“No One Can Take You Out of My Hands”

You’re panicking and you’re anxious So, what do you do? You punch 911 on your phone. Wrong. You’d have either Bell or Parateck at your home with all of their paperwork and machines and they’d be wearing boots as though your home is full of mud. And, their bill will be in the mail.

No. Panicking and anxious? You call God. Simply press three zeros on your phone, and then hear the following message: “All of our angels are currently busy, but your call is very important to us; otherwise, you would not be hearing this silly recorded message. Please be patient and listen to this cheesy jazz instrumental with no title.” A while later, a long while later.

The recorded message continues, “Thanks for waiting, for natural disasters, press 1, or if you’re an older adult dial 1. Press 2 for personal intentions, or just stay on the line for the next available angel to assist you.” That cheesy jazz music with no title continues.

Jesus says, “No one can take [those who believe in me] out of my hands.” If there ever was a more assuring and comforting sentence, I don’t know what it is. It’s a firm, unchanging belief – more than that, it is a divine vow. We all have our periodic wonderings and wanderings, daily doubts prompting more ice cream or an extra cocktail, all of our unanswerable questions, and even our wicked denials.

A divine vow. “No one can take [those who believe in me] out of my hands.” Today don’t consider other people like the “no one,” but only consider yourself. You are the “one” who red flags and harbors daily doubts. The constant of life is those daily doubts and wonderings but always coupled with the embracing love of God. Whatever the troubling topic – politics, religion, family, health; no matter the concern, God frowns and, at the same time, smiles at our quandaries with both arms ready to hold and hug us.

We ask, “Am I good enough?” God says, “Yes. I have created all of you and call you to be Me throughout your life’s journey.” “Can I improve?” God says, “It’s up to you, but my two buddies Jesus and the Holy Spirit can help you thoroughly along the way.” “Do I do good things to enrich the lives of others and enrich myself?” God replies, “Depends on the day,”

What is the distance between conflict and grace? Between our conflicts and God’s grace? The space is absolutely; how shall I say it – zero? There is no separation when the number is zero. It’s the distance we create or that we believe exists. It’s the “us” with our clenched hands, tightly folded arms – closed-in arms and giving-up arms compared to the power and constant loving engagement with our God – both in welcoming and stretching out both arms in both receiving us in our troubles and catching us before we fall.

Heck, if God’s busy in Ukraine. There’s still Jesus who’s bouncing how many bouncing balls in the air with predicaments everywhere. But therein lives, like the wind, she who whisks us up through and with her total attention and affection—the Holy Spirit. I guess you could say that God and Jesus are the huggers. The Holy Spirit gently and lovingly envelopes and strengthens us through every single situation of life. I’m told that she even offers us all seven gifts. Seven gifts for each day of the week. Each gift begins and ends with the gift for her last gift to us – the wonder and honoring of our Creator.

And, on this Mother’s Day weekend, please don’t ever ignore the feminine side of God. Like God’s creation, there’s a bit of both in us. My priest friend cries during cat food commercials.

Like the old Bing Crosby movies as Father O’Malley says, “Just dial ‘O,’” Fr. O’Malley meant to say ‘zero.’ (I couldn’t resist.)

The recorded angel calls you the next day and says, “The Holy Spirit thanks you for your call and asks you to please remain on the line for a quick three-question survey about her service with you. Please remember that pressing ten or dialing ten, if you’re old, means a score of perfectly celestial ‘excellence.’”

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A Mother’s Day Blessing

Mother.

There is only One God and there is only one mother.
God knew you before you were born and so did she. She carries you through the grocery store waddling down aisle after aisle looking for food that you need. She carefully gets into the car and fastens a seat belt around the two of you.

She eats for both of you during those enlarging months. (The ice cream is for her, the yogurt is for you.) Mother. Now one, united but soon to be two. Now, as an undefined unity but soon to be separated but forever one.

Then that day, on that one birth day, which in future years, you think is completely dedicated to you and celebrated with friends but rarely with her, she released you to this waiting world where she waits for you more times than you can imagine.


She patiently teaches you how to hold it for either number one or two or for both of them. One day or someday you may teach her how to let go.


She reviews your crayon sketches not knowing what you were attempting to convey but smilingly tells you that it is truly a work of art and worthy of the refrigerator door. (Your first public showing!)


