Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mt 1:1-17 Jesus’ Crazy Family

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine

“Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.”

When asked to identify oneself, one rarely recourses to their ancestry, much less one’s ancestry from the past 28 generations. Most people do not even mention their family much at all, unless they come from some political family with influence. We tend to focus on the present, what we do right now, to properly inform others of who we are. The past does not signify much in our decisions—the past did not have Internet, smartphones, or social networking; therefore, it seems unlikely to have much bearing on today’s reality, or at least it feels that way.

Naturally, leaders of society take advantage of this prejudice in favor of the present. They distract listeners with the future, and sometimes the present—if something good has happened—to push their agendasThus, in the public consciousness, the past tends to merge with fantasy; sadly, family tends to darken into the haze of the past as well. People of today, particularly younger generations, prefer to adopt new figures for family if they have any yearnings for someone close at all. Celebrities,public figures, and lovers capitalize on this and offer themselves—and such is the secret of marketing,campaigning, and hookup culture.

Ignoring one’s ancestry, and immediate family,inevitably takes a heavy toll on one’s sense of identity. The present has no form or meaning if one has no knowledge of the past. Internet and smartphones notwithstanding, an individual suffers a setback in personal knowledge if he does not understand where comes from. While Locke’s idea of a blank slate figures heavily into our imaginations, we are not blank slates, but messy palimpsests (a used and reused writing tablet) produced by family. Lacking a knowledge of one’s family history, or disavowing family altogether, does not wipe the slate clean, as people seems to think it does; rather, it shrinks the slate and even dirties it a little more. Parents, grandparents, and beyond all remind us of our humanity, our connection with our surroundings, our origins, and this in turn give us a foundation. Jobs come and go; friends come and go; even culture comes and goes; but family, both alive and dead, remains firmly in place.

Without family, one’s sense of self can easily disconnect with reality. As the existentialist like to imagine, human beings without a past must recreate themselves anew every day. They often bear the burden of supplying a personality that fits with the immediate occasion, splitting into multiple selves: a work-self, a domestic-self, a social-self, a vacation-self, a scholar-self, etc. With so much shifting and recreating, these people fail to recognize who theyare in truth and find themselves caught up in appearances.

Admittedly, Jesus does not preach about family in this way, yet the gospel writers, particularly Matthew and Luke, do hope to make a point about it from the very start. Matthew lists the twisting family line of ancestors who precede Jesus as a preface to his narrative. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI makes the point that this line “is a somber history that leads to Jesus; it is not without its moments of light, its hopes, and advances, but on the whole it is a history of shabbiness, sin, and failure.” For a line that includes murderous kings, adulterers, and prostitutes, it seems odd to mention them as an introduction to the Messiah who shall redeem the world. Even if it happens to satisfy some prophecies,it also makes Jesus look way too human to be the Son of God having the nobility of a heavenly king.

However, this is the point of Jesus’ genealogy. His humanity makes Him truly real and allows Him to redeem the world. He does not merely materialize into mortal form, only to return back to the celestial world after setting a fine moral example for the people to follow in the fashion of some pagan myth. He enters into history and, having a history Himself, can actually change it by becoming a part of it.

Furthermore, Jesus’ family line does not just make Him human; it makes Him a particular human. Jesus would not be recognizable, not in His time nor in ours, if His ancestry remained unknown. His family roots make Him the Messiah, not just a “messiah figure.” Once believers take away Jesus’ family tree and disregard the history that leads up to Him, they can make no sense of Jesus as He is in the gospels. He becomes a malleable myth, a flexible fable, thatfoolish people manipulate and perpetuate to comfort one another, not a man who forms the unshakeable center of our lives.

The genealogy demonstrates just how far God was willing to go to save humanity. He did not only adoptthe superficial human qualities, but all the profound ones as well. Noting this, Benedict points out that“the Incarnation of God does not result from an ascent on the part of the human race but from the descent of God.” Jesus’ history matters, as does every person’s. Just as it helps us to recognize Jesus, it will help us to recognize ourselves—and just how much we need family, both physical and spiritual.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mt 21:23-27 Will You Share?

