July 11, 2016 – Monday in the 15th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Benedict, O.S.B. (480?- 503)

 Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 1:10-17    –    Psalm 50:8-9    –    Matthew 10:34-11:1

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”

These opening words from today’s Holy Gospel set a rather perplexing tone for today’s Liturgy which began with the Lord’s anger about the way His Chosen People had got caught up in all kinds of peripheral ways of honoring God. All ritual is supposed to be a “means to an end” not an end in itself. The key to making this real in our own lives is found in the ending of our first scripture reading from the Prophet Isaiah where we hear, “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes: … Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow. This statement mirrors yesterday’s Holy Gospel of the Good Samaritan where we saw the priest and also a Levite just walk past the injured man without doing anything to help him. It was the Samaritan (someone whom the Jews thought was beyond being loved by God) who was neighbor to the injured man. When Jesus asked them who was “neighbor” to the injured man they responded with, “the one who treated him with mercy.” To which Jesus told them, “Go and do likewise!”


All of this fits right in wit today’s first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah where we hear God telling the people that burnt offerings and sacrifices are useless if they don’t change the way we interact with the people who are right next to us. We are told, “Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease ding evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.”(Isaiah 1:16-17) So, it should be easy for us to see how we need to follow Jesus with hearts filled with mercy. Amen!

July 10, 2016 – 15th Sunday of the Church Year

June 10, 2016 – 15th Sunday in the Church Year

Saint for the day: Veronica Giuliani (1660-1727)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Deuteronomy 30: 10-14  –  Psalm 69  –  Colossians 1:15-20

Luke 10:25-37

“Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible…” (Colossians 1:15)

Today I was surprised how difficult it was for me to “zero in on” finding a quote that summed up the Holy Scriptures given to us on this 15th Sunday of the Church Year. It wasn’t due to not finding something, but, rather, that there was too much that seemed important. We’re being given a “banquet of choice scriptures” to chew on and I’ll do my best to pick out a few tasty morsels for you to focus on. You, on your part might go back and re-read the Holy Scriptures and see how many good thoughts come to your minds.

For me, I’ll focus on the 2nd reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians where almost every word seems to be loaded with meaning.

He is the image of the invisible God which reminds us that He and God are one. When His disciples ask him to show them the Father He tells them, “If you have seen me – you have seen the Father.” He is the “Logos” or the Word of God that creates and renews all things.

When the scholar in today’s Holy Gospel asks what he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus gives him the well-known “Shema Israel” – the Golden Rule – and then tells the story of the Good Samaritan. (As an aside, I hope you know that those two words would have been a contradiction in terms since for most Jews a “Samaritan” couldn’t possibly be “good.”) Yet, Jesus turns the tables and makes the least likely person end up the hero of the story. Not only does he tend to the victim of a brutal robbery, he even goes the extra mile providing for the victims future care!

Whenever the Church gives us familiar stories we have to take care that we don’t just “listen without really hearing” so that we can gain some insight into our own journeys. Not many of us are called upon to raise people from the dead. In order to be found justified by God all we need to do is found in the closing line of this Holy Gospel: “The one who treated the victim with mercy. And Jesus said, ‘Go and do likewise.”

Just try to be nice to the people you encounter along the way and you’ll begin to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the banquet!” Amen!


July 9, 2016 – Saturday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

July 9, 2016 – Saturday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Saints for the day: Augustine Zhao Rong & Companions (17th – 20th Cent.)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Isaiah 6:1-8    –    Psalm 93    –    Matthew 10:24-33

Note about today’s “saints.”   Be sure to click on the “link” to today’s saints because it’s not often that we celebrate the feast of 120 martyrs who died over the course of almost 300 years!

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ’Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am, I said, send me!’”

 This wonderful reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah brings us right into the presence of God who is surrounded by the Seraphim all crying out, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy … Lord God of Hosts.’ If I was to make a movie of this scene I would probably call it, “Kissed by an angel.”

