At the end of every Roman Catholic liturgy there is an invitation given to the people to receive a blessing. That invitation is worded this way: “Bow your heads and pray for God’s blessing.” The idea behind that, obviously, is that a blessing can only truly be received in reverence, in humility, with head bowed, with pride and arrogance subjugated and silent.

Most of us lack the self-confidence for greatness

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We all have our own images of greatness as these pertain to virtue and saintliness. We picture, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi kissing a leper; Mother Teresa publicly hugging a dying beggar; John Paul II standing before a crowd of millions and telling them how much he loves them; Therese of Lisieux telling a fellow community member who has been deliberately cruel to her how much she loves her; even the iconic Veronica, in the crucifixion scene, who amidst all the fear and brutality of the crucifixion rushes forward and wipes the face of Jesus.

Open and shut case for mercy

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In our city, and throughout the world during this Year of Mercy, several churches have Holy Doors. They’re pilgrimage sites, just like the one at St. Peter’s in Rome, only much closer.

Tectonic change around sex in our culture

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No generation in history, I suspect, has ever experienced as much change as we have experienced in the past 60 years. That change is not just in the areas of science, technology, medicine, travel and communications, it is especially in the area of our social infrastructure, of our communal ethos. And perhaps nowhere is this change more radical than in how we understand sex. In the past 70 years we have witnessed three major, tectonic shifts in how we understand the place of sex in our lives.

God does the extraordinary through the most ordinary people

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Feb. 7 (Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11)

How would we react if we suddenly found ourselves out of our element and where we had no right to be? Fear, embarrassment and a sense of vulnerability all come to mind — and Isaiah experienced them all. No one could be in God’s presence and live to tell the tale — and there Isaiah was, in the midst of the heavenly court. This was a vision, not an actual physical journey, but no less powerful and frightening.

Forever being ahead of our souls

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Sometimes nothing is as helpful as a good metaphor.

In his book The God Instinct, Tom Stella shares this story: A number of men who made their living as porters were hired one day to carry a huge load of supplies for a group on safari. Their loads were unusually heavy and the trek through the jungle was on a rough path. Several days into the journey they stopped, unshouldered their loads and refused to go on. No pleas, bribes or threats worked in terms of persuading them to go on. Asked why they couldn’t continue, they answered: “We can’t go on; we have to wait for our souls to catch up with us.”

Success can’t be measured while on Earth

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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Jan. 31 (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19; Psalm 71; 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13; Luke 4:21-30)

The prophetic call from God made brave men quake. Most of them knew exactly what it could mean — hardship, rejection, persecution, failure and even death.

Don’t waste time rehashing the past

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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Jan. 24 (Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)

The moment of true conversion of heart and mind should always be an occasion of rejoicing. Often people look back on their errant journey with shame and despondency, wasting a lot of time and energy on self-condemnation.

Only in the silence of our soul

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Belgian spiritual writer Bieke Vandekerckhove comes by her wisdom honestly. She didn’t learn what she shares from a book or even primarily from the good example of others. She learned what she shares through the crucible of a unique suffering, being hit at the tender age of 19 with a terminal disease that promised not just an early death but also a complete breakdown and humiliation of her body enroute to that death.

United as God’s chosen

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For the past 50 years, beginning with the 1965 Vatican II decree Nostra aetate, Catholic-Jewish dialogue has steadily improved to the point that today the relationship between Catholics and Jews has never been stronger.

God’s love is unceasing; we could do likewise

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Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Jan. 17 (Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 96; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; John 2:1-12)

Not everyone is forgiving or patient in the face of human failure. There is often a tendency to write someone off or dismiss their plight as their own fault. There can even be a smug sense of satisfaction when the “victim” is a prominent figure, especially if there are aspects of that person we do not like.