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, May 20, 2015

Jn 17: 11B-19 The Lord of the World and the Lord of Heaven

Wednesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)
By Benedict Augustine

I do not ask that you take them out of the world
but that you keep them from the Evil One.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.

If I were making a religion, I would…” so says the worldly man. He lists many different desirable qualities to improve society as we know it. His religion would be more tolerant, more enlightened, more progressive, more exciting, more empowering, or more flexible. He and many others have come to the conclusion that some clever shamans in the ancient world invented religion to perpetuate their own superiority. They came up with a story, attached some rules to it, and made sure to pass it on to posterity. Not for a moment does the worldly man even wonder if any of these religions may be true.

In his novel, Lord of the World, Fr. Robert Benson depicts a future world not so far off from today. The people of that world believe in the spirit of man, the possible unity of the world, a heaven on earth. They disregard Christianity as so much myth while they greedily swallow the myth of progress. None of this is reached rationally, but simply results from the overwhelmingly materialistic atmosphere. Any defense that these “humanists” may have had against the forces evil has gone away. They have no faith and no reason; they follow the demagogues, the spectacles, and their own animalistic impulses.

As the anti-Christ, the Lord of the World, comes into power, he finds the work of harvesting souls already half-way done. He revels in the culture of death that solves problems by eliminating them – curiously, the doctors more often euthanize than cure those in pain. In this sordid setting, his mere words and presence take possession of his listeners who succumb to his power. They belong to the world, and the world belongs to him. Only the small cadre of Catholics withstands this man’s power by clinging to their faith in Christ.

Unfortunately, as more unwitting people align with the anti-Christ, the less safe it becomes for the remaining Catholics. Benson’s scenes of Christian persecution resonate prophetically for 21st century readers witnessing the crucifixion and torture of Christians today. He describes the pressure of the mob, the absence of conscience, the lustful gratification of hate. They commit abominations for a false god; they do not experience the freedom of faith, but the slavery of spiritual absence.

As in the novel, a Catholic in today’s world must counteract these pressures with the truth. His religion must come from God, not from man. How can one tell? If man made a religion, it would resemble the religion that takes hold of the people in Benson’s novel. It would glorify man, escape reality, and resort to violence to establish supremacy. The pagan religions did this; secular religions (like communism and fascism) still do this; Islam and Hinduism continue to do this. While many liberal-minded believers might try, Catholics cannot overturn the truth of their faith. Jesus’ resurrection happened, this is historical fact. The disciples of the early Church was willing to suffer martyrdom by the thousands, another fact. Catholics cannot overturn truth of Christ’s teachings, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the reality of Heaven without losing themselves. Those who reside outside of Truth, outside of Christ, expose themselves to the temptations of cruelty, slavery, and delusion—observations made by Hillaire Belloc when discussing the Modernist heresy of the early 20thcentury.

In a word, a soul lost to Christ will find himself with the Devil, the Lord of the World. Thus, Jesus prays with His disciples that they may be one and kept from the Evil One. Paul shares the same fears with the disciples of Ephesus. The Lord of the World lurks in and out of the Church always. All Catholics, both then and now, must look to the Lord of Heaven to keep them safe. Their faith will be tested.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Jn 17:1-11a I Am Going To You

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you...I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours in mine, and I have been glorified in them.  And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you."

Yesterday I celebrated a funeral Mass for a young man who took his own life.  For many years he suffered from mental illness.  He also struggled with faith in God.  I knew this young man fairly well.  I know his family very well.  They are exceptional people! 

I can honestly say that throughout this young man's trials and tribulations, that brought the family to tears and to their knees, the family never left his side.  They prayed for him.  They hoped so much for Him.  They loved him unconditionally. 

His death was heartbreaking to family and friends.
 
I am coming to you.  I'm not sure - I haven't done a thorough job researching this - but I think the Lord never said to His disciples that He was going to Heaven.  Instead, He always insisted that He was going back to His Father.  This tells us that Heaven is not so much a place as it is a person.

