Thursday, May 28, 2020

Pentecost from a father’s perspective

And when he had said this, 
he breathed on them and said to them, 
Receive the holy Spirit.  
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, 
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
John 20:22-23

Over these past week’s I’ve been keeping my finger on the pulse of my 21 year old daughter.  Like each of us during this pandemic, she experiences ups and downs on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Like many of her peers in the Class of 2020, she feels the frustration and futility that are inextricably bound to the joy of theri personal achievements.  

Alessandra did it right.  Graduating on time from a 3 ½ year program.  Renting an apartment in the city.  Obtaining her first two jobs in her field of stage management.  Now quarantined with her mom and sister in New Jersey she patiently listens to fatherly advice which is more often than not deep and philosophical.  Lucky for me, my daughter has turned into a thoughtful and sensitive young woman.

So what does this have to do with this week’s gospel?   Let’s take a look.  

It’s the night of the resurrection and Jesus finds the disciples afraid and locked in the upper room. 

[Jesus] said to them again, 
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
* And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 
““Receive the holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, 
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

When they receive the Holy Spirit apostles go from being 12 scared men locked in a room….. to…... well…...being the APOSTLES.  

What causes this transformation?  (You may want to take a second and reread above.)

I see it as the Holy Spirit giving the Apostles the ability to forgive.   This gift released them from feelings of fear and failure and gave them the ability to boldly move forward.  

The Spirit offers you and me the gift of forgiveness.  A gift  to change how we interpret the events of our lives and to reimagine our future.  

What a wonderful gift.  Exactly what this father wants to give his daughter for her college graduation.

Come, Holy Spirit,


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Ascension 2020


Of what use is the Bible?

We hear it in church.  We see it in posts on the internet.  There are snippets of it in our conversations, books and films.  Some base predictions on it’s words and numbers.  Some use individual verses to justify their actions. “An eye for an eye, it’s in the bible.”  BTW This logic is flawed.  See my blog of February 20th Turn the Other Cheek?

How do YOU apply the Word of God to “real life”?

A long time ago, I was advised to never ask a question I was unwilling to answer myself.  So….The bible helps me to better know the God who created me, saved me and reaches out to me in countless ways.   I attempt to apply this knowledge my daily decisions.  

I share it as first as a fellow traveler and second as a church musician in two principle ways:

  • A 12-15 video called Ready 2 Receive is what I’ve learned about the day’s scripture based on years of study and recent research. It Livestreams on the St. Mary's RC Church Nutley Facebook on Thursdays at 7 p.m. but you can view it anytime.

In the account of Jesus’ Ascension, Luke writes the following:

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?       Acts 1:10-11a

Why were the apostles standing there looking at the sky?  Maybe it’s because they were stunned.  Maybe it’s because their spirits were moving in the exact opposite direction as Jesus.  

Decide for yourself.  

Jesus rises from the dead and enters the locked room where they are hiding.  He touches them. Talks with them. Eats with them.  They go out and in His name are preaching, converting and healing.  And now he’s leaving?  

If I were them, I’d be singing the line from that Sinatra tune: “Riding high in April.  Shot down in May.”  

Can you think of any parallels for yourself in this year which among its promises were to be the year of perfect vision?

Blest to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Saturday, May 16, 2020

I wlil not leave you orph...s

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.John 14:18

I am not trying to be insensitive, particularly to children whose parents have died.  But for me, the word “orphan” carries a strong and counterproductive meaning. 

In order to reflect on what Jesus is saying in this Sunday’s gospel, I need to put aside this word.  Instead, I will focus on what it means to be without the physical, emotional and financial support of parents.  But it’s even more than this.  Perhaps the following example will help.  
My grandmother died when my mother was 60.  Here’s how mom described her feelings:
“Despite the roles being reversed and my having taken care of Grandma for many years,
her death leaves me feeling alone, cut off, and vulnerable.” 

Being alone, cut off and vulnerable is a good way to describe how the apostles felt when Jesus gsaid he was leaving.  To be honest, I’ve visited these places and the nearby “abandoned” a few times over the past 9 weeks.  Hi b
Bow about you?

