Washington, Saint Paul, MLK, and the Challenge of Unity

It often amazes me how the Sunday readings line up with what is going on in th elarger world.  Here is my homily from this Sunday, January 22 2017.


When George Washington gave his Farewell Address as president in September 1796, it was printed for a newspaper rather than given as a speech.  Which makes sense; after all there was no radio, television, or other forms of mass communication for him to share his thoughts.  But he wanted to make sure, as he moved on to the next part of his life, that his beloved country remained vigilant against the forces that could threaten this fledgling republican-democracy.   In particular, Washington was concerned about the impact political parties would have on the ability of the American experiment to cohere.

As he writes, “One of the expedients of [political parties is] to acquire influence within particular [groups of people] [in order to] to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other [groups of people]. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.”  In other words, Washington was concerned that the passions of political parties would blind us to the larger needs of the country.  That we would begin to look at those with whom we disagree as an enemy to be fought instead of a friend to stand aside. 

So it might be of some comfort to know that 2,000 years before the advent of cable news, we still encounter this problem of division. As we heard today in Saint Paul’s letter to the Christian community of Corinth, “I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. For it has been reported to me... that there are rivalries among you. I mean that each of you is saying, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas.’”

And so Saint Paul, like George Washington, pleads for unity.  Whether we be early Christians living in Corinth or Americans divided within Red and Blue states, we humans seem to bounce back and forth between the ideals of "Can't we all just along along" and "fight the powers that be."
No matter what the community, the institution, the family, or the country, we all have disagreements.  We all get on each others' nerves from time to time.  We often not only NOT on the same page but are reading different books entirely.  Still, we have to admit, that there is something unsatisfying about just saying that its important to uphold the importance of unity.  Because there are situations, particularly ones involving the justice and dignity of others, when “going along to get along” does not feel like the right answer.

I can imagine that eight years ago when one person took office, many who actively seek to protect the lives and rights of the unborn—as we Catholics all seek to do—seemed unsatisfied with the idea of "going along to get along" in the face of an administration that did not hold those values.  I can also imagine that for many others today, calls for unity can sound hollow after a very nasty election in which the darker impulses of our psyche were regularly appealed to as opposed to the better angels of our nature.    An election after which many of the vulnerable in our society feel even more vulnerable now.  Those are concerns for the vulnerable walking among us are just as much a part of the Catholic tradition as those of the vulnerable-unborn.

Yes, we do need unity.  And yes, all of the problems and disagreements we encounter in this imperfect union and this imperfect world cannot all be resolved with satisfaction.  We cannot constantly live in a state of mutual animosity.  Yet just as Saint Paul went on in his letter to the Corinthians that they needed to stop neglecting the poor in their midst, as a community there are times in which we will have to stand up for what's right even if it risks division.  But when are those times?

Last week, both to mark the national holiday we celebrated last Monday and to prepare myself for the national events that happened this weekend, I found myself re-reading Martin Luther King’s Letter From a Birmingham Jail.  Writing from his prison cell in 1963, he responds to another newspaper article written by eight white Alabama clergymen entitled A Call for Unity, in which they critique King and his group for disturbing the unity.  To which King responds that they did not do so lightly.  And that they only began speaking up after a period of self-reflection, self-purification, and prayer.  Thereby making sure that their actions of protest were not just forms of self-aggrandizement but were truly engaged to advance their higher calling. 

Not un-coincidentally, Saint Paul reminds all of those who have been factionalized in Corinth to their higher calling.  Like any good leader, Saint Paul keeps his perspectives straight by telling the faithful that they do not belong to him, or Apollos, or Peter, but to Christ.  And that is the same for all of us.  Whatever our political allegiance, our ideological preference, or whatever country we are from, we are children of the Almighty God first.  That at the end of the day, we are all one family.  And that is Good News! 

But if we're being honest, it is also a big pain.

