Bulletin Archives

Curious what the readings were or what that beautiful music was you heard at mass earlier? Please check here for bulletins from the past year.

Summer 2016

     The Gospel Reading for this 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time from St. Luke, chapter 17, opens with this line: “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’.” That is sort of a summation of all of today’s readings. In fact, it might be an accurate statement of what many of our prayers entail: “Increase our faith.” That is what we all most likely strive to achieve.

     As we have indicated many times, the theme of what constitutes “true wealth” is one that not only runs through the entire Bible, it is perhaps one of the most dominant teachings of Jesus. The readings on this Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time all bear this message.

     The Word of God as given to us through Holy Scripture at every Mass and Liturgy is important to us simply because it is God’s word. Our readings are filled with messages for us from God Himself. The Word is more than just information; it is God’s promise, the promise of life. In spite of its age the Bible and God’s Word through it still have meaning for us today.

     In today’s Gospel reading from St. Luke, Jesus delivers three parables in short order. The first deals with a lost sheep; the second with a lost coin; and the third with a lost son. Although the Lord was specifically speaking to Pharisees and scribes, a large crowd had gathered including sinners and tax collectors, and Jesus’ message was as much for them. In fact, it is a message each of us needs to hear and to take to heart.

     Anyone who has been raised Catholic, or for that matter, who has received a thorough Catholic education is aware of what we call the mysteries of the Church. For Catholics, the term is the Latin mysterium fidei, “mystery of faith.” In the New Testament, the Greek word mysterion appears 27 times.

     The Word of God comes to us through Holy Scripture, the Bible. Simply put, the Bible — Old and New Testaments — is a collection of books written over hundreds of years by those inspired by God to write. In many ways it is the primary witness of our faith. Scripture was written by prophets and apostles in human language. However, it was collected, edited, and sanctioned and blessed by the Church. It is a faith document.

     Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is our Savior in no uncertain terms. His sacrifice for us is our saving grace. This is a fact we need to dwell on each and every day in our attitudes, our prayers, and in gratitude for what He has done for us.

     In today’s Gospel from the Book of Luke Jesus says, “I have come to set the earth on fire…” That sounds somewhat foreboding, but we must consider it in light of what will happen. You may recall the reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we heard on Pentecost Sunday last May. In that reading we are told, “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”

     One might say that all Holy Scripture has to do with faith and trust. In truth everything we do and everything we practice in living our lives should reflect our faith and our trust in the Lord. Without those two elements (faith and trust) we could not be the kind of disciples Jesus has asked us to be. To be sure we would not be able to be the kinds of good stewards He expects.

     If we attempt to ascribe a theme to the readings each week, this week’s theme may well be to focus on what is important in life. Actually, that is not completely accurate because the deeper message is that what happens after our lives on earth is far more important. It surely was to Jesus, and He tries over and over to explain that to us and teach it to us. St. Paul in turn does the same.

     There is no question that prayer is at the heart of this week’s readings. We understand that prayer is foundational to our faith and the practice of it. Jesus, though the Son of God and One with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is referenced as praying consistently. How many times do passages in Holy Scripture open with a statement like that in today’s Gospel from St. Luke: “Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples’.”

     Most of us are familiar with what we call the Four Pillars of Stewardship: Prayer, Hospitality, Formation, and Service. These four ways of looking at what it means to be a disciple and a steward invite each of us to witness, experience, and live the stewardship way of life. Stewardship is how we respond to our Baptismal call to discipleship. The readings on this Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time are particularly insightful in relation to the meaning and importance of hospitality.

     On the one hand, it may seem as if the Lord asks and expects much from us, but does He really? Or, do our attitudes and lifestyles get in the way? In today’s society we have many challenges when it comes to being disciples of the Lord and living as good stewards. Some of these challenges are pointed out in today’s readings for this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

     “At that time the Lord appointed seventy-two others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” That is how our Gospel from Luke begins today. Are you aware that we, too, are sent? We, too, are to represent the Lord in our dealings with others. That is in large part what stewardship is all about — using our gifts to spread the Good News.

     The readings on this Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to the challenges, the possible sacrifices, and the attitudes needed to follow Christ as His disciple. Each of us through Baptism is called to be the Lord’s Disciple, and many of us intellectually understand that. However, making the commitment necessary to fulfill that goal can be difficult in today’s world.

     Today, John the Baptist might be considered a political discontent. He was unhappy and openly opposed the rulers of the time. He was, of course, a harbinger of Jesus, and did much to anticipate the coming of the Messiah. However, because he was political in nature to a large degree, people expected Jesus to be equally political. That is why many thought Jesus would lead a revolution that would liberate them — that Jesus would become their new political king.

Spring 2016

     Repentance and forgiveness are at the core of today’s readings on this Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. In a Church year, dependent upon how our holy seasons fall, there are 33 or 34 Sundays in Ordinary Time. Thus, on this Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, as difficult as it may seem to believe, we are one/third of the way through Ordinary Time. It is worth reiterating that for the Church and our time, the term “ordinary” does not mean “common.” It is based upon the term “ordinal” which means merely counted time.

     All of our readings on this Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to an element of renewal and revival. To be resurrected we must first seek to be renewed. That is in reality what occurs in today’s First Reading from the First Book of Kings and from our Gospel from St. Luke. They tell of people who were brought back to life as we know it. That is different from resurrection because in resurrection there is no death, but with life as we know it there is death.

     On this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which is also called Corpus Christi, it is no wonder that all of our readings connect to our understanding of the Eucharist. Each in its own way brings an understanding and appreciation for what the Eucharist means to us.

     One of the most overwhelming of all Church mysteries is that of the Holy Trinity. We are taught that although there is only one God, there are also three Persons in God. As we make the sign of the Cross we acknowledge those three: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This mystery was revealed to us by Christ and by Holy Scripture multiple times.

     Today is Pentecost Sunday, popularly known as the birthday of our Catholic Church. It is 50 days after Easter, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ. It is the day when Jesus sent His apostles forth to forgive others and to proclaim the Good News.

     We commemorate on this Seventh Sunday of Easter the Ascension of the Lord, Jesus Christ, directly into Heaven. This past Thursday was officially Ascension Thursday, but almost all dioceses in the United States have transferred the Holy Day to the Sunday following, today.

     Jesus speaks often about love, and today’s Gospel from St. John is no exception. The Lord says to us, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him.” As has been the case in recent weeks during these Sundays of Easter, all the readings are from the New Testament.

     We often speak of Christ calling us to discipleship. The readings on this Fifth Sunday of Easter address that discipleship and what it means to each of us. When the U.S. Bishops issued a pastoral letter on stewardship, they titled it “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response.” Just as today’s readings affirm that idea of discipleship, each of us must strive to achieve it.

     Today’s readings contrast the discouraging experience of Sts. Paul and Barnabas in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles to the Glory of Heaven reflected in the Second Reading from the Book of Revelation to the brief but definitive assurance we receive from Jesus Himself in the Gospel Reading from John.

     On this Third Sunday of Easter Jesus instructs Peter to “Feed my lambs,” and “Tend my sheep.” These are instructions for us as well, making it clear to us that we have a responsibility to more than ourselves; we also are called to care for and most especially love those around us.

     This Sunday, the Sunday of Divine Mercy (or the Second Sunday of Easter), was officially designated by Pope St. John Paul II in 2000 at the Canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska. This is a very special Sunday when Jesus through the Church offers forgiveness of all sins and punishment to those who have gone to confession and who receive the Eucharist on this holy day.

     Easter — the holiest day of the year. In fact today marks the third day of what the Church considers the three holiest days of the year — our Sacred Paschal Triduum, when we as Catholics and Christian recall the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Winter 2016

Today is the Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, sometimes referred to more simply as Passion Sunday. The readings today prepare us for Holy Week which officially begins today. The Gospel in particular is always the proclamation of the Passion of Christ. It is lengthy and filled with meaning for us.

     Our Lenten journeys are reaching an end, or at least they should be. Have we made the effort expected of us to make changes, to truly seek to continue our conversion? Today’s readings serve as reminders to us of what Lent means and what we should have been striving to do for the past several weeks.

     We are more than halfway into our Lenten journeys. Have we made any significant changes in our lives? What have we done to deepen our faith? What have we done to live out our faith more fully? Those are efforts which should be important to us during Lent.

     You might say that God is trying to get our attention, making an effort to get us to listen to Him and to listen carefully. That is certainly what should be happening during Lent. Today’s readings seem to highlight how God tries to reach us, but, of course, the key is that we have to be both prepared to hear the Word and to respond to it.

     We are surrounded by examples of stewardship — in our own families, in our neighborhoods, in our parish families, and certainly in the world. However, some of those examples come to us through Holy Scripture. We may have an intellectual understanding of what Lent is all about, and we may even appreciate what we are supposed to be doing to prepare for Easter. In today’s readings we find the examples and the models we should be following.

