Monthly Archives: August, 2014

The “I don’t know” Prayer

Kris Rooney here.  For my morning prayer today, I quieted myself and thought about what I wanted to say to God.  The first words out were, “I don’t know.”  There are things happening that I don’t have answers for, not just in my life (nothing earth-shattering) but in the world  (quite earth-shattering).  I have no idea what to do or where to even find the answer.  Do you ever feel that way?  But it is extremely comforting to know that God accompanies me.    God accompanies all of us.  It reminds me of this prayer by Thomas Merton.  He seems to have found better words than my short, I-don’t-know prayer.  You may know it, but it’s worth repeating:


I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact

that I think that I am following your will

does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you 

does in fact please you.  And I hope I have

that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything 

apart from that desire. 

And I know that if I do this you will lead me

by the right road

though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem lost

and in the shadow of death.  I will not fear,

for you are ever with me,

and you will never leave me

to face my perils alone.


22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, cycle A

Let us pray:

Spirit of Fire,

You revealed yourself through the burning bush

And the fiery courage of Pentecost.

Fiery Spirit, Source of all creative power,

Kindle your Holy Spark within me,

Breathe into me your Sacred Passion,

Fill me with your Flame until I have become fire,

Offering warmth and light to the world.  AMEN


In the spiritual life we keep our practices, spend time in prayer, seek God in all things, and yet at some point even all this is not enough – and we are asked to become fire.  Becoming fire means letting our passion for life and beauty ignite us in the world.  It means, as St. Ignatius of Loyola wisely said, that we are called to set the whole world on fire with our passion for God.  (Paintner, water, wind, earth & fire, p. 60)  Consider the readings today within the context of becoming fire.

1st Reading: Jeremiah 20: 7-0

In this passage we hear Jeremiah’s lament, his intensely personal outcry to God. His enemies for awhile seemed more powerful than ever; his failure was painful and seemed final. Yet, in the end, Jeremiah survived his dark night of the soul remaining faithful in God’s service.  The word that is translated as ‘duped’ or ‘enticed’ is the word that is used to describe the enticement involved in the seduction of a young woman by a man. Jeremiah claims to be ‘seduced’ by God into servicing and proclaiming God’s Word. It is a bold lament, filled with disappointment, anguish and love. (Celebration, August 28, 2005)

How often do we get stuck in a situation and can’t see our way out? Sometimes we make decisions and dig our heels in despite new information, or despite the nagging that maybe we should be more open (A disagreement with a friend?  A work decision?  A long-time family rift?).  It is in those moments that the fire of Spirit could burn within you, and be trans-formative.

2nd Reading– Romans 12: 1-2

Paul tells us to “Offer our bodies to God.” This is very different from the Greek culture/theology that saw the body as only a prison-house, something to be despised and even shame-filled. But Paul reminds us that Christians believe that our bodies, our very real selves, belong to God. Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Incarnation assures us that God did not ‘stand apart’ from our bodies, but in our very flesh God came to show us his presence and love. Paul is telling them and us that it is the everyday ‘bodily’ activities of ordinary work in a shop or shipyard, factory or office that we are to offer to God as worship. In fact, the word used for worship is latreia, a noun form of the verb that means to labor or work for hire. It is not slavery, but the voluntary undertaking of work, a livelihood– that to which a person gives his life. So it is used in the Bible to mean the service or worship of God. In other words, Paul is saying that true worship is the offering of everyday life to God. This demands a transformation of body and mind; we must undergo a change. Our self-centered minds must become Christ-centered. We should not try to match our lives to all the fashions and interests of the world. We are not to be chameleons, but Christians. From the inside out, we must take on the mind and heart of Christ, being the Body of Christ in the world – the ‘job description’ for a Christian. Christian ethics is not so much a code, as it is a person…(William Barclay, Romans, 155-158)  What does this kindle in you?

The Gospel: Matthew 16: 21-27

The ‘rock’ that last week Jesus was going to build his church upon has now become a stumbling stone – an obstacle in the way of Jesus’ (and the church’s) true mission. Suffering is not the goal, but it is often the cost of discipleship.  This passage is in some ways like the story of the temptations in the desert. Peter is trying to entice Jesus with the vision of an earthly kingdom. Although Jesus rebukes Peter, in the correction is also an invitation to follow him. Like Peter we must learn that it is not enough to just speak the words of faith about Jesus; we must follow in his footsteps. (Mary Birmingham, Word & Worship Workbook for Year A, 496)

We often feel that suffering means that something has gone wrong – that God is absent or punishing.  In the light of Jesus and his cross, suffering can actually be a more intense experience of God’s presence. This is the dynamic that we call the paschal mystery – that to lose life, is sometimes to find the fullness of life.  Thinking like humans, we too often focus only on the suffering and ‘death’ of an experience. Thinking like God is to focus on the fullness of life (its glory and blessings) that God wishes to offer us. The paschal mystery is not just a concept. It is a turning of our hearts and minds toward God trusting always that His life and love can work in us – even when we suffer, even when things go all wrong, even when we fail.  We need to ‘get behind Jesus’ so we can follow him – to let go of our own preconceptions and worries letting God lead us to life –  a life so full it overflows into eternal life. (Living Liturgy, 2002, 228-229)

