Father James Wallace

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.

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.

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.

It's green week!

Dear Parishioners,

The Transfiguration. I see this event as a sister image of the crucifixion. We could even call the Transfiguration a shadow of the Redemption. Or perhaps it is reversed? Either way, there are several comparisons to make.

Jesus ascends two hills in both scenes: Tabor and Calvary. He is elevated with three individuals below him: Peter, James, and John while he is floating in the air; Mary, John, and Mary while he is suspended on the cross. Of course, two individuals are at his side both times: Moses and Elijah, and the two thieves. The Father in heaven above smiles over the Transfiguration; weeps over the crucifixion.

Christ is bathed in white on Tabor. On Calvary he is bathed in red. The colors are painful, each in their own ways. The bright white blinds, while the red is the blood from the lacerations. The colors are also beautiful. And this leads me to my last point.

It's good to be dust.

Dear Parishioners,

Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return. That is the more traditional formula used on Ash Wednesday. Though I wouldn't call myself a traditionalist, I do prefer this line. I like being reminded that I am dust. Dust means simplicity and total contingency. It is, by definition, a single particle or grain, and dust is totally dependent on something else to create it.

We are dust. That is we are, or, at least ought to be, simple beings—receptacles to receive the breath of God. This is a good thing, since God's breath is holy, powerful, and wise.

We are dust. That is, we are, or, at least ought to be, totally dependent on God (see the opening line of our first reading from Genesis, 2:7, where we hear man was formed out of the "clay of the ground"). This is another good thing, since God is good and will make us good people.

O you of little faith

Dear Parishioners,

Do you worry? If you do—if you are a "worrier"—then listen particularly to Jesus this weekend. “Do not worry about your life,” he says. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?” (Matt 6:24-34)

Planning and being intentional is one thing, worrying is another. Worrying does us no good. It is wasted energy and makes life much less enjoyable. Jesus wants us to be happy, which is why he tells us to stop worrying. Our Savior will provide for us, just like he provides for the birds of the sky and the wildflowers.

Praying is an antidote to worrying. Look at the opening line from our psalm today: “Only in God is my soul at rest” (Ps 62:2). When we worry, our mind and, fundamentally, our soul dart around. Conversely, when we pray we are put at ease. God relaxes us. Sit with Jesus and even express to him some of your worries, and he will settle you.

All That is Holy

Dear Parishioners,

Holiness is the theme this weekend. “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy,” we hear in Leviticus (Lev 19:1). Paul next informs the Corinthians, “for the temple of God, which you are, is holy” (1 Cor 3:17). Finally, Jesus' instructions to “turn the other cheek”, and so forth, are some qualities that go into making a person holy. I've often said that if you are going to ask for one thing in prayer, ask for holiness. If we are holy, everything else will fall in place.

So what exactly is holiness? Many have written on the topic. In fact, when I come across a quote or a passage about holiness, I record it. Let me share one from the many I have. It is from Thomas Merton, taken out of New Seeds of Contemplation:

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Adapted from a homily.

The Beatitudes are Jesus' way of describing himself. He is meek, merciful, a peacemaker, and so on. Being called to be these eight characteristics means we are, in effect, being called to be like Jesus. How do we be like Jesus? By being friends with him. Friends resemble one another. If we're friends with Jesus, which we can be by talking to him, we will be happy and blessed.

Today is the start of Catholic Schools Week. Students at a Catholic school are made friends with Jesus. This is the most important objective, in my opinion, a Catholic education achieves. Our school kids are introduced to Jesus and start a friendship that will last their entire lives. They become like Jesus and live out the Beatitudes, and ultimately experience happiness.

During our school's monthly Catholic identity assemblies we play, as kids walk into the gym, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles, since our theme is "Let Your Light Shine." I'd like to propose we also play a song by Bob Dylan called "All I Really Wanna Do." The song is about friendship. Here are a few lines:

I ain't lookin' to compete with you
Beat or cheat or mistreat you
Simplify you, classify you
Deny, defy or crucify you
All I really want to do
Is, baby, be friends with you

Listen to the song and imagine Jesus is singing it to you. My point is not that Dylan's voice is heavenly. Ha! My point is that all Jesus really wants to do is be friends with you. Every Saint Juliana student has a best Friend.

To Parents About First Communion

Adapted from a talk to parents about First Communion.

I did not play golf as a kid. I thought the game was too hard and that it was boring. I regret this. Why? Well, forming good habits and muscle memory is easier as a child than it is as an adult. I play golf now and if I had played it at a younger age I would be a lot better at it–at least that's what I tell myself–and would enjoy it even more.

It's similar to attending Mass. If a young person goes to Mass now, though he may have excuses for why he should not (it is boring, he has travel sports) he will be grateful when he is older. He will be comfortable in church and will be able to enter into the beautiful intricacies of prayer and the Mass. Like anything in life, whether it be playing a sport or an instrument, Mass has a beginner's, intermediate, and advanced level. The beginner's level is always difficult, but if we can persevere, we will be rewarded as we move into the more advanced levels.

If that is not enough to convince you, then know going to Mass can be an act of service. A young person or a family's presence at Mass enhances the experience for everyone, especially elderly people. Back to golf: it would have been a nice gift to my dad to play with him as a child, and to my mom–to get me out of the house. What is important in life is not always what you get out of something, but what you give to it. So, please, be patient and generous, and play golf...I mean, attend Sunday Mass.

Christmas Mass

Adapted from the homily.

There are three "reasons" God became man. I'd like to discuss these, using Christmas gifts from my past to help illustrate.

1) Redemption. Jesus was born to redeem mankind. “He will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). The separation between man and God due to the Fall could only be restored by God becoming man. My "saving" Christmas gift from childhood was snow pants. The gift was lame, I thought at first, but it allowed me to play in the snow and have fun without getting cold or wet.

2) Revelation. Jesus was born to reveal more about God. “The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18). Jesus showed us that God is not just some generic force, but is a Trinity. God is relational, which means we can talk to him. A "revealing" Christmas gift from my past was a bunch of wood and tools. I went through a phase in high school were I thought I wanted to be a wood worker. By the end of January, having failed to make things, I realized this wasn't meant to be.

3) Righteousness. Jesus was born to show us how to live well. “For behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). Loving one another as yourself and loving God is the key to happiness. The Christmas gift that brought me a lot of happiness was the video game MarioKart. It was fun to play individually and it brought people together, since you could play each other in battle mode.

If you open a gift this year that has a redeeming, revealing, or righteous quality to it, give thanks to Jesus.