Rosary as Contemplation: Homily for Saturday, October 7, 2017

Readings for Today

This feast has its roots in a battle.  As the story goes, the praying of the rosary led to victory.  That is why the original name of this day was Our Lady of Victory.  But as wonderful as the title is, I prefer the name the celebration has today: Our Lady of the Rosary.  Why?

The biggest reason is the way in which the rosary itself gets highlighted.  The rosary is such a powerful prayer of contemplation.  While it is true the victory of God is constant in the contemplation of the rosary, the connection to the events of our salvation, and to Jesus, seems clearer when compared to the rosary.

The rosary is the pathway to contemplation.  In its truest form, the rosary leads us to Jesus.  We reflect on his life, death and resurrection. The rosary also leads to discipleship. Just as the disciples responded to Jesus, Mary’s responded perfectly to God.  She too was sent.  She too was a devout follower of God.  Her constant yes is worthy of our imitation.

The Comfort of the Rosary: Homily for Friday, September 15, 2017

To listen to the entire homily, click here.

Readings for Today

Whenever I am in distress, I find the rosary a particularly helpful devotion. And today’s memorial tells us why.  Mary suffered.  She understands it.  And in her suffering, she provides a model: stay close to God and do what he says. So it only stands to reason that Mary would understand our suffering too.  And she would pray that her son would ease our suffering.

Every major religion in the world has some type of repetitive prayer. By praying the rosary, we are reminded of the events of salvation. We can meditate on what Jesus does for us.  And we can have the prayer from the woman who truly understands us.

2nd Sunday of Advent: Time to Get to the Spiritual Gym (December 4, 2016)

Anyone who belongs to a gym and exercises regularly knows that gyms will get crowded soon.  People give gym memberships, or others make New Year’s resolutions.  Either way, shortly after the first of the year, the gym is crowded.  But soon, people begin to fade away, the initial resolutions become weak, and the commitment to get in shape is gone.  Our spiritual lives can become like that too.  We have some initial enthusiasm, but without commitment and discipline, we find that we do not remain engaged in growing spiritually.

And so with the start of the second week of Advent, time to get into spiritual shape.  Read the bible.  Pray the rosary.  Seek out adoration.  Find the sacrament of confession.  Read a good spiritual book.  Talk to others.  Share your faith.  C’mon!  It is time for all of us to get into spiritual shape!

Readings for Today

Homily for the Ascension (either Sunday May 17, 2015 or Thursday, May 14, 2015)

Readings for the Ascension

Readings for the Seventh Sunday of EasterHomily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

When I was little, one of the most exciting memories for me was my first trip to Fenway Park. I was young – 7 I think – and the thought of seeing my Red Sox, LIVE, and where they played, was almost too much to bear. The Boston Red Sox were playing the Washington Senators. (For those of you not old enough to remember, these Senators became the Texas Rangers. The previous Senators became the Minnesota Twins.) At that time, in Boston, getting to Fenway Park was not so easy, and as one might expect the rural Vermonters did not have such an easy time of it. We got lost.

Now driving in Boston is an adventure. I know that there are those who think they face the worst drivers, but I think Boston, or New York, easily take the cake. If you have driven in Boston, you might know that they have rules for driving that are a little bit different than other places. First, using direction signals rarely occurs, since you would not want to tip off the enemy. Stop signs are merely suggestions. I hope you get the idea.

Finally, my father did the unthinkable for a man. He stopped to ask for directions. This was a monumental event. My father was like most men, where asking for directions is seen as a tremendous sign of weakness. “I know where we are.” But, after circling Fenway for what seemed like an eternity, we stopped at a gas station. These were the days when there were station attendants who pumped the gas into your car. At this stop, there were two men outside. I watched as my father walked over to them. It did not go as I expected. My father obviously asked how to get to Fenway. But the two men immediately pointed in opposite directions, and I new we were in trouble. They argued, and I think my father tried to remember enough of the argument to get us where we needed to go.

Being lost is not a pleasant experience. It can be especially challenging when the destination is one of excitement for us, like traveling on a vacation. Perhaps in the age of the GPS, being lost is not as difficult as it used to be. A calming voice speaks the directions to get us where we need to go.  But when we are lost, either with directions to a destination or in our lives, it is not a good place to be.

Jesus did not want such to be the case for us. It may have seemed easier if Jesus simply remained in a visible form here on earth after his resurrection. Why did he ascend back to his place in heaven at the right hand of the Father? It is because being here on this earth is not our final destination. Heaven is our ultimate end and destination. The destination where we live and love with God for all eternity.

