To live in peace, in harmony, requires so much more than cooperation or compliance. In a world where hurt is too often a daily phenomenon, where suffering is rampant and joy more than a necessity, forgiveness matters. It is not the enunciation of phrases; it is a wholehearted acceptance of reality, acknowledgement of responsibility and relief from the harboring of negative emotions that devour the best of self. Living in peace demands the capacity for discerning the needs for offering and experiencing forgiveness.

Forgiveness has many facets; its core is love. To forgive is to release the grief of one’s own heart as much as it is to relieve the pain of another. It is not about power or justice but it is about relationships, supporting others and gently supporting the best of what is in each of us.

Forgiveness is not about becoming a doormat for someone else or accepting flagrant abuses. It is about living with boundaries, protecting self and others and consistently, constantly learning about what it means to be human. Forgiveness or opportunities to forgive are wound gently into every day. From the driver who fails to signal to the snappy response of a co-worker, there are simple moments that evoke emotional reactions. Being aware of personal emotions and handling them rather than being handled by them makes an enormous difference. That difference makes forgiveness possible.

There are whole other categories of living where forgiveness can be offered, given, shared, which are far more complex and demanding. There are the instances of betrayal, incomprehensible cruelty and injustice. To experience that, to process all the jagged edges of it, can take a lifetime. All the while, it will be about confronting the most awful parts of humanity, of recognizing the reality of behaviors and choices and dealing with layers and layers of consequences, repercussions and outcomes for the victim, the survivor, the person. It will be about naming and exploring fury and rage and then moving on towards the vivid reality of the present so as to live into the future. It is about grabbing reality, remembering, and in some way, choosing freely. Forgiveness here is about freedom from the intolerable suffering inflicted. It is about believing that there is more to life than the horrors of the past. It is about breathing deeply and trusting that the next steps forward are founded on that belief, that trust. Forgiveness is about allowing change to occur in the same way that scattered seeds crack open and bulbs come to life in gardens year after year. Forgiveness is genuine, active and viable.

Then, too, there is the need to forgive self. For each of us is no more than the others: we all have hurt, all have made mistakes, caused pain and often even failed to realize it. Here again, the sturdiness of simplicity steadies the rudder. This is all about honesty with self and accepting the limitations, faults and failures that pockmark human life. It is about wanting to change and become a better person, more human and more generous to self and to others. It is about realizing no one else can do this for you, and even so, not everyone will accept the reality you embrace.

Trinity Sunday reminds us that we are all part of something far greater than self. Forgiveness is a key part of living in companionship, in union with others, in communities and in cultures. Forgiveness is the actual action that enables us to “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace,
and the God of love and peace will be with you”
. Amen.


It is a mysterious and wonderful thing when spring skies lift spirits and the earth bursts with vibrant colors. And so it is with Pentecost. After all the low and high tides of the Easter season, there is the mysterious and wonderful burst of Pentecost. Childhood versions of that were sketchy and yet a promise so poorly understood. Ironically, it was a cloistered contemplative whose very presence opened an all new perspective on what both mystery and presence mean. The promise of Pentecost is the vibrant color of spring in the context of ordinary human lives. It is the forever that characterizes the best of what it is to be human in relationship to God.

“I may not always be with you, but I will never leave you”, a friend said. I was puzzled when it was said but hardly concerned. Just days later, she was missing. And then she was discovered: lifeless in her own bed still cradling the mystery book she had been reading. She had known what I never anticipated, and in the following months, it became clear that her presence would live on. She had spoken often about what she would gift to others of her possessions, what could be passed on, what she planned on. It was one of the great privileges of my life that I was able to see to those wishes. And trying to comprehend all the mystery of it was what lead to the conversation with the cloistered contemplative.

