Sunday, March 27, 2016

Good Friday & Easter Homilies

Good Friday 2016
“Well, I don’t know why I came here tonight, I got a feelin something ain’t right…, Clowns to the left of me — jokers to the right — Here I am — stuck in the middle with you…”  Steelers Wheel — from the movie Reservoir Dogs — captures the mood of our service this evening.
Being stuck in the middle is not a comfortable place to be, just think of getting the middle seat on an overbooked airplane.  Or think of being at a stand still, idling on I-5.  We are often stuck in the middle, between yesterday and tomorrow, between yes and no, between going forward or retreating.
The words of this song aptly describe the position of Jesus at this moment; stuck between two thieves, stuck between a jeering mob and people who love Him, stuck between earth and heaven.
What to do?  There were many moments in the Passion Story where Jesus might have opted out to change the ending of the story, but He didn’t.  Jesus believed in His mission, maintained His integrity and stayed true to His and His heavenly Father/s fundamental option for the poor and the oppressed.  Integrity is not a virtue vividly evident in our society, certainly not in our politics at the moment.  Integrity is a gritty and strong virtue that has real consequences and to achieve it we need to get comfortable being stuck in the middle.
St. Francis stood in this position with the poor of Assisi.  Gandhi stood in this position with he poor of India against the powerful British Empire.  Martin Luther King stood for the rights of blacks in our own country, Archbishop Romero stood in the breach for the poor of El Salvador, Mother Theresa for the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, Dorothy Day on the streets of NYC, those on flight 93 that crashed in a Pennsylvania farm on 911.  These people all believed in their mission, stood fast and accepted the consequences.
I think I can presume that none of us consider ourselves in league with the likes of these people and yet, we are.  They are our sisters and brothers; their lives call out the best in us.  They have lived the great truth of the cross and the heresy that I love to proclaim — Jesus doesn’t save us from anything but shows us the way through — redeems all of our doubts, fears and anxieties leading us to new life.  All these people began in a life blessed with all they need and yet each of them heard the cry of the poor and responded with their lives no matter the cost. They caught the spirit of integrity of the cross, the life and mission of Jesus and asks us to go and do the same.

We are living amid much fear and anxiety — some are calling us to retreat and give up our cherished values of justice and acceptance so all can pursue a life of freedom and liberty.  The cross calls us to utter a profound NO to retreat and a profound YES to all calling out to us in desperation.  We can be the clowns or jokers to the left and the right or we can take up our cross and revel that we are stuck in the middle with each other as we trudge the road of new and fuller life for all.

Easter Homily 2016
Tonight we remember our origins and celebrate our destiny.  We began in darkness, hearing the Spirit of God hovering over troubled waters, and we end in communion at the banquet of the Lord.  Each year we Passover, from fear and slavery to new life in Christ.  We remind ourselves that we are Kingdom people, we are living and growing in the realm of Christ’s victory over darkness, fear and death and learn each year the LOVE is stronger than death.
Outside the city of Portland is shrouded in the darkness of nightfall.  There are a  multitude of darknesses  in almost every corner of our planet.  Hatred, war, terror, the homeless and hungry, greed and narcissism, the darkness of ignorance and and apathy.  So much darkness we can be brought to our knees.  When we are brought to our knees, we might, just might hear the silence in the darkness.  “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again…”  It is in darkness and silence that God spoke the first creative Word.
Perhaps the greatest darkness we feel is the darkness of grief and loss.  Grief over the death of someone we loved to be sure.  Then there is the darkness of hopelessness, that life isn’t turning out the way we expected it to be.  There is a line of dialogue in the movie the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that goes:  “will you stay?  I don’t know what I shall do, nothing has worked out quite the way I expected.  Most things don’t but what happens instead is the good stuff.”  That movie is all about letting go, plunging into darkness and finding new life on the other side.
The strong women in this evening’s Gospel rise up in the darkness of early morning.  Undeterred they go to the tomb, ignore the stone that has been rolled away and plunge into it’s darkness to find even more darkness; the one they loved is not there.  In the darkness they remember, remember the hope and the life that Jesus promised and their first response is to run to the others, to run to community.  This is when the good stuff really begins.  I believe there is a lot more dialogue, a lot more chatter than what is presented in the Gospel stories.  Can you imagine the excited chatter as each try to fill in the blanks of what others have just said.  “Well, Jesus said this, and Jesus said that, and Oh, oh, do you remember when he…. the list must have been endless and excited.
The question in the movie and the question in the Gospel is “will we stay?”  There are two places where I feel very safe, in the rooms of AA and here with you in prayer.  Both places are places where I can plunge into what ever darkness I am experiencing, here I can bring my brokenness, fears, anxieties, failed hopes and dreams.  This is where we can bring all of that and have it transformed into light.
We are Kingdom people.  We are the salt of the earth and light for the world.  Here we receive the strength to light up all the dark corners of our world, to care for the poor and oppressed.  This table unites heaven and earth, and this table draws us together to be promise and h

