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!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Jn 13:21-33,36-38 That "Duh DUN Duh DUN" moment

Tuesday of Holy Week
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me."  ...Simon Peter said to him, "...I will lay down my life for you." Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."

The demon of acedia. Acedia is defined as "a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray."  It is an awful combination of weariness, sadness, and a lack of purposefulness.  It robs a person of his/her joy.  This condition was sometimes found among monks and other ascetics who maintained a solitary life.

Is this what Jesus experienced on the night He was betrayed?  Not at all.  But I suspect Peter did, somewhat, specifically when he could not keep watch - keep his eyes open - for an hour.

The disciples appeared to be in a daze after the Lord explained to them the brutal fact that one of their own would betray Him.  How can this be?  Surely it isn't I, Lord?  What is He talking about?  Judas must have left to buy some food. 

They became lifeless, speechless, and listless, as if life had been sucked (or punched) out of them.  They may even have been walking and pacing up and down.  Can we blame them?  After all, their lives were about to be turned upside down and emptied of all they knew; that is the meaning and purpose they had acquired through Jesus Christ. 

What would the world think of them?  Would they be considered disciples or simple buffoons?  We know what the Pharisees, the pillars of Judaism, thought of them as they were actively hunting them down to destroy them.  No longer would they be considered friends or fishermen, but criminals and enemies of the state.

They went numb.

Do I feel blah? Do I feel lost? Like nobody cares?  Have I lost the joy and excitement of living? 

The Duh DUN Duh DUN moment!  I love the movies!  I really do.  I love to go watch an exciting movie with an awesome middle part.  I can watch a movie and enjoy one with a fair beginning and ending, but I can't enjoy a movie with a lousy middle part, for middle part is where things or people come together to shatter; where the music switches from C major to C minor; and where the lights have been turned off! 

I need to be reminded of these exciting and scary times when I am going through troubling and terrifying times!  How will this turn out?  What will happen next?  Will anything good come from this?  Will I make it out of here?  Will my pain go away?  Will I ever be loved again?  Will I get my faith back?

Tough times - wild times - horrifying times - are an essential ingredient for grace filled endings, just like truth is an essential ingredient for great relationships and love is an essential ingredient for happiness.  Although none of us what to experience these awful times, they are what they were cut out to be: opportunities to cut out, prune, dig, sharpen, narrow, distinguish  - DEFINE - who we are. 

The remedy.  Acedia is a temptation, and the great danger of this temptation lies in the giving in to it.  Don't give in.  Don't rewrite God's ending by sinning.  When you feel gloomy, rebel!  When you feel worthless, revolt!  When you feel lonely or abandoned or forgotten, then reach out!  Life was never meant to be forsaken.  It was always meant to be grasped by the hand of God.  Peter did the opposite of what he felt like doing:  He asked for forgiveness.  Judas did exactly what he felt like doing...and hung himself.  Faith is what saved Peter.  Feelings is what killed Judas. 

Do the opposite of what you feel like doing - as long as what you do is right, good and holy - then, and only then, will you have a hand to hold on to.

Jn 12:1-11 Believe Now?

Monday of Holy Week
 
By KATIE GROSS
 
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany,
where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him. Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.
Then Judas the Iscariot, one of his disciples,
and the one who would betray him, said,
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
He said this not because he cared about the poor
but because he was a thief and held the money bag
and used to steal the contributions. So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him.

While it is very true that it is difficult to be a Christian today, we must remember that followers of Jesus have always been subject to ridicule, even during Christ’s earthly ministry. There is just something about the true expression of Christianity that people have always misunderstood, and thus mocked. However, even when we feel as though nobody around us understands us, we can take courage from this Gospel reading in knowing that being persecuted and misunderstood is not at all a new phenomenon for Christians.
 
