Hi everyone, here's my homily for the 31st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 30, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/103016.cfm.  Thanks as always for stopping by and reading this blog, for sharing it on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit and for all your comments and feedback.  I always appreciate hearing from you!  Have a great week & God Bless - Fr Jim


A journalism professor by the name of William Drummond was used to teaching the basics of covering the news to some of the highest of achievers at UC-Berkeley. But recently he came up with a unique assignment for a very unique group of students. He was volunteering teaching a class at San Quenitin Prison and was introducing a class of inmates to the basics of news writing. While the writing of obituaries is probably the least desired task of newspaper reporters, Drummond thought that asking the inmates to write fictitious death notices would be a good starting point to introducing them to the basics. But there was a spin: instead of writing about a pop-star or politician’s imaginary death by an overdose or an accident, he asked the men to write about a different death - their own. They had complete creative freedom, where they could choose how they died, and sum up their lives however they wanted.

Professor Drummond admitted he wanted to do more than introduce them to journalism. He said "I did it as a way to find out how these guys had reconciled their crimes, Were they able to take a critical look at what got them in trouble?" The inmates, were initially uncomfortable. These were people who were best known for their worst decisions — stabbing a man to death, gunning down a bystander, robbing banks. Now they were being asked to be reflective and answer the question: "What is your real value?" The collection of obituaries that the Los Angeles Times printed were thoughtful, introspective, creative, sometimes inspirational... One inmate pictured his death trying to protect Professor Drummond from an imaginary prison riot taking place saying that he wanted a noble end to his less than noble life.

One story that stood out in particular to me though was written by 57 year old Juan Haines. He didn’t dodge what brought him to San Quentin - being sentenced to prison for 55 years to life for bank robberies he had committed. He didn’t get overly dramatic in imaging his death, writing that he simply couldn’t be woken up one morning in prison and it was later determined that he died of natural causes. The bulk of his obituary though focused on his childhood in San Diego, including a wrestling match victory and a stint as junior class president. Juan seemed incredibly nostalgic of that time in his life, including a quote from a classmate saying "He built the treasury from just a couple of dollars, to several thousand. His biggest accomplishment was at Homecoming, our float was the biggest one, and our Junior Class Ball was held at a big fancy hotel. The seniors were somewhat jealous."

When Juan was asked about why he spent the bulk of his obituary on that part of his life from over 35 years ago, he said "That was when I was actually doing what I wanted, I was on track. Once I got derailed, that was it." While all of these stories were sad in their own way, this one was particularly so. Juan believes that his life is over. He has no family members or loved ones to speak of. And because of these bad choices and mistakes he’s made, he kind of lives with this idea that there’s no hope for him.

Hopelessness - when someone gets to that place where they have no expectation that anything good is possible... that any success can be achieved; when one starts to despair; whether we are observing these things happening to others; or perhaps going through it ourselves - there’s probably few things worse for a man or woman to experience.

Zacchaeus, is a man who believed and experienced similar things about himself. He had no Hope. He was the ultimate outcast. As the chief tax collector he’s the epitome of a traitor: He’s working with the enemy - the Romans who’ve occupied his fellow Jews, collecting taxes from them - then charging them extra for himself. So to put it mildly, Zacchaeus' fellow Jews would not be fans of his. The Romans, while they’re happy to use the guy - he’s getting the job done - - - but he’s not one of them - he’s not a Roman - so it’s not like he’s getting invited to any of their dinner parties. Even St. Luke our Gospel writer who’s sharing the story doesn’t sound like he’s a big fan. He could’ve just set the story up that Zacchaeus wasn’t able to see Jesus so he runs ahead and climbs a tree. Adding that "he was short in stature" - seems kind of harsh... kind of unnecessary.

In any event, Zacchaeus probably had resigned himself that for his life, that was it - he was going to be known as an outcast... a reprobate. Sure, he was wealthy. But the fact that he’s out there that day, trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus shows that he’s not satisfied with his wealth.  The fact that he’s out there in the midst of crowds who know him and aren’t happy to see him - so much so that they won’t let the little guy in or up close to see Jesus (perhaps were shooting him some nasty looks) - shows that he is looking for someone, something to restore his Hope. Maybe wondering Is there even a chance for someone like me? He’s got nothing to lose at this point -climbing this tree - thinking perhaps he will hear or see something that will do something for him.

