More on Respecting the Dead

Last Sunday (5th Sunday of Lent Year A), the first reading began, “Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them.” This points us to a future resurrection.

In the gospel, we heard how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus has power even over death.

On the Second Sunday of Easter, we will hear the story of doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31). Thomas is not present when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after the Resurrection. “He showed them his hands and his side” (verse 20). Why? To show them that He is the same Jesus with the same body who had been crucified. Thomas was not there. He doubts what the others tell him. When Jesus appears a second time, Thomas is present. Jesus says to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe” (verse 27). Jesus wants Thomas, Jesus wants us, to understand what it means to rise body and soul.

The body is part of who we are. It is to be treated with dignity and respect even after our death. As we approach Good Friday, we can read in all four gospels (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42) how Jesus’ body was given a proper burial after his death. The burial of Jesus is the Fourteenth Station of the Cross. As soon as a person is conceived in their mother’s womb, we must understand that their body is a gift and part of who they are. Given a body a proper burial is part of being Christian.

In May of 2022, I wrote an article here, “Respecting the Dead,” following the release of a Letter from Cardinal Luis Ladaria, S.J., Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on new methods of “disposing” (that word turns my heart upside down in this context) of human bodies (available online at ).

At that time I said the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was working to provide some teaching on this. I find it fitting as we prepare to celebrate the death of Jesus and his proper burial that the USCCB has released a formal document called “On the Proper Disposition of Bodily Remains.” It’s a short seven page document from the Committee on Doctrine that you can read for yourself.

In the document’s opening paragraph, we read, “Enlightened by this Easter faith in the resurrection of the dead, the Church has always taught that we must respect the bodies of the deceased. Every human being has been created “in the image of God” (Gn 1:26-27) and has an inherent dignity and worth. Human bodiliness is an essential aspect of this “image and likeness,” for through the body the human person’s spiritual nature manifests itself” (1). Our body is part of who we are.

In paragraph 3, it continues, “Burial is considered by the Church to be the most appropriate way of manifesting reverence and respect for the body of the deceased because it “honors the children of God, who are temples of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2300) and clearly expresses our faith and hope in the resurrection of the body. As for cremation, the Church permits the practice “unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine” (Code of Canon Law, can. 1176.3 Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2301.)

A funeral Mass ends not in church but at the burial afterwards. The USCCB continues, “Accompanying the body itself to the place of its rest reaffirms in the hearts and minds of believers the faith of the Church that it is this body that will rise” (3).

This document examines new methods for “dispositions of the body” in light of Ad Resurgendum cum Christo written by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.  (August 15, 2016. Available online at

The USCCB next reiterates that cremation is acceptable as long as the remains are given a proper burial. The remains are not to be “kept permanently at home or divided among various family members” or worn as jewelry (6). We burial the remains in a cemetery where their place of burial can become “places of prayer, remembrance and reflection ” (7, originally in paragraph 5 of Ad Resurgendum cum Christo).

The USCCB then turns to two new methods for disposition of bodily remains, Alkaline Hydrolysis and Human Composting. Personally, I find the very name, “human composting” signifies the method’s lack of respect for the human body, seeing it as nothing more than material to be made into fertilizer.

The USCCB writes, “Not unlike cremation, both techniques work by dramatically accelerating the process of decomposition of the human body. In alkaline hydrolysis, the body is placed in a metal tank containing about 100 gallons of a chemical mixture of water and alkali and then subjected to both high temperature and high pressure in order to speed decomposition. In a matter of hours, the body is dissolved, except for some bone material. In human composting, the body is laid in a metal bin and surrounded by plant material (such as alfalfa, wood chips, straw, etc.) that fosters the growth of microbes and bacteria to break down the body. Heat and oxygen are added to accelerate the decomposition process. After about a month the body is entirely decomposed into soil” (9).

Is this the way you want your body treated after your death?

Maybe it doesn’t sound too bad yet. The USCCB continues, “The major difference between these newer practices and cremation is found in what is left over at the conclusion of the process. After the cremation process, all the human remains are gathered together and reserved for disposition” (10).