     Most of us are familiar with the fact that there are Four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We might be less acquainted with the detail that the first three are called the Synoptic Gospels — that is, they tend to include the same stories in a similar sequence. Thus, all three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) report that Jesus spent f40 days in the desert, fasting and praying, and resisting temptation. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke presents St. Luke’s perspective of what occurred.

Ash Wednesday Schedule:

Ash Wednesday, Feb. 10,

begins the holy season of Lent. 

Masses are held in Memorial Church

at 8:00am, 5:00pm and 8:00pm. 

Noon ecumenical service with ashes.


Lenten Fasting Regulations:


     Often in this space, we tend to focus on the stewardship messages found in the Gospel reading or perhaps the Second Readings, many of which are letters written by St. Paul. However, on this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, there is a simple statement in the First Reading from Jeremiah that echoes its strong message to each of us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

     When most of us think of Baptism, we think about immersion in Holy Water. However, for St. Paul, the water is secondary to something else — namely the Holy Spirit.

     Specifically, Paul says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” It is this Spirit which makes us one, a unified body in Christ.

     We have often maintained that there is a stewardship message in every reading from Holy Scripture. Today’s readings are no exception, from the reminder that “God rejoices in each of us” to “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit” from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians to the Gospel story about the miracle at the wedding in Cana as reported in John.

     Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord. This officially brings to an end the season of Christmas. You might say this is a second Epiphany. It is important to us as Catholics and Christians because it represents a second creation involving the entire Trinity.

     In fact in the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany because God appears in three persons. Jesus the Son is baptized; the Holy Spirit descends upon Him; and God declares “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”

     The story of the Magi — the wise men — as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew makes several facts very clear. We often focus on the gifts that were brought as examples of stewardship, and, in truth, this story was certainly one of the inspirations for the giving that occurs at Christmas.

Fall 2015

     “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” With those words from St. Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, to our Blessed Mother Mary our Gospel on this Fourth and final Sunday of Advent closes. It is appropriate that we are reminded of Mary’s stewardship just a few days before she gives birth to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

     Today, the Third Sunday in Advent, is also called Gaudete Sunday. That name is taken from the Latin word Gaudete which is the first word of the introit of today’s Mass. Gaudete means “Rejoice.” The first line of the introit in its entirety is Gaudete in Domino semper, meaning “Rejoice in the Lord always.”

     Prayer should be an important part of our lives as Catholics; prayer needs to be a part of our lives (and our schedule) during this Advent season as we prepare for the coming of Christ. In our Second Reading today, St.

     Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation for us, a time to prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. (The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.”) Although Advent refers to Christ’s birth at Christmas, it also refers to the coming of Christ through the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Finally, it reminds us of the need to prepare for His Second Coming.

     Today’s Solemnity is more popularly called Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of our Church year. In Church terms, it is a relatively new Solemnity, having been established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was moved to this final Sunday in our Church calendar in 1970.

     There is something fascinating about stars. Even though science explains them to us, identifies them, and makes us realize they can each be very different, our perception of them is the thousands of “points of light” in our night sky. Our readings today deal with Christ’s Second Coming, the end time. Part of the message in these readings has to do with our preparedness. If the Lord would come today, are we ready? Are our lives in order that we might be counted among those united with the Lord in Heaven?

     The Gospel from Mark contains one of the most repeated and utilized accounts about what it means to practice stewardship, as well as the requirements that need to be met in order to be a good steward. It is the story of the poor widow who placed “two small coins worth a few cents” into the offering basket.

     Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. Most of us are aware that every day of the year is Feast Day for some saints. In fact, and this is of great consequence to our understanding, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia “The Solemnity of All Saints is when the Church honors all saints, known and unknown.”

Summer 2015

Spring 2015

     We say in the creed that Jesus is God. This wasn’t clear at all at first, even to his close friends and followers. He was their Rabbi, their miracle worker, their healer, and preacher; later, to those closest to him, he was anointed Messiah, the King to come, to rescue his People from slavery.

     “Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.” Jesus appears to his disciples after the Resurrection. They know that he was killed. They know that his body had disappeared from the tomb. So they know he is not simply alive again, in the sense that he didn't really die, but instead because they know he did die, they think they must be seeing a ghost. Jesus makes it clear to them that they are not seeing a ghost.

     The first meeting between the Risen Lord Jesus and his disciples St Peter is not given to us in the Scriptures.

     Peter had never denied that Jesus was the Christ, The Son of God , but had denied three times that he Peter was a disciple of Jesus.

     The Prime Minister, in an Easter message to Christians a few days ago, said “Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children.” 

Winter 2015

     Fifty-five years ago the then senator John F. Kennedy addressed a group of Protestant ministers in Houston, Texas, on the ability of a Catholic president to make decisions independently of his Church. Kennedy equated his personal faith with being a private one, and in so doing he implied the operation of both a public and secular conscience (in public office) and a private and religious conscience (as a Catholic).

     With the mitigated penance signified by the rose of the fourth Sunday of Lent we signal the conclusion of the first part of this season. In these four weeks our focus has been on penitence and conversion, on turning back to God who calls us to himself. Next Sunday the focus will shift. Next Sunday we will begin to turn our attention to Christ’s passion as our liturgy ascends closer to the summit of Easter. Having sought conversion in our lives we will focus more particularly on Christ pouring out his life for us.

Every week in churches throughout the world, baskets of money will be carried up the aisle and presented to the priest who presides at mass. There are many variations in the way this is done but anyone who was completely ignorant of Christianity might think that money was pretty central to Christian worship, and I think in some churches it probably is. Yet in today's Gospel, Jesus overturns the money changers tables, and throws them out. Has something gone badly wrong with our liturgy? I don't think it has.

Have you noticed how many events in the Bible happen on mountains?  Mount Moriah; Sinai or Horeb; Galilee; the Temple Mount in Jerusalem… Golgotha.

There are events of passion: the sacrifice of Isaac (Gn. 22) and the crucifixion.

There are events of revelation: the giving of the Law, the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19-20) and the Transfiguration.

Events of teaching: the statutes of the covenant (Ex 21-23) and the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7)

– and all are an encounter with God.

     For us to accept its truth, the Bible must present a recognisable picture of what our lives are like, by showing us what the problems are, how to deal with them and what happens if we make the wrong decisions. It has been accepted as the reference book for Christianity because it best shows, not only what life should be like, but also what life is like. The Bible portrays life as a continual fight to produce order from chaos and to preserve the order that has already been established.

     There is a story, it may be apocryphal, about an upper class lady in Oxford who attended mass soon after the new ruling about the kiss of peace was introduced after Vatican II. When someone turned to her to shake her hand she withdrew rather affronted and said ‘I do not believe we have been introduced.’

When it comes to clichés, perhaps one of the most archetypal of all is the cliché 'life is just one damned thing after another.' A cliché of course is a common expression that has lost all its freshness and meaning through overuse, and this is certainly true of the 'one damned thing' saying. Through frequent repetition over the last hundred years, this saying has become very dull, but what's more, repetition and dullness seem to be the very subject matter of this cliché.

In the Gospel, Mark gives us an account of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Mark does not tell us what Jesus teaches, but does tell us that he does so with authority. Not entirely surprising, because Mark is often more concerned with what Jesus does rather than with what he says. What was important for Mark here was not so much what Jesus actually taught, but that he did it with authority. Apparently, Jesus made a deep impression on those in the synagogue, because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

     If you were interviewing prospective apostles what would you be looking for? Somebody who was loyal, honest, trustworthy? What about Peter in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house? Would you look for somebody who knew their own limitations and did not overestimate their own strengths or abilities? What about Peter at the Last Supper, or trying to walk on the storm-tossed waters of the Sea of Galilee? Would you look for a person who was not ambitious for their own advancement?

God communicates with us in various ways. Sometimes he communicates through a human voice. When I was a student an elderly philosopher in the congregation would occasionally read at Mass. He read the scriptures so beautifully you felt as though you were hearing them for the first time. If many people were challenged by his philosophical arguments for the faith, I’m sure just as many were moved by the way he read in church.

At this time of year, the Church celebrates the “Epiphany”, which means a solemn, striking, royal or divine visit. We recall how God the Word, Creator and King of all creation, visited his people and was seen on earth. In particular, we focus on the events that made it progressively clear who our Visitor is, and why he was here. The revised Lectionary has enlarged on this theme, inspired by the old cycle of readings which gave us, in sequence, the visit of the Magi, the Finding in the Temple, Jesus’ Baptism, and the Wedding at Cana.

     One of the good things about travelling is that it both dislocates and disconcerts us. The unique combination of stress, boredom and expectation can reduce us to nervous wrecks but also open us to experiencing the world afresh. Not only do we travel to see ‘new things’, but by travelling we sometimes end up seeing things anew. Even things that we thought were familiar, we can see them as if for the first time when we return home, or when we think about them from far away. 

