Give Thanks in Everything

This homily was given at St. Joseph Parish, Roseburg, OR on the Thirty-fourth Friday in Ordinary Time, November 25, 2022. The audio is available here.


Yesterday, at the Mass for Thanksgiving Day, many of you shared things you were thankful for. 

Family, friends, kids, health, life, and pie were among the responses. 

Others identified spiritual goods: the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and in our hearts.  

But one response was so bold, so unexpected, it stood out among all the rest. 

”I thank God for my sickness.”

We can all understand setting aside a day to give thanks to God for the good things He gives us, above all for the gift of Himself, Jesus Christ, who gives Himself away to save us from slavery to sin and death and raise us up for eternal life.

We give thanks for that gift, not just once a year, but every time we come to Holy Mass, where His sacrifice is renewed!

But in light of that supreme gift, everything else takes on a different meaning. 

We see everything in life comes to us from the hand of our Father who loves us, who is saving us, who allows even the most difficult and painful circumstances of this life for the sake of our ultimate good: eternal life. 

Because Christ is with us, in us as “the hope of glory,” the seed of eternal life sown in our souls, we “give thanks in everything,” even in sickness, even in suffering, even in those terrible trials we cannot change—because the winters of this life, terrible as they are, are passing, and summer is near. 

Today, now, at this Holy Mass, “our redemption is at hand.”

As we prepare to receive Jesus once more, lift up our heads and our hearts to Him and say: “Thank you. For everything that has come to pass…”

And we shall rejoice with Jesus among the saints in glory in the Kingdom of Our Father, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

The Poorest King Who Ever Lived

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 20, 2022. The audio is available here.


In the Lord of the Rings, there is an ancient kingdom called Gondor.

For many generations, Gondor was ruled by a royal family of kings and queens.

But when the last king died and his heir disappeared, the king’s steward took charge of the kingdom.

And for almost a thousand years, the stewards, who had been the servants of the king, ruled Gondor as if they were kings themselves.

So when Boromir, the son of the steward, meets Aragorn, the last, secret descendant of the line of kings and the true heir to the throne, he says:

“Gondor has no king. Gondor needs no king.”

It’s not very appealing to have a king when you’re used to ruling yourself.

If there’s a king on a throne, then suddenly, my authority to make up my own rules, to determine my own destiny, is limited.

There’s another, higher authority that I must answer to. 

We think a king must be a tyrant.

We think someone ruling over us will only have his own interests in mind.

A king will use and abuse us, whereas if rule, then I can make sure that my needs are met, that I’m happy and safe and live a good life.

But Gondor, for all its pride, is on the verge of collapse.

The steward in charge has brought the kingdom to the point of ruin.

Gondor needs a king. Gondor needs a savior! … And so do we. 

I need a king, because if I look honestly at the kingdom of my own life, I have to admit that I am a useless steward—incapable of meeting my own needs, unable to engineer my own happiness, powerless to save myself from sickness, from loss, from grief, from despair, from death.

If that describes you, too, then this Sunday is very good news … because we have a king, and this king is no tyrant.

Ours is the poorest king who ever lived.

His throne is the cross.

No golden crown for him, but a circlet of thorns; not dressed in rich clothes, but stripped naked and exposed before the mockery of the crowds.

“Save yourself, you king; if you are the king, then get down off that cross and save yourself and us!”

Even in mocking him, they reveal the depths of their desperation for a savior, a true king with the power to deliver them from themselves, the terrible tyranny of self-rule, the desperate need to succeed on their own.

But our king, Jesus, does not get down from that cross.

He just … hangs there, between heaven and earth.

Jesus, who is God, created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, could have conquered the world without lifting a finger.

But he, the All-Powerful God, chose to make himself powerless.

He humbled himself as far as that, because He was after a greater prize than earthly kingdoms, greater by far than wealth and power and glory.

Jesus Christ came to win our hearts and souls back for God, His Father, and to win that kingdom, He had to show us what the Father is really like: 

Not a tyrant, not a bully, not an abuser in the sky, not a threat to our freedom, but a loving and kind and tender Father, a merciful Father, who gives everything He has away out of love for us.