For her, there was no doubt that mystery is simply part of life and the gift of the Spirit. For her, the presence of the Spirit was a given, a reality of living and life. The Spirit, for her, was breathing in others, speaking from the touch of nature and the brilliance of a sky. The Spirit was the guide, and hers was to find and trust the reality of the presence of God in so many things. She skillfully exposed a dimension of spiritual life that had gone unnoticed: goodness and Godness are nestled together in the Spirit. For the attentive, there is that endless assurance of unfathomable love and presence, the comfort of constancy in spite of and because of the flawed human self. For her, the presence of the Spirit in the world was better than pervasive. And the Spirit was the ultimate gift of the Father and Son, the unifier. It was, she sometimes shared, the gift of her decades behind the fieldstone walls and within the monastery embedded in the world. It was as if the Spirit animated her words, actions, and birthed her faith. The Spirit was the promise of resurrection come alive through days and decades, centuries and millenniums.

This Pentecost, the thrill of that brightness comes from the readings and the Gospel. The perception of oneness, the ability to identify similarities among human beings, is a vision given by the Spirit. The hope of that, the ability to deal with the fears and griefs so much a part of the ebb and flow of human life, rest on the trust that there is a patient, omnipresent Spirit waiting and welcoming. And best of all, the flame of the Spirit is vividly visible, like the fullness of spring. 

Becoming human

While children in Sudan are starving and migrants are being bused to sanctuary cities, while Bakhmut is falling and the G7 leaders meet at Hiroshima, while China watches Taiwan and Putin eyes Ukraine, the free world revels in memes and streaming, in the stuff of wealth and its complaints, in violence in language and action. And so it is easy to forget that the power of good is still alive and is reborn, rekindled, in us over and again. And with each new opening, we are invited to consider the richness of the Universe we live in and our roles and responsibilities in that.

We carve life from the fabric of ordinary days, and we make it matter. Today is an invitation to consider how we make that happen, how we chose to live. As a Christian, listening has often generated feelings of rejection, of anger and frustration at the rampant nature of stereotypes and the politicization of faith. It is in the quiet that is so much a part of so many cultural and religious traditions that the sense of suffering becomes so obvious. Clearly, the differences among us have obscured the sameness, even enflaming anger and fueling cruelties. The threats to identity on all sides have brutalized the perception of the whole of who we are: human beings, creatures like the birds of the air and the fish in the sea. We have allowed respect for self and one another to exist on mere gasps of air rather than celebrate full fledged recognition.

Today is different; today is an invitation to go beyond all that and embrace the most fundamental of realities. Today, in that awkward space between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday, we are reminded what it is to be confused, feel alone and forgotten. In other words, what it is to feel threatened emotionally and socially. Once again, Scripture teaches us how to be human in a world where that has become somewhat challenging. There is the direction to pray; notably, it is mentioned as a group activity. There is the challenge to do the right thing in all circumstances and then there is the Gospel with the premise that here in this world, we belong. Belonging to one another cascades with promise and potential, with strength for meeting the difficulties and dichotomies evolving every day.

The passages all allude to the reality that being human is hard work: there are ups and downs, fears and anxieties. But there are also ways to cope with those. Prayer can be one of those very practical tools. Thinking about how the world around us is perceived and constructed and what part we play in all that is a valid and necessary part of our humanity. Doing it together, conscious of self and others, is a critical aspect of what it means to be human. We can begin to see the similarities alive beneath all of the differences. Thousands of years ago, it was clear that humans can help one another become better human beings. And today, amid the confusion and the chaos, it is still clear.


Yesterday, in the glow of Adirondack spring, I drove through windy mountain roads to a tiny cemetery tucked behind two imposing structures. But there were uniformed firefighters gathered and a huge American flag draped from the ladder truck. And in truth, it was not only the windy road that brought us together, but the strange quirks and turns of all our lives. But we stood, such as we were, one group, flaws and foibles, nevertheless together. There is a strength and a continuity in that that defies the lesser things we are made of, that transcends the brokenness and cruelties and reminds us of something more, that we are something more.