THIS IS IMPORTANT.  Why?  Because it brings us to a more intimate relationship with God. 

In other words, wherever Jesus is, that's where Heaven is.

So where is Jesus?  Has he abandoned us?  Has He gotten rid of us?  Has He given up on us?  No, not at all.  If anything, the Lord has united Himself to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, the same spirit that unites the Son to the Father.

I want to be with Jesus.  Where Jesus is, there Heaven is. So...

+ If Jesus is on the top of some mountain, then that mountain is worth climbing.  If holiness is something the Lord demands from His followers, then holiness it is.  If it is unconditional Love, then unconditional Love it is.  If it is Mercy and Compassion, then Mercy and Compassion.  If it means standing up for Him and for our beliefs and dying for those beliefs, then consider it done, for it is worth doing whatever it takes to get to the top of that mountain.  I don't care how tiring it may be, or how painful it can get, or how difficult it can be.  I don't even care if I find myself falling down often.  Whatever struggles I have to overcome to get there, I will, for He is worth everything.

+If Jesus is walking on water, then, like St. Peter, I want to be there.  If stepping out of my comfort zone and doing something risky or challenging or daring is something the Lord is inviting me to do, then so be it.  For wherever the Lord is, there too I want to be.  If I am successful in life by doing what no one has done before, then I must give my Lord the credit for leading me to do the impossible.  I can't forget what He said:  For nothing is impossible with God.

+If the Lord surrounds himself with lepers and losers and criminals, then I want to be next to Him, for He himself said about himself: "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick,. and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me."  The Lord not only cares about those nobody cares about, He even identifies Himself as one of them! 

Heaven is not just Jesus.  It is our neighbor as well.

+Last but not least, Heaven is also found on the wood of the Cross.  Jesus nailed to the cross is the last place in the world we would ever think to find Heaven.  But there He is, right before our eyes.  And right next to Him is His Father, His mother and His best friend.  When we stay close to those who suffer, we stay close to Christ.  When we show unconditional love to those who have difficulty accepting it, we are uniting ourselves to Christ on the Cross.  Father, forgive them...

As I was preparing my homily for yesterday's funeral mass, my thoughts fell upon the crucifix.  This young man's unexpected and tragic death reminded me of Christ's passion and death. It also reminded me of how our loved ones never leave our side.  NEVER. 

Unfortunately, this young man may have taken his life because he considered himself a "burden" to his family.  But the truth is:  he always struggled with forgiveness, grace and faith, which in this specific case meant believing and accepting unconditional love. 

He loved to play the guitar.  I don't know if he ever got around to playing that old song from the Hollies, "He ain't heavy, He's my brother." 

The Lord be with you.  And with your spirit.
Rest in peace, my dear friend.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Jn 16:29-33 The Lord's Humility

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
 
By KATIE GROSS

The disciples said to Jesus,
“Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.
Now we realize that you know everything
and that you do not need to have anyone question you.
Because of this we believe that you came from God.”
Jesus answered them, “Do you believe now?
Behold, the hour is coming and has arrived
when each of you will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone, because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

In today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded once again of just how human the disciples were, and subsequently how they mirror our own discipleship of Christ.  Now, upon first reading this Gospel, one might think that the disciples made a stunning profession of faith. After all, they told Jesus that he knew everything, had no need of being questioned, and came from God; how could this not be the most humble profession of faith? I would venture to say that it is the exact opposite—it is a perfect example of how pride can “smuggle itself into the very center of our religious life,” as C.S. Lewis once wrote.
C.S. Lewis wrote extensively on pride. As a Christian scholar, he knew all too well how pride could poison one’s spiritual life, turning conversations about God into competitions over who knew the most, who was the holiest, or who was the most eloquent. I think he would pinpoint a huge instance of pride in the declaration of the disciples. Notice that the disciples do not simply praise Jesus, but instead almost praise themselves by stating that “now we realize that you know everything” and “we believe you came from God.” It is as if they had just finished a complex math equation—they believed they got it right, and they were content to just stop there. They had it all figured out. Jesus scolded them for their pride.
 