As to the new methods, the USCCB writes, “After the alkaline hydrolysis process, there are also remnants of the bones that can be pulverized and placed in an urn. That is not all that remains, however. In addition, there are the 100 gallons of brown liquid into which the greater part of the body has been dissolved. This liquid is treated as wastewater and poured down the drain into the sewer system (in certain cases it is treated as fertilizer and spread over a field or forest)” (10). Do you want your remains treated as “wastewater”?

The USCCB writes of human composting, “The end result of the human composting process is also disconcerting, for there is nothing left but compost, nothing that one can point to and identify as remains of the body. The body and the plant material have all decomposed together to yield a single mass of compost. What is left is approximately a cubic yard of compost that one is invited to spread on a lawn or in a garden or in some wilderness location” (11). Do you want your body treated like leftovers from dinner thrown onto a compost pile?

Our bodies have been given to us by God. They are not a temporary living place to be thrown out when we die. In the Resurrection, Jesus will raise us up body and soul. Until the resurrection, we must honor the body with proper Christian burial.

I hope this helps you understand the problems of these new methods for disposing of the body. Indeed, they dispose of the body. They do not respect the body.

Let us pray for all to see the body as given by God as part of who we are and treat the body accordingly.


Fr. Jeff

I am the Resurrection and the Life

In the midst of the Babylonian Exile God offers Ezekiel a vision that points to the Resurrection and new life (first reading – read all of chapter 37 for the whole story).

The Lord promises that He will open our graves and have us rise from them. He offers this promise having just offered a vision of raising dry bones to new life. God offers us his promise of Resurrection. We can count on his promise.

God also promises that He will bring his people back to the Land of Israel. He offers this promise to the Israelites who are in exile in Babylon. We know that God did later do this. So, we have proof that God keeps his promises. We can trust in the Lord and his word.

We are not in geographic exile from our home (There are people who are. One name for them is refugees. We pray for them). Yet, we are a shrinking church. Can the church be restored to its former greatest? Of course for nothing is impossible for God! God promised, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land, thus you shall know that I am the Lord.

God can restore his church. Are you willing to do your part? Remember the Samaritan woman at the well who, although she did not yet fully understand who Jesus is, shared her encounter with Jesus with the townspeople. Because of this, they came to know Jesus for themselves.

Returning to the Lord’s promise to Ezekiel of Resurrection, Jesus fulfills that promise in his own Resurrection. He makes it possible for us to share in the resurrection through his death on the Cross so that our sins can be forgiven.

At the time of the events in today’s gospel, Jesus had not yet been crucified. So, it is not yet time for The Resurrection but it is time for Jesus to do a great sign that shows that He has power even over death. In the Gospel of John, Jesus does seven great signs as testimony to who He is. The seven signs began with the Wedding Feast at Cana when Jesus turned the water into wine. The signs include the story of the healing of the man born blind that we heard last week. The seven sign is the raising of Lazarus that we hear today.

Lazarus, a great friend to Jesus is ill. His sisters “sent word to Jesus saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” They know Jesus cares for Lazarus. He cares for each one of us. They know that Jesus can help.

What is Jesus’ response to the news that Lazarus was ill? He remained where He was for two days. This is likely not what Martha and Mary expected. They probably thought Jesus would come immediately. Why didn’t He?

Remember last week when Jesus was asked who sinned that the man was born blind? His response was “Neither he nor his parents sinned, it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” So it is with Lazarus. If Jesus had gone immediately and “simply” healed Lazarus before he died, it would have “just” another healing. Jesus is going to do something far greater through Lazarus.

By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany “Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Given it had been four days, everyone thought there was no chance of Jesus doing anything. (Spoiler alert – they were wrong!)

When Martha hears Jesus is coming, she goes out to meet him. She said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She has complete faith in Jesus’ power to heal. She continues, “But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will you give.” The death of Lazarus did not cause her to lose faith. She does not grumble to Jesus that He should have come sooner. She doesn’t just believe that God the Father will do what Jesus asks. She knows it. I desire faith like that.

