October 27, 2016 – Thursday in the 30th Week of the Church Year


Saint for the day: Fruentius (early 300’s – death: 380)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 6:10-20    –    Psalm 144    –    Luke 13:31-35

“Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11)

In Luke’s Gospel we continue to hear about Jesus’ confrontations with the Pharisees. These guys were zealot-like and followed after Jesus – but always with a not-so-hidden agenda. They obviously saw something attractive in Jesus but were overwhelmed with adherence to the perfect observance of Jewish Law.

They had failed to accept the full armor of Xt that Paul states in the passage from Ephesians. If we look at the order in which Paul says we should arm ourselves we can gain some insight about how we are to protect ourselves from the evil one.

First: our loins are girt with truth; righteousness is our breastplate (protecting the heart); shoes for the spreading of the Gospel of Peace; then “faith” as a shield and salvation as a helmet (protecting our mind and our thoughts) and only lastly, the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God.

Yet, we, lake Pharisees, often get the order of things wrong and first pick up the “word of God” to use as a sword to pierce our supposed enemies and wonder why we fail since we have not put on the rest of the “armor of God” that Paul lists. Truth is first. Quoting the word of God – without all the rest of the “armor” will always fail. That’s why the Pharisees were always challenged by Jesus because they only quoted scriptures – the law – but did nothing to promote peace or to help people in need.

October 26, 2016 – Wednesday in the 30th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Bean, Bishop (11th Century)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 6:1-9    –    Psalm 145    –    Luke 13:22-30

“Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”(words from the beginning of today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Luke)

When Jesus is asked, “will many be saved?” His response was “strive to enter through the narrow gate because many will come knocking after the door has been closed and the response they receive is, “I do not know you!” I think that would be the worst thing to hear Jesus say to me: “I don’t know you!”

So, how do we gain this relationship with God/Jesus so that we are known to Him? If we look at things on the natural level we can see that we have to establish some kind of awareness or rapport with the people who control the gate. We learn their names; greet them when passing by; talk with them about pertinent matters. It all comes down to relationship and familiarity. If we never dialogue with God and have conversations with Him how do we expect that He will know who we are? The image of the Tax Collector and the publican in the Temple comes to mind: the Tax Collector’s attitude was presumptuous; the publican’s was humility. So honesty is key.   And there must be some sort of on-going relationship that is built on that value of honesty.

To know that we need to be saved is the first step. We sometimes have a false quote of scripture and say, “God helps those who help themselves.” Well, that’s not to be found anywhere in scripture. In fact the actual quote is, “God helps those who have no one to help them.” So our first step in this response is to admit that we need God. We need Him to draw us to Himself. We need to be saved. We are not self-sufficient beings who can pull ourselves into Heaven by our own bootstraps! I know that this goes against the “American Way” of being self-sufficient and ‘doing it on our own.

So, our prayer must be, “I know that I need you, Lord. I believe in You. Help my unbelief.” It doesn’t hurt for us to say, like Peter, “Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.” Maybe our prayer should be, “I love you I love you. I love you!”


October 25, 2016 – Tuesday in the 30th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Daria & companions (3rd Century)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 5:21-33    –    Psalms 128    –    Luke 13:18-21

“Let the hearts that seek the Lord rejoice; turn to the Lord and his strength; constantly seek his face.” (Today’s ‘Entrance Antiphon’ Ps 105 )

These words above, from today’s Entrance Antiphon might help us understand today’s Holy Gospel where Jesus gives two examples of what the Kingdom of God is like. However, most of us in our sophisticated lifestyle don’t have much connection to either mustard seeds or yeast so we are left just a little out in left field. And whenever this happens we usually just move on with maybe a little “ho hum” along the way to something that more easily catches our fancy. The two examples that Jesus used in this Gospel passage are somewhat passive in the sense that you get a little tiny mustard seed which you plant and – low and be told it grows into a very large bush where the birds of the air come to find shelter. The example of the yeast is a little more direct in that we get the idea heaven comes about by pounding us from the outside until something wonderful changes us into a kind of new creation. The problem, of course, is that we simply don’t have words or the ability to describe what the Kingdom of God is like in any language of this world. As little children most of us thought of Heaven as some kind of eternal playground where there was endless attractions to keep us happy as clams forever and ever. But is that enough to satisfy our curiosity? Perhaps the example that I’ve come up with on my own might give you something more to hold on to. I’ve used it before in these reflections but it’s good enough for a second encore.

