Hi everyone... here's my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE - November 22, 2015 - The readings for today can be found at:  I'm grateful for you reading my blog; for sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, Redditt - and for all your feedback and comments.  My best wishes to you and yours for a Happy Thanksgiving.  God Bless - Fr Jim

          In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris France last week, and the second wave of terror coming in the form of video threats, further scares and evacuations, live action footage of arrests and abject, understandable fear gripping well beyond the city borders of Paris - came a touching and moving exchange that hopefully has gone more viral then some of the more horrific violent images we’ve seen.

It was a less than 2 minute interview in front of the theater where the greatest loss of life took place at a concert last Friday night that had become a make-shift memorial. A reporter goes up to a Father with his young son and asks the little boy:  Do you understand what's happened? Do you understand why these people have done this?   Questions most adults would be at a loss as to how to respond too.  But the little boy responded very simply, but with profound honesty and understanding: Yes, because they are very, very, very bad. Bad people aren't very nice. And we have to be very careful - he then shares what his deeply felt, understandable feeling  ...we need to move our home.

The father interrupts and says to the boy:   No, don't worry, we don't have to move. France is our home. To which his son asks  But what about the baddies, Dad?   His father responds There are baddies everywhere. There are bad guys everywhere. To which the little guy argues But they've got guns. They can shoot us because they're very, very bad, Daddy.  At that, the Father very confidently and seemingly matter of factly says: They've got guns but we have flowers.

The first time I saw this the clip of the video ended there - but the interview actually continued with the boy continuing to question his father - arguing But flowers don't do anything. They're for... they're for... they're for... as he tried to find a word to describe flowers... And the Father interrupts: Look, everyone is laying flowers here. And the boy acknowledges it: Yes. The Father says It's to fight against the guns. The Boy asks : Is it for protection?  And the Father answers: That's right.  To which the Boy continues: And the candles too?  The Father explains : They're so we don't forget the people who have gone.  Boy: Oh. The flowers and candles are there to protect us? Father: Yes.  Journalist: Do you feel better now?  Boy: Yes, I feel better.  [see the video here: ]

           There’s a reason that well over 8 million people have viewed this exchange on line.  In the face of unspeakable human evil, we are often at a loss as adults to understand it, explain it. We struggle with the questions of right and wrong; protection versus isolation; we fight, argue, debate over how to respond - and often times after all of that, don’t get that right either.  Then as we look at these little ones, our children; after trying to address our pressing and immediate fears over protecting them from “the baddies” and mean people; we are rendered helpless in wanting to shield their eyes from disturbing images - and speechless to answer their fears, worries and confusion.  That’s why seeing this father and son so honestly discuss such horrifically real things catches our attention.

           Of course it’s also spurred dialogue and debate... “What do flowers do?” Just as the little boy looking for assurances of protection wants to know;  there were others wanting to dismiss the Father’s answers as a form of naivete... silly... overly optimistic. It felt similar to those who wrote advancing the argument “Don’t pray for Paris.”  That in part originated from some cartoonists from the French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, the targets of a terrorist attack in France earlier this year. They wrote in a posting:  Friends from the whole world, thank you for the #prayfor paris, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and joy! Parisisaboutlife 

           What do flowers do? What do prayers do? On the surface - one can argue the doubters have a point. A wall of flowers will not stop a bullet, a blast from a bomb, or the blade of a knife. And merely hashtagging “PrayersforParis” can be somewhat trite and meaningless if that’s all it is - a hashtag.

           And here’s where living as people of faith, we struggle with the notion of living in the world, but not of the world.  Of recognizing what we celebrate today - Christ our King.  Because it’s an either or kind of thing - Either we meant what we say or that too is a trite saying:  Either Christ truly is our King or he’s not.  And that is a tremendously complex thing.

Which we can appreciate in this Gospel passage.  Pilate as the Roman Governor, has been put in charge of continuing to occupy this Jewish territory and keep the Jews under their control. Pilate has little personal interest in Jesus. His question “Are you the king of the Jews?”  is a reaction to his pragmatic, immediate concerns. He is basically asking himself - Is this guy a potential threat to Rome? Why is he getting the Jewish leaders (who Pilate wants to keep quiet and under his control) so angry?

           Jesus pretty quickly alleviates Pilate’s concerns. Just on the surface, it’s obvious he’s not a threat.  Jesus has been dragged in front of Pilate shackled as a prisoner; there’s little defense being offered - no armies to speak of, no one out planning an attack or offensive to free Him.

But Jesus doesn’t dismiss his Kingship - He explains that His Kingdom, a kingdom of truth - is not of this world. Pilate sees Jesus isn’t a threat. Pilate knows Jesus’ innocence.  In other Gospel accounts, we even get the sense that Pilate has some fascination in Jesus. Perhaps he perceives that far from being a threat, Jesus actually loves Pilate - just as he loves those calling for his crucifixion and death. Jesus loves because that is His truth... That is what He has come to testify to. That is the Kingdom of God - a redemptive, salvific, eternal love for humanity - which Jesus has come to usher in.

         Yet Pilate can’t hear it, or comprehend it  Why? Jesus tells us:   “ Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate’s too worried about his career. He’s too interested in his success, in prestige to be bothered with this seeming pre-cursor to “flower people.”

           And so that remains true today. “We have flowers” - can’t be seen as some magic phrase to make everyone all feel better.   That symbolic gesture - observed and shared between a Father and Son was meant to teach an important, essential truth to the young boy (and remind all of us grown ups as well) that good will ultimately triumph evil; Love will always, always conquer hate.  But in order for that to be true, in order for that to be real, in order for that to resonate, we have to be doing more than just laying flowers down and instagramming an Eifel tower with our variation of prayers that are trending.

The way of goodness, the life of Love - true goodness, real, authentic love which our King demonstrates on the Cross and continues to give us as we are continued to be nourished on that selfless gift as we eat His very Body and Blood in the Eucharist confounds the world, and confounds us.  Pope Francis noted this the other day.  He very emotionally reflected on how Jesus weeps because we continue to choose the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities... and that this is illustrated “while arms dealers go about their business, there are the poor peacemakers who, empty themselves in helping another person and another and another - they spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives as Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta did - against whom the powerful, worldly cynic might say “But what did she ever accomplish?  She wasted her life helping others on their way to death.”    With great sadness, the Pope added “the world has not understood the way of peace.

We have trouble with that too.  In the face of Evil - unadulterated, vile, hateful evil - after we’ve done what we can to defend, protect ourselves and re-establish a semblance of security, the temptation to vengeance is intense.  We find ourselves doubting the possibility of peace -- of  love -- as our fears over threats real or imagined multiply.    And so this gospel passage we hear of Christ as our King, standing in front of Pilate about to be sentenced to death upsets us, angers us... Doesn’t exactly resonate.