Jesus speaks to her of the resurrection. She professes her faith in the resurrection. Jesus professes, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus is pointing us to eternal life.

Mary, the other sister of Lazarus, will also profess her faith that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. She weeps. Jesus “became perturbed and deeply troubled.” He was not upset at her physical act of weeping. He was concerned that she had not yet come to understand the resurrection, that God has power even over death.

Some of the people asked, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” They think it is over with. This too perturbs Jesus. It is not too late. In fact, Jesus’ timing is perfect! It is the time that God has prescribed for a new type of miracle.

Jesus calls Lazarus forth from the grave. The man who was indeed dead has been brought back to life. This, as the seventh great sign, reveals the power of God at work in Jesus.

What Jesus does is restore Lazarus’ life here but it clearly points to the Resurrection in the way it shows God has power over death. Probably one of our Christian beliefs that most draws people to Christianity is our belief in the resurrection. We want to know that there is more to life than what we experience in this world.

Jesus fulfills God’s promise of resurrection. Remember, God also promised through Ezekiel to restore his people. How many times in the Old Testament did the Israelites turn away from the Lord? Every time they did, things got very bad for them; slavery, military defeat, exile. At times the remnant who still had some faith would repent and cry out to God for help. He always heard their cry and would restore his people.

We are a shrinking church today. Many people have fallen away from the faith. Some because they made a decision to say there is no god. Some because they believe that maybe God exists but He doesn’t seem to care about us. They think that if they don’t get what they want, then God either doesn’t care or doesn’t exist.

God does care. God does exist.

Then why does He do something to fix everything?

What makes you think He isn’t doing something?

The fact that things don’t change the way we want, doesn’t mean that God isn’t listening. It doesn’t mean God can’t help us. Well, maybe there is one thing that stops God from helping us. Us!

How can we, who pale in comparison to God, stop him from helping us? God gives us free will. God will not force himself upon us. We may say we want God to fix everything but do we stand in his way by insisting He does things our way? Our way is what got us into trouble in the first place. God has laid a way before us. He reveals to us in his Word. We hear it in his commandments.

For instance, God tells us to keep the Sabbath holy. Do we? Keeping the Sabbath holy begins with coming to church. It doesn’t end there. Do we give God just one hour or do we make it a day for the Lord? What about the rest of the week? What right do we have to demand that God take care of our problems if we spend the rest of our week living in the ways of the world rather than his way?

No wonder people stop coming to church when they see us living contrary to our faith. If you want to change the world, if you want God to change the world, it starts with ourselves.

If you want to see more people coming to church, if you want to see more people practicing their faith, it starts with us. It’s not going to happen overnight. The church has been in decline for a long time. Do not be afraid! There is reason for hope. Pray! God can and restore his church if we let him. He called Lazarus out from the tomb of earthly death. God can bring us to new life from our death in sin.

Let God who has begun a good work in you, bring it to completion (see Philippians 1:6).


Fr. Jeff

Maybe You Heard (or Maybe Not)

You may have heard there are changes coming to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The changes will be mandatory as of Divine Mercy Sunday, which falls on April 16th this year (2023). (The changes were optional as of Ash Wednesday this year so some of you may have already experienced the changes).

When one hears of changes in the way we do something in church, one’s thoughts might go back to 2011 when we implanted the latest translations of the Mass. There were a lot of changes then. We had to let go of being able to say the old translations without having to think about it and learn the new translations. It caused some angst but over time we learned the new translations.

The current changes to the Sacrament of Reconciliation are much smaller. In fact, you might not even notice the changes. There is nothing changing about how we go to confession. It is only wording that is changing and even that is minimal.

The suggested Act of Contrition(s) (there is more than one Act of Contrition provided in the rite) are changing some. Add to that that the rite says, referring to the Act of Contrition, “which the penitent may do in these or similar words.” So, unless your parish/diocese mandates a particular Act of Contrition, if you have an Act of Contrition memorized, you can continue to use the same Act of Contrition. If you don’t have one memorized, I suggest you learn one of the new ones. (For parishioners at the two parishes I serve, I will be updating the materials we have to reflect the new translations but you may continue to use what you have memorized).