Because one thing about our God, He usually asks us to check ourselves before we mess ourselves.  Our God usually has us look straight into the mirror before we start making comments about what is happening outside of the window.  Because it is only when we have removed the log from our own eye that we can see the splinter in our brothers and sisters.  This is tough work, because it often involves getting over our own egos.  because it often involves letting go of our own factions so we can fulfill His higher goals.  It is only by allowing God to lead us that we do not become what we abhor.  It is only by allowing God to lead us that we will ever be able to navigate the two poles of justice and unity. 

But as so many Christian witnesses over the millennia and American witnesses over the centuries have shown, witnesses like Saint Paul the Apostle, George Washington and Martin Luther King, it can be done.  And it is worth it.  When we keep God at the center of our lives, we can more work towards justice with a spirit of unity.  When we keep God at the center of our lives, we can more fully work towards the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth that Jesus leads us to.  When we keep God at the center of our lives, we can work more fully towards a more perfect union.

Our Messy Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Season everyone!  Here is my homily from this past Christmas Eve... with a little SNL thrown in.

A couple of years ago, there was a skit on Saturday Night Live that struck a nerve with people in my profession.  The skit was entitled, "Saint Jospeh's Christmas Mass Spectacular."  Filmed like a commercial for a Monster Truck Rally, the main point of the skit was describing what a drag it was to have to go back to church once a year with your parents for Christmas... and then encountering all of the various reasons they didn't go to church the rest of the year.  There was the one parishioner whose got the really sweaty hand and wants to do the sign of peace.  There was the priest who was telling lame jokes during a really boring homily.  There was the lector who was taking her position just a little too seriously.  The amount of crazy people encountered at church just went on and on.  The subtext of this skit was that the experience of church—and the people who regularly went to church—were all just one big mess and why would anyone ever want to be part of such a thing?  

So after the skit was broadcast, everyone I knew who worked for a church reacted to the SNL bit with a mixture of laughter and tears... because it was all true.  

I mean, here at Saint Paul's we do try to do things well.  Put a lot of energy into our music, our preaching, and into making people feel welcome.  But you know what?  We're still a mess.  In fact, without exception, every church I have ever been a part of—either as a member or as “staff”—has been a mess.  But what I've come to realize over the years is that church is a mess because—whether or not we happen to be religious—human beings are messes.  All of us.  Which is, perhaps, the real reason we all come together to celebrate this night.  

Christmas is the time when we celebrate and give thanks that we have a God who is not only infinitely better than all of our messes, but that we have a God—maybe despite our messes, maybe even BECAUSE of our messes— who would still be willing to come down and live among us human beings.  Christmas is the time when we most celebrate that we have a God who chooses to cast His lot with us human beings.  

I sometimes wonder if the Holy Trinity ever had second thoughts before sending down the Son to live with us.  I can imagine the Father and the Holy Spirit having a conversation with the Son before all of the events we sent into motion.  "I know that we've been promising to send a Messiah for centuries now... but you know Jesus it's really a mess down there on earth.  Those crazy human beings have to deal with sickness and betrayal and murder and broken hearts and prejudice.  It's nice and cozy up here in heaven... are you sure you want to do this?"  Just like so many of us ask why we would be part of church when it is such a mess... I can totally imagine God asking why he would want to be a part of messy humanity.  

A few weeks ago, I was doing some shopping in Century City.  I am not going to tell you the name of the store... all I will say is that they sell A LOT of containers.  Over the speaker system, in between the non-stop loops of Bing Crosby, was a salesperson declaring, "Tis the Season for Warm Fuzzies."  And while there are certainly reasons to partake of warm fuzzies this time of year, to reduce the whole season to that not only does God a disservice, but it does all of the rest of us a disservice as well.  Especially when we reflect on the messiness that God chose to enter into when he decided to cast his lot with us on Christmas.    

