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, July 23, 2014

Mt 13.1-9 The Sower in the Modern World

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
 
“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

The parable of sower discourages three qualities in the Christian disciple: pride, vanity, and sensuality.(Fr. Alfonse wrote a great post on these three qualities a few months ago.) The proud person cannot accept anything outside himself; he refuses to accept others’ words because he feels better than others and their words. Nothing can reach his heart; hence, Holy Scripture describes him as “hard hearted.” The vain person accepts all things indiscriminately without the intention of commitment or understanding more deeply. The vain person cares about others’ opinions more than the truth, so he will agree with everything at least superficially to receive others’ praise. The sensual person accepts certain ideas, but these ideas will never grow since vices and addictions will easily crowd them out.

Common sense should easily discourage these qualities in anyone, let alone a Christian. Pride, vanity, and sensuality would hamper any human being fromreaching his or her potential. However, only the outsider can observe this. The person enslaved to their own opinion, others’ opinion, or their own appetites truly believes that fulfillment will come through satisfying their master. The proud person really thinks his stubbornness and ignorance are noble and brave since he has truly asserted hisindividuality and rejected the deluded masses. The vain person earnestly thinks that his popularityreflects a rich and rewarding inner life. The sensual person never doubts that he can refill his happiness with another meal, another fling, or another episode,much like a driver refilling his car with fuel. Help for these poor souls has to come from outside from people who can see the harm. Unfortunately, most people on the outside struggle with the same problems, and they feel unqualified to judge. Furthermore, informing a person of their pride or sensuality only invites and conflict, so most people will not bother.

In this way, common sense degenerates into common senselessness. Modern convention has in fact formalized this senselessness into a program recommended for all modern people. Starting from a young age, children quickly learn to be proud, vain, and sensual. Schools teach it; media endorses it; and governments and businesses thrive off of it. Even churches compromise and adopt the same strategies to “enhance” their message. Obviously, due to their negative connotations no one will support these three qualities as pride, vanity, and sensuality; they simply give these things vaguer less recognizable names: skepticism (for pride), relativism (for vanity), and materialism (for sensuality).

The proud souls of today can rebuff any unfamiliar or unwelcome idea with a hefty sense of doubt. As conventional wisdom dictates: “Science teaches one to doubt”; “Experience teaches one to doubt”; “The only thing in life that is certain is uncertainly, “etc.Originally, adopting this kind of doubt meant questioning things in life in order to better understand them. Socrates doubted, but that did not stop him from seeking answers. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas always used the doubtful position to better develop their philosophical and theological arguments. Descartes doubted, but he used this as the thrust for modern experimentation and inquiry. Recently, doubt has led to the reverse of seeking the answer; doubt now means questioning things in life in order to avoid answers. Stubborn atheists like Bertrand Russell or Stephen Hawking use doubt as a way to mask their pride. Brilliant men like them struggle the most with accepting a truth that renders them human like the rest of the world. They, and many other atheists, think they lose themselves when they admit their status as God’s creation. Sadly, this makes them easy prey for forces of despair, delusion, and cruelty.

Skepticism, of this kind can often morph into relativism, an acceptance of all truths and falsehoods. While intellectuals like David Hume or Christopher Hitchens participate in debates and write books justifying themselves, most normal people would rather take the path of least resistance. They take utterly nondescript phrases and pattern their life around it: “It’s all good”; “There’s no black and white, just shades of grey”; “Everything is relative, or subjective” etc. They use Jesus’ command to “Judge not” and take that as a free pass to accept everything. Unfortunately, in accepting everything, they ironically reject everything.  They see both sides of an issue, so they have no answer. They see the merits of both politicians, so they don’t vote. They believe all religions are true, so they never practice. Underneath this veneer of tolerance, most relativists see onlythemselves as the paragon of goodness and ignore the rest. In not judging anyone, they often judge everyone for being judgmental in some way. As they wallow in indecision and self-admiration, they allow their souls, and whatever truth their souls contained,to stagnate and wither away.

Finally, when the soul has lost all its energy and has effectively emptied, materialism takes over. The only truth that matters becomes the truth that one can hold on one’s hands, not in his mind or heart. Unlike skepticism, which requires a person to actively reject something, and relativism, which requires a person to actively pretend to accept all things, materialism demands nothing but perpetual consumption. Materialists value money over meaning, feeling over thinking, and distraction over direction. Those who succeed in making money buy everything they can to make themselves happy: a big house, fancy toys, and often, an attractive lover or spouse. The vast majoritywho do not succeed in making so much money spend their lives envying those who do. In either case, pleasure soon dissipates into empty addiction, and what once brought pleasure now only brings a momentary relief from pain. Needless to say, these material concerns will easily marginalize the spiritual ones to the point where the soul lacks the sense orthe sensitivity to receive the Word and nourish it.

This leaves Christians in a strange place that exists outside what modern society can account for. Assuming they turn away from the ideologies of the day and towards Jesus, they will show humility, compassion, and piety.  They will accept the Word, share it with others, and open their hearts to God.Nourishing the Word, one can bear the fruit that contains the seeds that can give rise to more plants. Only in this way, this timeless way, can one find true happiness and bring that happiness to others who cannot even recognize it anymore.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jn 20:1-2, 11-18 Sister of the Lord

Memorial of St. Mary Magdalene
(Click here for readings)

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him.  Someone told him, "Your mother and you brothers are standing outside asking to speak to you."  Be he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?"

The Jews.  In general, the Jewish people have a lot going for them.  Firstly, they are a very close knit community with Abraham has their ancestral father.  Secondly, they are one tough group of people.  Tough experiences have forged people as strong as nails.  No Jew would ever question who their mother or brothers were.  From an early age, the answer was beaten into them.