The new translation of the first Act of Contrition provided in the rite goes as follows:

O my God,
I am sorry and repent with all my heart
for all the wrong I have done
and for the good I have failed to do,
because by sinning I have offended you,
who are all good and worthy to be loved above all things.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid the occasions of sin.
Through the merits of the Passion of our Savior Jesus Christ,
Lord, have mercy.

I would like to take a moment to reflect on these words. The second line includes the word “repent.” Here I think of the message offended by John the Baptist and continued by Jesus, “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” When we realize we have sinned, we are called to repent, realizing that God offers something far greater to us than anything in this world to all who are pure of heart. This should motivate us to repentance.

Then, the prayer speaks of the wrong we have done. These are sins of commission. They are sins where we do something that goes against what God has commanded. These are the sins most people confess. However, we must not forget the next line, “and for the good I have failed to do.” These are sins of omission. For example, maybe we saw a person in need and chose not to help them. We omitted something we could have done (It is not a sin if we were unable to help them). When we examine our conscience, we need to ask ourselves if there are things we could have done but didn’t.

Next, in this Act of Contrition, we acknowledge that in sinning we have offended God. In sinning, we offend God because we think we know better than God. We fail to trust in God as the one who knows what is good and evil. We choose our own way or the way of the world over God’s way.

Then, we come to the part that some people wonder if they mean it when they keep committing the same sins over and over, “I firmly resolve…to sin no more.” We can desire real change but fall short. The only way we will overcome our sins is with the help of God’s grace. Even then, we fall short at times but not because God’s grace is insufficient. We fall short because we seek earthly ways over God’s ways. Do not allow the devil to weaken you in his efforts to point out that you keep committing the same sins. If you come to Sacrament of Reconciliation with a repentant heart, God will forgive you each time.

If we desire to sin no more, then we must be willing to “avoid the occasions of sin.” Just as an alcoholic should avoid bars, we need to avoid things that lead us to sin. We can’t always do this but we must try.

I encourage to reflect in prayer on whatever Act of Contrition you use. They are not just words we say. The words mean something. What do they mean to you?

The words of absolution are also changing. It is just two lines that are changing. Here is the updated prayer of absolution with the changed words bolded:

God, the Father of mercies,
through the Death and Resurrection of his Son
has reconciled the world to himself
and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins;
through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace.
And I absolve you from your sins
in the name of the Father, and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit.

The priest will now say “poured out the Holy Spirit” where he used to say “sent the Holy Spirit among us.” God has not changed how He absolves us. These changes are not a change in theology. They are a sincere attempt to find the best words possible to describe what God is doing for us. When I see the word “poured” I think of two things. First, in the Eucharistic Prayer at Mass, the words of consecration for the wine becoming the Blood of Christ say, “which will be poured out for you,” referring to Jesus’ blood poured out for us in his Passion. Secondly, I think of how passages like John 7:37-39, speak of the Holy Spirit as living waters. In forgiving us, God pours the living waters of the Holy Spirit upon us.

The other change in the Prayer of Absolution is more subtle. We move from God giving us “pardon and peace” to God granting us “pardon and peace.” It is a small change in words but I see it as pointing more to the divine action of God. In his greatness, God chooses to grant us pardon. God does not have to forgive us. He chooses to. God grants us pardon and peace from his divine nature.

Before concluding I would like to speak briefly about how we end the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As soon as the priest finishes the words of absolution people respond “amen” and rightly so. Then, many people typically say, “Thank you father,” and leave. I understand they are thankful for the priest hearing their confession but who is it that actually forgives us? God!

There are various options given in the rite to conclude the Sacrament. I’m going to point to just one:
Priest: Give thanks to the Lord for his good.
Penitent: For his mercy endures for ever.
Priest: The Lord has forgiven your sins. Go in peace.

Never forget, it is God in his goodness, his divine life, who forgives us.


Fr. Jeff

From Darkness to Light

In today’s gospel we hear the story of the man who was born blind. In those days, serious illnesses like blindness were seen as punishment for sin. So, seeing the man who was been blind from birth, Jesus’ disciples ask him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?“.