Fall 2014

     Everyone seems to have an opinion on ‘What Would Jesus Do’, the catchphrase of our times. In contrast, Catholicism is not about what we can do for God; it is about what Jesus does for us. It is not about wondering ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in this or that situation. Catholicism is the affirmation of what Jesus did do: he founded the Catholic Church, he sent her the Holy Spirit, he established her on Peter and the apostles, he promised that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against her.

During the extent of my trip, I met and listened to many different testimonies, all from people infected by HIV. There was one encounter that was particularly poignant. I met a kindhearted, soft-spoken man named David, whom I got to speak to for about two hours. We were going on a “Fresh Rescue” to several different Albertson stores located throughout the Las Vegas area to pick up food donations. Initially, I could sense his nerves and hesitancy to open up and share his story.

     We wait for him, yet we go out into the wilderness to find him. We wait for him but we prepare the way for him. We can do nothing to force him to come, yet we must do everything to make ready for him.

     Today we think specially of John the Baptist as the one who made ready for the coming of Jesus. The gospel writers see him as the one who fulfils the prophecy of Isaiah. He goes into the wilderness and prepares a way for the Lord.

     Jesus takes watching very seriously. In today’s short Gospel reading, Jesus tells us four times to watch – he’s really hammering it home.

     History tells of some very interesting, if not very moral, monarchs. Ivan the Terrible merited his nickname by torturing enemies and friends alike for sheer pleasure. Henry VIII altered the moral code to suit himself and married six times, murdering two of his wives to clear the way for others. Montezuma, great king of the Aztecs, waged war solely to obtain thousands of captives for human sacrifice. Almost every monarch you can think of has grown rich at the expense of their subjects.

     Like many priests, I am asked from time to time to preach at a school Mass – often for the end of term or the beginning or end of a school year. I would estimate that about two-thirds of the time, the teacher responsible for organising the Mass chooses the Parable of the Talents as the Gospel. It is not hard to see why: the staff of the school want the children to feel encouraged to share their talents and abilities, to make the most of them, for their own advantage and to the enhancement of the life of the school.

     When the late Cardinal Heenan was asked what was distinctive about the Catholic Church, he answered quite simply with one word: authority. Cardinal Heenan’s reply ruffled not a few feathers. Many expected him to say something like love or compassion. But frankly, the cardinal could not have said either love or compassion, because those are values or characteristics the Church shares with peoples of other faiths and none. They are not distinctively Catholic.

     On the feast of all saints, we celebrate the great multitude of holy men and women, those whom the Church has recognised and the vastly greater number whose names we do not know. The number of canonised saints seems to be increasing dramatically. Pope John Paul II canonised more saints than all previous Popes combined, and now he and Blessed John XXIII are soon to join the swelling number. Isn’t this all a bit exaggerated? Isn’t sanctity becoming a bit too thinly spread? As in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers: “when everyone is somebody, then no-one’s anybody”.

     This week’s readings continue the theme of Jesus having controversies with the Jewish leaders. The Pharisees ask an important question and they received an important answer. And, although it was an important question, it still was a test to Jesus because a less careful answer could have left him open to the charge of trying to “abolish parts of the law.”

     What difference does faith make to your life? St Paul, addressing the Thessalonians in today’s second reading heaps praise on them for showing their faith in action. Hope and love are also mentioned by Paul, as these are the shape that the power of the Gospel, through the Holy Spirit, gives to the lives of the Thessalonians. This life of faith, hope and love is the life of the Church, and it is offered to us through the Church, and in particular through our participation in the liturgy. The liturgy forms us and teaches us.

     Jesus was not averse to parties. His opponents criticised him as a ‘good time guy’, a glutton and a wine drinker. They did not like the company he dined in: sinners and outcasts. He did not always wait to be invited either. He asked himself to the house of Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector in Jericho. The presence of Jesus at one of these dinners was a reconciling presence. Jesus said ‘salvation has come to this house’ when he went in to dine with the sinner Zacchaeus.

     In the next few days the long awaited Synod On The Family will begin in the Vatican.  It might not be a bad idea to pause for a moment to ask ourselves about our own expectations.  For some I expect there are no expectations at all other than “...more of the same.”  The Church has not been particularly helpful in the past in its reflections about marriage and family life.  One theologian, in an expression marked by frustration, said simply “...you people (celibate church leaders) should stay out of our bedrooms.”  One hope has been for the a

    When I graduate this coming June, it will be with many fond memories from the Catholic Community at Stanford. I’ll think of the spiritual fulfillment I searched for and found in the liturgies – but I’ll also remember the late night conversations, movie nights, and games of Mafia. And, whether I want to or not, I’ll remember the times that I was stressed out, frustrated, or heartbroken, crying my eyes out, only able to listen to a friend whisper “everything will be alright”. A well-rounded experience, you might say.

Summer 2014

     Throughout his letters to the various communities of faith, St. Paul offers some excellent advice. In today’s reading from his epistle to the Philippians he urges them to “…have no anxiety at all…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Of course, we may be familiar with the adage, “easier said than done.” St.

     Jesus was in many ways the ultimate example of humility. Yet, humility is not a trait that is highly thought of in our society. We live in a world where independence and relying on no one else is considered to be a high form of expression. For the past few weeks, our second readings have been drawn from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Most of the New Testament consists of letters (epistles). Philippi was a major city in Macedonia, which is part of Greece.

     I’m blessed to live in a very friendly city. Not only will people routinely call you “love” and “pet”, but in shops they go out of their way to be welcoming and helpful. Every time I go to the post office, where customers are served with exemplary speed as well as friendliness, the staff always apologise for keeping me waiting.

     Some years ago a few Stanford professors entered into an exciting and very important project.  They, along with a good part of the world, realized the seriousness of the “ troubles” in the Northern six counties of Ireland.  The Catholics and the Protestants were deeply involved in acts of violence against one another and peace seemed at best a remote hope.  The idea of bringing children from both communities together for an extended period of time to learn from and about one another was thought to be a part of the solution to an old problem.  Professo

What’s in a name? These days, perhaps not much more than a dash of fantasy fiction. Who knows whether little Theon or Daenerys will share or rue their parents’ fascination for a Game of Thrones? Yet, in the ancient world names said much more about the realities of power. The city of Caesarea Philippi asserted in its name both the rule of its founder, Philip the Tetrarch, and the overarching sovereignty of the Roman emperors. As befitted such a place, a temple to Augustus stood above the city on the slopes of Mount Hermon near springs which gave rise to the river Jordan.

This is an extraordinary story. This woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter; he objects that he has come only to the lost sheep of Israel. She persists and eventually he does as she asked.

What has happened? One explanation might be that she persuaded Jesus to make an exception. He has a rule but her faith is so strong that he makes an exception for her. ‘I have come only to the lost sheep of Israel and for you.’

     The Irish are fond of greeting one another and  visitors as well with this expression.  What many, maybe even most, of the visitors do not know is the response to that greeting.  Very simply, "...and the rest of the day to you!"  I suspect that each culture has something similar in its customs.  Not a bad way to begin the day or the exchange.  There is something comforting about being welcomed in a clear and unambiguous manner.  It allows the more outgoing an opportunity to shine while, at the same time, it can put the more quiet t

God cares for everyone, indeed for everything, but not in the same way. Sometimes it can seem, however, that God does not care at all, though our needs can be desperate and pressing. The main thing to believe when God's care for us becomes puzzling is that it is our understanding is limited, not his love.

     God marvels that Solomon, although he was "but a little child" (1 Kgs 3:7), did not ask for riches, or the other kinds of things that young men are wont to ask for. But I was a rather typical youth! For when I was a child my annual birthday wish until I stopped believing in birthday wishes was that I would become the richest man in the history of the world. It was a childish wish, but perhaps the kind that is still common today, and not just among the young.

     In living we usually learn by experience. The experience of our own histories, where we have done what turned out to be the appropriate thing, and profited from that; or done things we would now have done otherwise, and (hopefully) have learned from that: each provides us with a framework which guides and shapes how we act now. In living we make judgements, and act on them, constantly. That simply reflects who we are: agents who can act for themselves. And yet it does not take much reflection to realise that our judgements can often be partial and biased.

     We are accustomed to Jesus teaching us with parables and comparisons and other methods to make His Word clearer. However, God does similar things in the Old Testament. There is a great example in today’s first reading from Isaiah. Scholars have concluded that Isaiah was written some 600 to 800 years before the birth of Christ. In today’s reading, God compares His Word to the water cycle whereby the rains and snow provide water to the earth so it will be “fertile and fruitful” and then the water returns to the Heavens to begin the sequence again.

     Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles. It is appropriate for us to commemorate these two pillars of our Church. St. Augustine said some 1,600 years ago: “Both apostles share the same feast day; for these two were one, and even though they suffered on different days they were as one… Let us embrace what they believed: their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith.” On this Solemnity in 2013, Pope Francis included in his sermon the three reasons he rejoices at the lives of Sts. Peter and Paul.