Jesus Christ, the King on the cross, is the perfect image of the Father’s love.

And to all of us who admit that we need a king, Jesus gives us a simple invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened; come into my kingdom, and I will give you rest. Come and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” 

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive Jesus Christ, the crucified King of the Universe, veiled here under the appearance of bread, we ask Jesus to rule over our own lives, in every detail.

And as we pray, “Thy kingdom come,” we ask our most humble King to teach us how to live in His kingdom:

Jesus, teach us your way of humility instead of pride, meekness instead of insisting on our own way, powerlessness before God instead of grasping for control.

As we surrender our lives to the gentle rule of Jesus and learn the way of life of the kingdom of God, we begin to taste the peace, the happiness, the security, the freedom that we could not achieve on our own.

We will suffer, as our King suffered, but we will suffer like Jesus on the cross: in our suffering, we will be free, and no one will be able to take away our joy. 

And on the last day, when the veil is torn apart and the Heavenly King is revealed in all His glory, when every knee shall bend before the King of All, we shall cry out with all the angels and saints: “Blessed be the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.”

And we will hear him say: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 

Christ is Passing By

This homily was given at Byzantine Divine Liturgy at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-third Sunday after Pentecost, November 13, 2022. The audio is available here.


It didn’t have to happen this way.

God could have prevented this man from falling victim to the robbers.

He could have intervened!

He might have sent the good Samaritan down the road just a little sooner, with an escort of angels at his side, to drive the robbers away.

But instead, by the time the Samaritan reaches him, the robbers have done their work, and left him for dead by the side of the road.

St. Ambrose of Milan says this man is Adam, our forefather, and summed up in his miserable condition are all his sons and daughters.

Jericho is the city of sinful Man, the image of this fallen world, and Adam is going down from the city of God—from Paradise, the Jerusalem above—into this present darkness, into exile, by his own free choice.

Having turned from the law of the Lord to the sin of this world, it’s no wonder Adam falls victim to robbers, “the spirits of night and darkness,” who first steal the garments of grace we have received from God and then beat us up for good measure, leaving us wounded, humiliated…

But not alone.

Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, is passing by, and He is not too late to save us.

Yes, He could have prevented us from falling victim to sin and death.

And by the gift of His prevenient grace, He does prevent us from falling victim to many, many sins which might otherwise have ensnared us.

The spiritual director of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus attested that she never committed a mortal sin. 

But Thérèse herself was certain that if it weren’t for God’s prevenient mercy, she would have been the worst sinner who ever walked the earth!

The sins we do commit fall within the realm of God’s permissive will.

To be sure, Adam would not have fallen among the robbers if he hadn’t first strayed from God’s commands and made himself vulnerable to them.

God is not the author of sin; we are. 

But God permits that we fall, just as He permitted Adam to fall.

He allows us to turn from Him, to listen to the Devil, to fall victim to the demons, to choose Jericho over Jerusalem, sin over grace, death over life.

As a holy Archbishop said to me, “God knows I have many faults, but I love Jesus Christ with all my heart … and if it weren’t for the sins that have humbled me, that have left me powerless and dependent on on his mercy, I would not love Jesus and trust Him as much as I do now.” 

St. Thérèse says much the same: “The memory of my faults humiliates me, it brings me to never lean on my own strength … but even more this memory speaks to me of mercy and love. When you throw your faults with total, filial trust in the burning all-consuming brazier of love, how would they not be consumed without coming back?”

God permits us at times to fall among the robbers so that even our faults, even our sins, may become fuel for the fire of love and trust in Jesus.

For love and trust is the fulfillment of the law and the way to eternal life.

Here, now, at this Divine Liturgy, Jesus Christ is passing by. 

Whatever sins, whatever wounds lie in our past, whatever we have done or failed to do, we lay bare before the gaze of His saving mercy … and forgetting what lies behind us, placing all our trust in Jesus, we get up and set out for what still lies ahead.

There, in the new Jerusalem, we shall rejoice with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and our joy shall be full, for we shall know Him as we are known and loved, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

The Great Ones

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 6, 2022. The audio is available here.