I give it the title, “Life in the womb is to life in the world as life in the world is to life in heaven.” Suppose that you could slip into the womb of an almost full term pregnant woman and tell the developing fetus this startling news: “Hey, kid. Pretty soon you’re going to be free from this very confining ‘water world’ and you’re going to begin to walk around on your own; go wherever you want. You’ll be able to eat real food. You’ll be able to feel the wind at your back and the sun on your face.”

The fetus would just look at you and say something like, “What in the world are talking about? I’m as content as a clam. As far as I know, everything you’re talking about is already happening to me and I don’t have to do anything to enjoy it. I’m fed continually; all my needs are being met; I’m taking everywhere I need to be; and I don’t have to do anything on my own. Why would I ever want anything more than this?

Our life in this world is only a kind of “staging world.” We’re just passing through on our way to something that is so radically different from what we experience that we have no words to express it. I hope that this example might be a way for you to grasp how absolutely different our lives will be in Heaven when we will be able to see God as He really is! Mind-boggling! Isn’t it? Amen!

October 24, 2016 – Monday in the 30th Week of the Church Year


Saint for the day: Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 4:32- 5:8    –    Psalm 1    –    Luke 13:10-17

“Blessed the one who follows not the counsel of the wicked … but delights in the Law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:1-2)

Yesterday, we heard from St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus giving the people a reminder of the “Shema Israel – to love the Lord, your God with all your heart, your soul and strength (or) mind.” He also said, this is the greatest of the commandments and the second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:38-40) A word of caution, since so many of us have a very poor image of our own worth, it’s probably better if we don’t use that as a standard of measurement. But, maybe, this might be a time for us to reflect on that very subject. Remember what St. Thomas Aquinas says, “you can’t give what you don’t have.” So this is a perfect time for us to reflect on our own self worth. Can you believe that, if you were the only person in the world God would still have sent His only Son to redeem you? Until we can really believe that we’ll have a hard time following that 2nd Greatest Commandment: to love our neighbor as ourselves. It might take a little time for this to sink in but just think what we say right before receiving Holy Communion? “O Lord I am not worthy … but only say the word …and I’ll be healed.” And don’t forget the response that we say as Jesus – the Bread of Life – comes to us: “Amen!” That word translates “fiat” or “let it be” or better yet “it is true.” It’s the word that Mary said when the Angel came to her to announce that she was to be the mother of God: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

 In today’s Holy Gospel Jesus is still in the Synogue where he encounters a women who is bent over double for 18 years under a curse of Satan. Of course the Scribes and Pharisee types were indignant that He worked a miracle on the Sabbath and in such cases He would reply, “There is something [more important] greater than the Sabbath here. As is always the case we have to be able to see that the “Sabbath Laws” are a means to an end. Not an end in themselves. It wasn’t so long ago that we heard the parable of the Good Samaritan and learned that the fulfillment of that second greatest commandment comes about when we are not held bound by a law which is given to make us free … to do good when our neighbor is in need. A priest recently told me that he was at a Mass where a woman came in the Communion line … hesitatingly and told him, “I’m about five minutes short of the one hour fast for Communion. What should I do?” The priest looked at her and said, “Say ‘Amen!’”   Think about it!

October 23, 2016 – the 30th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: John of Capistrano (1385-1456)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Sirach 35:12 … 18   –   Psalm 34   –   2 Timothy 4:6 … 18   –   Luke 18:9-14

“We will ring out our joy at your saving help and exult in the name of our God.

