You Shall Not Taste Death

This homily was given at Our Lady, Queen of Peace Parish, Salem, OR on the Eighteenth Friday in Ordinary Time, August 5, 2022.


It was a woman in a garden who first tasted death.

The serpent promised her life: if she would only take and eat that one fruit that God had forbidden, she would become like God and enjoy the fullness of life without end.

But when she bit into that fruit, she tasted the bitterness of death.

And we, poor, banished children of Eve, know that taste all too well.

Death, in this world, comes wrapped in the trappings of life.

The serpent whispers, “If you want to live to the full, seize life for yourself.”

“Come on. Grab on to what you can get: this relationship, that vacation time, this new car, that big project at work…”

But the serpent is a liar.

And all our attempts to procure life for ourselves turn to dust and ashes in our mouth, and only leave us feeling emptier than before.

Life, true, everlasting life, comes to us in disguise … as death.

Jesus’ life was a constant death, from the wood of the manger to the cross.

Rather than grasping, He poured Himself out, giving Himself away out of love, reckless of the cost, to his last breath, to his last drop of blood.

And He, whose battered, broken body would have been death’s greatest prize … rose from the tomb, the conqueror of death.

The dark kingdom could not contain such abundant life, any more than a shadow can swallow up the sun. 

Today, at this Holy Mass, as we receive the Body of Jesus, the Bread of Life, ask Him to share with us the secret of that life, of giving ourselves away.

As we follow Jesus in His way of living by dying, we no longer taste the bitter taste of death, but the sweetness of life without end. 

The Seed that is Scattered

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Seventeenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, July 26, 2022. The audio is available here.


It takes time for a seed to grow, to mature.

When the plant grows tall and strong, it bears seeds of its own.

And the wind, without disturbing the plant, scatters its seed far and wide.

What began as a single seed, multiplies and fills the field with beauty and life.

The seed is the word of God, the truth and the beauty of our faith, which, at the end of a lifetime of growth, bears its sweetest fruit: eternal life.

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

And in time, the seed of faith reaches maturity and bears seeds of its own.

The wind, which is the Holy Spirit, gathers up the seeds of our faith and scatters them throughout the field, the whole world, planting new seedlings of the faith in hearts near and far.

You who have children and grandchildren of your own have a very special role to play in this ecosystem of grace.

Like Saints Joachim and Anna, you must take care to nurture your own faith to full maturity, so as to bear abundant seed for the Holy Spirit to scatter in the hearts of your own families.

Our Lady learned to love God and give everything joyfully to Him from the teaching and example of her holy parents.

And the boy Jesus received from them, too, the gift of their faith: in their words, their prayers together, their whole manner of life.

Their faith was not perfect, maybe.

But it was mature, secure and solid.

Today, at this Holy Mass, ask the Lord to increase our faith to full maturity, so that we may bear seeds, and that the seeds may take root and produce fruit in the lives of our families, for the growth of the Kingdom of God.

Crying in the Dishwater

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 24, 2022. The audio is available here.


A husband comes home one night to find his wife there in the kitchen.

She’s turned away from him, washing up the dishes.

As he comes closer for a kiss, he’s startled to see her crying in the dishwater.  

“Honey, what’s wrong?” 

“Nothing,” she cries, wiping away the tears with the back of her hand. “I’m fine.”

Sometimes, we all put on a false front.

Like an actor wearing a mask, we cover our own struggles, our fears, and our longings with a carefully constructed image of respectability.

Over many years, we learn the difficult art of maintaining this image, keeping the mask in place no matter what.

We learn early on that if we allow it to slip, and someone glimpses the truth beneath the mask—that we are weak, and scared, and wounded—more than likely, they’re just going to hurt us even more.

Our fear, founded on experience, of being rejected, being misunderstood, being taken advantage of or abused, as well as the shame of being told “that’s not a big deal,” “get over it,” all keep the mask firmly in place.

And like the wife, crying in the dishwater, when our hearts are broken and everything in life seems to be going wrong, we find ourselves saying the world’s most common lie: “I’m fine.” 

