Palm Sunday

For this week’s homily please watch the video below.

I like the way Andrew of Crete describes Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem today as his enters the “dark regions” of our fallen world where so much evil dwells, especially sin and death. “Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches” strewn before the Lord, the saint tells us, and humbly take part in his journey, with the children who cried out: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Office of Readings, Palm Sunday)

Why not take the palm blessed in church today and put it on a cross in your homes as your symbolic welcome of this great mystery.

We’re not spectators in this story. Instead, we are invited into it. Our involvement is more than just listening or going  to church services. Our involvement should change us.

Think of those who were changed that day by their experience of the passion of Christ. There was Simon of Cyrene, who came from work in the fields hardly expecting to be caught up in a stranger’s tragedy. Yet, he saw God in the suffering man whose cross he helped bear. Can we, who often enough ignore the sufferings of others, become more aware of what others are going through and walk at their side? If we do, we heard this story.

There was the thief crucified with Jesus. He’s called a “revolutionary” in one of a translations today. How about a “terrorist,” or any term that describes the lowlife of society. He cried out in the dark for forgiveness and was heard. Can we believe in a God so merciful that he can forgive us, that he can forgive anybody, caught in a life of failure and sin? 

This is a story meant to give hope to those who don’t believe they are any good at all. If we can believe in mercy so great, then we have heard this story. 

There was Joseph of Aramithea who bravely goes to the powerful Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus to bury it. Before this he seems a wishy-washy religious leader. If we find ourselves less cowardly in speaking up to the powerful of our own world, then we have heard this story. 

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” How easily we fall into believing our world forsaken, that God is nowhere near us! If we can believe God’s care never fails, not matter what, then we have heard this story.

Mary, his mother, and the holy women, the disciple John, and yes, Peter and others who deserted him were there that day. What they experienced then, they never forgot. They remembered the raw suffering, the cruel death, the unmeasured sadness. But they saw God’s love in the One who was arrested and condemned, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and who rose again on the third day. 

If we too are touched by the overwhelming love of God we see here, then we have heard this story.

Finally, this story does not end in a tomb. Death itself, the mystery we all face, is conquered when Jesus rises from the dead. When we hope we will live in him who died and rose again, we have heard this story.

Listen to this story this holy week. The Lord speaks  “with a well-trained tongue, a word to the weary that will rouse them.”

This week God speaks. Let’s listen.

Saturday, 5th Week of Lent


We’re entering Holy Week.

Most of the gospel readings in the last weeks of Lent, Holy Week and the Easter season are from John’s gospel. None of the other evangelists dwell so much on the end of Jesus life, his death and resurrection.  Only John tells us Jesus came to Jerusalem because his friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. Only John give us the extensive words of Jesus to the Jews during the Jewish feasts and to his apostles at the Last Supper. Only John tells us about the appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalen and the other apostles after he rises from the dead. Only John tells us about the meeting of Jewish leaders plotting his death, which we read today. 

We read John’s gospel of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday. There too only John tells us of Jesus’ conversation with Pilate, about blood and water flowing out from his side, about Mary and John standing beneath his cross. 

John is not an historian limiting himself to historical facts to tell us the story of Jesus, as Bill O’Reilly, the tv commentator, does in his book “Killing Jesus”. He doesn’t try to shock us as Mel Gibson does in his movie “The Passion of the Christ.” 

John wants to show what’s beyond the facts and the raw details of crucifixion and death. 

Today’s gospel is a good example of what he does. The Jewish leaders meet because they’re afraid of what the Romans will do if Jesus stirs up trouble. Politically the best move for the nation and for themselves to do away with him, they decide.

 The chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him. (John 11:45-56)

Another plan is at work, God’s plan, John says.  God will bring the dispersed children of God into one. The Divine Shepherd gathers all the nations into one, the Prophet Ezekiel says in our first reading for today. ”I will make them one nation upon the land, in the mountains of Israel, and there shall be one prince for them all. Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms.” (Ezekiel 37,22)

Politics and a political decision and a violent execution dominates the meeting of the Sanhedrin. Politics, political decisions and violence seem to dominate the world we live in and the way we see things too.  We only see so far. We don’t see far enough. We have to listen to God’s word more.