Our pathways are never easy. Everyday we confront choice and challenge, and there are remarkable losses and incredible gains. But the truth is that something deeper than that really matters: love and truth. Shifting towards Ascension Thursday, the readings describe the fervor and joy of miracles and then the Spirit of Truth. The very words give pause. Truth is a building block in any relationship. The gift of truth is the grief of admitting wrong, the clarity of seeing the right, the courage to discern the difference and abide in that space where all pathways lead to Truth. The promise made is not capricious: there is an intensity, a strength. “…You know him, because he remains with you, and will be in you.”

There is a tender grace in all that, an acknowledgment of both flaws and foibles, and an acceptance of the limits of the human condition tempered with the possibilities of great things to come. For us, it is left to navigating each step each day. But we are not alone; these words are the promise that there is more than we suspect in life and maybe more than we are capable of imagining. Our lives are full of twists and turns, but at the core of it all is the truth that there is more than what we know, what we imagine. Choosing to accept and to believe means embracing the Truth. That is never easy: it demands stepping away from illusions, perceptions and deceptions. It means believing in something far greater than self. It is the about the courage to live your truth, to be faithful to the calling that you hear. And that requires a lot of listening….to self, to others, to the world we live in.

An old friend, philosophizing about Life’s intricacies, noted that the building blocks of a relationship as being truth and honesty, then respect, and finally love. It sounded simple, sincere, and it made me think about the critical nature of truths, what we wish to impart to another, what to believe of what is imparted to us. Either way, the power of truth in our lives is undeniable and sometimes so very elusive. The chance to live it is there, though, ours for the taking and truthfully, it is worth climbing the mountain to discover the view.


They were seated at a corner table, three former colleagues, each with varied experiences of Catholic education, each from a different state, each at a different stage of life. The conversation was not the often heard lament about the institutional church, though. Instead, it was about faith for children and grandchildren, how faith embraces doubt and requires reflection, how faith impacts individual lives. Such a conversation slips past the superficial realities and looks deeply at meaning and purpose, potential and promise for the future. It floated among them, diverging and converging at points. Most importantly, every pebble of conversation managed to frame fears while empowering possibilities.

In their lifetimes and careers, there has been a radical shift in social norms and institutions, an outright rejection of any authoritarian structures. Navigating the conversation, they recognized the importance of personal faith, the benefits of community and the critical nature of leadership. Where identity was once linked closely to faith and personal belief, it has broadened in phases unimaginable at the start of each of those decades-long careers. They wondered if faith had succumbed to the numbness of science, the wrestle of social media and the rising tide of stigma. They wondered if the embrace of the labels of mental illness and anxieties and the pharmaceutical treatment of these had been a factor. They weighed what it means to be different in a world that simultaneously promotes individuality and conformity.

For a few moments, they sat with the irony of the Surgeon General’s report on the epidemic of loneliness and the importance of belonging to communities like churches. Then they pushed into the reality of new communities that spring up online, in gaming, in gyms and in schools. Are these the communities of connection, of faith and purpose of the future? And they wondered at the loss of priests, the dissolution of religious communities of women and men. And they witnessed to the seeds of the new church, the young men daring to commit their lives and purpose to the Catholic community, energetically striving to reach out to jaded community members; organizations like Dynamic Catholic stretching into the lives of ordinary Catholics, and the way lay women and men are seeking, somehow, to serve. In each case, faith–that deep, abiding conviction that there is something far greater than self to consider—becomes the significant factor.

It is, they concluded, faith that truly matters, that sense of being loved by a generous God who both created humanity and accepts, embraces, the heart and the whole of each person. Faith does not exclude but embraces the peculiarities of humanity, our own and everyone else’s as well. Faith is what John’s Gospel calls for, seeing and believing and living. Faith is what the readings call for: Peter, becoming the cornerstone. The truth is that’ each of us is part of the greater whole, a stone connected to the cornerstone with purpose and meaning. Faith enables that step towards the greater whole, the acknowledgment of need for one another within the confidence that each of us is part of the Mystery. Each of us brings the Presence of God to the next. Each of us is so much more than we can imagine; each of us is a stone, a slender piece of that greater whole.

