The other night, a former student sent me a video with a note “Not sure if you saw this, but found this very interesting.”  It was a total of 38 seconds, and so I clicked it to check it out.  It was of the Senate Candidate from Missouri (who I had never seen or heard of before) Todd Aikin being interviewed on one of the thousands of news interview programs on one of the hundreds of News Channels on our cable systems.

In this short 38 second clip, it was obvious the candidate and the interviewer had been discussing Aikin’s pro-life beliefs when the interviewer asked a follow up question  “what about in the case of rape?  Should it be legal or not?”

Years ago when I was in college, I remember that same question coming up in debates in a variety of forums.  I remember declaring that I was Pro-Life and that abortion should be made illegal except in the cases of Rape, Incest or when the life of the mother was in danger.  I figured that was an acceptable and completely reasonable position.

I remember our professor (a woman by the way) during one of these debates challenging me  on my beliefs.  First she explained that in the cases of the life of the mother, abortion isn’t the only alternative.  That there are many medical approaches that can be taken.  It was true that sometimes those approaches could result in the death of the mother, the child, both individuals or neither...  But the difference was in the approach – try to save both lives: let the doctors work as hard as they could; allow the patients and their families to support one another and rally around the precious gifts of life that we all desire personally and want to see win out in this case; and to be open to reverence towards God, the author of life and realize how precious a gift this is.  That was much different than unilaterally deciding that the baby was going to die as abortion would clearly decide.

I realized the wisdom, the gentleness and beauty of her explanation and said “I never thought of that like that – that makes sense...” and quickly augmented my stance to say “OK, I get it, so I guess what I meant to say or what I believe is that I think abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape and incest.”

At that, she pressed me further and said “Jim, why are you Pro-Life?” and I answered “Well, because I believe that abortion is killing a baby in the womb.”  She said “So you believe that it is a baby in the womb?” I wasn’t sure where she was going with the debate, so I said “well yeah, what else could ‘it’ be - how many pregnant women have delivered a plant or a fish or something other than a human being.” She underlined this point “so you’re pro-life beliefs are based solely on the belief that this is a human baby and that abortion kills that human baby?” Getting a bit frustrated now and fearing I was being set up I responded “Yeah!”

That’s when she said the argument that made me even more firmly pro-life than I had ever been before.  “If that’s what you believe, and if that’s the basis for your beliefs - that a pregnant woman has within herself a human baby – and that abortion is the killing and destruction of that human baby, then how could you legitimately support the murdering of any baby?  How does the murdering of the baby because he or she was conceived due to rape or incest the fault of this innocent baby?  Why does he or she deserve a punishment for the crimes of the father?”

I had solely based my beliefs on a mistaken thought that I was being compassionate for the victims of rape or incest and in that was ignoring the innocent human being I was so quick to defend from receiving a death sentence in every other circumstance.

All of these thoughts came back to my mind as I watched that initial 38 second clip.  Because as I watched it, I focused on how Mr. Aikin in his response tried to point out that many Pro-Abortion proponents often cite abortion and incest in this emotionally charged, moral debate that has raged for every year I have lived (1973 was the year I was conceived and born which was also the first year it was legal to kill a child in the womb, so I have been blessed that my mother chose not to abort me) Understandably we are repulsed by the violence that women suffer because of evil individuals in this horrendous crimes of Rape and Incest.  But I remembered learning from this professor back in college how the number of abortions due to rape and incest were less than 1% because often times the women’s body in the midst of such horror shuts down as a defense, preventing conception from occurring. 
So as I watched this video clip, that was what I heard in Mr. Aiken’s response:  “First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,"

The Clip is here:  http://youtu.be/fdisTOKom5I

I wrote back to the student who had forwarded the video: “Have you never heard that before that abortions due to rape are extremely rare because they rarely result in a conception?”  I never believed from the tone and tenor of the conversation that Mr. Aiken was saying there was defining some instances of rape as “legitimate” or that some victims claims of rape were “illegitimate.”  Hearing and watching the video, he seemed to be having a conversation that underlined his beliefs that because he was pro-life and believed that a pregnant woman had an innocent human life in her womb, that you could never make a legitimate argument for the death of that child.