Jesus looked up.... What does Jesus see? He sees the loneliness, the brokenness of the man in the tree. He sees the lengths Zacchaeus went through just to see Him. He sees Zacchaeus in all humility looking for hope.... looking for Jesus. Jesus says Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.  

With Jesus inviting himself over to dinner...
With Jesus saying I desire to be with you...
I want to enter into your loneliness, your brokenness...
I want to go to your home for things to change, 
Zacchaeus is being offered a radical new life.  
He wasn't being seen as just some short guy or a wealthy man... 

He wasn't being seen through the lens of others in the crowd: a traitor, or some puppet of Rome... 
 Jesus looked at him right there, right as he was in the midst of his mess with love.  And that look of Love from Jesus made all the difference. It restores his Hope. Zacchaeus who had given up everything in the pursuit of riches, and power does this 180 degree turn - now promising to give all of that up just because of this encounter with Jesus. The lengths Zacchaeus went through just to see Jesus that one day would be incredibly insignificant in comparison to the lengths he’s going to go through from that moment forward.

When we look around our world, it’s not hard to see a lot of hopelessness. A few times a year our University student center has this activity called "Post a secret" where students can anonymously write a post it note and share anything they want. And sadly, every time I glance and read these anonymous cries for help; people, students, brothers and sisters of ours who are experiencing hopelessness saying things like: "I wish my mother loved me" "When a relationship requires depth and work, I’m out" " I’ve used alcohol to self-medicate anxiety" "I’m afraid because since I don’t know how to love myself, no one else will". Sometimes, we suppress those types of thoughts and feelings ourselves: When we struggle at work, when there’s difficulties at home, when illness and death hit our loved ones - and we feel like no one knows, no one understands, no one is listening...

The beauty of this story – the beauty of the Gospel - is that our stories are never finished. We don't have to give into the lies that others say about us, or that we tell ourselves. That were not good enough, holy enough, worthy enough to be in Jesus presence. The reality is Jesus is searching for us, wanting to gaze on us with His eyes of Love. Despite how trapped we might think we are by the poor decisions we’ve made, despite the prisons we find ourselves confined to because of whatever mistakes we keep letting define us and weigh us down, Jesus offers us true freedom when we lift our downcast eyes to look to Jesus- when we stop listening to the devil’s insistence that our past is our present and future and hear Jesus offering us His Love, His Mercy and calling us to change our lives here and now by becoming loving and merciful ourselves. When we allow him to, we discover the truth of what Pope Francis recently said: "Even in the darkest moments: in the times of sin, in the times of fragility, in the times of failure, I looked to Jesus and I trusted Him and He did not abandon me. He is a faithful companion."

May Zacchaeus prompt in us: the boldness to not let anything prevent us from seeing Jesus; the humility in letting Him look at us as we are; the courage to let His look of Love transform our lives - so that when the final story of our life is written, it will testify to the world of the Hope that is found in being loved by Jesus.


Hi everyone - here's my homily for October 23, 2016, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  The readings for today can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/102316.cfm  Thanks as always for reading, sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit - and all your feedback.  Hope you have a great week!  God Bless- Fr Jim 

17 days and it will all be over... Then again, the way this campaign season has gone, it might be correct to say God willing - it will be all over or maybe God help us - it will be all over. Every four years with each Presidential campaign people claim that this is the most important election in our lifetime; it’s the most negative election in our lifetime; and that people can’t wait for it to be over. But it seems, or feels this year like that’s particularly true. There has been stories about people being extremely stressed about the election; polls are reporting that majorities of people are voting out of fear of the opposing candidate rather than for the person they’re voting for. The negativity and tension has gotten more personal between the candidates and even among their supporters - as we hear stories of people ripping signs for Trump or Clinton off of people’s lawns or damaging cars with different political bumper stickers on them; friends and family members getting into fights and not talking to one another anymore; and so on.

The ugliness of it all really struck home for me the other day. At Mass, we had come to the prayer of the faithful, and one of the intentions was for our elected officials and those who will be elected. In that moment, just picturing both candidates - and hearing that intention, a friends description "I can’t believe one of these two maniacs is going to be our President" came to mind. Just thinking about it, I was so aggravated with both of them. Almost instinctually I even said to myself I didn’t want to pray for either one of them. That moment really got to me and bothered me all week...

