Monthly Archives: March, 2017

Beginning to See

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…


4th Sunday of Lent A

The man born blind claims that, “It is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.”  He was the first person born with blindness to be cured.  But since then, with remarkable advances in medicine, thousands of those born blind have been brought to sight.  And their experience is fascinating.  As one researcher put it, the moment the bandages are removed from their eyes is not like how it is portrayed in the movies. It is a moment of great confusion.  Everything is blurry because the eyes do not know how to coordinate with one another. The vast array of colors means nothing to one without the experience of color.  Even objects that have been held and whose shape is known are not understood by the newly sighted for to feel a shape is not to see a shape. …

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5th Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel — John 11: 1-45

The cast of characters…

Martha and Mary are the voices of all faith-filled people who have suffered loss:

“Where were you? If You had only been here . . .”

Lazarus– “the one whom Jesus loved” is a paradigm of every believer.

Just as Jesus calls to Lazarus to “Come out!” so, too, he calls to each of us to come out from whatever entombs us and allow ourselves to be ‘untied’

by his grace and live to ‘go free’.

The disciples are the ones who pretend to be brave and wise, but are often clueless.

Jesus cries and is perturbed, also. ( the Greek word is a strong one, ebrimaomai, meaning frustrated, angry, sometimes used to describe a horse snorting) Why?  No easy answer.

If Jesus reveals to us the invisible God, what does Jesus show us here about God?  Where do you see yourself in the story?

Jesus waited.  Scripture uses the word remained, which gives the waiting an intentionality.  Lazarus was dead for 4, long days.  All hope was lost.  But everything is possible with God, right?  As we heard in Paul’s letter to the Romans a couple weeks ago, “…hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts…” (5:5).  It was for the glory of God.  God’s time is not our time.  What wonderful things may lie in wait for you if you hope in the glory of the Lord?

Martha is worried about the stench in the cave when Jesus approaches (as, of course, Martha would!). And don’t we sometimes get stuck in the details of life instead of the bigger picture?  Jesus waves her off and focuses on why he is there, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”  Jesus is not afraid to come to our stinky, dark places and breathe new life into us!  And actually, Jesus does not go into the cave but calls Lazarus out.  Jesus calls us OUT of ourselvesAnd he calls others in to help Lazarus with the bandages.  We need the support of our community to jump in and be there with us.  Jesus is in the midst of it all.  Do you see yourself in this?  Our church?

From Exploring the Sunday Readings, March 2002:

John 11: 1-45 – “This illness is not to end in death . . .”

Jesus said the illness would not end in death, but it did.  Lazarus died.  And so have our friends and loved ones over the years, some of them great believers in the promises of Jesus.  We’ve all known people who’ve prayed and prayed that the cancer would go away, or the doctors would find a cure for their condition in time.  Sometimes it doesn’t, or they don’t.  And it hurts terribly, for the ones who have to let go of the life they know, the ones who have to say goodbye too soon.

Lazarus dies, and his family grieves.  Even Jesus weeps at the loss.  But then, Lazarus is called out of death to life!  And now we hear what Jesus really said: not that Lazarus wouldn’t die, but that death would not be the end of him.  Death wins the battle, but love wins the war.  So we believe.  So we profess.

Human suffering is a mystery we must live with and in – it is a part of everyone’s life eventually. As we head toward Holy Week, it is important to think about how as Christians we view this. What does the cross of Christ tells us about suffering?  The cross does not really tell us the why of suffering, but it offers us instead the where of God’s sharing in it.  When we suffer, God is in the midst of our suffering. Emmanuel, God-with-us, is also Christ on the cross, God-who-suffers-with-us.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection are our guarantee that when we reach the limits of our mortality in failure, loss, and pain, we find ourselves on the surprising road to resurrection.    (Today’s Parish, Lent 1996, p.22)

Let us pray…

 “Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of self-sufficiency wherein you do not admit your need for God and for one another.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of preoccupation with yourself and open your eyes to the needs of others.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of excessive busyness; take time to think, to listen, to be quiet and to pray.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of self-imposed obligations; untie yourself from the unimportant, the fleeting and the material so as to be free to experience the essential, the eternal and the spiritual.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb dug deep by apathy and ignorance and be newly awakened and sensitive to the plight of the poor, the oppressed.

