Little Homily for Virtual Palm Procession

2008 called, with a photo of me from the top of the Mount of Olives

Sometimes technology works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we get to gather at our favorite spots. Sometimes we have to shelter in place. [Spanish]

God gazes with love upon us, always. When we pray to Him, we unite.

Holy Week means going to Jerusalem, spiritually. We couldn’t go there physically right now, even if we wanted to. They’re sheltering-in-place there, too. Lord Jesus rode the donkey down the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron Valley, surrounded by crowds shouting with joy. But that pathway lies in silence now.

Look: prayer always was the way, after all. Not to get too heavy, but: Let’s face it. We all must go to meet God one day, and each of us will go alone. No spouse, no parent or child, no priest or counselor goes along.

You or I could kneel beside the same person in church for decades, talk through every sports’ season after Mass, through dozens of Final Fours and World Series. And one could wind up in heaven, the other in hell.

Standing next to each other is nice; smiling, shaking hands, chatting. Nice. But prayer alone truly unites. Prayer in Christ. The Savior Who entered Jerusalem to hosannas from everyone, then days later died alone on His cross, having given His mother to His beloved disciple.

He unites. Christ. And He wills to unite us now, too.

It’s our choice. Do we go with Him now, down this path that leads to Calvary? If we do, then this can be the holiest Holy Week ever.

Palm-Sunday Homily

Arrest of Christ Bosch school
The Arrest of Christ, from the school of Hieronymus Bosch

St. Peter wanted to fight back. To show the Temple guard who was tough. Swords out! [Spanish]

But Jesus said: Do you think I cannot call upon my Father, and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? But then how would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must come to pass this way?

Almighty God possesses almighty power. But Jesus did not look for legions of terrifying angels to save Him from death. Instead, He accepted His Passion in order to fulfill the Scriptures. He knew His destiny: to die in agony as a sacrificial Lamb.

By that sacrifice, God showed more power than any sword could show, or even the most-powerful angel. When God submitted to human death, He showed more power than He did when He made the heavens and the earth out of nothing. Because, by His humble self-sacrifice, He renewed the world and made it beautiful again.

We believe in this God, the divine Christ. We believe that God died a human death, and rose again from the dead.

Believing in Jesus’ resurrection involves no naiveté or simple-mindedness. After all, He is the only-begotten Son of the eternal Father. Believing that the God-man rose from the dead doesn’t make us “un-intellectual.” It makes us consistent.

And hopefully it also makes us apostles of God’s love. Our God is Christ crucified, the true God of love.

Wednesday Message (Bilingue)

Two years ago today, we had Easter Sunday on April Fool’s Day. If I told you: ‘We won’t be together for Easter Mass!’ you would have thought, ‘Nice April Fool, Father.’

A dear old friend of mine just died of a sudden illness. Not coronavirus. I think we all feel a little bit like death is holding us by the hand these days.

We are not alone, we human beings reeling our way through this frightening period of time. Our Creator also walked the path of death. This week at Holy Mass, we read from the eighth chapter of St. John’s gospel. In these readings, we see how the Lord Jesus knew how His mission of love and heavenly enlightenment would end. By His being lifted up—on a Roman cross.

palmEl domingo celebramos Los Ramos. Con los ramos, aclamamos nuestro Salvador, el crucificado. En estos días, con el virus, no sentimos como si la Muerte nos tenga por la mano. Pero andamos por esta valle con Dios, Quien sufrió la muerte Si Mismo.

Si pueden, que visiten el templo el domingo, a la hora usual de la misa, y les ofrezcamos su ramo para tener en casa por la semana santa. Hay que consagrar la semana que viene. En esta semana santa, Cristo consagró la muerte humana. Y la conquistó.

Dear religious education students: We miss you. Your teachers miss you. They are trying to get in touch with you, to help you complete the last few weeks of class over the phone or computer.

