Hey, go fly a kite!

“Go fly a kite” might once have been a flippant phrase to mean to say “get lost” to someone, but it is not so much said anymore.IMAG0383_1
Or “go take a long walk off a short pier!” might have been a funny, old insult, but you don’t hear it anymore.
In the case of the above photo of a pier, a walk off its end would appear to lead you in the waters of a leaping great white shark. Take a look at the photo. It just so happens to be a kite of a great white blowing in the wind, and not a real one leaping out of the water! Phew!!
I am out at Virginia Beach today at a hotel facing the ocean and I have walked along on the boardwalk and pier and I am joined by plenty of folks doing the same. Many are flying kites today, as its Kite Day here. People LIKE to do this fun stuff by the ocean. It’s a get-a-way to nature and to some simplicity.
I even just saw some horseback riders go by up the shore, too. IMAG0384

I am in VB for a late afternoon wedding. Maybe in a later blog this week I will post pics of it. Yet here are some photos I just took from my stroll. It is a nice spot right here. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I am glad I was invited to witness this wedding in town…


Love One Another 4-24 Homily

(Blog Version–expanded text.)

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus talks of the whole new era to come for humanity ahead. It would get inaugurated in His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven, and via the Pentecost Event to follow. It is the Reign of His Heart.
You and I are now living in that new era. “The Kingdom has come within you,” preached the Savior. So–do believe it. Jesus is in our hearts. We are in His continued Era of Love, 2016. He is alive in our hearts.

Since humankind would be washed clean in His offering and be restored unto God, Jesus, then, could speak at His Last Supper, of such a New Way and of a New Commandment of Love to come through His triumph. This is our joy, that, now we CAN be united to God’s heart and live life through His love. It is a Heart-to-heart Era in this present time with God. Our parish mission and our latest dvd mission talks have been on this theme of Jesus’ Love. By His Divine Mercy we are ushered into His Way of Love. Let us live in it!

“Love one another” was an Old Testament phrase of God to His people, but this is more than that exhortation. Jesus is saying it anew of how we will now be able to “love one another as He has loved.” Our loving was getting elevated and changed, via the triumph of His Heart. Jesus was accomplishing a new start for the human race. Not salvation from sin alone, as in one deposit of grace and done, but Jesus was speaking as well of His Kingdom of Love come among us, to help us start living in it and being transformed in such love. Our dvd retreat speaker calls this ongoing mystery our “progressive transfiguration” in the Divine Mercy.

Jesus was announcing in His new command of Love that humankind was receiving an eternal newness to her experience and capacity. It would be a new Love with His soul in it. It is a love with eternity behind it. In Jesus’ Name. In us! It is Love Incarnate—so live on in His children. You and I!

I think of the same apostle John and his epistle exhortation to his parishes/faith communities in later decades following upon Jesus’ Paschal Mystery: “Children, let us love one another, for everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God—Those who love not, as such, know not yet their Lord, for God is Love. Thus— let us love one another—(via Him).” (1st John 4:7-8–and this epistle also points a lot to life in The Spirit for that loving.)

In this Gospel text of John we just proclaimed in Sunday Mass, Jesus was speaking there and then at His Last Supper and of His fulfilling such prophecies as of Ezekiel 36, when the Word said of The Anointed One’s ministry: “I will give them new hearts for old, and soft ones for stony ones…as I will put My Spirit within them.” Jesus was prophetically saying that Divine Love was now to transfer into believers’ hearts, and it would be possible by the Holy Spirit Whom He would send. We could live in His Spirit of Love. Conclusion? The world could now have not only “a” Sacred Heart in it, as Jesus of Galilee, but now very, very many hearts alive in that Sacred Heart of His. It is a multiplied love. It is Jesus love poured out through many! Right on to here in Bowie and our surroundings! All of it comes via our believing, with open hearts for Him.
He will love through our own choice to love others–and In His Name and Inspiration. Great things can happen by Jesus’ love at work!

What is that love one another example that you have found in your recent experiences? Do you pray frequently for Jesus’ love to pour forth from His Heart through yours and to other people?

This gospel prompts you to do such a thing regularly. Perhaps this week you could pray it and look to act on who or what God puts in your path of life to love, as He loves. Remember that part: The New Commandment is to love as He loves. (Or with His Heart in yours.)

We need Him to love us anew in that Heart. And He will pass on that love to others in need, via us.

Another reading to apply in this homily today is such: “They will know us, as Jesus’ people in the world, by our love shared for one another.” For Christians are called to come together in His Love. And, in our bond of love, we then spread love. ‘Right?!

Part Two– An application story.

Last weekend, I started to look at these Scripture readings that we heard today. I wanted to use the past week with its couple-of-day’s break to reflect on the Word and to see how I might put it into practice.

The first reading, with all the cities mentioned of Paul’s churches and faith communities, seemed to me to be like a string of parishes. I have been in my own parish versions of Pamphylia, Perga, Iconium, and the like—they have been parishes located in places like Medley’s Neck, Avenue, Bethesda, Rockville, Springbrook of Silver Spring, Laurel and Bowie. I was thinking of the kinds of Christian love that I have seen in those parish communities and cities and places, and how I had examples from parishioners of Jesus’ love in all of them, and how I remember sharing and receiving Jesus’ Love in each place, through to here and now.

