Everyday, in countless scenarios all over the world, scars and wounds are opened. Hearts are broken, anger erupts, accusations made, blame placed, and responsibility assumed…or denied. That very pain, so unwelcome but perhaps essential to unlocking the full capacity of what it means to be human, is alarmingly real in so many instances. Its existence unlocks empathy and love, and can be a harbinger for change. It reveals, too, that there is a deep senstivity to words and meanings, inferences and implications, that has become both demanding and daring. In a sense, that senstivity opens the horizons imposed by the limitations of language. In another way, that sensitivity challenges the conventional and ascribes a significance which may or may not be merited. Either way opens a portal that persons and communities must pass through. Either way the fragility of human persons is exposed, exchanged and sometimes exploited. Either way is costly. In these days following Pentecost, the channels of change are flowing openly. The celebration of Trinity Sunday speaks to that very phenomenon with completting certainty.

Trinity Sunday is a reminder that every generation, each person, is somehow tethered to a caring God and fastened, then, to one another. The first reading captures the depth of relationship in the passage form Deuteronomy:

Moses said to the people:
“Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?
Was it ever heard of?
Did a people ever hear the voice of God
speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?
Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself
from the midst of another nation,
by testings, by signs and wonders, by war,
with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,
all of which the LORD, your God,
did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
This is why you must now know,
and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,
and that there is no other.

Every group of people, every community and ethnicity, religion and nation has a story, a way of having come to this moment in time. The first reading invites each of us to consider the who and what and why and how of that journey. It is a call to respect the wonder of it, the timelessness of it, and the treasure of it. Somehow, this reading offers to the chance to linger with the prospect that all of humanity is somehow riding in the same precarious boat, hardly able to manage alone, and yet alive to a gentle and caring God.

The second reading celebrates the birthright not to be denied. The gift of the Spirit opens the truths of human beings created and sourced and fastened to God. There is a commonality that defies roles and status and challenges human systems and institutions. Children, all children, for better or worse, and living out that connection to one another.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit
that we are children of God,
and if children, then heirs,
heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,

The Gospel reading seals the deal. Tucked in the end of the passage, past the missioning the disciples to spread the Gospel, is a key phrase: And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. This is the promise of presence, the gift of the Spirit, something to tap into, to trust.

It is not an antidote to the suffering of being human, but it is the relationship to carry through on the journey. It is the connection that can sustain us through the anxieties, uncertainties and sufferings.

Each reading captures a dimension of the transcendent presence of a compassionate and caring God. There is a Trinity of support, for the realities of living in every age, even this vortex of change there is the comforting stability of being loved and cared about.

Pentecost: Hope

Months ago, an earnest and enraged young journalist was mapping out a piece for a major newspaper. Disaffected and indignant, his goal was to document the collapse of a hypocritical Catholic hierarchy mired in scandal and scourged by its own leadership. We spoke of history, of grass roots faith and new initiatives, and the divergence between faith and fraud. Not a whisper or a word appeared in the published piece. But this week, in a tiny church in a small city knit into the fabric of New England, there was touching evidence of hope and promise within the Catholic community.

The pastor was wrapped in the red chausble of Pentecost, nearly tripping over the stole underneath. He paused in the middle of the sermon to adjust it, joking that the homily wasn’t that great anyway, and then continued with an anecdote about the movement of the Spirit. By his conclusion, he had an appreciative, masked congregation, laughing and praying for the “salvo” punch of Pentecost’s wild winds. After the final blessing, he motioned to his younger, associate pastor standing alone in the back of church. He came up the center aisle, hands shoved deep into his pockets and head bent forward. Genuflecting before the tabernacle, he stepped towards the altar.

At the podium, he paused, and then shared the news. He would be leaving that church, his first assignment as an ordained priest, an assignment he loved. Choking up, he stopped. In the painful awkwardness of silence, someone clapped. And then somone else, and somone else. A wave of applause brought the congregation to its feet. He was one of their own; the support was palpable. The pastor joined, and the deacon, big smiles and then congratulatory hugs. It was a single, simple moment of kindness and empathy wreathed in the light of a community coming together as one. The Spirit was more than evident, and the celebration of Pentecost took on new meaning and depth. As the Apostles bonded in the wild wind, so communities come together today, even now, such as we are.