Because I recognized later how I’ve allowed myself to be convinced by the lies of the evil one. The same evil one who has manipulated people on both sides of this campaign to demonize the other candidate; or the other candidates supporters... The same evil one that has helped us destroy civil discourse and constructive, logical, reasonable debates into some fiasco that’s part Soap Opera, part UFC cage match fight complete with instant polls allowing people to vote "who won" so we can all participate in this slimefest... Well that same evil one helped turn me into having some feelings of moral superiority, arrogance and just really a lack of charity in my heart for both Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton. Like all sin - it doesn’t do any good for anyone. It doesn’t help me at all. It doesn’t help these candidates. It sure doesn’t help our country and God is not glorified at all.

This all really hit home the more I kept looking at these readings tonight: Think about what we just heard - In the first reading, the writer from the Book of Sirach states pretty upfront - "The Lord is a God of justice who knows no favorites." God has no favorites. Each and every one of us is His creature. In a talk to college students a few years ago that I was attending, this keynote speaker made the observation "that God loves the Pope as much just as much as He loves the prostitute." When we hear that, there’s a tendency to say, yeah I know we’re supposed to say that and all... but, come on????really????

Yet if we don’t believe that, what hope does any one of us ever have?

Think about it. If we want to get into a moral superiority game or competition there’s two options - we’re either going to lose or just give up. Because there’s always going to be someone who’s just a little holier or got a better handle on something, or resists a specific temptation better. So if we live in competition with one another, we’re simply waiting to be one-upped by someone else (which results in us looking for ways to keep knocking everyone else down to size, looking for their flaws to feel better about ourselves)

Or the other option, we’re just going to give up. If we fall for the lie that we’re all messed up, we’re all sinners and there’s nothing we can do about it, we can become hopeless and completely forget who Jesus is and why He came to us. Thankfully St. Paul in that second reading is here to remind us what that is - which is our reason for Hope. That the Lord wants to "rescue [us] from every evil threat and will bring [us] safe to his heavenly kingdom."

That’s the whole point for all of us trying to resist sin, trying to be holy. Because eventually we want to be with God forever. As we get distracted by the glow from our televisions, computers and phones – we forget that it’s not about this world... It’s about wanting to be with God for all eternity.

Yet God doesn’t want us to simply wait for that to happen. He wants us to begin experience that now and help each other to get there. He wants us to experience that amazing love that imagined us into existence. Just think of that. You and I mean that much, matter that much to God that He imagined us into being. That God has dreams for you and I. And each of us and each of the dreams He has for us are so beautiful, so important to Him that not even our worst sins could ever wipe that away. We might make things unnecessarily harder for ourselves and it might take longer for those dreams to become realities when we sin. But He offers up His own Son to fill that gap between the life of sin we’re in and that new life in His Kingdom we want to enter into. Which is why Jesus wants us to focus on that rather than on how we rank in relation to one another.

That’s what Jesus is trying to point out in this parable: the Pharisee gets so caught up with himself, that he ends up not praying to God. Oh he’s talking to God, but only to make sure God takes some time to worship him! Just look at what the pharisee says - He uses the word "I" 4 times and in those few short lines. It’s all about what he’s doing - "God I do this and I do that and I’m not anything like that guy over there." God becomes an afterthought. The Pharisee wants to make sure God was keeping acurate records to see how good he was and how messed up the other guy is.

On the flip side, the tax collector never uses the word "I."

He knows that he’s a sinner.
He knows his life is a mess.
He doesn’t need help from others pointing that out.
He needs help getting out of the mess he’s in.
He needs Mercy.
He needs Forgiveness.
He needs God and he knows that only way things are going to change in his life is by God showing him Mercy - By God working in his life. By the tax collector letting God be God and letting him into his heart and soul things can change for him.

As Election Day grows closer, it’s obvious more than ever that we live in some pretty wacky times. Political observers speculate whoever wins will enter the White House will do so as one of the most unpopular President-elects in history. Even more troubling is the reality of how divided we are as a nation, as a people are becoming– all of which are signs of the evil one who thrives on division. So we have to be really careful and remember that at it’s most basic level the goal of all sin is to turn people away from God and turn people against one another.

What can unify us is remembering, even in the midst of this polarizing time that God desires that each and everyone of us will be a part of His Kingdom - in eternity for sure, but that Kingdom is to begin here and now. The Lord loves Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump and each and everyone of their supporters as much as He loves me and you. My sins sadden Him as much as those we like to point out between both of these two candidates as much as anyone one else’s does.