From the “news” and media reaction today, it’s looking likely that by this time tomorrow, Mr. Aiken will be the former senate candidate from Missouri.  The political fallout for his poor choice of words that have been characterized and interpreted as at a minimum insensitive, un-empathetic, backwards  have most likely successfully ended his political career.  Whether that’s fair or not?  I don’t know.  Politics is a tricky, bizarre game that rarely makes sense to me.   (Is there a double standard in politics?  Considering the Vice President gets away with saying his opponents want to put “y’all back in chains” to a large number of African Americans at a speech he gave last week  and he remains on firmly on the ballot for a second term this November - I’ll let you decide if there’s a double standard or not)

But what’s sad to me watching and reading all this tonight is the hysterical outrage of our society to a few poorly chosen words taken out of context while the 38 years of continued murders of millions upon millions of innocent babies has been allowed to be“legitimate.”


Hi everyone.  Here is my homily for August 12, 2012 the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today’s Mass can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081212.cfm .  As always thanks for reading and your feedback.


The readings today can be summed up in three short words: Don’t Give Up.

Don’t give up... not ever... no matter what it is that you’re facing.

And when you think about it, almost every person at some point needs to hear those words.  We need that reminder.  No matter what your age:

-    If you’re in school and a look at the calendar or the non-stop Back to School ads have snapped you out of the Summer lull to realize a new Academic Year is coming up and failures or difficulties from the past start to eat up on you;

-    If you’re out of school, working day in day out in this uncertain economy in this complex world where words like“stable” and “job” are being used together less and less frequently is filling you with anxiety or your dissatisfied with things as they are;

-    If you’re married, with kids worried about their future not to mention your own...

-     If you’re alone - maybe divorced, maybe widowed and just that forced solitude wears on you...

-    If you’re ill and the pain, the suffering, the unknown has you filled with fear or anxiety. 

    In all of those different experiences that people are faced with and that we can find ourselves bringing before the Lord in our prayers, the Word of God today says very simple words, but bold words that are meant to be hopeful - Don’t Give up

    Just look at what we’ve just heard.  Often times when I’m preparing a homily, I’m naturally drawn to the Gospel and jump off that.  But today’s first reading is a real doosy.  We hear from the Old Testament book of Kings and we’re hearing about one of God’s prophets named Elijah.  As one of God’s prophets, Elijah had a pretty straightforward job - to proclaim God’s word to His people.  Straightforward, yes... Easy, not by a long shot.  Why?  Well if you wanted to learn where the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” came from, it had to have been the prophets!   Which makes sense.  If people were doing God’s will, following His commands, living by the covenant that they had agreed to with Him, there would be no reason to send a messenger.  People would be in right, good relationship with the Lord.  So prophets are constantly speaking words to people that they didn’t necessarily want to hear. 

    In this case, the people who don’t want to hear what the prophet has to say (and in effect, what the Lord wants to say) is a person - a powerful person – Queen Jezebel.  And one of the reasons the name Jezebel has negative connotations is because of this episode.  She is so ticked off at Elijah that she’s sent murderous henchmen out to take him out once and for all.  So Elijah’s on the run for his life.  He finally comes to this desert, finds this tree and as he is catching his breath for a moment what does he pray:

    This is enough O Lord - Take my life!
    There’s something consoling to know that a revered prophet who’s life and words are forever remembered in the Sacred Scriptures had a bad day, isn’t it?    Because as the People of God in our day and age - I think we’re afraid to admit that we can get tired... We can grow weary...   The world around us seems to be spinning out of control.  People seem polarized, tense, angry about lists of issues.  And for those trying to live a good, decent life, we can appreciate the prophet’s sentiments.

