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what does it mean for you to be road salt?

9 Feb

road salt

“You are the salt for the road.”

Not exactly what Jesus said then, but he night say it now.

He said then to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Given what we have been through these last days, and what you drove through and walked through this morning on the way to Mass, salt thrown out and trampled underfoot and which gives traction to our tires is good for a lot!

Jesus might say to us now, “You are road salt.”

What does it mean for us to be road salt?

Road salt is in short supply these days. Road salt, if it is kept bagged up and stored in the garage, does not stop being road salt. It does not lose its purpose. It is still road salt and it still has a purpose. It has just never been put to its proper use. It is not good for anything, except to take up room in the garage.

We believers who are baptized do not stop being baptized if we bag up our faith and our witness, if we never put our baptism to its untended use. We remain baptized; we cannot ever be anything but baptized. We just remain unproductive.

So, today Jesus says to us believers, “You are the salt for the road.” What does that mean for you? Given your role in your family, given your situation in life, given you are a citizen of the world, what does it mean for you to be salt for the road. What does it mean for you to be road salt?

Hear Jesus speak one last time: “You are the salt for the road. If road salt remains bagged up and stored away, if it is not thrown out to be trampled underfoot, it is no longer good for anything, except for taking up room in the garage.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

to help, care and show

1 Feb


Homily at Catholic Schools Week all-school Mass

If I were to ask your teachers how many reasons they have for why they like teaching at this school, I bet they would say, “Let me see. How many students do I have?”

Mrs. Sackrider, how many students do you have?

Each of you is a reason why your teachers like teaching at this school. You are the reasons.

Mrs. Sackrider, how many reasons do you have for why you like teaching at this school?

Where are the seventh graders? Your teachers are going to help you get to the 8th grade.

Fourth graders, your teachers are going to help you get to the 5th grade.

First graders, your teachers are going to help you get to the … ?

Eighth grade, we don’t have any more grades in our school, so your teachers are going to help you get to …?

Kindergartners, this is hardest one. Your teachers are going to help you get to …?

But your teachers are not only going to help you get to your next grade. Your teachers are going to help all of you get to the same place. Your teachers are going to help you all of you get to …?

You’re right. Your teachers are going to help you all of you get to heaven! Because they care not just about your mind and your body. They care about your souls. They teach about the saints, so that you will want to be a saint. And they will help you to be a saint, not just by teaching you about saints, but, most importantly, by showing you how to be a saint.

To help you get to heaven, to care about your soul, to show you how to be a saint – that’s Father Cordier’s job, that’s my job, that’s Mr. Devolve’s job, that’s Mr. Grieco and Mrs. Ducheny’s job, that’s Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Clayton’s job, that’s your teacher’s job, and, yes, that is the job of the maintenance men: to help you get to heaven, to care about your soul and to show you how to be a saint.

Isn’t it wonderful having a Catholic school?

I have homework and a question for the teachers. Teachers are usually the ones giving homework and asking questions. Now, they get the homework and are asked the question.

The homework? Pray for every one of your students, individually, by name, before you fall asleep tonight. You would probably be surprised by how often your students pray for you before they fall asleep. Mr. Estes, Mrs. Mascolino, Mr. Powers and Mr. Eskra, you’re going to have to start right after supper!

The question? Have you ever taken a list of your students with you to Mass on Sunday to pray for each of them by name? Maybe this Sunday.

God in Diapers

1 Jan


The one who reads aloud the Gospel of the visit of the shepherds must make the appropriate pause, lest it sound like “they found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.” All three of them lying in the manger together sounds cozy, but cramped. Yet the failure to pause (and the accompanying chuckle) gives us pause to remember that God chose to be that close to us. God has invited us into that kind of intimacy with him.

What we celebrate on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God is quite simple: “God chose to have a mother. God chose Mary to be that mother.” That is amazing. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

God chose to have a mother. I had no choice. I had to have a mother or I would not exist. God, who creates everything, chose to be a creature. God did not choose be like us; God chose to be one of us. God, who creates every mother, chose to have a mother. The woman he chose for his mother, he himself had created. God, who creates all life that lives in the womb, chose to live in the womb. God chose to be born and to wear diapers. God chose to be held, changed and nursed. That is outlandish. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

God chose as his mother someone who was humble and simple, trusting and loving, brave and strong. God chose Mary to be his mother. When Mary felt movement within her, she was feeling God within her. When she felt a kick, she was feeling God’s foot. When she held her baby and smelled him, she smelled something of herself, and she smelled something of divinity and eternity. When she slobbered him with motherly kisses, she was kissing the face of God.

We call him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Prince of Peace. We call her God-bearer, God-birther, Mother of God. If it were not so true, it would be unbelievable.

The painting above is by American painter Morgan Weistling. “Kissing the Face of God” is lovely and tender. Take a generously long look at the painting, savor the emotion, and then maybe ask Mary to kiss the face of God for you.