Jesus is asking us to consider the possibilities if we stopped tearing one another down and instead began trying to help one another to truly live for Him now and desire only Him for all eternity. Whether you choose to vote or not - Whoever you vote for, or vote against, outside of that decision at the ballot box, we’re challenged to pray for both of them (realizing one of them will most likely be our President) Praying that God will have Mercy on both of them, on me, and on each and every one of us us sinners... knowing that He does and truly desires to share that mercy with all those who call upon Him.


Hi everyone - here's my homily for the 29th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 16, 2016.  The readings can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/101616.cfm .  Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on facebook, twitter and reddit - and for your comments and feedback.  Have a great week -  Fr Jim


Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.  

It’s rare that the Gospel identifies right from the get-go what Jesus’ intention was in telling a parable. It’s also rare that it would end with a rhetorical, somewhat puzzling question that has stuck with me all week: when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? In between that we hear this somewhat off putting parable. Jesus tells this story of a widow demanding justice from an unjust judge, who eventually wears the guy down out of her persistence to give her the justice she deserves. The point Jesus’ was making is that God who isn’t an unjust judge - rather the complete opposite, a Father who intimately cares about us, who knows our every need, our every fear, our every pain - How much more will He to be attentive to us when we remain faithful and turn to Him with our needs.

The more I prayed with this, the more it seems to me that Jesus is acknowledging how hard prayer can be for us. That he understands that we can become weary when bad things keep happening - when someone loses their job, when someone goes through a break up, when someone feels betrayed or let down by a close friend, when someone gets sick, when someone dies. That we can be tempted to give up, wonder what’s the point, what’s the use to praying when things don’t improve. That the doubts can take hold when our prayers don’t seem to be answered.

One time that I really felt like that was during my senior year of high school. My birthday being in November, I was one of the last in my class to turn 17 and get my drivers license. That’s really one of the greatest feelings you experience at that age - that sense of independence. I remember thinking how amazing it was to be alone in the car driving back to High School that day I got my license. Well a few days later, I convinced my parents (after a whole day of furious arguing) that I should be allowed to drive some friends to the movies. It was going to be my first time driving at night. It had been raining all day, and they were concerned - not because they didnt trust me, but because I didn't have enough experience driving (by the way, it couldn’t have been a lamer plan - we were going to see Home Alone). Finally, after a whole day of fighting (and using my ace card of you-never-did-this-to-my-brothers) my parents gave in. I picked up my friends. All in all, there were going to be three friends with me (that was the one lie I had told my parents - I was only supposed to have two people in the car with me - but I thought what’s one more?).

I had just picked up the third person, and started to drive. It was pretty dark out, even at 7:00. I was in an unfamiliar part of town - but I saw the main street up ahead, which was pretty well lit up, and I just focused on getting to that street . . . Not even realizing I had pulled into another intersection . . . not even realizing I had gone right through a stop sign - with a car coming right at me. The car slammed right into my truck - we spun practically 360 degrees, finally coming to a stop by crashing into a curb. I remember I couldn’t even open my door, and all I could see was someone lying on the ground.

"Oh my God, did I hit someone?"

I climbed out of the passenger side of the car and looked down. It was the girl who had been sitting right behind me. She had crashed through the rear passenger window, and was on the ground, unconscious, with severe internal injuries - so severe she needed to be airlifted to a trauma center in Newark. The rest of the night was filled with interviews by cops, tests to make sure I hadn’t been drinking (which I hadn’t) or taken drugs (again a no) - and it was finally determined to be just a terrible mistake, an awful accident. I went to the hospital to see my friend in a coma, with doctors unsure of her prognosis - and I kept apologizing over and over to my friends, my family .

No one could comfort me - in fact, I didn’t believe I deserved comfort when I still didn’t know if my friend would live or die - or would have to live with permanent disabilities. The pain I felt, thinking that my friend could die because of a terrible mistake I had made, was one of the darkest nights of my life. I truly felt loneliness like I’ve never experienced. I cried like I’ve never cried before. I not only had this guilt that my friend's life could be over, or ruined - but kind of felt that mine was 'over' as well.

I had been a good kid - The only high school senior who was still an altar server; volunteered at the parish - why did this happen to me? I got home, went into my bedroom and started to sob again, as I looked up at the cross over my bed and just said, "Jesus I don’t even know what to do - help me". I knew he couldn’t make the clock turn backwards and restart the whole night (or if he could, technically, because he is God, but I didn’t expect that to happen). I almost couldn't believe my prayers for my friend mattered (since I had been the cause of it all) - I really didn’t know what I needed - I didn’t even know what to pray for.