This is a trap that is all too easy to fall into as Catholics.One time, I texted a good friend after I had made a questionable decision. I told her that I was ashamed, and that I had expected more of myself. She responded with one of the most profound things I have ever heard: “Expecting more of yourself is pride itself. Remember that you are a sinner. Assume that you will mess up.”
Furthermore, to be a faithful Catholic is to choose an inherently countercultural lifestyle. This is a good thing.However, when we choose this countercultural lifestyle, it becomes so easy to look to the other, perhaps-less-religious people around us and say, “Man, I feel sorry for them—I have it all figured out.” Just like the disciples. This could not be a more dangerous statement. C.S. Lewis sums this up perfectly: “Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good—above all, that we are better than someone else—I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil.” It’s scary to think about, but it’s true: evil has a perfect way to fit right in the center of our relationship with God. Therefore, we must be vigilant. We must not forget that we by our very human nature are sinful. When we think we have it all figured out, we don’t have a clue.
 
Even so, I don’t suggest that everyone return to sackcloth and ashes and lament their sinful ways for the rest of their lives.Instead, the whole point of our Christian lives is to not onlyrecognize that we are sinful by nature, but also that Jesus took on our nature to save us. He understands and even expects thatwe will fail, even when the rest of the world holds us to a perfect standard. After all, right after Jesus scolds the disciples for abandoning him, he consoles them with some of the most touching words in all of Scripture: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”  Even when we are proud—the very antithesis of what Jesus is and what He calls us to be—He still consoles us. He is patient beyond all patience.  
 
So just remember—you never have it all figured out. Be humble, just as the Lord is humble.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mk 16:15-20 Going, Going, Gone?

The Ascension
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus said to his disciples: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature."

After He had suffered.  In his first book, St. Luke explained all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up.  He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered."   

After he had suffered. 
This is a key to understanding the ascension.

Before we can ascend to heaven, we must descend on earth.  This is Christian physics 101. 

If someone wants to jump in the air, then they must first bend their knees and descend.  Similarly, if someone wants to get to heaven, then they must first get down and dirty and humble themselves.

The Ascension.  When I decided to become a priest, I found it very difficult to leave behind my family, my friends, the kids in Faith Formation. my work, my girlfriend, my money and my car (not necessarily in this order, okay?).  It was difficult to say goodbye to so many people.  But was I really leaving?  Was I really saying goodbye?  At first, I really believed I was, and so there were lots of tears and hugs and kisses.  But little by little, I realized that my life - my relationship - with them had not ended, it had just changed.  In fact, it had changed for the better.  I can honestly say that from that day on, I had a greater appreciation for all my loved ones.  They were now going to be in my daily prayers, whether or not they knew it or liked it!   

Christ never left His Apostles.  The Ascension is not a final farewell or going away party.  The Lord did not throw a big bash while His followers were weeping and wailing!  Sure, He was going to the Father, but by going to the Father, He was uniting our common humanity to the inner life of God in an unprecedented way.

His relationship with man was not coming to an end, it was only getting stronger!  His Spirit would now, and forever more, be a part of us, whether or not we knew it or liked it.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into heaven - where heaven is not a place, but a person, for, as Pope Benedict states, "Jesus himself is what we call 'heaven.'"

Heaven as a person is another key to understanding the Lord's Ascension.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jn 16:23b-28 All You Have to Do is Ask

Saturday of the Sixth Week of Easter
 
By JENNIFER BURGIN
 
Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. Until now you have not asked anything in my name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete. “I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father."

Have you ever asked for a favor and the person never followed through?  On the flip side:  Has someone ever requested a favor from you and you blew it off like no big deal?

