking to replace the apostle Judas who had committed suicide. They had the replacement, Matthias, join the apostles in being human witnesses of Christ who gave witness to being God as a flesh-and-blood human being. In the original Greek language of the book of Acts, the role or office of being such an apostolic witness is called episkopen, meaning literally “overseeing,” and being the Greek word from which we derive the word “bishop.”

Call them apostles, overseers, or bishops— but they are still human beings, and Christ wants us to accept the testimony of human beings, just as he wanted his earthly neighbors to accept his own human, flesh-and-blood testimony that he was God personally come down from heaven.

Since creation, until the end of time, and into the everlasting Kingdom, everything for us as we stand before God is about relationships with divine persons and human persons; it is all about love of God and love of neighbor.

One of those human persons is our neighbor Pope Francis.

Some Catholics who pride themselves on conserving tradition have now been contradicting traditional respect for the person of the pope in their own words. Some of them make foul, derogatory comments about Pope Francis, and they express the wish that he should die as soon as possible.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. [1 Jn. 4:20-21]

The New Testament testifies that St. Peter— the first pope— was unfaithful to Christ once Christ was arrested. While Christ was under trial, Peter lied to save himself when accused of following Christ, and he went into hiding. The risen Christ brought Peter back. However, Peter’s imperfections did not all go away. Later, he and the apostle Paul were at odds over certain issues of religious observance and doctrine.

Peter was not perfect, yet he was a vicar of Christ, not merely as chief of the first apostles and holder of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, but a vicar of Christ as much as the least of Christ’s needy brothers and sisters.

Traditional and conservative Catholicism has long jumped to the defense of the pope as the Vicar of Christ, but now some Catholics who trumpet themselves as tradition-loving conservatives spout open hatred for the present Vicar of Christ. Number 936 in the Catechism of the Catholic states the traditional Catholic teaching as follows.

The Lord made St. Peter the visible foundation of his Church. He entrusted the keys of the Church to him. The bishop of the Church of Rome, successor to St. Peter, is “head of the college of bishops, the Vicar of Christ and Pastor of the universal Church on earth” (Code of Canon Law, canon 331).

Number 896 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of Catholics as following with close attachment the bishop (and the pope is a bishop):

The Good Shepherd ought to be the model and form of the bishop’s pastoral office. Conscious of his own weaknesses, the bishop can have compassion for those who are ignorant and erring. He should not refuse to listen to his subjects whose welfare he promotes as of his very own children. The faithful should be closely attached to the bishop as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and as Jesus Christ is to the Father:

Let all follow the bishop, as Jesus Christ follows his Father, and the college of presbyters as the apostles; respect the deacons as you do God's law. Let no one do anything concerning the Church in separation from the bishop. In the Creed at Sunday Mass, Catholics profess “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” We are liars in professing this Creed if we cannot embrace with respectful faith that the apostolicity of the Church depends both on having had apostles in the beginning and on still having apostles in the persons of Pope Francis and the bishops.

The Creed is not the only moment at Mass when we profess that the Church is one and apostolic. The Canon or Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass also always professes the same thing.

Here is where it appears in the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I.

To you, therefore, most merciful Father, we make humble prayer and petition through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant Francis our Pope....

All other Eucharistic Prayers that may be used instead of the Roman Canon express the same thing. Here are two more examples.

In Eucharistic Prayer II.

Remember, Lord, your Church, spread throughout the world, and bring her to the fullness of charity, together with Francis our Pope....

In Eucharistic Prayer III.

Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth, with your servant Francis our Pope....

Every Eucharistic Prayer ends with a doxology and the faithful answering the Eucharistic Prayer with “Amen.”

To attend the Mass, profess its Creed, say “Amen” to its Eucharistic Prayer, and receive the Eucharistic Body and Blood of Christ which we have by virtue of priests ordained by bishops in union with the pope, but to openly, disrespectfully, and hatefully denigrate the pope and wish for his hasty death is to turn one’s participation in the Mass into a grave lie.

One might as well be Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper.

August 07, 2022

Waiting Mindfully?

Year C, the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Readings at Mass.
Wisdom 18:6-9. Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19. Luke 12:32-48.

The first two of today’s three readings speak of the bold faith of the ancestors of God’s people— faith that God would bring about great blessings for their family tree in time to come.

The old promise of those blessings echoed in today’s Cóllect prayer that we offered right before we sat for the readings.
... Father,
bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters,
that we may merit to enter into the inheritance
which you have promised.
And then in today’s Gospel, Christ promises that the gift of his Father’s kingdom is for those who keep watch to be worthy of it, since Christ’s return will break in on us without warning.

You and I, with the whole human race, live between the first coming of Christ and his second coming.

Both comings of Christ touch our freedom that stretches between two realities.

The one reality is the original sin of humankind.