Padres de los alumnos de catecismo, por favor continuan trabajando con los niños en casa, practicando las oraciones y estudiando la fe.

When we turn a corner with the virus, and we can have Mass together again, two things will happen.

1. We will immediately order all the Easter flowers we would have ordered, and we will fill the church with them.

2. We will have our First Holy Communion Mass, for all the students preparing for First Holy Communion.

Don’t give up. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil. Even through these dark days, the Lord has lessons to teach us. Let’s learn them.

Abraham’s Reasoning


Jesus, remember me, when you come into Your kingdom.

In our parishes, we have sung that verse throughout Lent. We read the verse on Palm Sunday once every three years. St. Luke, alone among the four evangelists, recorded the plea of the repentant criminal on the cross next to Jesus’. [Spanish]

Jesus, remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.

Making this plea required heavenly faith. The criminal said these words to a wretched Galilean rabbi, so near death that he obviously would not survive another hour, with no apparent prospects whatsoever of coming into any known kingdom.

Even to begin to fathom the depth of the faith involved in the criminal’s plea, we have to back thousands of years.

God promised Abraham descendants as numerous as… the grains of sand on the seashore or the stars of the sky. Even though Abraham and his wife had long since left their childbearing years behind them.

God gave them Isaac. But then what happened? God asked Abraham to offer Isaac in sacrifice. Abraham prepared to obey.


Now, Abraham believed that God would make good on His promise to give him and Sarah countless descendants. And Abraham willingly prepared to sacrifice their only heir. How do we possibly figure that? Hebrews 11:19 gives us the answer. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.

Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.

In a way, Abraham said these words to Christ–since only Abraham’s faith could move anyone to say them to the rabbi hanging on the cross. The criminal saw Christ dying in pure innocence, out of love for the Father and for us, as the pleasing sacrifice that Isaac represented, until the angel stayed Abraham’s hand. And the criminal reasoned that God could raise His Son from death.

Everyone with the faith of Abraham, then—all of us, arcing as we are toward our own inevitable death, gazing at Christ dying on the cross in agony, with no earthly hope—we plead with the perfectly pure, but utterly forsaken One. We reason that God has the power. Jesus, remember us, when You come into Your Kingdom.

And, with blood dripping into His eyes, with hardly any strength in His diaphragm left, even to inhale enough oxygen to speak, He calmly assures us: You will be with Me in paradise.

More on the Essential Fact

At daily Mass on Saturday, the day before the third Sunday of Lent, we will read the Parable of the Prodigal Son. After that: only three weeks till Palm Sunday!

Let’s focus on this: Christ came to conquer death. To die as a man and rise again as a man. CNN can come and go; brackets can get filled out and busted. But this is the essential fact. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” We live a mortal life in a sinful world, to be sure. But, fundamentally, we live in the Father’s house. And each of us has his or her own place in that house, no matter what—because of Christ’s conquest of death.

resurrectionWe read in the gospel at today’s Mass that Lazarus would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from Dives’ table. Lazarus did not demand a widescreen hd smart tv. Lazarus did not style himself as some kind of high-rolling tycoon. He simply wanted his just portion of food.

But he did not get it. Because Dives did style himself a high-rolling tycoon and did demand a widescreen hd smart tv and did not concern himself with his fellowman.

Then death came for them both. And with death came justice.

Tomorrow at Holy Mass we will read a parable about how the Father built a fruitful vineyard with plenty of dwelling places, for his grapes to grow and for His children to reap the fruits. He sent His Son to collect His just portion. ( I guess the just portion of the Creator can only be our peaceful, worshipful love, right?) But they killed the Son and heir.

See the picture here? The Father wills peace, harmony, human co-operation. The Father wills the fruitfulness of His children. The Father reigns over a kingdom not of scarcity, nor of selfish luxury—but of tranquil, beautiful sufficiency for everyone. The Son fulfills the will of the Father perfectly. And, in this fallen world, it leads to His death.

