Thursday, August 30, 2007

Homily for Saturday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time

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For me, this parable of the talents is all about making disciples for the Lord! Faith in Jesus that is kept to one’s self quickly becomes stale, and quickly becomes worthless. But those who are trying to make disciples, they are the ones who tell God everyday – Lord, increase my faith! Give me more faith because without more faith, I will never have the courage to tell others about you and to bring them to you! I find it a real poverty in my own life when I am stuck trying to put a relative value on my faith in God. I am really afraid of losing the treasure of my earthly life when I compare who I can be through my own choices versus who I can be by letting God choose a life for me. It is fear that causes us to live our faith only for ourselves. It is fear that holds onto sin and its meager security. But when we try to make disciples for the Lord, we forget the danger of losing ourselves. The reward of investing our talent in making disciples is self-forgetfulness. If we are not afraid of losing our earthly life, we will inspire others to seek the kingdom of heaven as well. Most importantly, the more joy we have in making disciples, the less time we will spend remembering the meager security we had through our former slavery to sin.

Homily for Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time

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The Church is the bride of Christ, so one way to interpret today’s parable allegorically would be to see the 10 virgins and prospective brides as members of the Church. Salvation is the gift of Christ to his bride and his body, the Church. He wishes that all of us be saved. In this proposed allegory, Christ would have liked to have taken all of the virgins into the wedding feast. Christ wants to save his body, the Church, not as individuals, but as a group. He wishes that not one of us be lost. But the parable is clear – we will not be saved against our will – Christ will not force us to be ready. Not everyone who says Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who are ready to respond to the marriage invitation that Christ offers. As Catholics, this marriage invitations comes to us through the holy Eucharist. Through the first sacrament, baptism, we have a new beginning with Christ. In baptism, we have ‘virginity’ so to speak, since we are washed clean of all sin. Yet the grace of baptism must be guarded, trimmed and kept ready for us to receive the Eucharist worthily. Each time we receive the Eucharist, a marriage invitation comes to us, the bride of Christ, from Christ Himself. Christ really appears to us in the Eucharist and asks us – Do you love me? Are you ready? In the Eucharistic sacrifice Christ says to us that He loves us more than He loves His own life, and that He is ready to hand over us everything that He has received from His Heavenly Father. What are we ready to hand back to him in response to this marriage proposal?

Homily for Thursday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time

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Whenever I drive a two-lane highway, I always get behind a large truck that is hard to get around. A more virtuous man would just drive patiently behind the truck, or wait for a safe opportunity to pass, or for the truck to turn off the highway. But this is not what I do. Instead, I impatiently try to sneak pass the truck, so I can continue unabated toward my destination. Invariably, when this large truck pulls in front of me, I wonder to myself. Why didn’t you leave a minute earlier, or even 30 seconds earlier, instead of waiting until the last moment to leave? If you had left earlier, surely this truck would not be in your way.

Admittedly, this story has more to do with my lack of patience than with today’s Gospel, but I think today’s Gospel gives us the same sense of urgency that I feel when that truck pulls in front of me. There is to be some spiritual progress made today, some gift of grace that God wants to give us, that cannot be postponed to tomorrow. In discipleship, tomorrow is always too late; for tonight the thief may come and steal what we need to live, and tomorrow, that truck might pull in front of us to prevent our getting to the place where we should have arrived the day before. Yes, it is true that our Lord is patient and merciful, and it is true that He may give the gift of a full day’s wage to one who only works an hour in his vineyard. But today’s Gospel is urgent and clear: foolish is the one who presumes that his master is long delayed; the habit of procrastination must be resisted at all costs.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mother Theresa

I don't know if you saw the recent AP story about Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Her biographer is claiming that after her initial visions of Jesus and her mandate from Him to serve the poor, she went through the last three decades of her life or so without any feeling of closeness to Jesus. At one point, the article claims that after all the good she had done, she felt like she had nothing because she had lost her closeness to Jesus. The spiritual dryness or 'dark night of the soul' that Mother Theresa felt was surprising to me. I know how dedicated she was to daily prayer, and how she insisted that all her sisters be faithful to a daily hour of meditation and to daily Mass. Who would have known, if what her biographer is saying is true, that she persisted in her love and service by the simple commitment of her will to follow through on what she had been asked to do by our Lord, without any further encouragement or consolations from Him. I'll be interested to see further comment on this story.