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Have a very Defiant Christmas

Third Sunday of Advent C, 2015
Get to wear my favorite color only twice a year.  This is Gaudete Sunday, we are to rejoice and be glad.  Happy happy.  But, how can we rejoice and be glad amid so much terror and violence?  There is a decided edge to our celebration of Advent and Christmas this year.  Well, let’s see if there isn’t a way through all that we are experiencing.  I would like to wish you a very DEFIANT Christmas.
Our defiance is not born of fear, hatred, jealously or anger but is born out of the Love and compassion that brought about Emmanuel, God with us, the Incarnation God in the flesh of Jesus Christ.  We need to do more than just feeling holy one day of the week, or for a few minutes we spend saying our daily prayers.  It isn’t enough just to feel holy here, we must be holy out there all of the time, 24/7.  We need to be rooted in a spirituality that prevents us from being tossed about by the ill winds that are blowing through our society and around the world.
There is a scene in the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon depicting the life of St. Francis.  As Francis became aware of his life in Christ he begins throwing all of his father’s goods out the second floor window of their house in Assisi.  Naturally his father  Pietro Bernardone was furious and began beating on Francis.  The scene shows Francis smiling through the entire ordeal.  Francis had found a life and a love that no one, and no situation could take away from him.  All he really wanted to do is to share his joy with his family and anyone else he came upon.  If we are attached and addicted to things we might judge that Francis got what he deserved.  However if we think for a moment and listen, which is father did not do, we might hear and see that we too need to be rooted in something far deeper than the things we have, or even the feeling of holiness we experience here this morning at mass.  Our present circumstances are calling us to root ourselves more deeply.
Our first two readings ask us to rejoice, but how with so much darkness around us?  The crowds in the Gospel are asking the question we may be asking “what are we to do, what are we to do?”  Basically John the Baptist is saying do what you can, share your clothing, your food, do  your job be agents of justice and peace.  We can feel very powerless but John the Baptist is saying to us, “do what you can.”  Sometimes all we can do is be outraged; at the treatment of our sister and brother Muslims, at the hatred that spawns terrorism of any kind from mass killings to and the abuse of children and other family members.   The world needs our defiant witness.  We must not only eat and drink the body and blood of Christ here, but dare to bear the flesh and blood of Christ no matter where we are.
To live a defiant Christmas means that, as we trim our trees, decorate our homes with lights and evergreen, as we wrap our packages and give tokens of our love to one another we are, in all these ways saying no to the darkness, to hate, no to the cold, no to all the emptiness we and others may feel, we are saying yes to the light that is coming, yes to the light and life the Christ child brings.  In the sounds of the season, if we are careful, we can hear the shepherds, and may even hear angelic voices offering us words of encouragement and hope.  In all of this we are jointed by our brother and sister Jews who are celebrating Hanukkah, the festival of lights; a feast born in darkness and exile, as too our feast of the Nativity, born in a trying time moving us as well from darkness to new light and life.

Yes, I wish you all a very merry and defiant Advent and Christmas.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


