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Feast of the Holy Family, 2019

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One of my favorite windows in here is this one facing forward that most of you can’t see from where you’re sitting. It’s an image of the Holy Family. Most Holy Family images are sort of like posed photos, Mary holding Jesus and Joseph behind them with his arms around them or something like that. I love those! But this one’s a little different, more like a candid moment; just the three of them caught at an ordinary moment at home in Nazareth.



They are each shown involved in their own activity. Joseph is at his workbench holding an ax or splitter, Mary has some kind of weaving, and Jesus is maybe ten or twelve years old. Some images show Jesus helping Joseph with his work, which I’m sure happened a lot and makes a beautiful scene, but in this window He’s studying a book. The book is itself anachronistic, but the artist’s point is to show Him studying and spending time with the Scriptures that He would be constantly quoting later in life.

So they’re occupied with their own things, but th…

His Sovereign Choice: Christmas 2019

Can I invite you on a little journey of imagination? You’re in a room all decorated — not very hard to imagine this time of year! — picture the twinkling lights and the decorated tree, hangings and glitter, streamers and shimmer. The room is packed full of people decorated just as brightly, and smiling even brighter still. Everyone’s holding a glass of warm spiced wine, eggnog or hot chocolate, and their laughter fills the space. The warmth from a glowing fire flushes your cheeks, and highlights the smell of evergreen and the spices of the abundant food always within reach. There are musicians in the corner, the happy good cheer of their songs just audible beneath the happy sounds of happy people. You feel welcome and a smile sits effortlessly and permanently on your face. There is a peace here, and a joy, and you feel like life is pretty great after all. And it is, a lot of the time, for a lot of the people. There are problems in the world and there are sorrows past and more to come…

Questions... and answers. 3rd Sunday of Advent

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It would be poignant from anyone; from John the Baptist, it’s breathtaking. “Are you the one we’ve been waiting for, or should we look for another?” No matter how many times I read or hear this, there is something breathtaking about it. John is… well, he’s John, he’s the greatest among the Prophets, the Forerunner, the Harbinger, the Herald, the cousin of Jesus, the soon-to-be martyr.

That was all in perfect focus in John’s most defining moment as he pointed across the Jordan River and said “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”

But that was then, that bright glorious day with Jesus in plain view in front of him, and this is a very different moment. John is in jail. He’s in a place of darkness and shadow, a place where Jesus is far away, a place where the price is being paid in solitude and silence. He is here because of Jesus. Soon he will die. John is a man who has staked everything on Jesus. He has staked everything on the man he is now asking: “Are you th…

The Measure of the Man: 2nd Sunday Advent

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The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Albert Einstein said, “The true measure of a man is the degree to which he has subjugated his ego.” Robert Savage said, “you can measure a man by the opposition it takes to discourage him.”

It’s the age of the internet, so you should probably assume that every quote you ever hear is fake. But these, real or not, all get at what I love and admire in the man God chose to raise Jesus.


St. Joseph is the focus of the Advent devotional books we gave out. I’m even doing the journaling, which is unusual for me, but it’s always good to try something a little outside your groove! The author admits that for much of his life, St. Joseph was merely a mild-looking statue holding a flower. If that’s true for many of us, then there’s a great surprise waiting when we start getting to know the actual man.

I think…

Running to Meet the Christ: 1st Sunday Advent

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Happy Advent everyone! It is my very favorite liturgical season and I love diving in headfirst — because you have to, because it’s so short. If you’re slow getting into it it’ll be half over.

So let’s do it! Let’s really do Advent this year, make it about more than a decorating scheme or a passive waiting period. I’ve heard so many 1st-Sunday-of-Advent homilies about "waiting." Mmmm… I guess. But you have to understand the kind of waiting we’re doing.