At the end of my sophomore year of college, we were in the process of vacating our dorm rooms.  I needed help removing a heavy carpet rug from underneath my bed, so I pre-arranged for my boyfriend to come by one evening. When he failed to show up, I called him.  I remember his rudeness and irritability as he yelled: "Jennifer, you're just going to have to find someone else to move that carpet!  I'm too tired and don't have the time!"  I slammed down the phone in anger and disgust. Since he refuses to help, I'm no longer his girlfriend! He can go where the sun don't shine!  

How was I going to move the bed and the ugly pink carpet?  (I cursed my roommate for leaving me stuck with her trash.)  In desperation, I called one of my girlfriends.  She agreed to come over very late that evening, and she removed the rug with all of her brawn and sweat.  I was grateful for her assistance but evidently the "favor" was too burdensome.  She never spoke to me again!  I wrote her letters that summer and even enclosed a small gift of thanks.  No response. To this day, I wonder if she'd remain a friend if I asked someone else to move the carpet? 

Ask and you will receive.....   In Adoration this week, I pondered these words further.   The Lord doesn't grant our wishes like a Genie in a bottle. Sometimes we ask and the Lord tells us, "Nope! That's not for you! You are not ready for this yet."  Maybe what we ask for is bad for our bodies. Maybe what we beg for is dangerous to our souls. Maybe what we cry out for will lead us away from grace. Our Lord desires our joy to be complete in Him and through Him. He wants to see our smiling faces in heaven someday! In the meantime, we should let go of our egos, hangups, pride, and selfishness.

The Holy Spirit whispers in our ears three simple words: patience, trust, hope.  Be patient, trust in God's will and remain hopeful!

Unanswered questions We ask God many questions. Why do good people die too soon? Why so much poverty and starvation in the world? Why so much hate, corruption, and persecution in our global society?  We wait to receive an answer; however, we hear silence. We don't understand God's plan, and we definitely don't know how Christ will judge us at the end of time. Despite the unanswered questions, we keep moving forward.  Hopefully we are enjoying life to the fullest, praising God for our blessings even if we are unclear of how the past, present and future will work out.

All you have to do is ask...  Sounds simple enough, right?  We don't have to worry about Our Lord playing a game of fickleness like people we know.  He remains constant, pouring out his unconditional love!   We ask for forgiveness, he gives us mercy.  When we ask for favor, he gives us grace.  Remember there is a clear distinction between asking for material goods versus asking for spiritual goods.  If it helps us grow in our faith, the Lord will provide.

"Let the water flow beneath the bridge; let men be men, that is to say, weak, vain, inconstant, unjust, false, and presumptuous; let the world be the world still; you cannot prevent it. Let every one follow his own inclination and habits; you cannot recast them, and the best course is, to let them be as they are and bear with them. Do not think it strange when you witness unreasonableness and injustice; rest in peace in the bosom of God; He sees it all more clearly than you do, and yet permits it." 

-Francois Fenelon


This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Friday, May 15, 2015

Jn 16:20-23 Home

Friday of the Sixth Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

Jesus said to his disciples: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you."

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre found that the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as Christians declined by eight percentage points since the last religious landscape survey in 2007.  What I find most surprising is how gradual was the decline.  I had expected a drop off of fifteen to twenty percentage points.

Now, for the first time ever in the United States, the unaffiliated outnumber Catholics.

But what exactly does this mean?  Are we becoming more scientific? Are present generations much smarter than previous generations? Is this the demise of Catholicism and/or Christianity and the rise of atheism?  Hardly.  

What I think the results indicate is that the cultural war is finally beginning to take its toll; and the culture of death, negativity, rebellion, lies, anarchy and profanity are finally beginning to sink into our hearts, minds and wills.

Once upon a time people got married, and once in a while the marriage ended in divorce.  In recent past times, people got married and far too often it ended in divorce.  Now, our children skip getting married all together because they get stressed with the idea of commitment.

Lots of things have fallen through the roof over the past ten years, not just religion.

Are these tough times?  Yes.  Are they any tougher than what the Apostles went through?  No.  So, there is no excuse for any of us.  We have a lot of work to do.  