But deep down, we long to be known in the truth of who we are.

We sense that we are made for it: for love, for communion.

The more we hide, the stronger grows that ache in the heart.

Back in the kitchen, the husband gently turns off the faucet and puts his arm around his wife.

Without saying a word, he leans in, resting his head against hers.

And he whispers: “I love you. I’m here.”

She falls apart, sobbing uncontrollably.

At last, the mask has fallen off.

And as he holds her, and she gradually runs out of tears, she begins to tell him the whole story.

Like the husband, God is near us when we are broken-hearted.

He is not fooled by our false fronts.

He knows our deepest longings and struggles, the pain of our hearts that we strive to keep hidden, as well as our often-sinful attempts to deal with it.

God had no need to go down to Sodom to learn about their sins; he only goes to teach Abraham a lesson, not to prejudge others before seeing the evidence himself.

But God, who knows our hearts, also will not force us to take off our masks.

Instead, like the husband, he abides with us, covering us with his love, and waiting patiently for us to tell him ourselves.

Because what matters most is not the particular problem of the day…

It’s that we trust him enough to tell him about that problem and let him help. 

Vulnerability, the choice to set our masks aside and reveal our hearts to another,sets us free from the self-made prison of shame and fear.

In fact, trust and vulnerability are the essential foundation of any close relationship, whether between spouses in a marriage, close friends, or the spiritual life between God and man.

And where trust is lacking or difficult, the choice on our part to risk vulnerability is what begins to build it up.

Today, at this Holy Mass, dare to be vulnerable.

Dare to ask for what you really need from God.

As we pray the Eucharistic Prayer, lift up your hearts to the Father along with the bread on the altar, which is first broken and then transformed. 

As we pray the Our Father, asking him to “give us our daily bread,” ask him in your hearts for what you most deeply long for.

The conversion of a family member.

The healing of a loved one.

Or maybe just to feel His love for you.

Whatever you may need.

And as we receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, who makes Himself our true “daily bread,” trust in the Father, who gave us His Only Son, to give us everything else we need along with Him.

As we pray boldly, with trust and vulnerability, we begin to learn the truth:

That our Father is trustworthy.  

That He gives us what we need.

That “everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

And on the last day, as the doors of Heaven open to receive us, we shall enter into that communion of love, of which this life is only a foretaste and a preparation, with our faces unmasked and our hearts wide open, to know Our God as we have been known by Him, and to love as we have been loved, by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now and forever, world without end. 

How to Achieve the Goal

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Sixteenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, July 19, 2022. The audio is available here.


I try to start every day with 3 priorities I plan to accomplish.

“Write this homily; make that phone call; pick up the groceries.”

It’s good and prudent to plan ahead.

But every day also brings unexpected demands.

The knock at the door, the urgent message, that thing that only you can fix…

The little things can build up and get in the way of achieving our goals.

When that happens, we might get frustrated with these surprise interruptions.

Many of us have a “performance mentality,” an inner voice which says:

 “I’m OK, I’m valuable, only if I’m productive, if I perform well.”

But that voice is not the voice of the Father.

And our single-minded striving to achieve our goals, even good ones, can be an ultimately selfish pursuit, more about “feeling OK” than serving God.

Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will do my Father’s will.”

And our Father’s will includes the “interruptions” He places in our path.

Today, as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, ask Him to teach us the secret of doing our Father’s will in all things, putting our own priorities on the back burner in favor of the Father’s often unexpected preferences.

“If you have God as the center of all your actions, then you will achieve the goal,” the one thing necessary above all other priorities: the will of God.

As we respond generously to God’s interruptions, we find our peace of soul, our confidence and effectiveness are greater than ever, because our identity no longer depends on what we do, but on who He says we are.

“Whoever does my Father’s will is my brother, my sister, and our Father will love you, and we will come to you and remain with you.” 

The One Thing He’s After

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Fifteenth Tuesday in Ordinary Time, July 12, 2022. The audio is available here.