But even if we look in that chaos, in that terror, in the fear of Paris - we still see members of His kingdom standing out. who confound the world and confound us in their acts of selflessness.  They give life to what Pope Benedict once said “God does not have a fixed plan that he must carry out; on the contrary, he has many different ways of finding man and even turning his wrong wasy into right ways… the feast of Christ the King sis therefore not a feast of those who are subjugated but a feast of those who know that they are in the hands of the one who writes straight with crooked lines.”   In the midst of the horrors in Paris, we saw that as medical staffs risked their own safety rushing from their homes into the hospitals to assist those in need; or in people in local neighborhoods who saw people terrified running for their lives and instead of barricading their doors and hiding under the beds went out and brought people into safety; or - as they so often do, day in and day out -- police and military who once again laid down their lives to save others.

Those actions only are possible if you believe in true goodness; authentic love; which is at the heart of God's Kingdom.  That’s when the eyes of faith begin to see the way of peace; and the people of faith go after it; share it; make it real to the world.  That’s when we understand the deeper meaning expressed in the sentiment:  we have flowers...

So how can we live our life with this understanding? If we  take on the role of a peacemaker for Jesus then our life won’t make sense in light of the terrorist attacks or any other struggle for that matter. The world wants to be “practical” where they think that prayer and good acts towards others won’t win a war. But, the real battles being fought are spiritual … unseen. And those in Christ know how to be equipped to fight and it doesn’t look like the battles we see. However, we know that the spiritual battle is ultimately already won.  Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe has secured that victory in rising from the dead.  His reign extends beyond our day, our time, our space into all eternity.  And our living as members of His Kingdom, gives us the confidence and the strength to take up the call, the challenge and engage this battle daily knowing we have already won.


Hi everyone.  Here's my homily for November 15, 2015 - the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Today's readings can be found at  Thanks for reading, for sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - and for all your comments and feedback.  Grateful for your support.  Have a great week - God Bless - Fr. Jim


A few weeks ago, a student here at Montclair State University had warned me that the end of the world was coming. He knew it was true because he read about it on Facebook. I’ve read the article about a dozen times, and still remain unsure of how this group of Christians came to this conclusion with the certainty that they had. Because it wasn’t just some mysterious, hidden open-ended time frame like "any day now." No they had a specific day- Wednesday October 7th . When Midnight passed and we made it safely to October 8th (one side note, does it have to be midnight in the Eastern Time Zone?) They began to recalculate and adjusted the date to October 14th. With today being a month and a day later, they have once again conceded they got it wrong. Perhaps they should’ve carried the one and subtracted the 8 and that their dates might be off again - so they’ve revised the prediction of the end of the world to soon.

I don’t mean to across as flippant about the end of the world. The fascination bordering on obsession for some over fears of the end of the world has been around for centuries – even before Christ’s warnings were first uttered in today’s Gospel. The Jews experiences of the great flood, of being in exile, being in slavery all contained elements of it being "the end of the world as they knew it" - and unlike the 90's rock band REM - they didn’t feel fine any time they occurred.

Jesus’ prophetic words to his followers, which he first shared right before his Passion were jarring for his listeners to hear and ultimately to experience for themselves... as many scholars agree He was predicting the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. That was a pretty terrifying experince. There was a massive rebellion between the Jews and the Romans who had occupied their land. Historians disagree over the specifics of this devastation. Some Jewish historians claim that more than a million Jews were killed and only 30,000 survived. Others quote Roman historians who put the number at 115,800 bodies being carried through this one gate. Was it 100,000 - 200,000? Did it feel like a million? Was it a million? Not to disrespect any of the lives lost, but in one sense, the actual number isn’t as important as it most definitely felt like it was the end of the world. Think of it this way, 14 years later, we in this New York City metropolitan area are still reeling from the deaths of over 3,000 on September 11th 2001. So if it was "only" 100,000 - well I’m sure that felt like a million were lost. And I’m sure it felt like the end of the world to be sure.

So Jesus was no doubt trying to prepare his listeners for that horrific day... Yet we know the Gospel transcends time and space and specific historical experiences. You can read this entire Gospel passage as another foreshadowing of his own personal tribulation which would’ve made the disciples freaked out as well. Jesus being led to a cross and crucified is described in the Gospel of Matthew as the powers of heaven shaken and darkness covering the whole land. This could explain some of the earliest followers expectation after Jesus resurrection that the end of time was imminent. As generations of Christians died before Jesus’ return, and that "end time" failed to materialize, people often looked throughout the centuries to these end-times passages for clues to see when the end of the world would come.

When different plagues struck in the Middle Ages, for example, and again, millions died horrific deaths from disease - or during other times of terrible wars, or natural tragedies of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano erruptions – survivors were often times believing that the world was coming to an end. I had finished working on this homily Thursday night - never imagining the horrors that these evil, horrendous terrorists would unleash on hundreds of people in Paris France Friday evening. Just terrifying evil, violence, murder... This a week or so after terrorists would shoot a plane out of the sky killing hundreds. Not to forget these barbarians who have been slaughtering Christians with beheadings, crucifixions, burning people alive, raping women and children. Pope Francis called all of these things pieces of "A Third World War." That’s not being said for dramatic effect. Some might want to be blind and oblivious to this and wish it to go away - and we all do - but you can’t be blind and ignorant to this real evil that is marching on. And all of that has the ability to breed, once again, this thought that the world is coming to an end - this time, for real...

All of which is understandable. Whenever there’s suffering.... whenever there’s loss... whenever there’s pain, we as people of faith try to understand what is God’s plan in this - Where is God in all of this? It’s not uncommon even for those who wouldn’t necessarily describe themselves as faithful, devout people to all of a sudden be demanding answers from this omnipotent, transcendent being who they never really believed in before (and now feel more justified then before to not believe in)

And we don’t have to look at the horrors of the world outside to be asking those questions. When you lose someone you love... When you learn someone who is close to you has been diagnosed with a serious illness... When divorces occur... When relationships end - when we experience brokenness... in many ways its not just a dramatic turn of expression for us to say we feel like "it’s the end of the world."

Which is why this Gospel can sound so troubling. Most people come here, come to Mass looking for God - looking for answers... looking for Hope. The last thing I want to hear when I’m looking for those things is for Jesus to talk about the sun being darkened, the moon not giving light, stars falling - heavens shaking. No Thank You! Give me something good Jesus. Give me some Hope!