October 11-2015
It is estimated that there are about three hundred million guns in the United States.  How in the world do we keep track of three hundred million of anything?  I use to own guns.  I liked the workmanship, the detail and precision.  I enjoyed going out to Red Rock Canyon in the Mojave Desert to shoot at targets.  I never once killed anything, nor did I ever see my guns as a solution to any of my problems.  There are millions of people just like me.  I have never understood hunting except when absolutely necessary for survival.  When I lived in West Virginia a school bus or two per year always seem to be the accidental targets during hunting season.  With gun violence on the rise in the 1960’s and 70’s I got rid of my guns; yes as a statement but mostly because I didn’t need something lethal to have fun.  There were other avenues.  Now, I shoot photographs.
Banning guns won’t work.  Prohibition didn’t work in the 20’s.  The war on drugs hasn’t worked either.  Seems to me we have to go back to the source of the problem; individual choices to shoot or not to shoot.  We are enamored of easy answers to difficult problems.  Bang, bang, problem solved.  Well, no, it isn’t.  The problem has just gotten a lot worse.
So many the shooters have been shown to be mentally challenged.  Okay, lets round them all up and put them far away.  That won’t work either nor is it justified or fair.    We need to  remember that mentally challenged people are more likely to be victims  of violence than perpetrators of violence.  We are constantly trying to erase the symptom but not treating the disease.  We don’t have an epidemic of guns, we have an epidemic of people who use a gun to solve some problem in their lives; low self esteem, I don’t have a girl friend, no one likes me, loners, isolators, folks who are really, really sad, no job, no friends, nowhere to vent my anger or frustration.  The list can go on and on.  In a sense we are all mentally challenged, at times needing help with one issue or another and we find ways to connect, or reconnect when life gets really difficult.
We find help in families, good friends, church communities, social clubs and needed psychiatric counselors and groups like 12-Step programs so we can learn to live on life’s terms.  In a very real sense we all, every single one of us, needs to be prat of the solution rather than continuing the problem.
Clearly we need universal and comprehensive background checks.  More than that, we need universal health care, especially psychiatric health care for the homeless , bullied teenagers, those feeling rejected and abandoned, and all unable to pay for such care.  We need safe places where people can gather and share their angers and frustrations and discover real alternatives to what they are experiencing.  We need to create communities, neighborhoods, cities and a nation where being kind and caring is the prime directive.  We need friendly streets and safe sidewalks.
Whatever the motive the gunman in Roseburg, one thing is clear.  He had a major disconnect with himself and others.  The question is how do we keep people connected with reality, with one another.  How do we provide safe places to share our brokenness and we are all broken.  Most of us feel what it is like not to be able to share a particular secret in our lives; how isolated and alone it makes us feel. Many of us have also felt the incredible feeling of relief when we are able to share something we thought impossible to share - the freedom and lightness.  All of us, can do this, be this for one another.  Showing loving kindness is not rocket science, but as close as our ability to smile, to offer acceptance rather than rejection, love rather than hate.  We need to disarm not the finger from the gun, but disarm the idea in some people’s minds that a gun is the only solution.

Fr. Michael

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lummi Nation Totem Blessing


Members of the Lummi Nation will be blessing a new totem at St. Philip Neri Parish on Monday, August 24 from 5:30pm to 8pm

The Lummi People. are the original inhabitants of Washington's northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. For thousands of years, they worked, struggled and celebrated life on the shores and waters of Puget Sound.

All are welcome to this spirit filled event at 16th and Division in SE Portand.  There is lots of parking and we are on the Number 4 Bus line… Come and join us…
Lummi  Nation

Members of the Lummi Nation will be blessing a new totem at St. Philip Neri Parish on Monday, August 24 from 6pm to 8pm

The Lummi People. are the original inhabitants of Washington's northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. For thousands of years, they worked, struggled and celebrated life on the shores and waters of Puget Sound.

All are welcome to this spirit filled event at 16th and Division in SE Portand.  There is lots of parking and we are on the Number 4 Bus line.