His blindness is not punishment for sin but it does have another purpose. Jesus tells them that the man was born blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.” Jesus, who is “the light of the world,” is bringing light to his disciples’ understanding of suffering.

Jesus then “spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay of his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”…So, he went and washed, and came back able to see.

He who was born blind can now see. This should have been a time for rejoicing. Instead there is questioning, doubt, and even rejection of Jesus. It starts with what might have been legitimate wondering. Those who had seen the man born blind before, wonder if the man who can now see is the same man. He tells him that he is the man who they know was born blind.

So, they ask him, “How were your eyes opened?”. He tells them how Jesus made clay, anointed his eyes, and told him to wash in the pool at Siloam.”

Then, they take him to the Pharisees. The Pharisees ask the man how his eyes were opened. He tells them what Jesus did. Do they rejoice in his healing? No! They say, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the sabbath.” They fail to see the power of God at work. Yet, there are those who realize something great has happened. They say, “How can a sinful man do such signs?“.

In the midst of those who reject Jesus, because of their questioning, the man who had been born blind came to see Jesus as a prophet. He has not only gained physical sight but is now gaining spiritual sight. Those who reject Jesus see only what they want to see. They have closed their own eyes, becoming spiritually blind. We need to ask for the grace to see as God sees.

The people do not relent in their rejection of Jesus. They tell the man, “Give God the praise! We know that his man is a sinner.” The man does not fully understand who Jesus is but he knows they are missing the significance of what has happened. He said to them, “If he is a sinner, I do not know. One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see…This is what is so amazing, that you do not know where he is from, yet he opened my eyes.

It is the man who had been born blind who knows that Jesus “were not from God, he would not be able to do anything.” He knows Jesus has been sent by God.

Those who reject Jesus threw the man out. It is in that moment that Jesus comes to him and says, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?“. The man wants to believe, asking, “Who is he, that I may believe in him?“. Jesus says He is the Son of Man. The man first had his physical eyesight cured. Now, his spiritual eyes have been opened. He sees Jesus as the Son of Man. He who lived in the darkness has come to see the light. Those who had been given a great faith have become blind because they closed themselves off to seeing the works that Jesus did as the signs they were from God.

How well do you see?

Do you see as the world sees or do you see as God sees?

We live in this world but we are created for something greater. We are tempted by the pleasures of this world. That can lead us into the darkness of sin. We need the Light of Christ to see what is really going on. The devil wants to trap us in darkness, preventing us from seeing the bad consequences of our actions. He makes evil look good.

You have been given the Light of Christ in Baptism. Allow this Light to help you see in the darkness. The world must not dictate how we see our faith. It is our faith that should dictate how we see the world.


Fr. Jeff

Our Needs vs. Our Wants

I write this today as the northeast portion of our country is dealing with a major snowstorm. There are parts of eastern New York State that may see 2-3 inches/hour. Today, I am going to begin by talking about the weather but today’s snowstorm is not the inspiration for this article. The content here is something I have been reflecting on since the last snowstorm.

As I was conversing with a friend about the weather, in particular the clearing of snow, we both spoke of while we may not like having to shovel, we need some snow. Yes, I said “we need some snow.”

Probably most people’s idea of perfect weather includes sunny days and temperatures in the 70’s (maybe 80’s for some people). I personally enjoying sunny days in the upper 70’s with a gentle breeze. However, I know that if every single day was 70’s and sunny, we would have a problem.

Why? Because we need water. The plants and the trees need water to grow. We need water to drink. Without water, the plants and trees would die. Given enough time without rain, we might even die ourselves, either from lack of water or from lack of food because the plants died.

So, we need rain to maintain the water table. In western NY where I live, winter snow is a major provider of water. Whatever the temperature may be, whether it comes as rain or snow, we need the precipitation.

There are people who enjoy the cold and snow (skiers might the largest group here). We all have our preferences for weather, we need balance. We need some sunny days so plants and trees have sunlight for photosynthesis to happen. We need rainy days to provide water. This is the way God created nature, to operate in balance.