Of course, wherever we are, and wherever we go, we are an ambassador of the Lord’s love. We need to be ready to live in Jesus’ heart in any situation. We also need to be ready to receive Jesus in the way He comes to us.
I had such an example this week. IMAG0338_1
I was taking the Amtrak train back from New York City to New Carrollton station. It was Tuesday afternoon. I had a quick trip up that was now rebounding back, and speedily, on the rails. Upon boarding at Penn Station New York, I had found a nice window seat with tray table to put my sandwich on for lunch, and my cd player to place upon so to listen to a book, the one of Mother Angelica’s life story. I put on my headphones, and I was good. The landscape of New York, New Jersey and Delaware were quickly going by outside.

An elderly man’s voice could be heard a few times behind me, about a half-car away, as he kept mentioning Pennsylvanian Station: “I am going to Pennsylvania Station in Baltimore and getting picked up there. Pennsylvania Station.” He also was bantering with some people nearby him in that part of the train, but I didn’t hear it much, especially with my cd player on. I got up to purchase a soda at the next dining service car, and passed the man with the Pennsylvania Station mantra. He was a friendly-looking old guy, a cross between Tony Bennett and Abe Vigoda, if you know those famous Italian men. Yet you could tell, as I did in saying hello to him, that he was learning challenged, an adult with difficulties socially and mentally. Yet he was happy hearted and friendly, though maybe too much so for the company around who didn’t want conversation with him. I chatted quickly with him as I went by, so you are getting off in Baltimore? He agreed, and told me that there were two stations in the Baltimore area, and he was de-boarding at Pennsylvania Station. That’s the one he was getting off at–to meet family there. I said, “Have a nice ride,” and got back to my seat. I was pondering there how odd it was that the man who got on at a station called Pennsylvania Station or Penn Station New York, would have a ticket to another Pennsylvania Station–Baltimore. They ought to have different names for each. Then I thought that one could also go from Union Station-Washington to Union Station-Chicago. I guess they expect riders to know where they are.

Yet this man did not know such differences well. I could hear the man ask aloud pretty clearly, to a passing food car attendant, of “When was Pennsylvania Station coming up?” and she said: “Sir, you got ON there, so it’s back in New York behind you.” Now the poor guy was confused. He asked the conductor going by: “When is my stop coming up?” The capped man said: “Not for awhile, as we are in New Jersey, and your ticket I see is for Baltimore.” The old guy piped up: “Yes, I am going to Pennsylvania Station!” The conductor moved on, saying back towards him: “Baltimore City–at least an hour away.”
A few times more I heard the passenger man say “Pennsylvania Station– I am going to Pennsylvania Station.” Everybody was informed of it now! And I know the conductor had to hear the man say it at least once or twice, plus know it by the passenger’s ticket of where and when this needy man had to get off.

We passed through Philadelphia and came to Baltimore. I stayed in my seat listening to my tape. The conductor came through, announcing “Baltimore–next stop.” I figured the conductor or somebody tipped off the old guy to ready to de-train. When we pulled in, and I did not hear the old guy anymore, as I couldn’t see him as my seat faced the other way and about 10 rows away, so I had figured he gotten off. You never heard announced it was Pennsylvania Station, although if you looked out the window, you could spot some signs saying that. It was Baltimore. And then we were moving again.

As we neared the next station, BWI, and the conductor came through again announcing it ahead, all of a sudden I heard the old guy. He was asking: “Is this Pennsylvania Station?” But the conductor said: “Buddy, you missed it.” The guy said: “Baltimore has two stops, you said. The first one–you did not say: Pennsylvania Station. Is this it?” “No buddy, you missed it,” was the conductor’s answer as he walked off.
The old traveler’s phone rang, and he said to the voice on the other end: “No, there wasn’t a Pennsylvania Station. I am on the train still right now.”

The man’s panicked family realized that he was still aboard Amtrak and riding on south. They had been looking for him at the Baltimore Penn Station, knowing the train had left. Where was Pappi? Now they were scared for him. They asked him lots of fast questions in their call, and it flustered him. He hung up, not understanding what to do next. The conductor was now outside helping people de-board at BWI. Pappi was almost crying.

I knew his name now, because I was standing beside him. I had heard the callers. I said hello to him. “Remember me?” He said “Yes.” “I remember how you kept saying: “Pennsylvania Station. That’s where you were going… Well, you just missed it 15 minutes ago, as we were just there. And I am sorry no one helped you off,” said I, as I looked at all the passengers nearby him that had not gotten involved in helping him. I also wasn’t happy with the conductor, as he had taken the man’s ticket atop his seat, but failed to clearly alert the needy man of his stop. Yes. he had said Baltimore but Pappi was listening for Pennsylvania Station.

With Pappi sitting there dumbfounded, I knew how God had put me there to act in His mercy and love. I said: “I can help you, sir. My name is John. I am getting off at the next station, and I can help get you back to Pennsylvania Station. No worries. You will be an hour late, but you’ll get there. No problem. Do you think your family will call again? We need them to wait for you, or to come here to this new station.” He nodded. “I need your help, John. My name is Donald. My family calls me Pappi,” he said.