But that’s a word that’s been so mis-used (among many in this culture) that it’s important to distinguish what Hope is ... This great priest named Fr. William O’Malley, who’s been a High School English Teacher, written books and I think is in his 80's by this point– once explained it like this. He said, "I’ve learned the big difference between optimism and hope. Optimism is 'Annie' [that’s the little orphan with the curly red hair] belting out, 'The sun’ll come out tomorrow! Bet yer bottom dollar there’ll be sun.' Good luck, kid. The forecast says rain for the rest of the week. Hope’s different. Hope says, 'Okay, so it’s gonna rain. We’ll get the job done anyway.' Hope says, 'It’s the last inning, and we’re down by three, but let’s go out swinging!' Unlike optimism, hope knows that quite often nice guys do finish last, but that it’s a helluva lot better to be a nice guy than to be first."

The reality is when we are in the midst of whatever our struggles are, most of the time we want optimistic words. We want someone to tell us it’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be fine. We want things to go back to the way they were. 'The sun will come out, tomorrow.' And if it doesn’t? Then what?

If things don't turn out the way we want them to, we don't have to give into pessimism. But we do need to be honest. Which is why today’s Gospel is so important for us to read and hear and reflect on because Jesus is honest; He doesn’t sugarcoat this truth. Yes, there will be tribulation and darkness - not just at the end of the world, but probably through many moments of our lives. Things might get so terrible that we feel things will 'never be the same.' But – wait for it - here are the words of hope from tonight’s Gospel – listen to them once again:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

If we’re looking for something optimistic, words that will make us feel better, or a quick fix, then those words will pass away. Because Jesus isn’t promising a quick fix. He’s not promising to make things the way they were before, or the way we would like them to be in the future. For many of us, His words probably are not going to get you a job tomorrow morning, immediately cure that illness or miraculously pull up your GPA or heal whatever that brokenness that you’re suffering from.

The point is, if that’s all we’re looking for - a quick fix, an increase of pleasure and a decrease in pain - we will, ultimately, be disappointed in life - disappointed not just by Jesus, but by the latest self-help guru or any who market the 'power of positive thinking' as a religion, or tell us the Gospel is all about 'prosperity' ('pie in the sky when you die, and steak on the plate while you wait') conveniently bypassing - the cross.

The Gospel, Jesus - who is the Word of God- is all about Hope... But we can only experience that Hope if we recognize God’s presence and activity in our lives. And that means accessing our memories to recall:

-How He loved us into existence.

-How He has sustained us, protected us, provided for us even when we’ve fallen or turned our back on Him...

-How He continues to call out to us, to remind us of His eternal love for humanity despite the terrible things that happen because of man's inhumanity to man.

-How He reveals himself through the countless, selfless, sacrificial examples of love offered by His followers day in and day out - who do so simply because they are responding to His call in their lives.

Yes, in the reality of the struggles we face, where we may be discouraged, or let down by others, Jesus Christ promises us - even though the road ahead of us may be difficult, will be difficult - that He will never leave us, and that His words of hope will never pass away.

So no matter what natural disaster, what whirlwind, what 'world' of ours 'ends' - now, or at some time in our futures - let us never forget what comes next, Who comes next - let's keep in mind, when hearing these 'end times' readings, Who it is that ultimately comes in glory, Who it is that heals our world and heals our hearts - Jesus Christ. May we let His Second Coming into our lives start right now.


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for the 32nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - November 8, 2015. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog, for your comments and feedback and for sharing this on Facebook, twitter, reddit and elsewhere through social media. Have a great week. God Bless - Fr Jim


A few years ago, one of my closest and oldest of friends – we’ve known each other since I was 4 and he was 3 years old – called me. We don’t get to see each other or talk on a regular basis, but it’s the type of friendship that we can go months without talking and seem to be able to simply pick up where we left off. So I wasn’t alarmed or surprised when I saw his name on my cell phone as it was ringing. But I could tell something was wrong by the sound of his voice. He simply said "Hey buddy - listen, I just wanted to call to tell you, my dad died a couple of nights ago." 

It was a pretty sudden shock. Mr. Ashley hadn’t been seriously sick. So I was pretty stunned. In the days after I found myself recalling different memories of growing up 2 doors down from my friends. When something like this happens, you might be surprised at how many memories you can have locked away in your heart and mind. Especially when you know someone basically your whole life. All of a sudden it was like taking a photograph book out and looking at pictures (something us older people did before digital pictures were saved on hard drives...)

Some things came back with all the details - Like I could remember Fourths of July where Mr. Ashley would light up the entire backyard with M80s, bottle rockets, and other illegal fireworks he had gotten. At Mr. Ashley’s memorial service, Brett told a story about how one day he pushed his father’s leaf blower, this gas powered piece of equipment that you’d push around (like a lawn mower) right into their in-ground pool. And how his Father didn’t kill him for doing that. As Brett was telling this story, I could see the entire episode replaying in my head (I had been there when it happened but had completely forgotten about it. Can’t quite recall exactly what my role in that whole experience was. Something tells me I wasn’t shouting "No Brett - stop, don’t...")

Other memories though, I realize now how much detail was missing. Only now learning the full story, can I appreciate the beauty of those mental pictures so much more. For example, Brett talked about this one summer when I was maybe 8 years old. Brett was probably 7 his younger brother Drew was about 5 and their family took this cross country trip in a Winnebago. I remembered them being away all summer - you remember when one of your closest friends is gone, especially when they have an in-ground pool. 

But at the Memorial service, Brett explained the reason for the trip. They had just gotten news that his younger brother Drew had a relapse of Leukemia. With this relapse, and fears over Drew’s prognosis, Mr. Ashley decided to sell his business, buy this Winnegbago and go and take his family to every National Park across the country. I had remembered hearing about the trip when they had gotten home – looking at pictures of them fishing, hearing stories of places they had visited together. But I didn’t realize why this was such an important trip or how much it had cost Mr. Ashley until his son recounted it at that memorial. You have to imagine that some of his friends, family members, colleagues at the time probably thought this was a reckless - even foolish thing to do. On one level, people probably would think it sounds sweet. But upon hearing Mr Ashley’s plans, I’m sure many tried to "talk sense" into him. Arguing, "You’re just being emotional" - "you’re not thinking clearly". To put your livelihood, your career aside for a trip?

But the thing was, it wasn’t about a trip. It was about a Father wanting to give all that he 

could for his son, for his family. When you have this little guy fighting a deadly disease. When you’ve gone to all the doctors, done all that you could do, and you’re not sure what’s going to happen, what is a Father left to do? So he completely emptied himself of all that the world tells us is necessary like finances, career. He let go of things like time and energy in order to obtain those things... And he offered them for his family, realizing that whether Drew was alive a year from then or not, he would never regret offering not just something, but everything he could out of love for his son.