Before her eyes close at night she thinks of you and your safety – and when her eyes open in the morning and the oatmeal needs to be made, she thinks of you once again.


She will drive you where ever you wish to go and sometimes wish not – soccer, football, glee club, drama club, orthodontist, barber and perhaps even a psychologist to help explain your sudden emotional outbursts. You find her to be as demanding as a German commandant and as patient as one who watches paint dry.


She will tickle you, read to you, bathe you, scold and reprimand you for as long as it takes. She will act as president when a decision needs to be made, counselor when your first friend abandons you, priest to help bury the gerbil that she never liked anyway, and most importantly she will be the observer – not to haunt but to guide you skillfully and carefully through misguided choices, impulsive decisions and that wrong friend from that neighborhood.


She will judge and weigh you for the rest of her life but she will never condemn you. She will evaluate you and like a good Chess player always stay at least three moves ahead of you. She may not even play Chess but she will win…every time.


You will finally be on your own and think that you are free of her but (and here’s the haunting part), her messages, mantras, platitudes, absolutes, aphorisms, family secrets that no one can ever know about (but everybody does), all her hopes and dreams for you will continue to filter through and live in your mind, soul and heart.


We are in God’s house this day but mother lives more intimately and personally than any Deity could have imagined. No wonder our Christian God is a jealous God, He has mother to compete with Him.


So, dear Lord, grant them patience, love, wisdom, and the grace to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Grant a special grace to those women who are or will be “Mother” to foster children, adoptive children, or who provide a mother’s touch to children not their own. Strengthen those mothers who are separated from their children. Strengthen those who raise their children without the support of a husband. Heal the hearts of mothers hurt by broken relationships with their children. Comfort mothers who mourn a deceased child, bless, too, those mothers and grandmothers who are now at rest in you.

When she dies her legacy will continue to live within you…whether you like it or not. What started at the grocery store continues now through you. Don’t ignore it. Don’t also heed her enduring messages every time but do not ever forget them. (You may even try to forget them but those messages have not forgotten you.)


Mother. God bless them. God has to bless them. What choice does He have? What could He, in His creative and omnipotent powers, do without them?

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“Possession is 9/10…”

When we hear the word “possession,” we likely recall the movie “The Exorcist.” Which, by the way, happened at an Alexian Brothers Hospital in St. Louis. And it was a young boy but that’s another topic.

We may also think that possession means being kept, having no control over our lives, being a puppet. Or, it’s all the stuff in our homes that uses the same word. St. Paul uses it as a goal. To paraphrase him, “I haven’t acquired it yet, but I’m working on it. It’s a work in progress.” He calls his goal a “pursuit.”

Every Lenten season calls us to consciously be aware of our pursuit of being possessed by the One who created us. Yet, you’d think that the potter created a beautiful piece of pottery, you and me, so what’s there to possess? Potter, pottery. Pottery, potter! Well, you see, We pottery pieces have a sad tendency of bumping into things, causing cracks and niches here and there. What was created by the Potter as a whole has those tendencies of ours of piecemealing our one piece. Some pieces of us desiring and that piece of ours over there wants and these smaller, but Godly pieces living within us is needs. We act like we’re made out of cement instead of the clay that we all indeed are. The clay pots that all of us are is very fragile, heavily delicate, and genuinely breakable.

Isaiah comes to our rescue, as he often can, and tells us what Confession is all about. “Remember not the events of the past,” he writes, “the things of long ago consider not.” Because, you know, Confession reviews our past with bright eyes firmly planted on the next day and the day after that. Isaiah says, “Desert? Forget about it; God will give you “‘rivers.’”

But back to St. Paul. In similar words to Isaiah, “I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead.” Thank you, St. Paul. There’s that pursuit again. I would have said “looking forward,” but Paul uses a stronger verb – straining to look forward. Do we need new glasses? Wasn’t cataract surgery enough?

As usual, Jesus saves the day with his finger writing hidden messages in the sand. Addressed to those around him. What did he write? Speculations abound. What could Jesus write for you and me to continue our straining pursuit to be fully possessed by our loving and merciful God?

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“JC & “Lil’ Petey”

Is our Gospel story today about the relationship between Jesus and Peter? Or is this a story about our living the life of Peter or, worse ever, us pretending to be Jesus?