“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” This sounds like a familiar battle cry of those who mock Catholics: “Why does the Church have so many palaces when that money could go to the poor?”  People who ask this question usually stand very smugly and wait for us to stumble in our response, all so they can win whatever petty argument they were looking to get into. However, we can look to the Bible and see that nothing has changed about these peoplevery rarely is their concern actually for the poor. They overlook the thousands of charitable institutions that the Church has founded, and do not bother to look at the specifics of their claims. Instead, their primary concern is usually for their own pride, or to appear superior to believers in some way.
I was absolutely appalled by a viral video that circulated a few years ago called “Sell the Vatican, Feed the World.” In it, a popular American comedienne sits and gives a two-minute pitch for why the Vatican should be sold and the money given to solve world hunger. A philanthropic intention, one might ask? Not even close—the comedienne then goes on to make horribly inappropriate remarks about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and claim that the Church was somehow the driving force behind the Holocaust. In fact, she even says at one point that she only wants to feed the poor to “get them off of the commercials on her 42 inch plasma screen TV.” Just as Jesus said, we can tell the goodness of a ‘prophet’ by his/her fruits, and the only fruits of this woman’s claim are bitterness and contempt. The point is that we must be wary of those who claim to be charitable, but really only want to attack and undermine what is holy. These people are just the same and just as wrong as those in ancient Jerusalem who were shocked by Mary’s actions. “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him.  Unfortunately, as we know, the buildings of the Church are not under fire as much as the Christians themselves, who are the body of Christ. Every day in the Middle East, churches are getting burned to the ground and people are being killed for refusing to renounce their face in Christ. Right now, refugees are pouring into our own city of Dallas toflee communist and dictatorial governments that do nottolerate their faith. These leaders kill Christians because they cannot stand not being the highest power in the land. Even so, persecution should not cause us to lose heart as Christians. One of the strangely beautiful things about our faith is the more that it is torn down by others, the more it is validated. Jesus promised that those who radiated faith and love would have trouble in this life. Thus, those who persecute us are only proving our point. Those who make insulting comments or videos about our faith are only proving our point.
 
In Holy Week, we must commit to praying for those who do not yet know that Christ died for them, or cannot bring themselves to believe it.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Jn 12:1-11 No Good Deed Goes Unnoticed

Monday of Holy Week
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Six days before Passover where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.  They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.  Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair...

Flashback.  A Pharisee invited [Jesus] to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.  Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner."  Jesus said to him in reply, "Simon, I have something to say to you." ...Do you see this woman?  When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love... (cf Lk 7:36-50).

Mary and the sinful woman.  Although these two stories sound very similar, it is a mystery whether or not Mary and this sinful woman are one and the same.  They may very well be.  I'm not sure, only God knows.  After all, the composition of places are quit different:  one takes place in the house of a Pharisee around the city of Nain, the other in the home of Lazarus in the town of Bethany.  Regardless of the differences, we cannot deny the similarities:  a woman takes costly aromatic nard and anoints the feet of Jesus and dries them with her hair. 

It's easy to get distracted by questions we cannot answer.  Let's focus on the one fact that is obvious in both stories: great love was expressed and showered upon Jesus, and it will never be forgotten.

Hospitality.  It was customary for dignified hosts to have water, a towel and oil ready for their guests upon their arrival, for the roads were dusty and walking was brutal.  The guest would first wash his feet, then dry them, and then anoint them with oil.  When the Lord arrived at Simon's home, nothing was prepared for him.  Nothing.  This was not forgotten by the Lord.  And it apparently wasn't forgotten on the part of Mary. 

As soon as her Lord came into their house, Mary anointed His feet with oil and dried them with her hair.  She didn't use any sort of oil.  She used the best - the finest, the most expensive.

Mary's Love.   Love knows no limits.  The oil Mary used cost a lot of money - weeks, months, maybe even a year's worth of wages.  It didn't matter to her or to anyone else.  It was worth it.  Mary had discovered Christ's worth, and He was worth more than all their possessions.

Christ's Love.  There's an old saying:  "No good deed goes unpunished!"  This may be true when it comes to human beings, but it not true when it comes to God.  God never forgets a good deed.  NEVER!  No act of love is too small for Him or too insignificant for Him, for love runs deep in His veins.  It is who He is!  

Hence, when the Lord witnesses Love, He never forgets it.  In fact, He takes note of it and even imitates it, like when He washed His disciples feet! 

And it was recorded in the minds of His followers for all eternity.  

What a difference between God and humans.  Humans tends to take note of their brothers and sisters weaknesses and failings.  We tend to remember the bad, not the good; the sins of others, not their good deeds.