That is what is at the heart of this beautiful Gospel story- offering something out of Love.

Not just something - everything...

This widow, this lady is as poor as poor can be. Her entire life savings basically amounts to one cent. And what does she do with that one cent? She gives it to the treasury (basically an offering to the temple)

The right sides of our brains is ready to pounce: What difference is that going to make to the temple? There are wealthy people making offerings of far more substantial amounts. You could see some billionaire dropping a million into the collection. That’s not a small deal, is it? Now this widow puts her penny’s in – so instead of having 1 million dollars they have 1 million dollars and one cent... So now they can build that new temple? That one cent sealed the deal? Meanwhile, she can’t afford to do that! That’s all she has left... what’s she going to do now. Yes the right side of the brain is pretty clearly judging that this was quite a foolish and reckless thing for her to do.

But you know what - she didn’t ask us for our opinion. She didn’t even ask for recognition on the list of donors (notice we don’t even know her name) This isn’t about her contribution being compared to another on some spread sheet. It’s simply her way of putting her money where her mouth and her life is... She’s come to the realization that the only thing that matters to her is God. Yes her husband has died, she’s lost a lot already. Yet, that didn’t make her bitter - it made her cling to the one thing - the ONLY thing she knew for certain she had in her life - which was God. And so, out of love for him, she offers all that she has. She gives the only thing she physically possesses – a seemingly insignificant amount of money.

Over the last 16 years of being a priest I’ve come to realize that many people have never experienced true love so they don’t know how to offer it themselves. A guy hooks up with a girl for a night and they whisper "I love you"– that’s not Love. A parent makes outrageous, guilt ridden demands and says "If you love me you’ll do this" - that’s not Love either. People look for assurances of love from others in gifts - in possessions - and somehow can’t make the connection that despite getting those things why they still don’t feel fulfilled - because that’s not love either. And there are countless other stories or examples of destructive, or manipulative behavior that people have been told or led to believe is loving behavior which is not - which is in fact quite the opposite and which is shockingly sad.

Unfortunately for many who’ve gone through such experiences, all of what I’m talking about probably does seem unreal or like a fairy tale. The rational, reasonable arguments from the world saying "how foolish and reckless these people offering their entire selves out of love are"- suddenly seem valid.

But the reality is my brothers and sisters, you can’t read the Gospels, you can’t read the scriptures and not walk away with an overwhelming, earth shattering revelation.: Jesus Christ loves us with this foolish, reckless love. God loves us like this.

The creator of the Universe - who LOVED YOU AND ME INTO EXISTENCE. He keeps loving us by giving us His son Jesus Christ - by telling us we are to follow Him and His example - which is a life of complete self-emptying, giving up his life, giving up everything for you and for me.

That’s why he’s touched and moved when he sees the poor widow acting with that same foolish, reckless abandon. He sees that she gets it. She’s been changed by the God who has so foolishly, recklessly loved her, and She loves Him back like that - by giving all that she has left to Him, knowing he won’t abandon her or let her faith be shown to be foolish or reckless.

I know for my friends, Brett and Drew, as much as they still mourn the loss of their father, they have been forever changed by their dad’s loving example. They are two of the most generous, selfless men I know.

What about us? I don’t think Jesus is putting to us a challenge -- where he sends us home to "prove" whether we love him with that selfless, self-emptying, giving love for him tonight or not (and saying, if you do, you’ll empty your savings accounts to show that – anytime you hear a preacher recommending that, run away as fast as you can). Love isn’t something we can put a dollar amount or any other quantifiable measure on.

The Gospel is not about our bank accounts. It’s about our hearts. And that takes a lifetime for us to truly offer to Him. The challenge then is more basic,- do we actually believe that Jesus loves us like that?


Hi everyone - Happy Feast of All Saints- Sunday, November 1, 2015.  The readings for today's Mass can be found at:  As always -thanks for stopping by to read this blog; for your sharing it on Facebook, twitter and reddit; and for your comments and feedback.  Have a great week!  God Bless - Fr Jim


Black Lives Matter
Blue Lives Matter
All Lives Matter
Those hashtags based on some tragic, unfortunate and deadly events have encapsulated a lot of emotion regarding the state of affairs between police officers and the communities they serve. Recently, a news organization went through some of the more recent history of these different incidents and talked about one from about 6 years ago which was quite a big story at the time: when Police Officer James Crowley arrested Harvard Professor Henry Gates 

For those who might not remember, Professor Henry Gates, had been returning home from an international trip. He and his driver were having difficulty trying to open the front door of his house. A concerned neighbor called the police thinking that she was witnessing someone trying to break into the house. When Police Sergeant Crowley arrived to investigate, Gates, who is an African-American, accused him of racial profiling. Tensions escalated, words were exchanged and Gates was arrested. Things got even more contentious since Hnry Gates is a personal friend of President Obama and so when he was asked about the incident at a press conference and characterized Gate’s arrest as "stupid." After that, something that had already been controversial in the media became even more so. The police officer, his union, and many law enforcement personnel all came out in support of Crowley. Gates had his own supporters. It seemed to bring to the forefront debates about whether white people and black people could ever understand one another’s perspective. Unlike today though, there was some productive conversations particularly when President Obama invited both men to the White House, to sit together on the porch and talk to one another in what was called "the Beer summit."

That news clip reminded me of another piece of the story that didn’t catch a lot of people’s attention, but was incredibly fascinating. A news organization did some investigation and ran a headline saying "Harvard Professor Gates, who is Half Irish, related to Cop who arrested him." The story explained that Gates had discovered after having his DNA analyzed that he was descended from an Irish immigrant from the 4th century. It turns out that Officer James Crowley, was descended from that same line. You’d have to imagine for these two men that had to be pretty surprising. Here you have a white Irish Cop and a Black scholar. In so many ways seemingly coming from completely different worlds. As things became more and more contentious, the thought that they must have absolutely nothing in common with each other and that one another had no idea what the other must go through, think, experience on a daily basis must have gone through their heads. And for the most part, had there two paths never crossed, as they did in this unfortunate encounter, they could have gone through their lives thinking that. You could almost imagine the cop working a shift, maybe driving on patrol passing the professor walking to a classroom, never imagining they had anything in common with one another.

Yet in this amazing "coincidence" - shows that they turned out to be distant relatives. Perhaps this knowledge helped ease their tensions with each other. (Well, probably the beer from the beer summit helped too) But perhaps it helped them to relate to one another on a more personal level.

