Monthly Archives: July 2013

God or Atheism — Which Is More Rational?

 

What is the most rational explanation for the creation of the universe? Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College deals with this most fundamental and important of questions, and offers a surprisingly logical answer.

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We Are Human Beings Not Human Doings

July 21st Homily at St. Clement of Alexandria

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The Gospel Reading – Luke 10: 38-42

 

Jesus entered a village

          where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.

She had a sister named Mary

          who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,

          “Lord do you not care

          that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?

Tell her to help me.”

The Lord said to her in reply,

          “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried

          about many things.

There is need of only one thing.

Mary has chosen the better part

          and it will not be taken from her.”

 

 

The church leaders that put together the Lectionary, I have to believe, did so with specific purposes in mind. They didn’t just pick scripture “out of thin air,” so to speak, but put a lot of thought and effort into seeing to it that the Christian message was proclaimed fully in many installments.

Such seems especially the case in last Sunday and this Sunday’s Gospel readings.

Last Sunday was the story of the Good Samaritan. Here we see faith in action. A man beaten by robbers and left to die on the side of the road was passed by, by a Priest and a Levite but was finally given aid by a Samaritan who treated and bandaged his wounds, transported him to an Inn and paid for his recovery.

The message here is that living the Christian life is all about DOING. Anybody who has read James Chapter 2 understands the philosophy here.

14 How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation?
15 If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on,16 and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,’ without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? James 2: 14-16

 

There is nothing wrong with this message, until it blots out all other considerations. There are two sides to a coin and in today’s Gospel we are going to encounter the other side.

 

Our scene opens with Jesus at the home of Martha and Mary. I don’t see any men mentioned in this story, even in any of the surrounding scripture. Jesus alone with two women talking to them about life? Scandalous and way outside the mores of the day.

 

But that’s not what I want to talk about today. I just wanted to let you know the significance of that fact did not escape me. It will be fodder for a future message.

 

Martha is upset that Mary is not helping her prepare the meal. Rather she is sitting quietly listening to Jesus and taking it all in. I have to think that at this stage that Martha knows that Jesus is somebody SPECIAL, never mind that he is a man and she is a woman, yet that does not stop her from telling Jesus what to do. Martha is DOING, DOING, DOING and commands Jesus:

 

“Tell her to help me.”

 

What Martha is saying is that here I am DOING all the DOING while Mary is DOING nothing – not DOING. You see in Martha’s world DOING is very important.

 

But here is where the message of the lesson comes in.

 

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

 

So maybe DOING isn’t the path to a relationship with God and ultimately salvation.

 

“Mary has chosen the better part,” says Jesus.

 

So what is Mary up to that is better? The point is she isn’t DOING she is BEING. She is listening to Jesus and letting his peace infuse her very soul and perhaps even meditating.

 

“There is need of only one thing,” says Jesus.

 

So what is this one thing?

 

What Jesus is making a big point of here I think, is that DOING – all the good works and deeds that we perform – is a result of our relationship with God but it is not the relationship itself. That relationship is cultivated by BEING not DOING.

 

There is nothing wrong with DOING but Jesus is cautioning us not to get the cart before the horse. What forms our relationship with God, the basis of our religion, the one thing needed is A CHANGE OF HEART. It is letting the peace of Christ into our hearts; it is receiving the Holy Spirit deep inside the very being of our existence. Once we do that all the good acts that we perform – the DOINGS – will come naturally as a result of that.

 

You see if we only live out our Christianity in DOING – then it becomes all about us! Our egos become bloated and our sense of importance exaggerated.

 

Isn’t this the trap that the ancient Jews put themselves in? The LAW in all its myriad rules and regulations became the way of living Judaism.

 

          Look here how hard I am praying!

          See I have given all this money to help the poor

          Look at all I do!