Come and join us…

Homily for August 16, 2015 -- 20th Week of Ordinary Time

There was a common saying when I entered the seminary in 1966: "you keep the rule and the rule will keep you." Some in formation for priesthood, even today, don't get beyond this dictum. Some of them have risen to great heights -- bishops and cardinals.It is the dictum for succeeding in the "system" whatever than system may be. I am obviously ding something wrong —- thankfully. Fortunately I found out, early on, that Paulists aren’t good at keeping the rule.We are stretched by the overwhelming influence of the Holy Spirit -- by Wisdom as mentioned in our first reading from Proverbs.The line in our reading from Proverbs that caught my attention is: "Let whoever is simple turn in here." We are not looking fort simple-minded people; but wise people, watchful people, seeking people who want to enrich and deepen their experience of God. In Paul's letter we are asked to "watch carefully how we live" to not be foolish persons but wise ones. Paul wants us to walk as people who are wide awake, making good use of every opportunity -- to be constantly open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It means being open to new and unexpected possibilities.It was the genius of both Paul and Jesus to be able to take old useless rules and regulations and adapt them to be of positive use to the people in front of them. They both got in trouble for this. In the Gospel Jesus confronts the doers of the rule and they simply can't see, can't understand or experience the new life Jesus is offering them. They are so rule bound that there are no options in their lives. Rules, while good can also put us to sleep, make us feel satisfied or bloated with righteous indignation at all the rule breakers. Jesus was seeking them, inviting them to change the way they were leading their lives. Jesus was trying to set them free to experience life at a new depth and quality they simply could not imagine. Jesus is an inconvenient Truth because to welcome Him into our lives means that we have to change the way we live.
 Former Vice-President Al Gore said climate change is an Inconvenient Truth. It is inconvenient because it demands that we change the rules about they way we live our lives. Many fear what they might have to give up be it power, control, comfort, amassing goods; rather than seeing it as an opportunity to connect with others; to live more simply so that others may simply live. The poor and the homeless are also an inconvenient truths. Their needs cry out to us and at times we go to great lengths to not see, to not hear barricading ourselves behind walls imaginary and physical. Wall as indifference, walls of avoidance thinking of them not as individual persons but as some kind of sub-group. They have hopes, dreams and fears just like all of us. At times our families, our friends, co-workers are inconvenient truths. As long as everyone is playing by the rules everything is just dandy; but get a fly in the ointment, like someone comes out as gay, or gets a divorce, has a child outside of marriage or as a teenager we become lost as to what to do. Jesus is calling us, inviting us to embrace the inconvenient truths of our daily lives. We are to embrace and welcome them as our inconvenient truth that invites all to turn and enter here. Here is where we can all be fed, to become what we eat, to become what we pray for, to become inconvenient truths for others in our own right,

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Homily For 12th Week in Ordinary Time (Fathers Day) 2015

Tempests, storms, upheavals seem to abound from the very personal to the global.  My dad is dying and in hospice care.  The terrible tragedy at the AME Church in Charleston South Carolina.  The dark hatred of ISIS spreading through the Middle East and beyond.  Climate change.  If ever we felt in a small boat in stormed tossed sea, now is the time.  Oh, by the way, Happy Father’s Day.
Today is a VERY HAPPY FATHER’S DAY.  The answer to our quest, the answer to our need to celebrate is found in the boat Jesus is riding in.  Chances are you missed the source of happiness.
Did you see it?  Did you hear about it?  What am I talking about?  Jesus’ head was on a cushion.  I have been pondering that pillow all week.  Where did it come from?  I imagined it as being embroidered, hand made.  My cousin Bonnie suggested to me that maybe His mother made it for him, the Gospel equivalent of a Teddy Bear. I wouldn’t  think that fishing boats in the time of Jesus, let alone today would have cushions, but there it is.  Of all the things the Gospel writer would put into the Gospel description of the life of Jesus shy spend even a couple of words describing a cushion?  It doesn’t belong there, yet there it is, all unexpected.
Our cushions are to be found in the most unexpected places.  We need to be cushions for one another.  In Douglas Adams epic work “A Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy” he says, “Don’t panic and carry a towel.”  A towel is the most important item for an interstellar hitch hiker. With a towel or a cushion we can stare directly into the dark tempest and begin calming the storm.
My dad has been and will continue to be a cushion for me, he’s held me, forgiven me, cushioned me agains the blows of bullies, gave me hope to see into the next day. He’s been a guide, mentor and best friend.  His two home caretakers are a cushion for me.  For the past three weeks I have been with humble, competent caregivers, Sam is in good hands.
This faith community of St. Philip Neri has been, is and will be a cushion for many and all who come through our doors, those in pain, suffering loss, those rejoicing and wanting to serve, those who need the silent warmth of love and compassion.
Pope Francis has been and is a cushion for us, and especially in his newly released encyclical on Climate Change.  I urge you to read it.  This encyclical soars in language of both alarm and hope.  This is what Dads do, warn when necessary and always with hope and possibility.  We can argue until the cows come home the cause of global warming but pumping billions of tons of crud into our skies and rivers, using our oceans as garbage dumps clearly can’t be a good thing.  As Gerard Manley Hopkins said, the Heavens are charged with the grandeur of God, yet is it becoming more and more difficult to see.  We are making it so.  Whatever the cause we must work hard and work today to create a sustainable home for all life — no one can be left behind.

Today is truly a Happy Father’s Day, a day when we celebrate their loving alarms  and warnings and their  being a source of hope for tomorrow.  Today fathers must also be mothers, and mothers must be fathers; friends and neighbors need to be fathers and mothers we are all intently interconnected. WE are all in this boat together and we need to be cushions for one another.