In the seminary, we often sing a hymn to the martyrs which goes like this: 

“These were thy great ones: we, thy least,
One in desire and faith with them,
Called by the Lord to keep one feast,
Journey to one Jerusalem.”

The seven brothers in today’s first reading were truly great ones.

“Even the king and his attendants marveled at their courage, because those young men regarded their sufferings as nothing.”

Nothing!

They were “ready to die rather than transgress the laws of their ancestors.”

For these holy brothers, the issue was not just about forbidden food; it was about who was king in Israel: God, or their pagan overlords, who wanted to humiliate them and destroy their faith by forcing them to eat pork. 

In the history of the Church, many martyrs have died for less.

Thousands upon thousands of Christians died in the Roman Empire because they refused to burn a pinch of incense before a statue of the Emperor.

The issue was the same: who was King, Christ or Caesar?

For the Christians, it was idolatry, blasphemy, to offer a sacrifice of worship to a man, when all glory, honor, and worship belong to Jesus Christ alone.

They were ready to die rather than deny Christ the King.

Most of us have grown up and lived all our lives in places where being a Christian was no great risk.

The United States, the Philippines, Mexico: these were Christian countries, and even as the faith is fading, we have not had much to fear.

When I became Catholic in high school, I got teased and lost some friends—I didn’t face torture and death. 

But make no mistake: we are living in a new apostolic age.

As we believe and follow Jesus, we can expect to suffer some consequences.

The teacher who bravely stands up for the truth that “God created them male and female…” 

The nurse who refuses to assist with abortions or euthanasia…

Or the pharmacist who refuses to dispense contraception…

Even the ordinary Catholic who dares to go out in public wearing a cross around her neck or praying the rosary, or says God bless you at Safeway!

The world sees our faith in Jesus and His Gospel as a threat to its own power, just like our forefathers who refused to burn a pinch of incense to the Emperor, or the Maccabees who refused to take a bite of pork.

Our reputations, our jobs, our livelihood may all be on the line before long.

It’s natural for us to be afraid, to count the cost … even to be tempted to burn the pinches of incense our new pagan overlords demand.

But like the martyrs, “one in desire and faith with them,” there comes a time for all of us that we must choose on whose side we stand: God or the world, Jesus Christ or the princes and powers of this age. 

Jesus Christ is the true King of the world.

And Jesus is not afraid.

All authority and dominion has been given to Him by His Father.

Jesus holds all the princes and powers of this age in the palm of his hand.

He knows it, and the Devil knows it: “he knows his time is short,” his power is temporary; his defeat is already accomplished; God’s victory is secure.

Following King Jesus, like the great martyrs in former days, we hold on to the faith of our fathers steadfastly, courageously, through times of trial.

We stand strong, like lights in the darkness, to give hope and a good example to those who might falter and fall.

Whatever we may risk, whatever we may lose, we know “it was from Heaven that we received them, and from Jesus we hope to receive them again.”

For Jesus is “faithful; he will strengthen us and guard us from the evil one,” the Devil, whom He conquered once and for all on the Cross.

And even though we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, following our King, we know that on the last day He, the King of Life, will “raise us up to live again forever.”

Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus to encourage and strengthen us with faith in His kingdom and good hope through His grace.

Ask Him to be with us and support us when trials come.

As we receive Jesus today in the Holy Eucharist and choose to follow Him unreservedly, we are united in the Body of Christ with all the saints and martyrs.

We share in their strength, their courage, the full inheritance of the saints.

And when the final trumpet sounds, when the dead are raised and the Lord appears in glory, our joy will be full, and we will be welcomed into their company to share in the victory that lasts forever.

A Different Standard

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 23, 2022. The audio is available here.


You’ve probably seen the meme on Facebook or Instagram.

Under an image of a good-looking guy with big muscles, it says: “Dear men, what is preventing you from looking like this?”

We live under the tyranny of perfection, surrounded by glossy images of people with perfect bodies, perfect résumés, and perfect lifestyles. 

And nowhere more so than on social media.

We all kind of know what we see on Facebook or Instagram isn’t real, but that doesn’t mean we don’t judge ourselves against it.