Monday of the Third Week of advent
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS

When Jesus had come into the temple area,
the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him
as he was teaching and said,
“By what authority are you doing these things?
And who gave you this authority?”
Jesus said to them in reply,
“I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me,
then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things.
Where was John’s baptism from?...So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.”He himself said to them,“Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
 
This Gospel reading reminds me of an experience that I had on last summer’s Belize mission trip. While we were there, one of our favorite activities was going to the girls high school every day after our work to pray and talk about our faith together. One day, our leader gave us all what was called a “spiritual gifts inventory” to work on, which was a series of fifty or so questions that each person would answer to gain some insight on which spiritual gifts she was likely to have. Many people got ‘prayer’ and ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion’ and ‘service,’and deservedly so—the girls on my mission trip are some of the most dedicated teenagers in their service that I have ever met. Unfortunately, those gifts were dead last for me—mine came out overwhelmingly as ‘knowledge.’ Just knowledge. I had to chuckle a little bit. Didn’t Jesus tell us to not try to be knowledgeable? In the end, it got me thinking: what is the role of knowledge in our faith?

Pharisees prided themselves on being the most knowledgeable in the land on matters of the law. However, in this Gospel reading, the Pharisees, wise and learned as they are, are forced to admit that they do not understand a crucial component of their faith. Here’s a real world analogy: sometimes it perplexes me to scroll to the bottom of an article on a Catholic news site and see Catholics battling it out over some random issue, citing the original Latin of Church documents (which are probably collecting dust in the Vatican archives) to insist that they are right. It just begs the question: how is all of this knowledge contributing to our faith, besides starting “discussions” (fights)?  Jesus didn’t win any converts by pouring out his knowledge about the prophets of old—he won converts by being merciful beyond compare and going completely out of his way to save the lowliest person from their misery. Perhaps our faith needs less knowledge and more charity, less ‘wisdom’ and more sincere love, fewer citations from Church documents and more acts of kindness out of our own hearts .Jesus says in Matthew 11:25, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven kind of knowledge and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” What are these things that this kind of knowledge can cloud? Charity, service, joy, and compassion.

On the flip side, we all have that aunt or grandmother that tells the questioning children after Christmas Mass that they“just have to believe.”  As great as that sounds, faith without any knowledge is almost as dangerous as knowledge without faith—it can easily become just a sentiment with no substance, and certainly no power to stand up to a very irreligious culture. I love knowledge; after all, apparently it is my “spiritual gift.” Reading the saints’ works and Church documents in theology class never ceases to open up new insights for me.  Even Jesus certainly was very knowledgeable, or else he wouldn’t have been able to refute the errors of the Pharisees in the first place.But we need to have the right kind of knowledge. What does this mean? Well, it means that while it’s great to be book-smart Christians, we must be street-smart Christians as well. Pope Francis recently said that, "The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules.” Now, some people in the Church of a certain political leaning have interpreted this to mean that Pope Francis does not believe that Church teaching is important, or that he wants to reform it in some way. However, what I believe Pope Francis is saying is that we cannot “lock ourselves up” behind our knowledge, keeping us from going out and doing the hands-on apostolic work that the world so desperately needs.

am a firm believer that the best knowledge comes from service. For example, I may not have been able to read all (or any…) of the Church documents that came out of the recent synod on the family, but I learned a lot from the most adorable refugee family that I get to spend time with after Mass on Sunday. The oldest daughter was flabbergasted to hear that I was thinking about going to Chicago or New York for college—she said that in her culture, families stayed together to support each other forever, in good times and in bad. Family is their life. This is just an example of how getting out there and putting your boots on the ground is often the best way to become wise. If we truly believe that God is reflected in others, the best way to become more knowledgeable of Him and His Church is getting out and serving—not getting entangled with our empty knowledge in arguments or the politicization of the Church.

Lastly, we must remember that there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom. One can know many things and still be unwise. We are taught to seek wisdom: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). The next time we are tempted to bring out the theological argument or to preach, let us ask ourselves: is what is about to come out of my mouth pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial and sincere? If not, we must stop ourselves, as hard as it may be. This is the way to true wisdom.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Jn 1:6-8, 19-28 This Man-God Is You!