When people discover some connection to one another, it seems to be able to break down walls. Maybe it’s not something like a DNA test proving a connection of centuries to some Irish ancestry like it was for Crowley and Gates. Maybe you’re talking to a classmate and discover you’re from a neighboring high school or that you’re both music majors. You both are Giants fans (and both hate the Eagles) - up until that moment you might have never imagined never thought you’d have one similarity one thing in common, But after you discover a connection, it’s hard not to appreciate that connection and feel differently. You’re able to stop seeing the differences so much and see something similar to each other.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. And like so many things in our faith, we often misunderstand what it’s all about. We often look at these Saints just as really holy people who we have nothing in common with. These are holy people who love God and God loves them. They’ve died, they’re in heaven - they got it all together, while we focus on how we struggle. We might think, hey it’s great if I get to Mass on Sunday , what connection can I have with the saints?

The reality is, today’s feast is meant to remind us, (or perhaps it’s sudden, new, shocking information to us) that we’re related to these Holy people. By our Baptisms we’ve been joined into God’s family, which is why throughout the Mass we refer to each other as brothers and sisters (not something we should be limiting just to Mass, by the way, but that’s something for another day)

The Saints are our older brothers and sisters. Men and women like you and me. Who in their day and age struggled to be good people, holy people. Tried to find God in their lives and the world around them and to respond to his direction and activity.

Which is why we had the Gospel reading we had today - Jesus’ Beatitudes. If we go up and down that list of all the people Jesus is calling "Blessed" - the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek (when have the meek ever been high on anyone’s list?) those who hunger and thirst (yeah them too) - would anyone of them consider themselves "Blessed?" Most of us when we experience moments of those things consider them "difficult time" or we’re "having a bad day."

But what makes a saint a saint is that they understand they are "blessed" not because it’s great these rough things are happening, but because they remain absolutely convinced that God is with them through that. And they pick themselves up, they remain engaged in the struggle and try to live that reality in the face of whatever trial whatever struggle they face.

And the world notices them. Even with our 30 second- attention spans - names like Francis of Assisi, Therese of the Little Flower, Augustine, from hundreds and thousands of years ago somehow resonate in our memories. And more current heroes like St. Pope John Paul II or Blessed Mother Teresa witnessed to us that saying "no" to the way the world operates and "yes" to the Lord is possible.

There’s so many other men and women though who come in and out of life - people who might not elicit the global attention like those Saints, but their holiness impacted our lives. I can think of relatives, friends, or good holy priests who affected my life - who were saints to me. Maybe you can too. People who encouraged you to go to Mass, to say your prayers, who helped raise you in the faith. People who demonstrated the Love of Christ in how they took care of others - their sacrifices, their selflessness which even after their death can bring tears to your eyes when you think of them.

They are the ones we remember in today’s feast of All Saints. Not to idolize them from afar or worship them... but to remember our connection, to see our relationship, to remind ourselves how we’re related to them. And that in the eternal kingdom of Heaven, these our older brothers and sisters in the faith are encouraging us to try to follow their example. To remember the way they lived their lives and the impact that had on our faith which testified to how God is active and present at all times in all things. In the joys and the sorrows - when we are mourning, when we are comforting those who are mourning - and everywhere in between.

Our older brothers and sisters are encouraging and rooting for us too, looking for us to move beyond the earthly divisions, the separations that the evil one causes throughout this world of ours... Telling us to keep our eyes and hearts united and focused on that banquet, that heavenly "summit" - where indeed all lives matter because God so desperately wants each one of us, black, blue and every other hue to live our call to be Saints - striving for holiness now  with and for one another so that we can be united together with Him for all eternity.


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the 30th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME- OCTOBER 25th 2015 - which was also the close of our "TRUE HAPPINESS" Intercollegiate Retreat. The readings for today’s Mass can be found at: Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and all your feedback and comments. Have a blessed week - Fr. Jim

What was the last dream you had? Can you remember what it was? When you had it?

Scientists admit that trying to figure out Why we dream is still one of the greatest unanswered questions. Researchers have offered many theories: consolidating of memories, a way for your emotions to be regulated, threat simulation— but coming to a consensus on why or what they all mean remains, a pipe dream. 

Supposedly every time we fall asleep, we dream - but whether we remember them or not depends on a whole host of factors - like how deep a sleep we’re having, how we wake up, at what point in the "dream cycle" we awake. It might have to do with what type of dream you’re having: There are times when we will wake up heart pounding, terrified by something (in case you weren’t sure – that’s a bad dream – or a nightmare) Sometimes it might be somewhat mundane - Like a repeat of some daily events or routine encounters (I’ve had dreams where I’ve called and had conversations with people that are so ordinary that I will think the next day they actually happened). In other cases it’s a bizarre fantasy or the weirdest story that not even the cheesiest TV producer would ever consider (then again, maybe they would)

There are other dreams though

- things that aren’t just the fantasy that our subconscious unleashes which we have no control over

- things that are there not just when you’re asleep... but continue well after – when we’re awake, when we are fully aware, that resonates deep down inside in our hearts, our souls.

What is it that you dream of?

This Gospel story we just heard remains one of my all time favorites. It’s the one that pretty much every person I’ve met for Spiritual Direction or confession on a regular basis might have heard me reference at one time or another. Just to recap - here’s Bartimaeus - a blind man, sitting on the roadside, begging. He hears Jesus is passing by and cries out for attention. After being rebuked by the crowds, Jesus calls for him to come forward. I’ll never forget one time praying with this scripture and trying to picture the scene - moment by moment - imagining this one on one encounter - Jesus Son of the Living God face to face with Bartimaeus - you can sense the drama, you can almost feel the build up... Almost like a movie... And then Jesus asks "What do you want me to do for you?" I remember sitting there thinking that might be the stupidest question of all time. Like if it was a movie scene and I’m the director I’m screaming CUT - Sorry Jesus, let’s take this again. He’s a blind man - He knows you’re God - "What do you want me to do for you?" Don’t you already know? Is it that hard to figure out?

But then it hit me. If I was Bartimaeus – in fact I am Bartimaeus in a lot of ways - my answer might not be so obvious. Because it’s not hard to imagine Bartimaeus asking for something else... Something like: "Jesus did you see how all those people were trying to shut me up as you were coming by.... Did you see how many people ignored me and treated me like crap. That’s just the tip of the iceburg Lord. Seriously. This world sucks. Here I am begging, groveling and these people who aren’t blind don’t give me the time of day let alone help me as I’m begging. I want you to give it to them... tell them off, smite them, do something..."

Jesus patiently listens to all of our prayers. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to take all of our suggestions. That’s not to say that He wouldn’t be troubled (or rather, isn’t troubled) by the indifference of others in our world to the hurts, the sorrows, the pains of those in need. On the cross, He experiences all of that himself so He is very attuned to all of that and is in fact close to us when we are suffering from our crosses as well.