    But what does the Lord do for Elijah?  Does he scold him for his lack of faith, for being weary, for saying words that strike us as blasphemous?  No, he doesn’t do any of that.

    Does the Lord magically take care of all that troubles Elijah?  Does he send that Jezebel where she belongs?  Smiting or smoting Elijah’s adversaries?  No he doesn’t do that either.  The Lord sends a messenger, an angel  to Elijah’s side ordering to eat and drink not once, but twice with the words - “Get up, eat, or else the journey is going to be too long for you.”  Don’t Give up Elijah....  Yes, Taste and see the goodness of the Lord - not just Elijah, but you and I sang those words of the psalm today in response to that reading. 

    Even St. Paul in that second reading seems to be speaking those same words - Don’t give up.  Last week and this week’s passages (and some verses that the lectionary skipped in between) from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians talks about the difficulty for us to resist very human temptations, and human failures.   He notes how we are in this struggle between feelings of“bitterness, fury, anger, shouting and reviling... malice” and striving to be imitators of God as beloved children and to live in love.   But Paul’s confident we can do it if we don’t give up and draw upon the gifts of God.

    The greatest of the gifts of God is revealed to us in the Gospel.  Unlike Elijah receiving a simple hearth cake and a jug of water, Jesus offers himself to us as THE bread from heaven  that you and I are to feast on both in this word we are hearing now and in the bread and wine which becomes His Body and Blood.  It is He himself that He wants us to eat, to nourish on, to consume in our body’s and souls so much so that when we are worn down, tired, when we feel the world has abandoned and forgotten us – when the day to day struggles and trials blind us to his presence make us forget his promises and make us feel like we’re never going to get ahead,  we will still hear his invitation calling out  to us to feast on his Flesh - enabling us to live forever – promising us he will not abandon us, not now or ever... If we believe in Him, we can listen to him as He tells us:
    don’t grow weary,
    don’t give in,
    don’t lose heart,
    don’t lose focus,
    ... don’t give up. 

+ Thanks again to everyone who’s contributed to the Newman Catholic Summer Appeal 2012.  We are about 50% towards our fund raising goal which will go towards two beautiful new outdoor statues that students will pass as they walk to and from campus through the Newman Center property.  To help - please check out www.MSUNEWMAN.com


Hi everyone - here’s my homily for August 5, 2012, the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080512.cfm.  As always, I appreciate all your feedback, your comments - and all who forward these words. I’ve been amazed at the response and that each week over 1,000 people are reading this blog.  Praise God! 

If you’re interested, I’ve also been writing for FOCUS (The Fellowship of Catholic University Students) blog on a monthly basis.  This was my most recent post on the issue of the “definition” or rather “re-definition” of Marriage.  “Can you Marry Yourself?” – http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/can-you-marry-yourself.html

And finally, a word of thanks to all who are helping our Newman Center’s Summer Appeal.  We’re trying to raise $6,000 to erect two beautiful new statues - “Christ the Good Shepherd” and “The Blessed Virgin Mary and Child” outside to greet students coming and going to campus.  If you’d like to contribute, you can check out info here: www.MSUNEWMAN.com

(Now with all of those announcement it actually feels like a Sunday Mass, huh? :) )


           The other night a friend of mine was asking if I had been following the Olympics at all – and I guess I came across as slightly disinterested as I somewhat half-heartedly said “kind of.”  After he responded by questioning my patriotism, we started arguing and I said to him “honestly, outside of the Olympics, how often do you watch Gymnastics on TV? Or Swimming? Synchronize Diving?  I know how inspirational these athletes and their stories are and I’m not dissing them or the Olympics (or the United States either, thank you very much...) But I just haven’t had any real desire to watch them.” 