That truly is the Good News that we celebrate today, that we have a God whose chooses to cast His lot among us messy people... as a brother.  As someone who has to go through all of the same messes we do in life.  Yes, the warm fuzzies, but also heartbreak.  Yes, hope but also despair.  Joy but also death.  In other words, our mess.

Which is part of the reason God needs us... because God needs us, both as individuals and as a community, to help Him clean up the mess!  To visit the guilty prisoner.  To acknowledge and take care of both the homeless person and the undocumented immigrant.   To heal those who are both physically wounded and emotionally wounded.  They are all around us and they are ourselves.  And God know better than anyone that we cannot do this work alone. We need each other.  We need community.  Dare I say, we may even need messy church in order to help clean up our messy lives and this messy world.

So on this Christmas Eve, when God throws in his lot with us, we are all re-invited to cast our lot with God.  No matter if life is leaving us warm and fuzzy... or dark and dreary, No matter how broken or together we are… or how messy, tonight we celebrate that we are all re-invited to throw our lot in with Emmanuel... God WITH us. 

The Good News that we celebrate this Christmas Eve is that God lets us know... in the best way He can... that we are all in this mess together.  

What We Know About Joseph

We actually don't know a lot about Joseph from the Scriptures.  He is mentioned in the first two chapters in Luke, the first two chapters in Matthew, and that's about it.  We assume that he was a good father-figure to Jesus, but there's nothing specifically written to say that.   We don't know how old he was when he married Mary.  We don't know if he was married before.  We don't know how old he was when he died.  The main things we know about Joseph come from the Gospel reading we heard today.  And from that, we know that Joseph was a man who believed in mercy. 

This tends to get skipped over when we tell the Christmas story, but when Mary said yes to the angel Gabriel that she would be willing to bear the Messiah child, it meant that she was going to be an outcast.  It meant that—as an unwed mother—she was bringing on an unimaginable amount of shame on herself within the context of her community.  It also meant that she was bringing on an unimaginable amount of shame upon Joseph, her betrothed. 

Shame.  It's not just an emotion we spend a lot of time avoiding as people... it's a state of being.  Having a connection to our larger communities and being well-thought of is one of the larger needs we have as human creatures.  We try to present ourselves the right way.  We try to say the right things.  We try to get the right jobs.  We try to hang out with the right people.  We try to do go to the "right" schools... and we do all of these things, in part, in order to maintain a sense of dignity within our larger community. 

And when those things break down in our lives, whether it is through something we have done or something that has been done upon us, it is intensely painful.  No one likes to be the subject of gossip.  No one likes to be looked down upon.  No one, no matter how much of a rebel then pretend to be, likes to see their police mug shot on the cover of a supermarket tabloid.    And yet, when Mary first said yes to the angel Gabriel, this is the world into which she was entering.  And if that wasn't enough, she was bringing Joseph into that world of shame with her. 

For those of us who have ever been cheated on, we know that it hurts.  What is even worse is when everyone else finds out.  Family members.  Friends.  Co-workers.  People for whom we not think too highly of ourselves.  Of course Mary did not cheat on Joseph, but at first, Joseph had no way of knowing that.  All he knew was that he had been humiliated by his betrothed.  And it must have been painful.

The society in which Joseph lived however, did have mechanisms for him to restore his honor.  Yes, he could quietly divorce her and wash his hands of the whole affair.  But, by law, he could also have had her stoned to death.  As we know from later on in the gospels when the officials brought the woman caught in adultery before Jesus, women caught in compromising conditions were often executed.  Jesus, of course, showed the woman mercy.  Looking back, we can wonder if he learned that from Joseph. 

Joseph's first instinct was not to seek retribution on Mary, it was to show mercy.  That was probably no easy feat.  When so many of us have been wronged, foregoing revenge is usually not our immediate impulse.  I know during those times in my life when I have been humiliated, mercy was not my first instinct.  And yet, the main revelation we have of Joseph's character is that when he was initially presented with a situation that would have cause him great shame and humiliation within his larger community, his instinct was to show Mary mercy.