But if that was the prayer ... if that’s what comes forth from Bartimeaus heart and soul... if that’s what He’s dreaming of - whether he’s awake or asleep - that reveals a hardness, a bitterness, an anger of heart that is devastating the man’s soul. And that, his soul and every soul - is much more important to Jesus than the physical limitation we may suffer... He would be just as disturbed by the anger, the hardness of heart, the bitterness that would need healing as he would be to the callous, lack of care and compassion of those who passed the blind beggar by.

Which is why Bartimaeus response is beautiful as it is very clear and direct... What does he say?... what is it that he has been dreaming about for sometime? What he desires is something whole and entire: Master I want to see. Notice he doesn’t say "I want my blindness cured" - which would take care of just his physical limitation. It’s deeper than that - I want to see.  

I want to see beauty,
I want to see joy
I want to see fullness
I want to see love
I want to see healing
I want to see YouI want to see the effects and power You have on the world...
I want to see me in Your eyes

What do you want me to do for you... 
What is it that you dream of? What is it beyond the superficial... beyond the bizarre... beyond the genie-in-the-lamp pipe dreams (I want to win the powerball lotto) that we dream of? What is it that when you hear Jesus asks the question What do you want me to do for you comes to mind?

Maybe we’re not sure. If you’re like me, so often I do have the shallow "Jesus get back at those people" type responses... or maybe not that negative, but silly – Jesus I gotta get this project done...(and he's kind of looking at me like - well yeah, that’s why you gotta get your stuff together and stop procrastinating and do some better time management...) Or maybe there’s some bigger stuff going on in your heart and your soul and it’s hard to know for sure what it is we want to ask for. And that’s okay. Because it’s a lot deeper question than we’re sometimes used to thinking about.

This past weekend a bunch of us from the Newman Center were on retreat with about 60 others from campuses all around the Archdiocese. And the focus of the retreat was on what is often described as a universal desire - something that every human being longs for, dreams of – for themselves and those closest to them: True Happiness.

But the problem is that so often we’ve been chasing after things that promise us happiness that seem to lead us further away from it. We’ve settled for shallow things. We’ve listened to and been convinced of lies of others saying if we do this - or buy that or follow them that we can be happy only to be let down, discouraged and so often fall for the same cycle again and again.

One part of the retreat we showed a film called "The Human Experience." It’s such a powerful film - I’ve seen it maybe half a dozen times now. And it’s basically about these two brothers search for "the meaning of life" by spending time living with the homeless in NY, disabled orphans in Peru; those dying from AIDS and Leprosy in Africa. The film is deeply moving and well worth you’re watching the 90 minute documentary (like I said I’ve seen it 6 times) But nothing’s blown me away as much as one of the first times when we had a screening for it for a particular class on campus. The professor invited her students to offer anonymous reactions and submit them to her. One student wrote: I’m watching this film where we meet disabled orphans who were abandoned after they were abused; people facing life-ending, debilitating diseases and yet when here I am a healthy, wealthy American who’s a senior in college and I can’t help but think "how are they happier and have more joy than I do?"

Yes, the desire for Happiness is universal - but the pursuits can be very different.

What do you want me to do for you - Jesus asks us today... What is it that in our heart of hearts we seek? What is the happiness we desire, we dream of? What does that look like? How does that take shape?

St. John Paul II in the year 2000 as he met with Young People at the World Youth Day of that time answered it this way:

It is Jesus in fact that you seek when you dream of happiness;
he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you;
he is the beauty to which you are so attracted;
it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise;
it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life;
it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices,
the choices that others try to stifle.
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives,
the will to follow an ideal,
the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity,
the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal

As we come to meet Jesus in the Church, in the Sacraments, in one another, in our service to one another, at this Mass in this His Word and in a few moments in receiving His Body and Blood - over and over, He keeps giving Himself to us - again and again. In these and many other ways, Jesus reveals what is His dream what it is He wants . Quite simply: us. He dreams of and desires you and I to be with Him, to be apart of Him now and always. May we like Bartimeus have our sights restored by Him
and truly see Him,
and in Him – True Happiness.


Hi everyone - here's my homily for OCTOBER 18, 2015 - the 29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - The readings for today's Mass can be found at:   Thanks as always for stopping by to read this blog and for all of your shares on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - as well as all your feedback and comments.  Have a great week - In Christ, Fr Jim

Add this to the ever-growing list of signs of the collapse of our civilization number...Who knows at this point? I’ve lost count. Reportedly in a few weeks a new App will be launched for your iPhone, androids and every other computer device imaginable; where everyone you know will be able to rate you. Yes, someone has basically created what’s being called a "Yelp" for people. We are in a world where you are able to rate everything from restaurants, to cars, to your professors, to government agencies and to even bowel movements. (That one has to be on that list of signs of the collapse of our civilization as well). Now comes this news that everyone will be a fair game for everyone to rate, comment, and scrutinize over.

As the reporter in the Washington Post breaking this story a few weeks ago accurately pointed out: "the most surprising thing about the ["App" (whose name I will not share)] may be the fact that no one has yet had the gall to launch something like it. When the App does launch, you will be able to assign reviews from one to five-star ratings to everyone you know: your exes, your co-workers, that old guy who lives next door. You can’t opt out once someone puts your name in the App’s system. It’s there unless you violate the site’s terms of service. Also, you can’t delete bad or biased reviews. That would defeat the whole purpose. Imagine every interaction you’ve ever had suddenly open to the scrutiny of the Internet public."

One of the things that surprised me was that in this era where we’ve seen the effects of cyber-bullying, you would’ve thought we wouldn’t have to point out what an atrociously horrific idea this whole thing is. However, I guess it’s hard to dissuade people like these developers who have over $7.6 million in investors’ money available, and are believing their own Public Relations, marketing spin, that this will be a great thing for everyone. They explain that everything that you do will be reviewed, judged in the open, public format under three categories: professional, personal or romantic. As one of the developers said: "That’s feedback for you! You can really use it to your advantage."

Uh - Thanks...

It would be great to think that one could possibly use this App for self-improvement, for "fraternal correction." But the reality as the inter-webs has proven time and again, is that technological advances aren’t always used for the advancements its developers had imagined. Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - they’ve all changed how we communicate and receive information in a number of ways that has been beneficial and convenient. But it’s not hard to think of examples where social-media has allowed for some awful behaviors to rise. A person feels more uninhibited, hiding behind the seeming anonymity of a profile they’ve created or some pictures they’ve chosen to share on a computer screen. We’ve heard of where people are threatened, harassed or attacked online.