But - the thing was I knew Who to go to. Which is why today's Gospel triggered this painful memory. What did we hear Jesus say: Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? In the midst of my prayer that awful night, came a remarkable peace when I felt like I heard a voice in my heart saying "Everything’s going to be alright, just have faith in me." I didn’t know what that meant, but I believed it. It was so real that I actually was able to fall asleep, and wake up the next day, even momentarily forgetting what had happened the night before.

In the days, weeks and months that followed, that one moment of peace was all I had to hold on to. We never had the miraculous healing I had wanted. I wanted my friend to wake up that next morning, 100% better, maybe be back in school in a couple of days, and for everything to quickly get back to "normal". In reality, her recovery would be a lot longer, and more painful than I can ever imagine, even to this day. The set backs she would suffer, the worries all of us had for her recovery, kept re-emerging in new and varied ways fueling fear and guilt, throughout my senior year. It was hard to keep praying, it was hard to keep the faith when I didn’t seem to get any signs, messages or anything other than that one moment that first night when I felt the Lord promising me things would be alright...

At one point a few weeks later, I overheard a relative speaking to my Mom and saying "You see, that’s why I don’t believe in God - Jim’s such a good kid, he never does anything wrong and something like that happens to him... what’s the point." Something just clicked in my head - I remember thinking to myself – God didn’t cause this accident - that was my fault – But I knew that He was what was getting me through this. From those first moments of complete aloneness, complete isolation, complete darkness - where I felt totally unlovable because of the mistake I had made - where I felt that no one would ever be able to forgive me (especially if the worst had happened, which it could have) - that night Jesus was with me in that horrible void. In the days and weeks and years that followed, I was able to accept and believe in the people Christ sent into my life to help me through this painful time. And months later to give thanks to God, that my friend was finally able to return to school and to some of her life before that horrible night.

Jesus in tonight’s Gospel seems to acknowledge that at some point, every one of us will ask the question Is God worth the trouble, the investment, the bother. We go through some dark night, (that maybe goes on for much more than a night) and feel God is nowhere to be found and we can become angry and frustrated. We feel weary and that temptation to give up seems more reasonable than persisting in prayer.

It is in those moments of despair, of pain , of abandonment, of betrayal that we have to trust even more than before that God is listening, is present, is attentive. We almost have to double down and persist in our prayer.

Not because he doesn’t know our needs. In fact scripture tells us that it’s the complete opposite - Jesus has told us He knows our needs even before we ask them. So when we reach out to Him in the midst of whatever difficulty it is we’re facing, prayer is more than just a cry to tell God what’s the matter, but a reminder to ourselves that God is near . . .He is with us . . . He is by our side in whatever battle we’re facing. And when we recognize that, we begin to reaffirm or discover anew that:

God is our ally
Faith in Him is our strength
and prayer is the expression of this faith. (Pope Francis, Oct 20, 2013)

As we live these realities, we begin to in our own simple ways respond to Jesus question - when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth? - with a heartfelt, confident, Yes Lord.


Hi everyone, here’s my homily for OCTOBER 9, 2016 the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings for today can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/100916.cfm . Thanks as always for reading, sharing this on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and for all your comments and feedback. Have a great week - Fr Jim


It’s hard to believe that the prime-time cartoon "The Simpsons" has been on for close to 30 years now. While "new episodes" about the dysfunctional Simpson family of Bart, Homer, Marge, Lisa and Maggie doesn’t seem to be as good as it used to be, I still crack up at re-runs from the early seasons. One of my favorite episodes from those first seasons, is called "Bart Gets an F." The episode sets up what a terrible student Bart is. After he fails his book report on Treasure Island, Mrs. Krabappel keeps Bart after class and points out that his grades are steadily falling and reminds him about the major history test the next day. After dodging taking the test with fake illnesses, then attempting to cheat, Bart eventually fails that test. Things have gone from bad to worse, so much so that the school is considering making Bart repeat the 4th grade again. At hearing this Bart tells everyone he will do better and he promises to pass the 4th grade. While Bart makes some improvements in his academics, eventually it comes down to this last big test. That night before going to bed and after studying, Bart still realizes that as much as he’s tried, as much as he’s made some strides, he still feels he hasn’t done enough to pass the test. Lisa watches, as he offers up a prayer to God that goes:

