Awkward Moments

(Homily for Thirtieth Ordinary Sunday, Year B)

Today’s second reading describes the role of a priest. He is the people’s “representative before God.” (Heb 5:1) Beset by weakness, he “must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.” (v.3)

I want to say a personal word about my relationship to you as your priest. I know that some of you feel a certain distance or separation from me. Part of the problem may be numbers: each weekend around 2,500 people attend our seven Masses - and not the same 2,500 each Sunday. Beyond those who attend Mass, many more turn to Holy Family Parish in time of crisis.

To make matters worse, I have my own personality. I am not as extroverted, as outgoing as I would like to be. And I have terrible memory for names which seems to get worse as I get older, but I do want you to know that, as your priest, I care about you. I feel like Golde in Fiddler on the Roof. Out of the blue, her husband Tevye asks, “Do you love me?” First she tried to brush him off, then she listed all things she does which show her love. To which Tevye responds,

Then you love me!

Golde replies: I suppose I do

Tevye: And I suppose I love you, too

We are facing great challenges here at Holy Family. I do not know how it will all turn out. But I want you to know that, no matter what, I do love you. And I do suppose, I do suppose that you love me too. I have been living here at Holy Family for the past seven and a half years – and plan on staying. I am a man beset by weakness, but each day, with the Lord’s help, I try to respond to parishioners’ needs. I do love you and I suppose that you do love me too.

More important than my love for you – which, no matter what, is small and passing – is Jesus’ love for you. Today’s Gospel gives a way we can grow in his love – simply by saying his name, as Bartimeus did. “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” (Mk 10:47)

The Orthodox monks used this verse to develop the Jesus Prayer. It involves calling out to the Lord with a simple, short prayer which they would repeat to the rhythm of their breathing: Jesus, Son of the Living God / Have Mercy on me, a sinner. The words might vary, but they would always invoke the Holy Name. As St. Hesychois the Priest said,

'The more rain falls on the earth, the softer it makes it; similarly, Christ's holy name gladdens the earth of our heart the more we call upon it.' (from the Philokalia)

When we were children, perhaps we learned to make short prayers, like “arrows” to God.* These aspirations have a great value. Sometimes when I pray in our chapel or when just walking around, I repeat to myself words like, “Lord, Jesus, make me one with you.”

There is one awkward moment when I find aspirations particularly helpful. At concelebrated Masses, for instance an ordination, they distribute Communion to priests and we wait until the bishop gives the invitation before receiving. Sometimes the wait lasts a couple of minutes. While holding the Host in my hand, I say this prayer, “Jesus, humble and poor, make me like you.” By keeping at it - in spite of reverses - I hope to little by little embrace Jesus’ humility.

Most of us are far from true humility which is another name for true love. That realization should not discourage, but motivate us to continue saying, “I love you.”** Husband to wives, parents to children, priests to people and redeemed sinners to our Savior. Today is a good day to imitate Bartimeus who “kept calling out all the more” to the Lord. (v. 48) “Jesus, mercy. Jesus, I love you.”


*Writing in the fifth century, Augustine remarks, "The monks in Egypt are said to offer frequent prayers, but these are very short and hurled like swift javelins". (Letter to Proba, Ep. 130: CSEL 44)

**By expressing ourselves we take a step toward our goal. Aristotle recognized this when he defined man as zoon logikon. Logikon is from logos, an intelligent, articulated word. Self-expression - first to oneself, then to another person - enables us realize our purpose.

Versión Castellana

Bulletin (Parish News, Terri Schiavo, Partial Birth Abortion)

Homily by Father Todd: "I, Michael, take you, Terri, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health...."

Presentation for Archdiocesan Building Commission


From Archives (Homilies for 30th Sunday, Year B):

2012: Love and Faith
2009: Mystery of Human Affliction
2006: Get Yourself in Trouble
2003: Awkward Moments

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Gaysploitation And "Gay Fatigue"

Four Upcoming Catholic Politicians (Including one from Washington State)

Liberalism and the Preferential Option for Death (or, "When in doubt, kill.")

St. Mary of the Valley Album

(September 2009)

Pictures from Peru

(October 2009)

Bulletin (Praying to Saints: Conversation with Fallen-Away Catholic, Purgatory in Bible, Stewardship of Time)


Wonderful website for iPod users: Maria Lectrix Free MP3 files of Church Fathers

Parish Picture Album

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru

(new, professional website)