[Thank you to Caitlin Kennell Kim of Busted Halo  for the inspiration and for many of the words I have used.]

say often in family and in prayer

29 Dec

Holy Family 01

For the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, six things that we do well to say often in family: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. You are wonderful. How can I help you?

Perhaps you think of the one in your family to whom you last said one of these, or the one to whom you would do well to say one of these six things: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you. You are wonderful. How can I help you?

Something dawned on me while I was coming up with the list.

I was shooting for five. The first four came easily: Please. Thank you. I’m sorry. I love you.

Something had me notice that they were the kinds of things that we often say in prayer. They matched three of the four “kinds” of prayer that we talk about: petition (please), thanksgiving (thank you) and contrition (I’m sorry; I love you).

The one kind of prayer that was missing was adoration. You know how we say to God, “You are wonderful. You just are.” Well, we can say that to someone in family, too, and we would do well to say that often to family. I had reached five.

But then I thought that there is something else we often say in family, “How can I help you? How can I help you accomplish what you are trying to do?” We can say that to God, too, “God, how can I help you to pull off what you are trying to make happen?”

It dawned on me that what we do well to say in prayer we would do well to say in family, and what we say in family we can also say in prayer.

So, which prayer best matches your emotions and desires at this moment, “Please, O God. Thank you, God. I’m sorry, God. God, I love you. O God, you are wonderful. God, how can I help you?

Holy Family 03

our island of misfits

25 Dec

charlie in the box

My nose and my fingers are crooked. My right ear sticks out like a car door that is opening. One of my legs is longer than the other one.

I am a bit of a misfit.

In a classic Christmas movie, Rudolph the Reindeer, the one with the red nose, accidentally comes to the island of misfit toys. Something is wrong with each of the toys. They are convinced that no one would want them or love them.

There is an elephant that had spots, and a bird that couldn’t fly but it could swim. There is a water pistol that shoots jelly, and a train that has a caboose with squares wheels. And there is Charlie:. He is a bit of a surprise and has a spring in his legs. He hides in a box, and pops out. But his name is Charlie, and he is convinced that no one would ever want to play with a Charlie in a Box.

We are all misfits. Somewhere, and someone all of us don’t fit in. I don’t meet the standards that I have set for myself. I don’t match up with what the Church thinks that I should be and what the Gospel demands of me. I have not become all that God created me to be.

God came on purpose to our island, this island of misfits, to show us what was in his heart that needed to be in ours, that we are wanted and loved by God. God wants you. God loves you. No one is truly happy until they are convinced deep down within them that they are truly wanted and  truly loved by God. That is what makes Christmas the most wonderful day of the year!

wrapped as for Christmas

22 Dec

Gratitude Hope Joy

Imagine that there are before you three gifts, wrapped as for Christmas. One has on it a large tag marked, “Gratitude.” Another is tagged, “Hope.” The other is, “Joy.”

Answer quickly, without analyzing.  Ready? Without thinking, answer, “Which of these gifts has God given to you this year: gratitude, hope or joy?”

On the back side of the gratitude tag the words “thank you” are written as many times as is possible. On the back of the joy tag are smile faces, and hands clapping and hands raised in prayer. Backing up hope is more hope and more hope and more hope.

Which gift has God given to you this year: gratitude, joy or hope?

And of  those three gifts from God: which one would you like to be able to give to someone else in your life? Gratitude? Joy? Hope?

A young man in our parish responded quickly that God had given him joy this year: a lovely wife and a new baby. And he did not hesitate in the least to say that he would like to give his mother the gift of hope.

 Gratitude, Hope, Joy. Which of the gifts has God given to you this year? Which one would you like to give to someone at Christmas?

TRU DAT – Amen!

26 Aug

With the junior high kids in their classroom during one of their first days of school, I heard about one of those electronic shorthand phrases that is used in email and such things. It was new to me: TRU DAT. To a text or a tweet, they told me, I can respond, “TRU DAT,” which means, “That’s right. I agree.” It is a like a church full of believers giving the preacher an, “Amen to that!” I asked the kids to pay attention on Sunday, because I was going to try to use that expression in my homily somehow. I found out that it was quite easy with Sunday’s Gospel.

You see, Jesus had been speaking these last few Sundays in John’s Gospel about himself being Eucharist for us: “I am the bread of life. I am the bread come down from heaven. My body is real food, my blood is real drink. I am Eucharist for you. Those who eat my body and drink my blood will have eternal life; those who don’t, won’t.” Unlike many who found this teaching too hard and too shocking to believe, and walked away, Peter, speaking for himself and his companions, responded instantly, “TRU DAT.” What he meant was, “You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God. You are Eucharist for us. That’s right. I agree.”

Then the Apostles tweeted the text of Jesus with their TRU DAT to all their followers, who in turn did a RT to all their followers. That continued, until someone wrote it all down. And we call it the Gospel. To which we respond, “TRU DAT.”

our “not enough” on the altar

28 Jul

When we put our “not enough” on the altar, we are ready for Eucharist.