And so we strive to achieve in ourselves the kind of perfection we see portrayed so convincingly in the movies and on our cell phone screens.

Our culture may have perfected this art, but striving after a false standard is nothing new.

Consider the Pharisees.

The Gospel writers portray them as a group obsessed with perfection.

In their case, much more admirably than our culture’s present obsession with superficial, passing things like beauty, money, success, the Pharisees were preoccupied with the Torah, the law of God.

They were so concerned with keeping the law perfectly that they set up what they called a “fence” around the law, a lot of little laws, so as to avoid not just breaking the commandments, but even coming close to breaking one. 

The problem is that in doing so, they invented a false standard of perfection.

The Pharisee Jesus describes in today’s parable is the epitome of striving after this false standard, and he’s doing pretty well in getting there. 

The Torah prescribed one day of fasting per year on Yom Kippur; this Pharisee fasts twice every week.

The Torah calls for Jews to tithe ten percent of their income to the temple; this Pharisee announces he gives ten percent off everything he has.

And while it’s never wise to make sweeping generalizations, as if all the Pharisees were like this, the deeper problem the Gospel writers point out with this Pharisee is that all his striving has given birth to pride.

Pride is sinful self-preoccupation, becoming fixated on ourselves, what we do, rather than looking outward at each other and upward to God.

This Pharisee was not really talking to God at all; he “spoke this prayer to himself: ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity!’”

As long as he succeeded at keeping the law, and all the little laws they had built up around it, he could feel smug, superior, self-satisfied.

That’s one possible outcome when we live according to a false standard.

But because the standard is utterly wrong, made-up, and nearly impossible to achieve, most of us find our efforts to reach it are in vain.

The more we strive after a false standard of perfection, the more we get burned out, exhausted, and convinced of our own inadequacy.

Yet behind all our striving is the same sinful self-regard: looking at ourselves with sadness and contempt, rather than preening satisfaction, but still looking at ourselves just as much as the Pharisee.

Jesus proposes a different standard … the true standard of perfection.

By his very life, simply being who He Is, and by His words: 

“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Now, He’s God and we’re not; He’s omnipotent—we’re not.

But “God is love,” and we are made in his image, the image and likeness of divine love, and we can strive, by the grace of God, to love as He loves: to love as Jesus loves.

This is the first and the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”

In order to love as Jesus loves, we first have to humble ourselves.

Humility, the opposite of pride, means, not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less.

Humility means accepting the truth that we are sinners, we are deeply broken and flawed, with imperfect bodies and messy lives, failing more than we succeed, and yet … we are made for love.

We don’t need to earn it by striving after some false standard of perfection, as if we’ll finally be loved when we succeed.

Instead, like the publican, we come before God in the truth of who we are and let ourselves be loved … and strive to love God and one another as Jesus loves us.

Today, at this Holy Mass, raise your eyes, lift your gaze, and look at Him in the Holy Eucharist … and let Him look at you with His gaze of love.

As we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner, and grant that I may strive to love you with every breath, with every beat of my heart, and love my neighbor as you love me.” 

As we strive for the perfection of love, forgetting ourselves and our false standards, we find an unexpected peace, joy, and confidence filling our hearts. 

And we who humble ourselves for the sake of love will be exalted, not on Instagram, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 

Never Lift Alone

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 16, 2022. The audio is available here.


Two seminarians were working out in the gym, when one of them noticed his brother was struggling to lift some particularly heavy weights.

He rushed over to help him.

As they finally racked the weights, he laughed and teased him, “Bro, do you even lift?”

His friend fired back, “Bro, I lift my mind and my heart to the living God!”

That’s not a bad definition of prayer: we lift our mind and our heart to God.

We lift up our mind to God as we think about Him in prayer, read His Word in the Scriptures, meditate on His life in the Holy Rosary…

And we lift up our hearts to God as we talk to Him, pour out our feelings to Him in prayer, expose our memories, our fears, our desires to Him … and listen for His response. 

But like the seminarian in the gym, to lift anything up, we need a certain amount of strength.

And we know from experience that our strength is not consistent.