Ummm. I wonder.

Jesus lovingly asks, “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. What a foolish question to ask me.”

“I recognize you,” says the courtyard worker. “You were with him!” Fishing for a quick answer, Peter says, “Foolish woman, get your glasses fixed; there’s no way I know that guy.”

“Heck, if he can walk on water, then why can’t I? Ooops, it’s kinda deep here. Oh no!”

Jesus affectionally re-asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter responds, “Well, we go again, two for two, you know I love you. Is the pope Catholic?”

Courtyard Lady doesn’t give up so easily. “I saw you walking with him all over town!” Peter replies, “Cataracts can be a severe condition – blurred vision, seeing starbursts while riding a donkey. I know an excellent ophthalmologist in Jerusalem; just mention my name. He accepts most HMOs.

Questioning Jesus asks Peter, “Who do people say that I am?” Peter insightfully and faithfully says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”

Peter also says, “Just look at all the fish we caught.” Apostle John said, ‘It’s the Lord out there.’ Peter jumps into the water in his underwear. He was eagerly wanting and willing to connect capturing fish in a net with his relationship with Jesus.

Courtyard Lady, Act Three. “I swear on my ancestors that you are the one seen with him. The hair and the beard. My eyes are fine.” Peter quickly replies, Hey, look, lady, in this neck of the woods, especially at night, we all look the same; now lay off of me.”

Jesus says to Peter after declaring him the “Christ, “Well said…for this has not been revealed to everyone,” Peter then draws Jesus aside and whispers in a Mafia-sounding voice, “I got you covered. Just listen to me. You know JC, now that I know what the “C” stands for can I call you “JC?” Now that we all know that you are the “Christ,” can’t’ we just skip this whole suffering stuff and start building up in Rome? I got an agent who can give us a great deal on prime Italian property – did I mention Caesar-tax-free.” Jesus replies, “Oh, Lil’ Petey, oh Lil’ Petey,” followed by a sentence we all know by heart, “Get behind me, Satan.”

Jesus, Act Three. “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Distressed Peter, only to now repeat for the third time and then later contradict for the same number of times in the courtyard, says, “You know that I love you.”

When do we glibly become “JC” as though we become Jesus the Christ? “JC” in our pretentious pretendings. “Lil’ Petey” is who we all live in the bright and guiding light of Jesus the Christ.

Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs.

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Easter: “Sharing the Light”

Just imagine. Your boss told you that you have that new position that you’ve been working toward. Just Imagine. You just got engaged to be married. Just imagine. Those test results came back negative. Just Imagine. You walk out of the hospital after your spouse dies. One more – You won the Publishers Clearing House grand prize soon to be taking a picture of yourself holding a check taller than you in front of your house.

You’re home now and find no one around to share your news. Your good or sad news. I guess it’s okay if you’re Simon and Garfunkel’s “I am a rock, I am an island” or Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally.” However, it’s a pretty gloomy night in your home when there’s no one to share. Sharing your good news lifts up your light and lights up another’s. That same light applies to distressing news. Unshared, it feels like it’s not real; it never happened; it’s not valid until it’s shared. Trust me on this. My two cats only want food; my good or sad news is entirely mine.

Easter is never mine but ours. It’s a collective season. Lent has the reputation of being a solo trip, whether that’s true or not, but Easter is definitely a journey we all travel together.

But I gave examples of “others toward me,” how about “me toward others?”The light of Easter is mutually witnessed through everyone’s everyday lives. A sincere welcoming smile and that includes your eyes. (The eyes always tell so much more than stretched lips.) Asking that flippant opening question, “How are you?” but, this time, waiting for a complete answer. Unlike the waitress walking past your table who asks, “How’s everything?” but never stops, and you yell, “It sucks,” but she’s three tables beyond you. A firm handshake. (Remember, a two-handed handshake only means that you’re running for public office or looking for a handout.) Easter is expressing meaningful, joyful words of encouragement, words of hope. Not in a pollyanna way but in a risen-Christ way. Because that’s who we’ve become because of this night, because of His sacrifice.