Third Sunday of Advent
(Click here for readings)

A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.

Third Week of Advent.  Christmas is right around the corner!  After two weeks of Advent, are you keeping watch?  (That was the first week.)  Are you preparing?  (That was the second week.)  Now, are you rejoicing

Living Advent is living like John the Baptist.  He is the role model for our Advent: 
Keeping watch - "He is coming";
Preparing - "I am not Him...I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord;"
Rejoicing - "Behold, the lamb of God... Testify to the light."

Light of the world.  There is story I recently read.  It's a good story, even if it's a made-up story. 

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night, a father awakened from his sleep and noticed the lights had gone out.  He thought of his small son alone in his bedroom.  He took a flashlight and rushed upstairs to check on his boy.  It turns out the boy was hiding beneath his covers.  He was scared.  The light in the closet had gone out suddenly, and now he was surrounded by total darkness.  Every lightening bolt was like a jolt to his heart.  At the sound of thunder he sunk deeper beneath his covers.  So when he saw the door open to his room, he immediately shouted out, "Who's there?  Who's in my room?" 

The dad's first thought was to shine light on his son's face.  But then he thought that would frighten him even more, so he turned the light on his own face.  When the boy saw his dad's face, he said, "Oh Dad.  It's you!"  The father said, "Everything will be just fine.  Go back to sleep."

The boy did.

What this child experienced is what we are about to experience on the world stage.  God has walked into our lives and has shed light on His face.  This is the meaning of the Incarnation, the day the Lord showed his face on his children.  And it happened in total darkness.

Advent is that time of year to change things up; to bring a glimmer of light - of hope - to the world.  We are John the Baptist!  We are Elijah.  We are not the light, but we can bring a glimmer of light to the world.  How?  By sharing what the Lord has done for us. 

We all know how miserable life can seem and how lonely we can get. Do not quench the Spirit! (cf. 1Thes 5:19).  Human sadness and misery is to be expected, especially if we keep the Lord out of our world and lives. 

Bring glad tidings to the poor.  Heal the brokenhearted.  Release sinners from their sins.  Announce the joy of God's presence! (cf. Is 61:1)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! (Lk 1:46)

We are not called to be pessimists.  We are not even called to be optimists.  We are called to be evangelists! 

This Christmas, the greatest gift you could ever give is the gift of Christ wrapped inside of you.  This is the gift that Christ gave to us when he took on human form. 

Make Christ "present."

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mt 17:9a, 10-13 Time of Grace

Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"  He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him..."

Elijah has already come.   Why did the disciples ask Jesus if Elijah had already come?  After a lot of reflection, I think I may know why.

Most of us don't take ourselves too seriously.  Hence, we can't imagine God taking us too seriously. I mean, who am I that God would love me as much as he loves His son.  Is this even possible?  Is it even advisable? 

The disciples must of had these types of doubts.  They must have asked themselves a thousand times:  Is this moment in time special? Am I special?  Am I really special that God would call me to accompany Him?  Is this really happening to me?  Am I living in one of the most exciting and incredible times in the history of the world?  Does He love me this much?

The answer appears to be shocking.  Actually, it's a bit overwhelming!

"I tell you that Elijah has already come...  So also...the Son of Man..."

Elijah did come.  And the Son of God followed.  And He has called me.  Yes, the Son of God, the Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of all things, has called me, a nobody in the sight of men, to follow Him more dearly, more nearly and more lovingly.  

The Lord has done marvelous things for me and has called me to participate in the history of salvation; that is, to speak in His name and to live as He lived.  This calling is both very personal and very specific, and yet it has gone out to every single believer since the birth of the Son of God. 

God doesn't expect us to take ourselves seriously.  He expects us to take Him seriously; to take life, death, judgment, salvation, neighbor and stranger seriously.

We are indeed living in a time of grace, peace and good will.

We are living in the presence of the Lord and in the time He has given us. 

Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved (Ps 80:4).