(Today’s “Communion Verse” based on Psalm 20)

St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco is right at the end of their annual St. Jude Novena. Yesterday there was a huge “Rosary Procession” beginning at the National Shrine of St. Francis a little over 2 miles miles west of St. Dominic’s. I had no idea how many people would be involved in this public sign of our faith in the Rosary and devotion to St. Jude, patron of desperate and impossible cases. Buses were chartered to ferry people from St. Dominic’s to the Shrine of St. Francis and much of the area around the Church compound was cordoned off to handle the large crowds of people that come from as far away as the Central Valley and Los Angeles. I am no judge of crowds so have no ability to even guess at the numbers of people. Judging from how they fit into the Church I would guess that there might have been two thousand participants!

Our first reading from Search fits exactly to the ministry of St. Jude since the “The Lord hears the cry of the poor” and the Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan nor the widow when she pours out her complaint.” (Sirach 35:17)

 Yesterday, we were making a public display of our faith and practice. I’m sure there were some people who were annoyed by such a large crowd of people blocking off half the street. You’ve heard me say it many times about how our encounter with Jesus often happens while we are “on the way” and that was certainly the case today. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there were reports of miraculous interventions with so many people making such a public gesture of their faith.

Before the procession started there was revelry of loud drums as half a dozen dancers – all in traditional costume – danced very energetically down the aisle. Then they led the procession and never slowed down dancing all the way.

The Church where we started was packed to the gills and it seemed like the crowd grew by the time they got back to St. Dominic’s. Our prayers are still with the many people who are struggling with various problems and sickness and ask St. Jude to look kindly upon those who struggle with difficulties of various kinds. Amen!

October 22, 2016 – Saturday in the 29th Week of the Church Year


Saint for the day: Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 4:7-17    –    Psalm 122    –    Luke 13:1-9

“Grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift: some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:7ff) 

It’s not always that the selected scripture passages for a given liturgy all fit together as well as they do today. I could almost start with the passage quoted above, from the first reading and let the psalm refrain, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord” be our bridge to the Holy Gospel which ends with a parable about the barren fig tree. The owner is frustrated and doesn’t want to waste any more time and energy on something that appears useless. But the gardener   pleads with the owner to let him work with it a little; gently tending to it with cultivation and fertilizer. That’s a wonderful “bottom line reminder” of how gentle and loving our God is. Always willing to go the extra mile to give us the chance to reform our lives and become fruitful. Then, the passage that I quoted above, from the Letter to the Ephesians, is the qualifying thought that we don’t have to be all things to everyone. But we need to at least be something to someone. The parable of the Talents immediately comes to my mind: the king wasn’t expecting that each of the three subjects would come back with the “hundred fold” and he was even willing to lower the bar enough so that the last one would at least be welcome back with even the tiniest gain from interest. The problem that most of us fall into is the thinking that we have to all become the greatest – whatever – when all the Lord really wants is for us to allow him to at least see that His grace moved us – even just a little – closer to His love. Next time you catch yourself thinking that you have fallen short of the glory of God stop for a moment and try to see if you have any recollection of God ever lining you up against others to judge you by their standards. It doesn’t take much to please this God of ours if we are honest in our efforts to let His grace flower in our lives. You might have to deal with a little bit of … how shall I say … manure … but that’s what causes you to grow and flourish in His love. Amen!

October 20, 2016 – Thursday in the 29th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Paul of the Cross (1694-1775)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 3:14-21    –    Psalms 33    –    Luke 12:49-53

“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!’” (Luke 12:49)

 Most of us have experienced a good speaker and we might have used the phrase, “He was really fired up!” or, “She was really cooking!”