 “Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of hopelessness and skepticism and be renewed in the knowledge that you are mine, I am yours and we are God’s.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of needless worry and undue anxiety. Know the love of a devoted God. Find courage and freedom here.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of sin and guilt and grief.  Know the truth of forgiveness — received and given.

“Come out,” says Jesus,

from the tomb of death and share God’s eternal life and forever love. Amen.

4th Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel — John 9: 1-41

In John’s gospel ‘miracle stories’ are never simple and are never called miracles.  They are SIGNS that reveal Jesus.  What do you make of this sign or teaching?  What do you make of the mud/saliva paste?

e.e.cummings wrote a poem on spring; he called it ‘mud-luscious.’

Jesus spits – he mixes this part of himself with the clay of the earth.  (Spit, saliva, in Jesus’ day was thought to have healing properties; it actually does.)  He then smears (the Greek word used means anointing) the man’s eyes with this paste and tells him to go and wash. Ordinary, even crude, elements become ways for Jesus to work. This is the essence of our sacraments.

From Celebrations, March 10, 2002:

We are to be like this mud-paste; Jesus mixes into our ‘earthiness’ the healing substance of himself.  We are to be people molded by Christ’s truth, transformed by his words.  As this ‘mud-paste’ we are to be helping to ‘heal’ the world by being in it: we are ointment not pipelines. We help others to see Jesus more by how we are and how we live then by what we pass along.

The word Siloam means ‘Sent’ – so does the word apostle.  Sacraments are ‘signs’ – rituals – that send us forth; every Mass also ends with a sending forth . . . What does it mean to you to be sent?

The story is about the struggle to see –what does this mean?  Have you ever struggled to see?

At first, the blind man only knew Jesus as a man, then as a prophet; at the end he calls him, Lord – a beautiful growth in faith . . .What did knowing Jesus as Lord ‘cost’ the man?  What does it cost you?

From Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth,” :

The original story in this gospel might have simply been about how a man was born blind and was healed by Jesus. This story was then later expanded due to the suffering and needs of the community for which John was writing. He was taking an experience of Jesus and applying it to the present situation. Isn’t that how the Spirit of the Risen Lord usually works? So John’s gospel has a trial and expulsion from the synagogue of Jewish converts to Christianity. This did not happen in Jesus’ day, but it did happen to those of John’s community. For this community to live through this very difficult time, Jesus must be seen and accepted as the true Light of the World that can help them overcome the darkness in which they were living. The washing in the pool of Siloam also suggests a further connection with baptism since the early Church often called baptism an ‘illumination” (photismos).

(Also, from Celebration, March 10, 2002)

From John Foley, S.J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” :

Why is this reading presented during Lent? Because it is pointing to the even greater healing that Easter offers us. We need to prepare for this. Jesus himself will suffer from the blindness of the world and will die because of the blindness of evil. Jesus will descend into the unseeing darkness of mortality, death, and by doing this he will show that love – God’s love –is stronger than death. By his death the world can be healed of its hatred, fear, insecurity; it can finally, once and for all, be assured of God’s love and power to bring good out of even the worst of evils. For, it is the crucified One who is the Risen One. We need to admit that we are like this blind man; we cannot see very well. Our eyes need to be opened. Due to Jesus, we can begin to glimpse and trust God’s answer to blindness, suffering, and sin.

Martin Luther King Jr. says, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Helen Keller was blind and deaf.  Her teacher Anne Sullivan signed the word ‘water’ as she pumped from the well.  It was in that moment that Helen had comprehension that words stood for things.  She says, “She (Sullivan) awakened in me a long forgotten memory…the realization of that word…the touch of the water called my soul to life…she brought me into the light again.”

Some thought from Henri Nouwen in Here and Now:

.  “…pain can be embraced, not out of a desire to suffer, but in the knowledge that something new will be born in the pain, “ (p. 47)

“What really counts is our willingness to let the immense sufferings of our brothers and sisters free us from all arrogance and from all judgments and condemnations and give us a heart as gentle and humble as the heart of Jesus, “ (p. 78).