God forgives sins and never forgets love. 

During this first day of Holy Week, let us never forget the value of a good deed, an act of love, for no good deed goes unnoticed or forgotten.

Mk 14:1-15:47 Preparing For Our Passion

Palm Sunday
(Click here for readings)

By FR. ALFONSE NAZZARO

Today is Palm Sunday, the day our Lord entered the city of Jerusalem with pomp and circumstance.  Today's passages relive that glorious moment...and so much more.  We don't just stop there.  We go all the way to His Passion.  Why?  Why on earth relive His betrayal, torture and death?  Why don't we just relive the good times and leave to history the bad times? 

Would you like people to relive the worst day of your life??? Then why do this to Him?

We need to prepare ourselves.  "Remember what I told you:  'A servant is not greater than his master.'  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also."

We need to relive what the Lord relived because we will relive it ourselves.  We will all go through our passion, and not just at the end of our lives but even now.  

Every year we go through little Gethsemanes.  Every month we have struggles.  Every week we have doubts and fears.  

How do I handle these moments?  

Do I put the Lord on trial?  Do I quit and throw in the towel?  Am I constantly changing course; that is, turning my back and taking the path very well traveled?  Or do I carry my cross grudgingly, cursing and swearing and losing every drop of grace (as well as blood) along the way?  Or do I remain steadfast, courageous and humble - faithful till the very end?

Let's review some important moments in the passion of our Lord.

+ A woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil and poured it on his head.  This incredible gesture of love from this unknown and unnamed woman was so precious in the eyes of the Lord that He said: "Amen I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."  Yes, a single act of charity goes a very long way in God's memory, longer than we could ever imagine.  Charity runs long and deep.  A simple act of love produces more positive results than what eye can see and ear can hear and mind can even imagine.  Don't let an opportunity to show kindness pass you by. 

+ Even though all should have their faith shaken, mine will not be.  And they all spoke similarly. Poor Peter.  His heart and mind are in the right place.  The problem is his will.  It's weak.  It always seeks what is most comfortable and painless.  It prefers rest to pain and peace to conflict.  What he hasn't understood is what the Lord will soon tell him, "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak." 

Am I overly confident in myself?  Do I trust my feelings more than my faith?  Is my conscious constantly overruling the teachings of the Church?  

Peter thought he could do it alone.  He thought he was strong, stronger than a human being.  Do I think this too?  If so, then watch and pray, and learn from your past. 

+ They all left him and fled.  I fear loneliness.  I fear it.  I do not want to die alone.  Am I preparing myself for this possibility?  Do I know my Act of Contrition?  As a priest, I know what it means to be alone.  Every time I visit someone in the hospital or nursing home, I am stunned at how lonely they are.  Dying is a very lonely affair.  Someone could be actively dying in their bedroom while others are laughing in the hall way or behind the curtain.  It's not a sin.  It is what it is.  Dying is something we do alone.

+ They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.  Jesus witnessed his closest friends running away from Him.  He even saw one young man run off naked!  He must have thought to himself:  They left everything behind to follow me.  Now, they're leaving everything behind to get away from me! 

How do I handle those who are in trouble or are dying.  Do I run away from them?  Do I avoid them?  Am I afraid of them?  Or do I reach out to them and give them my love - not the love they deserve, but my unconditional love?

+ At that the high priest tore his garments... The entire Sanhedrin kept trying to get Jesus to confess and finally he did.  When he told them the truth - "I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven" - the high priest tore his garments. 

When we were kids we were told to tell the truth, otherwise we would get in trouble.  As adults, we now know the truth:  if you tell the truth you may get into big trouble!  This is what happened to Christ.

Am I ready to tell the truth?  Am I ready to accept the truth?  This is the divine life, for the Lord said, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."

+ Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Crucify Him!  From hero to villain in less than twenty-four hours.  How things (reactions) change so quickly.  We are so fickle, especially when it comes to others.  Am I quick to judge?  Do I enjoy placing others on a pedestal, only to see them fall?  There's nothing wrong with Jesus.  The problem is with me!  The Lord valued humility and discretion.  Have I always valued infatuation?  Is this my way of getting "second hand" attention and love?

+ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.  Here is the biblical form of the secular scream for help so familiar to us:  Why me, God?  Why me?  Why are you doing this to me?  What have I ever done to deserve this?  Doubt is perfectly normal, as well as fear, but these two things were never meant to push us away from God.  On the contrary, they were meant to bring us to reflection and contemplation, humility and conversion.  Christ had no need of conversion.  What He did, He did for us and out of love for us.  These words that came forth from the mouth of God come from Psalm 22.  Christ began the recitation.  He expects us to finish it. 

And with this, he breathed His last.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jn 8: 52-55 Thank You, God

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER

So the Jews said to him,
“Now we are sure that you are possessed.
Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say,
‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’
Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?
Or the prophets, who died?
Who do you make yourself out to be?”
Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing;
but it is my Father who glorifies me,
of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’
I sat back and stared at the words on the screen. A giddy feeling was spreading quickly from my heart as I jumped up and down. I had done it! Finally, I had achieved something. I was something. A college admissions counselor had said “Yes, we want her.”
Writing the essays which forced me to stay up for hours, editing those same essays under the watchful eyes of my English teacher, watching people read them with fear in my heart, studying for the SATs and then the SAT IIs, producing videos for various interviews and flying up for other events, was exhausting. I began the process last May and I am still not quite finished, not quite decided on where I will be attending next year. After applications to eleven colleges, two SAT tests, two SAT II tests, additional applications for scholarships, phone interviews, interviews I initiatied with members of different colleges, exhausting scholarship weekends and other such things, it’s understandable that I began screaming “I did it! I did it!!” when the voice on the phone said “We would like to extend our scholarship to you” or the email appeared in my inbox.
But it’s really easy to “glorify yourself.” We all want to claim credit for the work that we do and the long hours that we have spent at a lonely desk typing, calling, studying. When a boss gives us a good review or we finally break 2000 on the SAT, it’s really easy to sit back and say “Yep, that was all me. Go me!!!” I can just imagine God sitting up there and rolling his eyes at our naivete. Of course we did it, but he helped us a lot. It was He who gave us the intelligence, the grit, and the faith to believe that we could accomplish an arduous task. It was He who inspired us to keep working in the face of a clock who just keeped ticking, when our eyes began to blur from the glow of the computer screen. It was He who helped us reach success.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that if you glorify yourself, it’s temporary. But if you wait, God will glorify you, which will be better than any amount of “Congratulations” you can receive on Earth. Because He helped you, He’s proud of you too, and he wants to be the happiest you can be, because he created you to be happy.
So whenever you’re tempted to take all the credit, give God a little credit too. Thank God when you receive that promotion. Don’t just say the words “Thank God,” instead, say “Thank you, God.” Editing the phrase that has become nearly meaningless by adding a simple “you” is so much more personal, and because God is the Father of us all, he knows you more personally than anyone, including yourself, on Earth. He can see into the depths of your heart and all he wants is the best for you, which He alone knows.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jn 8:51-59 I AM...?

Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus said to the Jews: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death."  So the Jews said to him, "Now we are sure that you are possessed.  Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, 'Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.'  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?" ...Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM."

Abraham.  Abraham is considered the father of Jews, Christians and even Muslims.  He is truly the father of many nations, and his descendants are as numerous as the stars. 

This didn't happen over night.  Well, unless you think of it in terms of how long our solar system has existed, then, well, it did, sort of. 

The realization - the fulfillment of God's promise - took centuries to happen...and it is still happening. 

One of the many reasons why things take so long to happen (or change) is because people don't change over night, and more specifically, WE DON'T CHANGE OVERNIGHT! 

We are stubborn.  We are stiff-necked people.  We don't like to be told what to do.  Instead, we thoroughly enjoy telling others what they should do.

FLASHBACK:  "The Lord God then took man and settled him the in the garden of Eden... The Lord God gave man this order:  "You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad.  From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die." 

FLASHBACK:  Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord!  This shall never happen to You.  But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me..."

Not much has changed since then.  We still like to tell God what He should do and how He should appear. 

Conversion takes time...even a life time.