The other is the free offer God makes to us in Christ.

God adopted us in Baptism, freely giving us an entitled share in the kingdom of heaven.

Because of Baptism, we no longer bear the guilt of original sin.

God the Father has washed it from us with the Baptismal waters of grace and the Spirit that bear the might and truth of the death and resurrection of his Son.

Although the GUILT of original sin is no longer ours, we are still weak and can still turn away from God with other sins.

Nonetheless, GOD has freed us to be free IN God and free FOR God.

Freedom always brings with it RESPONSIBILITY.

Freedom is ALIVE not in doing merely what we LIKE, but in doing GOOD.

IF freedom meant it were RIGHT for us to do WHATEVER we LIKED, then we would have to accept ANY sin that OTHERS might commit against US in THEIR freedom to do what THEY liked.

On the contrary, TRUE freedom brings with it MORAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Freedom LIVES and GROWS in choosing to do GOOD.

The everlasting fullness of our freedom is in Christ the master, who says in today’s Gospel:
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, HE will GIRD himself,
HAVE them recline at table, and proceed to WAIT on them.
In that outcome, Christ the master will be like fathers and mothers who serve and feed the children they have gladly adopted.

The goodness of Christ is the fulfillment, the perfection, the pattern, and the goal of our human freedom.

To seek and follow CHRIST is to seek and follow FREEDOM.

He tells us in his Gospel today:
Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return...
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Waiting for Christ in this way means to be mindful in taking responsibility for every free choice we make in how we live and how we think.

Waiting for the Lord is also a way of prayer.

To wait in prayer is to be aware that something needed and good is missing, and that it comes in the person of the Lord.

Sincere prayer also helps and teaches us to live and grow in freedom.

In his Gospel, Christ asks, calls, and bids us be on the lookout for him, to watch for him, to stay awake for him, to hunt and wish for him.

He has sworn that he is always with us and will come back one day.

He is really with us in his Eucharistic Body and Blood.

But his Eucharistic Body and Blood also feed us the mystery of his Second Coming.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, Christ the master becomes the servant of his servants.

In his Eucharist, even though he comes among us as our servant, he remains both the standard and the judge of our freedom.

As the standard of our freedom, Christ freely hands himself over in his Eucharistic Body and Blood as food and drink for our welfare.

In doing so, he is also already our judge, for he measures us by what we freely dare to receive.

As he says in today’s Gospel:  Much will be required of the person entrusted with much....

When we receive him in his Eucharist, we hand ourselves over to his judgment.

And yet our God and Judge, Almighty-in-His-Love, Innocent and Pure, chose to take a place on earth among the guilty and condemned.

He freely took our guilt upon himself, and freely chose to be condemned as a sinner among us sinners.

The master freely chose to be nailed to a cross of deadly punishment.

God freely chose to die among us guilty sinners.

That is the one who comes as Judge in his Eucharist.

In his Eucharistic Body and Blood, our Judge offers us a covenant ... for the forgiveness of sins, but also a covenant of being WITH US EVEN UNTO DEATH.

He was OBEDIENT to being God-with-us EVEN UNTO DEATH.

And then his RESURRECTION is our human body and soul FREE AND OBEDIENT in the LIFE and GLORY of God.

To say it again:  our RESURRECTION is our human body and soul FREE AND OBEDIENT in the LIFE and GLORY of God.
Christ the Son in his Obedient Body and Blood lets us share in his freedom and glory as sons and daughters of his Father.

Obedience, forgiveness, life, freedom, and glory are in his Body and Blood that call us to turn away from sin and to rise with Christ in his goodness.
Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return...
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

June 09, 2022

He found himself guarding the door at his daughter's elementary school graduation.

Parenting as a Catholic pacifist in an era of mass shootings

Jon M. Sweeney, 9 June 2022, in the magazine, “America: The Jesuit Review”

Only two days after the horrific killing of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Tex., I filed into an auditorium to watch my daughter’s elementary school graduation ceremony.

She attends Golda Meir, a public school in downtown Milwaukee, Wis., and the 85 children finishing fifth grade were participating in a “bridging ceremony,” celebrating their move next year across the street to the middle school campus.

Some time before the speeches and the video presentation that paired a contemporary photo of each child’s face beside one of each as toddlers, I found myself lingering near the front door.

In some ways it was just like any other school function throughout the year. Students and parents arrived, masked, and sat down in the auditorium. The latest school shooting was everywhere in the news, but I didn’t hear a word of fear nor a mention of the gun violence in the quiet conversation of people near me. But as we gathered to celebrate this group of school children, those children who died in Texas, who would never make it to their own graduations, were at the forefront of my mind. Surely others felt the same.

My wife and I had arrived early, and from our seats near the front, I kept looking back toward the entrance we had walked through. It occurred to me, Should there be a guard here? And then, Is anyone watching the front door? So I got up and did that.