But these bad behaviors don’t have to be the obvious or extreme examples or stories. There’s the more common, less obvious things that happen which this new App seems perfectly suited to expand upon. Where we look to exalt ourselves or see ourselves as great, as important by picking apart someone else’s faults, scrutinize their weaknesses, relishing their failures as a means to somehow feel better about ourselves – "I’m better than they are at this; I look better than that - I’m not as bad as this person is..."

Why does that happen? Why do so many of us seem to give in to that temptation? Probably because we want to deny our fragileness; we want to forget our weaknesses or diminish our brokenness. So by diminishing those around us, and making ourselves feel more important we try to do just that.

As "technologically advanced" as we might be with our smart-phones (that seem in instances like this to be an oxymoron) - humanity hasn’t advanced much at all. Rivalries, jealousies, envies, gossip, arrogance, moral superiority still occur just as they did thousands of years ago. Look at the gospel we just heard. What was the first thing we heard in that passage?

"Teacher we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you"

Uh - what? Talk about a QUESTION – (There’s a descriptive term that I want to use, but it’s not appropriate in a homily. The nicer way of saying it is moxy...) James and John have some MOXY. LOTS AND LOTS OF MOXY to start off like that. That’s how the two brothers started out as they lay out for everyone to hear, their power-grabbing scheme. "Grant that in your glory we may sit one on your right and the other at your left." It wasn’t enough that Jesus had chosen them to be in his inner circle; to be one of the chosen 12 apostles. They wanted to be #1 and #2. I wonder how they had worked it out amongst themselves, who was 1 and who was 2. Despite Jesus trying to gently point out the arrogance of their request, the others were just as deaf to Jesus as James and John were. As we read "when the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John." If it was happening today you could imagine Peter texting Thomas #WhoDoTheyThinkTheyAre, #ArrogantBrothers.

Mind you, this whole scene took place moments after Jesus had once again told them all that He is about to be handed over. To be condemned to die a brutal, torturous death and after that He will rise again. They kind of ignore the "cross stuff" – It’s the Glory they all want a part of: – Let’s just fast forward to the good part... yeah Jesus when that Glory happens, can we be on your right and your left.

We all crave that - to be a part of the "glory"... And ignore the other part.   The difficult part... 
Whether they are obvious or hidden from the rest of the world:  We can’t ignore the wounds, the brokenness, and the weakness that every one of us suffers from. Maybe it’s a sin that you feel ashamed about. Maybe it’s an addiction that you continue to struggle with. Maybe it’s a physical illness or pain that has taken a toll on you. Maybe it’s an emotional wound or personal pain that you haven’t shared with anyone. Maybe it’s a loss you continue to grieve about that you don’t want to admit to.
Every one of us have our own wounds, our own brokenness, and our weaknesses. It’s not defeatist to admit that. We are defeated when we deny that; when we diminish ourselves as we diminish others.

But - we can see we’re not defined by our wounds, we can begin to experience healing for our brokenness, we can overcome our weaknesses that when we listen to what Jesus is saying. Because He did not tell the apostles about what was going to happen to him – about the Unjust trial, conviction and sentence he wold face to prepare them for battle, (he knew they’d fail in that regard as they would abandon him anyway). He’s telling them and all of us He’s giving His life freely - so that we might have life. He’s offering his life to save us... What does that mean? In short, He’s teaching us that any real, life-changing love will costs us something.

Let me say that again. In a world where words like "Like" or "Friend" or "Love" have been bastardized so badly, we need to remember that love isn’t just a warm, fuzzy feeling. Love isn’t just when I feel happy about something. Love isn’t something I like to do for people who like me who I want them to do nice things for me in return... Those are at best - nice gestures and at worse, self-centered manipulation.

Jesus teaches us that Real, Life-Changing Love will costs us something. This past week, when I stopped by the Hospital where MSU Student Anna Semioli who is still in a coma from the hit and run crash she suffered here a little over a week ago - seeing her mother, her family and friends who were there for days and they refuse to leave her bedside... that’s costing them something - everything in fact - - that is Love.

When you see a person who is lonely, who is struggling and you give them your attention that costs you something, that is Love. When you choose to take care of someone else, whether it’s working at a homeless shelter, volunteering on campus or reaching out to your grandmother or grandfather who is elderly - and you give them your time and your presence - that costs you something - that is Love. Yes, to actually step into someone else’s brokenness, someone else’s weakness, someone else’s "woundedness", that will costs you something - that is Love.

But we are able to do that because He loves us this way. That’s what the cross is about. He gives up his glory, He gives up his power, and He is allowed to be made weak, to be broken, and to feel our fragileness our "woundedness." The "woundedness" of a world where human beings still try to pretend that they are gods. That they are the centers of the universe and in the process hurt themselves and others. He steps into that and it costs Him something - that is Love.

But He’s willing to make that sacrifice. To make that attempt, as He himself tells us in the Gospel tonight: "For the son of man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many." And tells us – Do you truly want to be great? You really want to be on my right or my left? Do the same.


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time - OCTOBER 11, 2015.  The readings for today can be found at Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on Facebook, twitter and reddit - and all of your comments and feedback.  Have a great week.  In Christ - Fr. Jim


It’s been about two weeks since Pope Francis made his first trip to the United States - where he visited Washington DC; New York and Philadelphia. And it was quite a historic visit: He became the first Pope to ever address the joint session of Congress; He became the first Pope to ever visit an American Prison (talk about your extremes in terms of historic firsts!) He was greeted by enthusiastic crowds; TV anchors seemed giddy and caught up in the excitement and genuinely moved by his speeches and homilies.

It was overwhelmingly a positive visit and experience for the Church and arguably for the country. It was one of the few times that we saw politicians from opposing parties genuinely happy and in unity over anything. Beautifully I saw Democrat (and Jewish) Senator from NY Charles Schummer called the Pope’s speech to congress one of the best speeches he’s ever heard and talked about how he was feeling "twinges" in his spine throughout the address.

That good-will seemed to have gotten sidetracked not long after the Pope returned to Rome. News surfaced that Pope Francis had a secret meeting while he was in Washington DC with Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who made headlines in the US a few weeks ago for refusing to sign marriage licenses of same-sex couples. Very quickly, the Press which a few days earlier had been offering positive reviews to his addresses turned on him. One headline in a newspaper read "Kim Davis? What was Pope Francis thinking?" with an opinion piece that trashed him and likened it to people supporting segregationists who refused to let black students enroll in a school in Alabama during the Civil Rights Battles of the 60's.