The more we lift, yeah, the stronger we get, but we also get tired.

Even Moses’ hands grew tired!

And so it seems that the Lord asks something virtually impossible of his disciples.

“Pray always without becoming weary” sounds a lot like “lift always, hold your hands up always, without taking a break.”

“Really?”

If we’re thinking of prayer this way, we run the risk of falling into despair, as we try again and again to live up to this impossible demand and continually fail to hit the mark.

But Jesus does not ask the impossible.

When it seems like He does, we need to check our assumptions. 

One mistaken assumption we might have is that prayer is a solo activity.

Like the seminarians in the gym, we never lift alone.

When Moses’ hands grew tired, his friends Aaron and Hur were there with him, at his right and his left, to support him and hold them up.

Likewise, our prayer is never just “me and Jesus.” 

Even when we’re praying in the privacy of our own rooms or somewhere else completely secluded, we are praying in community.

We are praying with friends.

This community of friends is called the Church, which includes all of us here on earth who are disciples of Jesus, all the saints in heaven who were disciples before us, and even those souls in purgatory who have died and are being purified before their final entrance into heaven.

And it’s not just us human beings, either.

The Church also includes the angels: our guardian angels, who are always present with us, watching over us and defending us, and all the choirs of angels in Heaven, continually praising, adoring, and glorifying God.

Therefore, when Jesus says, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also in the midst of them…”

He means whenever we go to pray, there we are, right in the middle of this invisible communion of the Holy Catholic Church, and there He is, the King enthroned in the midst of His court.

Friends, there will be times when we get tired of prayer.

When I was ordained a deacon, I promised to pray 5 times a day, every day.

There are days I don’t want to, days when I’m tired, when my strength is weak, when my mind and heart feel really heavy and hard to lift.

And that’s not only natural—it’s good, because it’s a reminder that none of us is self-sufficient.

We need each other, we need the Church, to live the Christian life, to make it to heaven.

Holy Spirit, I ask you to bring to the mind of each one of us here one friend, one person we can rely on to hold our hands up when they get tired, to support us in prayer when we really need the help … a friend on earth, maybe a saint in heaven.

If nobody comes to mind, ask Jesus to introduce you to one of His friends.

As we receive Holy Communion today, offer your communion for that one friend, giving thanks to God for them, praying for their intentions.

And this week, invite that friend to make a commitment with you to pray for each other … and to reach out to each other when you need the help.

This can be especially hard for us men, but trust me, brothers, we need it, just as much as you need a spotter in the gym.

Your commitment could be as simple as offering a weekly rosary for each other’s intentions, getting together once a week at a coffee shop to read Scripture and pray, or even remembering them, like today, at Holy Mass when you receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

If you want to have good friends, be a good friend.

Pray for your friends when they’re on the Cross, when their arms are aching, and allow their prayer to support you when you are tired and weak.

And Christ, our true friend, who is in our midst, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, will hear and answer our prayers, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Kyrie, Eleison!

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 9, 2022. The audio is available here.


The lepers stood at a distance as Jesus and his disciples passed by.

Though crowds of people from the village came out to meet Jesus on the road, the lepers did not dare to join them.

Too many times, they had heard the sharp words, and felt the sting of rocks thrown by neighbors to keep them away.

So they stood apart, in the shadow of the trees by the side of the road.

But they, too, had heard about Jesus, the healings he had done…

And as the crowd passed by, the lepers looked uncertainly at each other.

Every one of them saw the same thought, the same longing mixed with fear and shame, reflected in the others’ faces.

If they could only get close enough, then maybe, just maybe, Jesus could save them, too.

Like the lepers, sometimes we find ourselves standing at a distance from Jesus.

The fact is that all of us are sick, wounded and broken.

Sin is spiritual disease, and it has left its mark on every one of us.

Whether it’s the festering unforgiveness that divides families and poisons relationships, the secret vice or addiction that slowly consumes us, the subtle pride that isolates us…

Sin spreads through our lives like a cancer.

But unlike leprosy, which is on the skin and visible to everyone, the cancer of sin ravages our invisible souls … and so we can choose to hide it.