As part of this, God created the four seasons. I am fortunate to live in a part of the country where we experience the full effect of the changing seasons. It is the cool Fall weather that triggers the color change in the leaves, making for beautiful scenery. Throughout the winter, plant life lies dormant. Spring comes and we see new life as the grass turns green and the flowers come out. Is not an image that provides us with hope?

God knew what He was doing when He created nature, including the weather and the four seasons.

Of course, I am not writing today just to talk about the weather. With the weather, there are good days and bad days. Is life not the same way? We have days that are full of blessings. We also have days when we face suffering.

I think we all have a natural preference for the days full of blessings. We want things to be easy. We embrace Jesus’ words, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:30) while his words, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to take up a cross.

Yet, suffering is a natural part of life. Sometimes suffering lasts only a short time. We give thanks to God when the suffering ends. Sometimes the suffering lasts a long time. Then, we ask God to walk with us through the suffering. God is always with us. Our sufferings can help us be aware of our need for God and to be aware of his presence.

Here I think of Paul’s words to the Corinthians, “Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated” (2 Corinthians 12:7). What thorn have you been given that keeps you humble?

We struggle. It is in our weakness that we are made strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:10). It is in our weakness that we realize how much we need God. Paul first prayed that his suffering be taken away. “Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness“(2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Here I think of the poem “Footprints.” It is when we suffer that God not only walks with us, He carries us.

It is in our suffering that we might most be aware of God’s presence. It is in our response to suffering that we can give the greatest witness to God as we place our trust in him. Paul writes, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24). Jesus endured his Passion, giving his life for us on the Cross for us. How could anything be lacking? And how could we possibly fill what would be lacking?

The only thing lacking in Jesus’ suffering is for us to accept our sufferings. We are called to accept our sufferings and offer them to God with Father with Jesus’ suffering. This is our witness to others.

Jesus speaks of the yoke He provides in Matthew 11:28-30. Yokes were placed on the farm animals so they could pull their load. The yoke was not a burden. In fact, the yoke made it easier for the farm animal to do their work.

We all suffer. We don’t always respond well to our sufferings. At least I know I don’t. Jesus gives us the yoke of faith so that we may bear our sufferings well. Without faith, suffering may be impossible to bear. With faith, our burdens become lighter. Trust in God.


Fr. Jeff

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A – Homily

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A
Exodus 17:3-7
Psalm 95:1-2, 607, 8-9 (8)
Romans 5:1-2, 5-8
John 4:5-42
March 12, 2023

Jesus is making his way through Samaria.  “Tired from his journey,” He pauses to rest at the well.

While He is sitting at the well, “a woman of Samaria came to draw water.  Jesus said to her “Give me a drink”.”  The woman is surprised at his request.  Why?  It’s a simple request.  She is surprised because she recognizes him as a Jew and she knows that Jews and Samaritans didn’t associate with each other.

Well, others didn’t.  Jesus does.

He speaks to her of “living water” but she doesn’t get the significance of what He is referring to.  She assumes that He is speaking of water from the well.  At this point she calls him “Sir,” not recognizing the fullness of who He is.  She sees him only in his humanity.

The Israelites cried out in the desert for water.  They were thirsty and God gave them water from a rock.  They were concerned with earthly thirst.  Jesus is concerned with our spiritual thirst.

He continues to speak of living water, “but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst.

She continues to take him literally and finds the thought of never thirsting appealing.  She won’t have to keep coming back to the well.

Jesus loves her so much as to meet her where she is at but He wants to lead her to more.  (Likewise, Jesus meets us in our sin but He wants to lead us away from sin to eternal life.

To help her take a step forward in faith, He says to her, “Go call your husband and come back.”  She responds that she does not have a husband.  Jesus already knows this and in fact, knows she has had five husbands.  He says this to her. 

She sees the significance of Jesus knowing that she has had five husbands and calls him a prophet.  She has taken a step forward in her faith of who Jesus is.

He speaks of the worship that will be offered in Heaven.