Even though we may know this to be true, the events of our daily lives can lead us astray. What are we to do in the face of the wars, violence and terrors we hear about so often? Imagine how desperate our existence would be if this was all there was? Imagine how pitiable we would be if those killed by ISIS, for example, had their entire existence ended by their killing. Such despair. Imagine the sadness of a child contracting a terminal illness. Imagine how tragic it would be if those who are starving in our world could not at all hope for anything different?  There are many instances where these sad and tragic events would be made all the worse if this earth, and this life on earth were our ultimate end.

But it is not. Jesus did not want to leave our final destination as one where we would not know the way to get there. Even the disciples needed to ask how to get to the place where Jesus is going. But he did not want us to be left to our own devices. He wanted there to be certainty about the way, and so he reminds us he is the Way. And further, we now begin our waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The nine days between the traditional date for the celebration of the Ascension and the celebration of Pentecost is what gives rise to our notion of a novena, as the word comes from the Latin for nine. So not only do we seek to follow the Way, Jesus, but we wait because he will do even more for us. He will send the Spirit into our lives, so that we may have the help we need to live a life that leads us on the way to Christ.

What is it you should do over these nine days? How about using this time to pray. That is what the apostles and Mary did in the Upper Room. They were frightened and scared, but they new from where their strength came from. And so they placed themselves in the presence of God. So perhaps over these nine days you might seek to read the bible prayerfully. Maybe you would try to get to a daily Mass or two. Perhaps you might pray the rosary, or repeat a Scripture verse over and over. Maybe you simply find silence. You may seek in that silence to repeat prayerfully, “Come, Holy Spirit”. Whatever, take this time of waiting to come to know the Christ. Because of his example, presence and grace, you know the way.

Homily for Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Readings for Today

It can be easy to become discouraged. Every day it seems we hear of bad news occurring in our area and around the world. Each day it seems people we love, or even ourselves, can discover we have some really awful disease. Sometimes we are treated badly by others. Also, there are times when our own actions, our own sinfulness can cause discouragement as well.

The discouragement felt by disciples of Paul arises because he is being persecuted. He has been stoned, left for dead, and it is no wonder those who had heard him speak and had come to believe in Jesus became discouraged. If such a thing could happen to Paul, the eloquent speaker, it could also happen to them.

It becomes important then for us to remember the power that can arise when we receive encouragement. At the root meaning of this word is heart. And contained in this word is the concept of courage. One could say, then, that encouragement involve strengthening the heart. The heart is associated not just as the organ that pumps blood, but also represents our very soul, that place that is nearest to the very core and center of what makes us us.

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Homily for Sunday, April 26, 2015

Readings for Today

I like sheep. They are cute. They seem pretty docile to me, and they look soft and huggable. It does not seem that they could be mean. It is not usually the case that we think of “killer sheep”. I suppose they have their moments, sheep, but I prefer not to think about that. I would rather keep before me the gentle image of the “counting sheep” that are popular in the Serta Commercials.

And I have seen sheep up close. I have a friend who used to be a shepherd. They do know the voice of the shepherd. They are “herd animals” ready to travel together, sometimes following the sheep who does not always know where it is going. It gets lost. It does not like to be alone. It needs a shepherd. And the dedication of the shepherd makes all of the difference. Does the shepherd care about the sheep, or are they just drawing a paycheck?

Do you know you are loved? I mean it. Do you really know you are loved? Loved beyond your wildest imagination? Loved more than anything you can conceive? And for no other reason than that you are you? How is it I can say this with such confidence? Because of God, and what I know God has done in our lives. See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.

And even when we think we are unlovable, and even when this is the direct result of our own sinful choices, we are still loved. God may hate what we do sometimes, but God never hates us. The invitation to new life, to mercy and forgiveness is always extended to us, to you and to me. All we need to do is accept it, to acknowledge that we need to repent, that we need to change, to become more loving, more kind, more prayerful, more attentive to God and the needs of others.

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Homily for Thursday, January 1, 2015

Readings for Today

Peace. What is it that brings peace? This is a day that focuses on many things. In fact, it has been a day where we celebrate many things. But today I think of peace. And the thought of peace today means thinking about the Blessed Mother. Why? Because she shows us in how she lived her life how in the way that lead her to constantly experience true and lasting peace. “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Think of the months Mary has experienced. There was the message of the angel, the trip to Elizabeth, and the challenge being pregnant without Joseph, and explaining what had happened would be difficulty enough. Then there is the travel while pregnant and the miraculous events of the shepherds. No wonder Mary feels the need to reflect and pray. She has experienced so many things, that it is only by taking the time to treasure them in her heart that she can remain focused on the meaning that God has brought forth in her life.

When we reflect on the blessings in our life as did Mary in hers, our eyes become more attuned to the blessings that await us in our life. We can even see in the difficulties and challenges how they can become blessings. In fact, this constant reflection lets us know that indeed we are never alone.