 

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Matthew 6:5-6 

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Matthew 5:28

The new Covenant from Jesus was heart transforming not behavioral modifying. Theologian Dr. Kenneth Boa put it this way:

 

“Being and doing are clearly interrelated, but the biblical order is critical: what we do should flow out of who we are not the other way around.  Otherwise our worth and identity are determined by achievements and accomplishments, and when we stop performing, we cease to be valuable.  When people answer the question ‘Who are you?’ by what they do, the world has a way of responding, ‘so what have you done lately?’” 

 

And Neale Donald Walsch added this observation:

 

“Remember what was said earlier.  You cannot do peaceful, you can only be peaceful.  You cannot do loving, you can only be loving.  You cannot do unified, you can only be unified.”

“Seek, then, to shift your state of being.  Do not seek first to change the world, seek first to change the self.”

So first we accept Christ and the Holy Spirit into our hearts and souls. That is the ONE THING that Jesus tells us we need. Then how we live our lives will be a reflection of the spirit within us. That way we become true to our appellation. For as a species we are called HUMAN BEINGS not HUMAN DOINGS.

 

Carry On

Today’s homily at St. Clement of Alexandria was delivered by Greg. The Gospel was the story of the Good Samaritan. The lesson was the story of  CARRY ON. Here is what Greg presented:

“Why did you stay?”

He asked me, unprompted, as we waited quietly for the light to turn green. My heart revved. I always thought he knew.

[+] EnlargeCarry on

Brownie Harris for ESPNLeroy Sutton, Dartanyon Crockett and Lisa Fenn grew close during the reporting of her 2009 story, “Carry On.”

“I love you,” I answered.

“That’s what I thought you’d say,” he replied. “But … why … why did you stick around and do everything you did?”

The answer to Dartanyon Crockett’s second question was not as tidy as the first. Because life can be a knotted mess and, sometimes, love is not enough.

Dartanyon  and Leroy Sutton grubbed their way into my heart four years ago. As an ESPN television features producer at the time, I was always on the hunt for unique athlete pieces. For 10 years, I traveled the country, chronicling human-interest stories against the backdrop of sports. I covered Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan all the way down to disabled amateurs and terminally ill little leaguers who imprinted a special brand of heroics onto this world. What a privilege to be invited into their private pains and sacred celebrations.

But what I found on the wrestling mats at Cleveland’s Lincoln-West High School in 2009 caused my spirit to sink and soar, all in the same moment.

Dartanyon was Lincoln’s best and strongest talent. He was 5-foot-7 with muscles bunched like buckeyes and a winner in multiple weight classes. He was also homeless, subsisting on the soggy mozzarella sticks and badly bruised apples served in cafeteria lunches. His mama died of an aneurysm when he was 8 years young, at which point family collected him and took him to live in an East Cleveland crack house. Where exactly it was Dartanyon could not say because Dartanyon is legally blind. Born with Leber’s disease, a condition that causes acute vision loss, he can barely make out the facial features of a person sitting a few feet away.

The Original Story

In 2009, Tom Rinaldi and Lisa Fenn told the story of Leroy Sutton and Dartanyon Crockett’s extraordinary journey — two high school wrestlers, one blind and one with no legs, discover the meaning of true friendship. Story

Perched atop Dartanyon’s back — yes, riding on his back — was teammate Leroy Sutton. He traveled around up there because he had no legs, and the school had no elevator. And because when he was 11 years young, he was hit by a train. Yes, a freight train. Though the paramedics saved his life, they could not save his entire body. His left leg was amputated below the knee, his right leg below the hip. His mother, ravaged by guilt, soon slipped into drug use and disappeared for stretches of time, leaving Leroy alone to care for his younger sister. His father spent nearly all of Leroy’s youth in jail. The “why” questions haunted Leroy, but he learned to mask their torment with a quick smile.

The one with no legs, being carried by the one who could not see. At first, I stayed because I simply could not look away.

In addition to being intense practice partners, Dartanyon and Leroy shared a handful of classes, always sitting side by side. Dartanyon would get up to sharpen Leroy’s pencils; Leroy ensured Dartanyon could read small print. Yet each time I allowed myself to revel in their tenderness, they reverted to teenage humor with a twist that only they could share.