That's probably the main point of this story.  We have heard Paul say that if we want peace, then seek justice.  In today's readings, Joseph's actions let us know that, if we want faith, then show mercy.  If we want faith, then show mercy.  Because it is after Joseph decides to show mercy that the angel comes to him and tells him to be not afraid.  It is after Joseph shows mercy that the angel lets him know that he is going to be a vital part of this huge story known as salvation history.  It is after Joseph shows mercy that amazing things happen in this world. 

It has been said that we live in a particularly faithless time.  Secularism is on the rise.  More people are doubting the existence of God.  And for many in our country, it is a particularly scary time.  As a result, many people have been asking for more faith.  More faith that there is good in this world.  More faith that things are going to be okay.  More faith that God is with us.  And to that, we hear Joseph say to us through his actions, if you want more faith, show more mercy. 

Show mercy to those who have wronged us... even if we are not completely ready to forgive that person yet.  Show mercy to ourselves from all of the various ways we can beat ourselves up for not keeping up with the society around us and the times we mess up in life.  If we want more faith, show more mercy to the outcasts in our own society today: the immigrant who does not have papers to be here, the person of a different faith tradition, the person with whom you passionately disagree with politically. 

We don't know a lot about Joseph from the Scriptures, but the most important thing we know is that he was a man of mercy... and he shows us that mercy is the gateway to faith.  So in this last week of advent, think of one person or group of people to whom you can show mercy, and do it.  If we want more faith, we need to show more mercy.  What better way to finish our advent season and prepare for the coming of Jesus into this world.  


Thanksgiving Homily (from days of yore)

This Thanksgiving I was fortunate enough to spend with my family, so no official preaching assignment for the holiday this year.  Still, I thought I'd share my first "official" Thanksgiving homily as a deacon from five years ago.  It discusses how our national day of thanks arose during the most divided time of our country, The Civil War.  And while we are (hopefully) not quite there today, hopefully as we move forward and begin to heal the spirit of thanks of which our forefathers and foremothers tried to advance will endure. 


Sarah Josepha Hale was an American writer and an influential editor throughout most of the 19th Century and while most writers would be thrilled to be able to claim having made one major impact on American culture, Sarah Joseph Hale can claim to have made two.  First impact came in 1830 when she published the nursery rhyme "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  The second impact; Sarah Josepha Hale is credited as the individual most responsible for making Thanksgiving a national holiday in the United States in 1863.

Of course, Sarah Josepha Hale was not responsible for the Thanksgiving holiday itself.  Even before the now famous pilgrims celebrated the feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621, Spaniards conducted the first documented thanksgiving feasts in what is now the United States in the 16th century.  And while days of thanksgiving were celebrated sporadically in different parts of the country in the first few decades of America’s foundation, there was no regular day of thanks set aside. Remember, this was a time before the Hallmark Company and Car Dealerships flooded our great nation’s calendar with an endless stream of holidays. 

But Sarah Josepha Hale thought such a national day of Thanksgiving would serve as a great unifying element for the country.  So in 1846 she wrote a letter to the then-President of the United States Zachary Taylor.  No response.  So she continued her letter writing campaign for the next 17 years.  Finally, Abraham Lincoln, after reading one of her letters, set forth a proclamation on October 3, 1863 that a national day of Thanksgiving would be held on the last Thursday in November.

What is most fascinating about that proclamation is the timing.  In the Fall of 1863, we were still in the midst of the Civil War.  The war had been dragging on for over two years, which was about twenty-three months longer than most people thought it would last.  The loss of life had far exceeded any war the country had fought in before, there was no end in sight, and no one knew for sure how it was going to turn out.  With chaos and suffering all around, I can imagine that gratitude was probably the last thing on the nation’s mind. 