Then the phone rang again with his frantic family on the line, but I calmed them, and said I was an Amtrak Capitol Hill Headquarter worker’s son (which happens to be true in Dad’s last job) and that today I was a passenger on Pappi’s same train and that I was getting off at New Carrollton Station in a few minutes and, with my guidance, Pappi could be back in their hands soon at Penn Station Baltimore— my personal guarantee. Pappi agreed and they agreed upon the help.

I wasn’t dressed in my clergy garb, as you might have guessed here, nor did I announce it. I was content just to be John the Christian here.

Pappi and I de-trained at Carrollton and we went downstairs into the train station and checked on the time for returning MARC trains to Baltimore. I then called the family with a plan: “Hi, it’s John again, with your Pappi here. As you see, I am on his phone. Your choice of how we do this. #1. I drive up there to you at Pennsylvania Station in my car with Pappi. Or #2. You meet me half-way. Or,#3, the better way, we put him on the 337 MARC train and you wait for him up there.” They chose option C. It was just a $7 ticket to B’more.
I went up to track 2 with Pappi and he and I talked for a half-hour before his MARC train approached. I was going to be sure to stay with him and see that he did this last leg of his journey right. I gave him clear instructions on what to do. With his ticket in hand, he said goodbye before he got on board, and said “I was his “Guardian Angel.” He pulled out a crucifix on a chain that he was wearing under his shirt. He said: “See?! HE sent me a guardian angel. You.” I said: “I am a Catholic like you. There may be angels around, yet I am more like FAMILY to you, by Jesus. We are brothers in Jesus Christ. Catholic brothers.” He was delighted to find that out. “We are to love one another!,” I said to him, “because we are family in Jesus.” He nodded happily and smiled a big one to me.
“He used me today to help you, and love you, and he used you today to come into my life and bring your love and goodness, too, to me. It was a pleasure to meet you. Thanks.”
We hugged, and he got on board the train, heading to Baltimore.

This would be my lesson, to love another, as Jesus would do, through me. I got to practice this Gospel! And I think it all was led by Mercy. And here became my homily, too. This all happened last Tuesday. God was experienced through the mix, and He was served. I thought that my Dad, the said retired Amtrak man, would have been happy to see that exchange happen.

Maybe someday I will be riding Amtrak, and, as an aged man, and maybe with some senility issues or hearing or eyesight issues– and needing my own help making it off at my train stop—where maybe a niece or grandniece would be waiting for me–to return from another New York City visit. I hope someone will be there to care for me on the train too, then.

“Love One Another as I have loved you” sounds like a tall order, but it just takes God’s arranging for it to happen, and His love alive in your heart to His, and His bidding for you to be the one to act on His grace and charity, and have somebody be the benefactor of your giving, and you the blessed one to be part of Love going on in the world in Jesus’ Heart.IMAG0337

Non-Catholics or lapsed Catholics with us at a Mass of Christian Burial

We have had a lot of non-Catholics in our church for the last few funerals. I can usually tell how many practicing Catholics are in the church by the time the Opening Collect is prayed and the Scriptures are proclaimed. If few or not many of the congregation are participating in the proper responses, nor know enough of when to be seated or to stand, then I quickly recognize of how I have a lot of “guests” at the Mass.

As a priest and pastor, I am happy the guests are there to honor and pray for the dear departed person, and have so come to join with us in the Catholic liturgy. I think they can experience a lot from The Lord in it by their coming, as they come near to the Real Presence of Christ in His Eucharistic offering in the Church’s prayer. I believe a non-Catholic’s soul does recognize the Light of The Presence of Christ in the Sacred Liturgy (even if not realized by them consciously or by their natural senses). I believe the Divine Son Jesus wants to appeal to them in His unique and special way, as He prays the Mass (through the priest and with the congregants) and as He mediates to the Eternal Father on all our behalf in the Sacred Liturgy. He tells the guests secretly: I am really here in this church. I Am also the Resurrection and eternal life this Church proclaims of Me..

Of the “guests,” some are lapsed, non-practicing or barely practicing Christians. Some might be former Catholics or quite lukewarm ones. Then still, the others are people from varying religions, or of perhaps no religion at all. All are welcome.

If all of these folks have come to honor the dearly departed Catholic and/or their Catholic family member survivors, by this visit to our parish, then I can see they have been summoned by Christ Himself to be with Him, and there, at the Mass. Thus, I, the priest, with our parishioner hosts, have a role to serve Jesus’ intentions to them. So, while our main purpose is to be in prayer for the deceased, we also have a Catholic witness of hope to give to our ” guests.” It is a moment of evangelism. (I have these thoughts through my reflections after my once reading Pope John Paul II’s “Witness to Hope.”)

While I don’t believe that Christ Jesus the Lord wants us to have open Communion in the Mass, which could offend Him, and deny our own high faith in the Sacrament Signs of Christ, I do know how He wants us to be loving in presenting that part of the Mass, and to be loving in how we accommodate our guests at the Mass. Even our description of our Catholic only Eucharist can be done lovingly, as needed, to a mixed church of believers and congregants.

