Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Nov 6, 2011

Wise or Foolish – Time Moves On and Our Response is Required

The readings for this Sunday, the 32nd in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, speak of Wisdom, the end of time and return of the Lord, and the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. Wisdom is seen as ever wandering in search of those who will love her and seek her guidance. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians reassures the Christians of Thessalonica that even those who have died will be reunited with Jesus when He returns in glory. There was a sense of urgency among early Christians because they believed that the final coming of Jesus would occur very soon: even within their lifetimes. (Most of us don’t have that sense of urgency any more. It’s been too many years and we forget that for each of us that final coming could occur at any instant.) The wise and foolish virgins were all waiting together for a marriage contract to be completed between two families, so the ceremony and celebration could begin. Those in one group were ready, with plenty of oil to keep their lamps burning into the night and those in the other were not. The story is seen as a warning to be ready for the coming of the Lord at any time.

Father Ron Shirley’s homily offers a perspective on these themes for our times. With his permission, I share it with you.

Ya Buts

This gospel reminds me of two special stories.

The first story:
There is a town that has four separate neighborhoods. The first neighborhood is called, “Yabuts.” The people who live there think they know what needs to be done. As a matter of fact, they talk about it quite convincingly – up to a point. When told they have an opportunity for something, the conversation goes something like this: “Ya, but…” The “Yabuts” have the answer. It just happens to be the wrong answer.

The next neighborhood is known as the “Gunnados.” Now they are some of the best-intentioned folks you could ever meet. They really understand what needs to be done, and they would have done it, if they had only followed through. They study everything that is required very carefully, and just as an opportunity drifts past them, they realize what they were “gunnado.” If only they had done what they were “gunnado.”

Another neighborhood is known as the “Wishawoodas.” These people have an excellent perspective on life – hindsight. They say, “I ‘wishawooda’ this, or ‘wishawooda’ that…” They know everything that should be done, only it’s after the fact.

The last neighborhood is known as the “Gladidids.” They are a truly special group of people. The “Wishawoodas” drive by the “Gladidids” homes and admire them. The “Gunnados” want to join them, but just cannot quite get around to it. The “Yabuts” could have been “Gladidids,” but destiny just did not smile on them. The “Gladidids” are pleased that they are disciplined enough to do what they know they should do instead of always doing what they wanted to do.

These are the four neighborhoods. In which neighborhood do you live? In which one would you rather live? 1) Yabuts 2) Gunnados 3) Wishawoodas 4) Gladidids.

The second story:
There is an ancient story about three demons who were arguing over the best way to destroy the Christian mission in the world. The first demon says, “Let’s tell all the Christians there is no heaven. Take away the reward incentive and the mission will collapse.” The second demon says, “Let’s tell all the Christians there is no hell. Take away the fear of punishment and the mission will collapse.” The third demon says, “There is one better way. Let’s tell all the Christians that there is no hurry” and all three immediately say, “That’s it! All we have to do is tell them there’s no hurry and the whole Christian enterprise will collapse.”

Some things can’t be put off to the last minute- the foolish bridesmaids needed to be reminded of this. We are reminded – happy is the person who takes to heart this message and does something about it today.


Read More

Posted by on Feb 15, 2011

More than Just the Minimum to Get By – The Beatitudes

This past Sunday the readings for the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, included the section from Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:17-37) in which Jesus makes clear that simple compliance with the Law is not the way to the profound holiness of the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s a troubling section of a difficult teaching – one we often dismiss as just an idea or “He didn’t really mean this literally.”

Fr. Ron Shirley, in his reflection on the Gospel, tackled the challenge of the reading directly, phrasing it as a question of respect. It bears sharing.


Not very long ago, I was having dinner at some friend’s house, and got a chance to sit next to….Billy. Billy is somewhere between one and two, probably closer to two, and has strong opinions about what he likes and what he doesn’t like. No matter if mamma is telling him in a sweet voice how nummy-nummy the mashed peas are, no matter if dad ends up eating half of the loathsome vegetables himself in order to show him how mmm-mmm good they are—if he doesn’t like them, he starts throwing. He threw the spoon, he threw the cup, he threw the bow…and finally, in an unguarded moment, he threw the Gerber’s jar and the peas…right at me.

Billy is young. He hasn’t had a chance to learn yet how to respect things. He doesn’t know that when you throw things, they sometimes get dinged or cracked or broken. He’ll learn. In fact, that is one of life’s great accomplishments…learning respect. It’s a life-long process. I remember comparing how my cousins and I used to do dishes, compared to the way my grandmother did, for instance. As teenagers we tore into those dishes as quickly as we could, they went flying. There was always at least one fatality, quite often an old cup or plate. We were a little better than Billy, but we had a way to go. Things still got dinged and cracked and broken.