Everywhere He went, in everything He did, the Lord was after one thing.

Faith.

Another word for faith is trust: trusting that Jesus is who he says is, the Son of God, and trusting in Him to save us from our sins. 

All His healings and miracles were intended to inspire a response of faith.

Today, Jesus grieves over the many people of his own nation who have seen Him and known Him … and still do not believe.

It’s true that faith is a gift of God.

Believing is possible only by grace and the interior help of the Holy Spirit.

But those who are given this gift still have a choice.

To believe, or not.

To trust Him … or not.

We who have received the Lord, who have seen His mighty deeds and heard His words of power, have been given the gift of faith.

Every day, we are witnesses to the greatest of miracles here on this altar!

He comes even closer to us than the people of Capharnaum and Bethsaida.

They received Him into their homes; we receive Him into our bodies.

Today, as we receive Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, make an act of faith in Him, in His presence and His power to save.

Ask Him to help our unbelief and increase our faith.

As our faith grows firm, we will find that we have the strength to stand firm.

We remain calm, courageous, unshaken, whatever trials may come.

And on the day of judgment, our Lord will not say, “Woe to you, Ashland,” but “Blessed are you, for you have loved me and kept my words.”

The Wound in the Heart

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 10, 2022. The audio is available here.


Sometimes, the most painful wounds leave no mark on the body.

Take this man, for example, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

They beat him up, stripped him, robbed him blind, and left him for dead by the side of the road.

But as he lay there in the dirt, drifting in and out of consciousness, exposed, helpless…

He was aware of strangers passing by, one by one.

He heard their footsteps as they went about their business.

One after another, going up to Jerusalem.

They might have looked at him curiously.

The pious surely said a prayer for him or offered a berakah, a Jewish blessing.

But not one stopped to help.

The opposite of love is not hatred…

It’s indifference.

And no beating or cut from a sword can cut so deeply as the wound in the heart: the conviction … that no one cares.

Faced with the indifference of others toward our suffering, some of us choose to toughen up, make ourselves self-reliant.

We pick ourselves up, stagger onward, and learn never to be taken advantage of that way again.

Sooner or later, the bruises heal and the cuts turn into scars.

But the wound in the heart remains.

We take care never to be in need, because we know we can’t trust anyone else to be there for us when it counts.

One day, we pass by someone else lying half-dead on the side of the road.

And though we feel a stirring of mercy, our habits of self-protection have become too deeply embedded.

The walls around our hearts have become too strong.

“If I try and help him, I could get hurt.”

“What will people think of me?”

“I don’t have time.”

“I can’t afford it.” 

“Let him pull himself up by his bootstraps.”

“Nobody ever helped me.”

Friends, I have been that man by the side of the road.

And I have been the man who passes by.

The Church Fathers say that man is Adam.

He’s all of us.

Wounded by sin and the casual cruelty of others, and powerless to overcome our own hardness of heart.

But there is one who cares enough about suffering to do something about it.

As Jesus sees a man suffering and alone, abandoned on life’s journey, he does not pass by on the other side of the road.

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

And if we allow Him to approach, Jesus lovingly washes and bandages our wounds.

Then, like the Good Samaritan, he brings us to an inn and pays well for our stay, saying to the innkeeper: “Take care of him, my beloved one.”

That inn is the Church.

We are here because Jesus has rescued us and brought us here.

Now, as we are healed by His mercy, Jesus asks us to take care of others.

We who call this inn our home are to become innkeepers ourselves.

Jesus brings us His beloved poor, the sick, the suffering, the depressed, the abandoned.

It might be a family member with cancer.

It might be a friend struggling with depression, or a stranger on the street.

Every person who comes into our lives is our neighbor, and Jesus, the Good Samaritan, entrusts them to our care.

Today, at this Holy Mass, ask Jesus for the grace to be good neighbors.

We are good neighbors when we dare to approach someone in need, putting to death our habits of self-protection and reaching out to them.

