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, March 4, 2015

Jer 18:18-20 Christ’s Drinking Buddies

Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

Heed me, O LORD,
and listen to what my adversaries say.
Must good be repaid with evil
that they should dig a pit to take my life?
Remember that I stood before you
to speak in their behalf,
to turn away your wrath from them.”

Doing God’s work often means working against man’s works. With his ingenuity and cleverness, man works to create a world free of care, free of responsibility, free of judgment. The prophet then comes and also adds that this world is free of truth and filled withevil. People unfortunately need to hear this often, but they will never want to hear it, even once.

Jeremiah had the unenviable task of asking an unrepentant people to repent. He understood quickly that this would make him unpopular, and laments his situation on multiple occasions, but he persisted all the same. What other choice did he have? Jonah tried to avoid his calling as a prophet only to have God follow him and insist that he change his mind. To God’s credit, He never compelsa prophet to prophecy against the prophet’s will; He respects the freedom of His children.

However, in this freedom, God does take the opportunity to persuade both the prophet and the prophet’s audience to follow Him above all.Ironically, He does this by allowing the opposition to make their case. He allows them to answer the question of what would they do instead of what the prophet or the Messiah prescribe. They answer resoundingly, “Nothing! Except perhaps persecute those who suggest doing something.” They will maintain the status quo and enjoy the prestige that comes from doing such popular work.

The existence of petty people who criticize so loudly the defenseless and peaceful and hardly mention a peep against the truly evil proves that following God is certainly better than following man. Yes, prophet, or a disciple of Christ, will suffer ignominy, relentless rebuke, abandonment, along with torture and death, but at least these dangers will not corrupt his soul. A man of God might endure many hardships, but he will never feel guilty about his successfully applying his faith. Properly instructed and sincere, a person’s conscience will validate the acceptance of God’s call; otherwise, the call is not from God, but something much darker.

Nevertheless, no one should look indifferently at the demands made of a disciple. The cross never leaves, no matter what the time or place may be. Temptation and violence awaits every fervent Catholic, and it comes in different forms that afflict one’s vulnerabilities. Doubt will attack those most faithful; despair will attack those most hopeful; and hate will attack those most loving. Christ exemplified this reality; hence, he states quite bluntly to his two ambitious disciples, “You do not know what you are asking.” They would learn soon enough, particularly after witnessing the Lord’s passion.

Modern Catholics live in a skeptical, hedonistic, and appallingly indifferent age. They will face defiance in all forms for even doing making the smallest sacrifices. This is God’s way of approval. The genuinely faithful, whom Catholics should count as the greatest blessing, will praise goodness while the legion of unfaithful, whom Catholics should properly see as sick souls, will mock goodness. Some clever sophists may try to muddy the waters by calling for more nuance, less judgment, and endless dialogue, but they only hope to weaken a Catholic’s resolve. A Catholic should instead listen to God and His Churchin order to find solid footing.

As one strives to become more holy, this reality becomes much clearer. Lent provides the perfect opportunity to attain this clarity. Christ plans to drink the cup of His passion. As true friends, His disciples should not let Him drink it alone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mt 23:1-12 Setting Things Straight

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, "The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example...They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation, 'Rabbi.'  As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.'  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.  Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Christ.  The greatest among you must be your servant."

Titles.  Is this meant to be taken literally?  No.  Not at all.  We can call our dad, our father; and a Jewish teacher, a rabbi; and a child "Master William."  What we need to remember, and never forget, is that God is our Father, our Teacher and yes, even our Master.  Why?  Because He is the greatest!  He serves like no other!!!

Why did the Lord use these three titles?  Why not doctor?  "Call no one on earth your doctor..."  Our leader?  "Call no one on earth your doctor..."  Or even king?  "Call no one on earth your king, for you have but one King in heaven."  I think it's not so much the titles as it is the responsibilities. 

Those in high office must keep a low and humble profile. 

Jesus is not upset with specific words, like father or rabbi or master.  If he were, then the list would have been a lot longer!  Instead, He is upset with those who hold a position of authority and abuse it!  Who do they think they are?  

The Lord made clear that no one, absolutely no one, should consider themselves above the Law or above God.  Fathers may be the head of their household, but they have no right to be abusive to their children.  On the contrary, they must lead by the example given to us by God the Father.  Rabbis are God's teachers - "do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you" - and yet they must live as if they are the pupil!  Masters may be the leaders of our society, but they better get used to defending and serving others. 

