Saturday, August 28, 2021

HOMILY – 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Clean Hands

As a young boy, I remember my mother insisting we boys wash our hands before eating a meal. Mother knows best. Right?

Today Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and scribes who are playing mother with the Law of Moses. And Jesus cuts to the heart of the matter.

“(In Jesus’ day) Hands were washed NOT for reasons of hygiene or good manners but because the custom had religious significance: it was a rite of purification… (In today’s Gospel) Jesus restores the genuine meaning of these precepts of the Law, whose purpose is to teach the right way to render homage to God (cf. Jn 4:24).”[1]

Judgement is what is driving Jesus’ critics. He is calling out the impurity of their unclean hearts. Hearts that are more focused on their own self-righteousness and self-justification, than on honoring God with their rituals.

Jesus proves himself again as being the authentic interpreter of the Law. Much to the chagrin of the Pharisees and scribes, and their false piety and lip service to the Law.

Our actions should always honor our relationship with God. Not just adhere to the judgment and approval of others.

I leave you with this question for reflection: What is lurking in our unclean hearts in need of Christ’s attention?  

Let us ask Jesus to cleanse our hearts of these impurities.

[1] Saint Mark’s Gospel. (2005). (p. 87). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers. 

HOMILY – 11th Anniversary of Christ Our Hope – God’s Glory

Remember that old country song, “Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way?”

It is this mindset Jesus is going after today. It’s those who think they are better than others, entitled because of their wealth, or their status or their country of origin.

Jesus is here to knock us all off our pedestals.

“Humility is so necessary for salvation that Jesus takes every opportunity to stress its importance. Here he uses the attitudes of people at a banquet to remind us again that it is God who assigns the places at the heavenly banquet…[1]

Christ is our Hope. This understanding of Jesus’ central message is what makes this community special. We have walking, talking icons who help us to maintain our humility and tether us to Christ’s main mission for us: it’s not about me; it’s about others. It’s about serving others on the margins, not our own egos.

“A Christian acts in the world in the same way anyone else does; but (our) dealings with (our) colleagues and others should not be based on pursuit of reward or vainglory: the first thing (one) should seek is God’s glory, desiring heaven as (our) only reward (cf. Lk 6:32–34).[2]

Christ calls us to remain grounded in him, connected to him and detached from our own superegos. This is the message of the Gospel this weekend.

[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel. (2005). (p. 133). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers.

[2] Saint Luke’s Gospel. (2005). (p. 134). Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers. 

Monday, August 16, 2021

HOMILY – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Mother


Today we see hope. Today we see perfection to the end. Today we see the mother of Jesus ascending to heaven, body and soul, at the end of her earthly life.

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. What a blessing that this Holy Day of Obligation (or Opportunity) falls on a Sunday this year.

This tradition in our faith goes back to the 6th century. It became dogma in the Church in the mid-20th Century when Pope Pius the Twelfth exercised the concept of papal infallibility in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus.

World War II had just ended. The brutal war and Holocaust had crushed the human spirit.  The Pope delivered the good news about the Assumption of Mary on November 1st, 1950.

The dogma teaches that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory."

She was the Immaculate Conception at the beginning of her life. And experienced the Assumption at the end of her life. This is what our Church teaches.

I know. I know. Some struggle with the concept of papal infallibility. 

When we were going through the belongings of my wife Mary’s parents a few years back in Spokane shortly after her mother’s passing we found her parent’s wedding certificate.

It had been torn in half and taped back together again.

That’s when I heard the story.

Mary’s mother and father were married a few years after the Pope invoked papal infallibility in the matter of Mary’s Assumption.

Marge was Lutheran, Jack a devout Catholic. 

The story goes, shortly after being married, in one of their first arguments as a married couple, Marge said, “I don’t believe the Pope is infallible.”

In that moment, Jack found their wedding certificate, and in anger, tore it in half.

Needless to say, the concept of papal infallibility was controversial then. It may still be controversial to some today.

A decade or so later, Marge converted to Catholicism.

Marge was a model of servant leadership to her children, having served for over 30 years as the director of the chemistry lab at Deaconess Hospital in Spokane at a time when few women were working fulltime outside of the home.  All the while raising a family of three.

There is something divine about servant leaders.

I know my wife Mary was shaped by her mother’s example.

Perhaps the most significant contribution the Virgin Mary made in our world was raising her son Jesus to be a servant leader. And look what he did with it.