As we choose to hide the sick and broken state of our souls, we find ourselves increasingly living a double life, one public version of ourselves that is “Christian,” respectable, and one that is hidden, in the shadows.

We feel constantly guilty, constantly lying, so that no one will see how “messed up” we really are beneath the surface.

And as a result, even our closest relationships become superficial and unsatisfying.

We feel no one really knows us or loves us.

Sometimes, we even hate ourselves … and we believe that God hates us, too.

The lepers felt that hatred, the shame, the isolation, the fear of rejection.

Yet even still, they looked after Jesus with longing as he passed … and at that moment, Jesus turned his head and met one leper’s eyes.

Across the distance that divided them, Jesus and the leper gazed at one another.

And all at once, a cry burst out from the leper’s lips like a pent-up river suddenly breaking through a dam: 

“Jesus—Master!”

And with one voice, the others joined in their cry: “Jesus, Lord! Kyrie, eleison! Lord, have mercy on us!”

Jesus sees us in our brokenness.

And when we cry out to Him in faith to save us, revealing the true condition of our sick and broken souls, Jesus, gazing at us in the truth of who we are with tender love and mercy, says to us what he said to the lepers: “Go show yourselves to the priests.”

As we obey His command, confessing our sins to the priests of the Church, we, too, find ourselves miraculously healed and cleansed, made innocent again like little children, set free from guilt, reconciled with God, at peace with ourselves and others.

In this beautiful sacrament of confession, we reveal our sickness, looking squarely at the sins we have committed and the damage they have done.

We take responsibility for them before God, and we open ourselves up to forgiveness and life in communion with God in the Church.

As we confess our sins, our lives begin to change from the inside out.

We begin to learn the virtue of true patience with ourselves, striving to overcome sin, yet always relying on God’s saving mercy. 

Instead of fearing rejection and avoiding connection, we begin to live in community, seeking out other people who are living honestly, in the truth, and being transformed like us by the grace and mercy of God.

Instead of hypocritical self-righteousness and pride, we begin to act graciously, with mercy, toward other broken people, as Jesus acts with us.

And like the leper, we fall at the feet of Jesus every day in constant gratitude for a God who not only accepts us, sick and broken as we are, but who heals all our diseases and restores us to life.

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we meet the gaze of Jesus in the Eucharistic Host, cry out to Him with faith: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Ask Him for the grace to make a good confession.

This week, take 15 minutes to consider in prayer: what sins have left your soul wounded, sick, in need of a savior?

And commit to come to confession here, next Saturday at 3 PM.

To every repentant sinner who cries out to Him in faith and makes a good confession, Jesus says, “Arise and go; your faith has saved you.”

And on the last day, when he returns in glory to judge the living and the dead, Jesus will find us, like the leper, washed and waiting for the kingdom of God.

Pray Imperfectly

This homily was given at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park, CA on the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7, 2022.


In an obscure convent in France, a young nun worked in the sacristy.

Day in and day out, as the sacred vessels passed through her hands, like the beads on her rosary, each chalice, each paten, became a prayer rising up to Heaven.

The nun was St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

But this great saint, this doctor of prayer, who taught the Church her “little way” of doing small things with great love, struggled with praying the rosary.

Thérèse confesses, in her Story of a Soul, “The recitation of the rosary is more difficult for me than wearing an instrument of penance! I force myself in vain to meditate on the mysteries; I don’t succeed in fixing my mind on them.”

But in her struggle with the rosary, Our Lady taught St. Thérèse a secret.

“For a long time,” says Thérèse, “I was desolate my this lack of devotion, but now I think the Queen of heaven, my MOTHER, must see my good will, and she is satisfied with it.”

Dear friends, the struggle for sanctity, the battle of prayer, is fought and won … in the will. Not the emotions, not external successes, but the choice to love.

At the Annunciation, heaven and earth waited for Mary’s choice, her fiat, the determination of her free will to love God and abandon herself to Him.

Likewise, the “great love” that Thérèse talks about consists, not in pious thoughts or feelings, not in successes, not in doing it all perfectly, but only in the determined choice of our free will to love God and please Him.