Well, old-timer, I guess this is the end of the road. I know I haven't always been a good kid, but if I have to go to school tomorrow, I'll fail the test and be held back. I just need one more day to study, Lord. I need your help. His sister Lisa, spying on Bart from the hallway observes: Prayer - The last refuge of a scoundrel. Bart continues in his pleading to God laying out options: A teachers' strike, a power failure, a blizzard. Anything that'll cancel school tomorrow. I know it's asking a lot, but if anyone can do it, You can. Thanking You in advance, Your pal, Bart Simpson

The scene ends with flurries start to fall on the Simpson’s house at nighttime. The next morning Marge wakes up Bart, and shows him all the snow that has fallen. The family huddles around the radio in the kitchen listening to business and school closings. Bart and Homer do a dance when they hear that the school and somewhat (frighteningly on reflection now) the nuclear power plant are closed. Bart throws on his snow gear, grabs a sled, and heads outside, but Lisa blocks the door tells him she heard his prayer and says I’m no theologian. I don’t claim to know who or what God is. All I know is he’s a force more powerful than Mom and Dad put together. And you owe him big time.

What is the point of prayer? Does the appearance of our wishes being answered mean that God has heard our cry, changed the cosmos over all the other prayers and intentions of the day to give us what we want, hoping that we will love him, serve him, be devoted to him more? Sports fans, tend to think they’re teams are truly blessed (or have made a deal with the evil one, depending upon your fan-perspective) but does God really operate that way to change the course of events to make sure that one ball goes over the wall, to get the home run, to win the game, so they advance to the next round of the playoffs?

Interesting questions that Saints and theologians give a lot of different answers to. Can God do those things, yes... Would He? Does He? Why would He? Not so simply answered.

Even more challenging, What about us? What is our motivation - what is the point of prayer for us? Is God just some magic genie in the sky that we try to placate, manipulate things out of for our own well-being (and if it helps someone else out too, that’s great...)

For 9 out of 10 of the lepers whom Jesus encounters in today’s Gospel, it kind of appears that way. Just a refresher on leprosy - it was an incurable disease... to this day, it can be prevented and controlled but it cannot be cured. It causes loss of sensation, paralysis and it’s just pretty gross. Because of all that and the fear that it was highly contagious, lepers were cast out of the society. Sent to live apart in a colony of people with the same ailment. So now not only were they sick, in pain, afraid... they were also incredibly alone.

As Jesus is walking by this day... He’s not just out for a stroll by the way - he’s on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified... Even though he’s got his passion and death on his mind, Jesus remains other-focused, selfless. He hears the cries of these lepers. He hears their prayer – JESUS MASTER HAVE PITY ON US. Jesus simply tells them "Go show yourselves to the priests" and they are obedient. As they are on their way, they’re healed. Miracles don’t necessarily have to be big, dramatic moments that stand out like a burning bush or walking on water. God’s intervention in our lives often happens simply as we’re living our lives.

Perhaps it was because of this less than dramatic way that they’re cured that 9 of them, didn’t reflect on the cause of their healing. Only the one comes back to Jesus. Only one comes back in worship and awe. Only one comes back to say "Thank You." And in that, the one out of the ten underlines that this Gospel is more than just about good manners (as if Mom and Dad needed to explain to you "When someone cures you of leprosy, you say Thank You.") - Jesus encountering the one who has returned to give thanks explains - You’re faith has saved you.

Prayer is meant to open us up, Prayer is meant to change us, not simply in giving us what we want - but recognizing that God truly supplies us with all that we could ever need. Prayer isn’t about getting that A on that test or that Home run in the world series or even working a miracle cure to a deadly, painful disease - rather it’s about recognizing how God is that loving, that attentive to all that we struggle with, all that we are, all that we hope to be... He sees us beyond this moment, this day, this problem, this struggle and sees the potential, the possibilities, the beautiful creation that He has made each of us to be. That realization is meant to change us to recognizing how our faith has saved us, sustains us as well.

For Bart Simpson, realizing that God has listened and responded to his prayers, that made him resist that temptation to play in the snow, study like he never studied before, and scrape through getting a D on his test, barely getting him to pass the 4th Grade. For us, it’s probably not so easy or cut and dry as a 30 minute sitcom would convey. St. Mother Teresa saw it like this: I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things."

Jesus tells us that Yes, He hears our prayers, he answers them in His own way, in His own time... all with the hopes that we will truly find and discover how He is actively listening and responding to us always. May we be like the one leper, who once he realizes what God has done for him couldn’t continue to live life "as usual," and find no better response than to return in worship, in awe, in thanksgiving to Him.