Pentecost is celebrated in hope, hope that comes to life in the harbor of incredible loss. Just as the arrival of the Spirit provided a revitalizing strength to Apostles diminished by grief and uncertainty, this liturgical moment invites us to the same. The institutional church has been diminished by scandals of every nature, and yet there is a life of faith that recognizes the reality of human nature, limitations and hypocrisies and still pursues something more. The Spirit animated the faith and vision of the Apostles and animates the growth of grass roots communities of Catholics today. Just as the Apostles dared to pause in their uncertainty, to linger there and know the great grace of the Spirit, so we linger in our church waiting. And sometimes, there are those moments of extraordinary connections between and among the most ordinary of human beings. Sometimes, the Spirit slips into the awkward silence and fuels the thunder of applause. Sometimes, we are humbled in the truth that we are not alone and we are loved, loving, and live with the hope of becoming more.

For in hope we were saved.
Now hope that sees is not hope.
For who hopes for what one sees?
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with enduranc

In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will


He was clearly not himself: his blue eyes were flat, his gregarious tone subdued. Still, he trudged through the school day with quiet determination, taking his assigned turn at lunch and reassuring himself that “we will be okay”. Death had invaded his family, and his adolescent heart was breaking. Not for himself. For his grandmother who lost her daughter. For his father who lost a sister. Then, maybe, for himself. But it was his “we”, his sense of “we will be okay” that speaks to this moment.

It is the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Ascension Thursday has slipped past, that moment which marks the last of the real visibility of Jesus in human experience. It was a celebration, the Ascension into heaven, and a simultaneous loss beyond compare. In the tumult of that time, there was the reassurance of continuity of convictions, connections, and purpose. Matthias is chosen to complete the team of leaders, to share the mission and to go on, to move forward. Theirs was a group that shared a “we”, belonging to one another as much as to God.

The second reading expands that dramatically. There is a glimpse of the mystery surrounding God, a candid admission that no one has ever seen God. Here, God is equated with love, defined as love. God is relational, personal, connected to each individual in the mysteries of love. Love is sacred beyond telling. There is nothing more potent, more meaningful. And the uniqueness of each person’s choice about that love is to be respected. “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him.” The powerful punch is in the “remaining”. Remaining is essentially choice, and there are so many alternatives.

The Gospel, from John 17, enumerates choices about belonging to the world. It captures Jesus’ prayer for those He loves. Specific and caring, He asks for a gift that transcends human desires and preferences. He asks for protection from “the evil one”. Jesus’ prayer goes on in the in the following lines as the evangelist confides an even deeper aspect of love and relationship.

“Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them,
so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

Sustaining and maintaining relationship is dependent on truth, and so love is ultimately, relationally and rationally, dependent on that truth. On the pursuit of it, the discovery of it, and the meaning of it. The courage of truth rests in the sense that, like love, it is not simply of this world. There is far more to lives that we know and days that we walk through. Truth is the more that motivates dreamers, animates misfits and encourages the hopeful and the hopeless.

Daring to pursue something that does not “belong to this world” is complicated. Relationships, especially those not esteemed or sought simply for gain, are much more than a “one and done” deal. Relationships are a journey, but the “we” of it makes the hazards, hardships and happiness deeply meaningful. The “we” is a magic all its own that bears the joy of celebration and the tragedy of loss with the sense of interdependence and togetherness. This Seventh Sunday of Easter is about learning that “we will be okay”. WE will be okay.

Also human

Mysteries, the inexplicable and the incomprehensible, abound in even the most ordinary of lifetimes. There are those oddly synchronous moments where everything comes together in a harmony unanticpated, when the senses can barely digest what is happening for the sheer delight of it all. And there are the exact opposite: hurricane winds fragment everything held dear collapsing what is familiar treasure to rubble unidentifiable. Either way, mysteries court life with every sunrise. On this Sixth Sunday of Easter, the mystery to consider is love.