When rich Dives cried out from hell, begging Abraham to send someone back from the dead to teach the world a lesson, Abraham demurred. ‘God already tried to teach the world a lesson! Didn’t He form a covenant and seal it with His life-giving love? How hard is it to obey the Ten Commandments? No more warnings.’

But, as we will read Saturday: Even without the warning that Dives begged Abraham to send, something managed to get through to the prodigal son. Something penetrated his soul, as he gazed upon the pig-slop that he wished he could feed himself upon. He languished in the muck, in this fallen world. But, somehow, he found a way to stand on the stone which the builders rejected. The stone which the builders rejected is Christ, the Prince of Peace, Who came seated on a donkey into Jerusalem, prepared to reign with love. But they rejected Him and killed Him.

The prodigal son managed to stand on that stone somehow, and he thought to himself, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places! There’s one for me.” And the father said, “This son of mine was dead, but now he lives!”

Christ conquered death. He conquered death with something. It’s the same mysterious something that somehow moved the heart of the prodigal son towards the truth of God.

Christ conquered death with the very life that the Father freely wills to give us. Christ conquered death with the Father’s gift of life. Abraham would not send a warning back from beyond the grave. But Christ did not hesitate to return from the grave with a gift. The gift of the fruitful life of the eternal springtime of God.

Christ’s Passion Focus

giotto palm sunday entry

(Click AQUI para leer en esp.)

In St. Luke’s account of the Passion of Christ, people fuss and bother a great deal about who exactly Jesus is.

Is He a Galilean revolutionary?  A prophet?  A wonder-worker?  The King of the Jews?  An innocent man?

Meanwhile, the Lord appears altogether uninterested in this question.  He knows perfectly well Who He is.  He doesn’t focus on Himself at all; He focuses on others.

He gives the Apostles the Holy Eucharist. He settles their dispute among themselves about who is the greatest.  He tells Peter how he will betray his Master, then forgives him ahead of time.  Christ tells the Apostles to stay awake—again, for their sakes—then wakes them up when they fall asleep.

To the authorities, Christ tries to point out the dishonesty into which they have fallen. He comforts the wailing women.  And He pardons the repentant thief and promises him eternal life.

So: short summary of the Passion of Christ:  His accusers focus on who He is; He focuses on everyone else.

Jesus knows Who He is, and so do we.  Every time we come to Mass, we proclaim His true identity, namely: awesome beyond awesome, divine and glorious.

But, of course, we are not here to testify to Him for His sake.  We are here for our sakes.  It does us good to focus on Him.

Meanwhile, He is focused on us.

The Event

A person might ask a question like this, while staring at the sky, in a reflective moment:

In all the great sweep and roll of time, from the first moments when sun and stars coalesced, through the endless ebbing and flowing of the ocean tides; from the building of the pyramids and the Great Wall of China all the way through the Clinton E-mail Scandal of 2015; in the whole whirling, slapdash confluence of this and that happening, has there ever been a place, a moment, and a person who did the one thing that really matters?

In other words: Day and night, rice growing in paddies and cornstalks in the fields, dogs barking at passing runners, little creeks burbling down mountainsides, clouds forming and dissipating, people eating and talking to each other, stuff happening and happening and happening, not going anywhere in particular, not revealing much of a deep meaning exactly, time just loping along, like an antelope across a field: events, events, events; March Madness 2013, March Madness 2014, March Madness 2015…

In this whole welter, is there one event that makes the whole thing make sense? One event that stands at the center, so that light shines from it over everything else, and we can see: Yes! These other things all mean something! Being born and growing up, eating sandwiches, and driving here and there, learning how to tie a tie–all these things mean something, because this one thing has happened!

After all, what if there were no such event? What if nothing had ever happened that really mattered? I mean, it matters whether or not Benjamin Netanyahu controls the Israeli parliament–it matters, but does it matter a whole lot to us? Only a little bit, really. And it matters if I burn my toast in the morning, or knock over my coffee cup–but, in the grand scheme of things?