I’d like to punch the person who came up with the cliche “Time heals all wounds.”
Punching probably sounds a bit extreme, particularly coming from a priest,  but another cliche (or rather truism) is that one of the stages of grief is anger, so I think I’m covered.

Today it’s two years since my father suddenly passed away.  And I can’t quite wrap my mind around that.  Some days it feels much longer than that, others it feels like yesterday.  Some times it seems we’ve accepted this new reality as a family - others, I don’t want to speak for everyone else, but I know I find myself catching myself, reminding myself that this really happened.

In all of those varied and different emotions, feelings and experiences - the one constant is the realization that time hasn’t healed anything.  Because healing to me means wholeness, restoration. After suffering this loss, I think that part of the problem with that cliche is that on this side of eternity, that’s not going to happen.  It’s true, I’m not as in shock as I was two years ago, and have a better handle on my emotions and reactions to memories then I did in those first days and weeks.

But it still hurts.  We still feel Dad’s absence and miss him.  It still hurts.

So for me, I want to banish that cliche.  To me, grief is not a wound that is ever going to be healed till Christ vanquishes it forever, we’re all one with Him in his Resurrection, united in His Kingdom where seeing the Lord in his fullness, He will wipe every tear from our eyes.

In the meantime if I need an image to describe grief - rather than feeling frustrated at my wound that time has forgotten to heal, to me, grief is more like a break you’ve experienced on your arm or leg.  Yes the bone was re-set, the fracture mended...  you’re able to walk, run, wave - many of the things you were able to do before the break occurred, sometimes it's like it never happened.  But at times the pain returns - sometimes without warning - maybe because of bad weather, change of seasons, different environment, or for no discernable reason at all - you feel that injury again, it throbs, it’s sore, you’re not able to do what you did before the break for a period of time - it hurts.

That’s what grief is to me.

Love and miss you Dad.

October 6, 2016


Hi everyone, here's my homily for the 27th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - October 2, 2016.  The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/100216.cfm. Thanks as always for reading, commenting and sharing this blog on facebook, twitter and reddit. Grateful for your support and interest.  Have a blessed week!  - Fr Jim.  (PS - if you're in the area, Tuesday night we have an Exorcist coming to speak to us here at MSU.  Check out our website www.MSUNEWMAN.com under "Bulletin" for this week's edition with details)


A couple of years ago, 28 year old Australian model and marathon runner Turia Pitt made international headlines. Not because of some lucrative deal she had signed; endorsement she had landed or competition she had won - but for something far more heart wrenching. While out on an ultra-marathon in 2011, she got trapped in a grass fire which resulted in her being burned over 65% of her body and having several amputations. After suffering such a life-threatening trauma, it’s a miracle that she’s still alive. She spent over 2 years in the hospital, most of that time wearing a compression stocking over all of her body. She endured over 200 surgeries, including radical reconstruction of different body parts. She had to fight to get out of bed. She had to fight to walk again. She had to fight to accept the disfiguration that has resulted from all of this.

One of the most important people in her life has been her boyfriend Michael. They had dated for years... as he explained it, he had fallen for his "whip smart, bubbly and gorgeous" girlfriend so much that he quit his job as a police officer and went to work as a miner in the Western part of Australia where she lived just to be closer to her. After the fire, he remained by her bed side every day 7 am to 7 pm. Eventually he would give up his job to be by her side, and help her conquer the mental battle she was engaged in to try to find that will to live, which he did. As Turia explains "If he believed in me, I had to believe in myself."

Looking at the pictures, reading the incredible, long, painful road to recovery that she is still on - can be overwhelming. People reflecting on this story just exteriorly might think how sad, how cruel, how awful this was - this is - for this young girl and her family to have to suffer through. Or we can see something deeper, a small but not insignificant - in fact quite remarkable story of love, of perseverance, of faith – that if we allow it to, we can’t help but be changed a bit just in reflecting on it. That’s the thing though we have to look for it... We have to work for it.

Because it’s normal for us to want the Disney/Hollywood happily ever after story endings. We want to hear she survived, went through a surgery, recovered and life went back to what it was before. But as we get older, we realize - rarely is that the case.

That realization can be even more challenging as people of faith for those of us who make it here to Sunday Mass. Because we’re here, because we believe, – there’s almost this unwritten, unspoken presumption on our parts that we’re immune from these bad things from happening. Or if by chance the devil is successful in wreaking havoc on us, that we’d bounce back really quickly with God’s help. Yet the bad things happen and more often we’re left with all kinds of questions usually beginning with Why -

Why did this happen?