To deny oneself  is a phrase that has very Semitic origins. It is an idiom that means to ‘love less’ or to ‘give lower priority to’ oneself, meaning that we are to commit ourselves totally to God.  It can be a dangerous phrase if taken out of context or given a negative meaning that implies that one is to subordinate oneself to others in a way that is not life-giving in a true and healthy sense. What Matthew is trying to say is that as children of God, we are to subordinate ourselves to God; it is in a way a celebration of this ownership by God. Christians are to be mutually subordinate to one another – not oppressed or oppressors. Embracing one’s cross means that we ‘put up with’ and accept whatever difficulties and shame come our way because we are trying to follow Jesus. Jesus’ death on a cross was a shameful death, yet he did not turn away from God’s way of love and truth.  To follow Jesus may mean persecution or ridicule or hostility or other difficulties (like it did for Matthew’s community). These we must accept knowing with Paul that all is loss compared with “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him . . . to know him and the power of his resurrection.” See Philippians 3:8b-11. (Mary Birmingham, Word & Worship Workbook for Year A, 496)  What meaning (and questions) do you find in all this?

John Pilch also cautions us to read this section knowing that it comes out of a culture “where speech is more evocative than explicit.”  This is language intended to call us – to awaken us – to God’s love and God’s vision of what is honorable and important in life.  But Jesus can also see the ‘handwriting on the wall.’ He is making an ever-growing number of powerful enemies. Yet, Jesus declares forcefully that this ominous future is also filled with God’s purpose and God’s truth. He challenges Peter and his followers to ‘get behind him’ and travel on — doing what God wills, not what might be convenient or easy. (The Cultural World of Jesus, 132, and “Historical Cultural Context,”

Jesus saves – that is the message.  Jesus saves US.  That is the fire burning.  That is what can lift us up and keep us on the path.  Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Some day, after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love.  Then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire.”  The fire grows as we help one another on our paths.  Do we allow our eyes to meet and spark a connection or we turn away?  What inner work will help ignite the fire of love?


Let us pray:

Spirit of Refining Fire,

Help me to release what no longer serves me

To make room for your light to fill me.

Blessings of fire be upon me

May the light of God illuminate me

And may the flame of love burn brightly in me

May I discover each day anew my own hidden fire

And enter it fully.  AMEN

21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1st Reading: Isaiah 22: 19-23

This is from 1st Isaiah. The prophet seemed to hold this Shebna in “undisguised contempt.” Shebna at the time was sort of like a secretary of state and chief of staff to King Hezekiah. He wore the great key of the palace looped over his shoulder as a sign of his power and importance.  It seemed that he did all he could to further his own interests and power, even ordering a lavish tomb for himself on the top of a hillside.  He also seemed to like to show off and ‘hot-rod’ around in his chariots. See Isaiah 22: 15-19. He becomes here a symbol of misused power and authority. He is replaced by Eliakim whom Isaiah had hoped would be true to calling. Later, Eliakim also abused his power.  (Mary Birmingham, W&W, 487)

History is messy like that; it is full of dreams that turn to nightmares and hopes that end with dashed expectations. Too often leaders care more about self-preservation and power than about the welfare of those they serve. Jesus stands in contrast here, too. That’s why as Christians we are people of hope and faith despite the sufferings and setbacks of our very real lives.  (“Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

2nd Reading: Romans 11: 33-36

It was frustrating to Paul that the people he loved, including Gentile converts, could not see what was so clear to him:  that Jesus is Messiah and Savior of the world.  He tried to understand, but there was no explanation.  He finally decided to accept and trust God’s will (Birmingham, W&W, p. 488).  Consider how this might ring true in your life – a loved one doesn’t understand a deep truth that you believe in.  What do you do?  Do you trust and hand it over to God?

The Gospel: Matthew 16: 13-20

It is only Matthew’s gospel that has the section on Simon as Peter, the ‘rock,’ and the giving of the keys of the kingdom along with the ‘binding and loosening.’ He also is the only one to use the word church here. He uses it again in 18: 17-18 when the binding and loosening is given to the whole community. Later theology with its profound experience of the Risen Christ is certainly reflected in this passage. Yet, it also reflects the ‘Mediterranean mind’ of Jesus’ culture which was much more oriented toward the ‘community’ than we are. It would be, for instance, very common for someone to care about what others think about them.  Jesus, like all the other humans of his time and culture, would value such feedback. And, in Jesus’ case, it might have been even more important because he did not fit any of the usual stereotypes. Jesus was not just the usual ‘person from Nazareth’ or the common artisan or stone worker’s son. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, John Pilch, 127+)  We are seeing the humanity of Jesus.

