Immaculate Conception 2018

There’s no straightforward, simple argument I can give to those who find this doctrine either improbable or simply uninteresting.  I don’t know of one big flashing sign that points to our Lady being conceived without sin.  Rather, it’s the presence of a thousand small signs that all point the same direction.  The more you study the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the more you find over and over that it’s fitting, it’s beautiful, it’s just... really cool that God did it this way.  So in the space of a single sermon, perhaps I could talk about Mary as the new Eve, and why her immaculate conception fits that perfectly.  Or instead I could speak for several minutes about Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, and why her immaculate conception fits that so beautifully.  Or Mary as the woman of Revelation 11, or Mary as the mother of the Church, or Mary as a type and symbol of the Church, they’re all true and they’re all beautiful.  Like so many of the mysteries of our faith, the Immaculate Co…

The Lord Alone. 31st Sunday OT

The first thing that struck me about this story, this particular week, is how Jewish it is. It’s such a Jewish scene from top to bottom. Approaching Jesus is a scribe, someone whose life is dedicated to studying the Torah and other Hebrew Scriptures. And he approaches Jesus as a Rabbi, as a teacher and interpreter of the Law of Moses. Jesus, in turn, answers in a most Rabbinic way, by directly quoting the Torah word for word. Hearing our Lord in this very Jewish role reciting Deuteronomy 6:4-6, I can’t help but think of the worst anti-Semitic violence in the history of our nation, last Saturday at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Please join me through this Mass in prayer for God’s blessing and protection on our elder brothers and sisters in the faith of Abraham. Our kinship couldn’t be clearer as Jesus quotes Moses to answer this very fundamental question:  “What’s the first of all the commandments?”

I think there’s a holy impulse behind this question, a beautiful insight. It comes from a…

Holiness Isn't Optional: 22nd Sunday OT


The loud and clear and incredibly beautiful reaction I keep seeing from faithful Catholics who are so hurt and appalled by clerical scandals boils down to one thing: “We’ve got to be holy. I’ve got to be holy.” Who would have thought that rage and disgust could be such a great motivator to holiness? But I feel it too and, I hope, so do you. We’re needed, now more than ever. And it does have a certain logic to it. We feel down to our core that the Church is supposed to be holy. We’re not seeing the holiness we know should be there. So what’s the response?

Maybe there’s sometimes a temptation to leave the holiness to others, to feel like we can be sort of average — we wouldn’t use the words lukewarm or mediocre, but that’s what …

Stay or Go. 21st Sunday OT

Here are links to the letters of Bishop Braxton and Pope Francis, which Bishop Braxton asked to be read at all Masses, printed in bulletins, and posted on websites. We didn't get them in the bulletin but I'll have paper copies available next weekend.

In this fourth and final consecutive passage from the Bread of Life discourse in John 6, we get to see the fallout from this teaching of Jesus. He’s been shocking and even disturbing them. You tell me, how would you react to a man who was telling you you’d live forever if you drank his blood? But the more they press Him, the more he just doubles down: Yes, I’m really saying that. You have to eat my Body and drink my Blood.

Many Christians react the same way today, and again, it’s no wonder. Surely Jesus means something symbolic or poetic here. But there’s a very good reason that belief can’t work. And it’s what we’re going to focus on this week. The first focus was the Eucharist as receiving Jesus, and the second was the Eucharist…

Bread of Life, Body of Christ: 20th Sunday OT

It's the third of four consecutive Sundays that we hear from John 6, from what’s called the Bread of Life discourse. It offers a chance to look at the Eucharist from a few different perspectives. So two weeks ago, the focus on receiving Jesus. Last week, the focus on offering Jesus. This week we'll take a more personal angle.

My summer Mass schedule has just changed a lot with the end of the Sunday night camp Masses, shuttling between Gallatin County and Camp Ondessonk. It’s a big shift to make in the space of an hour’s drive. I love them both, but they’re really different! The most obvious difference at Camp is that we’re outside, under the overhanging Grotto, looking out over Lake St. Isaac and up at God’s universe and the swallows flying around the bluff. It can also be swelteringly hot in vestments, but the spirit and energy of those liturgies is amazing. My preaching there is very different as well. The sermons here wouldn’t work there, and the sermons there definitely wou…

On the Pennsylvania abuse report: a letter from a pastor

The following is being distributed in our bulletin this weekend. It reflects my weak attempt to offer something at least better than silence. It had to be composed hastily and it certainly doesn't feel adequate, but I don't think anything would. I think it's important for parents to know that the number of abuse cases since 2002 seems very few. I almost hate to say that, out of fear that it sounds like minimizing or downplaying what should never be downplayed. But parents need to know the current situation as well as the past. What we've done since 2002 seems to have had a huge impact. In whatever remains to be done, I am anxious to work with anyone who has ideas.

Dear Friends in Christ,

“Grand jurors are just regular people who are randomly selected for service. We don’t get paid much, the hours are bad, and the work can be heartbreaking. What makes it worthwhile is knowing we can do some kind of justice. We spent 24 months dredging up the most depraved behavior, only…

Given Up: 19th Sunday OT

Sometimes, standing in the back of the church aisle, about to give the go-ahead for the processional hymn, I’ll ask the servers: “Ready to go save the world?” That's putting it in a kind of lighthearted way, but it’s absolutely not a joke. I’m reminding them, and even more reminding myself, of exactly what it is we are about to do. Because it’s a simple truth that the Mass saves the world.

“Wait!,” someone shouts, “The Cross of Jesus Christ saves the world!” That’s absolutely right, but what do you think the Mass is? It is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, extended through time and space. Think of Good Friday as a point on the timeline of history. What Jesus did that day on Calvary offers salvation to every human being who ever lived before Him, and every human being who will ever live after Him. It’s like that Cross comes down from Heaven and plants itself right there in 33 A.D. outside Jerusalem, and ripples out through all time and space. Those ripples are the Holy Sa…