See the PART TWO bottom of this blog on this whole matter of Holy Communion at a Mass of Christian Burial.
We also try to emphasize that it is love what can unite us in the funeral celebration, from whatever point we come from. [*See footnote at blog bottom]

IMG_20150611_154623_362Jesus surely recognizes everyone and everything going on in that Mass. He sees the members of The Church; He sees the guests out there in the pews. He loves them and greatly hopes that they will experience Him for all that the Church proclaims about Him–that He is among us, and praying for us, and that is indeed The Deliverer of humanity from sin and death. He glories in presenting His own Sacrifice of Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity to the Father in that Mass of Christian Burial. Alone He saves us. He is the Lord of Reconciliation and He hopes for a touching experience to be had by His members and for the guests in His Holy Mass. Because, one day, each there in the pews will come to their finality on earth, too. He wants to say: “Can I be there for you on that day?”

As a priest, I love to be there in the Mass for the mourners, especially for the Catholics, so we can do what we do in times of death and mourning: We can come together to Jesus. And we can let others join in through our beautiful rites and beliefs. Sacred Liturgy Image

Some people have conversion experiences at Catholic Masses of Christian Burial. They can be that greatly touched.

I try to be personal to the family of the departed person. As a single person, I have the availability of my time and attention at the time of funerals. Catholic priests have schedules that can open up for the families and mourners. We can adjust our plans to serve them. The faithful deserve that attention in their time of need. I am inspired by the Beatitude: “Blessed are those who mourn…” and I think of the Work of Mercy: “Pray for the Living and the Dead.” These both are fulfilled in ministry at a funeral. We Catholics know how Christ will be present for our gathering in a funeral/Mass.

I see that, as a priest, and also as a Catholic, that I have a role in the funeral Mass as Christ’ agent and for His manifestation in my membership with Him in His Body, the Church. What an honor to represent Him as we gather in Him in the liturgy to our guests at Mass.

I appreciate it when members of the parish gather in to love and pray at the Mass. Among them are those who knew the deceased (or family of the deceased) well. They can be so important to the support of the grieving.

People come into the Mass of Christian Burial to mourn and remember the deceased. It may be their practicing Catholic parent who is the beloved of the funeral and in the coffin. It may be a friend or neighbor or a co-worker whom they have just lost. It may be a relative who died that they are paying family respects to. It may be that they come to support a co-worker in their loss of a parent, child or sibling.

Surely, it can be a touching and special time for them, as they join us at Mass in the church. I hope for it to be a revelation to them and a good experience. (Often I am told that our Masses of Christian Burial fulfill the above hopes.)

The Mass is a beautiful hour of prayer. Funeral Masses must be so important to Jesus. As one of the Gospel readings done at funerals declares of Jesus, “…He calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ Or, as in the Wisdom chapter 3 Word in the Old Testament, He says: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God…their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace….as sacrificial offerings He(I) took them to (My)Himself. In the time of their visitation (with Me) they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble… and (I) the Lord shall be their King forever. Those who trust in (Me) Him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with (Me) Him in love: Because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and God’s care is with the elect.” Amen! Alleluia!
IMG_20140414_131310_662 Lord of Mercy


A sensitive time of the funeral Mass is when we get to Holy Communion. Some non-Catholic guests (and lapsed Catholics out of Confession practice) may not know that they are supposed to stay in their pews for the distribution of Communion. Or, that a blessing can be imparted in the line, as some customs afford, but that the Holy Eucharist is not supposed to be distributed to non-Catholics or Catholics out of practice. The visitor may differ with our belief on Eucharist, too, but some visitors may think the funeral Mass is a time to publicly differ with that theology and come forward to receive. It certainly is NOT the time for such an action (of deciding matters on their own). It could even be quite a rude behavior on their part. We Catholic priests sometimes have to tolerate it going on in front of us, and we are taught by our bishops not to cause a scene if it happens as such, but the non-Catholic’s communion reception doesn’t make it right on their part to do. The non-Catholic Christian members (our separated brethren from The Lord’s Supper) are part of a division of Christians who willingly walked away from the family table of unity in the Eucharist. They have established their own version of Holy Communion, but it is not the one in practice with the Church that was founded on Jesus and to His apostles at the start. It is Christianity’s biggest dividing point, and it won’t be fixed by people disrespecting our Catholic Communion in The Lord. Jesus sends His Spirit to us and we pray, as inspired by His prayer for unity in John 17, that all can be one in Him in the end. He has His banqueting table, and the banner over it and its people is love– so sings a Scripture song I know.

As a priest-presider, I look on a mixed congregation at a Mass of Christian Burial and ask for Jesus’ eyes and ways of love when encountering any ‘trouble’ at our time for Communion. I ask for His words to say, if I note that He is prompting something. At the last Mass of Christian Burial, I did note it, and just said “We Catholics rehearse in a real way, in this Holy Communion part of Mass here, of our eventual time to meet Jesus the Lamb and our God and Savior in Heaven besides His banqueting table. We kneel to the Lamb, address Him as such in the song we just sang, and say in this next prayer of Communion recipients of His Church how we are not worthy of such a magnificent grace to sit at table with Him, right here, and in Glory, but if He says but the Word to us to give Himself to us as God and gift to be received, then may it be so and we shall be healed. In the Church’s ministry in Sacraments, we hear His Word of such invitation, and come forward, but in fidelity to Him, His teachings, and what He expects of us for being in community in Him. In every Mass, then, right here, we rehearse our presentation to Him in Glory, but also come to now see His Kingdom Come, on earth, in Him, as it is in Heaven—in Him, our daily Bread of Life—our Eucharist. To all our guests here, we want you to know, that God comes into His Church, His Body, like this every day, to lead us to Heaven. If that is inviting to you, and sounds to you as The Truth, then join us one day in that Catholic faith. Yet, even right now, we can all be gathered in love, with Catholics doing their thing next, and others saying in the pews, too: God we love you. Gather us in to Heaven, and with our beloved who has died, that we be in Your Heavenly Banquet ahead and perfectly together.