Where much is given, much is expected.  The idea of having a high and mighty title is not to lord it over others, it is to serve others and help them to feel comfortable about it.

Not too long ago, I was speaking to a man who was calling me "Sir."  I told him, "Please, just call me father.  That's what everybody else does, including non-Christians!"  Well...he took offense to it.  Who do you think you are?  Mr. All-Mighty?   

I was shocked and surprised.  I told him, "Not at all.  "Sir" sounds way too formal, important and distant.  "Father" sounds like we are family.  And if "father" bothers you, then call me "brother."

Not too long ago, I read an article drawing a correlation between weight lifting (muscle building) and feeling superior towards others.  The same holds true of those who hold titles.  We can easily get caught up on our titles rather than on our responsibilities.  The Lord reminds us of our responsibilities:  If you are a father, than be a father.  If you are a teacher, than listen as much as you speak.  If you are a President or elected official or military officer, then serve your men and women.

Lent is all about removing pride, vanity and sensuality and replacing them with faith, hope and love.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Gen 22:1-2, 9a: Are You a Risk Taker?

Second Sunday of Lent
(Click here for readings)

By FR. ALFONSE NAZZARO

God put Abraham to the test.  He called to him, "Abraham!"  "Here I am!" he replied.  Then God said:  "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah.  There you shall offer him up as a holocaust on a height that I will point out to you."

Abraham, the father of risk takers. At the age of 75, God spoke to Abraham and said to him, "Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father's house to a land that I will show you." 

Abraham didn't say a word, but went as the LORD directed him.  Why?  Because he knew His Father loved him.

Then God took Abraham outside and said, "Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can.  Just so, shall your descendants be."  Again, Abraham didn't say a word, but believed in what the Father had told him.  Why?  Because he knew his Father loved him. 

Then God put Abraham to the test.  He called to him and said, "Take your son, Isaac, your only son, the son you love with all your heart, soul and mind, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice for me."  Did Abraham say anything?  Nope.  He did exactly what the Lord commanded him to do.  Why?  Because he knew his Father loved him.

On the third day, Abraham took the wood for the holocaust and laid it on his son Isaac's shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife.  As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham:  "Father!" he said.  "Yes, son," he replied.  Isaac continued, "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?"  "Son," Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust."  Abraham had no idea what he was saying.  But he was entirely correct.  God will provide.

Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it.  Next he tied up his son Isaac, and put him on top of the wood on the altar.  Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son.  Did Isaac say anything to his father?  No.  Not a word.  Why?  Because he knew his father loved him.

Today, we can read between the lines and see the love story written between these terrifying lines.  Today, we know that...

Abraham represents God, the Father;
Isaac, the Son, who carried the wood of the cross on his shoulders.
Finally, the fire, that represents the Holy Spirit.

The Father would never allow a father to sacrifice his son.  The Father would do it for him...and for all mankind.  Yes, God the Father would offer up His Son, His only Son, the Son that He loves with all His heart, mind, strength and will for the salvation of the world.

Now that is love, and love is all about taking risks.

ARE YOU A RISK TAKER?

Lent.  Lent is all about personal conversion and becoming a new man, a new creation, another Christ.  It's about all transfiguring or transforming oneself into the person of Jesus Christ. 

Now of course this transformation requires prayer, penance and sacrifice.  And sure it takes faith, hope and love, and a will made out of steel.  And without a doubt it means being faithful to our Lenten resolutions.  But there are two words that best describe the attitude we should have during Lent, and they are "RISK TAKER!"

Are you will to take a chance and risk it all to be more configured to the person of Jesus Christ, just like Abraham, Isaac, Moses, the Apostles, Mary and all the Saints?  If the answer is yes, then God bless you and welcome aboard!!!

The Lord wants only risk takers, not comfort seekers.

The transfiguration.  In today's Gospel passage (Mk 9:2-10), the Lord took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them.  Then Peter said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good that we are here!  Let us camp out here.  The Lord ignored him.  Peter wanted the Christ without the Cross!

Along our journey towards holiness, we will be tempted to seek out and stretch out our hands and feet on what is comfortable, cozy and warm and fuzzy, just like the Apostles did on the day the Lord appeared in all his glory.  But this was just a temporary stop on the road to Calvary and Pentecost.  The Apostles were still very far from the finish line.  There still remained risks that needed to be taken.