In this time of transition, they concluded, more could be happening than meets the eye. Having faith in the past and knowing the gift of the present, they parted with the agreement to revisit in the future, just a stone’s throw away.

The Shepherd’s Task

A drenching gray frames spring green even in morning’s early breaths. Somehow, the layers of being converge into meaning in the restless round of seasons. So it is now. All about us are the brilliance of new beginnings tucked next to the decay of what is spent, and slowly the world takes it all in even as it evolves past now into tomorrow. Scattered like carelessly planted tulip bulbs, what is new must find its place even as it shrugs towards becoming past. Subtle observations emerge from all this: that patience is a treasure, suffering is worth enduring and pathways await. Good Shepherd Sunday has all these nuances.

“Shepherd” has as many connotations as “spring rain”. Meaningful to some and largely disconnected from others, there is a sense of responsibility, of honor, embedded in the term “shepherd”. And yet, there are simple foundational truths behind all that. The Shepherd establishes a connection, gives meaning to the task of guarding these sheep, and embraces it as a tiny part of a much larger collective whole. There is no grandiosity in the job itself yet there are layers of trust involved in pursuing it. Courage and confidence, honesty and truth are critical elements in the role and yet we categorize it as something far simpler than all that, diminish it to something reserved for simpletons or loners. Consider the connections: owners, shepherds, sheep, clients, buyers, breeders….Each needs the other to live the role.

This year, on Good Shepherd Sunday, with the visible wounds of the world and its peoples so tangible, it is especially meaningful. The vivid imagery of Psalm 23 lyrically allures to the consideration of the possibility that there is someone with us in the most peaceful and life-giving as well as the darkest and most difficult moments of life. Poetically, it engages in the ebb and flow of a human life’s seasons and promises the more that every soul seeks. “The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I shall want” intimates more than contentment and trust. There is confidence in relationship, courage to face the next steps, a Buddhist-like simplicity to sustain attentiveness and focus. The words confide an intimacy based on the certainty of connection without condition.

In the vast forces of cultural change and shifting norms, the transformation of identity and redefinitions of personhood and being, there is a temptation to reject the wisdom of centuries past, to scoff at the concepts of divinity or gods, to retreat from the existence of mystery in human life. It is understandable and maybe the journey towards deeper understandings of who we are and why we are here and what we actually do to and with and for one another. And maybe it is also the time to find new footing in this stage, to rearrange what was into what it can be until it is time for someone else to take over. That sort of sounds like the task of a Shepherd to me: patient, enduring, moving.

Emmaus Story

Every night when I come in, there is a tea-light waiting for the snap of a match to ignite its flame. That tiny glows warms the room and calmly breathes life into the fragments of a day and very simply and sturdily speaks of the presence of God. And so the story of a day unfolds there: the encounters, the frustrations, the surprises and the memories reassembled with hands bigger than my own. Purposefully, there are new moments, or old ones understood differently, and somehow edge closer to the truths of the day. It is about beginning to perceive rather than simply see, to understand rather than simply experience. The older I grow, the more aware I am that my life is not yet complete, the more these quiet moments allow me to touch my core belief: God is.

The rumblings of a secularized America have provoked conflict and courage and, in a quest for tolerance and peaceful co-existence, allowed us to become less tolerant, more condemnatory and increasingly violent in words and actions. Education and media has encouraged us to embrace the power of voice, to speak truth to power, and we have allowed that to derail listening and learning from one another. In dismissing one another and thinking we understand, we have undermined opportunities to discover what is really going on and just exactly who we are to and for each other. We have lost sight of what really matters, deprived ourselves of the chance to be honest and respectful towards others and to allow that privilege to others as well.

