Regular readers will know that I keep my eye on modern technology. I like to think I’m pretty tech-savvy, at least for a priest. So imagine my surprise when I went computer shopping at Best Buy and had no idea where to start. Touch-screen laptops, detachable laptops, all-in-ones, portable all-in-ones, Chromebooks, MacBooks, AMD, Intel…. I was totally lost. I asked the sales kid a lot of questions, but I got the feeling that even he didn’t really know what they all did. I walked out with a Windows 8 desktop computer — the old fashioned kind with cables that plug in, and a screen that doesn’t “touch”. You go with what you know.

The new computer introduced me to the new world of Windows 8 (actually 8.1). I’ve been using Windows a long time. I remember when the Start button was a new feature (1995). The blue bar of Windows XP is forever emblazoned in my memory. I used Vista for as short as possible, upgrading to Windows 7 as soon as it came out. That was five years ago. I can see lots of room for improvement with Windows 7, but overall it’s been a stellar performer. Has Microsoft created a more perfect Windows?

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Ordinary Time, 25th Sunday. My theme as a child was, “It’s not fair!” To which my mother would respond, “Life’s not fair.” Sure enough, she was right. God does not treat everyone the same. God is generous: he gives us all far better than what we really deserve. Though we are far, God is near. The true gift that God offers is Himself, and he offers Himself to every person.

St. Paul shows us the right attitude. He lives in a relationship of nearness to God and he is grateful for all he has received. What’s more, St. Paul gives generously in proportion to how he has generously received. God gives more to some and less to others. But the more we have received, the more we are asked to give.

Saturday the Church celebrated the memorial of the Korean martyrs: Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions. The faith in Korea is unique because it was brought by a Korean, Yi Sung-hun. He encountered the faith in Beijing and was baptized there. He came back to Korea bringing rosaries, statues and catechisms, eager to evangelize his countrymen. He had received the gift of faith and he knew what it was worth. You have received the gift of faith; do you realize what it’s worth?

(21 Sep 2014)

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Today it was announced that the Holy Father had appointed Bishop Blase J. Cupich as Archbishop of Chicago, one of America’s largest Dioceses. Bishop Cupich was originally a priest of Omaha, Nebraska, and served most recently in Spokane, Washington. As I was researching the new Archbishop I found a wonderful explanation of Christian marriage that he wrote to the good people of Spokane.


What We Believe About Marriage

The vocation of marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator. Marriage is not a purely human institution despite the many variations it may have undergone through the centuries in different cultures, social structures and spiritual attitudes. Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶1603

Marriage: Bookends of the Bible, the Story of Our Life with God
It is striking that the Bible begins and ends with a reference to marriage – the union of man and woman in Genesis and “the wedding feast of the Lamb” in the Book of Revelation. How appropriate, for the Bible is nothing less than God’s call for us to enter into a relationship with Him, to become His partners and co-creators in bringing about the salvation of the world. The union of man and woman, then, is not only a good for the couple but for the entire community of the Church and of humanity, for marriage serves as a model and a point of reference for all that God calls humanity to be.

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Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Every year on September 14 the church celebrates the finding of the true cross by Empress Helena, mother of Constantine. The cross was an instrument of torture and oppression. But Jesus has turned it into a sign of God’s great love. In fact the cross teaches us that love is stronger than violence and hate, stronger than force or fear, stronger than money and power. Love wins. In the game of life, hearts are the trump card. Don’t be tempted by spades, clubs, or diamonds. If you are holding the King of Hearts, you will always win.

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Ordinary Time, 23rd Sunday. The NFL punished Jim Irsay under its “Personal Conduct Policy.” The same policy applies to owners, coaches, players and officials. They expect good behavior on and off the field. The Commissioner makes the final decision.

Jesus has given his Disciples a Personal Conduct Policy. He holds all of us to a higher standard, in church and outside of it. Every Christian is expected to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and Love your neighbor as yourself. The 10 Commandments give us the specifics.

Jesus doesn’t appear to punish us for violating his Personal Conduct Policy. The truth is that He will be the final judge, but for now he asks us to hold one another accountable. Take someone aside and politely tell them they are capable of more and worth more. Jesus intends to help us every step of the way: Mass, Confession, prayer, the Church, and our brothers and sisters. Let’s encourage each other to play to the best of their ability.

(7 Sep 2014)

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Ordinary Time, 22nd Sunday. Our expectations can get us into trouble when they aren’t realistic. Peter has expectations for the Messiah but they don’t match God’s plans. Too often we find ourselves in Peter’s shoes. We have expectations for our own life but they don’t match God’s plans for our life. We expect life to be free of struggles. God gives us struggles because he wants us to love more deeply, live more courageously, and to become better people. When you follow Jesus, your life will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

(31 Aug 2014)

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The scene plays out in Catholic parishes all over America. The cantor stands up and announces, “Our opening hymn will be number 666 in your hymn book, Please sing.” By the time you’ve found the song they are already half-way through the first verse. You follow along the best you can in a half-hearted mumble. After two verses, the priest has reached the altar. With a sigh of relief you close the hymn book. To your horror, the choir just keeps on singing. Now you open the book again and just mouth verse 3. As you have grudgingly accepted the terrible sentence of “singing all the verses”, the choir suddenly drops out without singing verse 4.

Vatican II seems to have converted the old penances, like fish on Fridays, to something far more dreadful: “Congregational Singing.” Catholics everywhere wonder how those other churches can pull off much better music. Some say we need to try harder, with drums, a “band”, and more contemporary music. Others say our music is too new, too loud, and should be replaced with chant. But none of the these are the problem. The reason Catholics don’t sing is both simple and profound:

Catholics don’t sing because they think that no one is listening.

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Ordinary Time, 21st Sunday. The pagan city of Caesarea Philippi forms the dramatic backdrop to the Church’s first great confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Peter is humbly open for God to reveal the truth to him. As Peter struggles to be faithful we see God using fallible humans to accomplish His infallible will. The gates of Hades have not prevailed, as the authority of the Church has been passed down from generation to generation until today with Pope Francis, the 266th “Rocky.”

The world saw Simon the Fisherman, but Jesus saw the Rock on which he would build His Church. Only God knows who you truly are and what you are truly capable of. You may see yourself as a nobody, but God sees the incredible gifts he has given you. Be open to Jesus revealing himself to you. But also, be open to Jesus revealing yourself to you. Jesus asks us, “Who do you say that I am?” We should be asking Jesus, “Lord, who do You say that I am?”

(24 Aug 2014)

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Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Old Testament Ark of the Covenant contained three things: the sign of the true priesthood, the law, and the manna. The new Ark is Mary and she contains Jesus, who is the true Priest, the Lawgiver, and the Bread of Life.

The Feast of the Assumption shows us our true dignity as children of God. Mary also helps her children realize their true dignity. In the book of Revelation she faces off against a huge red dragon. Who wins? The woman, because God is on her side.  Be faithful like Mary and you will see the triumph of God.

(15 Aug 2014)

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