Pulling All the Stops

On July 17, I celebrated the fourth anniversary of my priesthood ordination.  It brought back some great memories.  At my Ordination Mass in Tyler that hot Saturday morning four years ago, about half of the attendees were non-Catholics.  Many of whom had never even been to a Catholic Mass.  As many of you know, a priesthood ordination is one of the most impressive liturgies the Catholic Church offers.  All the ministers are well-practiced; there are gold and white vestments; incense, chant and many external signs and symbols accompany the ordination rite.  Since so many attendees were Protestants, I was curious about how they would react to such traditional worship.  The week after my ordination, so many of these people stopped by my parents’ house to say how they were moved by the ceremony — that they had never seen such beauty and that the ‘choreography’ even rivaled that of military ceremonies.  The most interesting comment came from a gentleman whose son had graduated with me from high school.  They are members of the Church of the Nazarene in Gilmer.  I asked him what he thought of the Ordination.  He said, “I don’t know if I believe all things Catholics believe, but I will say this . . . when you Catholics worship God, y’all pull all the stops!”  He told me that he had always thought Catholics mechanically went through the motions of standing, sitting, kneeling, etc.  However, what he found is that Catholics were really praying through these gestures. … Continue reading

A Meditation on the Word

From The Gospel of St. John, 1:1: “In principio erat Verbum et Verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat Verbum” “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Words have meaning. That should go without saying, but it seems so often we forget. In John’s gospel he not only refers to Jesus as a word of God but the Word of God; singular, in Latin: Verbum. Verbum is the root of the Spanish verbo and the English verb, though translated as word. In the Latin and the Spanish verbum and verbo imply action, movement; neither is a static word. When someone gives us their “word” or claims “my word is my bond” the implication is that of an unbreakable promise, an intimate covenant. In essence, to give one’s word is to give oneself. To say “you have my word” is to say, “You have me. You have the greatest and most sincere gift I can give: myself. You have the very essence of who I am.” When John tells us that Jesus is the Word of God he is telling us that Jesus is the very “self” of God brought forth by His own utterance. Jesus is the Word and the Word is God much in the way that our words are who we are, poured forth. Yet, with God, the Word is so much greater. When God gives His word, his Word, His entire being is spoken for the world He … Continue reading

Weeds and Hypocrites

Have you ever heard someone say, “I don’t go to church because it’s just full of a bunch of hypocrites”?  As a priest, I have to tell you that I hear this over and over again.  Maybe you hear it constantly, too.  It is disappointing, not just because there is some truth to it — that there are Christians who misrepresent what we believe because of their public sinfulness — but because the people who say such things close themselves to a relationship with God (which is bad enough) but also close themselves to fruitful relationships with others in the Church. In Matthew 13, Our Lord continues to preach parables of the kingdom of heaven.  In the “Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat,” Jesus warns His disciples that there will be weeds in the harvest, that is, those who do evil and cause scandal even in the Church.  God permits them to exist alongside the wheat — the good grain — those who live faithfully to Christ and His Church.  Again, [like last week] the temptation for us is to automatically justify ourselves.  We might think about all those sinful people out there, or we might look around our parish and think of those people here who are poor examples of Christians.  Due to our pride or our “being set in our ways,” we can deceive ourselves into thinking that we are definitely the wheat — the good Christians — and that we couldn’t possibly be weeds in the … Continue reading

Hide and No Seek

Hide and Seek

You see my dear Wormwood, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turning, without milestone, without signposts. (C S Lewis Screwtape Letters)   How unfashionable it is today to speak of Hell.  Bringing the subject up in a conversation will likely bring comments of condemnation, ridicule, accusations of simplemindedness, or worse, dismissal.  How the times have changed.  In an age not too long passed, we may have risked condemnation, literally, for not speaking of Hell; today to speak on the topic brings derision.  Even within many Catholic circles we are loath to suggest that anyone may be in Hell.  Think of it, this paradigm exists because we don’t want to offend anyone, most noteworthy those who may be racing toward Hell on an easy and straight path.  Does the possibility of a son or daughter, a parent, a friend or anyone going to Hell not bother us?  We approach end of life issues with the same degree of concern as running a red light….if I get caught it won’t be that bad, it’ll all work out.  Really?  Is that the depth of our philosophy? Is that the extent of our search for goodness?   Why is there such an adversity to the mention and belief in Hell?  I admit, it is a fairly unpleasant topic but then again so is war, cancer, and climate change but we don’t seem to have any difficulty talking about them.  Consider that there are … Continue reading

A Sower Went Out to Sow

A sower went out to sow (Mt 13:3).  The parable that Jesus Christ uses in Matthew 13 would certainly appeal to the people of His day.  They were farmers, workers of the land.  They would know the frustration of 75% wasted seed, and they would appreciate even just 25% good fruit.  As Catholic Christians living in the third millennium — despite our modern professions and experience — the “Parable of the Sower” still has power to speak to us today.  If you are reading this, most likely you are already “bearing fruit” in some way with your faith.  However, the temptation for all of us is to think that the bearing of fruit is finished.  It is easy for us to think of other people who fall into the categories of the 75% bad fruit: the bad seed who got eaten up by birds (atheists and infidels); or who sprang up immediately and then got scorched (those who quit going to church when things got too tough); or those who got smothered by thorns (people who allowed material wealth to replace their faith). Just because we have already produced good fruit does not mean we are finished.  We are still susceptible to the other 75% of seed.  Satan, the bird who eats the seed of the Word of God that fell on the path, still wants to rob us of God’s grace.  Our flesh, still wanting to be comfortable, can prevent us from being rooted in God (and if we allow our … Continue reading