This is something we must all learn.  Risk taking is part of process of becoming another Christ. 

Life on earth is not heaven; it is WAR...and Lent is our boot camp and the ideal place to learn all about risk taking.

Am I doing anything risky this Lent?  Am I reaching out to the unlovable and unforgiveable? 

Yesterday, I heard confessions for a bunch of teenagers.  I told them that Jesus was the greatest risk taker that ever lived.  They looked shocked until I told them that every time he forgives us, he is taking a big risk - the risk that we will commit the same sin over and over and over again.  From the look of shock came the look of relief.  Thank God!  Thank God! 

How many times must I forgive my brother?  Seven times seventy times.  The Lord is willing to take such risks.  Why?  Because He knows His Father loves Him.  I believe this is the secret to risk taking...and to becoming a saint. 

Are you will to take such risks?  Do you realize how much you are loved?

This is not easy. 
None of this is easy. 
That's why we need Lent.

Est C:12, 14-16, 23-25 Make a List

Thursday of the First Week of Lent
 
By SOPHIE DRUFFNER
 
"And now, come to help me, an orphan.  Put in my mouth persuasive words in the presence of the lion and turn his heart to hatred for our enemy, so that he and those who are in league with him may perish.  Save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our sorrows into wholeness."
 
The first time I ever heard of Queen Esther was when I watched a movie in Theology my eighth-grade year. In the movie, a beautiful Jewish girl wins the heart of the king and becomes his wife. But then, disaster strikes, as Haman, a noble close to the king’s ear, plots to kill all the Jews in the Persian Empire. When Esther learns of his plot, she plans to go to the King, an act that could mean death if the king does not grant her pardon. Before she goes, she dresses herself in all her finery and prays to God, hoping that he will hear the prayers of his faithful.

And he does.

Esther does all that she can, and God does the rest. I encountered that a few times in high school—when I do my best, God will do the rest. If one only prays and does nothing, then God cannot help that person—you must meet God half way, unless there is nothing left that a person can do.

But when one can do nothing else, prayer is the only answer. Coming into high school, I had never had any friends who cut themselves, were depressed, or made destructive decisions. At the beginning of high school, I discovered that these situations were all around me, and that sometimes, the only thing I could do was to pray. So I made a prayer list. I wrote down each person’s name I wished to pray for and I prayed that they would find Christ in their life, above all else. Once one finds Christ, everything else falls into place… God does the rest.

All of us has someone that they need to pray for on a daily basis. Even if there are no immediate results, God will answer your prayers, eventually. He will grant peace and healing to the people who need it the most, and he will reward your faithful prayers for your prayer list.

In the mean time, do all you can. Pray, but also do. Try to talk to those who might be making destructive decisions, or if you find that you cannot talk to them, talk to a trusted friend about it and seek advice. Talk to a priest in your parish, or a counselor. Maybe God has placed you in your loved one’s life so that you will be there to pray for them. Maybe you are the Body of Christ in your loved one’s life.

Pray, do all you can, and God will do the rest.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mt 7:7-12 PRAYING: What Are You Asking For?

Thursday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus said to his disciples: "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

As we all know, the goal of Lent is to become a new person, and that person is JESUS CHRIST.  And I want it to stick for good!

Yes, I want to be as loving, as noble, as honorable, as wonderful and as brave as the Lord.  This is my lifetime goal.  Unfortunately, my sins are getting in the way of my goal.  I need to work harder at it.  I need to practice more.  Practice makes perfect. 

And what exactly is it that I - we - have to make perfect?  Our prayer life! 

We need to practice how to pray, and the best way to practice how to pray is to learn from the experts, the saints.

One of the most beautiful prayers I have ever read, studied, reflected, dissected and prayed comes from St. Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916):

Father,
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

And because He knew how to pray, St. Charles de Foucauld knew how to live...and how to die.  Not long after writing (and praying) this, he was martyred in the Sahara desert. 

"Pray as if everything depended on God!"  - this is only part of the old adage.  The rest of it..."Work as if everything depended on you" is necessary, absolutely necessary, at least for a healthy psychology and faith.  Otherwise, we could easily become like so many spoiled and lazy kids, completely dependent on our parents.  I know.  I have seen it with my own eyes.