In the early days of the Church when the disciples were confused about what they were to do, the Holy Spirit came upon them in the form of tongues of fire. This was a kind of purification that burned out of them the fear and uncertainty of what they were to do. This passage from today’s Holy Gospel happens before the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus and He seems to know that His followers will waver in the commitment to follow Him unreservedly. Maybe He even knew that some of His disciples would fall victim to preaching a “prosperity Gospel” which is so contradictory to all of His teaching. He uses dramatic words to get it across to His disciples that their lives – and indeed their salvation – are a process of gradual and continuing purification. When Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock” He’s not only asking us to open that door, but letting us know that we will need to continue opening the doors of challenge that come into our lives. Each time we open the door for Christ we are letting Him in with the fire of His love which will continue purifying us all along the way.

I remember a time when I was walking across the campus of Arizona State University when one of the many, many evangelical students approached me to ask, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?” When I answered, “Yes,” he came back with a quick, “When?”

I think I startled him when I said, “Just a few moments ago when I ‘decided’ to come and prepare for the daily Mass in the little chapel here on the campus.”

Our life of following Christ is never a “once only” event. For some of us there might need to be a more dramatic “purification” as we gradually make our way to the Kingdom. Amen!

October 19, 2016 – Wednesday in the 29th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Isaac Jogues (1607 – 1646) & Rene Goupil (died 1049)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 3:2-12    –    Isaiah 12:2 …6    –    Luke 12:39-48

My normal routine in writing these reflections is to first read something about the “saint for the day and today I read a very strange comment by St. Isaac Jogues about his desire to “die a martyr’s death!” This isn’t the first time that I’ve read statements like this about obviously holy people wanting to shed their blood for Christ. I have to admit that it is somewhat a strange desire but one that has been with the Church since the very beginning.   It’s hard for me to grasp this kind of desire. After all, God gives us life which we admit is sacred and tells us to respect this gift of God. It’s almost like thinking that God gets some pleasure out of our loosing our life for His sake. A couple of days ago – on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch – there was the same kind of reading: he even went so far as to warn his contemporaries not to try and dissuade him from this quest. When the Church puts so much emphasis on the “sacredness of life” it seems incongruous to desire to die – even if it’s a death that will lead us to eternal life.

Today’s Gospel is talking about how slaves aught to behave amongst themselves. Slavery is almost as alien as the subject of ‘dying a martyr’s death’ where I began this reflection. If we replace the word, “slave” with the word, “servant” we might get a better understanding of what Jesus asks of us in the Gospel: “If you want to be first you must seek to serve the needs of others.”   Now, how do we apply this to the thought of “martyrdom?” I guess it might be somewhere along the lines of how far I’m willing to go in “doing” for another. Would I go so far as to offer my life in place of another – like St. Maximillian Kolbe did? I have to admit that the Isaac Jogues plea (along with Ignatius of Antioch) to forbid friends to intervene in their quest to “die for Jesus” still strikes me as selfish. If we followed through along these lines we could easily get to a point where we helped people who desired to follow Christ more perfectly die quickly! I think the challenge for us is in the struggle to follow Jesus with the full knowledge that we, like Peter, will undoubtedly deny Him but still be welcomed back when we confess (“… you know that I love you!”) I know that I want to follow Jesus wholeheartedly within the context of my fickleness and it would be a cop-out for me to ask for an early death in order to be with Him more fully – without having walked the walk of life’s little problems. Let me go back and see what I’ve written and if I want to save it as is. In the end I have to say, “What I have written is what it is for what it’s worth!” Amen!