God’s plan is bigger than politics, but it’s hard to see. The passion and resurrection of Jesus is God’s great sign, but it’s not easy to read. It’s hard  to believe in God’s plan when politics seems to dominate everything and a war like the one in Ukraine is more shocking that anything Mel Gibson could make a movie of.

I suppose that’s why we will be reading the Gospel of John so much in our liturgy these days. Seeing God’s plan appearing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, perhaps we will see it more in our lives and our world today.

May God open our eyes to see.

Morning and Evening Prayer here

Children’s Prayers

Friday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1


In St. John’s gospel, read these final days of Lent and into Easter, Jesus regularly celebrates the Jewish feasts in Jerusalem. The Jewish feasts are signs telling us who Jesus is and what he does.

In Jerusalem on a Sabbath feast, for example, Jesus heals a paralyzed man at the pool at Bethsaida. (Chapter 5); The Son does not rest, as the Father does not rest, from bringing life to a paralyzed world. . At a Passover Feast (Chapter 6), Jesus calls himself the true Bread from heaven, the manna that feeds multitudes. On the Feast of Tabernacles (chapter 7-9) he reveals himself as the light of the world and living water. On the Feast of the Dedication (Chapter 10) which celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration, Jesus claims to be the true temple, dwelling among us and making God’s glory known. The Feast of Passover is introduced in Chapter 11 with Lazarus raised from the dead.

The feasts are signs that what Jesus says and does are from God. “The Father is in me and I am in the Father,” he claims on all these feasts. 

For the most part his listeners are blind to the signs and accuse him of blasphemy, John’s Gospel says. They try to stone him and have him arrested. Instead of accepting him, Jerusalem rejects him. In today’s gospel, Jesus leaves Jerusalem and goes to a place across the Jordan where John baptized. 

He will come back as a new sign. First, he raises Lazarus from the dead; then, he dies himself and rises from the dead. He bring life to the world, not death. Jesus is a sign himself, God’s great sign. John’s gospel, more than the others, find glorious signs in the passion of Jesus. We read his gospel on Good Friday.

The soldiers arresting Jesus in the garden fall to the ground before him. Pilate shrinks before him on the judgment seat, Jesus speaks calmly, majestically from the cross. Realists that we are, we find it hard to find suffering revealing God’s glory and power. It’s hard to see glory in someone suffering and dying on a cross..

We find it hard to see anything but absurdity in the times we’re experiencing now. That’s why John’s Gospel may be an important guide today. “Look for the signs,” it says.  If we believe God is with us, there are signs of glory and a promise of resurrection, even in suffering and death.

The world is caught in a storm, like the disciples caught in their boat at sea. We need to know God is not asleep.   

Lead me on, Lord, through your holy signs,
especially the sign of your Cross.
Show me the glory I don’t see.

Feasts and Daily Prayers

As we read extensively from John’s gospel these last weeks of Lent, we wonder why his gospel, unlike the synoptic gospels, has much of Jesus’ ministry take place in Jerusalem during the Jewish feasts of the Sabbath,  Pentecost, Tabernacles and the Dedication of the Temple. (John 5:1-10:32)  During the celebration of the Passover–John11:1-20:29 –  John presents Jesus fulfilling the feast in his passion, death and resurrection. 

Feasts were special signs of God’s presence for the Jews and so they were appropriate signs for the Word of God to make himself known.

Commentators also say that the Jewish-Christian communities John writes for, like their Jewish neighbors, were struggling to stabilize their way of worship after Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 AD, causing a critical disruption in their life of prayer.

Can we say that John’s Gospel wishes to affirm the celebration of feasts in his communities, beginning with the Sabbath? Jesus appears on this day to his disciples, even to doubting disciples like Thomas, and renews them in faith.  

It seems to me we are experiencing as a church today a similar disruption in our life of prayer, due to the steady trend of secularization and events like the Covid pandemic. Our days are becoming faithless. We need to redeem them from becoming insignificant, beginning with the Sabbath. 

Besides Sunday– if we can take a clue from John’s Gospel– we need to make our everyday calendar a sign of God’s presence. That’s why I post a calendar on this blog every month.

Thursday, 5th Week of Lent


I’m glad I went to my bible to discover a little more about God’s call to Abraham in our lectionary today – Genesis 17, 3-9 – because I found out that Abraham was 99 when God made promises to him. He’s 99 and God promises to make him the father of many nations, even have a child. 