All of us, called by the Lord, are brought into His presence ‘… with fear and trembling.’ Not in the sense of being afraid or scared, but in awe of the wonder of God. Just think about it for a moment. We are there in the presence of God and caught up in the “Holy, Holy, Holy” with all the angels.

“It’s awesome” as the saying goes, to be in His presence. Yet this is what all of us are called to. The – “Whom shall I send”- phrase quoted above is spoken to each one of us. And It’s spoken over and over again as we make our journey into the Kingdom. This is why I wanted to highlight today’s “saints” because it shows us that nothing is impossible for God whose one desire is that we all come to that heavenly banquet. Then, we are shown a most wonderful scene: we are kissed by an angel! One of the Seraphim comes with a hot coal and touches our lips. Like gold tested in the furnace our lips are purified and we are given both the courage and the words to speak. If we translate this happening – going back to pre-Vatican II days – and remember how we used to receive Holy Communion on our tongues – it is the very presence of Jesus that gives us that perfect “Kiss of Peace” along with the strength to go out and proclaim the Good News that we have heard. Nowadays most of us receive Holy Communion in the hand but the image is still there: we reach out to embrace the real presence of Jesus. “Whom shall I send?” It’s you and me, folks! Ain’t nobody else gonna be able to do it! Amen!

July 8, 2016 – Friday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Gregory Grassi & companions (d. 1900)

Be sure to “click” on the above link to read about the martyrs being celebrated on this date. Any time that you have doubts or questions about “what it means to follow Christ,” read the story of how these 28 martyrs “gave their lives” for Christ and His Church.

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hosea 14:2-10    –    Psalm 51    –    Matthew 10:16-23

“Jesus says, ‘Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as shrewd as serpents and as simple as doves.”

This quote is another one of those sayings that we’ve heard before and there’s always the tendency to just pass over it without letting it sink in. Certainly, we know Jesus as the “Good Shepherd” but now it sounds as if He’s just letting us go in the midst of wolves. So what are we to make of this? No mention of green pastures or fresh water. The reality of life is that it is hard and even those who claim to be doing good are more interested in their own advancement than knowing that the Kingdom of God is in their midst. Jesus, the Good Shepherd is handed over to the authorities and all the sheep flee. And when He’s asked to explain Himself he remains silent. “Be as shrewd as serpents and as simple as doves.”

I don’t watch very much TV but when I do I usually land on the Discovery Channel to watch some kind of “nature program.” Last night they focused on serpents and it certainly was revealing to see how cunning these snakes could be. They have one thing in mind: find a meal and devour it as fast as you can! On the flip side, though, any program about birds seems to really focus on the words of Jesus, “Consider the birds of the air … your father takes care of them.” So, what does Jesus mean when He asks us to be “shrewd?”

I think that it means we are to be single-minded when it comes to following Jesus and we are to be grounded in His promises. The snake just looks for the next meal. Do we hunger for the bread of life? Do we really believe that God will take care of us like the birds of the air? Life following Jesus is no “Polly-Anna,” “La la life.” There will be hard times. That’s why I wanted you to read the short story of the martyrs who are celebrated today. Just like them, we might be abandoned like Jesus was when His friends all fled. As Dr. Scott Peck says in the opening of his book, “Life is hard. That’s a fact. So just get on with it!”

But let’s not forget that in the end Jesus promises us both a resurrection and an infilling of the Holy Spirit as we continue our journey into the Kingdom. “I hold you in the hollow of my hand and I will never leave you.” Believe it! Amen!

July 7, 2016 – Thursday in the 14th Week of the Church Year


Saint for the day: Willibald (700-785)


Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:


Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9    –    Psalm 80    –    Matthew 10:7-15

“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand: travel light!”