Love is not adulation or admiration. Love is evident in the understanding words of Peter, “…I myself am also a human being.” He recognizes the sameness, the mutuality of a man who has come in awe to kneel before him. He names himself “human” as if it is no title whatsoever, as if the word itself provides an equality that encompasses difference. But he also dares to articulate how and why that exists. “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality…” A simple phrase defies the idea that some are chosen, beloved, blessed by God and some are less than that. Instead, there is a firm conviction asserted here. God’s Love is inexplicable, incomprehensible, and belongs to all. There is no earning it, deserving it, or compromising it. It simply IS, in a way that is far beyond what humans comprehend.

Love and relationships can be torturous trails pockmarked with fear, mistrust, loss and cruelty. Friendships, parent-child, peer and partner sharings suffer through jealousy, selfishness, insensitivity, dsiplaced anger and bouts of narcissism. But they can also be journeys deep into the soul that name the same fears, dare the same dreams, find the same hopes and choose the same paths. The idea that God’s love is a constant is barely aligned with human actions and thoughts. The second reading declares that “God IS love…” and lets that dance with Mystery begin again.

Can Love like this be defined? Known? Experienced? Appreciated? Is it possible to live with a God so willing to be understood as love? Is it possible to live without that?

We live in a time of conflict and controversy, of questioning and research, of doubt and misgivings. Love, though, is still there, still constant, still present. Still not presupposing but waiting to be rediscovered in the melee. Easter is a celebration of the great demonstration of love. The Sixth Sunday after Easter is a celebration, too, of learning what this kind of love is really all about. That learning comes to life in simply being human. In recognizing, as Peter did, that each of us is nothing more and nothing less than a human being. More importantly, each of us is so loved by a patient God who simply desires to remain with us.


It was wedged between the tire and the cold fieldstone of the garage, just beneath the forsythia. Woven in layered twigs and dried grass, colored coordinated and masterfully intact, its integrity and comfort speak of home, the kind of home everyone needs. It is loose and structured, simple and stable, inviting and purposeful. Maybe that empty nest is the promise of next steps, of growth and movement and flight. On this Fifth Sunday of Easter, what could be more appropriate?

This week, the readings celebrate the emergence of faith, of lives changed and reconstructed in the light of faith. The first reading shows Saul after his conversion. He has left one life behind for another. But here, he is grappling with acceptance as a disciple, dealing with the fear he had inspired in others. Trusted Barnabus provides the introduction that made a difference. The connections are woven as carefully as the bird’s nest. That reading is followed by the plucky courage of the first letter of John exhorting,

“Children, let us love not in word or speech
but in deed and truth.”

Here is a challenge to go past the typical, to dare to live deeply, to let actions be defining and truth be guiding. In a sense, this is the challene to build our own nests even in a world so complex and unforgiving. Could this be about creating “home” in a world made less than hospitable by the rigor of media? Could it be about deliberate action to construct a “home” of what is here, available, usable? Can we re-envison home, society, world? Dare we look at the post-pandemic era as one with all the necessary components to reconstruct meaningful homes and lifestyles? Can we reconnect? Dare we be as trusting as the birds in our creations?

The Gospel is allegorcial and poetic, charged with connections in the Vine and Branches story.

I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit,
because without me you can do nothing.

Dignity, fulfillment, worth, rest in the reality of Connection. It is about branches and being and making the choices that fashion something rich and fruitful, opening possibilities for others. Without each other, we are each less than could be. With each other, we forge a life-giving force that protects, comforts, serves and regenerates.

In a world edging towards a post-pandemic pattern, conscious reconstruction of lifestyles, serious consideration of choices is possible, if not probable. The shift represents a chance to re-shape the homes we have built and live in and to re-consider the many choices we have made. The threads of new beginnings can allow a freedom to become better persons and to show the commitment to that future by the practical simplicaity of deeds. Mere words cannot be enough: this is the time for action. The nests we create now, at work and at home, can bear the variegated texture of that cradle. Those nests, our nests, can find shape, provide both cushion and comfort, and provide the space that nurtures next steps and ultimately leads to flight.