I'm headed to Benedictine College tomorrow ( to try to meet some people on campus to begin vocation ministry there. Please pray for a fruitful day. Tomorrow night, perhaps the Royals game vs. Detroit, if the weather is tolerable.

Also, I got a facebook recently after reading about a priest who thinks it is important to be present there! I don't really know what I am getting into, but I have 8 friends so far!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Homily for Wednesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - Martyrdom of John the Baptist

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Last October I was in Rome and was able to visit for the first time the Borghese Gallery, in which some of the treasures of Rome are displayed. In the gift shop, I bought a poster of Carravaggio’s beheading of John the Baptist. I guess I have always wanted to emulate the courage of John the Baptist. I’ve always wanted to have a prophetic dimension to my life. I’ve had the poster almost a year, and I just found a frame for it the other day, but I have not yet put it up anywhere . . . I’m thinking maybe in my study. It is a pretty gruesome picture. Actually, scripturally, it is incorrect. The beheading of John the Baptist by Carravaggio shows not an executioner beheading John, but the daughter of Herodias herself, with her vengeful mother watching on. Let’s put it this way, if I do put it up, it will be a conversation piece.
John’s martyrdom seems so meaningless. For the cousin of Jesus, the one who prepared His way, the last and the greatest prophet, the one who baptized our Lord in the Jordan, I would have expected a more public martyrdom. John’s martyrdom is certainly dramatic, and the story memorable, but the martyrdom happens in relative seclusion, without John’s having the chance to make a last testament. What a lesson in courage and humility the Baptist gives us – John fulfills his mission and then exits the stage without further ado, seeking no special favors for himself. He is true to his mission to decrease, so that Christ may increase!

Homily for Tuesday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - St. Augustine

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For the past several days, Jesus has been railing against the scribes and Pharisees. He calls them hypocrites, and rightly so, because they have been attending to details of the law while neglecting its spirit. As we listen to Jesus’ reproval, however, we must resist the temptation to ‘pile on’ and to add our own condemnation to those around us whose worship appears to us to be a fa├žade. More important than ‘piling on’ is our ability to see the scribes and Pharisees with compassion. Indeed, this is the way that Jesus sees them, although for the moment for their own good He must unmask their hypocrisy. As Paul says in today’s letter, so ‘dearly beloved’ had the Thessalonians become to him and to his companions, that they gave the Thessalonians not only the Gospel, but their very selves as well. We should assume, which we do not always do, that Jesus considers the scribes and the Pharisees his ‘dearly beloved’ even though He must speak harshly to them at the moment.
There was a wonderful meditation from von Balthasar in yesterday’s Magnificat that shows convincingly how much easier it is to love than to be loved. Most of us have the fault of self-hatred; we discount the affection of others because we know they see us from the outside-in rather than from the inside-out. Were they to see in us not the outward qualities that they admire, but our true selves, we are afraid of what they would say and feel about us. Jesus says clearly to the scribes and Pharisees that it is not enough for them to be loved simply because the outside of their ‘cups’ are clean. No, they are meant to receive a much deeper love, a love that heals and that saves, if only they could overcome their fear of such a love. Jesus speaks harshly to them, and to us, because He truly loves us, and will not allow us to settle for less than He is ready to give.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Homily for Monday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time - St. Monica

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I am the Lord, your God. You shall not have other gods besides me. Is it true, my dear friends, that the first commandment is first because it is the most often transgressed? Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians rejoiced because the Thessalonians turned from idols to worship the living and true God and to await the coming of His Son from heaven. This conversion from worshipping something that has only fleeting existence to that which is true, that which lives forever, is no small feat. If such faith in the living and true God is accomplished once, it is forever in danger of being lost. The first commandment is perhaps the most important, the most often transgressed, and quite likely, the best place to start in our daily examination of conscience. I am the Lord your God, you shall not have other gods besides me.
In their fastidiousness to religious practice, the scribes and Pharisees had made idols of religious objects. It is important for us in our religious practice never to swear by anything less that heaven itself. As valuable as our piety is, and as necessary as it is for us to persevere in practice, our piety is never a formula for religious success. For which is greater, our piety, or the unmerited gift of the Holy Spirit, which makes our piety fruitful?