     Every year, lots of children are prepared for their First Communion, which is of course quite relevant to today’s feast of Corpus Christi, sometimes known by its English title of the Body and Blood of Christ. The English title perhaps sounds a bit blunter. Some catechetical material for preparing children for First Communion warns against talking about ‘blood’ in case it frightens the children. That may seem a rather demanding restriction to some catechists: talking about the body and blood of Christ without referring to the blood.

Spring 2014

     A common approach to homiletics is to find some aspect of everyday life, explore it a bit, perhaps with a bit of humour, and then say something like, “and that’s a bit like our relationship with God,” or, “and that’s a bit like Jesus.” Well, whatever the merits or otherwise of such an approach it will not work for today’s feast. We can start from absolutely no aspect of life, no amusing anecdote, no hilarious or touching recollection, and end up saying, that’s a bit like the Trinity. We only come to the Trinity because the Trinity has first come to us.

     Pentecost — meaning fiftieth in Greek, counting the days from Passover to the Feast of Weeks, from the exodus from Egypt to the giving of the Law on Mount Sinai. Symbolically also it’s the beginning of harvest in a Mediterrean climate. Whatever the layers of meaning, the first disciples maintained this chronology to designate the fulfilment of the Paschal Mystery in the descent of the Holy Spirit, the creation of the Church, the harvest of Easter so to speak.

     And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.(Eph. 1:22-23)

     It would be odd if Catholics did not question their faith. The lack of intellectual curiosity would be a indication of the capital sin of sloth. We would be like Rex Mottram in Brideshead Revisited, ranking papal infallibility (extending to meteorological forecasts) with sacred monkeys in the Vatican - and accepting both as things to be believed. Happily, most people do question their faith, although our difficulties sometimes worry us, and we confuse them with doubts.

     “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these” (Jn 14:12). These words from today’s Gospel were Jesus’ call to action to his apostles before he left them for the last time.  They remain his call to action to all of us as his disciples today. It’s a daunting call.

     The Lord is my shepherd… Everyone knows and loves the words of Psalm 23. And many, in fact most, want to hear them again and again. There have been almost fifty funerals in our parish since the beginning of this year. 99.9 percent of the families have chosen this psalm to bid farewell to their loved one. The comforting confidence of the opening words of the psalmist go right to the heart, as does the peaceful pastoral imagery evoked in what follows.

     Stewardship is often referred to in the wonderful alliterative words Time, Talent and Treasure. In Christian Stewardship terms, these categories are often used in terms of Prayer, Service and Sharing. Prayer is about our relationship with God and, as with most of our relationships, it’s not always smooth sailing. For some, prayer comes easily. But for many of us, it’s definitely a work-in-progress. Take, for example, Fr. Michael J. Allelo, Diocesan priest at St. Philomena in Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

     There continues to be confusion about what stewardship means. Many often relegate it to an institutional issue rather than a spiritual issue. They see it as an issue of budgets and salaries and speak in terms of the church’s needs. In fact, stewardship is a spiritual issue. It is about the relationship God has established with us in Christ. To treat it less than this is a heartbreaking mistake for us as individual stewards and for our church.

There is something deeply mysterious about suffering. One thing is certain: ultimately, God does not want suffering for us. In Heaven, every tear will be wiped away, and when God came among us as a man, he relieved suffering. So why do we still suffer?


Winter 2014

Between the Jewish regions of Judaea and Galilee lived the Samaritans, descended from people left behind when the Assyrian Empire exiled many Israelites. The Samaritans and the Jews both claimed to inherit the ancient Covenant; hence they resented each other.


To everyone’s astonishment, Jesus mingled with the Samaritans. But it was part of His purpose to fulfil Ezekiel’s prophecy that one divine Shepherd would reunite the Tribes.


Today’s Gospel has more than one thing to say to us about Lent. We can easily think Lent is just about ourselves, putting ourselves in order, training ourselves to love ourselves in more healthy way. Fasting is the Lenten penance that most easily comes to mind, something by which we train ourselves to love ourselves in a healthy and moderate way. But today’s Gospel tells us about some of the other important things about Lent.

     Last summer I climbed to the top of Cologne Cathedral and was rewarded with a stunning view of the city. This urge to climb seems to have been present in human beings for thousands of years, and the experience of looking down at the earth from a great height is one which takes us beyond the physical.

Lenten Fasting Regulations:

Abstinence: abstinence from eating meat is to be observed on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent.  All persons are bound by the law of the Church to abstain from the day after their 14th. birthday.

     The history of moral progress is rather erratic. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, and ‘You shall love your neighbour, and hate your enemy’, Jesus reminds his disciples - two moral principles once quite revolutionary. He summons his disciples to even more challenging acts of moral imagination: to abandon retaliation and to love their enemies.

     I sometime think I could do with a course in anger management. I can go weeks without being angry. I really need to get organised.

     Unfortunately that is not what is on offer. The courses purport to get rid of anger altogether. Which suggests a very serious misunderstanding not only of anger, but all emotions. St Thomas Aquinas states in the Summa Theologica that while it is true that we can sin through anger, we can also sin through a lack of anger. This is in the Secunda Secundae, Question 158, Article 8.

     A few more years ago than I care to think about, I graduated from Stanford University with a degree that put Asia in my path.  At the time, I had a couple of good job offers to move back East – something I was very tempted to do.  Yet my experience as a grad student in China and the great need that I saw there among other college students and young adults kept daring to pull me back to Asia.  I had gotten this crazy idea in my head that if I went back to Asia, I could help address the need that I saw there – psychological, emotional, spiritual, someti

     St. Luke has run together two legal observances that Mary and Joseph fulfilled.

     According to Exodus 13, every first-born male belonged to God. God delights to create human life, and does not want human sacrifice, so a human child had to be ‘ransomed’ - his life was ‘bought’ from God. The ‘price’ was due on the thirtieth day after birth, and did not require attendance at the Temple.

      A few years ago, someone invited me to take part in an exercise with a team of fire-fighters. We wore fire-proof clothing and breathing apparatus and a fire was started in a specially constructed ship’s hold. I was assigned to two experienced fire officers with the instruction that when we entered the ship I had to make sure I never let go of at least one of them. Inside the hold there was thick smoke, pitch darkness and extreme heat. We edged our way around the corridors, feeling along the walls, the heat increasing alarmingly.

     A few months ago a friend of mine alerted me to an amusing mistake. In Wales, all the road signs have to be written in both Welsh and English, and the local council in Swansea wished to place a new sign at the roadside. So they sent off the following text to a translator: ‘No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only’. The sign company received a very prompt reply from the translator, and duly completed the sign. The result was a sign where the English had been translated as: ‘I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated.’

     John had done a great job of preparing the people for the coming of Jesus. St. Matthew records that “Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptized by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins,” (3.6) In the harsh solitude of the desert John had made the people ready for what would be a life-changing encounter with Jesus.

     My name is Grumpy and I am a camel. Camels are proverbially evil tempered. I must admit I used to deserve to be called Grumpy because I was the worst-tempered camel of them all. But I’m not now, I’ve changed and I am going to tell you how and when I changed.

Fall 2013

     Everyone seems to have an opinion on ‘What Would Jesus Do’, the catchphrase of our times. In contrast, Catholicism is not about what we can do for God; it is about what Jesus does for us. It is not about wondering ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in this or that situation. Catholicism is the affirmation of what Jesus did do: he founded the Catholic Church, he sent her the Holy Spirit, he established her on Peter and the apostles, he promised that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against her.

     Matthew tells us today that ‘Jerusalem, all Judaea and the region around the Jordan’ were going out to John. Where was he? He was in the wilderness, the desert, the place of beginnings where God first wooed his bride Israel before leading her through the waters of the Jordan to the Promised Land which was to be their marriage bed.

     In Advent, as we prepare for the annual celebration of a past event - Christ’s birth - we are also preparing for a future event - Christ’s return in glory. As the days grow shorter we reflect that earthly time is slipping away, but the day of the Lord advances. As the days darken we light the first Advent candle as a beacon of hope in the one who rose again, triumphant over sin and death, who will return to reveal the kingdom of his eternal love.

     “It’s not the end of the world!” Everywhere I’ve travelled, people say this. For our world to end would be a disaster: it would be the end of everything familiar, everything we know. The trouble is that when suffering comes to us – losing our job, relationship break-up, illness, bereavement, or a global disaster like the Philippines typhoon – we can indeed feel it’s the end of our world. And in a way we’re right: the old certainties, the old comforts, have gone – perhaps forever.

     Great buildings are like balloons coming up from the past. We are born in mid air, and all of our lives, we are falling through the air. However much we imagine we will be up here forever, eventually we hit the ground. We are heavy and we must fall. Great buildings are lighter than us. They float up from the past, unless we live in the time when they are being built. We see them rise into the future which we will not live to see. This is why tyrants are so fond of great building projects.