I AM.  God's name is His greatest revelation.  "I AM" and "He Is Who Is" says it all, for His very essence is LIFE.

And here lies the problem.

In one corner we have God, who is the same today, yesterday and forever.  In the other corner we have everything else that are constantly changing.  Do you see the problem?

We are unsteady.  We can't even be who we claim to be for very long!  In fact, we can't even claim a certain attitude for long!  I am friendly and skeptical.  I am honest and considerate.  I work hard.  I enjoy what I do.  Etc...

Let's face it, we are as steady as our foot on the gas pedal.  Eventually we need to hit the breaks, and hit them hard.  We are constantly stopping and going or pushing and retracting, pushing and retreating, pushing and repairing, pushing and reconciling.

But some things come easier than others, like stepping on the pedal.  Most of us prefer to go fast rather than slow. This is all due to original sin.  We want to keep up with the Big Guy, or at least pretend to be like Him.  For this reason we tend to rush to judgment rather than to confession, and find it easier to give out orders rather than obey them, and find it harder to listen than to speak.

In less than twenty-four hours, the Pharisees and scribes arrested, judged and executed Jesus.  

"I AM" comes to God as easily as picking up stones and throwing them comes to us, even to the best of us who say "I am spiritual" or "I am religious."

We need Lent!, for change is not a bad thing and Lent ensures that change occurs in the right direction...towards humility, which means towards honesty.   

Don't be surprised or depressed if it takes more than forty days.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Heb 10:4-10 World’s Greatest Mother

Wednesday if the Fifth Week of Lent
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

“First he says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.’
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

In choosing Mary to mother His child, God proved once more that He certainly does not see as man sees. He could have chosen the empress Livia, orprincess Herodias, or some other woman who had a better means of caring for the messiah. A woman endowed with good looks, with a sharp intellect, with political connections, or at least one with husband would have merited such a honor, but God instead selects Mary—even having prepared her for the role since her birth.

For all her kindness and humility that wins the hearts of millions, Mary’s greatness still lies deeper. Mary does not simply take on the responsibility of being God’s mother, casting away all cares and taking the plunge into holy motherhood. If people imagine her as some foolish simpleton with as much sense as any other teenage girl with no real prospects or formal education but still quite humble and kind, they still do not see what God sees. The Annunciation should not encourage woman, or their men, to take on parenthood, blithely ignoring the consequences and trusting in their own good carefree nature.

Mary, for all her innocence and youth, can see the difficulty before her. Some may like to think she takes a leap of blind faith and trusts that God will make things work for her, but that distorts Mary’s virtue in accepting God’s proposal. She takes a leap of faith with her eyes wide open. Neither fear, giddiness, nor resignation move her to make her choice; love does it. Mary loves God, loves her fellow man, and will love the child who comes to unite the two.

Although she lacks money, prestige, and an actualhusband, Mary has heart with the capacity to lovewith superhuman intensity. She can bear the messiah because she can provide the love needed as no other woman can.

All too often, people fall under the impression that Jesus becomes who He is through divine magic. Jesus’ faith, wisdom, endurance, and love just somehow manifest themselves because of His divine DNA. Rarely do people stop to consider that Jesus was fully human and thus received many of these wonderful attributes from His parents, particularly His mother. At the beginning, Mary taught her son to love, to pray, and to communicate with others. Joseph taught Jesus to work, to protect, and to humble Himself. God works through these two saints to raise His Son. This is not magic; this is simply extremely good parenting.

God chose Mary because of her strength, not her weakness. Mary is the best mother in the world, not some foolish adolescent who is in over her head. She knows herself as God does, and she accepts her destiny as the Mother of God. Some might imagine her deliberating over the question of Jesus’ motherhood, with the world staying still with anticipation, yet she likely responds quickly, relieved and happy to have finally received her calling.

In spiritual terms, such an annunciation awaits all Christian souls. God has a calling, and He seeks to right person to answer. The right person will not only make sacrifices of time and energy, but will also do the work as God desires. Men will desire people willing to give up pieces of themselves (time, talent, education, etc.) to show their loyalty; God desires people to willing to give up all of themselves by loving what He loves and doing it with joy.

There exists no better example of this sacrificial love and supreme competence than Mary.