Cooler weekend

A bit of rain and some cool air have arrived in NE Kansas after three weeks of merciless heat. Most of the country has been suffering, I believe. Last night I was able to join Fr. Rich Warsnak, my replacement as chaplain at St. Thomas Aquinas, at the STA vs. St. James Varsity soccer match at STA. St. James played hard and great, and they will be good in no time, but the tradition of STA soccer excellence continued. Best of luck to both teams this season. Today I was able to be with my godson at T-Rex, a 'theme' restaurant in The Legends in KCK. He at 5 years of age was pretty afraid of the meteor shower and dinosaurs, but we escapted with our lives. All is well that ends well. The last couple of days a New Student Retreat has been taking place for the St. Lawrence Center, so prayers and blessings go out to that group as well. I'm headed with my godson and his family to the K tonight for a relaxing night of baseball with friends.

Homily for Sunday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time

Usually we attribute ‘avoiding the question’ to politicians, who are adept at talking around a question without really giving a straight answer. Since I listen to sports talk radio, I think coaches, general manager and players are all really good at this as well. A good example is that Herm Edwards, the coach of the Chiefs, has spent weeks talking around the question of who his starting quarterback will be this year. I don’t know if you noticed, but in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself never directly answers the question that is posed to Him. He is asked, ‘Lord, will only a few people be saved.’ By the end of the Gospel, we do not have a direct answer to this question, only an exhortation from our Lord to strive to enter the narrow gate. Unlike a politician who is trying to avoid the question, however, Jesus instead tells us what we really need to hear. It is clear from his response that we are supposed to avoid the nonsense of looking sideways at those around us like we do when we’re playing bingo, trying to predict whether we will have the winning ticket in the game of chance. Jesus tells us that if we engage in the nonsense of looking sideways, we will never be strong enough to enter the kingdom of heaven. Many, the Lord tells us, will attempt to enter, but will not be strong enough. The criteria of today’s Gospel is strength. Do we have the strength to enter the narrow gate, to be baptized in the baptism with which Jesus was baptized? Do we have the strength to conform our lives to the mystery of the cross?
Parents who never discipline their children are rightly criticized. It is hard for a child to grow in virtue and in strength if everything is handed to them, just as it is hard for any athlete to become stronger without rigorous training. Grandparents, on the other hand, are a different story. Grandparents can also discipline children, and help parents to raise children, but just as often, grandparents play the role of the sugar daddy. Our relationship with God is probably a mix of these two roles – God is a grandparent, having mercy on us a thousand times faster than He condemns, and lavishing gifts upon us. But God our Father is also a parent; He does not want us to be spoiled but to grow in strength. He wants us to compete well in the battle against evil; He wants to teach us how to win the battle against sin.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews puts this idea of God’s training us, his children, as bluntly as any other author in Sacred Scripture. My son, says the author, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him, for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines. The spiritual wisdom here is profound. The author challenges us to think that when things are going well for us, and when it seems that God is blessing us, there is a great possibility that our faith is growing weaker. When things go according to our expectations, it may actually mean that God is leaving us alone, and woe to that man whom the Lord does not acknowledge.
The author of the Hebrews discourages us from seeking a peace and a happiness that comes simply from getting life arranged the way we want it. Instead, the author invites us toward a peace and happiness that comes from God helping us to become stronger, so that we may enter the narrow gate of which Jesus speaks. And this strength does not often come to one who prays that nothing new will happen and that things will stop changing. Instead, the strength comes to the one who prays that things will keep changing, and that whatever kingdom we would attempt to build in this life would be taken from us, so that our hearts may truly be set on the things of heaven.
The exhortation from Jesus and from the author to the Hebrews is not an invitation for us to go looking for suffering. Discipleship is not masochism. Instead, the exhortation is a reminder for us to not lose heart, nor to lose faith, when the cross of Jesus Christ comes by. We must have more strength that those who blame God for any misfortune or injustice that befalls them. We must have more strength than those who look for a new Church family whenever things get difficult. We must have the strength of the beatitudes, which show us how to truly rejoice when our kingdom here on earth is being broken apart, for the trials of this life will strengthen us and prepare us to enter the narrow gate, and to enjoy the rewards of heaven!