     Today’s Gospel forms part of a series of encounters between Jesus and his opponents. In Luke’s version of these controversies the gap between Jesus and his opponents, who represent the elite of society, is emphasised. This gap is demonstrated by Jesus at the end of the series of encounters, in his contrast between the actions of the poor widow in throwing two copper coins into the temple treasury and the hypocrisy of the Scribes. Those at the top jealously hold on to their wealth and position, whereas the widow who has nothing gives away the little that she has.

     There is often something essential about seeing, times when hearing by itself won’t do. When I was a little boy the Queen was driven through our town, and the entirety of the primary school was led down to the high street to welcome her. I was the only child, so my teacher said, who managed to be looking in the wrong direction when the car, at quite some speed to be fair, passed through. ‘What will you tell your grandchildren?’ Mrs Louchrin asked me. I had been there but might as well have been anywhere.

     Doesn’t it seem strange how incredibly frustrating ‘virtuous’ people can be?

     In reality, of course, it is not their virtue that frustrates us, but rather their self-satisfaction at being so virtuous, their feeling of superiority over the rest of mankind! Perhaps there is also an element of our own inadequacy which we are not always willing to admit.

     In the readings this weekend we are given some insight into how our requests to God relate to time, our time and God’s time.

     From Rome, the communications hub of the known-world, Paul, an educated Jew writes a letter to Timothy, a man of Jewish and Greek descent. In it he writes that Jesus, a Jew “descended from David” (2 Tim 2:8), grants salvation to “the elect”, the chosen ones (2 Tim 2:10). But St Paul’s location, and the family background of his letter’s recipient indicates that “the elect” are no longer just Jesus’ and Paul’s compatriots, fellow Jews.

     We would like to invite all interested students, staff, faculty and non-students in the community to participate in presentations and theological inquiry that reflect the breadth and depth of the Catholic intellectual tradition. Newman Nights is a series designed to help form the faith of the Catholic Community at Stanford University. Ninety minutes long, it consists of a forty-minute lecture followed by breakout groups for further theological and personal reflection.

     When the Second Vatican Council said that the “laity exercise their apostolate both in the Church and in the world in both the spiritual and temporal orders,” it was not thinking about secular educational institutions such as Stanford University, but it did envision an ideal program, one just like the ESTEEM program here at The Farm.

Summer 2013

     This weekend we welcome students and others new to Catholic life @ Stanford.  Right away we’ll gather for to celebrate Mass.  We don’t have our own buildings or a “Newman Center” as many campuses do.  Instead, we share the University’s facilities including magnificent Memorial Church.  Many who are new to Stanford ask if Memorial Church is a Catholic church, because it looks so Catholic.  MemChu, (you may as well begin to learn the local lingo) is an ecumenical church.

     I am not one of nature’s ascetics. For me the Golden Calf and the Fatted Calf are one. There is nothing quite like a nice bit of Vitello Milanese, ‘with chips’, soaked in red wine vinegar.

     It is one of my fondest memories of a year spent in a Roman Seminary, forty years ago. This, I hasten to add, was the Scottish one, which I left after a retreat given by an Irish Dominican.

     Jesus has had his disagreements with learned scribes and Pharisees along the way to Jerusalem, while the unlearned crowds are still enthusiastically behind him. He speaks to them not to destroy their zeal, but to temper it with something more characteristic of his opponents. The crowds did not know what this road to Jerusalem meant for Jesus, nor did they know what following after him really means. Jesus wants to inform their zeal with a dose of learned realism, warning them that anyone who does not bear the cross and follow after him cannot be his disciple.

     At a formal meal, seating arrangements are important. Usually the most distinguished guests sit at the top of the table. To avoid the embarrassing situation described in today’s Gospel a wise host will decide the order of precedence beforehand.

     Why does the Church get us to listen to the Bible at Mass week by week? Why do we have to hear about Put and Lud and Moshech, which were marginal places even in Old Testament times, and certainly don’t make the headlines - or even footnotes - in our times?

     There exists a strong tendency in popular culture to ‘humanise’ Christ, to reduce Him to the kind of human being even more at sea than we are: a bumbling, blind character, uncertain of everything and everyone, above all, of himself. It’s a hollow comfort, but as the saying goes, misery loves company. Dragging God down to our level, to share our misery, is just that sort of false comfort. This tendency, however mistaken, still bears traces of truth. It is true that God has become one of us, and that He has shared in our miseries.

     I don’t know anybody who thinks that the end of world is a good thing; actually I know very few people who want the end of the world to happen. Yet this certainly is a desirable event, when at the end of time Christ will come in glory.

     The end of the world is Good News. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives us the promise of the end of the world specifically as a consolation and not as a cause for anxiety: ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’

     As an illustration of the evils of greed the parable in today’s Gospel is off the mark. The rich man merely seems to be reacting with surprise to unforeseen success. His harvest has been more abundant than anticipated and he doesn’t know what to do with the surplus. “Hey, I’ll build bigger barns…” What else could he do?

     ‘I am their father, says God. Our father who art in heaven. My son told them all about my being their father. […] That’s how they seem to me now. That’s how I see them. That’s how I’m forced to see them.’

     During the fifties in the north of England where I grew up, it was usual for neighbours to drop in for a chat at any time. Over a cup of tea they would exchange gossip and tell you what was worrying them. In other parts of England, people are not so easy-going but when we deny ourselves the company of others in our homes it’s not just the news and the tea we miss. The Old Testament reading today is about that extra something Abraham gets from being a hospitable host. He and his wife, Sarah, are very old and have no children.

     The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of those Biblical stories which is has become part of our culture – part of our language, even – so that, although many people nowadays might not know the story in great detail, they would still know that, if someone was described as a ‘good Samaritan’, it would be because they had helped a complete stranger in some kind of distress.

     Today’s Gospel reading is about Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples to preach the good news of the Kingdom. Since Dominicans are called the Order of Preachers, these words must have something special to say to us. But every baptised person is called to spread the Gospel too, so there will also be a message here for everyone. 

     My friend Robert Enoch is an all-too-rare combination of a committed Christian and a serious artist. Recently he published his work ‘Free’ on the internet. As http://photosoffree.blogspot.com/. As you’ll see, it’s eight years of photos of the word ‘free’. There’s step-free tube guides, a Freedom Pass, a place called Freeland, a smoking- and mobile-free zone, free thinking and ‘Judges free four terror suspects’. And a few photos of ‘free’ in the Bible…

     As we grow up and journey through our lives, there inevitably comes a point when we have to start asking some really big questions, questions like what is my vocation in life? why is there so much suffering in the world? does life have any meaning? does God exist? But of all the questions we might have to face, the biggest question of all is the one that Jesus asks in today’s Gospel: who do you say that I am? who is Jesus?

     Today’s Gospel seems very congenial to our modern ears. There is kindness and support shown to a sinner. The sanctimonious and upright are rebuked, in public. We like that.

     Certainly in many ways religion can be hijacked by the mean and the sour. People can be made to feel ashamed of any hearty, healthy lust for life. It is too easy to do this. In this passage such people showed a carelessness and callousness that needed condemnation, and got it.

Spring 2013

     As we draw to the close of another academic year, many of us are filled with the hope and excitement of embarking on a new journey in life.  Yet no matter where we go from here or whether we remain in place at Stanford, God is with us, at our side, within us, calling us to something greater than what the world can simply offer.  It is a call, uniquely given to each of us out of God’s love for His children, that promises far more possibilities and personal fulfillment than we could ever imagine or hope to achieve on our own.  We have only to open ourse

     The term spirituality lacks a common definition, although that doesn’t stop us from trying to describe it as a presence in our lives.  For some, it is simply “the search for the sacred”; for Catholics, however, it is more narrowly defined as the way in which we live out our relationship with God and with the world.  That said, our personal spirituality can take many forms, defined by such things as how we view God, our basic personality, our worldview, and the particular cultural or religious influences in our lives.  Although all Catholics are expect

     There are many mottos of the Order.  “Truth”.  “To Praise, to Bless, to Preach”.  But the motto that most exemplifies Dominican Spirituality is contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere (“To contemplate and to share with others the fruit of one’s contemplation”). 

     When I was growing up, one of my favorite books was Heroines of Christ, a collection of pious essays about saintly women given to me by one of the authors, a Jesuit uncle of mine. It was full of tales of women engaged in heroic endeavors: Joan of Arc rescuing France from the English; Catherine of Siena dragging the Popes back to Rome from Avignon; Kateri Tekakwitha withstanding the ravages of smallpox and the persecution she suffered from her own people as a result of her vow of virginity.

     Back in 1907 when the 20th century had not long come into being, Robert Hugh Benson wrote of the things to come in his book, “Lord of the World”.