These opening words of today’s Gospel can be harsh words to many of us who sometimes doubt that the Lord will really take care of us when push comes to shove. Still, the reality of life and death are obvious so why do so many of us hoard “stuff” as if we don’t believe that “Deus Providabet” (the motto of my Dominican Province) “God will provide!”

In 1984 when I was on sabbatical and traveling in my brothers motor home I spent Lent at a Benedictine Monastery why out in the deserts of New Mexico. Out of convenience, I parked the motor home in the back of the monastery rather than occupy one of the few guest rooms. The Abbot came out to see how I was getting settled and I invited him to see the inside of the motor home which I had decked out with every conceivable convenience for traveling for my year of sabbatical.

It was “Shrove Tuesday” and he told me that he always made the monks make a list of everything in their “cells” (rooms) at the beginning of Lent. He said that this wasn’t to make them feel guilty but, rather, to make them aware of all they had and what they really needed. With a little bit of a smile on his face he said, “I think I have enough paper in the office for you to begin to make your list!”

I’m not going to tell you that I tossed everything out and left the motor home there at the monastery – walking the 13 miles back to the main highway. But it did make me acutely aware of the fact that all of us need to ask ourselves: What do I have by way of “possessions” and how many of these possessions have me!

When the Dominican Provincial phoned me in 1959 and told me that I had been accepted as a brother , I asked him what I should bring? He told me, “My boy, bring everything you have! You’re going to be with us the rest of your life!

I arrived at the Novitiate with a borrowed suitcase (I didn’t even own my own) and two brown shopping bags! What a saint!

It is my fervent hope that any biographers will remember this story and not focus on the fact that while I was in Africa for 8 years I had stored 39 boxes of my “possessions” in the attic of our House of Study in Oakland, California.

Bottom line?

I have been blessed with a variety of wonderful ministries in my 55+ years as a Dominican Brother. God has provided me with all that I have ever needed and I know that everything is gift and in the end I will have to say – like everyone – “naked came I from my mother’s womb – one borrowed suitcase and two brown shopping bags –and naked shall I return. (Job’s words when everything that he possessed was taken from him.”

God grant me the ability to not let “possessions” possesses me and to know that you will provide me with everything I need to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Amen!


July 6, 2016 – Wednesday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Maria Goretti (1890-1902)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hosea 10:1-3,7-8, 12    –    Psalm 105    –    Matthew 10:1-7

Today the Church gives us the story of Joseph in Egypt – as chief in Pharaoh’s Court – meeting up with his brothers who had sold him to some Ismilites years before. This story has lots of parallels to both the New Testament Joseph (a dreamer) and to Jesus who also was sold for 30 pieces of silver. I’ll let you chew on those images on your own.

We also have the Gospel of the calling of the first Apostles and their ‘commissioning’ to go out to all the world with the Good News.’ And we know that it wasn’t always easy and that there were all kinds of stumbling blocks that they endured. We can also see some parallels with the life – and death – of St. Maria Goretti. Her’s is the most recent and poignant example of following Christ. How many of us would perhaps give in to the first trial that came our way. Yet, she – with simple, child-like faith – clung to her faith and, in the end brought about a wonderful conversion of her own murderer! And, thinking back to the Genesis reading: Joseph could also have been vindictive to his brothers for what they did to him but he did not and rather provided for his brothers who were the source of his own imprisonment and suffering. So, there you have it! Just pick your model and “go and do likewise!” Amen.

July 5, 2016 – Tuesday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Anthony Zaccaria (1502-1539)

Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13     –     Psalm 115     –     Matthew 9:32-38

Jesus says: “I am the Good Shepherd. I know mine and mine know me.” (Ps 23)

The image of God as “Good Shepherd” is one of those familiar titles that can easily be passed over. We silently say to ourselves, “Yes, I know that…” and move on without thinking it through. If you take the time, you can see Jesus as “Good Shepherd” in and through most of the Scriptures.