I am not sure if those words helped or not, but I said something close to that before I lifted up the Paten and Chalice with Jesus’ gift upon them, and we went knelt to pray the Prayer Before Communion.

I think in my mind, in such times, then, of St. Paul’s teaching that “no-one receive Eucharist unworthily (1 Cor. 11:27).” St. Paul, the apostle-priest to the Corinthians, taught that the Eucharist should be celebrated well and worthily. So I want to encourage the same at our church at funerals. The Sacrament for Catholics IS our kingdom-come-on-earth experience of the wedding supper of The Lamb to come (even if some Catholics there at the Mass might not understand or realize it so). We Catholics want to have Communion at a funeral, since we are called by our Sacrament life to be “one body, one spirit in Christ…(1 Cor. 12:16)(Rom. 12:5)” and in communion in Christ with them.” We know that Christ is Head of the Body, and that our beloved departed is now “changed, not ended in life,” as we pray in a Preface Prayer. We know there is one body of believers to be formed as one as Christ’ Bride, His Body, and we shall be one in Him. It is a hope underlying any funeral for us. Death can’t even separate us. Love will hold. Love will triumph. Love conquers all. Jesus is love. Christ Jesus will keep us in His love.

Maybe a guest to Mass, whom you know, will want to know more of what we Catholics believe about Mass and the Eucharist. We hope our holy reception in the Mass might lead to such a later request from a guest to a Catholic. Even in that, we hope we can better believe Our Lord Who said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink [John 6: 53-55].”

The reason non-Catholics cannot receive the Eucharist is not a matter of hospitality. It is a matter of unity and belief. The word Communion means “In union with.” The Eucharist is the highest practiced sign of Christian unity: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” [1 Cor. 10:17–words from an early Catholic parish in Corinth, Greece, under St. Paul].

Yet we Catholics want to pray a Mass for a funeral, for by it we are uniquely presenting our beloved into Christ’ Liturgy and “presenting them to God the Most High.” (<< these words are prayed in the final part of the Funeral Mass) We believe holy angels have attended to the Mass, even joining us in exulting in God in their own prayers of “Gloria” or “Holy, Holy.” At Mass nears its parting song, we pray: May the angels take you into paradise, o beloved. What a great hope we have, and it is all upon the belief that we are in Encounter with Christ the Lord at Mass, and not just speaking to Him distantly far off in Heaven. He is the God among us Who saves.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the LORD my soul to keep; if I should die before I wake, I pray the LORD my soul to take.christ-on-IMG_20150504_115956_435

The Meaning of Good Bye [Homily April 17]

In your coming and going and returning to parish Masses, we have a phrase we exchange here. It is “The Lord be with you… And with your spirit.”

It is said after you have come through the doors of the church and have begun Mass, and it is said before you depart the church as in the dismissal rites. Those are two main times of its usage. We in liturgy training know that these words are important to say as written as a holy greeting and blessing for the journey. The priest-presider shouldn’t substitute “Hey, what’s up?! Or how y’all doin’? or “Have a nice day, hasta Domingo!” or “Later, have a good one!” He is to say “The Lord be with you!”

“The Lord be with you” is a prayer. We sincerely want to be sharing the Lord in our souls and spirits and bodies and fellowship at Mass. I really do want the Lord to be with you, and you for me. (So you say back: “And with your spirit.”)

I start out with this thought on Good Shepherd Sunday, the particular Sunday in Easter time that we proclaim the Shepherd image of Jesus, and His shepherding of souls, and His care for us as His flock. I can’t help but think of Psalm 23 today and how we are glad to pray how The Lord is Shepherd for us. I will pray a version of Psalm 23 to clisecour intercessions today.

With the Shepherd theme today, I recall watching a demonstration of a shepherd in Ireland on his meadows and at the sheep gate and pen, noting his calling his sheep back home, with help from his shepherd dog. The sheep were rounded up rather easily.

He would call the sheep home and check on them and feed them and such. They were herded through a sheep gate, and with each sheep following after the other into the large pen he had for them. If you could get the first few going, then a chain reaction of sheep movement followed.

IMG_7821edit-630x320IMG_20140511_185556_802I was thinking of Jesus. He is the Shepherd of Souls, and He can uniquely call out to us by name and beckon us home to His care. He also happens to be that lead sheep, too, to show all the rest of us of who to go and how to do it. I think of the Lamb symbol for Easter and its leading forward people to Heaven. Jesus is the Lamb. We heard that in our great second reading today from Revelations 7 where a vision of The Lord is seen by the apostle John. Jesus is the Lamb at the Throne. Jesus ALSO is the Door or Gateway for all of us. He is salvation experience for us to get us through the main doorway to friendship with God, and He is the ultimate gate for us to eternal life and Heaven. Jesus also is in the calling out as He uses shepherd helpers for His gathering and healing work. I see the bishops and priests and deacons and religious as having a particular and special calling to that (and we rejoice that currently there are three vocations in the parish of response to such a calling: Jason Mantich, who is studying for the priesthood for a New Jersey diocese, and Bonaventure Gbabba, also studying for the priesthood for a Midwest diocese, and a permanent deacon candidate accepted in our parish for service to the Church in Washington 5 years from now after his training starts in the autumn). Jesus will live a ministry life in and through them, if they can get to ordinations. Our parish has never had a priest ordained from her membership in its 44 years. We must pray for it to happen!
One of the joys for a Catholic clergyman is to be the one to speak Jesus’ words: The Lord be with you. It is a special greeting, indicating that Jesus’ ministerial Presence is there in that moment, and He blesses His people through His chosen ordained instrument.