           What surprised me though was his explanation for why he was drawn to watching the Olympics. He explained that he’s  not really an avid fan of those sports and would probably never really watch swimming or gymnastics (and definitely not synchronized Diving) were it not for the games. And he wasn’t even wrapped up in seeing if America has more medals than China or Great Britain. And it wasn’t for any of the usual reasons a lot of people have said as to why they watch the games. He explained “you know everyone’s talking about this gymnast Gabby Douglas today (it was the day after she had done her amazing gymnastic feat and took the gold) - but the thing is - up until today, how many people really knew her?  How many people knew or even appreciate the day after day, month after month, year after year of hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, getting up early, the dieting... there were all kinds of things that were required for her to get the gold.”  Then he concluded, saying “So many people are excited because she won a medal, but I’m just blown away seeing people who are so passionate about something and pursue it like that. How many people are like that”

           I thought that was a pretty thoughtful reflection – to be drawn to the Olympics to see passionate people being passionate. The more I’ve thought about it, he probably has a better reason to be drawn into watching the Olympics than I do for the Yankees (I can’t believe I just said that)

           But the more I thought about that conversation and was praying with this Gospel, I started to see something similar.   Let’s look at what’s happening.  This Gospel is a continuation from last week’s Gospel where Jesus had fed the multitudes with the tremendous miracle of multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish feeding way over 5,000 people. So today picks up right after that.  All of those people had experienced that miracle the day before, and when they wake up the next morning, they realize that Jesus has left the spot where they were. They start looking for him and realize that  He had gone to the other side of the lake (notice that St. John tells us the boats had remained where the people were) And so they ask him “When did you get here?” (I wonder if someone said “How’d you get here?  The boats are on the other side of the lake, what did you do, walk on water? Hahah?” - and then Jesus respond “Ah, well, actually...” since he did, we just didn’t read that portion of the Gospel account, but anyway...)

           But look how Jesus answers them, He says “Amen Amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”  In other words he’s pointing out that the reason they were coming to Him was because they were hungry again! It’s like dinner guests who didn’t leave! They had a great meal the night before, it’s breakfast, there’s still a whole lot of people who had hung around all night. So now that they were hungry again and are looking for breakfast! I wonder if someone was saying “we have one box of Cherrios and half a pint of milk - what can you do now Jesus?”

           Seriously though, the point is, they have these temporal needs which at the moment are important to them. But they are being challenged to go deeper.  What is drawing people to Jesus? Is it simply about having their physical hungers met?  Because Jesus is inviting them to move beyond merely looking at that one miracle like some spectator cheering an athlete winning a gold medal and instead he invites them to become active participants. To become passionate people who are passionate about Jesus: who He is and what it is He has come to offer. To recognize the far deeper needs He wants to fulfill.    But to do that means they have to move beyond the temporal, temporary needs and acknowledge those deeper longings and hungers that need to be met that only Jesus can fulfill.

            Will they become passionate about Him? Will they embrace the hard work, the sacrifice that is necessary to be a follower; will they persevere in their faith in pursuing the hope-filled gift of eternal life by living a genuine and sincerely loving life that He requires of His followers?

           We find ourselves with those same questions- are we truly passionate about Jesus Christ? What is it that draws us here week after week?  No doubt many of us bring things that we’re dealing with - someone is unemployed, a loved one is ill, and all kinds of other major issues in our life can leave us fearful or afraid or angry. It’s good to bring those to Jesus and we should.  But Jesus invites us to go beyond looking at Him to provide a quick fix, to simply offer a miraculous answer to the questions that plague us.  He’s inviting us to go deeper and addresses us like we were the crowd of hungry breakfast seekers in the Gospel. He challenges us maybe you haven’t thought about it because of your physical hungers, because your stomach is empty - but what Spiritual hunger are you experiencing? How are your heart and soul feeling empty?  If you think what I did with a few loaves and fishes is impressive - wait to you see what I can do when you offer your whole self and become as passionate about me as I am for you.

           If we are able to find within ourselves that pursuit of Him that drives us to constantly strive, seek, desire and race toward Him, while we won’t share the Olympic triumph of winning a Gold Medal, we will experience a greater prize an eternity of never hungering, never thirsting for anything, ever again.