Abraham and his wife Sarah laugh at the thought, not for joy, but because it’s so nonsensical. They’re at life’s end, not it’s beginning. Something more to do? A child at their age? 

How can anyone think big thoughts and great dreams at life’s end? Even if we did, there are dire warnings about our environment . Many, not just 99 year-olders, see things ending not beginning. Dark days ahead.

The story of Abraham and Sarah tells us not to believe life and dreams end. I like Jessica Power’s poem about Abraham.

“I love Abraham, that old weather-beaten

unwavering nomad; when God called to him

no tender hand wedged time into his stay.

His faith erupted him into a way

far-off and strange. How many miles are there

from Ur to Haran? Where does Canaan lie,

or slow mysterious Egypt sit and wait?

How could he think his ancient thigh would bear

nations, or how consent that Isaac die,

with never an outcry nor an anguished prayer?

I think, alas, how I manipulate

dates and decisions, pull apart the dark

dally with doubts here and with counsel there,

take out old maps and stare.

Was there a call after all, my fears remark.

I cry out: Abraham, old nomad you,

are you my father? Come to me in pity.

Mine is a far and lonely journey, too.”

Who says the scriptures are dull and have nothing to say? 

Good God, keep us safe and in good health

but also keep our dreams alive .

So many lose hope in times like these,

Keep hope alive in us,

hope that doesn’t depend on life here and now

but hope that comes from your promises,

Through Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1

Those listening to Jesus in the temple area claim to be “descendants of Abraham.” (John 8,31-42) They’re children of Abraham. They have a splendid temple to worship in and ancient traditions to live by, and so they ask: “ Why should we listen to this man? We have Abraham.”

But “If you were the children of Abraham you would be doing the works of Abraham,” Jesus says. Abraham was a nomad who found God’s promises revealed from place to place. He discovered God’s plan in time. So must we.

John’s gospel was written well after the temple and Jerusalem itself were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Jews and Jewish Christians at this time, “descendants of Abraham”, were in a time of radical transition. Many may have longed for the restoration of ancient structures now gone and the surety they found in them.

Jesus reminds them, and us, that Abraham, “our father in faith,” ventured on paths unknown.

Does their time sound like ours ? We’re called to have Abraham’s faith, a mystic faith. In our first reading today from the Book of Daniel three children thrown into the fiery furnace in Babylon, their land of exile, sing in the flames.

Is God telling us to do that today? Sing in the flames and God will lead us on.

Two centuries ago, St. Paul of the Cross urged those who sought his advice to hold on to the Unchanging One we meet “in spirit and truth.” God will be our guide..

“Jesus will teach you. I don’t want you to indulge in vain imagery over this. Freely take flight and rest in the Supreme Good, in God’s consuming fire. Rest in God’s divine perfections, especially in the Infinite Goodness which made itself so small within our humanity.” (Letter 18)

O God, you are my God,
For you I long.
My body pines for you,
Like a dry, weary land without water. (Ps 63)

You guide our steps into the unknown. Lead us on.

Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1

In our gospel today (John 8:21-39) Jesus speaks again in the temple area during the Feast of Tabernacles to those opposing him. The time is short; the Light guiding the world has appeared, but he “is going away” and those who reject him will die in their sins.

Are we detached observers listening to this gospel, watching others challenged long ago? We’re challenged now to answer the question: Who is Jesus Christ?

He is “I AM,” a divine title his enemies find blasphemous, but believers find true. In Hebrew it means “He who is always there.” Later in John’s gospel, Thomas bows before Jesus and says “My Lord and my God,” as he recognizes that the One lifted up on the cross is indeed “I AM.”

Our graphic above presents the Cross as a place of healing. In our first reading for today Moses places a serpent on a pole to heal the people on their desert journey.We reverence the One lifted up on the Cross.. He is “I AM,” true God, sent by the Father, “who so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” He was lifted up on a Cross and will always be there as a sign God is with us in our woundedness, our suffering and death..

In an early letter to Bishop Count Peter Garangi, who worked to establish the Passionists as a new congregation in the church, St. Paul of the Cross emphasized the importance of the mystery of the passion and death of Jesus as a revelation of God.