A servant leader serves others and not themselves.

For the servant leader, it is never about themselves, but about others. And Mary was the perfect teacher for her son.

Catholic writer Henri Nouwen said this about servant leadership shown by Jesus and taught by his mother.

“The servant leader is the leader who is being led to unknown, undesirable, and painful places.

The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross . . .

It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest…

(A servant leader goes to) “places where we would rather not go…”

A parent’s love is perhaps the most powerful example of servant leadership.

Ask any parent, ask any mother about the sacrifices made in this life toward the wellbeing of a child. A mother’s love is one of the most powerful bonds known to humankind.

In a bittersweet moment in the movie “The Passion of the Christ,” Mary sees her son struggling with His cross on the streets of Jerusalem, falling a second time. 

She’s terrified by what she sees, frozen with fear. 

The Apostle John encourages her to go to her son. But she cannot move.

In that moment she daydreams of a time when Jesus as a little boy fell down, hurting himself and how she ran to comfort him.

With that strong memory, she goes running toward her son to comfort him in his agony, goes running toward the cross.

As she tenderly embraces Him, saying, “I’m here.” 

Jesus then says, “See, mother, I make all things new.” 

Mary modeled for Jesus what a servant leader looks like: to go to “places where we would rather not go,” to selflessly serve the needs of others, to help others carry their crosses, to love with an unending reservoir of compassion.

This is the way of Christ. This is something we can thank his mother Mary for teaching Jesus. And her reward from God for her efforts in this life was to experience the resurrection at the exact moment of her death.

We may not experience it the way the Virgin Mary experienced it. But Jesus promised all his faithful we, too, can look forward to the resurrection someday.  

All he asks of us is that we model our lives as servant leaders to the people of God. 

This, my sisters and brothers, is the key that unlocks the door to heaven. 

Friday, August 6, 2021

HOMILIA – XIX Domingo Ordinario – El cielo no tiene fronteras


En las lecturas de hoy, escuchamos acerca de Jesús frente a los murmullos del pueblo judío. Aquellos que se oponían a lo que Jesús estaba diciendo acerca del Pan de Vida también dudaban de la verdad acerca de Dios.

Vemos al profeta Elías desanimado y desesperado, huyendo al desierto para salvar su vida, de aquellos a quienes no les gustaba su mensaje. Y rezaban para que muera.

Elías se convertiría en uno de los profetas más importantes de la fe judía para decir la verdad a pesar de la dura oposición.  También estuvo con Jesús en la Fiesta de la Transfiguración de esta semana.

Y escuchamos a San Pablo recordándonos que debemos eliminar toda ira y amargura, y en su lugar ser amables, compasivos y perdonar. Y así ser imitadores de Dios.

Estas son historias de nuestra compleja condición humana, nuestra dificultad para confiar en nuestro creador y nuestra incapacidad, a veces, de escuchar la verdad.

El tema de la frontera con Estados Unidos es una situación complicada.

Nadie estaría en desacuerdo con eso. Pero es algo que necesita desesperadamente nuestro bien común católico, atención urgente y nuestras oraciones.

El viaje de Maryknoll a la frontera de El Paso y Ciudad Juárez en el 2018 fue revelador y transformador en muchos sentidos.

Allí, nos reunimos con la Guardia de Fronteras para escuchar lo que hacen para proteger las vidas en nuestras fronteras.

En muchos sentidos, encontramos ángeles no muy diferentes de aquellos que cuidan las necesidades físicas de Elías en la primera lectura de hoy.

Cuando se encuentran con personas que intentan cruzar la frontera ilegalmente, encuentran y atienden primero a aquellos que necesitan comida y agua. Muchas veces esto significa dejar ir a los llamados "Coyotes". "Coyotes" es un apodo para aquellos que trafican inmigrantes a los Estados Unidos ilegalmente.

También nos reunimos con familias que acababan de reunirse después de dos meses de separación. Era evidente para nosotros que los niños y los adultos habían quedado traumatizados.

La mayoría de los que conocimos se habían presentado legalmente en la frontera como solicitantes de asilo, solo para ser separados y puestos en detención durante dos meses. Los hombres irían a una instalación. Las mujeres a otra y los niños serían separados de sus madres y padres y puestos en otro lugar.