“Did you guys do the homework?” the teacher asked.

“Dartanyon tried,” Leroy said, “but he couldn’t see it.”

“So Leroy ran over,” Dartanyon said, “and read it to me.”

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Brownie Harris for ESPNLeroy, left, lost his legs in a train accident when he was 11. Dartanyon, right, was born with Leber’s Disease, which led to blindness.

Afterward, they barreled down the halls together, their echoing laughter the brightest light in that dreary place. Dartanyon kept a hand on Leroy’s wheelchair, in part as a guide for himself but also as a protector, a brother, for Leroy. Their teachers remarked to me that they were “some of the good ones.”

Their cheerfulness stood out in a school marked by irreverent students and sunken teachers. Seas of black and Latino teens poured through the metal detectors each morning, many stopped for pat-downs. One boy wearing no coat on a blistery March morning was turned away, the security guard informing him that he had been expelled the week prior. There was an arrest in the hallway after 10th period. Books were handed out and locked back up after each class. Less than 40 percent would ever graduate; untold numbers were left pregnant. Yet Dartanyon and Leroy moved throughout the chaos with grace, with a refusal to have their hope tainted. “Destined for Greatness,” Dartanyon scribbled on his pages throughout the day. They seemed oblivious to the damning limitations on their lives.

Producing the 2009 story, “Carry On,” challenged me in ways I previously had not experienced. Instead of telling the story of an individual accomplishment or remarkable moment, this conveyed a friendship. And in order for the nuances of a friendship to unfold naturally on camera, I needed to become a part of it. Calling out, “Be funny on the count of three” or “Now convey warmth on this take” is artificial. This story required me to be in on the jokes and move fluidly with the characters.

I found this difficult at first, because I grew up on the other side of Cleveland. The white side. Though I was raised just eight miles west of Lincoln, my parents scrounged up the money for private school to protect me from the public schools and “those people.” Through all of their summer yard sales and side jobs, I silently wondered what was so bad about the people “over there” to prompt their determination. Now I realized their internal discomfort was probably akin to the visible uneasiness I wore standing in Lincoln’s halls. Small, shy, blonde and studious, I would not have survived a week.

But Dartanyon and Leroy eased me in graciously. As we filmed over the course of five months, I tagged along to their classes, to their practices and on team bus rides. They taught me their lingo and poked fun when I tried to use it. They opened up about their struggles — Dartanyon with great eagerness, as I think he had waited his entire life for someone to want to know him, to truly see him. Leroy’s revelations emerged more reluctantly. He had been emotionally abandoned too many times before. But sharing his past began a type of therapy for him. Both began to believe that, perhaps, I genuinely cared.

I stayed because I would not be next on the list of people who walked out and over their trust.

After the wrestling season, Dartanyon and Leroy competed in power lifting. Leroy held the Ohio state record in bench press, Dartanyon in dead lift. Immediately following his conference power-lifting-championship win in April 2009, Dartanyon discovered that all of his belongings had been taken from the bleachers. Stolen along with them was his right to celebrate. Every victory in his life was ripped from him before he could even taste it.

That week, I drove Dartanyon around town to replace his lost items. A new bus pass. Another cell phone. A trip to the social security office for a state ID, which required a birth certificate, which had been confiscated during his dad’s last eviction. His was a cruel world, even for a sighted person. How he endured it in shadows baffled me. I paid for all of his items, arguably crossing a journalistic line. But this was quickly becoming less about a story and all about soothing the suffering. Dartanyon later told me it was during that week of errands that he grew convinced God placed me into his life for reasons beyond television, that no one else would have taken the time and money to help him in those ways.

[+] EnlargeCarry on

Brownie Harris for ESPNLeroy and Dartanyon, inseparable in high school, have made their own successful ways since their days together at Cleveland’s Lincoln-West High School.