We had a little ritual with the family dog where we’d give him a treat when we came home. We’d hold the treat up and tell Sam: “waaaait………” and he’d have to sit back and be still and patient before we dropped it, sitting there so excited that he was just twitching, and I guess this was teaching patience or discipline… or something, come to think of it I’m not quite sure what the point was, but he had to prove he was really good at waiting before he got the treat.

For some of us I worry that this is all the meaning we find in Ad…

Christ the King 2019

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José Sánchez del Río was born in Michoacan, Mexico. He grew up in a devoted Catholic home: daily rosaries and devotions, faith as the clear center of family life. His activities included playing marbles, horses, and convincing other kids to make holy hours. José was born in 1913, so he could conceivably have still been alive today as one of the oldest people in the world, at age 106. As it happened, he made it to 14. By then, practicing the faith in his country had become… not so simple. Mexico was ruled by a maniacally anti-Catholic socialist government. Many USA citizens today think of Mexico very simplistically as a Catholic country, totally unaware that within a current lifespan Sacraments were outlawed, Bishops exiled, and resisting priests tortured and killed on sight. A rebellion called the Cristeros rose against this, and young José was eager to join. It wasn't easy for him to find a role he could play at such a young age, but his courage and actions turned out to be astou…

Perfect: 32nd Sunday OT

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C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

It’s a simple conclusion based on a simple observation. The observation is from within himself, observing his own nature and the way his heart works. Lewis finds in himself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy. I hope you’ll turn that observation on yourself. Is it true for you, too? Do have desires that nothing in this world can satisfy?

The truth is that everyone does. The tragedy is that not everyone knows it. Some of the unhappiest people you will ever meet are the ones who think everything their heart wants can be found in this world. They’ll keep looking and looking for that perfect satisfaction.

It’s a little tragic that they’re looking for something they can’t find. It’s much more tragic that because of it, they’ll miss out on the best things in life. All the best things in life will be disappointing to them, beca…

Through Him, With Him, In Him: Mass at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mercy

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I like the phrase “walk with Jesus.” I’ve heard it a lot, I’ve used it too. It emphasizes that Jesus is with us, He is our companion through whatever is happening in our life, and it has that sense of progress and pilgrimage - we haven’t arrived yet, we’re on the way, and He’s with us. He can and does continue to work with such imperfect instruments as we are! I could go on, but anyway I like this common phrase about “walking with Jesus.”

But Colossians 2:6 says to “walk in Him,” and to ‘walk in Jesus’ sounds somehow more radical, somehow more challenging. The verses that follow underline this sense of not just being near Jesus, but radically identifying with Him, a sense that somehow His divine life and our own lives become so intertwined and cooperative that it’s hard to draw a line between one and the other. I don’t know if that’s the right way to say it, so let’s let Paul speak for himself: “You were buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him,”… “He brough…

Committed: 23rd Sunday OT 2019

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I won’t ask for a show of hands of who’s recently read the Book of Philemon. It’s probably competing with Jude for least-quoted book of the New Testament. And when you first look at it, it’s kind of a head-scratcher, and you might be inclined to say “well this is fine but I think I’ll go read Colossians again.” But Scripture cannot be set aside, and God promised that His Word would not return to Him without bearing fruit. So what’s the deal with Philemon?

It’s a personal letter from Paul to Philemon, and there’s one more person whom it’s all about: Onesimus, who is Philemon’s slave. Paul’s purpose in the letter is to ask Philemon to free Onesimus.

So the drama here is within Philemon and the decision he has to make. He’s come to a moment when being a disciple of Jesus means something about his life has to change; it means he has to lose something. His relationship with Onesimus — a relationship that is exploitative and ungodly — is suddenly seen for what it is in the light of the Gosp…

Game Changer: 17th Sunday OT

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A young woman got in touch recently to ask me if it’s okay to be angry with God... definitely not the first time I've heard that question. I wonder if Genesis 18 doesn’t give us part of an answer. Is Abraham angry at God here? If not angry, at least exasperated, right? GOD I JUST DON’T GET YOU RIGHT NOW.  We are all Abraham at one time or another, telling God we don’t understand, asking what the heck He’s doing and is this really for the best?