“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you.”       John 14:26
Jesus knows our hearts.  He has sent the Advocate.  He calls us to advocate for others.  Here are 2 examples of people whom I admire and that you might know:
  1. Megan Armando is a lawyer who serves as a law guardian for the public defender's office.  Megan protects children.  Some of these children are literally orphans and some are alone, cut off and vulnerable for other reasons.  
Note: Often called “advocates” lawyers literally argue and plead for their clients. 
  1. Tish Palumbo is a visiting nurse who advocates for her clients. She fights for their needs with an intensity she would never use to have her own needs met.  Tish will argue their cause with ANYONE keeping them from the BEST care possible. This includes but is not limited to: supervisors, insurance companies, doctors, and those who are too lazy to give the patient their full effort.  
We all need to have…... and to be…... an advocate.  Come Holy Spirit.
At a distance but feeling closer than ever,

Saturday, May 9, 2020

What inning is tis?

“It ain’t over, till the fat lady sings.”
                     Yogi Berra

Some of my interests lie in the fields of business, finance and economics.  Experts in these fields are often asked a simple but important question:  “What inning is this?”    Knowing this is as critical to success in the game of Wall Street as it is to winning the World Series.  

What inning is this?  It is a question we’ve all been asking for the past seven weeks.

This Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles continues to chronicle our church’s first innings.  There is exponential growth; so much so, the community experiences growing pains.  

In the second reading Peter challenges the Church to come to Christ a “living stone” making Him the cornerstone.  This image of a cornerstone comes from the writings of Isaiah more than 700 years before the birth of Christ.  

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD:
See, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a stone that has been tested,
A precious cornerstone as a sure foundation;
whoever puts faith in it will not waver.
Isaiah 28:16

By laying down his life Christ laid the cornerstone of His Church.

As our church emerges from the tomb of quarantine we are faced with an important question:   What inning is this?

Is it the ninth inning?  If it is, then perhaps we should play it safe.  We can create a game-plan to avoid loss.  We can sure up the defense and sit our home run hitters on the bench.  Is this faith?  Would this approach reflect a Christ that is a living stone?  Or should we play like it’s opening day; a church where hope springs eternal.     

Shouldn’t a church formed by resurrection look and act differently than one that has simply been resuscitated? 

My personal response can be summed up by the words of Cosmo Kramer:  “In my mind, I’m already there.”

So what about it?  Shall we recreate a past that no longer exists?  Or can we envision a church of the future - God’s future.  

I conclude with a quote, a question and my Email address.

“In the rush to return to normal, 
use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”  
Dave Hollis

Question:  What would St. Mary’s look like if we re-emerged in the early innings?


Awaiting your thoughts,


Thank you to all deacons, particularly our Deacon Ron Ronacher and soon-to-be deacon Carl Lordi for continuing the work of the seven sent in today’s first reading.


A Happy Mothers day to all who have nurtured us and prayers for those Mothers who are in the place God prepared for them.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

The Lord Is My Shepherd

I came that they might have life
and have it more abundantly.
                                                   John 10:10
Close your eyes and imagine a shepherd.  For me, it is a man, or maybe a teenage boy.  He carries a walking stick.  A herd of sheep follow behind.  A dog races to and fro.  His barks; demanding that wanderers return to the safety group.

Although I saw a shepherd once in real life, the image I just shared is based on a lesson I learned in elementary school religion class.  

The lesson was simple:  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

The gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter provides the text for this lesson.  One might say it is the original lesson, taught by the Good Shepherd himself.  

What do you remember of the story?  What do you remember of the lesson?

My strongest memory is that the sheep follow the Shepherd because they recognize his voice.  

The lesson has helped me throughout my life.  It reminds me to seek out the voice of Jesus.  It has helped me direct and more often redirect my life.  

When I reread today’s gospel, I came across a part of the story that I don’t remember so well.  It is about thieves and robbers who come to slaughter and destroy.  

Did the nuns think my classmates and I too young to learn about this part of the story?  My point here is not to criticize the lesson plans of my childhood teachers.  These wonderful women helped shape me into who I am.  

Yet, Jesus chose to make this “stranger-danger” part of his lesson.   John chose to weave it throughout his gospel account.  So, I want to examine it.

What robs me from hearing and recognizing the Shepherd’s voice?  

Is it that I’ve lost touch and can no longer distinguish the Shepherd’s voice from the other sounds around me?

Have I become overly attuned to other voices?

Could something from within be robbing me of Jesus’ life-giving words?  

Perhaps the negative tape; “I’m not ___________ enough” that plays in my mind?

Could it be the things I allow to steal their way into the “urgent” column in my daily planner?

The good Sisters of St. Joseph taught that filling heart and mind with good things would leave less room for things that were harmful.  

Let us all be more intent on listening for the Shepherd’s voice today and always.

At a distance but still blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s and wherever you are seeing this.


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