You should know by now that I love words. Well, it occurred to me writing this that adding “en” to the beginning and end of the word “light” means that you’ve received an even greater knowledge or insight about yourself or about another person. A revelation to be shared, whether about a situation, offering a bigger picture view to a predicament, or addressing a perplexing problem. In other words, a deeper understanding.

That is the Easter’s spirit and gift to us all. You know, we all sadly call it a day, as if it has a twenty-four window, and then on Monday, we call it a season for a couple of weeks. And then it’s on to the next holiday. I think we ought to make it our journey. I said earlier, “a journey we all travel together.”

Playing “Tug of War” when we’re young is one fun thing, but playing the same game with God can be quite troubling. (Take out the word “quite.”)

One more song reference. It’s the Beatles singing, “Hello, Goodbye.” Palm Sunday has its glorious “Hello, Lord, Hello Lord” (“Hallelujah,” in church lingo). Good Friday has its “Goodbye God, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and those glorious angels,” with us giving in, giving up, and caving into our faults, foibles, and failings. You know what I mean; it occurs every single day. Are those three “f” words holding us down? They’re never told to anyone. Cue “Simon and Garfunkel” once more? Easter is also about sharing those three “f’s,” asking for others’ encouragement, prayers, and support.

Here are three more “f” words. How about three “f” words that are proudly and sincerely living within ourselves and then shared, like a virus, with all we meet: faith, fidelity, and fruitfulness. If you noticed, those three “f” words are all about growth rooted in the seeds of His sacrifice. Tonight it surely has the Resurrected Christ singing to us and every day afterward, “I don’t know why you say ‘goodbye,’ [when] I say ‘hello.” That’s the miracle of this night. That’s the miracle of our lives to be lived in God’s bright light every day.

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Holy Thursday, “Passing the Light”

Please excuse my bluntness. I don’t know if it’s sad news or good news. Fr. Joe is shrinking. I know, it’s true. “Two inches” last year, he told me. It could be more even as I speak. I’m down 3/4 of an inch in my previous physical, so I have some catching up to do. He gave me this white vestment because it didn’t fit him anymore. Thanks, Fr. Joe.

And here we are tonight, at the table of Our Lord. I mean that literally. Here we are gathered at the table of Our Lord. He is our Passover tonight. He is here to Pass Over to us what he received from His Father. His passion, death, and resurrection are his Passover given freely. He then Passes Over to us the baton of His Body like the track runner who reaches out, hoping not to drop it when handed off to the next runner. That next person is waiting, anxious and nervous but willing to firmly grab it away from the runner who ran his course.

It cannot be extinguished no matter how often we try during our trials or by others attempting to quench it from us. The tiniest of it, it holds on dearly with the hopeful enveloping that it can become. It still burns, especially in that Ukrainian chaos or on those sleepless nights of yours and mine. Ever so slowly burning. It is still active and alive.

The “it” is light. Light, for us, in all its Christian forms. It is the light of love. It is the light that Jesus passes over to us and then requests that we pass it on to others. The light of love. Thomas Merton wrote, “The gift of love is the gift of the power and the capacity to love, and, therefore, to give love with full effect is also to receive it. So, love can only be kept by being given away, and it can only be given perfectly when it is also received.” So, thanks again, Fr. Joe; I like it a lot.

So, what does Jesus say to us tonight? “Take this all of you; I’ll loan it to you.” No. Jesus says to us tonight, “Here, borrow it from me until I return.” Nope. Jesus says to us tonight, “Hold onto it for a while.” Enough of that “it” stuff. The “it” said by Him is His body and blood. The “it” said by Him to us is passing the light of His light to become our light living through Him. What a profound invitation. Or, better yet, what a profound challenge.

Jesus did His job. That’s the Last Supper; that’s Holy Thursday. Jesus passes over for us to pass on. He says at the Ascension in different words, “Get out there and baptize everyone you meet in my name, in my father’s name, along with the gentle power of the Holy Spirit.”

We tend to jump to the resurrection. But we don’t know about that yet, just like his disciples. Tonight is purely the giving of Jesus, who, while innocent, shrinks himself by dying a criminal’s death for others to become enlightened and grow into God’s light of love. So we can “pass on” because of His “Passover.”

Once more, Thomas Merton. “The truth I must love in my brother [and sister] is God Himself, living in [others]. I must see the life of the Spirit of God breathing in [others]. And I can only discern and follow that mysterious life by the action of the same Holy Spirit living and acting in the depths of my own heart.”