Maybe a day or two later, another "secret"meeting was revealed. Pope Francis met with a former student of his from when he was a teacher in Argentina. What made that visit news worthy was that this former student, Yayo Grassi, is an openly gay man who now identifies himself as an atheist and brought his partner with him who is Muslim. The meeting came about after Yayo had sent an email to the Pope (how come I can’t find his email address?) where he said he knew it was a long shot, but, since he now lived in Washington DC, he would like to see if it was possible to meet the Pope while he was in town. Pope Francis phoned him personally and said "if you have time I would love to give you a hug in Washington." To put it mildly, now people on the other side of the same-sex marriage debate lost their minds.

On some level it was fascinating watching as spokespersons, commentators, pundits, politicians adding to the confusion in the days that followed. Some parsing the Pope’s words (and actions) for their own set narratives. Others expressed disappointment, anger, even outrage. Very few seemed to be able to see past their own agendas and political stances. They liked the Pope when he conformed to their ideas. When he seemed to be on their side or with those they felt allegiance to. But in the views of the extremists on each side the Pope made the unforgivable sin of meeting with who they considered the enemy. This was just one example (and the one that seemed to get the most attention most likely because of how Kim Davis has become a polarizing figure in a very divisive debate) But look at other issues that the Pope raised and it was the same thing- Abortion; Death Penalty; care for the environment; care for the immigrants - and there was similar anger from different corners of the political/societal worlds. He was called a socialist, a communist, a Marxist, a leftist all because of his concerns about the Poor, and the immigrant. Newsweek even had a deliberately provocative cover where in large letters it asked "Is Pope Francis Catholic?" obviouslly picking up on this theme:

It was amazing seeing how people went from loving the Pope to hating on him pretty quick. Stories about the Pope’s favorable and unfavorable numbers (like he’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton) popped up - even breaking them down on the difference between Republicans and Democrats views on him; or how Catholic who attend Mass every Sunday vs those who attend less frequently. 

Quite honestly (and I’m not the Papal spokesperson, so I hope he’ll forgive my speaking for him) I don’t think Pope Francis cares. Because in short, those extreme reactions are all about the people having them - not the Pope nor the Church he leads, nor the Lord he serves for that matter. Because He is demonstrating for us Gospel living... The radicalness, the completeness of the Gospel that defies convention, defies any one particular political party, defies any one person’s particular narrow beliefs and challenges them. Because the Gospel is supposed to make all of us uncomfortable at some point. To break us out of the arrogance of our sometimes common, modern-day approaches thinking I’m right, you’re wrong - ergo I hate you and all that you stand for because obviously you’re a (fill in the blank with your own list of descriptive vocabulary). It’s okay to have strong beliefs, but not at the expense of recognizing the person that is there on the opposite side of those beliefs and our obligation to follow the greatest of all commands to love one another. To have the humility to recognize the failures, the struggles, the sins in my own life that I desperately hope the Lord will look at me with more mercy than I do to my enemies... That’s what the Pope is trying to demonstrate with us by living that Gospel message. And if we’re not challenged by that it’s either because we’re Saints or we’ve created a religion of our own.

Which is one of the fatal flaws the "Rich Man" makes in tonight’s gospel: He has created his own religion where he feels comfortable... He goes up and down the list of commandments like a checklist- Didn’t murder anyone - CHECK, Didn’t commit adultery - CHECK, Parents are okay - CHECK...and thinks I’m good... yet he can’t get past that gnawing feeling within himself that doesn’t feel completely fulfilled. There was something missing. Jesus very gently tries to probe his mind and his heart and finally underlines it for him. He’s basically saying "Buddy, why are you here? Why are you trying to justify yourself? Do you see that you have a superficial relationship with the Lord. You’re treating the Commandments like minimum requirements on an application that need to be fulfilled in order to have a reservation in heaven - meanwhile your money, your material goods, your wealth and riches - they’ve become your god, they are your master... they are the thing you think you can’t live without.

But this Gospel is more than just about riches and poverty. So often we can listen to this somewhat feeling self-righteous thinking that guy with the Jaguar is getting hammered this weekend. But the deeper message is about looking at how our relationships with the Lord can sometimes be superficial as well. That we can look at our religious practices as obligations that need to be met so we can get into heaven. We look at that - heaven, eternal life - as a different life - and that doing these basics is simply saving for our future deposit and we hope to God we have enough to get in.

Yet Jesus wants us to experience heaven now - here. And there can be a lot of things – other than money – that can be blocking us from living that life, experiencing the Kingdom of God now. Like our egos, our prejudices, our angers... Like our sinfulness, our pride... I’ll never forget one time meeting with someone in spiritual direction who had been striving to be a good Catholic, a devout Catholic - her faith had been and was becoming more and more important - but she was struggling with a particular sin and said to me "I know what I’m doing is wrong, I know what the Church is teaching is right - but I know I’m not going to stop doing it."

It’s hard for us to let go of whatever it is we’ve convinced ourselves will make us happy, or whatever it is that we think justifies our feelings (or our inadequacies). Jesus though is constantly going to be trying to get us to have a bigger vision than we’re willing to allow ourselves. To look beyond our wants, our needs, our desires. To not forget that yes He wants to have a personal intimate relationship with each of us, but that He came to save all humanity. And He is going to continue to go about that - one stubborn, sinful heart at a time.

From an article:

To be honest, when I first heard that Pope Francis met with Kim Davis, I’m ashamed to admit that I started postulating all kinds of excuses for people who were angry or expressed disappointment about it saying things like- he meets a lot of people; he probably didn’t realize how controversial a figure she was, he must’ve gotten set up or sandbagged by someone – mostly because I didn’t want the good press to end on the Papal Visit or get into a debate with people on what’s become such a harsh debate (so I guess my sin would be a pride/ego thing? Or I suppose I should say one of my sins) And it was funny, a friend agreed and pointed out"how weird is it that Pope Francis can meet with two brutal dictators - Raul and Fidel Castro a few days earlier and barely anyone got angry in the media about that - but now that he met with her, it’s like they want him to resign now or something." And we went back and forth over the different complexities of all those different stories.

Yet the more I reflect on it, it’s much, much simpler. One author writing about the Pope’s meeting seemed to hit the nail on the head: Some might see [the meeting with Kim Davis as a] mere routine in the pope's encouragement, but the eyes of faith see something more: an act of humility, imposed by his lofty office. Even an act of trust and love. [Where Pope Francis was saying:] The world hates you. I do not.

Isn’t that what Jesus is saying… Isn’t that what Jesus went through himself being hated by the world?   Isn’t that what Jesus is trying to save us from – succumbing to the lures and the ways of the world – whether they be in riches or opinions – and allow His Love to transform our lives?