You are my beloved son

The following is the reflection I gave at our son’s baptism back on October 1, 2016. I am reposting it in honor of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

“On coming up out of the water [Jesus] saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” – Mark 1:10-11, my brackets


Venerable Fulton Sheen was once approached by a man and asked, “Are you the Bishop Sheen who gave the mission sermon at St. Patrick’s Cathedral two years ago?” Sheen replied, “Yes, I am.” The man exclaimed, “That was a wonderful sermon! I enjoyed every minute of that hour and a half.” The Bishop protested, “My good man, I have never talked an hour and a half in my life!” “Well,” the man said, “it seemed that long to me.”

You will be happy to know, in mercy to the young ones and those who mind them, as well as to all of our hungry stomachs, this reflection will not be an hour and a half! Hopefully, it will not seem like it is either.

“You are my beloved son…” It is one thing to know this intellectually – as a statement of fact, as it appears in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism: “This is my beloved son…” It is quite another to know it personally – as a tender word spoken by the Father to our hearts: “You are my beloved son…” Mark’s account emphasizes this personal voice. It is Jesus who hears the voice of the Father – the voice that confirms his true identity and vocation. We can hear in these words an echo of those spoken by God to King David: “You are my son – this day I have begotten you” (Ps. 2:7). It is a personal word, a personal call, a word spoken to my heart and to yours. And today, in a special way, it is a word spoken to Crosby Fulton’s little heart. Continue reading


Making Room

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” – Luke 2:7

cardinals northern male and female winter ice storm

Luke emphasizes that the only shelter for the Holy Family was the place where the animals lived. Since Mary was about to give birth, there was no time to search for better accommodations, and, as the Scripture informs us, “there was no room for them in the inn.” Venerable Fulton Sheen – the well-known archbishop from New York and one of the pioneers of early television – commented that the words “there was no room for them in the inn” may be the saddest words in the whole Bible. He draws a relationship between these words and those of John’s Prologue that the Son of God “came to his own and his own received him not” (John 1:11). You could say that what is stressed here is a lack of hospitality.

Yet, perhaps there is another interpretation. The word in the original Greek, translated here as “inn,” is not actually the formal word for “inn,” but rather for “guest room.” Thus, instead of seeing the Holy Family as coming to an inn with various rooms, we can imagine them seeking shelter in a large guest room of a private residence. The guest room seems to be full – there is not enough room for them, especially private enough for a woman to deliver a child. Continue reading


Creating space

“I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10


When I was young, my father, adapting an image from St. Therese, explained to me how there could be “levels” in heaven, with certain saints reaching higher degrees of happiness, while at the same time everyone being perfectly happy. My Dad told me to imagine a large glass and a small one, both filled to the brim with water.

“Which one is more full?” He inquired.

“Neither one,” I replied. “They are both completely full.”

“That’s right. But which one has more water in it?” He pressed.

“The bigger one.” I said.

“And that’s how it is in heaven. Everyone is full, but some have more of God in them because they have made more room for him, and so they experience a greater joy.”

And then he gave me this charge: “David – you always want to have a bigger glass!” Continue reading


On Deserving

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.”  – Luke 15:21, NJB

Hand and Flowers

Deserve. This word automatically evokes a sense of justice. You get what you deserve: what is your right, what is coming to you. “Father, let me have the share of the estate that will come to me” (Luke 15:12).  You get what you have earned, what you have worked for. There are merits and demerits. “All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours” (Luke 15:29).

Deserving is different when viewed through the paradigm of justice than it is through the paradigm of gift. Deserving in the paradigm of justice is dependent on what you have done, or the status you have attained. Deserving in the paradigm of gift is dependent on how the “giver” regards you, on the status he or she bestows. Perhaps, both sons in the parable suffer from the same misunderstanding. Both claim justice (later on, the younger son even believed he deserved a demotion for his sins), when for the father all is gift. Continue reading


Consuming fire

“Our God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12:29


Love, Pure Love

is a Consuming Fire.

Fire consumes all that is not fire.

It devours completely,

assimilating every worthy element

and transforming it into itself.

Nothing of what was remains.

What remains is nothingness.

A transubstantiation.

Thus is Love,

consuming all that is not Love,

annihilating all lesser loves.

Some vanish as droplets before they are touched.

Some burn slowly and suffer violence,

their torture observed as through bars

until they too are digested, destroyed.

Only Love is inexorable.

Only Love endures.

The Unquenchable Fire that quenches all

and is All.


My only one

“My dove is my only one, perfect and mine.” – Song of Songs 6:9

Rose & Baby's Breath

In the Book of Exodus we learn something about God – a name of God in fact – that seems strange to us: “You will worship no other god, since Yahweh’s name is the Jealous One; he is a jealous God” (Ex. 34:14).

Today, jealousy is seen solely as something negative, undesirable. It almost always signals possessiveness, insecurity, suspicion, and a  lack of trust.  Jealousy destroys relationships, indeed, suffocates them.

So how can God be the “Jealous One”? He is the Jealous One because he wants my everything. He wants me, not just part of me, but all of me – total, exclusive, undivided.

Yet, it is truly me that he wants. He wants my all, but it is my all.  He wants me to give myself totally to him – to hold nothing back of myself for myself, as St. Francis of Assisi exhorts. But this complete giving of myself to him never means the annihilation of me or of my freedom; it is the highest expression of my freedom. It is not the kind of possessiveness that suffocates, but that sets free. To become one with him, to permeate him and be permeated by him, to melt with him (or, in St. Teresa of Avila’s words, to be dissolved in him) never means losing myself. I do not disappear, but become most fully me in the surrender. Continue reading


Love, obedience, and absurdity

“Whoever holds to my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.” – John 14:21

Us in VT

St. Augustine preached, “Love and do what you will.” Augustine’s meaning, however, can be misunderstood. He wasn’t saying that any action done with a feeling of affection or tenderness is by virtue of that motivation ipso facto “loving.” After all, this is the same Augustine who stated, “What is not loved in its own right is not loved,” making clear that love is “disinterested” and focused solely on the true good of the one loved. In fact, one of the main points in the sermon was that certain actions that appear unloving, like a parent disciplining his or her child, actually are expressions of love. And such actions may require doing things that are displeasing to the one loved and don’t make anyone feel very good at all. Continue reading