Luego servimos en un hogar de ancianos de las Hermanas de Loreto, donde docenas de familias se quedaban por un corto plazo hasta que se resolvieran sus casos. Todos los hombres llevaban pulseras de tobillo y todas las familias tenían fechas judiciales programadas para sus casos de asilo.

Una de las participantes de la misión es originaria de Perú. Helena ha vivido en los Estados Unidos durante diez años y enseña kindergarten en una reserva de nativos americanos en Wisconsin. En el momento en que el personal descubrió sus antecedentes y fluidez en español, mi amiga fue colocada inmediatamente con los niños.

Me asignaron a limpiar los baños.

Después de terminar mi tarea, fui a ver cómo iba la experiencia de Helena. Allí, en medio del piso, había un niño de cuatro años llorando, con su padre llorando mirando. Helena consolaba al niño.

Cuando nos íbamos, el niño no soltó a Helena. Su padre lloraba mucho. Cuando Helena finalmente le entregó al niño a su padre, se volvió hacia mí y me dijo: "El niño me preguntó si sería su mami. Le dije que no podía serlo".

Helena inmediatamente rompió a llorar cuando salimos del centro.

Jesús nos dice que amemos a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos y que demos la bienvenida al extraño. La solidaridad con nuestros vecinos y extraños son en realidad mandamientos de Cristo.

Este mandamiento de Cristo puede hacer que muchas personas en los Estados Unidos se enojen, pero si miramos estos complejos problemas fronterizos de los Estados Unidos a través de los ojos de Cristo, veremos las cosas más claramente.

Como nos recuerda el Papa Francisco: "En el Reino de Dios no hay fronteras".


In today’s readings, we hear about Jesus experiencing murmuring from the Jewish people. Those opposed to what Jesus is saying about the Bread of Life also doubted the truth about God.

We see the Prophet Elijah both discouraged and despairing, fleeing into the desert in order to save his life from those who did not like his message. And praying that he dies.

Elijah would become one of the Jewish faith’s most important prophets for telling the truth despite stiff opposition.  He was also with Jesus at this week’s Feast of the Transfiguration.

And we hear St. Paul reminding us to remove all anger and bitterness, and instead be kind, compassionate and forgiving. And so be imitators of God.

These are stories of our complex human condition, our difficulty in trusting in our creator and our inability, at times, to hear the truth. 

The U.S. border issue is a complicated mess.

No one would disagree with that. But it is one in desperate need of our Catholic common good, urgent attention and our prayers.

A Maryknoll trip to the El Paso and Ciudad Juarez border in 2018 was eye opening and transformational in many ways.

There, we met with the Border Guard to hear what they do to protect lives at our borders.

In many ways, we found angels not unlike those caring for Elijah’s physical needs in today’s first reading. When encountering people trying to cross the border illegally, they find and minister first to those needing food and water. Many times this means letting the so-called “Coyotes” go. “Coyotes” is a nickname for those who smuggling immigrants into the US illegally. 

We also met with families who had just been reunited after two months of separation. It was evident to us that the children and the adults had been traumatized.

Most we met had legally presented themselves at the border as asylum seekers, only to be separated and put into detention for two months. Men would go to one facility. Women to another. And the children would be taken from their mothers and fathers and put someplace else. 

Next we served at a Sisters of Loreto nursing home, where dozens of families were staying short-term until their cases were resolved. All the men wore ankle bracelets and all families had court dates scheduled on their asylum cases.

One mission participant is originally from Peru. Helena’s lived in the U.S. now for ten years and teaches kindergarten on a Native American reservation in Wisconsin. The minute the staff found out her background and fluency in Spanish, my friend was immediately placed with the kids.

I was assigned to cleaning bathrooms. 

After finishing my assignment, I went down to see how Helena’s experience was going. There in the middle of the floor was a four-year-old boy crying, with his crying father looking on. Helena was comforting the boy. 

As we were leaving, the boy wouldn’t let go of Helena. His father cried all the harder. As Helena finally handed the boy back to his father, she turned to me and said, “The boy asked me if I would be his mommy. I told him I could not be.”

Helena immediately broke down in tears as we departed the center.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to welcome the stranger. Solidarity with our neighbors and strangers are actually commands from Christ. 

This command of Christ can make many people in the U.S. angry, but if we look at this complex U.S. border issues through the eyes of Christ we will see things more clearly.

As Pope Francis reminds us, “In the Kingdom of God there are no borders.”