Father James Wallace

Put your finger here.

Dear Parishioners,

Thomas was so close. His sainthood teetered on the edge. If our Lord had not been merciful and returned to show his wounds, Thomas might never have believed in the Resurrection and might not have remained a follower of Christ. He would not be a saint and would be grouped instead with Judas. Thomas was so close to forsakenness. He could have fallen away. But Jesus catered to Thomas' need for proof and kept him secure. “Then he said 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.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’“ (Jn 20:27-28).

Maybe you've been close to the edge, close to falling astray and away from Christ. Or maybe even you did fall and were away for a while. Thomas is your saint then.

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With God all things are possible.

Dear Parishioners,

Happy Easter! Christ is risen from the dead, alleluia!

The Resurrection is like a code that has been programmed into the software of the earth. Dying and rising is everywhere. Think about it. Moving on to a high school or college is a resurrection experience. A student "dies" to his grammar school and is reborn in high school. Flowers are blooming. A new Cubs season is underway. People are marrying.

People are dying and being reborn to eternal life.

Companies, like Apple, have experienced the resurrection too, as have industries and brands: bourbon, neon sunglasses, the Volkswagen Beetle, the Twinkie, leggings and striped tube socks. All of these things existed at one point, began to diminish, and then returned.

Saint Juliana Parish is no different. The Resurrection is in our DNA.

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One Nation, Under God

America was deeply torn after the Civil War. The fighting may have ended, but divisions had not been healed. Reconstruction, if anything, made matters worse. Policies did not quite appease the southerners, while northerners felt betrayed. And blacks in the south were not in a tremendously improved situation.

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Dawn of a Red Day

Imagine the United States of America is invaded by China. Think of the movie Red Dawn, if you've seen it. We have been conquered and most of our American culture has been banned. One day—remaining in our hypothetical scenario—an individual comes along and claims to be the leader who will free us from our oppressors. We believe him. We follow him. When it comes time to implement the plan to overthrow the invaders, our savior drops a bomb. The problem is with us, not them. We, he says, need to convert. We are shocked. We are offended. And so when the Chinese arrest our leader and sentence him to death, not only do we not object, we approve of his killing.

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Gardening with Jesus

I'm a bit out of my element in meditating on Jesus the gardener. Full self-disclosure: when I see the flower bed outside the rectory, I see an ash tray for my cigar. Nevertheless, let me try. Our souls are an orchard and Jesus is the optimistic gardener. At least that's how I interpret the parable of the barren fig tree (cf. Lk 13:1-9).

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Indifference

“Indifference” by G.A. Studdert Kennedy:

When Jesus came to Golgotha, they hanged Him on a tree,
They drove great nails through hands and feet, and made a Calvary;
They crowned Him with a crown of thorns, red were His wounds and deep,
For those were crude and cruel days, and human flesh was cheap.

When Jesus came to Birmingham, they simply passed Him by.
They would not hurt a hair of Him, they only let Him die;
For men had grown more tender, and they would not give Him pain,
They only just passed down the street, and left Him in the rain.

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On the importance of the Resurrection

Dear Parishioners,

I teach 7th grade religion once a week in our school. Recently I asked them on a quiz to write a short-answer essay on why the resurrection is important. Here are some snippets of responses from the quizzes:

The Resurrection is important because when Jesus resurrected he opened the gates of heaven so we could live forever.

The Resurrection showed that Jesus was true to his word and also foreshadowed his coming again to judge all.

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Come and See

Dear Parishioners,

The raising of Lazarus is one of my favorite passages from the Bible (cf. Jn 11:1-45). I have meditated on this scene dozens of times and taken away a different message or insight each time. Let's take this line: “Jesus wept.”

I often suggest this passage to read when an individual who is grieving the loss of a loved one comes to me for counseling. Jesus wept over the death of his loved one too. He can empathize with us. We can relate to him. Most importantly, Jesus is with us in our sorrow. Whatever we might be feeling--sadness, confusion, anger, despair—we are not alone. Jesus wept and he weeps again with us. The scene of the raising of Lazarus can hopefully be a source of comfort to us.

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Here's mud in your eye.

Dear Parishioners,

“When [Jesus] had said this, he spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on [the man's] eyes, and said to him, ‘Go wash in the Pool of Siloam’ —which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see” (Jn 9:6-7).

Another long Gospel reading this Sunday, but another good one! John, our Gospel writer, is doing more than just recounting a miraculous event in the life of Christ. He is teaching us. The multiple exchanges—between the Jesus and the man born blind, the man and the Pharisees, the Pharisees and the man's parents, the neighbors among themselves, and Jesus and the Pharisees—all contain lessons. But it's this use of clay that has me intrigued.

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Counting Baals

Dear Parishioners,

The account of the Samaritan woman at the well from the Gospel of John—the third Sunday of Lent's Gospel—is an interesting one. Jesus knows that the woman has had five different husbands. The woman is floored. Seems odd. Any gossip in town would know this juicy piece of information. So why is the woman led to divine faith by the information our Messiah possesses?

John, our Gospel writer, usually tries to make some broader connection to the Old Testament in his passages. The word Baal in the Old Testament means false god. You may remember this word. The Israelites often got in trouble for abandoning God and worshipping Baal. But Baal had another meaning as well. Wives sometimes also used the world Baal for their husbands. Jesus is telling this woman she had five different Baals. Well, Samaria—the woman's homeland—was occupied by a foreign power who worshipped five Baals. And there was a prediction in the first chapter of Hosea that Samaria would be delivered from these five Baals after 700 hundred years by the Messiah, and this was the 700th year! The woman makes this connection, which is why Jesus' information leads her to become a disciple.

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