Reflection from the Border

by Natalie Hernández

Seven Last Words

by Santiago Saavedra

     Good Friday was the end of our immersion trip. It was hard for me to organize and process the many activities we did, all the people we met and all the stories we heard of the migrants. My best attempt at organizing them was reflecting on the seven last words of Christ on the cross. 

     “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” 

     The fourth Sunday of Easter is known as ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’; in a narrow understanding this refers to vocations to the priesthood, but in a wider sense it encompasses the whole apostolic and pastoral mission of the Church.

     The Good Shepherd is one of the best-known and best loved of the images in the New Testament. It has its roots deep in salvation history: David, the boy shepherd, was chosen to be king of Israel; he was the anointed leader of the people of God, to guide and lead them towards God and his kingdom.

     What happens to Simon Peter in today’s gospel looks like a step up. And to be honest, it is, Christ has set Peter up.

     If I told you that I had won the lottery last weekend you would probably not believe me. You know, probably, that the odds against that are 13,983,815 to 1, so it’s not very likely that I’m telling the truth. ‘Unless I see the winning ticket,’ you might say to me, ‘and touch it with my finger, and hold the jackpot cheque in my hand, I will not believe’.

Winter 2013

     When the disciples were caught in the middle of a sudden storm they cried to the sleeping Jesus to save them, and he awoke and sent the tempest to sleep, calming the waves and the wind. Who is this, they questioned themselves, that even the force of nature obeys him?

     Today’s gospel, which we hear well into the season of Lent, is extremely familiar. To describe someone as a ‘prodigal’ or behaving just like the prodigal son has become almost proverbial, a way of speaking which does not depend on being a Christian. The familiar can of course lose its power, its capacity to startle us into repentance.

     Vegetation of all different sorts makes frequent appearances in the scriptures; between the Tree of Life in Genesis and the Tree of Life in Revelation, there are mustard plants, vines, lilies, grass, oaks, palms, wheat and corn, olives and the fig tree, as in today’s Gospel. Given that the natural world shows God’s creative, loving power, it is fitting that it plays a part in the drama of sin and redemption. Beautifully, the leaves of the Tree of Life in Revelation are ‘for the healing of the nations.’

     What we expect to hear in Lent are lessons on fasting, prayer, alms-giving and perhaps the corporal works of mercy. This Sunday however, as many have noted before, we are surprised to hear the account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. The leap from the lessons we heard last week - about the fasting of Christ, his hunger and resisting temptations of the devil - to the glory of Christ’s divine face briefly revealed to the apostles on the mountain, seems initially a rather rushed if not an odd development.

     Luke 4:1-12 is a splendid opening for the First Sunday of Lent, and Luke intends it to be an exercise in the self-disclosure of Jesus to the world.

     Those experts who are concerned to trace direct relationships between the Gospels – that of Saint John as also all of the synoptics – whilst they might find echoes of other incidents from other passages in the synoptic gospels – feel that they need to treat this as a completely re-edited passage of Luke. That has the advantage that it brings a reader very close to the life of the Capernaum fishermen-disciples, with the vocation which Our Lord was communicating to them, and makes them very conscious of the passage of their own thoughts step by step.

     And just as it was starting to go so well! He had returned among them in triumph – a local hero. They marvelled at the wonderful things he said among them. He was one of their own, he grew up among them and they knew his background. He shared their ups and downs, laughed with them; he was involved in the different aspects of their lives. Now he spoke with eloquence and graciousness. They could be rightly proud, a people who had raised such a man.

     The rather long second reading at today’s Mass is about body parts, and the way the variety of different parts of the human body make up a unity. Fairly obvious, you might think; it’s an idea we are quite familiar with. But there is a little more to it than meets the eye, especially when you link it up with what we heard last Sunday, from the earlier part of the same Chapter, when St Paul said that there is a variety of gifts all given by the same Spirit.

     Some people have a lot of magic in their lives. Tables are magically set, heating just works, clothes are cleaned and ironed, and the most of the things they need just appear. At Christmas the magic works overtime. All sorts of delightful things spring up as if from nowhere. Where does it all come from? How did these delights get here? There is an easy answer to this and it is in the Gospel of today. “The servants knew where the wine came from.” So isn’t there any magic then?

     According to St John’s Gospel, John the Baptist performed his baptisms at a place called Bethany-beyond-Jordan, at the northern end of the Dead Sea.

     In the Christmas story we traditionally see two journeys to the manger of the infant king.

     The shepherds were so captivated by the message of the angel that they left their sheep and made the journey to see this wonder that had come to pass in the city of David. They left their livelihoods and security; they found a new centre for their lives in the manger of him through whom all things were made.

Fall 2012

     A Dominican novice once wrote home to his father, complaining of his many duties and the demands of the divine office, even rising in the early hours to pray. His father was not impressed, and replied:

     ‘My boy, your mother and I have to get up three or four times a night to calm a crying baby [they had just had their fourteenth child], and that is less romantic than your night office.’

     Catholicism is a physical at least as much as it is a spiritual religion. It is about things that happened, and things that happen, in and through particular human bodies, in particular places such as Bethlehem or Blackfriars, Oxford, and at particular times such as the days of King Herod of Judea or December 2009. Our faith is about the Word becoming flesh. It is centred on one born of a woman, born under the Jewish law, to save us not through the promise of future incarnations of our ‘spirits’, but through the offering of his body once and for all.

     “What shall we do?” Various groups of people go to John the Baptist to ask him for moral instruction because they recognize his wisdom and moral authority. In every age people have gone to ask their religious preachers and sages for moral guidance: “What shall we do?” Many of the world’s religions offer responses to this fundamental question on how we should order our lives, how we can live well as human beings.

     Baruch brings a message of reconciliation and hope to the Jewish communities of the Greek-speaking Middle East at a time in which for them exile had become permanent. Even those returning to Jerusalem could not but have been aware that the Land of the Covenant was ruled by pagan Gentiles, first the Greeks, later the Romans. Baruch tells us of the renewal of Jerusalem, when her children will be brought back, overcoming every obstacle, to the presence of God on his holy mountain. As for them, so for us.

     Thank you, Bishop Soto. Good evening everyone. I’m a little nervous, but I’m also very excited and I feel very blessed to be here.

     Every Fall Break since my freshman year at Stanford, I’ve been blessed enough to have the opportunity to go back to Las Vegas – my hometown – with friends from the Catholic Community at Stanford and work with the St. Therese Center.

     As he concludes his teaching in the Temple, Jesus sits down opposite the treasury — the thirteen large trumpet-shaped receptacles in the Court of the Women, nine for the receipt of what was due (payment for wood, incense, pigeons and so on), four for voluntary donations. When he is recorded as sitting down it is usually either to teach or to pass judgment (often the same thing).

     In 2007, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document titled ‘Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship’ to address our dual roles as Catholics and citizens.  The document is not a voter’s guide and does not tell us who to vote for; instead it examines current issues in the light of Catholic moral teaching and encourages the faithful to form and follow their consciences when voting.

     When the topic of stewardship comes up, most people think of giving of themselves: their time, their talent and their treasure. It touches every aspect of our lives. But how much does it really touch our lives? An oft-cited adage is that we spend our personal resources on what we consider a priority in our life.

     There is a tendency for us to define ourselves by what we do, and not by what we are. ‘What do you do?’ is not just the Queen’s favourite question; it is part of ordinary small talk. To a certain extent, what we do does indeed define what we are. The woman who rescues someone is a rescuer; the man who robs someone is a robber. What we do makes us what we are. But at the same time, what we are has a certain priority over what we do. The man who steals is a thief, but he is more than a thief to begin with, and even after the theft he can become something more.

     Today we celebrate the beginning of the academic year at Stanford with our annual Mass of the Holy Spirit, a long-standing tradition at Catholic colleges and universities.

Summer 2012

     As we ready ourselves to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II, and to reinvigorate its spirit, it is helpful to take stock of the Council’s many achievements. One such example is the ESTEEM program here at the Catholic Community at Stanford.

     The staff of CC@S is proud to announce the debut of a new program, NEWMAN NIGHTS.  The staff has been working on this since last April, and is excited (and nervous!) to give you a sneak peek.

     We tend to side with the people who agree with us or with arguments we find congenial to our own views. We read the newspapers which complement the image we have of ourselves and reinforce our political allegiance and the way we see the world. For example, whose side do we take in an industrial dispute?

     Most people, I imagine, can think of an occasion when they’ve said one thing but done another – from the trivial “I think I’ve had enough, thank you” as they then go on to take another piece of cake, to the rather more serious “I’m sorry – I promise I won’t do that again” followed by a repeat of whatever harmful words or actions prompted the apology in the first place.

     When you move to a new place it can take a while to find your feet. This morning I helped some friends to move house, and although it was a short move they will have to rethink where to shop, how to get their children to school, and a whole host of things they could previously take for granted. After a few weeks the streets surrounding their home will begin to have that feel of familiarity: that’s where we took the youngest child to the doctor, that’s our favourite bakery. The world forms around our lives: our hopes and desires, our fears and joys.