She, not Jesus, then brings up the expected Messiah.  She is beginning to take another step forward in faith.  She is beginning to understand that Jesus is the Messiah.  She’s not quite there yet but close.

Her faith still needs to grow but, even in her incomplete faith, she does something incredible.  She goes to town and tells others about Jesus. 

Meanwhile, his disciples return and are amazed that He is talking with a woman.  Her heart has been opened.  Will they allow their hearts to be opened?

Will you allow your heart to be opened if you hear Jesus’ voice?

It might seem like a foolish question.  Who won’t listen to Jesus speaking to them? 

Someone who doesn’t want to change.  They like their lives as they are.  A person who doesn’t want to undergo conversion hardens their hearts to God. 

The townspeople did not harden their hearts.  They were intrigued by what the woman said and went to hear Jesus for themselves.  Because she shared what she knew about Jesus, they would come to believe from Jesus’ own words.  If she hadn’t shared her encounter with Jesus, they may never have come to know Jesus.  Share what you have experienced.

Meanwhile, open yourself to grow in faith.  Jesus led the Samaritan woman from calling him “sir” to “prophet” to “Messiah.”  The fact that you are here likely means Jesus is more than “sir” to you.  He’s at least a prophet.  I pray you know him as “messiah.”  That means He is the anointed one.  Is Jesus your king?  Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

Recognize the wonder of what Jesus has done for us.  Do not harden your heart.  He has given his life for us, “in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  So, we bow down in worship.

New Video Completing Series on the Eucharist

Last night I completed my series of presentations, The Eucharist: The Greatest Gift with Part III.

You can see Part III at

You can see the entire series at

For the next few days you can complete at online evaluation at

As always I welcome comments. At this time, I do not have any presentations schedule. I welcome ideas for topics.


Fr. Jeff

Does the Profound Deserve a Capital Letter?

After a few weeks of some in-depth reflection articles, today I would like to offer a simpler and brief reflection. I pose a question, “Does the profound deserve a capital letter?”.

In school we learn the English rules of grammar. Among those rules are rules of capitalization. We capitalize the first word in a sentence. We capitalize proper names. What about words referring to God?

Is God worth a capital letter?

Of course, as I pose these questions I am capitalizing “God.” God is his name. As a proper name, God gets a capital letter. Other times, when we are referring to false gods or the idea of god in general, we do not capitalize.

What about other references to God?

I always capitalize the word “Eucharist.” It is the source and summit of our faith. It is vital part of what distinguishes us from Protestant denominations. This alone may warrant a capital letter but there is more. The Eucharist is not just bread and wine. It is the Body and Blood of Jesus. Therefore, it is God and gets a capital letter in my book. You might call this use of the word “Eucharist” a proper name. That would get it a capital letter in accord with English rules of grammar. For me, what I am talking about transcends rules of grammar. We are talking about God. (I wrap up my present series on the Eucharist, The Greatest Gift: The Eucharist, this Thursday. See for this series.)

We call the consecrated host that we reserve in the Tabernacle the Blessed Sacrament. As such, it is a proper name and gets capitalized. It is Jesus.

What about when we refer to God using the personal pronoun “he”? English rules of grammar say we do not capitalize personal pronouns. I use a capital “H” for “he” when referring to God, It may not follow English rules of grammar but it does follow what I believe, God is divine. There is nothing like God. He deserves a capital letter.

What about the Mass? There are times when we use the word “Mass” as a proper name for what we celebrate. Those uses clearly get a capital letter. What about other times? In the Mass, we are celebrating something very profound. We are hearing God’s Word. The Bread and Wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Jesus. It deserves a capital letter.

Please note that I have been capitalizing “Body and Blood.” It is Jesus. For the same reason I capitalize “Real Presence.” It is the presence of Jesus, Son of God that we are talking about. It deserves capital letters.

What about “cross”? Here, along with “crucifix”, is one that makes me think. When we refer to the cross as “merely” two pieces of wood tied together, it doesn’t need to be capitalized. However, when we are talking about Jesus giving his life for us on the Cross, we are talking about something very profound.

Should we capitalize everything about God? No, I am only talking about a very direct connection to God.

What do you think?