Soon thereafter, I traveled to Akron to film Leroy’s childhood neighborhood. This required a police escort. “Welcome to Laird Street,” the officer said smugly. “We call it ‘Laird Country,’ because once they’re born onto Laird, they never leave. They just move from house to house, up and down, following those drugs.” Shadowy men loomed on the dilapidated porches of each home, while the streets were filled with children who should have been in school. “Your guy must have been real lucky to get out,” the officer remarked.

I stayed because my heart was too heavy for my legs to walk away. Dark clouds hung over every turn of Dartanyon’s and Leroy’s lives, and I found myself pleading with the heavens to end this madness.

That summer, I feverishly edited “Carry On,” praying that just one viewer would be moved to help these boys in meaningful ways. But instead, following its August airings, hundreds emerged! Emails from Africa to England, from Idaho to Ipswich flooded my inbox, every viewer offering money and sharing personal accounts of how this extraordinary friendship shook their souls awake. Dartanyon and Leroy were no longer invisible. Their plights mattered to a world inspired. I curled up on my kitchen floor and wept.

In the month that followed, I personally responded to nearly 1,000 emails, not wanting to miss out on a blessing. Round the clock I harnessed donations, vetted speaking invitations, deciphered financial aid forms, coordinated college visits and ensured Dartanyon and Leroy were finally fed on a daily basis. Each time I shared exciting new developments with them, Dartanyon gushed with thank-yous and hugs, broad grins and relieved exhales. But Leroy’s stoic posture never budged. “Leroy, if at any point you don’t want this, you need to speak up,” I said. “The last thing I want is to inflict my desires on you.”

“No, it’s all good,” he said.

“But usually, when it’s ‘all good,’ people smile or say something,” I said. “Each time I call you with good news, you are so quiet. I’m not even sure you’re on the line.”

“No one’s ever called me with good news before,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”

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Courtesy Thomas LovelockThe U.S. Olympic Committee invited Dartanyon to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and learn judo for the Paralympics.

He once told me that Christmas was his least favorite holiday because his mom wrapped up Bazooka bubble gum and toys from around the house, hoping he wouldn’t notice. Having never known pleasure, he had not developed the language to respond to it. “But I am happy inside,” he added. “My dreams might come true.”

I stayed because I vowed right then to fill Leroy’s life with a thousand good things until he simply burst with joy.

In November 2009, thanks to the generosity of ESPN viewers, Leroy moved to Arizona to study video game design at Collins College. I had my doubts that he could manage on his own, but time and again, he disarms his skeptics. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school, and, this August, he will be the first to receive a college diploma. Dartanyon and I will be in the front row, listening as the sound of this cycle of poverty shatters.

Dartanyon received his life-changing offer from the United States Olympic Committee in March 2010. Recognizing his natural athletic abilities, coaches invited him to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to learn the Paralympic sport of judo. This was akin to a winning lottery ticket — shelter, sport, mentors, school, medical care and, as he proudly showed me on a visit to Colorado, his first bed.

“Top judo athletes begin training at a very young age,” his coach confided. “We don’t know that Dartanyon can make up the years by the 2016 Games.” But a little doubt was all Dartanyon needed to work his fingers into calluses and his heart into that of a champion. In a blur, he swiped a spot on the 2012 Paralympic team to London. Leroy and I crossed the pond and celebrated in the front row as the bronze medal was draped around Dartanyon’s neck. Once forgotten by the world, Dartanyon stood on top of it.

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Courtesy Lisa FennLisa and Leroy helped Dartanyon celebrate his bronze medal in judo at the 2012 London Paralympics.

“Things like this don’t happen to kids like us,” he cried on that unimaginable night, his face beaming bronze, his tears soaking into my shoulder.

And he is right. Blind and legless kids from the ghettos don’t get college educations and shiny accolades, but they should. And that is why I stayed. Because hope and love and rejoicing and redemption can happen to kids like them. And people like me, people from the “other side,” who can soften life’s blows for them, ought to help.

