It is hard to believe that I am approaching the one year anniversary for my Rector Emeritus Blog! Anticipating formal retirement and knowing that I would still want an opportunity to offer reflections on the Word of God and other timely topics, this venture into Social Media has been energizing for me.  

Thank you to all who have found this Blog, interesting, inspiring, thought-provoking and even irritating now and then!  

Today, thanks to the ongoing design work of Roderick Fenn who has patiently mentored me in the world of Blog design and layout, we have added a new Archive feature to the Blog.  Grouping all posts by year and month, this feature can be easily accessed from the Cover Page or from the left side-bar of any post.  Hopefully, this can be an easy way to review past posts.






Sunday Reflection - Proclaiming the Good News

The more cynical among us have said that of all the miracles that Jesus performed in his public ministry, only one may have been a mistake - and that is the cure of a mother-in-law! Of course, rather than continuing to feed the tradition of putting down mothers in laws - Jesus in his healing ministry reached out to bring wholeness to all people, including mothers in laws!

God’s word as we gather this Sunday is one that pulses with an urgency - an urgency to proclaim the gospel, speak the good news, enflesh it in the miraculous healings that were so much a part of the mission and ministry of Jesus.

St. Paul in writing to the early Christian community at Corinth speaks of this urgency in terms of an “obligation”. He goes on to say, "woe to me if I do not preach it!"  It was precisely this mission that now defined his deepest identity. Being a bearer of God’s good news to the world now became the passion that shaped his present life and future destiny.

I find it more that just a little interesting that St. Paul takes up this divine calling which he received from the Savior himself while paradoxically on the road to persecute those who had given their lives to the Good News of Christ. Filled with fanatical zeal, St. Paul experiences a profound conversion that turned this hatred for the gospel into its most ardent and passionate preacher.

On the road to Damascus, Saul encounters the overpowering presence of Jesus who transforms that self-righteous demon that holds him captive and now sets him free to speak and live and eventually die for the one whom he first persecuted. It was out of this encounter with the risen Lord that Paul’s whole life would find its only meaning in Jesus and him crucified and risen in glory.

The same Jesus who called Paul and transformed his demons of doubt and fanaticism into a passion to preach good news is the one who brings healing of mind and heart to all who came to him with broken lives and shattered hearts. Good teacher that he was, Jesus dramatically captured the attention of his audience by performing healing miracles. But the more profound healing that the Lord brought to our world ran much deeper than giving sight to blind eyes and strength to legs paralyzed from birth. The scriptures speak of Jesus expelling demons. While scholars tell us that epilepsy and other forms of seizure were often misunderstood as signs of demonic possession, the real demons that Jesus came to expel were those that imprisoned lives in hypocrisy, rash judgment, and an unforgiving heart. These demons can paralyze the human spirit and keep us far from the reign of God.

My brothers and sisters as we open our lives to the Good News this day and prepare, in a few weeks, for the great season of Repentance that will be upon us, may the Lord stretch out his healing hand to bring wholeness to our lives. In humility let us lay before the divine physician those demons that can keep us from both living and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. May the Lord who heals the brokenhearted, transform the inner darkness of hypocrisy, rash judgment and an unforgiving heart that may hold us captive. May we come to experience the unsurpassing freedom of the sons and daughters of God who have indeed been made whole in Christ our Savior.

Sunday Reflection - The Extraordinary in the Ordinary

My first evening in the seminary as I began my journey to the priesthood, was September 14, 1966.  I had entered St. John’s Seminary College in Camarillo that was referred to by Time magazine as, the “Jewel in the Miter of Cardinal McIntyre,” the only Cardinal at that time West of the Mississippi and great post-war builder of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.  He was also known for being one of the arch-conservative bishops who had attended the recently completed Second Vatican Council and, frankly, resisted its reforms.  Several months before I entered the beautiful Seminary College, Cardinal McIntyre had solemnly dedicated the heart of this seminary, the St. James Chapel.  With all the panoply that only the Catholic Church can display on these important moments, St. John’s would be the academic home of thousands of seminarians until the College section of the seminary was closed in 2002.

On one of his frequent visits, the Cardinal once gave a ‘pep-talk’ to the seminarians that has stayed with me all these many years.  To the hushed silence of the student body, he told us in his distinctive New York accent (a cross between Michael Bloomberg and Elmer Fudd), that we were not ‘ordinary men’ but rather, ‘extraordinary men’ because of the vocation that we were responding to.  Such talk not only fed a nascent clericalism that not so subtly instilled in us a sense that somehow, we were the ‘elite’ of the Church, but it also betrayed a foundational theological principal that lies at the heart of the Christian Church and her beliefs.

As we mark what the Church somewhat prosaically refers to as the ‘Second Sunday in Ordinary Time,’ that word, ‘ordinary,’ reflects how God, so often in Salvation’s history, has come to stir a revolution in our world and in our hearts.