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lk 1:26-38 The Lord Is With You

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
(Click here for readings)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph... And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you."

Why is this day so special to so many people, especially to Latin Americans?  Don't get me wrong.  I know Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patron saint of the Americas.  But what makes this day so popular, so successful, so remarkable?

Our Lady looks like me.  While I worked in Mexico, I was considered the "gringo" priest.  In fact, before I opened up my mouth and gave my Spanish accent away, the people knew I was a foreigner.  How did they know?  Was it a lucky guess?  No.  It was based on the fact that I was fair skinned.  

When the Protestants came to America, for the most part they displaced the Native Americans.  When the Catholic missionaries came to the Americas, the native Americans were accepted into their society.   Today, throughout Mexico, you see the uniqueness and richness of both Spanish and native cultures mixed together.  You can see this in their clothes, in their art, in their language, in their foods, and on their faces.

While in Mexico, I fell in love with all of the above, especially their faces.  Their dark skin was so beautiful.  What I didn't realize is that there was a tendency on some young people to use skin lighteners to make themselves look more "Spanish" than native.

What makes Our Lady of Guadalupe so appealing and so beautiful?  She looks like a native.  And for the vast majority of the people in the Americas, this means she looks like one of them:  beautiful!  

This is so important.  In our modern society, retailers know the importance of having their clothes worn by famous people.  Mary  wore their clothes.  She reflected their art and their language and their beauty.  She validated their beauty and uniqueness!

And by doing so, she revealed God's beauty and uniqueness. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe!  The Lord is with you.  Pray for us!  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Mt 11:11-15 Speak Lord

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent 
(Click here for readings)

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women
there has been none greater than John the Baptist;
yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the Kingdom of heaven suffers violence,
and the violent are taking it by force.
All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John.
And if you are willing to accept it,
he is Elijah, the one who is to come.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

 
With my ears, may I hear, with my eyes, may I see, with my lips may I speak…” This is the school prayer that I say every day at my Catholic high school. I heard it for the first time as an eighth grader when I took Geometry at the high school, and I remember my first thought was “Of course you hear with your ears and you see with your eyes. Unless, of course, you happen to be deaf, blind, or mute. What a strange prayer.” I only recently understood the true meaning of it. In the prayer, and in the Gospel reading today, Jesus isn’t saying that we should be hearing with our ears. He’s telling us that we should be listening. And as an older sister who frequently has to listen to her younger sisters talk, there’s definitely a difference.

Whoever has ears ought to hear. Many people don’t listen. They only hear and respond. Listening is an attentive posture, slowing down one’s thoughts to the other person’s words, not trying to compare yourself with them as they speak, not thinking of the long list of things that you have to do. Listening is being fully involved with the other person’s words, emotions, and feelings, not your own. It’s definitely hard not to think of a related story while you’re listening to the other person’s story, but that time is better spent focusing on the other person. Everyone wants to be listened to, and the most popular people are the ones who make others feel important by truly listening to them, by keeping silent even when words are bubbling to the surface about their own related story, to let the other person finish. Just as when people drive and hate to be cut off, people who are speaking hate to be cut off too.

Jesus is telling us in today’s Gospel that He is listening to us, and we should be listening to Him.  We can listen to him by keeping completely silent, with our eyes focused on Him, who is present in the Monstrance at Eucharistic Adoration.  

The chapel can be one of the most peaceful places on Earth. I have encountered this peace more and more often as I grow and am able to appreciate it more, but one of the times I felt it most was in a cathedral in GermanyAs one of a hundred-person orchestral tour group, I hadn’t been able to go to mass the Sunday prior week because of the trip’s time schedule,  and once again it was Sunday, and the manager told me again that because of our schedule, I wouldn’t be able to attend.
 
I definitely felt that I was missing someone. I hadn’t received Jesus for two weeks, I hadn’t been able to give the Sign of Peace to a complete stranger, and although I had been able to pray for a few moments over the tour and  begged my group guide to allow me to tour a few churches, the peace in my life was disrupted.