Shamed, Believed, Evangelized

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…


3rd Sunday of Lent A 2017

They should never have met.  Jesus, tired from a long journey, takes a seat and a moment away from his disciples in the middle of the day.   This is the only time in John’s Gospel that admits of such weakness in Jesus.  The Samaritan woman comes to draw water in the midst of the hottest time of the day, well after the other women in the village had come. It is not an accident.  She comes at this time to avoid them – their talk to her face or behind her back, their withering looks of judgment.  We would still whisper today about a woman married five times and living with another man still.  Imagine the scandal she must have been in the small, tight knit community.  I picture her stooped, eyes downcast, trying to make her small enough to hide in plain…

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3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle A


3rd Sunday of Lent, Cycle A

“God thirsts for us so that we may thirst for God.” ~St Augustine

Opening Prayer:
Lord, giver of living water,
Quench my thirst.
Open my heart and fill me with your presence.
Give me a bucket so I may draw from the well of You.
Help me share this water with others
just be being the person you made me to be.
Open my ears to what you are trying to teach me
through the Samaritan woman. AMEN

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John ( 4: 5-42).
What does water mean to you? Think about a time when you have been very thirsty . . .Jesus is the one who can give us the living water that can soften our hard hearts. How can our experience of water speak to us about the life Jesus offers us?

+What do you make of the setting – a well at noon, and this well is not the local well, but one that is ½ mile away?
+Jesus is thirsty – he is human and in need.
Perhaps the human Jesus also speaks to us of God’s thirst
as he begins an encounter with this woman.
For what or whom do you think the God-in-Jesus ‘thirsts’?
+This story was a very important one for early Christians –
especially as they prepared people for baptism.
What does it say to you about faith and baptism?

This woman appears to be a moral outcast for she is not comfortable going to the well in her village of Sychar. She is even not comfortable going to this one except at noon, during the heat of the day when she thinks that no one else will be there. The conversation that John gives us must have been only a brief report of a much longer encounter with Jesus. But however it took place, it seems that here this woman (this outsider) has found someone with kindness in his eyes; to this one she could open her heart. In this story we see three characteristics of Jesus:
**  his humanity
**  his warmth and compassion
**  his ability and courage to breakdown barriers.
Jesus is weary and thirsty and exhausted – yet he does not mind reaching out to this woman – and even letting this woman help him. She seems to sense his compassion and care, for she finds it easy to talk with him once she overcomes the shock that he reaches out to her. But besides being a Samaritan, this one is also a woman. Most Rabbis’ in Jesus’ day would not even talk with their own wife or daughter in public, much less a stranger and one with a notorious character. (Pharisees were often called ‘the bruised and bleeding’ ones because when they saw a woman on the street they would close their eyes which often led them to bump into walls or trip over stones!) (Wm. Barclay, The Gospel of John, vol.1, p. 147-164)

Although this is the year of Matthew, we will hear from John’s gospel for the next three weeks. Matthew’s gospel was probably written by and for Jewish Christians who were trying to integrate their belief in Jesus with their Jewish traditions and beliefs. John’s gospel was written at the end of the first century when many Christians had faced intense persecution and were disappointed that Jesus had not returned in the Second Coming. In this faith crisis, they asked “Where is the Risen Christ?” John’s gospel tried to help them see that the Risen Christ is right in their midst – if they could but see! John uses a different type of writing from the other gospels. He wanted to encourage people to think allegorically – to see more than one level of meaning in what he is saying. So he often ‘plays’ on double meanings of words: being born again – water and thirst – light and darkness – food, bread and hunger – sight and blindness – life and death . . . (Share the Word, March, 1999)

The Samaritans were a people who, like the Jews, awaited a Messiah; they looked for a teacher rather than a ruler. They had once been a part of the Jewish people, but now they were shunned. When they had been conquered, they chose to intermarry. They were seen as unclean. When after the Jewish Exile, they had offered to help the Jews rebuild the temple, they were rejected. Hatred grew on both sides. Sometimes the Samaritans worked with the enemies of the Jews. During their separation from the Jews, the Samaritans worshipped the idols of the pagans with whom they had intermarried. The Samaritans had five false gods (the Samaritan woman had five husbands). They even built a rival temple on Mt. Gerizim. In 128 B.C. Jews had retaliated by destroying this temple. Both Jews and Samaritans had great hostility toward each other — their hearts were hardened. In this story Jesus challenges us to overcome such hardness. (Celebration, Feb. 2005)

Notice that the Samaritan woman names Jesus the Messiah when she goes into the city. Once the disciples caught up with Jesus, they call him Rabbi. Perhaps they are not ready to see Jesus as the Savior like she is. Think about people in your own life that you see all the time and yet may not really SEE them. Yet the Samaritan woman does see. She experiences conversion. Hear what Jesus says. Some people imagine eternal life as a future reality, too shadowy to have any real meaning. Jesus is speaking of something quite different, something that is already beginning now. He also calls the Samaritan woman to an authentic, personal encounter. He asks her to believe HIM, not simply his words. She most likely had plenty of relationships, but no true encounters up to this point in her life (Gittins, A., Encountering Jesus, p. 110-113).