If we stop and think about it, a true spirit of gratitude can actually be a difficult thing… especially in the worst of times.  I don’t know about you, but if something is causing me a great deal of pain or if something is causing me anxiety, it tends to hover over my consciousness like one of those big spaceships hovering over a city in a bad sci-fi movie, blocking out all sunlight and vision of the sky.  It is during those times when the admonition to look at the glass as half-full can sound like a pious platitude at best... or disturbed denial at worst. 

But it is not only when things are going poorly.  Sometimes it can be during those times of minor inconvenience when gratitude can be hard to muster.  During those times when we can’t get an Internet signal.  During those times when we get the middle seat on the airplane… during those times of annoyance when the first song on our lips is probably not “We Gather Together.” 

Of course in today’s Gospel, we learn that gratitude can difficult even when things are good.  As we know, when Jesus cured the ten lepers he did not only heal their physical sickness… he allowed these ten outcasts to come back to the community that had cut them off because they were unclean.  He not only gave them a new life free of biological  disease, he gave them a new life socially.  That being said, how many of us can relate to the nine who didn’t come back?  How many of us can relate to those nine who could not stop crying out to God in need… but then found it easy to forget about God when those needs were fulfilled.  Even the best of us can forget to give thanks. 

Which is what makes the establishment of the Thanksgiving holiday during a time of great Civil War all the more poignant because it is an acknowledgement that it is not only good to give thanks to God, we have a need to give thanks to God.  We have a need to gather together to be reminded that, to quote Lincoln, “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful years and healthful skies.”  We need to be reminded of the Source from which our bounties come… whether those bounties come during times of both great sorrow or during times great joy.  We need a day in which, in the words of William Jennings Bryan, we acknowledge our dependence.

Of course for Catholics, this reminder does not come once a year but it comes every day we celebrate the Eucharist.  Of course the word Eucharist translated from the Greek means “thanksgiving.”  When Jesus took the cup and took the bread, HE gave thanks to the Father above… AND TOLD US TO DO THE SAME.  To give thanks for all that God had done for the Jewish people throughout their history.  To give thanks for the sacrifice that Jesus was about to make for us.  And to give thanks for the continued action of the Holy Spirit within all of our lives. 

It is true that we are limited beings… and as such we are needful beings.  But we are lucky to have a God who not only provides but also listens to our needs.  But on this Thanksgiving if we must ask God for something, let’s ask Him for a grateful heart.  Let us ask him for a grateful heart no matter whether our lives are in a period of fruitful skies, civil wars, or (as is often the case) somewhere in between.  Because there is a whole host of reasons of why gratitude can be difficult… but in the words of Cicero, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.”




Speaking of American History, please support the online campaign to bring the story of one of the great American Catholics to life in Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America by visiting  https://igg.me/at/VIWfcvihNFU .

Of Presidents and Kings

Here is my homily for today's last Sunday of the church year, Christ the King.

As Americans, today is probably the most complicated feast day in the Catholic liturgical year.  After all, our whole country was founded on the whole idea of rejecting kings, rejection monarchy.  The Declaration of Independence, our founding document, was basically a big break up letter to King George.  This sense of independence continues today.  So much so that we as a nation drive ourselves insane every four years in the campaign to elect a new president... only to drive ourselves insane again four years later... all so that we can live without a monarchy.  Yet here we are, twelve days after the last presidential election marking the feast day of Christ the King. 

Maybe, when we think about it, that's not such a bad thing.  About half of the country is still in a state of shock while those who supported the other candidate continue to celebrate.  But we know that if the election had turned out differently, the roles would be reversed with that first group being jubilant and the the current group feeling despondent (which is not to include the great number of people who were comfortable with either candidate).  That's how it's been in America for the past number of decades.  One person is in office, and half the country is hapy and the other half is furious.  The parties in power change over and the roles of the jubilant and aggrieved switch sides.  