Kid:  "Hey Mom!  Can you get me some milk?" 
Mom: "Sure, honey.  Of course, baby."

Kid:  "Hey Mom!  Can you find me my brain?"
Mom: "Sure, honey.  Where did you think you left it?"

No wonder why God prefers to go by "Father", and not so much "Mother" or even "Grandfather." 

Kid: "Hey Dad!  Can you get me some milk?"
Dad:  "You have two hands, get it yourself."

Is this any different from those who pray for an end to war and hunger? 

Kid:  "God, please put an end to terrorism."
God:  "I did! But some people refuse to believe in me and obey my commandment:  'Love your enemies.'"

Kid:  "Hey God!  When will you put an end to poverty?
God: "You have two hands, two feet, two eyes and two ears.  What are you doing about it?"   

Of course, there is no denying the obvious; that is, those things in life that are apparently out of our control, such as illness, accidents and natural disasters.  But I still believe there is more we can do than we are doing, at least in terms of minimizing the pain, suffering and damage.  No one in their right mind can deny that greed plays a big role in the lack of public safety, and that insurance costs and medical bills scare families away from proper medical care and primary care physicians. 

There is more we can do, without a doubt.  And we can argue that there is more God can do.  But what is God's goal for us, for me? 

A long life?  A happy life? 

I don't think so.  Based on the evidence taken from His Son and from His saints, I think God wants us to be HOLY.

HAPPY? 
HEALTHY? 
HOLY???  Hmmm...

Look, I don't think it is possible to be truly "happy" without being holy, and I don't think it is possible to be truly "healthy" (physically, emotionally, psychologically) without being holy.

Hence, I think that holiness holds the key to unlocking and ending the pursuit of happiness and healthiness.  I also think that holiness is much better defined than happiness or healthiness!

So what are you going to be asking for this Lent?  What are you seeking?  What doors will you be knocking on?  

Maybe it should be what the psalmist asked for centuries ago:  "A clean heart create for me, O God; give me back the joy of your salvation" (Ps. 51:12a,14a).

Jesus wasn't setting his disciples up for failure and to become spoiled rotten kids when He told them, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." 

He had prepared them well.  He knew what they would be asking for before they even asked, for He had just taught them how to pray, and pray well.

Mt 6:7-15 FASTING: Prayer Does A Body Good

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus said to his disciples:  "In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them.  Your Father knows what you need before you ask him."

We often think of prayer as the healer for broken hearts.  We rarely ever consider it as a first aid for cuts and bruises. 

This week has been a very quiet week so far.  Due to bad weather, school was cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, and the parish offices were closed for business.  Also, our Lenten mission was first postponed due to the bad weather and then permanently cancelled due to scheduling issues.  With all these things not happening, I wasn't shocked when I saw smaller than average crowds for morning Mass. 

And yet, I was still surprised that there were people arriving for morning Mass.

They got themselves out of bed and braved the cold weather and horrible driving conditions and made it to Mass.  Those few brave souls that maneuvered through ice, cold and rain, did so because they have an iron will. 

I'll be perfectly honest with you, if I had been a layperson and had made a Lenten resolution to attend Mass every morning and woke up to what I saw Monday and Tuesday, I think (I'm sure) I would have justified staying in bed and saying to myself, "God knows it is not safe to travel in this bad weather!"  But where there is a will there is a way.  Actually, I believe another ancient proverb sums it up best:  "Mind over matter."  And maybe in our particular case of Lent, it would be best to say "Mind over body." 

Prayer does a body good.  It's very important to exercise and eat well if you want to take care of your body.  But if you think you will solve all your physical problems by just concentrating on your physical needs, then please think again, for many of the scrapes and bruises we have received on our body are due to the decisions we made.  And I'm convinced that some of those decisions we made determined what we ate or drank...and to our detriment.

Fasting isn't about weight loss and looking - even feeling - good.  It's about mind over body.  It's about taming our instincts and taking back the controls in our physical cravings and desires.  It's about handing the reigns over.  This is a start. But it is only a start. The ultimate goal of our lives is to allow our Lord - through the virtues of faith, hope and love - to be at the helm of our lives.

Eating is important, but praying is even more important since the soul is more important than the body.  The soul lasts forever!