Why is this person sick?

Why did this person die?

Why did I lose my job?

Why do I feel alone, abandoned?

Why do I feel unloved?

In our first reading today - Habakkuk, a prophet of the Old Testament – (while confronting a different circumstance) asks God the same question - Why God? Why are we good people suffering? Why do you seem distant as we’re being surrounded by destruction? No, you didn’t miss something in the reading - God doesn’t give a clear answer to the prophet. That this prophet asked such a question almost 3,000 years ago should tell us something: Suffering - and what appears as God’s not dealing with it - has been and still is one of the biggest obstacles for people to be a believer in God. And it’s a stumbling block for people to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Because look what happens in the Gospel we just heard . The apostles come to Jesus and say "Increase our Faith." They were wondering where God was or what following Jesus meant after they had encountered real suffering. In the scene right before the Gospel we just heard, the apostles had tried to heal a sick child and weren’t able to. That’s why they ask Jesus to "Increase our Faith" - in a sense they’re saying "Make us more powerful Lord" and what does he say? "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree ‘be uprooted and planed in the sea’ and it would obey you."

After this really awful encounter that the apostles had, an experience where they had to have felt ineffective, were disappointed in themselves, probably sad – Jesus basically says to them "you have a very, very meager faith." I could hear the apostles thinking Oh so it’s our fault now? We don’t believe enough?

No. That’s not what Jesus is saying. Not that his answer would satisfy everyone who is dealing with sorrow - who is confronted with suffering - who is in pain right now. But what Jesus’ is telling us is that if we truly have Faith - great things can happen.

If we have Faith, we can re-imagine the world.

If we have Faith, we can change the world.

If we have Faith, we can have extraordinary powers that topple what people call "conventional wisdom"

The problem is we want this Faith to work like magic. We think "OK God - I believe in you - REALLY I do - so heal this kid of cancer." And when it doesn’t work - that’s our reason to NOT believe anymore.

But that’s not Faith.

Faith finds God’s presence, God’s action in the midst of life - in the midst of our worlds - in the midst of all the good and bad things and still believes that God will win out in the end. That yes, death will be defeated, that yes, suffering and pain will end. That God is working with us and through us to make that happen here and now in all kinds of ways. The problem is it might not be in ways we would choose ourselves - we want the miraculous cure as we lay hands on a sick person - we want to bring our friends and relatives back from the dead.

Pope Francis so beautifully explained in one of my favorite quotes of his: "Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey. To those who suffer, God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one who, having endured suffering, is "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith" (Heb 12:2)."

In other words, we’re not suppose to have Faith in our desires - rather Faith in God and believing that He works - sometimes He works in incredible miraculous ways, sometimes in small mustard seeds that won’t be able to be appreciated for some time - but we have to come back to believing that he works with us, through us and all around us.

Turia Pitt’s boyfriend Michael, while she was in intensive care, while it was still unclear if she would even survive promised himself "if she lives, I’ll marry her." He purchased an engagement ring while she was still in the hospital and popped the question a year ago - to which Turia said yes, and they hope to get married this year. In a follow up interview a reporter from CNN asked him "Did you at any moment think about leaving her and hiring someone to take care of her and moving on with your life?" Michael
explained "I feel in love with her soul... she’s the only woman who can continue to fulfill my dreams." For me I was blown away by that incredibly moving response of his - but was also taken aback by the question in the first place. It kind of sadly reveals how we expect people to respond: that because she suffered such a tragedy; doesn’t look as beautiful as she once did; that no one would blame him for wanting to find someone who looked better, who didn’t require so much care - especially since he is so young. Yet, their love story has continued to touch countless people around the world - and their new life where they travel the globe hiking and raising awareness for a charity that provides free reconstructive surgeries for people in poor countries or where medical care is inadequate is transforming lives of those in most need.

No doubt each and everyone of us tonight has our own lists of intentions, and prayers. And some might be incredibly challenging - Mom is out of work; Dad is sick; a friend has died. Our being here is in part a sign of our love for them and our seeking God’s presence... looking for answers, looking for power and strength to solve those issues as we too want Jesus to "increase our faith." Very gently the Lord points out - we already posses all the faith necessary. We don’t need an increase of faith - but rather an increase of trust in Him ...