At the core of the Mystery of the Incarnation whose festival of remembrance we have just completed with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord this past Monday, we gloried in a God whose extraordinary and unmerited love and mercy for us, was revealed in the utter ordinariness of a new born child, cradled in the arms of his mother, Mary, with her husband, Joseph the carpenter, at her side.  Scripture and history tell us that, if I might be frank, these were ‘nobodies’ compared to the luminaries of the first century.  Scripture narrates, somewhat mockingly, the thoughts of Jesus’ contemporaries who would quote a saying, no doubt popular in first century Palestine, ‘could anything good come from Nazareth?’ the home town of this ‘nobody’ family and child.   With a thousand apologies for anyone who might be offended in my quoting President Trump, Nazareth was the quintessential ‘s***hole’ of this out of the way province of the great Roman Empire!  Yet, from this utterly ordinary place and time would emerge the Savior of the world.

This ‘incarnational principal,’ that God, who lives in unapproachable light, would embrace our world and our lives in one, like us in all things but sin, continues to be repeated within the sacramental life of the Church that the Savior founded. 

Through the utter ordinariness of water, wine, bread, oil, the simplicity of a human touch, words spoken and silence revered, God breaks into time and space to, once again, lavish us with his goodness, love and unfailing mercy.  The ordinary, then, becomes the astounding vehicle of the extraordinariness of God’s grace-filled presence in the messiness of the world in which we ‘live and move and have our being.’

This ‘sacramental’ perspective and ethic, touches most profoundly the holiness of the human person, created in the very image of God.  Our Catholic ‘pro-life’ ethic is profoundly rooted in this theological vision.  From the first moment of conception through to natural death, we hold to the intrinsic value of all persons, since they are indeed a reflection of their Divine Creator.

It is for this reason that one of my famous quotes from the 20th Century Anglican apologist, C.S. Lewis, has always been a source of inspiration and challenge in my walk of faith:

Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, the holiest object presented to our Christian senses is our brother or sister, for in him or her, God, the glorifier and the glorified, is truly present.

Friends, this ‘ordinary’ time now beckons us to reverence what the world might dismiss as all too unimportant, pedestrian, simple and unworthy of our time and attention.  We do that at our own peril, for within the ordinary, we can invariably find the extraordinary goodness of God’s grace-filled presence.





Sunday Reflection - Rejoicing Sunday

An old man lived in New Guinea.  He made his living by cutting firewood for the mission hospital.  Everybody called him One Tooth, because his upper jaw contained just one tooth.  Besides cutting wood, the old man also spent a part of each day reading the Gospel to outpatients sitting in the hospital's waiting room.  Day after day, he shared his faith in Jesus with these suffering people.

Then one day something happened.  One Tooth began to have trouble reading.  At first, he thought it was something that would get better, but it didn't.  So, One Tooth went to see the hospital doctor.  After examining the old woodcutter, the doctor put his arm around the old man and said, "I have something difficult to tell you.  You're going blind, and there's nothing we can do."  "Oh no!" said One Tooth. "I'm already old. Now I'll be blind and useless, too." 

The next day One Tooth didn't show up at the hospital.  Nor did he show up the day after that.  One Tooth had vanished.  Later the doctor learned that One Tooth was living alone in a deserted part of the Island.  A boy who brought the old man food told the doctor where he was.  So, the doctor went to see One Tooth.  "What are you doing here?" the doctor asked.  One Tooth replied, "Ever since you told me I was going blind, I've been reading and memorizing the most important part of the Gospel.  I've already memorized Jesus' birth, several of his miracles and parables, and his death and resurrection.  "I've been repeating these over and over to the boy, to make sure I've got them right.  In about a week I'll be back at the hospital again, Doctor, telling the outpatients about Jesus."

Telling others about Jesus - that was what motivated old One Tooth to begin the difficult task of setting to memory the great Gospel stories.  Telling others about Jesus - that is what St. Paul was urging his early converts in Thessalonica to do.  Telling others about Jesus - that is what John the Baptist gave his life to, even to death, in the Gospel of today.

As Christians, we are all too painfully aware that we are not immune to the tragedies of life.  A young boy innocently riding in his parents’ car is killed instantly as a plane skids off an icy runway and crashes into the car.    Soldiers are taken from their loved ones in an instant of suicide bombing insanity.  A mother is presented with a life-threatening diagnosis by her physician.    No wonder, then, that Scott Peck in his now famous book, The Road Less Traveled, begins with the line, "Life is difficult".    Yes, life is difficult, yet for those whose lives are deeply rooted in the Gospel, for those whose minds and hearts have been fashioned by the promise and hope that Jesus Christ is in our lives,  then the pain and sorrow, the challenges and difficulties in life need not and will not have the final say.

The journey that began for Jesus in the backwater town of Bethlehem would lead him on a road that all of us have traveled at times.  He was loved by family and friends, but he also was misunderstood and misjudged.  He was consumed with passion in bringing the message of His Father to the world only to be crucified in the end like a common criminal.  But the darkness of this world could not hold him.  Through the transforming power of His Resurrection he opens a highway for all of us to face the darkness and pain of life with courage and hope.

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon us, because the Lord has anointed us; He has sent us to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, To announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

As we prayed in our Opening Prayer, in these final weeks of the Advent Season let us ask the Lord, "To prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow on us" now and in all the Seasons of our Life.