Keys were a very important sign of power and authority in the ancient world.  It was a sign of sharing in the power of the king; it enabled one to open, to provide access to the source of power, the ruler. These keys were large and cumbersome – often two feet in length. They were worn on a loop slung over the shoulder by the person who had the authority ‘to open.’ Furthermore, this passage is emphasizing certain important faith components. One, the church, the community of believers, must be rooted in the confession of Jesus as Messiah (Christ) and Son of God (Lord). What makes Peter a ‘foundation rock’ for this church is his faith relationship with Jesus.  Two, the church that we belong to is by nature a church in conflict; it is the designated opponent of evil in the world. It must be the champion of truth, goodness, justice, and right. And, despite the suffering and challenge that evil may bring, the jaws of death (the gates of Hades) will not prevail against it.  (Celebration, August, 2005)

This passage concerning Peter must have been very important to Matthew’s community. What – in the end – made Peter such a good choice? He certainly had his faults. In fact, in just a few more lines in the gospel Peter is told by Jesus that he is an obstacle and a satan (See the gospel for the following week) because he does not want him to confront evil and the suffering that will come from that. He is told by Jesus to get behind him – of course that is where all of Jesus’ followers belong. Peter is a leader who knew failure and misunderstanding. But Peter never gave up on the mercy of God that he found in Christ Jesus (John Kavanaugh, “The Word Embodied,” & “Exploring the Sunday Readings,” August, 2008)

The question is also very personal – asked directly of his followers, and each of us – for Jesus must be a personal discovery. Our knowledge of Jesus cannot be second hand. It is not knowing about Jesus. It is about knowing Jesus. Jesus demands a personal response . . . Peter is the first to make this personal response. On such a response of faith in Christ God will gather his people (the word, church, means a gathering of the people of the Lord). Jesus is the cornerstone; those who come to know and trust in Jesus as the Christ will become the stones or rocks that will build a new gathering, a new temple for all times and all people. And the gates of Hades (the place of the dead) will not prevail against such a gathering of faith. (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 133-146)

Authority – the focus of this week’s readings – is today about the power to enforce laws or to judge or determine what is right or true. An accepted source of expert information is also called an authority. Our English word is rooted in the Latin word auctorem or autor, which means enlarger, founder, or, more literally, one who causes to grow. Thus, it could be inferred that those on whom authority has been conferred are vested with the power and responsibility to help others to grow. This authority can either be used rightly or it can be abused.

The Tiny Whispering Sounds from Iraq

Father Bob’s homily from Sunday…


19th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

In that famous first reading, the Prophet Elijah is told to expect the presence of God as he retreats to Mount Horeb, God’s holy mountain.  There is a strong rushing wind, but God is not in the wind. There is an earthquake, but God is not in the earthquake.  There is a fire, but God is not in the fire. I remember that because I can recall the great soul group of the seventies, Earth Wind and Fire.  Finally, there is a tiny whispering sound, and Elijah is completely aware and overwhelmed by the presence of God. And we always make the point that God is not only in the large and spectacular moments, but in the quiet and small moments as well.  But just because God is present in the quiet and the small, it does not mean his presence is any…

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The Non-politics Politics of Jesus

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…


18th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
“His heart was moved with pity.” Reading of Jesus’ reaction to the crowd that had gathered around him right before the miracle of the loaves and fish, I began wondering what ever happened to the word pity. It is certainly not a positive word these days. People say they don’t want to be pitied. Usually when someone says I pity you, it is not a warm thing. Did Mr. T in the eighties completely ruin the term by saying, “I pity the fool?” Yet, it was an emotion that Jesus had more than once and so it must be something worthy of understanding and imitating.
Let’s see why Jesus has this pity. He has just heard of the death of John the Baptist, his friend, the one who baptized him. (Isn’t something that the same dangerous mixture of politics, terror and violence still hang…

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The Transfiguration of the Lord (written by Kristine Rooney)


I love this story.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the mountain and becomes transfigured in light. Moses and Elijah join him and they start chatting  (What are they chatting about anyway?  Long time no see?).  Peter is floored by the whole thing.  He doesn’t want it to end.  “Lord, it is good that we are here.”  He wants to set up tents for everyone and just stay.

Being summer and time for vacations, can’t you identify with that feeling?  Getting away from home, experiencing new things and seeing beautiful places…it makes you feel like you don’t want it to end.  It is good to be there. You want it to last. You don’t want to go back to the job, the chaos, the stuff of the every day.  You can hear it in Peter’s voice:  Can’t we just stay?

Peter was still going on and on when God decides to interrupt.  God enters in, expresses love for Jesus and says they should listen to him.  Isn’t it interesting that when they are so happy and feeling so good that God shows up to their Transfiguration party?  Of course, God is a part of that joy and goodness.  God wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!  God reveals God’s self in those moments.  God causes those moments.  And God strengthens us in those moments.

Because, we always have to go back.  Vacations end (spoil alert), and we have to go back down the mountain.  The good news is, we can take it with us.  We can let those good, wonderful times transfigure us.  They can light us up and help us to take on what comes ahead.  We can be refreshed.  We can know that God enters in and doesn’t go away.  Jesus walks back down the mountain with his friends.  They are ready to take on what is ahead together.  God’s love never goes away, no matter where we are, and we are transformed by it.

Enjoy these summer days!