It was Sunday afternoon and Mass had long ended, but once inside the cathedral, my manager told me that there was a chapel down a small staircase, just inside the two stained glass doors. The light from behind the doors lit up the glass; it looked as if I were entering a rainbow. I opened the doors carefully, told the manager that I would meet him upstairs in ten or so minutes, and knelt down among the wooden chairs. And I felt peaceful once more. I said a decade of the rosary and then opened a German prayer book. Although I could not understand the language, I knew it was the Bible. And I knew that the peace the Eucharist gave, is a peace that is universal, is catholic.
 
In today’s Gospel, God tells us to listen. What better way to listen than in complete silence, with one’s thoughts completely focused on the One who created us all in Eucharistic Adoration? Whenever you drive by your church, just stop by the chapel and say a prayer of thanks, of help, of appreciation or anything at all to your Father, who is just waiting for your call.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Is 40:25-31 The Holiday Retreat

Wednesday of the Second Week in Advent
(Click here for readings)

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

He gives strength to the fainting;
for the weak he makes vigor abound.
Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Although good and wise people will call for peace during the time of Advent, for most people, Advent—“holiday season” for the unchurched—simply equates to unbridled consumption and heavy anxiety. Instead of cleaning out their souls and reconnecting with loved ones, people usually spend their December cluttering up their houses with goods and tacky ornaments while finding an ideal excuse to resent their loved ones who simply add to the burden of the holidays rather than give it meaning.

At the stores, where the holidays are truly celebrated, not in churches or homes, idols to Santa Clause, the jolly god of retail and fake cheer, are raised and songs are played, never actually sung, in his honor. The dismal young seasonal employees have to endure the tasteless renditions, done and redone, of Christmas pop ditties that have absolutely nothing do Christmas and are played ad nauseam from the beginning of November to the first weeks of January. Adherents of the Santa cult, which includes most modern Americans, do their part by swarming stores, knocking down displays, cluttering (and sometimes soiling) fitting rooms, chewing out cashiers for coupons not working, and renewing the unpleasantness for yet another season.

At home, little children follow the example of their elders and cultivate an unhealthy lust for new things as well. They do not look forward to spending more time with their parents or playing outside with their siblings; they look forward to the new iPad, which will save them the trouble of bothering with family. 
Naturally, television and mass media do their part toteach the meaning of Christmas since true Christians make such a mess of it. They recount the inspiring stories where people learn the eternal lesson of being nice, at least for a few special days in December. Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty, the new holy family, usher in a spirit of senseless cheer and bland sentimentality. These movies and television specials appeal to people’s consciences in such a way that they can feel the warmth of Christmas and littlemore.

Despite its wealth of traditions, Secular Christmas—for lack of a better name—tends to bring out the very worst in people. Perhaps in this way, it illustrates a very important lesson on detaching holiday (holy-day) from its holy purpose. A sensitive soul looking out into the palpable darkness of Black Friday can catch a glimpse of what would happen if Christ were not only separated from Christmas, but from the world altogether: infinite materialism, heedless hedonism, unchecked selfishness, and wretched music. Those who profit, or think they profit, from this arrangement do all they can to promote it all year round with increasing success. They conjure up the demons of old pagan religions and dress them up in modern packaging. To assuage the subversion, they make their paganism wholesome and kid-friendly, even as it corrupts people and turns children into hateful brats. As more people turn away from the Church, this new religion gains new adherents and the spirit of Secular Christmas spreads.

This revelation, even in its current limited form, should make the Catholic pause and reconsider the words of their priest, of Isaiah, of Jesus: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus and His Church offer the rest so desperately lacking today, rest from work, rest from shopping, rest from hate, rest from oneself.Approaching Jesus thus means retreating from the world, especially during Advent. It means converting that heightened materialism into heightened spirituality, adoring Christ in the chapel instead of watching movies and playing videogame, going to Mass instead of going to the mall, adopting the profound mystery of the Nativity instead of the hazy confusion of holiday cheer. Doing this will rejuvenate the Christian; neglecting this will deflate him.

Advent can be the most beautiful season of the year, or the most ugly. Faith will make the difference.