We spoke about this when we discussed the Incarnation. Today we learned that it is not just the awareness of the Incarnation, but that this beauty of God’s presence can come to us in so many ways. Think of how Mary will experience God’s presence. An angel. Joseph. Shepherds. Wise men. Miraculous signs. Jesus. And most importantly, Mary recognizes the presence of God that never leaves her heart. It is when she can treasure the events of her life in the perspective of God’s constant presence that Mary finds the true peace that lasts.

Our world certainly needs this peace, the peace that surpasses understanding and only God can bring. If we are to have this peace, we must change our hearts. We must see how the events of our life could be seen in the way God wants us to see the world. We need to be less selfish, and learn to share. We need to make sure the witness we provide by how we live our lives is indeed the way in which the gospel calls us to live.

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Homily for Sunday, November 30, 2014

Readings for Today

Sssssh! Watch out! Wake up! Get with it! Shape up! Listen! How many of these warning phrases that call for your attention have you used or heard? I suspect most, if not all of us, have heard or used these phrases or ones that are similar. Sometimes we just need to get someone’s attention. We need to shake someone out of a comfort zone, or a lazy zone, or a time of inattention, that we use these phrases. Each of us can become, usually without even realizing it, inattentive to what is really important.

Depending on the circumstance and situation, and depending upon what we are doing, these phrases can be life saving. The passenger who alerts (or even wakes up) a distracted or sleepy driver can really be a life saver. The teacher who reminds children in a science lab of the importance of safety can do the same thing. The parent who becomes distracted for even a moment can learn how quickly a child can do something.

It is not simply that we need these reminders from others. It is not simply the case that we can be distracted from events in the outside world, it is that we can even be distracted within ourselves. We can cease to consider the importance of following God in our lives. We can become distracted spiritually. And at these moments of spiritual distraction, we need the wake up call. We need God to come charging into our lives to get us back on the right track.

But the fix for spiritual inattentiveness is quite ironic. Because even though we know that God can come crashing into our lives, often the best way for this to occur is when we can cast aside the distractions that got us into trouble in the first place. As busy as these weeks before Christmas can be, they are not always busy with spiritual things. The world around us, the shopping for gifts, the decorating and the parties can sometimes remove us from the real meaning of the incarnation.

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Homily for Thursday, October 16, 2014

Readings for Today

Every spiritual blessing in the heavens. I have read and studied this passage from Paul in his letter to the Ephesians many times, but only today did this phrase strike me. Perhaps it is because of all of the violence that surrounds us these days. It seems there will be no end to the violent conflicts that are all around us.

And yet think of the power of the phrase. Every spiritual blessing in the heavens. It can be easy for us to take the gift of the Father in Jesus for granted. But the incarnation of the Son is no small thing at all, and the gifts God longs to give us for our salvation are not small either.

As difficult as life may seem sometimes, we literally have every spiritual blessing in the heavens available to us. We are submerged in grace if we choose to accept it. Even though it may appear that evil will triumph, we have the once for all triumph of Jesus over death as evidence of the power of God’s grace.

And all that is required is that we accept this tremendous love of God in our lives, allowing this grace to change our hearts. It really is quite simple. Yet we know that there are moments and events in our lives that make this seemingly simple task not so simple. Evil can cause our hearts to become confused and our vision to be weak.

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Homily for Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Readings for Today

There is an inherent tension in Dominican life. On the one hand, we are active in ministry, engaged in the Sacred Preaching. Yet on the other hand, we recognize that this preaching comes out of the foundation and flows from contemplation. These two tensions are very difficult to hold together. On the one hand people can be more active in their personality, engaging in all kinds of busyness. On the other hand, there are those who are more reflective and not as engaged in activity.

And so it is not surprising, on this feast of the holy Rosary, that we are presented with the Gospel of Martha and Mary. In many respects, they represent this tension between action and contemplation. Martha is busy about so many things. And they are good things. She wants the house to be clean, the food to be prepared well, and the visit of Jesus to go well. She wants to provide for him all of the things of hospitality. Mary, for her part, is focused on the importance of the visit of Jesus. She is engaged in hearing his words, presumably about many things, and perhaps most about spirituality.

This becomes a problem for Martha, because she has allowed the tasks of the visit, to become more important than the visitor. This is not to suggest that working hard to entertain guests is a bad thing. It is to suggest however, that when the things she was doing were not done for the sake of the visitor, then they become less important.

Mary has chosen the better part, for Mary. We could presume that Martha, if she have been able to see the work she was doing as an example of how to serve Jesus, she might not have been so frustrated at her sister. In Dominican life, we can look upon these tensions in the same way. Western society rewards activity. Those who are seen as important people, successful people, are often those who do the most things. People who are more reflective in their life, are often valued less. It is why schools can struggle for money for the arts or for music. It gives rise to the stereotype of the writer who struggles to make ends meet. And in ministry, it can be seen that because prayer does not necessarily produce an observable product, it becomes less important.

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