Fr. Jeff

Do We Give Control to God?

Our first reading today comes from Genesis 12 where the story of Abram, who God would later rename “Abraham.” Before this passage, the only mention of Abraham is his genealogy presented in Genesis 11:10-32.

These four verses in today’s first reading tell us two very profound things about Abraham. First, that he has been chosen by God. God tells him, “Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.” God doesn’t tell him where the land is. God doesn’t tell him what to do when he gets there. God gives no reason why. God simply promises that He will make a great nation from Abraham, that Abraham’s name will become great, and that God will bless him.

What is Abraham’s response? “Abram went as the LORD directed him.” The second thing that we learn about Abraham is that he is a man of very great faith. He doesn’t ask any questions. It is enough that God tells him to go.

Would you have responded like Abraham? Do you follow the Lord’s way or the way of the world? Be honest. The way of the world can be tempting for its immediate physical pleasures. The immediate pleasures of the world are short-lived. The joy of following the Lord may not always be felt immediately but it is eternal.

Abraham knows that all the works of the Lord are trustworthy. Many of the false gods called for their devotees to do things that were good for the false god. Our one true God asks nothing of us for his own gain or pleasure. He has nothing to gain from us. God is infinite. He can’t gain anything. He is all-loving. So, all that He prescribes for us is for our betterment.

Still, it is not always easy to follow the Lord. Today we hear Paul write to Timothy, “Bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” It will be hard. Look at what Jesus went through for us in his Passion. He bore incredible hardship for us. We do well to bear our hardships for the glory of God and the salvation of all.

Just as God chose Abraham, He has chosen us to be his children. He calls us to a “holy life.” Do we accept the call? The answer to this question is found in whether we live according to our own way or in accord with God’s design.

Jesus knew it would be hard for his disciples to endure all that laid before them. He knew He needed to give them confidence to bear the hardships that laid ahead for them.

With this in mind, “Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” This was no ordinary trip up the mountain. Jesus took them with him so that would see him “transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as flesh.

They saw Jesus as we will see him in Heaven, in his glory. The imagine of the “white” and “light” is not new. The image of white comes from Daniel 7:9 while Daniel 10:6 speaks of “light.” Daniel is describing the Ancient One, God. Jesus appears to Peter, James, and John in a way that is used to describe God. We can trust in Jesus for He is the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father.

The scene did not end there. Moses and Elijah would appear and speak with Jesus. Why? The presence of Moses symbolizes the Law. The presence of Moses tells us Jesus comes to fulfill the Law. We can trust in him. Elijah is one of the great prophets. His presence confirms that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies. He is the one they have been waiting for.

Peter responds, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” Peter is right. It is good that they were there to see what happened. It would give them confidence. It helps us to know who Jesus is.

There is one more piece of evidence offered to who Jesus is, the voice from the cloud, God’s own voice, that says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.

Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John up the mountain with them to give them confidence. Was their confidence immediate? We are told that they then “they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.” I don’t think their fear was a matter of being scared. It was holy fear. They understood in that moment who God is. Their fear was awe of God. They did not yet understand but they would come to.

Do we understand? If we fully understand, then we will follow God in all his ways. Unfortunately, many today think they can pick and choose what to believe. We call them “Cafeteria Catholics.” If they don’t like a teaching, they say it is out of date. It happens with various commandments but perhaps the most prevalent is sexual behavior. God’s Truth does not change. (If you are up for some reading, see my 17 page article, “Towards Dignity and Truth: Compassionate Dialogue on Homosexuality”)

We may not understand all the God teaches us. We don’t have to understand it all. We have faith. We rely on “strength that comes from God” to help us bear our hardships whether we understand or not. We desire to follow Jesus.


Fr. Jeff

Registration Link for Part III of “The Greatest Gift: The Eucharist”

Hello all,

I finally got the Zoom account updated.  So, here is the registration link for Part III of my series “The Greatest Gift: The Eucharist” –

coming up on Thursday, March 9th at 6:30 pm.  

I hope you can join us.

If you haven’t seen Parts I or II yet, you can find them at 


Fr. Jeff