Today’s healing of the dumb demoniac is a case in point. Even though Jesus didn’t go out searching for him he is brought to Jesus to be healed. This tells us something about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Obviously, the people knew that Jesus had the power to heal and they didn’t just wait around for him to search out those in need. This reminds all of us of our duty to have concern for those most in need of healing. There is no room for a Christian to think, “Oh, that’s for somebody else to deal with.” We are reminded of the words directed to Jesus, “When did we see you hungry and not feed you …” are words that should be the foundation of what our Christian life is all about.

By virtue of our baptism we are all endowed with the power to heal and build up the Kingdom of God. GK Chesterton’s words come to mind: “It’s not that Christianity has been tried and found wanting. It’s more that it hasn’t really been tried.”

St. Therese, the little flower, is quoted as saying, “See a pin and pick it up and a soul is saved from the power of Hell.” I’ve translated that on my own and say, “If you toss a wad of paper into the waste basket – and miss – and don’t go over to pick it up you’ll never be a saint!”

Most of us are “grandstand Christians” – or spectators always thinking, “That’s for somebody else to deal with.” Yet, we can see that even if we only bring someone in need to Christ we’ve done the first step in really carrying out our Baptismal responsibility. The parable of “the talents” has a good lesson for all of us. It’s not that the person who was just given the one talent is punished for not doubling it. It’s that he didn’t even do the most passive act of at least putting in the bank to gain interest. He buried it in the ground and brought it back just as he had received it! For this he was cast into the darkness as a wicked and lazy person. We all have to think of the times we have done at least some good for someone so that we hear the words, “Well done. Good and faithful servant. Enter into the Kingdom.”

July 4, 2016 – Monday in the 14th Week of the Church Year

Hosea 2:16,17-18,21-22 – Ps 145 – Matthew 9:18-26

Also, Independence Day in the U.S.

Isaiah 32:15 …20 – Psalm 145 – Matthew 9:18-26

“Give peace, O Lord, to those who wait for you; hear the prayers of your servants and guide us in the way of justice.” (Sirach 36:18-19)

It’s always just a little bit difficult to present these reflections when there are two very different liturgical options being celebrated. That being the case I’ll just do the best I can to give you something worthwhile to be commemorated. When I was thinking about today’s liturgy my thoughts centered on the “title” for today’s celebration: Independence Day. The first thing that come to mind was the fact that if there is anything that the following of Jesus could be called, it wouldn’t be, “follow me (Jesus) to your own independence! That led me ponder what is entailed in our following of Jesus. By virtue of our baptism and confirmation we seem called to align ourselves e.g. be dependent on Jesus’ more than falling back on our own, individual talents. Then the thought came to me that perhaps the founding fathers of our nation really did want to give a spiritual dimension to this holiday without seeming to favor one spirituality more than another. That being said, I think that today’s celebration can focus on the gift of being free to offer thanks to God that we are not forced to keep our religious tendencies private and away from the public eye. I remember a time when I was visiting my parents who had invited a couple to dinner that I didn’t know very well. Before the guests came my dad said to me, “We don’t know what their religious affiliations are or even if they are in any way religious so it might be better if you didn’t start talking about religion!” Of course, I got overly dramatic and said, “If you think I might offend them maybe I shouldn’t even stay for dinner!” That was a long time ago and as I re-think the situation maybe Independence Day should always allow us to be able to freely talk in a kind of open forum about a wide variety of issues. As it turned out, they were very interested in knowing what my life, as a Dominican Brother was all about. Bottom line for today’s celebration: we can talk about anything we want as long as we keep our side of the conversation away from being coercive or judgmental. That’s the freedom that we should celebrate on this Independence Day.

July 3, 2016 – 14th Sunday of the Church Year

Saint for the day: Thomas the Apostle – 1st Century

Scripture Readings for today’a Liturgy:

Isaiah 66:10-14    –    Psalm 66    –    Galatians 6:14-18

Luke 10: 1-12, 17-20

“Jesus says, “behold, I have given you the power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” ( the ending of today’s Holy Gospel according to St. Luke.)