Jesus gives us another image, and it also has that edge of pestering, silliness, let’s just say humanity. He describes that persistent neighbor who won’t quit knocking on the door, not as an example of bad theology, not as an example of lack of trust, but as an example of prayer we shouldn't be too proud to imitate.

Prayer is not the performance of a theologically perfect and unfailingly Saintly act. Prayer is giving God what you actually think, what you actually feel. God isn’t interested in an act; He wants you — confused you, angry yo…

Close and Listening: 16th Sunday OT

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Our first reading is from Genesis and is about how Sarah and Abraham prepared food and waited on their guests, and how they were praised for their work of hospitality.

Our Gospel is from Luke and is about how Martha of Bethany prepared food and waited on her guests, and how she was rebuked for her work of hospitality.

So what’s that all about? I think Jesus’ answer to Martha tells us the difference. She’s burdened and anxious with her serving, and she hasn’t chosen the better part. Maybe you’ve had guests that you felt burdened and anxious serving. Can you think of a time like that? Or really, anything you’ve ever done for someone that felt like a burden and stressed you out. You probably tried not to show it. You probably said, “Oh, it’s nothing, I’m happy to do it!” But it wasn’t nothing, because you felt burdened. And you were willing to do it, but not honestly literally happy about it. You weren’t happy, you were stressed.

Now maybe you can think of another time you were taking ca…

The law right in front of you: 15th Sunday OT

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These are some of Moses’ last words. They are from the thirtieth chapter of Deuteronomy; Moses will die on the threshold of the Promised Land in chapter thirty-four. He has been the central figure through the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. We hear about his amazing life in those books, but most of the pages are not given to storytelling. Most of it is the Law. Beginning with the Ten Commandments, and expanding outward from there, Moses established a Law that was still being followed fifteen centuries later when Jesus came. Indeed, it is still followed exactly by many today, thirty-five centuries later. That’s really incredible! Can you think of anything else in all of history comparable to that?

A lot of the laws are kind of distant and strange to us today. I couldn’t begin to tell you what was wrong with making a shirt with two different kinds of fabric. And, indeed, the Christian Church acknowledged that in Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, much that was unclean …

Instructions for Evangelists: 14th Sunday OT

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After Mass will be our third session in an evangelization series. I've really enjoyed the first two and I think they're going well... please come over if you can! Our Gospel today is timely for that topic of evangelization. That word comes from the Greek for “Good News,” which in old English was “Gospel.” So Evangelization just means sharing the Good News that God has become man and dwelt among us, died to save us, and rose to open Heaven, where He has prepared a place for us and offers us forgiveness, new life, freedom, in a relationship with Him that transforms us.
There are two reasons someone might not want to share the Gospel with your neighbor. One: you don’t really believe it. Maybe you feel like you get something out of church, maybe you feel at home here, but you don’t actually believe that a relationship with Jesus Christ is the best and most important thing that could ever happen to somebody. That would be one reason not to want to share the Gospel with your neighb…

Easter 2019

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On Holy Thursday as Jesus gathered His Apostles, washed their feet, and gave us the Eucharist, we saw Him drawing us closer than we could ever imagine: calling us into a relationship that is so close that His very life is shared with us. He was called at His birth Emmanuel, ‘God with us,’ and in the Last Supper we see just how closely with us He wants to be.

On Good Friday we saw Him refuse to give up on that closeness, refuse to abandon us, even to the point of feeling our abandonment. We saw Him love us and trust the Father enough to accept the Cross, knowing and trusting that the Father would bring good from it. We considered the challenge: what if you really believed that whatever you’re going through — whatever grief, whatever struggle, whatever confusion, whatever regret, whatever is hurting your body or your spirit or your soul — what if you really believed that God can take it to Himself joined to the Cross of Christ, and bring redemption through it?

He can. And if you could …