At a recent gathering of priests of all ages, I was taken back seeing those newly ordained priests who looked like they had just graduated eighth grade. I saw the youth and eagerness in their lighted eyes.

Fr. Joe, your white vestment fitted you well for as many years as I hope to, at least, match. I like it. I hope to find an eighth-grader who can one day also wear it.

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Good Friday, “The Fledgling Flame”

It flickers back and forth, ever so slowly so as to not extinguish itself. The wax surrounding it allows the tiny flame to stay lit. A cold December night on my kitchen table rests my tiny but still my burning flame.

“It’s not my fault,” says Peter warming his hands in the courtyard fire just like Pilate washed his in the palace. Peter says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you; what did you say that guy’s name is?”

My apartment is still heated; I can’t rely on that tiny, little flame to flame forth a comfortable, warm winter home. Heck, I bet if I quickly stood up right now, it’d go out!

“Is he dead yet?”

“There’s dramatic climate change affecting the next generation,” says one group to the disagreeing other.

Forget what I just said about my tiny candle. I stood up, and it didn’t go out.

Matthew says, “It’s not my fault. I still have my license; tax collecting was very rewarding for me. Hell, I can return and retire in a few years!”

My kitchen candle continues its flickering, ever so slowly and softly, tirelessly trying to keep itself alive, aflame. The wax surrounding my tiny flame keeps it alive. Yet, I think that the wax that keeps it alive can also drown the love. I don’t understand what I just said but I think there’s something significance to it.

“Is he still breathing? Is it almost finally over?”

“I still say the last presidential election was rigged? End of discussion,” says one. “It doesn’t appear so,” says another.

My light’s oil appears to be going down. The flame is still seen, but I’m not sure I trust it. It seems too shaky to be trusted. What happens when the oil runs out?

“Is He dead yet? It’s been one hour. How long can he last?”

“Critical Race Theory? Wrong,” says one. “No, it’s okay, really,” says another.

Pilate said, “Thank goodness I’m not elected because it certainly is not my fault. I set Anthony Quinn free. What more do they want from me! It’s their fault, don’t blame me.”

In the 1940’s movies, Bette Davis would approach her lover with a cigarette and cooly ask, “Got a light?” Then they’d both kiss…oh wait…they didn’t kiss. They only exchanged smoke.” There is no kiss. Is that who we are on this sorriest of days hoping when Jesus no longer prods and propels us. Thankfully, we don’t need him to guide us toward our tomorrows. Each of us knows what needs to be done. Each of us, singularly, knows what needs to be done. My tiny kitchen flame just flinched as I typed that last sentence.

“It’s not my fault, says the elder. It’s that guy at that Bethesda pool who blabbed the whole thing to those big guys. And, you’ve got to be kidding; who could have fed all those men with small portions of food. Plus, I don’t like fish, and they didn’t even count the women?”

“It’s 2:15, and he’s still alive? How does that happen?

I hope my kitchen flame glows a while longer.

Judas said, “I wanted eighty, but they only gave me thirty of those silvers. Something about the present market value for someone claiming to be the ‘Son of God.’ And, after taxes and Rome’s VAT – I got $18.75 – American. It’s not my fault this guy stiffed me out of fifty. I didn’t kiss him. I smoked him. You know, I liked him, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do and then move on.”

“Which cable channels do you watch? What newspapers do you read?” Is that what defines us in 2022? Centuries-old questions with new technology.

“Is He dead yet? It’s almost 2:30?” “I gotta home and get supper ready.” “I need to pick up my kids from school.” “If I knew it would take this long, I would’ve stayed home.”

A ray of light, we’re told. An eternal beam of light we’d like to believe. His shining light we so often selfishly attempt to extinguish. His glowing, bright light that now can only be kept radiant and bright through our words and deeds.

“Whew, that was close. I thought he might have survived. Thank goodness He’s finally dead.”

Wow. My little kitchen flame is still burning away as I write this. Go figure. The timeless love of Jesus Christ and those who came before us and for all of us gathered here today and for those for whom we pass on a light – even a tiny light.