What I gather most from this recent survey is that young people are looking for a home, that's what "the unaffiliated" means to me.  They are searching for a home...or have run away from home.

Let's keep praying for our Church and Church community, and that we may be living witnesses to the word of God in our words and actions.  May those who have no home find a home with us.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Acts 17:15, 22—18:1 Tough Crowd

Wednesday of the Sixth Week of Easter
 
By Benedict Augustine

God has overlooked the times of ignorance,
but now he demands that all people everywhere repent
because he has established a day on which he will ‘judge the world
with justice’ through a man he has appointed,
and he has provided confirmation for all
by raising him from the dead.”

Not in Corinth, a place saturated with vice and sailors; nor in Macedonia, a region containing pagan veterans and uneducated yokels; nor even in Rome, home to deranged emperors, emperor cults, and gladiator madness; but in Athens, home to great philosophers, artists, and leaders does Paul find his greatest challenge in evangelizing. Out of any group of people, Paul should have had the easiest time converting people already so close to the Truth, a people so well versed in the language of religion and spirituality.

Instead, Paul’s proselytizing falls on deaf ears. Out of anyone, the “tolerant” cosmopolitans of Athens dismiss Paul as another cultic kook, another magician, another inferior philosopher trying to create another school.

No place would resemble the modern Western world so closely as Athens. The Athenians had seen their share of triumph in all realms of life; they had endured so many changes of leadership; and, unlike the Jews, they had stopped thinking in tribal or ethnic terms. In their sophistication, they busied themselves with the work of culture, trade, and education. In their passivity and weakness, they rendered all these cultural assets to their brutish occupiers, the Romans.

At this point in history, the philosophic schools of Athens, who served as the arbiters of culture and morality, consisted of the Stoics, the Epicureans, and the Academics (skeptics). These three schools debated one another on many points, many of them obscure and irrelevant, but they all curiously agreed on one point: man was the beginning and end of all things. At their core, these philosophies were self-centered, and as a result, self-contained. With impressive exactitude, they settled every questionable imaginable and laid out a set plan for any adherent. The Stoic would seek personal honor and fortitude; the Epicurean would pursue the perfect balance of work and pleasure; and the Academic would pursue Truth. Then, they would all die, and all this would end, for their teachings never went beyond the mortal perspective.
 
Paul tries to grab the Athenians’ attention by referring to the “unknown God” that they keep in their temple. This unfortunately bears little fruit because his audience actually prefers to keep this god unknown. They would rather worship themselves and blather endlessly about the “journey” instead of the destination. They want to talk, not decide. Nothing is serious, nor is anything real. Everything is reduced to ideas, and Paul’s talk of resurrection makes more sense in their epics, not in their ego-centric ideologies.

Catholic apostles today find themselves in the same difficulties as St. Paul did in Athens since the modern audience looks at Christianity in the same way that the ancients did: they view it as another idea, not the truth. As a mere idea, the Resurrection does not conform to a person’s notions of life and death. A heavenly kingdom does not fall within the realm of senses. Jesus Himself, the Son of God Who sacrifices Himself for humanity, has a greater resemblance to myths than anything historical. For this reason, a modern enlightened audience will react very much like the Athenians, hearing the gospel only to reject it, deride it, and move on to another spiritual trend.

Fortunately, neither Paul nor any other apostle has to rely on the force of argument to make disciples of the nations. They have the Holy Spirit working through them and their listeners. Bursting the logical confines of man’s philosophies, the Holy Spirit reaches the true center of man, the heart. Even in a city where men have hardened their hearts for the sake of man-made orthodoxies, Paul at least finds a few souls willing to believe and be saved. This should give the modern apostle hope. If he can reach the heart and put his faith in the Holy Spirit, conversion may happen.

Life holds more than the mind can conceive. Only the heart can contain the Truth sent through the Holy Spirit. Believers and nonbelievers both must put away man-made ideologies, and embrace the reality of God. All must repent.