Here Jesus is also ‘breaking down ’gender barriers.’ This person not only comes ‘to know Jesus’ as a prophet and the Messiah, but she goes forth – leaving behind her water jug – to invite others to come and know Jesus. She acts like an apostle. She illustrates what we are all called to do by our baptism. She is not even deterred by the ‘shameful parts’ of her life – nor is Jesus. It seems that John’s gospel is confirming women’s roles as important ones. (The Cultural World of Jesus Cycle A, John Pilch, 56)

Let us pray:
Jesus, could you possibly be the Christ?
May we know this, feel this, and live this in our lives. AMEN

Resist Temptation

Fr. Bob’s homily last Sunday…


1st Sunday of Lent A

Do you think the serpent would have convinced you to eat the forbidden fruit?  I certainly think the serpent would have gotten me.  The brilliance of the story is how, in such a simple fashion, the seducer’s temptation covers all our weaknesses and exposes our vulnerability to sin.  The serpent misses not a trick in the fall of Adam and Eve.   It is the root of all temptation.  Their failing is called “Original Sin” because all of our sins resemble theirs.

The very first strategy of the serpent is the most reliable.  He lies.  “”Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”  Of course only the two trees in the middle of the garden were forbidden. Lies are inherent in sin because truth so closely belongs to God.  Eve to her credit rejects the notion but…

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Chillin’ with St. Kateri BY: Kris Rooney

Have you ever sat alone in an empty church before?  It used to creep me out for some reason.  I think I thought all the saints were looking at me.  Now I find it very peaceful – highly recommend.

Anyway, I found myself alone in the Union Street church this week, and I got to thinking about how my Lent is going so far.  I’m doing a lot of things, but I’m kinda floating along in them.  You know what I mean?  Like I do them, cross them off the list and move on to the next thing.  Not much is really sinking in.  I’m not giving them a chance because I don’t make the time.

Once that starts to happen (and I’m hoping I’m not alone here), I get punchy.  I’m less tolerant, less patient with people.  I go to bed at night, look back on the day and it’s a blur.  I do have multiple moments of grace.  I just need to pause more and allow these moments to come in and move me.

That’s when I noticed the St. Kateri Tekakwitha portrait that I attached in this blog entry.  Look at the scene.  Look how lovingly and freely St. Kateri is giving a little wooden cross to a child.  It’s so simple, so small.  It’s not very much, and it’s all she can do, but she gives it openly and with great joy.  She gives the cross kneeling next to the child; she sees herself as an equal.  A young boy watches on, enamored by what is happening in front of him.  He seems to be in awe of it.  He draws us into the story.  The girl receiving the cross looks happy and grateful.  Her hands point at herself as if to say, “Is that for me?  Do I get to have that?  Do I get to know Christ and His love for me?”  And St. Kateri, in her loving gaze, seems to say, “Oh yes, little one.”

This may have been only a blip in St. Kateri’s day.  She probably quickly went on to something else after that.  She might not even remember having done it later in the day.   Or known that something BIG happened inside that little girl because of this one, small gesture.

It was like St. Kateri was trying to tell me something.  Take the time.  Be in those moments.  Allow the grace.  It might be a chance for Christ’s love to shine out, and that would be a shame to miss.

So thanks, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and I look forward to keeping my eyes and heart more open for the rest of Lent.  Who knows what I will notice, but I bet it will be good.  I hope you get to notice small moments of grace in your busy days too.  And maybe spend some time chillin’ with our patron saint.

2nd Sunday of Lent, cycle A

The Gospel – Matthew 17: 1-9

Mountaintops have often been symbols for peak spiritual experiences. Moses, the freeing lawgiver, and Elijah, the wonder-working prophet, met God on Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb (two names for the same mountain). At Sinai the Hebrew people had been wanderers who lived in tents. A tent became the Ark of the Covenant, a symbol of God’s sheltering presence in the wilderness.  As they traveled, God went with them, a cloud by day and fire by night (Exodus 40). The booths that Peter wants to build symbolize this sheltering presence of God.  (Sunday by Sunday, Feb. 28, 1999 from Good Ground Press )


Is your experience of God’s presence this Lent more like a mountaintop or a journey through a valley – or desert – a cloud?  What does it mean to you to have God’s favor rest on Jesus – on us?