We ask ourselves on this Good Friday. What’s so ‘good’ about it? Good that we’re finally in control and in charge? Or “good” for what was sacrificed for us to become the Body of Christ? “Do we now become Jesus in our comfortable and contentious daily lives because we successfully killed the real one? Or, do wait and wonder what comes next, just like disciples? Is there even a “next.” What does “next” mean?

It’s now 3:15. Earthquakes were heard… Darkness covers the earth, and it still covers our lives. The wholeness of the sacred temple curtain is no longer what God promised nor intended.

Torn and separated is an act of religious rejection. Perpetuating division and divisiveness in all parts of our lives. Political and religious. Never in polite conversation, we’re told to talk about those two – only those two most important human topics instead of the safer two’s: Brewers or Packers. (And, we still disagree about those two so why not those previous critically important two’s?) Torn in half. “Torn in half,” Scripture recorded centuries ago. What is our present behavior recording? Can that curtain be sown together again? Or, do those two parts of one, whole curtain simply but stupidly flap away from each other with their passing winds.

Dare we ask what Leonard Cohen sings, “Show me the place, help me roll away the stone. Show me the place where the word became man. Show me the place where the suffering began.

Are we keeping that every-flickering flame alive? Or did the wax meant to keep the -Christ-love alive or was it to drown away the Christ-like flame?

Cohen again. “Magnified, sanctified by the Holy Name. Vilified, crucified in the human frame. A million candles burning for the help that never came. ‘Here I am, here I am.’ I’m ready, my Lord.”

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“Transfiguration,” Jesus’ and Ours

Life in all its forms, shapes, and sizes is all about identity. No, it’s not; it’s all about recognition. Please wait a minute; it’s all about the more than you thought you could be.

On second thought, it’s always about all three. Identity, recognition, more of you.

After those forty-food-less days in the desert, along with Mr. Devil’s three stupid teasings, Jesus just may have realized what was unfolding in his life.

You all know about your aging mom or dad falling, and suddenly you become the parent to your parent. Anyone? Now, let’s talk about identity, recognition, more of you than you thought possible.

How about a third-grader who just cannot say his last name. Everyone in the class laughed away. He then becomes a radio announcer for many years and a Catholic priest. And I still have trouble saying my full name.

If only the purely human part of Jesus knew what was to be shown to him at the top of that mountain, he’d surely run downhill. However, with the divine part of Jesus presented and unveiled to him standing when between the greatest prophet and the greatest traveler, capped off with even more drama by a talking cloud – then I kinda think Jesus got the hint. There’s identity, recognition, and the more of his life.

I’ve mentioned before the most asked question of Jesus is not whether you’re going to heaven or not. Or, how many times you missed weekend Mass. The most asked question of Jesus is, “Who are you?” Who are you to me? Who am I to you? Who am I with you? Just think of all the identities we can place upon the Son of God.

But, what if? What if? Jesus as an adult. Finds a steady job as a carpenter, his father teaches him well. Joins a union with decent pay. Finds a good wife, couple of kids, Jesus, Jr., and MaryAnn; retire at fifty-five with a substantial pension and solid investments. Kids are now on their own, and Jesus and the misses become Arizona snowbirds between November through March. They return for Easter. Oh, wait. There is no Easter. Ahhh. Where’s Frank Sinatra singing, “Oh, the good life..”

Identity, recognition. A boy becomes a man, then dad, then grand, and sometimes even reaching great added before his name. I’m a freshly ordained priest, and my dad keeps calling me “Father.” I said to him, “We can’t keep doing this Dad. I’m Joe.” (“Hi Father. Oh, hi Father…”)

Shouldn’t have climbed that mountain, Jesus. Could’ve stayed in Arizona. That way, there’d be no crucifixion and resurrection. We wouldn’t need to come to this old church week after week. We’d merely be helpless, hopeless, reckless people. People would never, ever have heard about identity, recognition, and becoming more than they ever imagined themselves to be.

You’re having a remarkable career with upcoming promotions in the mix, and you have a “rare” form of cancer. (Why does someone always get a “rare” form of cancer instead of the ordinary kind!) You slowly become a proud cancer survivor, and you let many people know about it! Identity. Recognition.