A similar phrase in the English language is “Good Day” and “God be with you.” (TO the phrase– The Lord Be With You.)
“Good Day” has some connection to the Creator giving us our new day, but it’s a little vague in its present use that we are invoking God in the phrase. “Good Day, mate!” was stirred up into usage by a comic actor from Australia named Paul Hogan.
“God be with you” is used by people today, though I can’t say it’s overly popular.

Yet it used to be.

“God be with you” has now turned into what we say as “Good-Bye.”

Did you know that Good-bye comes from a simple heavenly wish? Scholars believe that the term developed as a contraction for the common farewell of “God be with you.” The Oxford Dictionary says this–and I found that out from a cute little published material called “The Book of Nice”– that “God be with you” was sometimes interchangeable with “God buy you,” meaning “God redeem you.” What did that mean?! Well, it means in Christian speaking how we have been purchased with the Blood of the Lamb–Jesus Christ! If we can cooperate as to belonging to God, like a happy agreeable sheep under a shepherd, then we are acting as God’s property and consenting to be in God’s hands and free possession.

Shakespeare popularized the truncated phrase of “good bye” but He knew the religious connection. He was a very religious man, and his literary works bear that out.

Can we return to a sense of the holy sense of saying “good bye?” It really is saying “God redeem you” (or May God redeem you”) in a prayer that we offer for others through regular conversation (sprinkled in holiness), and it says in its deeper sense that we hope the person we are addressing is living in the Redeemer Jesus Christ, so that, if we should ever part company from them (which is often in friendship and family ties), that we dearly hope that we can both meet again, assuredly, via our connection in The Lord. For– if we are mutually living and praising Jesus the Lord and Redeemer–then we already are in God’s flock on earth; such the same whom Jesus the Good Shepherd will gather to be His flock for Heaven and its green pastures.

“Good-bye” then is “God redeem you” or “God buy you in His Blood.” Goodbye is a nice blessing in its origin, isn’t it? I guess that some people didn’t realize this! It really is saying--farewell to your company presently–but for eternity I pray we will never become separated, but be under the Lord God Redeemer Whom we love.

Did you hear the wondrous verse from John 10 today? God offers us “eternal Life.” Jesus says He hopes to have us in His care (that we’ll say many yesses and Amen’s to His will for us); and He says then He will hold on to us. He also says the Father will hold onto us.

If that would be the case, then it will be a happy “Good bye” one day to be in The Good Shepherd’s care.

Good bye!

P.S. As I added in my 1130 homily, one dramatic goodbye this week was of a basketball player named Kobe Bryant for the L.A. Lakers. He played in his final game, in which he scored an amazing 60 points in the evening and helped his team win, but afterward he went to the mid-court to give a few words. He thanked a lot of people for his 20 year career in the game, and he thanked his wife and kids for sticking by him in private. He now had somewhere to go and someone to go to spend more time with in his retirement. Kobe really did not want to say goodbye– as in the sense, I am going away and you won’t see me anymore— so he ended his post-career and game speech with “Mambo–Out!” The player, whom many a non-Laker fan did not like, since they too often were champs (and thus our favorite teams were NOT), was humble in the end, and it helped us all like him at his retirement. Kobe has mentioned his Catholic faith off and on through the years and that he was married at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California (no, not in Bowie!), and that his family seeks to be Catholics. May his family find many new opportunities for that–together now! As Pope Francis has just written the exhortation of “Joy in Love,” in which he writes to strengthen relationships and families and marriages, may Kobe’s be one of them. Barry: Out!

Square One Spirituality with the Divine Mercy [Homily–April 10]

Mercy helps us to begin again, even at “Square One.”

Today’s gospel gives us an example of Peter and other apostles of Jesus going back to the start–for a “re-start.”
Do you remember Jesus’ directions to them, first relayed by Mary Magdalene to the apostles, that Jesus wanted them all to go back home to Galilee where He would meet them and “begin again” with them there? So, after about eight days, and two appearances in the Upper Room to the apostles, the whole group of Jesus’ followers head back north to Galilee. Jesus will do a “square one” ministry time with them back there.

They go back to the start, where they had first met Jesus, but this time His ministry has changed and become greatly elevated. He is Risen now. They are washed clean in the forgiveness given from The Cross of Christ. Jesus has been vindicated by the Eternal Father He had been speaking to in His daily prayer. Something huge was now emerging in Jesus’—a victory over sin and death and new beginnings for believers in God.