If all of history were just endless politics and daily routines and sports’ seasons and new tv shows; if it were all just an endless cycle of relatively insignificant events… What if, when something so monumental as a birth or a death occurred, there was nothing but facebook to try to understand the meaning?

(This is my new theme for 2015: Why going to Church is so daggone important.)

The event.

El Greco crucifixion Cristo sulla croce

We are not born knowing about it. We learn it in church. We find it in church.

The center and heart of all history. The thing that has happened. And the decisive event of all of history is never far away from us, never separate from our little lives. Because, at Mass, we are right there, right there with Jesus, at the event of all time.

Holy Week: Go to Church!

Pope Francis Palm Sunday

The Lord brings us together this week to share in His Paschal Mystery.

He went up to the holy city of Jerusalem to worship with His people, the Israelites whom God had spared from death and liberated from slavery. Jesus kept the Passover with His friends. He changed the ancient ceremony into the mysteries of His Body and Blood.

The original Holy Week of Christ’s Passion took place nearly 2,000 years ago, to be sure. But it is as real now as it was then. We are caught up in it. Our lives, our hopes, our faith in God–all of this is caught up in the events we hear recounted in church on Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday–and which we live out whenever we celebrate the Holy Mass together.

The Lord has given us the privilege of taking our part in all this. We thank Him that He has given us this Holy Week 2014 together to draw closer to Him.

Palm Sunday


In the Passion narrative, people fuss and bother a great deal about who exactly Jesus is.

Is He a Galilean revolutionary?

A prophet?

A wonder-worker?

The King of the Jews?

An innocent man?

Meanwhile, the Lord appears singularly uninterested in this question.

To the contrary, He focuses on others.

He gives the Apostles the Holy Eucharist.

He settles their dispute among themselves about who is the greatest.

He tells Peter how he will betray his Master, then forgives him ahead of time.

Christ tells the Apostles to stay awake—again, for their sakes—then wakes them up when they fall asleep.

To the authorities and interrogators who will listen, He tries to point out the dishonesty into which they have fallen.

He comforts the wailing women.

And He pardons the repentant thief and promises him eternal life.

Short summary of the Passion of Christ:

His accusers focus on who He is; He focuses on everyone else.

Every Sunday, we proclaim Jesus’ true identity, namely: awesome beyond awesome, divine and glorious.

But, of course, we do not testify to Him for His sake. He does not need us to settle the question of Who He is.

He has always known perfectly well.

No, we testify to Him for our sakes. It does us good to focus on Christ; we lose ourselves if we don’t.

But He is focused on us. By dying on the Cross for us, the Creator of all things has revealed in-full His fundamental rationale.

His rationale for everything–

for making everything, governing everything, guiding everything to its conclusion:

It’s all for us.

Mother Helps the Timid

Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem seated on a male colt, the foal of a donkey.

The time came for this prophecy’s fulfillment. St. Matthew recounts that the Lord Jesus had his disciples bring to Him both the young colt AND the mother donkey.*

Christ knew that the trip up to Jerusalem would be too much for the little animal to manage by himself. The colt would need the comfort of its mother’s presence. It would be a pretty intimidating ride up to the city. So the Lord had the mother walk alongside the colt.

Guess what? The Lord knows that we are, each of us, a little feeble of foot. The trip up to Jerusalem would be too much for us to handle individually. Contemplate the Passion of the Son of God? Terrifying. I would stop dead in my tracks, and turn around and make a break for Bethphage.

The Lord does not leave us in solitude to enter the dark holy of holies of our religion. He leads us in with our mother, the Church, right beside. We make our way through the breathtaking and excruciating events of Holy Week together, the Church united in prayer throughout the world.

*Click HERE for a full apologetic exegesis regarding this detail.