We are good neighbors when we pay a visit or make a phone call to a suffering friend and really listen, giving them our loving care and attention, and doing what we can to provide for their needs.

As we receive the Body of Christ, the sacrament of love, we pray to love others as we have been loved by Him.

For it is by loving that we repay the gift of love, which heals our wounds.

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

And on the last day, when the dead are raised, and death and illness and suffering are no more, we shall hear Him say:

“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Take With You Words

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the Fourteenth Friday in Ordinary Time, July 8, 2022. The audio is available here.


They say that actions speak louder than words.

But when Hosea calls Israel to repentance, he says, “Take with you words, and return to the Lord.”

The words we use are important.

A husband might send his wife flowers, but if he doesn’t apologize and admit he was wrong, the pretty bouquet is going straight to the compost heap!

The Lord calls us to return to him often with our words in prayer.

And as in any relationship, our prayer begins with the formulas of love.

“Good morning. Hello. How are you? I love you.”

With God, the formulas are “Our Father,” “Hail Mary,” “Glory Be…”

Formulas allow us to make a connection with people.

If you can’t do anything else, you can always repeat the formulas.

But prayer is meant to progress beyond these formulas into conversation.

You and God begin to speak together in your own words, face to face.

Then there is the realm of sighs, tears, and groans, where conversation give way to the deep things of the heart that words cannot express.

And after many years, there’s not a lot left to say. 

It’s enough just to be in the presence of the beloved.

So at last, even sighs and tears give way to silence, and prayer becomes constant communion, a partnership of peace and love.

Now, let us each return to the Lord with the words of our hearts.

If you don’t know what to say, ask the Holy Spirit, who “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for speech,” to “give you what you are to say.” 

Come, Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, and teach us how to pray.

Now is the Time

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the memorial of St. Maria Goretti, July 6, 2022. The audio is available here.


There is one vice students know better than most.

Procrastination.

“If it’s due tomorrow … I’ll do it tomorrow.” 

As an undergrad, I wrote the last 20 pages of my capstone project in a marathon all-nighter, the night before it was due. 

But it’s not just students who fall into this trap.

All of us can be tempted to leave off something difficult for another day.

“I’ll start that diet after my birthday.”

“I’ll forgive that person who insulted me when I’m good and ready.”

The problem with procrastination is that what we can postpone one day, we can usually put off for another, and another … and another.

But there does come a last day … a due date for us all.

Jesus Christ has come to seek the lost, to heal us and call us to conversion.

Our whole life on earth, from our first day to our last breath, is our response to that call.

And every day, we choose again, either to follow Him—or another master.

Now it is time to seek the Lord—not tomorrow.

For “the kingdom of heaven is at hand: repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Today, commit to making a good confession this Saturday.

There will be confessions in Medford at 3:30 or Central Point at 4:00.

Now, in a moment of silence, we open our hearts to Jesus and examine our consciences, saying: “Lord, send your Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds and grant me knowledge of all my sins. Bring forth into the light everything you desire to heal and forgive.”

He’s In the Boat

This homily was given at Our Lady of the Mountain Parish, Ashland, OR on the memorial of St. Irenaeus, June 28, 2022. The audio is available here.


The worst thing was how suddenly the storm came upon them.

They had set out from Galilee on a fine morning amid cheering crowds.

Now, mere hours later, they are perishing amid howling wind and waves.

On Sunday, we heard one wannabe disciple boldly exclaim: “Rabbi, I will follow you wherever you go!”

“Yes … but will you follow me into deep waters in this rickety little boat?”

Every disciple of Christ since has gone through the same test.

No sooner do we place our trust in God and go out upon the waters than our faith is tested by a sudden storm.

We feel out of control and panic, while Jesus sleeps unconcerned!

The storm is not only a test of our faith, exposing how tenuous it really is.

Jesus exposes our deepest fears, our lack of faith, not to rebuke us for failing to measure up to some standard, but in order to redeem them.