And then there was Grandma. Perhaps she was like most old people. She handled the dishes slowly, with a sort of reverence. Her wrinkled old hands took hold of each platter and glass as if it were a special old friend. I don’t remember her ever breaking anything. She had learned respect. She knew how easily things can get dinged and cracked and broken. She knew how to respect food and clothes, and pencils and pens….and people.

Because if unimportant things get dinged and cracked and broken when they are not respected enough, so can people. If people are abused or roughed up or overlooked and banged around often enough…they get dinged and cracked and broken.

It isn’t enough, Jesus says, not to murder. You have to show respect to everyone. Not harbor anger against them. Not use abusive language against them or hold them in contempt.

It isn’t enough, Jesus says, to avoid the actual act of adultery with someone. What is needed, is respect for someone else and their relationship, and respect for yourself, that you don’t even entertain the thought.

It isn’t enough, Jesus says, to avoid swearing to things that are false. What is needed is so much respect for the people around you that you don’t swear at all, you just say yes when its yes and no when its no.

We Americans are just now learning how important it is to respect things instead of wasting them; respecting the environment, the rivers and streams, the soil and air, instead of abusing them.

And we need to grow in respect for ourselves and for each other. This means, not having to dominate every conversation. Not having our own way. Not inflicting our moods so freely on each other. Respect is one of the most basic types of love.

And why should we show ourselves and each other so much respect? Because God has shown complete respect to us!

1. Do I show respect to myself?
2. Is there someone close to me that I am disrespecting?

Read More

Posted by on Aug 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Act on God’s Word – August 30, 2009

Fr. Ron Shirley

Fr. Ron Shirley

The following is today’s homily from Fr. Ron Shirley, pastor of Resurrection Parish in Aptos, CA. Today’s readings are for the 22 Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B. (DT 4:1-2,6-8, JAS 1:17-18,21b-22,27, MK 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23)

Fr. Ron’s homilies are available every week at

An elderly priest made a retreat. In the course of it he was struck deeply by three things that he’d always been aware of but never had really taken to heart.

First, there are millions of people in the world who are hungry and homeless. Second, he had spent his entire priestly life preaching comfortable sermons to comfortable people. Third, he had bent over backwards to avoid disturbing or alienating people.

In other words, the priest found himself to be much like the priest played by Jack Lemmon in the film “Mass Appeal.” He preached only about those things that didn’t disturb his parishioners and made them feel good.

And now, like the priest in “Mass Appeal,” the old priest suddenly realized that he had been more worried about pleasing his people than about preaching the Gospel. He had been more worried about rocking the boat than about challenging his parishioners to look into their hearts to see if they were satisfied with what they saw there.

The week following his eye-opening retreat, the old priest looked up the Scripture readings to prepare his Sunday homily.

As he read the Gospel, these words of Jesus leaped right off the page: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The priest resolved, then and there, that he was going to share his soul-searching with his parishioners. So he began his homily by saying:

“My homily this morning will be exactly 30 seconds long. That’s the shortest homily that I’ve ever preached in my life, but it’s also the most important homily I’ve ever preached.”

With that attention-grabbing introduction, the priest gave his 30-second homily. He said:

“I want to make just three points. First, millions of people in the world are hungry and homeless. Second, most people in the world don’t give a damn about that. Third, many of you are more disturbed by the fact that I just said damn in the pulpit than by the fact that I said there are millions of hungry and homeless people in the world.”

With that the elderly priest made the sign of the cross and sat down.

That homily did three things that many homilies don’t do.

First, it caught the attention of the people.
Second, it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the gospel.
Third, hopefully it made the people look into their hearts.

The story of this priest and the gospel reading make the same point.

Religion is not something we do on Sunday. It’s not primarily, observing certain laws, saying certain prayers, or performing certain rituals.

That’s what many people in Jesus’ time had turned religion into. To observe these rituals was to please God. Not to observe them was to sin. In short, observing rituals became identified with being religious.

To illustrate the hypocrisy of such legalism, William Barclay tells this story – about a Muslim pursing an enemy to kill him. In the midst of the chase, the Azan, or public call to prayer sounded. Instantly the Muslim got off his horse, unrolled his prayer mat, knelt down, and prayed the required prayers as fast as he could. Then he leaped back on his horse to pursue his enemy in order to kill him.

It was precisely this kind of legalism that Jesus opposed so vigorously in his time.

Jesus made it clear that religion isn’t something you do at certain times on certain days. It’s not saying certain prayers or performing certain rituals. It’s a thing of the heart. It’s a thing of the heart called love – love of God and love of neighbor. Love in action.

Today’s Scripture reading invites us to look into our hearts and to ask ourselves to what extent the words of Jesus in today’s gospel reading apply to us: “This people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”

The Scriptures also invite us to look into our own hearts and ask ourselves to what extent the words of James in today’s second reading apply to us:

Act on (God’s) word.
If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves.”

I hope this homily today did 3 things:

First – it caught your attention.
Second – it caught the spirit of Jesus’ words in the Gospel.
Third – it makes all of us look into our hearts!

Read More