October 18, 2016 – Tuesday in the 29th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Luke, Evangelist (1st Century)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

2 Timothy 4:10-17    –    Psalm 145    –    Luke 10:1-9

“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (the last verses of today’s Gospel according to Luke)

The above encouraging quote is just half of what our following of Jesus is all about. The first scripture reading from 2 Timothy is the “other bookend” of our Xtian life: yes, there will be disappointments and hardships but we have been promised, “the Lord will never leave us.” Trusted people might turn on us and leave us, but the verse quoted above from the ending of today’s Gospel assures us that “the Kingdom of God is at hand…”

Most of us, when confronted with some hardship or trial, (our own personal ‘Agony in the Garden’) run away naked instead of praying, “… not my will but thane be done.” (Luke 22:42) We forget that the Gospels were at first the preached story of Jesus which began with the account of his resurrection and then, gradually worked backwards – filling in the blanks. This is significant for us: it’s the Resurrection of Jesus that is key and gives us the hope that “…those who follow me will never die … but live forever.” (John 11:25)

There is one more significant factor to consider: Luke was not a Jew and therefore didn’t have that connection that the other evangelists had with following all the Jewish laws. The middle of the quote at the beginning of this reflection: “…eat what is set before you and cure the sick” is key to our following Jesus. It seems that we are warned not to think that “the Law” will give us freedom. Just look at what “laws” have done to us all throughout our world. Jesus sets us free. Laws (often) tie our hands. Jesus promises that he will never leave us. Laws push us further and further away from the possibility of realizing that the ”Kingdom of God is within.”(Mark 1:15)


October 17, 2016 – Monday in the 29th Week of the Church Year


Saint for the day: Ignatius of Antioch (50 – c.107)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Ephesians 2:1-10    –    Psalm 100    –    Luke 12:13-21

Today’s “Reflection” is archived from 2014 but I thought it was a good one and worth getting a second run. I hope that it blesses you as much as it has blessed me.

“Jesus said to the crowd, ‘Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich one’s life does not consist of possessions.’” (Luke 2:3)

After selecting the above quote from today’s Holy Gospel, I’ve found myself stymied – almost as if these words were being directly aimed at me. It got me thinking about what are my greatest gifts and what do I do with the blessings – both material and spiritual – that come into my life? If I look back to the time when I first entered the Dominicans – 57 years ago – I can’t help but think how I didn’t even have my own suitcase and had to scrounge around our house to find one that I could pack my stuff in. I think I even used a couple of brown shopping bags telling my mother, “I think they take a vow of poverty and any time I’ve seen one of them they’re just dressed in the white Dominican habit!” Somewhere along the line I must have started to move beyond the one suitcase, two brown shopping bags so that by the time I was on my way to Africa in 2005 I left 39 boxes of my “stuff” in the attic of the House of Studies in Oakland! And, if I’m honest, I have to say that I was quite upset when I found out that one of those boxes, that were all numbered, turned up missing! The odd fact was that I wasn’t even sure what was in that missing box! I think that the bottom line in today’s Liturgy isn’t so much about what are our possessions but, rather, what possesses us. Jesus says, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) Even after highlighting this quote, I get some consolation from the fact that I can bring out my collection of old Dominican publications – newsletters and such – that the friars can enjoy looking at while making all kinds of comments like, “That can’t be you?” Years ago, when Brother Robert Lavigne died the Prior asked me to sort out his room, which was loaded, wall-to-wall, with “memorabilia” of Brother Robert’s long years of service to the Order. We decided to pack up all these “trinkets” and put them on display at his wake and invite his friends to take one item as a reminder to pray for Brother Robert’s journey to the Kingdom. It was a great way to honor a very special brother to all of us and I’m sure that he would have wanted us to do something like that with all the “stuff” he collected over the years. In the end he was buried in a simple coffin with his 15 decade rosary wrapped around his hands. There were a couple of other things that caught my attention when I first went into his room that day he died: his bed was neatly made with a crucifix resting on the pillow. There was a note on his desk that read: “Here is a list of people who might want to be notified in the even of my death. Imagine? What do you think he sensed? There was also a small bag with a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon and another note that said, “this should be taken to Brother Daniel’s “jubilee party” at McKenzie Bridge.” This was indeed a brother who – even though his room was crammed full of “fifty-plus years” of stuff – knew that he couldn’t take it with him! I hope and pray that I can be as free as he was. “Brother Robert: pray for all of us still stuck in this world and help us to be as free and holy as you are. Amen!