Homily for Saturday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

All their works are performed to be seen. Jesus does not chastise the scribes and the Pharisees for their piety, nor for any of their religious practices whatsoever. Everything in the way of piety has been faithfully transmitted by the scribes and Pharisees from the law given by Moses. The piety they recommend is useful for living a moral life that is pleasing to God. Jesus only accuses the scribes and Pharisees really of one thing. He accuses them of not having the virtue of humility.
True piety leads to self-forgetfulness, not an exalted sense of self. Jesus does not ask us to give up our religious practices; acts of piety are pleasing. But we should not and indeed can not do them in order to look good in comparison to someone else. This is the mistake of looking sideways, of using religion as a means to justify one’s self, when only God Himself can justify and make one righteous. Piety is not a prescription for winning God’s favor; it is a means of humbling one’s self and of making one’s self more dependent upon God.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Homily for Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time - Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle

The bride of Christ, the Church, is a most beautiful city. It has twelve gates on which are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and twelve courses of stones on which are inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The city described in Revelation honors the covenant that prepared the way for the Lamb, and the covenant that continues His mission unto eternity. Today we honor the apostle Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew, whose name is inscribed in this great and eternal city.
Being from a small town myself, from Hoxie, Kansas, a place insignificant in many respects, I love Nathanael’s question – Can anything good come from Nazareth? Were we not to learn shortly thereafter that Jesus declares there to be no duplicity in Nathanael, we would be tempted to read sarcasm into Nathanael’s question, but apparently there is none. Nathanael simply reflects the prevailing expectation that the Messiah would come from a more significant place than the sleepy town of Nazareth. Nathanael’s lack of duplicity is much more apparent in his confession of Jesus as the Son of God shortly after Jesus tells him that He saw him under the fig tree. We all have a tendency to become more duplicitous as we get older; we tend to doubt before we believe and to stop expecting anything new. Nathanael’s simple faith is a reflection of Jesus’ teaching that the kingdom of God belongs to little children. Nathanael even foreshadows a bit in today’s Gospel the apostolic faith in the resurrection that has now been passed down through two millennia of human history. Nathanael believes in Jesus as the Son of God through the slightest of miracles, through Jesus’ simply knowing Nathanael’s name before they were formally introduced. How ready is the faith of this simple yet great apostle, to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and to be an eyewitness to the miracle that has opened up the gates of heaven for you and for me!

The Queenship of Mary

I don't know if you noticed, but our celebration of the Queenship of Mary today came exactly one week after the celebration of her Assumption body and soul into heaven. The latter is a Holy Day of Obligation, while today is a simple Memorial celebration, but the two mysteries are closely connected. The Assumption and the Coronation are the 4th and 5th glorious mysteries of the rosary that we usually pray on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Because we know Christ is righteous, we know that He fulfills the 4th commandment to honor his father and his mother. We know from the miracle of Cana onward that Christ honors his mother by listening to her requests, by being obedient to her. We can have confidence that Christ is not selfish with his kingdom, but in continuing to honor His mother He is willing to share His kingdom with her. At the Assumption, we honored Mary's being the first to enjoy the fruits of Jesus' resurrection, since she was his first, his closest and his most beloved disciple. Today we honor at her coronation Mary's becoming not simply a physical mother, but a spiritual mother from her place in heaven. She is now a mother for all of us who have been adopted into Christ and now make up His mystical body.