Admittedly, this is an unusual move for someone who considers himself a pacifist. When I turned 18 and had to register with Selective Service, I did so by writing “Conscientious Objector” on the form. Since then, I have called myself a peacemaker. I have never held a gun and never want to. But I am also a father. So on this day, I found myself leaving my seat to stand near the entrance and eye every guy who walked through the door.

If I’d seen someone with a weapon, I’d have thrown my 195 pounds at him as best I could.

I often feel that it's inevitable: Someday I'll be throwing myself in front of a stream of bullets. Maybe I won’t be called on to throw myself in front of a stream of bullets, but I will need to be ready to do so. The thought occurs to me at synagogue, too, since not only is the tally of mass shootings going up, but so is the hate that fuels them.

I’m a Catholic married to a rabbi, and I see how anti-Semitism is growing. At the synagogue, I keep an eye on the door while services are going on and make a mental note about which metal chair I might pick up to throw at a gun-toting intruder, or from what angle I might rush at him if he has come to get the rabbi.

Ever since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, schools have created safety drills and discussion and training sessions for teachers, staff and students to prepare them to respond to crisis situations involving guns. “Active shooter” has become a phrase known to all. My oldest child was only 6 when the Columbine shooting happened. Our family has grown up in this world.

There is no question that mass shootings are more common at public schools than private ones. I have not read much analysis as to why. And I am not eager to. But the other day I asked a friend whose children attend one of our Milwaukee Catholic schools if he thinks his kids are safer there. He said he thought the small size of the school, along with practical safety measures, created what he felt was a relatively safe environment for his children. His answer spoke to the importance of community in keeping children safe, the vigilance we owe one another at every school.

As a Christian I am told not to fear, and as a pacifist I am told not to defend myself. Just look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26). When the soldiers come to take Jesus away, Peter strikes at one of them with his sword. Clearly, Peter is armed. But Jesus rebukes his friend, the first pope. Put your sword away, Jesus tells him. Do you really believe that is how the will of God is accomplished? The church allows for self-defense. But attacking someone, even someone threatening violence, is not what I have been taught to do as a follower of Jesus and a pacifist. But these commands are getting harder to follow.

A Christian is called to be a martyr, a word that means “witness,” and the examples given by Jesus of martyr-witnesses are those whom we have come to understand as saints. They are people who, when faced with danger or violence, are willing to sacrifice their lives without harming others, even those who try to hurt them. Even from the cross, with violence all around him, Jesus did not fight back. Instead he said, “Father, forgive them.” I want to show forgiveness. I want to respond peacefully. But I also want to keep my eye on the auditorium door.

My wife, the congregational rabbi, is not a Jesus-follower, but she shares my feelings of not wanting guns in religious services, despite the risks religious people face by gathering together. Our local Jewish federation recently provided funding for every synagogue to have an armed guard at high holiday services each fall. My wife accepted the offer but now feels uneasy about it.

There is now a worldly reality that may require armed guards under certain circumstances. In St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, for instance. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem. But the presence of weapons fundamentally changes a space. The result of this capitulation, for me anyway, is that I cannot really pray in those places. Can you really promote a sense of peace by surrounding a place with guns? Does an armed guard make prayer possible, or does an armed guard make a place unholy?

Everyone walking through the door at my daughter’s fifth grade graduation turned out to be a parent, grandparent, sibling or friend. I returned to my seat before the presentations began, and the door to the auditorium remained open. It felt like a risk, but what was I to do, really? Every day at school is now a day when our children are at risk. I will not be there to protect my children 99 percent of the time. But I also know that if I am there, I will not hesitate to lead the charge against an attacker.

As that video presentation rolled, showing the beautiful grinning faces of my daughter and her classmates, I wept quietly in my seat, thinking of those parents who, on that same day, were burying their children in the hot sun.

March 18, 2022

To Pray for Peace and to Consecrate and Entrust Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?


Some persons have fashioned a “subreligion” out of the Fatima children’s private revelation messages about Mary.
This cultism, its exaggerations, and its distortions have been and are wildly in conflict with the popes, with authentic Catholic teaching, and even with one of the Fatima children, Sister Lucia.
Catholic teaching is that private revelations do not belong to the deposit of the faith, and so Catholics are free to ignore them.
What to think of Pope Francis inviting the world’s clergy to join him on March 25 in a worldwide prayer for peace and in a “Fatima-style” consecration and entrustment of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
Some distorting exaggerators of cultist Fatimism are already barking that what Pope Francis is doing will be wrong and dangerous.
Catholics are free to ignore the Fatima allusions and connections of the upcoming event.
What will be authentically Catholic is that the event will unite Catholics around the word in praying for peace and justice for Ukraine.