...And let's not forget that without prayer, we end up being not what we eat, but what we ate.  Ugh!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19 Denying Sin Means Denying Christ

Wednesday of the First Week of Lent
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine

“Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.”

Before people stop believing in God, they usually stop believing in sin. They confuse the issue of right and wrong, make it all subjective or relative, and soon stop believing in morality altogether. In its early days, the Church had to address this tendency that arose with the Pelagianist heresy, which denied the existence of Original Sin. Many doctors, including St. Augustine, quickly saw that this belief would have a dangerous domino effect: a denial of original sin would do away with the need for the sacrament of Confession or any of the other sacraments uniting men to Jesus, which would then make redundant the intercession of the Church, which would finally question the need for faith in God.

After so many tracts and writings, the Catholic successfully refuted this heresy, recognizing the important truth that all men and women need Jesus’ saving power to live truly moral lives. No matter which rung of the social ladder one occupies, no matter which era he lives in, he cannot effect his own redemption. Even if, like many deists during the Enlightenment, people acknowledge the wisdom of Christ the Teacher (as opposed to Christ the Savior) and try to live out these teachings in a practical manner, they will do nothing to improve their souls. In fact, taking Christ’s teachings without having faith, hope, or love would only make a person proud and further separated from God.

Since the Reformation in the 16th century, and the religious wars that followed, the concepts of sin and redemption have suffered from increasing confusion. Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli affirmed that one need only have faith to be saved; the Church’s sacraments had not power or meaning, so the believer did not really need them, except baptism since Jesus explicitly tells His disciples to baptize and even undergoes baptism Himself. This change in theology immediately transformed the church from a sacramental body through which Christ entered people’s lives into a teaching institution that instructed members in faith and morals—simply put,the church would only “instruct and console.”

What followed from this fundamental change merely validated the fears of the Early Church Fathers: sin and repentance became personal concerns, which then rendered both entirely relative and subjective, which finally took away its reality. The current situation of Christianity, especially modernized Christianity, reflects this last stage. Many Christians deny Hell, justify most sinful behaviors, and think their benign regard for Christ and themselves will surely land them in heaven. In other words, one can hardly distinguish a Christian from an atheist or adeist; they function and act identically with only a few modifications in reasoning. Barack Obamaillustrated this perfectly when he responded to the question on what he thought qualified as sin, responding, “Being out of alignment with my values.”

Therefore, Christians must return to recognizing sin as a reality, not as something out of alignment with personal preferences. Otherwise, Christ would have come for nothing and His divinity would mean nothing. More than His power over nature, which He demonstrates in His miracles, Jesus has the power to forgive sins. Besides healing the body, which even humans can often accomplish on their own, He can heal the soul, which humans cannot do at all.

When discussing signs and miracles, Jesus does not compare Himself to the famous prophet Elijah who performed so many, but to Jonah, the reluctant prophet whose claim to fame was being swallowed by a whale. Jesus tells the crowd, “Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation,” explaining His missions precisely as one of repentance and forgiveness. Jonah warned the Ninevites of God’s impending wrath, causing them to repent and fast; God, in turn, repents of His former decision and forgives them.

Jesus has come to do the same as Jonah, not only for one city, but for the whole world. He has come to offer God’s forgiveness. However, forgiveness only works for people who repent. If one forgives an unrepentant sinner, he only enables and affirmsinstead of corrects and heals. Jesus may share the company of sinners, yet He does not simply tolerate their behavior, but instead corrects it. Jesus has His greatest difficulty in converting people who do not see their behavior as sinful. They saw no need for a savior and even felt insulted by the idea. Aware of this insanity, this direct offspring of Original Sin, having taken root in His audience, Jesus simply warns them that they are making a colossal mistake,and all those who have repented in past willeventually condemn them for their pride and stupidity.

Today, the sacraments, particularly that of Penance (spoken of today as “Reconciliation”), work as the sign that Jesus speaks about. The Christian regularlyprofesses his need for Jesus’ forgiveness, healing, and ongoing assistance. He recognizes that only Jesus can forgive, and that, contrary to popular morals, the individual cannot forgive himself and live free of guilt. The season of Lent offers a chance for the Christians to imitate the Ninevites to repent and fast in order to recognize the plague of sin and the consequent need for Jesus. In this way, they can recognize that the spiritual virtues truly take place in soul, not in the body.