So maybe as Catholic Americans, we need to be reminded—especially today—that while presidents may come and go, our King—Christ the King—remains.  And that is Good News.  Because in Christ, we do not have a King who does not seek to have his name put upon a billboard but allows himself to be nailed on a cross.  In Christ, we do not have a have a king who points fingers at the moral failings of others, but allows himself to be counted among the criminals and outcasts, knowing that we are all outcasts at some pint in our lives.  In Christ, we do not have a King who says vote for me... we have a King who says follow me.  

I will say, that is what one of the most frustrating things about Jesus.  Most Kings and Queens want people to praise them.  Most want people to worship them.  (And we've had quite a number of presidents who never seemed to mind a good bit of adulation themselves.)  But if you read the gospels, Jesus never says "Worship me" to the people he encountered.  He always said "Follow me." 

I will say, sometimes I wish he just said "Worship me."  Because worshiping this Christ the King is a lot easier than following him.  In following Christ the King, we need to serve and associate with the people whom he served and associated with... the outcasts of this world.  And for us in America, those who are considered outcasts make up a very long list.  The unborn of a woman in crisis, but whose genuine needs might put a strain on the social safety net.  The illegal immigrants of whom we might not approve, but whose desperation to provide for their families we could all identify with if we were in their situation.  The protester with whom we might have an honest disagreement.  The Muslim with whom we struggle in trusting.  The list of outcasts in this world is not short and following the King who cares for them is not easy.  Yet we never can doubt that it is Good News that we have such a king.  Because the vast majority of us in our lives have had some direct experience of being an outcast... whether it be in school, our communities, our businesses, or even our families.  

Presidents may come and go, but our Christ the King remains.  The King who reaches out to us when we are outcast, but also challenges us to reach out to the other outcasts around us.  The king who doesn't necessarily have a problem when we worship him but really likes it when we follow Him.  The King who says to all of us, "Today you will be with me in paradise."  A paradise we can share not only in heaven, but here on this Earth when we all follow Him together.

Online Campaign Starting in next few days!

Uploaded by Fr. Tom Gibbons on 2016-11-16.

Right now we are in the process of finishing up the post-production and editing, as well as planning for a big premiere in January, so we are really excited.   But, in order to get the film looking and sounded like it needs to be—as well as to distribute to as wide an audience as possible—we need your help.  We are going to be doing an online campaign to raise the additional resources to bring Servant of God Isaac Hecker’s story out into the world.  Look for announcements in the coming days for our campaign.

Comfort and Challenge in Christianity

Here is my homily from this Sunday for what was probably a mixed audience at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Community in LA.  The readings can be accessed here.


I have to admit - I was hoping for some more comforting readings today.  For some, it’s been a very difficult week and for others it's been a week of celebration.  But I might say that for all of us, it has been a long and exhausting election.  And just when we thought we were DONE with all of the negative campaign ads, we hear in today’s first reading from Malachi, “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts.”  Jesus isn’t much more help.  “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place…”  You can almost imagine someone after these disturbing readings saying, “I am such-and-such a candidate and I approve this message.”  

But of course, as we are so often reminded, church isn’t always here to make us comfortable.  If we are being true to our Christianity, we know and regularly experience that maxim of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.  And in this election, it’s fair to say that as Catholics we found aspects of each candidate that left us partially comfortable and aspects that left us partially afflicted.  Those who have devoted their lives to the pro-life movement in this country are now experiencing an optimism not felt in decades and maybe even some vindication after seeing concern for the unborn being dismissed over the years.  Yet I’ve also talked to too many other people this week of who are of a different color, who were not born in this country, and of a different faith tradition that they are even more afraid—for not only their own well-being but for the well-being of those they love—than they were last week.  So maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that we are not hearing a message of comfort this weekend.   Maybe God meant for us to be a little afflicted no matter who won.  

One of my favorite preachers is a Lutheran pastor named Nadia-Bolz Weber.  She has written some great books and she has this great way of bringing to life the victories and failures and complexities of living out a faith in Jesus Christ in every day life.  Nadia formed a church in Colorado called House for All Sinners and Saints and, not surprisingly, it has drawn a lot of people who call it home.  