Royals note: Bradford Doolittle makes a good point in today's KCStar about Zach Greinke going back into the rotation for the Royals. I have to agree with him even though Zach has been great out of the bullpen this year. Starters pitch 2 to 3 times as many innings as relievers, and it is harder to be consistent as a reliever from year to year. You have to given Zach, and maybe Soria as well, a chance to become starters. It is where you can do the most for your team. The Royals are 12 games under this year with a lights out bullpen. It is fun to be able to protect a lead, but we need to get more leads.

Homily for Thursday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time

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Thinking about Jephthah’s daughter and her willingness to be offered up as a sacrifice reminds me of the courage of the great saint Maria Goretti. Maria gave her life in order to preserve her virginity; but even more importantly, she gave her life out of love for her persecutor; she did not want him to fall into sin by having his way with her. The same courage is shown by the daughter of Jephthah; she, a virgin like Maria Goretti, found herself in an unfortunate circumstance, and yet had the courage and the faith to offer her life in honor of God. The difference, of course, is that the daughter of Jephthah was sacrificed by her own father; here also we are reminded of the sacrifice of his only son almost required of Abraham and of course, of the sacrifice of Jesus, the only son of the Father, in obedience to his Father’s will.
In the Gospel from Matthew, it is clear that nothing unclean can enter the kingdom of heaven. The man found at the wedding feast without a white garment is thrown out unmercifully. The Church continues to teach, as She always has, that baptism is necessary for salvation. Through baptism our robes are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb; we are baptized into the death of Christ and freed from original sin. We are taken off the path that leads to lasting death and put on a path that leads to eternal life. The Catholic Church continues to recognize the Trinitarian baptism, with water, of most Christian ecclesial communities; furthermore, there is the possibility of baptism by blood or by desire, the latter of which may take place outside the visible Church. Pope Benedict recently encouraged all to stop discussing the theory of limbo for those good people who were not baptized in the ordinary way by water in the Church; rather, He recommends that we trust the mercy and love of our Father, who desires not one of his children to be lost, and who has the power to baptize whomever He wishes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Homily for Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time - Queenship of Mary

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In the Gospel story, the payment of the last workers first is crucial to exposing the sin of envy on the part of the workers who went out early in the morning. Envy is a sin more invidious than jealousy, for jealousy is the simple feeling of wanting what another has, wanting to be equal with them in some way. Envy actually seeks to deprive another person of what they have; in this case, the early morning workers would like to see the wages of the late workers reduced. In doing so, they show that they found neither joy nor meaning in their work. The parable shows that this attitude is not appropriate for working in the kingdom of God. We are not to work begrudgingly, or worse, to work only so as to get a reward that someone else does not have. That, of course, was Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees, that they only wanted to be righteous in comparison to someone else, not to be righteous in the sense of experiencing the ‘fullness of life’ that comes from obedience to the will of God.
It is important to experience that our ‘wage’ for working in the kingdom of God, that gift of eternal life, is not simply a ‘ticket’ that we receive at the end of a job well done. It is a gift that is given in response to faith, and as we walk by faith in Jesus, we begin to live now the life that we will live forever with God. The ‘fullness of life’ that Jesus came to bring is given to us immediately upon our acceptance of the kingdom. Our working in the vineyard is a sign that we have received the gift in gratitude, and that it is bearing fruit within us. We do not work in the vineyard in order to receive this gift, our work in the vineyard is our response of thanksgiving, an outpouring of joy that results in our sharing of the gift of eternal life, and our welcoming, not excluding, all those to whom God also wants to give this gift.

Great Day for St. Lawrence

I had the pleasure of interviewing 14 new students for the St. Lawrence Center today, and 12 of them signed up for theology classes at the Center - the other 2 will begin next semester. Boy is it fun to be a priest! The Center through the generosity of benefactors is able to offer theology classes comparable to those offered at Catholic universities (but without the tuition and homework) so that Catholics attending KU can receive a theological education alongside their particular discipline at KU. I'm excited just thinking of all that will be learned this semester, and how many questions will be asked and discussed regarding our Catholic tradition. Let us pray that we would all become more credible disciples of our Lord Jesus, and take on the challenge of learning the faith and passing the faith on to the generations that will come after us!