Those who know the story behind this story heap a lot of credit onto me for dedicating my past four years to improving Dartanyon’s and Leroy’s lives. Indeed, I have spent thousands of hours removing obstacles from the paths of their dreams, providing for their needs, reprogramming poorly learned habits, exposing new horizons and piling on the encouragement they need to rise above. I drove Dartanyon to the dentist to drill the first of 15 cavities. I taught Leroy how to pay a bill. I sat with Dartanyon at the social security office to apply for disability benefits, something he could have received all his life had anyone submitted the forms for him. I soothed the burn of Leroy’s broken heart and phantom limbs. And through it all, we grew into an eclectic family of our own. We carried on.

When he made a visit to the eye doctor in 2009, I asked Dartanyon to include me on the consent form so I could access his records if need be. Later that day, I received a call from the office administrator. “I just thought you should know what Dartanyon wrote on his consent form today,” she said, somewhat undone. “Next to your name, on the release, is a space that says ‘Relationship to Patient.’ Dartanyon wrote ‘Guardian Angel.'”

I stayed because we get only one life, and we don’t truly live it until we give it away.

I stayed because we can change the world only when we enter into another’s world.

I stayed because I love you.

Sutta Nipata – Discourse on Good Will

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You will find this posted at St. Clement of Alexandria

Discourse on Good Will

May all beings be filled with joy and peace.
May all beings everywhere,
The strong and the weak,
The great and the small,
The mean and the powerful,
The short and the long,
The subtle and the gross:

May all beings everywhere,
Seen and unseen,
Dwelling far off or nearby,
Being or waiting to become:
May all be filled with lasting joy.

Let no one deceive another,
Let no one anywhere despise another,
Let no one out of anger or resentment
Wish suffering on anyone at all.

Just as a mother with her own life
Protects her child, her only child, from harm,
So within yourself let grow
A boundless love for all creatures.

Let your love flow outward through the universe,
To its height, its depth, its broad extent,
A limitless love, without hatred or enmity.

Then, as you stand or walk,
Sit or lie down,
As long as you are awake,
Strive for this with a one-pointed mind;
Your life will bring heaven to earth.

 

From the Metta Sutta, part of the Sutta Nipata, a collection of dialogues with the Buddha said to be among the oldest parts of the Pali Buddhist canon.

The Book From Which The Quote Came

You thought that I had forgotten to post the book from whence this quote came – ye of little faith.

“During the second and third centuries, however, there was no agreed-upon canon – and no agreed upon theology. Instead there was a wide range of diversity: diverse groups asserting diverse theologies based on diverse written texts, all claiming to be written by apostles of Jesus.”

“Some of these Christian groups insisted that God had created this world; others maintained that the true God had not created this world (which is, after all, an evil place), but that it was the result of a comic disaster. Some of these groups insisted that the Jewish scriptures were given by the one true God; others claimed that the Jewish scriptures belong to the inferior God of the Jews, who was not the one true God. Some of these groups insisted that Jesus Christ was the one Son of God who was both completely human and completely divine; other groups insisted that Christ was completely human and not at all divine; others maintained that he was completely divine and not at all human; and yet others asserted that Jesus Christ was two things – a divine being (Christ) and a human being (Jesus). Some of these groups  believed that Christ’s death brought about the salvation of the world; others maintained that Christ’s death had nothing to do with the salvation  of this world; yet other groups insisted that Christ had never actually died.”

“Each and every one of these viewpoints – and many others besides – were topics of constant discussion, dialogue, and debate in the early centuries of the church, while Christians of various persuasions tried to convince  others of the truth of their own claims. Only one group eventually ‘won out’ in these debates.”

Misquoting Jesus

 

This is the book which chronicles the 1500 years of  mistakes and changes to the text of the Bible by scribes who hand copied each edition they made. Author Bart D. Ehrman, a textual critic, reveals:

  • The king James Bible was based on corrupted and inferior manuscripts that in many cases do not accurately represent the meaning of original text.
  • The favorite Bible story of Jesus’s forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) doesn’t belong in the Bible.
  • Scribal errors were so common in antiquity that the author of the Book of Revelation threatened damnation to anyone who “adds to” or “takes away” words from the text.