     Why is religion so important? It is because it puts us in touch with a special revelation from God that we would not otherwise receive. The Jews believed that through their religion they could know the God who had freed them from slavery in Egypt and who had promised them life. God had given them the Law which instructed them how to remain free and not relapse into idolatry. They were proud that God had chosen them to show the rest of the world what a wonderful God they worshipped.

     Today’s gospel begins, as it were, halfway through. The very first thing we hear is the disciples grumbling that ‘this’ (or ‘it’) is a ‘hard saying’, but nowhere is it explained what they are grumbling about. For four weeks now we have been listening to Jesus telling his disciples, in various ways, that he is the ‘Bread of Life’.

     This is not the homily I was expecting to offer to you but as they say ‘life is what happens when your making plans’

     Two weeks ago we read St John’s account of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, and today we have Jesus telling his followers that he is the bread of life. John, you will remember, makes the washing of the disciples’ feet the centrepiece of his account of the Last Supper. What we read today is effectively John’s account of the Eucharist.

“You can know a thing to death, and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.” So says the old preacher, Ames, to his son in the book Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. It seems to me to express a deep, and strange truth.

     Occasionally, God provides food and drink miraculously, as for the widow Elijah stayed with, or when Elisha fed the hundred. Jesus turned water into wine; he fed 5,000 from five loaves and two fish. St. Dominic and his mother multiplied wine; St. John Vianney multiplied wheat and flour. In 1949, rice was multiplied for the poor at the intercession of Bl. John Macias at Ribero del Fresno; this led to his canonisation.

     The Gospel of last Sunday told of Christ’s first sending out of the disciples on a mission of preaching and healing. In the order of Mark’s Gospel it was followed by an interlude which tells of the Herod, the Tetrarch of Galilee, hearing of Jesus’s mission, and being touched in his conscience and thinking that here was John the Baptist come back from the dead; it adds the story of how he had had John executed to satisfy the whim of a daughter of his unlawful wife which the latter had prompted. And now we have the story of the return of the disciple-missionaries.

     Amos stands on dangerous ground - Bethel is the religious centre of a breakaway kingdom in the Promised Land. As its priest, Amaziah, makes clear, the shrine legitimates the rule of a royal dynasty which has cut off the northern lands of Israel from Judah and from the Jerusalem Temple to the south. Worship of a golden calf at Bethel serves the political interests of an elite which has prospered by ignoring the plight of the poor. The unity of the Chosen People under God’s covenant has been sacrificed for a lesser unity under King Jeroboam II and his court.

     Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to meet Jesus? Or perhaps wondered about what it would have been like to be sat in front of him as he spoke his parables and explained them? It would have been such a privilege to have heard him, to have seen the things that he did.

     “What, then, will this child become?” That was the question asked at the birth of St. John the Baptist –today’s feast. That question must lie at the back of every parent’s mind as they gaze with wonder at their new-born babe. True, thousands of babies are born every day. Even so, each one is unique, special, not only to its parents, but especially to God. He has a different plan for each us, which no one else is called to fulfil.

Spring 2012

     When you tell a joke and somebody stares blankly at you, you know they haven’t got it; and you know that if you explain it, it might finally provoke a smile but the fun has gone out of it. On the other hand you might tell a story which illustrates a point, and it’s quite normal to explain what you mean.

     ‘Go, make disciples of all the nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’. Recently I was returning from baptizing a baby. Mum and dad come from different continents, let alone nations. They were Christ’s disciples, and in asking to have their child baptized, they knew that the Lord was indeed with them, and their newly-born and newly-baptized baby, till the end of time.

     Throughout Lent, Easter and Ascension the scriptures use the imagery of the Temple to show us who Christ is and what he does for us. We might think of his High Priestly Prayer during Holy Week from John’s Gospel, the Letter to the Hebrews depicting the once and for all sacrifice of Christ, and the psalms of enthronement used for the Feast of the Ascension.

     We tend to think along a sequence, especially when it comes to the passing of time. One hour follows another, one year follows another and so on and so on. Ever since most of us had a watch of our own, the passing of time has really come home to us. We glance at watches and clocks all the time, and they even measure out seconds for such is our unnecessary anxiety.

     That fine poet Elizabeth Jennings was for much of her life fascinated by how we experience time, time which can be our worry and our pain:

     Some say that public speaking is an art of keeping a distance from one’s listeners. A good orator, like a trained fencer, is able to close the distance or widen it, according to the need.

     Sometimes we enjoy keeping others at distance. It gives us some sense of security. It provides us with personal space: a cotton wool shell that may help protecting our identity but which may also serve as a weapon.

     In the Acts of the Apostles the suspicion of the early Christians in Jerusalem towards Saul is treated as perfectly understandable. After all, here we have someone who persecuted the early Church, who, only shortly earlier, was persecuting them and who approved of the killing of Stephen, one of their number. But now, after his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus where he encountered the Risen Christ, he declares himself to be a member of the Church.

     Before El Salvador, I had already traveled to Latin America and knew about the poverty, the terrible presidents, and the machismo that ruled the region. I went prepared to learn about the issues that plague Latin America and Central America as a whole, but I wanted to experience it with my peers, who I now call my friends, and take the time to reflect in order to transform my faith. It’s true that the main goal of the trip was to learn more about the Catholic Church’s role in El Salvador during the civil war, but I, personally, learned much more.

     I come from a sheltered background. Growing up, I had never known gang violence, heard of friends being threatened and murdered, or experienced poverty. My upper-middle class suburban neighborhood has neither metal gates nor razor sharp barbed wire surrounding homes for security. I had many reasons not to go to El Salvador. I am an engineering major with career plans in the U.S. and with limited Spanish speaking abilities. This trip would mean leaving the familiarity of America and confronting a poor, non-English speaking region of the world for the first time.

     My state of mind when I left the dorm in the dark hours of the morning to board an SFO-bound Super Shuttle was mostly that of an exhausted post-final haze. Even in my more awake hours on the long flight to El Salvador, I couldn’t have really said what my expectations of this country would be. It was my first time to El Salvador, my first time to Latin America, and the first time I had chosen not to go home on a Stanford break.

     Why did Mary Magdalene visit the tomb of Christ? Was it simply an act of sight-seeing? St John doesn’t tell us, and St Matthew does tell us that ‘Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb’, but the other two Gospels add the detail that the women went to anoint the body of Jesus, taking the first opportunity to do so once the Sabbath was ended.

     A busy shopping street in London, Berlin, New York or any other big city can show us how much freedom in fact we have. Chains of similar looking departments stores offer us a similar assortment of similar artefacts. ‘Globalisation’, some say, and tut. ‘We are spoiled for choice’ say others and they are content.

Winter 2012

     John’s Gospel is building to a show-down. You can feel the rising tension. The Pharisees are watching for an opportunity to attack Jesus. And as they complain in the verse immediately preceding our passage, Jesus is increasingly the focus of wider attention: ‘the world has come after him’. At Cana, at the outset of his public ministry, Jesus told his Mother that his ‘hour’ had not yet come. Now, he tells us, it is here.   

     Matthew 25:40 is one of my favorite verses because it reminds me how everyone deserves equal love.  While Catholicism has certainly shaped me, I think the desire to serve is inherently human; Social Justice is an important concept that goes across all ethnicities, religions, ages, and sociioeconomic status. I enjoy volunteering with SPOON because volunteering is like excercising--actively doing something is the best way to keep yourself strongly connected to the community, and the more you do it, the more natural and intergrated it becomes in your life.

     Last spring, I traveled with the other students to learn about the events of the civil war that tore apart the country of El Salvador from 1980-1992. I came in expecting a rote lesson in the history of the war and the role of the church during this time. What I unexpectedly departed with was a memory of a tragedy that changed the direction of my life.

     You’ve heard us talk about our Alternative Spring Break trip to El Salvador for weeks now.  A couple of times, people have asked me why I wanted to go back.  The answer is obvious: For the privilege.

     When the topic of stewardship comes up, most people think of giving of themselves: their time, their talent and their treasure. It touches every aspect of our lives. But how much does it really  touch our lives? An oft-cited adage is that we spend our personal resources on what we consider a priority in our life.

     The local football team from my part of Fife, Dunfermline Athletic, are nick-named ‘The Pars’, supposedly short for paralytic, from a period in the past when their fortunes were at a very low ebb. The paralytic in today’s gospel story was unable to do anything for himself. He is carried on a stretcher by four men who strip the roof above Jesus and lower the paralytic before him.

     Most of us live somewhere in-between. The in-between can be a place of hope, where we are held in the promises of Jesus Christ, or a place of despair, where we neither belong nor are strangers. There is the despair of night where we are plunged into darkness, but there is also the despair that hovers somewhere just out of sight, forming the frame which encloses our lives.