Homily for Tuesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time - St. Pius X

Our Gospel for today shows us how seductive is the craving to ‘have it all'. So seductive is the craving, that Jesus teaches that without the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would never through our own willpower prefer the riches of the kingdom of heaven to the riches of this world. In other words, without the Holy Spirit, we would always choose the riches that are most immediate to us, rather than saving our human freedom to purchase those things for which that freedom has been given.
For man, it is impossible, for no one can approach the Father unless the Spirit draw Him. But if the Spirit draw him, we will come to Him and make our dwelling with Him. Jesus says repeatedly to his disciples - It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you. We see in today’s Gospel that allowing God to choose us is the key to unlocking the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible for us to choose our way to God. But it is possible for Him to choose us, and indeed the good news of the Gospel is that He has chosen each one of us, and called us by name.
For those who allow themselves to be chosen by God by accepting a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, a great reward awaits. This is not the same as prosperity theology sometimes preached – that if you give up something, God will bless you with more than you originally gave. This is not God’s promise, at least not to receive those riches in this lifetime. No, his promise is that He will choose for us a bigger life than we would ever choose for ourselves, and especially in and through the gift of celibacy religious will receive the opportunity to contemplate the kingdom of heaven and to live in that kingdom more immediately – that is his gift. And of course, we receive the gift of spiritual children as we become living witnesses to the truth of the resurrection and the love of the Holy Spirit. We receive the promise that the family of God in heaven will be bigger and more beautiful than any household we could build on this earth, and we get the joy of building it now!

Hello St. James Juniors

I was out at the Prairie Star Ranch late last night hearing the confessions of the St. James Academy juniors - in two years they will be the first graduating class from St. James
Academy. My prayerful best wishes go out to them for a great retreat and a fruitful school year, and to their staff, chaplain (Msgr. Ray Burger) and all those helping them in their faith formation. They were out at our great Prairie Star Ranch for their retreat. Unfortunately, it's still way too hot but perhaps if we can survive another week God will give us some relief. These next couple of days in addition to promoting vocations I'll be helping sign up new students to KU for theology classes at the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center ( I heard my call to the priesthood most strongly through my involvement at the Center during my years at KU, so I am happy to help interview new students. It is so great that at a public university like KU, Catholic students have a chance to study their faith at a college level, just as you would at any Catholic university. I wish all the St. Lawrence staff, teachers and students a great year as well. Oremus pro invicem!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Homily for Monday, 20th Week in Ordinary Time - St. Bernard of Clairvaux

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The young man's discussion with Jesus points out to us precisely the difference between adherence to the law given through Moses and following Jesus. The law that was given to Moses did not have the power to save; it only had the power to enable one to live a good moral life on this earth, and to prepare one to receive a new and better covenant inaugurated by the long-awaited Messiah. It is clear from the discussion that it is quite possible to follow the law exactly, and yet still to love the things of earth more than the things of heaven. Not so with following Jesus. No one can truly follow Jesus and still love the things of earth more than the things of heaven - to be perfect, we must follow Him, and to follow Him into his Paschal mystery, we must be willing to forsake our possessions. This is not to say that the law given to Moses is unnecessary, or of any less value. The young man in question is not far from the kingdom of God - he only lacks one thing. So close is he to the kingdom of God that Jesus asks him a trick question to see if the young man might be ready to profess his understanding of who Jesus really is. He says to the young man - Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. Of course, those of us reading the Gospel with hindsight know that Jesus is the perfect One to ask about the good - He is the One who is good - Jesus' question is meant to elicit faith, but unfortunately, we are left disappointed in this instance. There is no confession of faith, only a sad ending, for the young man had many possessions.

Starting Somewhere

I hope to be able to post some of my homilies, musings about the Church and the priesthood, events and happenings in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, and of course about my hobbie - the Royals, Jayhawks, etc.