I chose the above quote from today’s Holy Gospel because I think it holds a wonderful description of what it means to follow Jesus. It’s not a matter of having power, – the way the world sees success – but, rather, knowing that we are known by God who sees that our way of life entitles us to have our names written in heaven. The “world” has as it’s goal: “getting to the top of the caterpillar pillar” But that’s a no-win situation since there will always be tension maintaining that position and you will have little time to live the Gospel goals as given by Jesus. How do we go about getting our names written in heaven? It’s certainly not that we followed all the rules like the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus made that pretty clear on a number of occasions especially when he said, “… when you did something for the least of my people, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:41) The key to this  quote seems to direct us to do something for the people who don’t have the means to do very much for themselves. The wisdom of this statement of Jesus would be the fact that needy people are always close at hand and we don’t have to set up some grandiose program to help them. All we have to do is show them that we care and are trying to do the best we can. I’ll never forget the way the German Sisters who cooked for us at our House of Studies in Oakland, took care of the poor who came to the kitchen door looking for a meal. In the first place, they always referred to them with the title, “St. Joseph is at the door!” Sometimes, if they were busy with serving the friars, they would ask me to take care of the person and I quickly learned that the tray had to be fixed as if I were serving a prince. And, in a sense, I was serving a meal to Jesus. Just think of what our world would be like if more people did random acts of kindness to people in need of a little bit of help. Just remember, “kindness” doesn’t cost us anything and it is so easy to give. Try it! Amen?

June 2, 2016 – Saturday in the 13th Week of the Church Year

   Saint for the day:Oliver Plunkett (1629-1681)

   Scripture Readings for today’s Liturgy:

   Amos 9;11-15     –     Psalm 85     –     Matthew 9:14-17

 “My sheep hear my voices, says the Lord,: I know them and they follow me.” (Today’s Alleluia verse before the Holy Gospel) 

The early Church Fathers must have been keenly aware of the fact that the best of intentions are often forgotten when “push-comes-to-shove.” The scripture readings from these recent days – both Old Testament and new – are a clear reminder to all of us how easy it is for us to forget what we have been called to. The Old Testament is filled with stories like we hear today; where the patience of God is seen to be never ending. We are reminded over and over of all the ways in which God has called us out of the darkness that we continue to fall into. The “Alleluia Verse” (highlighted above) is key to the way we can hear the Lord calling us back into the fruitfulness of His loving presence. Today, we are given two powerful images of this call: are we willing to listen to what the Lord is calling us to and can we be like sheep who know the masters voice? God wants to patch up our worn garments that we have let get torn and dirty. He wants to give us that “new wine” that lifts our drooping spirits and causes us to remember the banquet that He prepares for us. Two things that we have to remember: listening to the Lord’s voice; and following Him. We have to remind ourselves that He used the image of a shepherd and not a “taskmaster” who only wants to drain us dry.

We listen to His voice coming to us in the daily scripture readings and, at the same time, we are given the “food for the journey” in our Eucharistic Liturgies. If saints of old can sometimes live only on the scriptures they hear at Mass and on the Eucharist that they receive in Holy Communion there must be something to it. The “key,” I think, comes in the last part of that quote at the top of the page: “… and they follow me!” What we have to overcome, is the fact that we so often fall short of what that means and then give up too quickly. Wasn’t if St. Therese who said to the Lord: “If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!” But the wisdom of that saying is a reminder to us to never give up on the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. Most of us fall into one trap or another over and over. What we often forget is the “getting up and back on track.” We forget that our Lord has an unlimited stash of forgiveness and we need to train our senses to hear His voice, “Come back to me with all your heart…” We need to train ourselves to always be able to hear those words. We can’t let ourselves think that there is anything that we finite people can do that is beyond God’s ability to heal. “My sheep hear my voices, says the Lord,: I know them and they follow me.” Amen!