At work and in prayer, Thérèse learned to offer everything simply, humbly, to le bon Jésus, and Jesus, her Beloved, was well pleased to accept such offerings, made beautiful and spotless not so much by the labor of her hands, polishing the chalices, as by the determination of her will to love Him in all things.

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive Jesus in the spotless Host, ask Him for that same simplicity of heart, the grace to offer our work and prayer today and every day with determined love, and surrender everything else to Him. 

As we work and pray the way Mary taught St. Thérèse, simply, but with ever more determined love, we shall rejoice in the final victory of love with Our Lady, St. Thérèse, and all the saints, now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Be Uprooted

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 2, 2022. The audio is available here.


At the center of every heart is a secret garden.

And in this garden, two kinds of seeds are planted.

One is the little seed of faith.

This seed of faith is sown in us by God and by his servants in the Church.

On the day of our Holy Baptism, on the day we first heard the Gospel, when our lips first pronounced the holy name of Jesus, when our parents taught us our first simple prayers, the seeds of faith were planted in the garden of our hearts.

These seeds of faith, like little mustard seeds, start out very small, and they require care and attention to grow.

As we cultivate the seeds of faith by believing in Jesus, cooperating with God’s grace, coming to Mass, studying the Scriptures, praying daily…

Then in time, the littlest seeds of faith become an enormous, sturdy tree and bear the sweetest of all fruit: eternal life in Heaven.

The other kind of seed is planted in our hearts by the Father of Lies.

The seeds he plants are lies and false judgments: about ourselves, about others, about the world, about God.

And make no mistake: our Enemy is clever.

He prowls around the edges of our hearts, always on the lookout for those places in the garden that have been ploughed up by a storm, by trauma, by loss, where the soil is exposed, turned over, and everything’s a mess.

There, he comes like a thief in the night, in the dark, silently sowing seeds of division and destruction among the Lord’s good seeds of grace.

These seeds start small, too, easy to miss … because they seem true.

The parents of a little girl divorced, leaving her in the custody of her mother.

The loss of her father left a deep wound in the soil of the young girl’s heart. 

The Devil is there at once to sow the seeds of division and destruction:

“Your dad doesn’t really care about you.”

“He left because you weren’t good enough.”

“He never loved you.”

Since these lies seem true, she believes them, and they put down deep roots in her heart and spring up quickly into a thicket of lies and false judgments:

“Men are selfish.”

“I’m no good; I’ll never be any good.”

“Nobody will ever love me.”

Before we know it, the enemy’s planting can overtake the garden, dividing us from one another in our closest relationships, destroying our happiness and peace, and choking out the little seeds of faith.

Because if nobody will ever love me … I certainly don’t believe God will.

And this is the ultimate goal of the enemy of our human nature: not just to keep us miserable and alone, but to separate us from God for all eternity.

The lies of the Devil’s planting, if left unchecked, will in time bear the bitter fruit of eternal death in Hell.

But knowing the Devil’s strategy, we can be attentive gardeners of our hearts.

Jesus says, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Every one of us here has that little seed of faith already planted in our hearts. And in the name of Jesus Christ, we have the power to renounce and uprootthe mulberry trees, the lies and false judgments planted by the Devil.

We need only choose to believe in Jesus Christ and in the truth He reveals.

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, say to Him in your hearts, “Jesus, I believe in you; increase my faith.”

And this week, ask Him, through the Holy Spirit, to call our attention to the lies and false judgments we have believed.

As we notice them, simply pray, “In the name of Jesus, I renounce the lie that I’m no good, that I’m not loved; I renounce the judgment that men are bad, that God is not trustworthy…”  Whatever they may be. “Jesus, cast them into the depths of the sea and let them not return here again.”

Then ask Jesus to reveal His love and truth in place of the lies.

And pray, “I believe the truth that I am good, that I am beloved…”

“Jesus, I love you; I believe in you; I trust in you.”

As we do this habitually, through the week, we not only root up the Devil’s lies, but we strengthen and cultivate the seeds of faith.