Dear Friends,

I write to you concerning an alarming and serious matter that negatively impacts the Church in the United States directly, and that strikes at the fundamental right to religious liberty for all citizens of any faith.  The federal government, which we profess to be “of, by, and for the people,” has just dealt a heavy blow to almost a quarter of those people—the Catholic population of the United States—and to the millions more who are served by the Catholic Church.

     In the Gospel, Mark gives us an account of Jesus teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. Mark does not tell us what Jesus teaches, but does tell us that he does so with authority. Not entirely surprising, because Mark is often more concerned with what Jesus does rather than with what he says. What was important for Mark here was not so much what Jesus actually taught, but that he did it with authority. Apparently, Jesus made a deep impression on those in the synagogue, because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

     ‘Let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it’.

     Walking around a university campus during ‘Freshers’ Week’ I was approached by a group of students who asked me if I was a priest. Replying in the affirmative, they provided me with one of their leaflets and invited me to open my mind.

     One of the good things about travelling is that it both dislocates and disconcerts us. The unique combination of stress, boredom and expectation can reduce us to nervous wrecks but also open us to experiencing the world afresh. Not only do we travel to see ‘new things’, but by travelling we sometimes end up seeing things anew. Even things that we thought were familiar, we can see them as if for the first time when we return home, or when we think about them from far away. 

Fall 2011

     Everyone seems to have an opinion on ‘What Would Jesus Do’, the catchphrase of our times. In contrast, Catholicism is not about what we can do for God; it is about what Jesus does for us. It is not about wondering ‘What Would Jesus Do’ in this or that situation. Catholicism is the affirmation of what Jesus did do: he founded the Catholic Church, he sent her the Holy Spirit, he established her on Peter and the apostles, he promised that the Gates of Hell would never prevail against her.

     St John’s Gospel is very clear about the divine identity of Christ. The prologue to the Gospel, a small part of which we read today, speaks of him as the Word which was in the beginning with God and which is God. Jesus himself repeatedly uses the phrase ‘I am’, echoing the divine name revealed to Moses in the burning bush.

     I am given to understand that sleep deprivation is one of the records which is no longer supported by the Guinness Book of Records, for reasons of health: the previously listed world record holder lasted for eleven days without sleep, but suffered from problems with concentration, memory, paranoia and hallucinations.

     At its heart, the Eucharist is a sacrament of communion, bringing us closer to God and to our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. If we live the fruits of the Eucharist in our daily lives, we will fill our families and our communities with the life-giving qualities that the Liturgy brings: hospitality, concern for the poor and vulnerable, self-offering, and thanksgiving.

     The celebration of Mass is an act of the whole assembly gathered for worship. In the Mass, the Church is joined to the action of Christ. We are joined to this divine action through Baptism, which incorporates us into the risen Christ. This action, which lies at “the center of the whole of Christian life” (General Instruction of the Roman Missal [GIRM], no. 16), is initiated not by us but by God acting in and through the Church as the Body of the risen Christ.

Some of the words used in the new translation of the Mass may be unfamiliar to some Catholics. The following list of definitions may help to increase your understanding of the rich theology that underlies these texts.



The lowering of one of higher rank. Jesus abased himself in that, though he was God, he lowered himself and became a human being so that he might save us from our sins (see Phil 2:6-11).



Parts of the Mass

The Mass follows a “fundamental structure which has been preserved throughout the centuries down to our own day” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1346). Though the Mass is one unified act of worship, it consists of many parts, each with its own purpose and meaning. The entries in this article follow the order in which the parts occur in the Mass.


Introductory Rites:

     It is clear that Sacred Scripture has a revered and important place in the Eucharistic Liturgy. Every Mass includes a Liturgy of the Word. The main elements of the Liturgy of the Word are biblical readings and the singing of a psalm. The Liturgy of the Word  reaches its high point in the proclamation of the Gospel.


     For many people, change does not come easy.  Change requires us to stop doing things a certain way in order to do something else. Many people find comfort in familiar routines and known ways of acting. Change interrupts those familiar routines. But change is also an opportunity to stop and reflect on what we are doing and to come to a better understanding of God, who does not change. 


Why does the Church change the Liturgy?

     On Sunday, we gather as the Body of Christ to celebrate the Lord’s Day, the day of Christ’s Resurrection:

Dear New Stanford Students:



     Welcome to Stanford!  We, the Catholic Community at Stanford, are glad you’re here.  We’ve been preparing for your arrival and will do our best to help you feel at home.  You’ve been through orientations to help you navigate your way around campus.  Catholic life at Stanford may resemble what you’ve been accustomed to in other places; in some ways it will be different.  Here are a few things it may help you to know.


Summer 2011

     Each year Americans celebrate Labor Day as a national holiday to honor working people. This year, however, is less a time for celebration and more a time for reflection and action on current economic turmoil and hardships experienced by workers and their families. For Catholics, it is also an opportunity to recall the traditional teaching of the Church on dignity of work and the rights of workers.

     Each year Americans celebrate Labor Day as a national holiday to honor working people. This year, however, is less a time for celebration and more a time for reflection and action on current economic turmoil and hardships experienced by workers and their families. For Catholics, it is also an opportunity to recall the traditional teaching of the Church on dignity of work and the rights of workers.

     Each year Americans celebrate Labor Day as a national holiday to honor working people. This year, however, is less a time for celebration and more a time for reflection and action on current economic turmoil and hardships experienced by workers and their families. For Catholics, it is also an opportunity to recall the traditional teaching of the Church on dignity of work and the rights of workers.

Let me make this absolutely clear ... ‘absolutely clear’? 


     I realise that as soon as you read this opening line, there is a risk that you will stop reading any further! Whenever I myself hear this phrase used (and we seem to hear it more and more often these days from those who wish us to believe what they tell us) I become immediately suspicious that the resulting obfuscation with which we are about to be presented will have exactly the opposite effect, making everything we hear absolutely unclear! 


     Last Friday evening I watched as a group of young pilgrims gathered at St Dominic’s Priory in London. The pilgrims had come together from across the country to travel with a group of Dominicans to Madrid for World Youth Day. Similar scenes will be repeated across Europe and further afield as well: more than a million pilgrims are expected to converge on Madrid.


     What we see in this Gospel is an occasion when Jesus seems to be very harsh – uninterested, even hostile to what seems like a perfectly reasonable request from this Canaanite woman. Right away it seems like Jesus is rejecting her because of who she is – a woman belonging to the people who were driven out of the land of Canaan by the people of Israel.


     Elijah and Peter were servants of God and men of faith. In the Scriptures people of faith were often tested, in order to strengthen their faith. Elijah was a prophet of God, had been long in the service of God and was nearing the end of his ministry. His was the difficult task of prophesying in Israel in the time of King Ahab and his pagan queen, Jezebel.


     God cares for everyone, indeed for everything, but not in the same way. Sometimes it can seem, however, that God does not care at all, though our needs can be desperate and pressing. The main thing to believe when God’s care for us becomes puzzling is that it is our understanding is limited, not his love.


     Some of Jesus’ parables tell us exactly how much his wisdom is worth and what it costs, what it costs us. He tells of a merchant looking for fine pearls. The meaning of the pearl might have been obvious even to Jesus’ disciples, who often got things wrong. Job had said that the price of wisdom was beyond pearls. This parable is about the discovery of the most precious wisdom of all, the wisdom of Jesus that leads us to God.


     What should we do about the weeds? That’s a problem facing every farmer and gardener -- a problem that Jesus uses in one of today’s Gospel parables. We’re told about the darnel growing in the midst of the crop sown by the farmer. Through this parable Jesus confronts a problem which besets the Kingdom of God in every age, including today’s.


     We can get very pessimistic about the world, about the Church and about ourselves. One solution is not to be optimistic in the first place. One way of not being optimistic is to be cynical and bitter, to insist that every silver lining has a cloud, that human beings will always take the selfish option, that whatever comfort religion might bring, it doesn’t make a real difference in the world – except when it’s fanatical, and then it makes the world a horribly dangerous place.


     What were these things the Father was hiding from the learned and the clever, the influential stalwarts of society? What were these same things the Father thought fit to reveal to little children – the insignificant ones? Why did Jesus bless the Father for this seemingly quirky discrimination?


     We find in St Thomas Aquinas’s reflection on the Incarnation of Christ an interesting point: God did not have to redeem us by assuming human body. There are bound to be other ways in which God could have saved us. The humanity of Christ, then, becomes an especially significant instrument of our redemption.


     Some Christians think that the doctrine of the Trinity is so baffling that it’s better to forget about it. Other recognise that it must be important in some way, but do not see how it could possibly be of any help to us in our daily lives as followers of Jesus Christ.


     In my ministry over the last ten years as a bishop I have come to experience the gift of the Holy Spirit in a new way and immediate way.