The suffering people of Ukraine. Always in our prayers until our prayers increase with the next evening’s news. Because of their beautiful independence, they are experiencing significant interdependence. Perhaps with identities and recognitions changed forever and so much more demanded of them. And, because of this crisis, the whole wide world has learned so much more about interdependence than we ever thought possible. (McDonald’s is closed in Russia!)

All those examples and those about Jesus show us becoming more than we are or, better yet, much more than we thought we could be. That’s transfiguration. That’s a vibrant, living Catholic faith. That’s Jesus climbing up that mountain alongside his climbing companions becoming for us all the living Christ.

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Solo Man?

Bruce Willis captures us in his one-person movies. I’ve watched each of his three, three times. He successfully embarrasses by foiling trained professional good-guys while outwitting the trained bad professionals and killing numerous of them until he finally meets the head bad guy and does him “in” to a grand finale. In one installment, to show off how invincible he is, he does all this damage barefoot with surrounding glass surrounding the floors.

That spaghetti-cowboy introduced me to this theme of “I’m the savior” in films. (He’s also the former mayor of Carmel, CA.) If he ever dies, “Make My Day” ought to be on his gravestone like any of these one-man heroes death is never the movies’ choice. Add to our solo heroes besides Willis is Stallone, Lundgren, Butler, Elba, Diesel, Cruise, (I’m not done yet) Cage, Norris, McQueen, Damon, Walberg, (two more) Seagal and Crowe. And, that’s a partial list. Let’s add Charles Bronson, just to show my age. What great times for us guys to watch movies!

“Shaken, not stirred” brings out a list of seven of them playing what’s now called an “iconic” role. An icon means pointing to something deeper. There’s nothing iconic about a one-man show. How sad. (And, David Niven as Bond? You’re kidding!) Uma, a female, tried it in a two-part film, but I refuse to watch them.

You may dismiss my reflection because we all know better. Yet, do we? We may think “it’s just a movie” but its solitary portrayals can seep into our emotions and onto our behaviors. A bit of Willis can easily emerge while driving on 76th Street or during a heated encounter. We become the hero of our own story which, dismally, is not the community of faith Christ lived and witnessed for us. And, continues to witness for us through his Dad’s graces.

The “Body of Christ?” Ummm. Are we collectively working together, or are we, singling ourselves as individual individuals, acting out a fictional character that’s been shown and taught to us constantly on that silver screen? Attempting to live out that alienating American myth of a false individualism.

Is the “Body of Christ” lived during each moment of our lives or is it absorbing two hours watching a “guy” violently solve all the world’s problems – and doing it all by himself?

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Black History Month

To honor “them,” our country gave “them” the shortest month of the year. Wouldn’t December have been a better choice to reject our ancestor’s sins of the past and our present, more subtle ways, in thinking and acting around “them?”

Amazingly, in one of the most segregated cities in the country (Milwaukee, WI,) we presently have one of “them” as our acting mayor, police chief, sheriff, and county executive. Go, figure! Where did we go right for a change? Are we the generation to finally take those bedsheets off our heads? Hiding our faces from faces we do not know but only hear the worst about “them?”

“They’ve” complimented me more about what I’m wearing than the lighter bunch. I like that. Years ago, after parking, I was walking to St. Joseph’s Hospital to visit a parishioner. Four of “them” were walking behind me. Do I walk faster? Do I move my wallet from the back to the front? Do I run? They continued on my path to the hospital entrance and entered the elevator. “How ya’ doing,” one of “them” says to me and said to me in a delivery that I find “cool.” “Great,” says the bland lighter-skinned priest with that bland one-word response. “Four against one?” some may ask. Or, five healthy guys anxious to see a sick relative or parishioner in anxious pain?

My wallet never moved but I was moved about my silly fears. TV-driven trepidations? Was it my small-town experience of never meeting one of “them” until high school? I don’t know. Is it powerfully and subtlety ingrained without my knowledge or first-hand understanding.

“They’ve” got the shortest month of the year for us to respect the disrespect of centuries of brutal beatings and death that no church bulletin can print. But it happened. And, it is still disguisedly happening. I’ve learned that racism can never be eliminated. It can only be dismantled, one thought and one encounter at a time. It can only be managed by acknowledging that five guys, in an elevator alone, wish to extend prayers and blessings to someone in need.

February isn’t a short month. I strongly believe that it is us who are short.

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