One thing Pastor Nadia does, however, when new people come to the church and seek to join it, is she goes out of her way to tell people that as great as church is, it is also a place that will—at some point—disappoint them.  She tells new members of her church, “This community will disappoint you.  It’s a matter of when not if.  We will let you down, or I will say something stupid and hurt your feelings.”  Pastor Nadia says that she’s not that idealistic about any kind of human project… but she’s completely idealistic about God’s ability to redeem our shortcomings and our mistakes.  So Pastor Nadia tells her new members that before that disappointment actually happens, please decide on this side of that happening that you will stick around “because if you leave, you will miss the way God’s grace comes in and fills the cracks of our brokenness and it’s just to beautiful to miss.  Don’t miss it.”   

I was showing a video of Pastor Nadia giving that speech for some staff development we were doing this past week here at St. Paul the Apostle.  As she was talking about the fact that while church is something that we all aspire to and will inevitably let us down, I was also thinking that that line of thinking could easily apply to America as well.  We often call America a great hope for humanity with our commitment to freedom and liberty.  America has been referred to as a “Land of Hope and Dreams” and the “Shining City on a Hill” and throughout our history we have shown that to be the case.  But if we are being honest, America is just as much an ideal to which we regularly fall short.  America is a place where we are inspired by the spirit of welcome symbolized by Statue of Liberty… and the place where we get disturbed by the huddled masses gathering at the bottom of the statue.  America celebrates our ability to give everyone an equal shot… but often leaves people who fall short in the dust.  We uphold E Pluribus Unum as our motto,  but continue to divide ourselves into our respective camps of 48%.

So maybe it’s okay that God’s words to us today leave us a little uncomfortable.  Because it’s when we are a little uncomfortable that we are more likely to draw closer to God.  Because America, like any community, is a very human endeavor, no matter how divinely inspired we may or may not be.  Maybe we need a reminder today that America, like our various political parties, is meant to be the vehicle by which the values of life and justice and equality and freedom are made manifest in the world… but is not the ultimate source of those values.  

We might not want to rush into being comfortable, so we can be challenged by God to seek his lead more, both as Americans as Christians.  We might need to stay disturbed for a while, because it is only then that we can open ourselves up to the direction God is calling us as a people… even if it deviates from what we originally believed or how our politics was previously disposed.  Even if it means there may be challenges ahead.  

And so on this first weekend where we may be free of campaign commercials but are still given challenging readings, may God bless those who are especially afraid and vulnerable this morning.  May God bless all of those who fight to protect both the mothers who might be in crisis and the children they carry.  May God continue to bless, comfort, and challenge us in all of our honest aspirations, sincere efforts, an occasional hypocrisies.  And may continue to bless, comfort, and challenge America.  

My name is Fr. Tom Gibbons and I approve this message.

Martin Sheen has recorded for Orestes Brownson

This past week, Martin Sheen recorded his lines for the role of Orestes Brownson, leading Catholic American thinker and Isaac Hecker's one-time mentor.  


As IMDB relates:

Multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winner Martin Sheen is one of America's most celebrated, colorful, and accomplished actors.

For television audiences, Sheen is best recognized for his six-time Emmy nominated performance as President Josiah Bartlet in The West Wing (1999). Sheen won six of his eight Golden Globe nominations as well as an ALMA Award; and two individual SAG Awards; for the White House series. He won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor TV Series Drama in 2001.

In 2006, the actor played ill-fated cop Oliver Queenan in Martin Scorsese's Academy Award-winning film The Departed (2006) opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin.

In 2006, Sheen was again nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series; this time for the CBS hit comedy Two and a Half Men (2003) starring his son Charlie Sheen.

In addition to series television, Sheen has appeared in several important made-for-television movies and mini-series including playing President John F. Kennedy in the television mini-series Kennedy (1983) for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.