All of Lent is about either preparing for baptism or learning to live our baptism more fully. We are called to listen to Jesus – to journey with our God – to grow in holiness. All of this will mean a share in God’s glory – God’s own life, but it will also mean an embrace of suffering.  Through baptism we all share in the life of the glorified Christ.  This life is the blessing of holiness, promised to Abraham by God and made possible through the transformative grace of Jesus’ suffering and death.


From Living Liturgy, Year A, p.68:

Christian living is about being touched by Jesus so that the fleeting moments of glory are made permanent in bettering the lives of others.  ‘Coming down from the mountain’ may be a metaphor for the need to take up the ministry of Jesus. Listening to Jesus and being touched by him should draw us outside of ourselves – and our ‘comfort zones.’ We don’t build tents: we feed the hungry, cloth the naked, touch the downhearted, visit the lonely, encourage the discouraged, etc. In this way Christ touches others through us. This kind of living is eminently practical and requires a real and constant dying to self. Why do we try to live this way? Because we have great hope in the outcome: helping to create a better world here (God’s kingdom) and forever.


Consider the following paradoxes:

1) The account of the Transfiguration is sandwiched between two predictions of his passion and death.

2) Peter, James, and John were also the three who were with Jesus in Gethsemane.

3) Jesus tells his disciples not to mention this vision until after his suffering.

The image of Christ transfigured is that of Christ being glorified after the suffering and death. 

How do you understand what is called the paschal mystery?

Here are some thoughts from Ronald Rolheiser, The Holy Longing:

The paschal mystery is the mystery of how we, after undergoing some kind of death, receive new life and new spirit. Jesus, in both his teaching and in his life, showed us a clear paradigm for how this should happen. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies it yields a rich harvest.” (John 12:24) These words of Jesus define the paschal mystery: namely, in order to come to fuller life and spirit we must constantly be letting go of present life and spirit. Terminal death is a death that ends life and ends possibilities. Paschal death is a death that, while ending one kind of life, opens the person undergoing it to receive a deeper and richer form of life.

Daily we undergo this paschal mystery.

In more colloquial language it is this:

  1. Name your deaths (Good Friday).
  2. Claim your births (Easter).
  3. Grieve what you have lost and adjust to the new reality (the 40 days after Easter).
  4. Do not cling to the old; let it ascend and give you its blessing (Ascension).
  5. Accept the spirit of the life that you are in fact living (Pentecost). (The Holy Longing, pp. 145-148)


Have you ever experienced a transfiguration? Have you ever seen a plain girl become a radiant beauty when she is seen through the eyes of love? Have you ever seen a timid, ordinary person become a ‘lion’, a hero, when someone was in need of help? Have you ever noticed a homely face become remarkably attractive as they share their enthusiasm for something they love? Have you ever met someone who appeared to be rather ordinary only to discover how extraordinary they really are? Have you ever felt tired, discouraged, and alone only to quietly, but deeply begin to feel God’s presence and care? Afterwards, you can’t really doubt that it was from God, even though you may still not understand it. These experiences may help us to understand a little better the gospel experience. For a moment  the three disciples experience Jesus in the complete union with God that he is.

It was a short vision of how things really are at their core. Yet, Jesus will go on to suffer. The Transfiguration was one way to show that Jesus’ suffering would not negate his divinity. Suffering is not foreign to the Father or to Jesus. (John Foley, S.J. “Spirituality of the Readings,” )

What to Give up for Lent

Father Bob’s homily last Sunday…


8th Sunday in Ordinary Time A

Maybe your life is very different than mine. Maybe in your life you simply have too much time and you are looking for ways to waste it.  Maybe you have an overabundance of energy at the end of the day, and you want to spend it on something useless.  If that is true than the next few hundred words will be a bit of a waste for you. But if not, I have something that promises to save time and energy and it will cost you nothing.  What if you gave up worrying?

Now I know that worrying is a priority for you and you might not want to let it go.  For example, it is more important than homework, because before you even begin it, you have to explain how much you have and how concerned you are…

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