The Divine Savior is redeeming his disciples’ fear by making His unshakeable peace as God present, in the same boat, as our frantic despair.

The depths of human fear itself are summoned up in order to transform them, in the encounter with His peaceful presence, into heartfelt, confident trust: “Jesus, save us!”

In every storm, Jesus is the one in control.

He is not anxious; He is at rest.

Today, at this Holy Mass, we place our trust in Him whom even the winds and sea obey, present to us now under the appearance of bread and wine.

He sleeps here in the tabernacle, taking his rest in the midst of our distress.

And his rest is a daring invitation to us: trust in Him, and be amazed. 

Self-Gift or Selfish

This homily was given at St. Mary’s Parish, Eugene, OR on the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 26, 2022. The audio is available here.


“My body, my choice!”

It’s true, you know.

These are two of God’s greatest gifts to us: that we each have a body, and we each have the freedom to choose what we do with it.

The body is a kind of sacrament of the person.

In and through our bodies, we express the truth of who we are, what we think and believe and feel and choose.

We speak, we listen, we bless, we hug – we care for one another – in and throughour bodies.

But in and through our bodies, we also choose to curse, to wound, to turn a blind eye or a cold shoulder.

Behind all the choices we make daily, in and through our bodies, is ultimately one choice: 

Self-gift, or selfish? 

Now, it’s only natural to be selfish. 

Self-gift is uncomfortable.

When a friend isn’t acting like himself, do we take the time to ask him how he’s doing, and really listen to the answer?

Or do we cut the awkward conversation short?

When that annoying neighbor comes knocking at the door for help after a long day at work, do we answer, or duck under the couch and pretend we’re not home?

And when a surprise comes along—a person in need, an unplanned pregnancy—that derails our carefully scripted plans, do we respond with generosity?

Or do we turn away, preferring our preexisting projects and preoccupations to the inconvenient need of the person in front of us?

St. Paul puts the choice starkly in today’s second reading:

Do I choose to serve others in love, and so glorify God in my body? 

Or do I gratify the desires of the flesh, and put my body to shameful use? 

What we do with our bodies, after all, is really a question of life and death.

The daily decisions we make in this world—self-gift, or selfish—shape our eternal destiny.

If we choose selfishness, over time, we become more and more selfish, curved in on ourselves, hard-hearted, bitter, angry … and unsatisfied.

We become the kind of people, in the end, who are not fit for the kingdom of God, because the currency of that kingdom is love, and our hearts are bankrupt and barren.

But this, dear friends, this is the freedom for which Christ set us free.

Freedom in Christ means we are set free from the natural inclination of our bodies and spirits toward selfish self-preservation, in order to choose freely to give ourselves away in love, as Jesus does.

On the cross, Jesus gave us everything, holding nothing back for himself.

There was not an ounce of selfishness in Him.

He was pure self-gift, to his last breath, to his last drop of blood.

On the night before he died, he faced for the last time that one choice that all of us face every day: self-gift, or selfish.

How did he choose?

“Take this, all of you, and eat of it; this is my body, which is given for you.”

His body given for us, His blood and water poured out for us, His love on the cross, invites a whole-hearted response from us: a gift of self in return, holding nothing back.

And His Spirit in us is like a sword, cutting us free from the downward trajectory of the selfishness of our flesh and setting us free to choose whole-heartedly the glorious way that leads to life.

Today, at this Holy Mass, we commit once again to the way of self-gift.

As we receive the Body of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist, we offer our bodies, our lives, everything we have and everything we are to Him in return as a gift of love.

And as we choose to give ourselves away in love, in daily, little ways, we glorify God in our bodies and become like Him whom we have received.

We begin to taste that peace the world cannot give, because the world does know the secret of peace.

Peace of heart cannot be purchased at any price.

It comes like the dew or manna from heaven only when we are emptied out from loving and giving ourselves away.

On the last day, when we who have chosen self-gift and followed Our Lord on the path to life enter at last into His kingdom, we will delight in the fullness of peace and joys in His presence, and delights at His right hand forever.