Maybe it is time to consider the miracle of the Emmaus story. “Emmaus” as a word carries a weighty connotation for those familiar with the Gospel. It is rich and full of wonder, of epiphanies and joy. For the unfamiliar, Emmaus recounts despondent disciples in the days after Passover, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus chronicling the details as they walk. Joined by a stranger, the conversation broadens and deepens. This stranger leads them through a thousand years of stories and predictions that brought all of them into this space. And when, finally, they sit down to eat together, the stranger reenacts what they have heard about: the breaking of the bread. Jesus is recognized for who He is, and the disciples revel in the awareness. That moment of epiphany disappears just as He does. The wonder is compounded by the understanding that He may not always be with us, but He will never leave us. The breaking of the bread is the gathering moment, the space where everything can be broken open for exploration and discovery, for new understandings. It is ours for the taking, for daring to walk along that road. It is ours to remember that there were no recriminations, no judgmental tone from Jesus. It was about kindness and listening and sharing. Maybe, in the great arc of centuries and the smaller one of life spans, it is that focus on the life-changing encounters and relationships that matter. Maybe, as we lurch into this highly technological world, we will find that it is the personal encounter that really makes the big difference..

To believe

There is a certain discord in shifting norms, levels of substantiative social change accelerated by some and excoriated by others. And in the flush of the energy around all that, the swirl of questions and the certainty of necessity, there rests the very ordinary persons who live it all out in their daily choices and decisions. We are engulfed in it now in tangible expressions and vibrant and public expressions of what was once private and personal. The various layers of change are visible in social media debates, surveillance and intelligence leaks, phone usage and habits, demonstrations and protests, court cases and decisions, online and virtual encounters. There is fuel for it in the voracious desire for self-care, comfort and ease. We have become skeptical at best of the social institutions that once held the many threads of our communities together; we are forging a new world without the perceived strictures of the past. And yet, we are not quite sure what to believe, or who or why. Perhaps we are not very different than those who have gone before us, those who struggled to name and identify what they believed and so to act in accord with that vision and those values. Maybe, if allowed, the Gospel is actually a mirror to be seen and learned from.

This past week, listening to a short speech on the Buddhist teaching of inter-being, I was struck by its resonance with the reality of Christian life, of following the simplicity of the Gospel mandates in living with self and others. Each is a compelling invitation to look at both the significance and beauty of self as well as the significance and beauty of others, of the world around us. Each invites us to a trust that is sustained by the elasticity of perception and the possibilities for curiosity and acceptance. Each is a reminder of personal fragility and brokenness as well as personal power and forgiveness. Most of all, each is an invitation beyond the frenetic and frantically shifting norms to the deeper meaning of existence and a full appreciation for the evolving complexities of human existence.

Such was Jesus’ invitation to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples, in the days following his death and resurrection. He placed before them a choice, a decision: to believe what was experienced or to reject it as outlandish. In the tumult of life under Rome within a tight-knit subculture, he dared them to break out. He provided multiple instances for them to take the chance, to take up the message and the mission. He charged them to pass it on, and he even hinted at how resistant people would be. He also assured them of His constancy, His own mercy. And so He asked them to extend that to others.

Lingering with the readings on Divine Mercy, there is the clear sense that we are above all, a communal people. Now, with technology reshaping that understanding, there is the chance to deepen and develop that. There is also the seeming promise that trials will inevitably come our way, but we will not be alone. And then there are the Jesus words quoted in that Gospel: “Peace be with you.” Ours is a God who companions us through the rough terrain of what human experience. And offers us peace. Maybe it is time to listen.


The Gospel of John, the Gospel of Easter Sunday 2023, gives Mary Magdalene a central place: she is the bereaved, the grieving one, who discovers the stone rolled away from the tomb, who summons the disciples and ultimately is the first to see Jesus resurrected even though she did not recognize Him. Women celebrate the central role of Mary in this, and the privilege it indicates. Others find the subtle characteristics of humanity so powerful: the fear, the disbelief, and the empowerment, the community building. In so many ways, the Gospel charts the human stories for so many generations: journeys from disbelief to faith, from fear to courage and from ignorance to understanding.