It is Square One time. He is the same Jesus that they knew ‘way back when’ but then again, He is changed. A new era has begun. Jesus is appearing to them as Risen from the Dead. He is alive and has totally validated in His ministry. He IS the Lord of Lords. He is God’s advocate for humanity, our forgiver and redeemer. He still can be touched and spoken to and He can share a meal with them, like as before, while Jesus now also can walk through walls, disappear to Heaven in a blip, and inaugurate a new phase of ministry, still led by Him.

We go to the gospel situation and from the old fishing vessel the apostle John exclaims aloud to all “It is The Lord!” as he surmises who is there calling to them from the beach. Who else would call them all His “children?” Could it be Jesus?! John thinks so. Peter quickly ponders it. Could it possibly be Him again, alive and starting His Church?! Yes, of course, Peter thinks to himself, Jesus would do a Square One or roundabout thing with us here, because it was here in this same fishing spot on the Galilee where and when He met me months ago! Like this day, it was during an expedition gone fish-less back then, and Jesus told me then exactly where the fish were–and I found them!”

So Peter jumps quickly out of the boat, eager to reunite with Jesus. So do the others, but work to bring the big haul of fish in first. Peter in incredulous with joy over another Risen appearance with Jesus, and He realizes he may be afforded another opportunity to confess to Jesus just how greatly He realizes they all had so underestimated Jesus. After all, He had said He was God’s Son and The Savior. Peter gets to the shore and we suppose he had a square one flashback. Lord, he might have said, you certainly remember how I misjudged you when we first met here at the fishing boat, and how I ended up saying Turn from me, I am a sinful man. But instead, You forgave me and even called me to come follow You. And I did.

Now, I know who you are, and I know that you know and already knew that I would deny you three times. I need a square one experience with you now again. Jesus nods His head, and He says (as we heard in this gospel of John) Do you love Me? You do?! Do you love Me? You do?! Do you really love Me? You do?! Then you are forgiven your denials (an interpretation of St. Augustine of this verse) and now care for My flock.

This is a huge Square One moment in the Scriptures.

Jesus says: We begin again. But we need not go all the way to the start, but have a re-start where you are.

Square One is experiencing the Mercy of God. Significantly a first Sacrament time, and significantly in some commitment or re-commitment time to God with your life and heart. Then, again, anytime you need to remember that Jesus is Lord and you are His servant, seeking to please Him first. When we realize that our Christian walk is not oriented to pleasing God first, then we repent and hit Square One again.

Square One is where the mercy filled meet, getting to the Loving Cross and Loving Altar of God in His New Covenant to believers in humankind.
Square One is where we let Mercy meet and refresh us, so to seek to live the Good News of salvation. Jesus is our Love of Loves! He brings new life! We are being reborn!

The Acts reading in Mass today gives us a peak ahead at the apostles in later ministry, and we note how firmly they are seeking and serving Jesus for the building up of His Church, His Body of new believers.

You know, I have given this Square One ministry approach a lot of thought through my years of faith. I certainly make a strong connection to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and its need for believers. I have gone to confession at least 200 times as a priest, at least 75 times as a seminarian or collegian, and many times as a youth, too. Its experience brings me back around to the grace of baptism and Jesus call for me to use His mercy–seriously. While I am not a hard-core sinner as some criminal might be, I think I need it. Examples like Mother Teresa of Calcutta going frequently (as she spoke freely about) is enough conviction for me that confession is not excused for those who think they are holy.

Holy Eucharist is also a Square One experience, coming to receive the Real Presence of Jesus in Communion regularly, as an act of dependency and humility and solidarity with Jesus. If He instituted the Eucharist on the night before His death, then I know it is an important practice of The Faith, that for us to enter into the Paschal Mystery with Him over and over.

In a lighter example, I once tried to invest a Catholic-Christian board game, using the basic ideas of Monopoly, Careers, and The Game of Life. I needed a home square for the beginning and passing around the board in turns. I decided it had to be a Mercy square. I called it “Square One.” If you playing piece landed on a repentance square or a church with confession times happening, then your piece was sent around to Square One (like a “Go” square), where you picked up needed grace to keep going around in life on the board. Others who made the journey around the board would go to Square One for renewal and refreshment in Jesus’ Mercy, too. It was a meeting space on the board. There was no punishment space in my proposed board game, such as a jail or go to hell space, because Mercy wouldn’t allow it!

I was happy for some people in our parish to get to the Square One space in life, as they were received into The Church at Easter, and I am glad for some people in 2015-16 who came back home to the Catholic Faith and/or in their becoming a hopeful, believing person rather than a cold, unengaged cynic or doubter. In this Mercy Year in the Church, some of you have told me of how you have found a Mercy experience anew in your life to better practice life in The Lord and His Church. Bravo for you!

Lastly, I heard of some people in Maryland who have found works in social justice that have tied in to the Works of Mercy I have been preaching about to you, in tandem with the Archbishop and Pope Francis’ messages. Marylanders who care for the planet have noticed that the bee population in Maryland and elsewhere in the USA is dropping significantly. This ecological sign could lead to a domino effect of related environmental problems, like food production, because the pollenization (spelling?) works of bees (and other things they do) is vital to feeding the world. And isn’t one of the basic works of mercy to “feed the hungry?” Well, this is an example of people getting involved in raising awareness, and even more than that, they have taken their activism to the legislative level where they are asking Maryland State government to act now to take big measures of addressing the problem. Bravo to these activists! They were inspired by Pope Francis’ message on the environment and caring for the planet as an act of love and mercy and faith.