On either side of the front doors of our church is an empty niche.

The earliest photos we have of the church, from 1923 when it was dedicated

and from 1948 when the school was built next door,

 do not show anything in those spaces.

Our oldest parishioners, one of whom was the last baby baptized in the old church in 1923, do not remember anything ever having been in those niches and do not remember ever hearing any conversation through the years about why there wasn’t anything in them.

If I win the lottery and could personally fund the project, I would propose to the people for their approval that there be a statue of St. Andrew in one of niches, and in the other one, a statue of a boy with four loaves and two fish. No, that is not a typo. Four loaves.

Seeing those statutes, everyone would come through those front doors, and could enter personally into the story of this weekend’s Gospel. Andrew and the boy with the loaves would lead the procession to the altar. Standing before Jesus, Andrew would speak for himself and the boy, and for all of us, “But what good are these for so many?” We would hear Andrew acknowledge that he and the boy were not up to the task of feeding the thousands. They would admit that they did not have what they needed, that they did not have enough. We would listen as Jesus calmly and reassuringly said, “What you have, give it to me.” We would watch, as he took their “not enough,” blessed it, broke it, and gave it back to them, to give to others. We would be amazed that there was more than enough!

When we come to Mass on any given Sunday, we come with our own “not enough” of some sort. We acknowledge that we are not up to some task or some situation or some personal issue. We are not strong enough. We are not smart enough or resourceful enough. We do not have enough faith, enough trust. We do not have what we need. We simply do not have enough. As we stand before Jesus with our “not enough,” he asks us to put it on the altar.

When we put our “not enough” on the altar, we are ready for Eucharist. 

Oh, yes, the boy in the statue outside with the four loaves.  Why four, when in the story he has five? Imagine the fun we would have when we bring someone to church or we meet a visitor, and point out the statue. Calling attention to the fact that there are four loaves, we would say that it helps us remember the story of the five loaves. “Why are there just four loaves?” we would inevitably be asked. 

“The fifth loaf is inside on the altar.”

a 5th that might be a part of your 4th

4 Jul

The 1st might be a part of your 4th of July. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th will probably be a part of your Independence Day. May I suggest that you also treat yourself to a 5th – no, not that kind of a fifth, but the 5th as described below?

1st – Prayer: try the “Litany for Liberty” or the “Mass prayers for July 4: Independence Day

2nd – Flag: wear it , fly it, carry it, salute it, see it, hold your heart in front of it, pledge allegiance to it, sing under it

3rd – Hot Dog: grill it, burn it (that’s the way it’s good), bun it, mustard (up the courage to eat) it, and enjoy it like a kid, whether you grill out or grill out inside

4th – Fireworks: set them off, watch them, ooh and aah over them, be annoyed by them or be  irritated by them, just don’t burn yourself or anyone else with them

5th – Look up the meaning of “unalienable” in at least two places: You know, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Don’t assume you “know” what “unalienable” means. Look up two definitions or read two reflections about the word – and then ponder whatever stirs up within in you as ponderable.

or as the French say, “Merci”

15 Apr

On Easter Sunday night, when Jesus showed the disciples, minus Thomas, his hands and his side, it was an act of Divine Mercy. Jesus was helping them to believe. 

On the Sunday after Easter, which is today for us, when Jesus offered his hands and his side to Thomas, he was not reprimanding or scolding Thomas; he was not making an example of Thomas. It was an act of Divine Mercy. Jesus was helping Thomas to believe. 

See Thomas not as doubting, but as wanting to believe, and finding it hard to believe. 

You know how it can be, wanting to believe, longing to believe, and finding it hard to believe. You pray and pray and pray, but you do not see physical evidence that your prayers are heard. The situation is not fixed; there is no cure. You say things like, “My prayers are not working.” It doesn’t mean that you are doubting. You do believe. You just want to be able to believe more deeply. 

Thomas is not stomping his foot, in a “terrible two” moment. He is not being stubborn with an, “I will not believe, until I have the same religious experience that you had!” Rather, hear him sighing and longing, “I will not be able to believe, unless …” Thomas wants to believe, but finds it hard to believe. For a week, Thomas is in that horrible misery. The more the other disciples rejoice, the more his heart hurts. 

With his appearance to Thomas, with that show of hands and heart, Jesus is pleading with Thomas to believe, as much as Thomas was pleading to be able to believe. Jesus wants Thomas to believe, as much as Thomas wants to believe. 

On some rare occasions, yes, we do “see our way into believing.” We see glimpses of evidence of Divine Mercy. Most often, however, we “believe our way into seeing.” Without evidence, we hold on to our hope that somehow God is in here somewhere, that Divine Mercy “is” flowing upon us through the heart of Jesus. 

One of three prayers may seem appropriate today. Which one do you most earnestly pray? 

1.      Lord, have mercy on me! 

2.     Jesus, I trust in you.

3.     – or the French say – Merci (thank you) for your Mercies, O Lord.