This year, another theme and question emerges. The life of Jesus, his death and his resurrection stretch through millenia with telling and retelling, translations and new translations. There is a vivid accord that laces all of it together and that theme of unconditional love is powerful. And the accompanying questions: Is it better to be loved or to love? Or is it all one and the same ? The story, in this time of discord and disgruntlement, speaks simply about the most complicated to all simple things: love itself.

The story does not shy from the cruelty of human beings, from the flailing of ignorance or the reality of mob mentality. It does not shy from the failures of human beings, from the fear of identity threats or the righteousness of misplaced choices. But looking carefully, this story does not shy from the rigor of complex relationships like friendships and loyalty and the deeper commitments to persons, to truths and to blazing new trails. All that dances through the lines of each version of Jesus’ death and resurrection. To really hear it, to explore it, is something most meaningful.

To stand with Mary outside the tomb, to run with her to summon the disciples….that is a moment of imagination and insight. To bend with Peter into the tomb, to know his shock and his realization. To speculate with all the disciples about what occurred. To be there again with a crying Mary and know the depths of what grief so cruelly demands. And to be with all of them as each moment with Jesus is recounted, each lesson recalled, every parable reclaimed. The Gospel enables us to do that, to join them and become part of the story. There is a certain thrill there, an insight that could have been elusive or unknown before. And too, the love that pervades the relationships and that Jesus’ choice embodies, that somehow becomes more real.

And so we stand with questions about love. What is it? How do we know it? How do we live it? How can we share it? How can we be that for each other? Can we dare to love to the point of grief? Can we dare to face fears? To verify stories and claims before we act? Can we seek one another out and speak one another’s names in profound recognition of each other? Dare we become part of the story? Are we an Easter people?


Palm is soft and pliable at the outset, flexible and easily folded into cruciforms. As a child, I watched my grandfather cut lapel size brooches from it, and I saw my father weave long skinny slices into larger crosses that he rested above his work bench each year. I never wondered why, really; there was a complicit understanding that each was a reminder of God’s presence in the world. And the palm, to me, welded as it is in the Gospel stories, was like the garland and confetti of modern times: celebratory and congratulatory. But like the richly textured palm, the Gospel story, the readings, offer so much to consider.

Hidden behind the pageantry of Palm Sunday is the stark simplicity of words: the humility of humanness, the need to depend on one another and God, the fears of abandonment that are so much a part of humanity, the pain of betrayal and the inevitability of death are all part of the story of this day. Dipping into any part of it is to hold a mirror to the reality of human experience. These are all things so much a part of life, of who we are. And it is easy in the frenzy of mediocrity to skip right over it and indulge in the distractions that cascade about us. The palm, small and simple, is an invitation to focus on what really matters in life, to dare to realize that we are not alone on the path.

Palm is about companionship and even about legacy. It is also about realizing all of us are on life-journeys. None of us are better than others. All of us make mistakes and bad calls. We fail one another; palm is the reminder that God does not fail us. The Gospel reverberates with the features of humanity: the wily fears and plans of the Pharisees, and the nervous suspicions of the disciples at the Passover table, Jesus’ intuition and sense of betrayal, the drama and cruelty of punishment, even the bloodthirsty crowd. It spills over with complexity as well: we are all of these things in some circumstances, none of them in others. And yet, we are undeniably like those persons who have gone before us, and the deeper truths of the Gospel story surge through our lives if we allow it. It is that time of reflection, the time to look into the mirror and discover where we really are and who we really are. The other side of that is to realize that everyone else is just learning how to be human as well. We can cower in fear, castigate in anger, destroy in righteousness. We can also step back, reconsider options, suffer in silence and make better choices. Rallying to the chant of the mob in the Gospel speaks to the situations and trials of today. Is it the voice of the mob compelling an opinion and impelling action? Or is there higher ground to be found somewhere? Isn’t it about choice? This year, the palm gently shaped into crosses speaks of both the complexity and simplicity of human life, of the possibility of walking tenderly and humbly with one another and with God.