Wrapping it up, I remind you to read my blog on a Long and Deep Teaching on Mercy, where we look into the Biblical “hesed” word for mercy and what it means for us now in a Year of Mercy. I also announce to you that Pope Francis is onto a new document for the faithful’s instruction. It is an exhortation called “Joy in Love” which is about loving relationships and marriage and the family as its building blocks for society. It has some “square one” messages in it of its own.
Maybe for a practice this year, if you aren’t doing it already, that you would consider making an Examination of Conscience regularly to God, perhaps before bed, and end in an Act of Contrition. Be open in that practice to what the Holy Spirit wants to tell you in review of your life and what pleases Him.

Parish Socials

We had a nice Sunday afternoon parish dinner social last weekend. Thanks to all who came to join in for fellowship.IMAG0302IMAG0301

We also have had a K of C social, a Donut Sunday social, a Cursillo Ultreya gathering, a Family group gathering, and Italian American social event here in the past week.

We also had some joyous times lately: An RCIA Easter party for the group who fully entered the parish in adult sacrament… and 6 infant-child baptisms…and a wedding validation.

This afternoon we also had a Mercy retreat (1230-415) with a meal gathering included…. And a Filipino parishioner monthly Sunday Mass with a social afterwards.

Also, our parish staff team had our own social this past week, too!

I have few photos to share, because mostly I was in most of the above as participating in them.baptism


Ugghhhh!! to Aaaaaahhhh!!

The traffic on the Washington Beltway can be trying. So you just inch along slowly, turn on EWTN radio or WGTS music, and try to take it easy. You could be ticketed for parking you are going along so little, but you grin and bear it with some grace and a prayer for patience.IMAG0303_1_1IMAG0305_1_1

And you long for better moments, such as a succulent seafood dinner with a view.
Yeah! That’s what I am talking about!

The Bible Books and How to Pronounce Them

I have heard some mispronunciations by people lately of the various 73 Sacred Scripture books, so I have taken the time to review how to say each one of them, as to help some interested parties out…

The more humorous versions I have heard is Job being pronounced as in a rhyme with rob or lob, or Luke somehow coming out verbally as lucky. (As in we’re so lucky to have this good news,?! :). ) Once in a blue moon, Philippians comes out as the letter of St. Paul to the Filipinos, too. (Wow, that Paul really got around on the missionary trails!)
Plus, if one were to ask Paul himself about his community called the Eff-Ess-Eee-see-uns, he would say: Who??

Other mistakes or slips of the mouth form with readings which are enunciation problems, like in select readings from the Asks of the Apostles 🙂 or from the Book of Root:) or from the Palms! ( How do you like that?! Palm readings in the Holy Bible! I thought palm readings were bogus stuff of psychics… Heh heh.)
Yes, indeed. And funny.

In New England, the Gospel of Mark also somehows becomes Mock (or thah Gaawwhhhs-pull of Maaahhkk). As in— Mahhk 9:9–Jesus pocks the donkey in a pocking or paw-king lot. (Right?!)

Enough of the silly fun: Now onto the pronunciations and enunciations!

New Testament

Luke (Lewk)

The Acts of the Apostles
1st & 2nd Corinthians (Core-IN-thee-uns)
Galatians (Gal-AY-shuns)
Ephesians (Ee-FEE-shuns)
Philippians (Fill-IP-pee-uns)
Colossians (Coe-LOSH-uns)
1st & 2nd Thessalonians (Thess-uh-LONE-ee-uns)
1st & 2nd Timothy
Titus (TIE-tuss)
Philemon (FILL-uh-mon)
Hebrews (HEE-brews)
1st & 2nd Peter (1 Peter and 2 Peter is said as 1st Peter, 2nd Peter– a Presidential candidate didn’t know this in particular, so note how it’s true for all epistles with 1 or 2 in front)
1st & 2nd John
Revelation (Rev-ell-EY-shun)

Old Testament
Leviticus (Luh-VIT-ih-cuss)
Deuteronomy (Due-turr-ON-oh-me)
1st and 2nd Samuel
1st and 2nd Kings
1st and 2nd Chronicles
Ezra (EZZ-ruh)
Nehemiah (Neh-eh-MY-uh or Nee-uh-MY-uh)
Tobit (TOE-bit)
1st and 2nd Maccabees (MACK-uh-bees)
Job (Jobe)
Psalms (SAW-mms)
Proverbs (PRAW-verbs)
Ecclesiastes (Eee-clee-see-AZZ-tees)
Song of Songs/ Song of Solomon
Sirach (SEER-ack)
Baruch (Bar-UKE)
Ezekiel (Eee-ZEKE-ee-el)
Hosea (HOE-say-uh)
Joel (JOE-el)
Amos (AY-muss)
Obadiah (Oh-bad-EYE-uh)
Micah (MY-cuh)
Nahum (NAH-hume)
Habakkuk (HABB-uh-cook)
Zephaniah (Zeff-ann-NYE-uh)
Haggai (HAGG-guy)
Zechariah (Zeck-ur-RYE-uh)
Malachi (MAL-uh-kuy)

NOW, you are ready to properly say each book. If I ever catch you saying Proverbs as in pro verbs (like pro football), I might have to throw the flag at you and pace off fifteen yards in penalty and a loss of down!