“So many believers live in forgetfulness of how much our Divine Savior did and suffered; they sleep in a swamp of evil. We need zealous workers to awaken them from their sleep in darkness and the shadow of death by the trumpet of God’s word and by meditating on the Passion of Jesus Christ, so that God be glorified by many who will be converted and pray and lead a holy life.” (Letter 266)

Do we live in forgetfulness?

Lord Jesus Christ,
Draw me to your cross
And show me your wounds, your bitter death, your triumph over the tomb.
God with us, always there,
God who shares our humanity,
God who loves us so much
help me keep you in mind,
save me from forgetfulness.

Monday, 5th Week of Lent

Lent 1


Jesus meets a woman accused of adultery in the temple area during the Feast of Tabernacles, according to John’s Gospel. He claims to be the light of the world and living water, two symbols of this feast. His enemies, fiercely disputing his claims, likely brought the woman before him to discredit him. He said, “As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just…” (John 5:30) Here was a test.

Moses, the woman’s accusers say, commanded she be stoned. What is your judgment?

Adultery, though, is not the great issue here. Gender injustice is also on the table. Jewish religious law said if a woman were caught in the act of adultery and two men witnessed it, she could be stoned to death or strangled. The system obviously led to abuse; two witnesses paid by a vengeful husband might give false testimony and have her stoned to death. The woman becomes a victim and the man avoids blame.

Jesus, who brings a lens of justice and mercy to every age, brought life and light to the woman in the temple that day. Her accusers met his judgment.

The story of Suzanna from the Book of Daniel, like the gospel story, is also about injustice and  abuse of power. Two old men, judges with lots of power, think they can do anything they want. Abuse of power, combined with lust, is still behind many of our sexual crimes today. It’s found in the workplace, in politics, in the celebrity and sports world, and also unfortunately in the world of religion. 

Suzannah refuses to give in to their advances, and she finds a champion in Daniel who faces up to the powerful men. Her story calls for standing up for truth and fighting against abuse of power wherever we find it.  

let me judge others fairly with your eyes, your heart and your mind.
Help me work for a world that is right and just.
Give me the grace to know myself.

5th Week of Lent: Readings and Feasts

MARCH 27 Mon Lenten Weekday Dn 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 or 13:41c-62/Jn 8:1-11 

28 Tue Lenten Weekday Nm 21:4-9/Jn 8:21-30 

29 Wed Lenten Weekday Dn 3:14-20, 91-92, 95/Jn 8:31-42 

30 Thu Lenten Weekday Gn 17:3-9/Jn 8:51-59 

31 Fri Lenten Weekday Jer 20:10-13/Jn 10:31-42 

APRIL 1 Sat Lenten Weekday Ez 37:21-28/Jn 11:45-56 


Mt 21:1-11 (37)/Is 50:4-7/Phil 2:6-11/Mt 26:14—27:66 or 27:11-54

Our gospel readings for the final weeks of Lent are taken mostly from St. John’s Gospel. Unlike the synoptic gospels, where Jesus’ ministry occurs mainly in Galilee, John’s Gospel sees Jerusalem as the place where Jesus reveals himself. Instead of going from town to town in Galilee, Jesus goes from feast to feast into Jerusalem. 

In fact, his Jerusalem ministry is why Jesus is welcomed in Galilee, John says: ”When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast.” (John 4: 43)

Jesus teaches in the temple on the feasts; his miracles during the feasts are signs he replaces. He is the new Sabbath. On the Feast of Pentecost, he healed the paralyzed man at the pool of Siloam. (John 5: 1-18). He heals a paralyzed world.  On the Feast of Tabernacles (John 7-8 ), which supply most of our gospel readings for the 4th and 5th week of Lent, Jesus reveals himself as the living water come down from heaven and the light of the world. His cure of the man born blind during that feast is a sign he is the Light of the world.  

On Friday of this week, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, a winter feast, Jesus is challenged again over his claim to be the new Temple. He teaches in the temple this Saturday as the approach of the Feast of Passover is recalled. In the reading from John 11:45-56 Caiaphas, the high priest, makes the fateful prophecy that one man should die instead of a whole people perishing. How does Jesus respond ? He raises Lazarus from the dead.

The gospel readings Tuesday- Saturday of this week contain Jesus’ important claims to be greater than Abraham. He is God’s Son, “I Am”. He will be condemned for this claim.