So we will leave you with one more quote from Ehrman and we leave the rest for your investigation.

 

“For the more I studied , the more I saw that reading a text necessarily involves interpreting a text. I suppose when I started my studies I had a rather unsophisticated view of reading: that the point of reading a text is simply to let the text ‘speak for itself,’ to uncover the meaning inherent in its words. The reality, I came to see, is that meaning is not inherent and texts do not speak for themselves. If texts could speak for themselves, then everyone honestly and openly reading a text would agree on what the text says. But interpretation of texts abound, and people in fact do not agree on what the texts mean. This is obviously true of the texts of scripture: simply look at the hundreds, or even thousands, of ways people interpret the book of Revelation, or consider all the different Christian denominations, filled with intelligent and well-meaning people who base their views of how the church should be organized and function on the Bible, yet all of them coming to radically different conclusions (Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Appalachian snake-handlers, Greek Orthodox, and on and on).”

“Or think back on the last time you were involved in a heated debate in which the Bible was invoked, and someone volunteered an interpretation of a scripture verse that left you wondering. How did he (or she) come up with that? We hear this all around us in discussions of homosexuality, women in the church, abortion, divorce, and even American foreign policy, with both sides quoting the same Bible – and sometimes even the same verses – to make their case. Is this because some people are simply more willful or less intelligent than others and can’t understand  what the text plainly says? Surely not – surely the texts of the New Testament are not simply collections of words whose meaning is obvious to any reader. Surely the texts have to be interpreted to make sense, rather than simply read as if they can divulge their meanings without the process of interpretation.  And this, of course, applies not just to the New Testament documents, but to texts of every kind. Why else would there there be radically different understandings of the U.S. Constitution, or Das Kapital, or Middlemarch? Texts do not simply reveal their own meanings to honest inquirers. Texts are interpreted, and they are interpreted (just as they were written) by living, breathing human beings, who can make sense of the texts only by explaining them in the light of their other knowledge, explicating their meaning, putting the words of the texts ‘in other words.'”

“Once readers put a text in other words, however, they have changed the words. This is not optional when reading; it is not something you can choose not to do when you peruse a text. The only way to make sense of a text is to read it, and the only way to read it is by putting it in other words, and the only way to put it in other words is by having other words to put it into, and the only way you have other words to put it into is that you have a life, and the only way you have a life is by being filled with desires, longings, needs, wants, beliefs, perspectives, worldviews, opinions, likes, dislikes – and all the other things that make human beings human. And so to read a text is, necessarily, to change a text.”
 

 

A Hymn For July 4th

This is my song, O God of all the nations,

A song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

 

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.

But other lands have sunlight too and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

O hear my song, O God of all the nations,

A song of peace for their land and for mine.

 

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:

Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.

Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,

And hearts united learn to live as one.

O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;

Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

Deacon Jerry

Bishop Tony & Deacon Jerry

Bishop Tony & Deacon Jerry

 

Today’s Gospel at St. Clement of Alexandria was Luke 9: 51-62 and today’s homily was delivered by Deacon Jerry.  His message was short and sweet but not without huge significance.  It all boiled down to the peace that surpasses all human understanding, a part of the benediction at the end of Mass he reminded us. People may be out to harm us, others have excuses why they can’t be this or that or do this or that  but when you take the peace of Christ and put it into your heart it all doesn’t matter.

To me it’s like having a shield. You cannot control  what others do and say. You can only control you – what you do and say. When you have the peace of Christ you don’t let what others do and say change you as a person or cause you to respond in a manner that is combative or hurtful. It’s similar to – “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” You cannot change the world, you can only change you. The world you live in is your own creation. It is often said you make your own heaven and hell.It’s not your response to external circumstances that is important, it is all about growing your soul.

Deacon Jerry’s homily was only about 5 minutes but it was most passionate and most profound.