As faith increases in us, and lies and falsehoods decrease and disappear, we have more peace, more joy, deeper connections, stronger love…

We grow in humility, as we see that what was impossible for us to change by our own strength, the lies and falsehoods that tormented us, are healed by faith in Jesus…

We serve Jesus well as attentive gardeners of His precious garden of grace at the center of our hearts…

We feed Him the food He desires most, the spiritual food of trust…

And on the last day, Jesus shall feed us with the everlasting rewards of Heaven, in the Kingdom of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

A Little Scrap of Love

This homily was given at Mater Dolorosa Parish, South San Francisco, CA on the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 25, 2022. The audio is available here.


One day, in San Francisco, a young man got on a bus to the Golden Gate Bridge.

His name was Kevin, and he was in tears.

That day, he planned to take his own life.

But he looked into the faces of the different strangers he encountered along the way, hoping someone, anyone, would ask him what was wrong.

Every day, we face a hundred choices, just like the passengers on that bus.

A word from someone in passing makes me think they might be in pain, but trying to hide it: Do I ask them how they’re really doing, or keep silent?

There’s a man at the gate of the church parking lot with a sign, begging for food: Do I dare to stop and go to him, or avert my eyes and drive on?

Resentment and anger have simmered for weeks between me and a loved one: will I be the first to breach the silence, not with insults and accusations, but with vulnerability, forgiveness, and love?

Or will I wait in stubbornness and pride for the other one to come to me?

The opposite of love is not hatred…

It’s indifference.

Indifference binds us up, keeping us silent when we should speak.

To speak up, to reach out, to go to the person in need feels like a risk.

The conversation might be uncomfortable.

I don’t know what it might demand of me.

And after all, I can’t fix all their problems.

Better not to ask, better not to know, better not to get involved…

As we choose indifference, our hearts harden and become numb.

What astonishing indifference kept the rich man from offering even his scraps to poor Lazarus, lying sick and senseless at his very door!

How many years of indifference it must have taken to anesthetize him to such a degree that he could step over Lazarus’s prone and wounded body every night and go in to feast!

And that very same indifference, Abraham suggests, would keep the rich man’s brothers from repenting, even if they saw a miracle in their midst.

When he sees us wounded and suffering, Jesus is not afraid or indifferent.

He comes down from Heaven to heal us, His mercy attracted by our misery.

Love impels Jesus to come to our assistance, that love that drove Him all the way to the Cross and raised Him up again from the depths of death!

It is His love alone that heals, that saves … saving us even from our own indifference, shaking us out of the numbness of our hearts with the shock of being loved that much, to the last breath, the last drop of blood!

As we are healed by His extravagant love, Jesus asks us to go and do likewise, taking a risk to care for others as He cares for us: lavishly, recklessly, without counting the cost.

Love waits for us in those little moments when we can choose to take a risk … love which has the power to change lives and echoes in eternity.

Jesus, the One who ministers to us with love and tender mercy, waits for us in the distressing disguise of the poor, the suffering, the hungry, the heavy-hearted, the world-weary, the heartbroken and despairing. 

He allows us to minister to Him, to repay His love with love of our own.

For he promises, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Dear friends, we cannot overcome the habitual indifference of our hearts on our own.

We need a Savior.

We must receive the love of Jesus before we can share it with those out there who need it most.

As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta told one young priest, “Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”

On the bus that day, no one asked Kevin how he was doing.

He jumped … but miraculously, he survived the fall.

In the hospital, he was visited by a Franciscan friar, who suggested he share his story with others who might be struggling.

Now, Kevin travels the country as a mental health advocate, reminding people that a smile, a question, a little scrap of kindness can save a life.

And Kevin, a Catholic, prays daily, “Jesus, Jesus, come to me.”

Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus to come and pour out that love into our hearts which has the power to shatter strongholds, to break the bonds of fear and indifference, and set us free to love others as He loves us.

We can always find reasons not to speak up, not to reach out, not to go to the person in need.

But as we take the risk to love as we have been loved, we encounter love.

We find that our hearts come alive, and our lives, and theirs, are changed. 

We may not see the impact, but where love is, healing is constantly occurring.

And on the last day, we will hear the voice of our King say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”