Then came Jesus, who shook the earth when He asked the questions "Who is my mother?" and "Who are my brothers?"  The crowds were appalled.  How could He ask such a silly question?  They should have known better, but they didn't, for they didn't know Christ or His way of thinking.  His answer stunned His audience and opened the floodgates of criticism, and also the gates of heaven.  Answer:  The one who does the will of the Father. 

And what exactly is the Will of the Father?  What is it that God demands from us?  Is it not what we demand from Him? 

"Lord, show us your mercy and love" (Ps 85:8a). 

Lord, show me that you love me.  Show me that you care about me.  This is all we want from God and from our neighbors.  All we want is to know that we are loved and cared about.  And thankfully, it is what the Lord demands from us:  that we show love for Him and for our neighbors.

St. Mary Magdalene.  Today is the memorial of St. Mary Magdalene.  Scripture has it that seven demons came out of her.  What exactly does this mean?  Well, it can only mean one thing:  that she underwent a deep or profound spiritual conversion.  It can only mean that she radically changed her life. 

The number seven has only one meaning in Scripture.  In the Old and New Testament it represents the same thing:  perfection.  

Mary changed her life for good!

Pope Paul VI called Mary Magdalene "the apostle to the Apostles," and for good reason: she never left Christ's side.  From the moment of her conversion, she was present at every major event in the life of her savior, more so than the Apostles themselves!  The expulsion of seven demons meant her conversion was fierce and profound; and because of it, she remained faithful to the Lord even as He lay dying on a Cross.  She was His faithful follower to the end because Her will was united to His, unconditionally.

St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us!    

Mt 12:38-42 Something Greater Here

Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus, "Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you."  He said to them in reply, "...At he judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here..."

Something Greater.  Not too long ago, I went to the hospital to give a blessing to a wonderful couple who had suffered the loss of their newborn baby.  Their tragic loss did not come as a surprise to them.  During a routine exam, doctors noticed the child was motionless and that there was no heartbeat.  Regardless of all the advanced warnings, when the child was delivered the couple was devastated by their sudden loss.

By the time I arrived at the hospital, the mother had the child in her arms. I shook hands with her husband and reached over and gave her a big hug.  I opened up my prayer book and read from the book of Lamentations:
"My soul is deprived of peace,
I have forgotten what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
all that I hoped for from the Lord...
Remembering it over and over
leaves my soul downcast within me. 
But I will call this to mind,
as my reason to have hope:
The favors of the LORD are not exhausted,
his mercies are not spent..."
 
At the end of the ceremony, we prayed:
 
May God give us peace in our sorrow,
consolation in our grief,
and strength to accept his will in all things.
Amen.
 
After the ceremony, the couple spoke openly to me of their heartache and pain when first told of their child's condition, and of their determination to do what would be pleasing to the Lord.  Throughout their ordeal, the couple remained firm in the faith, accepting and doing only God's will. 
 
I found peace and strength in their incredible testimony of faith, hope and love.
 
Before I left, the husband wanted to take a picture.  He set his camera up, placed himself on the rightside of his wife and child and pressed the button on a remote control that was in his hand.  The camera's flash went off and a couple of pictures were taken. 

As I approached my car, I reflected on what I had seen and heard.  I was astonished at something, but I couldn't put my finger on it.  Finally, it dawned on me what it was:  Never had I seen so much peace and joy in such a painful situation.  What was the tipping point?  Their smiles - my smile - our smiles - as the pictures were being taken! 

It was uplifting. 

They knew their child was a saint in heaven.

O, what faith can do to the heart, soul and mind.

"There is something greater here..."  Yes.  Someone and something greater than we could ever have imagined, but that only faith could ever have revealed.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mt 13:24-43 Wheat and Weeds

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:  "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.

The sower of good seed is the Son of Man.  Every word that comes forth from the mouth of Christ is good seed, and what a blessing it must be for young souls to grew up with these seeds on their mind, on their lips and in their hearts.   O, to be educated in the ways of the Lord, and from an early age, must be a blessing!  If only it would happen more often!  This is the way to build up self-esteem and discover self-worth.  This is way to diminish fears and anxieties. 

What a pity it is that this good seed is constantly denied entry on grounds it is sectarian.  This is the work of the devil.

The sower of the evil seed is the devil.  This summer, I've been reading Oscar Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray."  What a masterpiece!  Talk about a book composed of good and bad seed! 

As I've been reading, I've been writing.  I wrote down the following quote a few days ago:  "The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.  Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself..." 

Sounds true, doesn't it?  But the brutal facts speak for themselves.  The soul doesn't grow sicker with longing.  It grows stronger.  And the best way to get rid of a temptation is not to yield to it, but to replace it.

But like most sayings that are pure evil, at first glance they appear to be logical and true; that is, natural and normal.  It's not always easy to distinguish a good word from a bad word, or a good seed from a bad seed.  That's where our elders can be useful to all.  They are ingenious early warning signals for young sprouts, the flares that shine in the middle of the dark night of a young soul.  Unfortunately, they are being choked out by the entertainment industry.  In just a few decades, they have done a remarkable job at crushing and ridiculing their knowledge and wisdom.

Sure, the soul grows sick with longing for things that are forbidden, but it grows even sicker when it gobbles them all up.  How many tears must be shed before lessons are learned?  How many teens must grow sick or die before values and morals (and some abnegation) are once again respected and taught?

The world is the ground.  Life is give and take.  Living is all about giving and receiving.  Our world is a world of give and take.  It's not ruled so much by competition as it is by cooperation.  It's more about synergy and community than elimination and the individual.

Similarly, human beings are expected to give fairly and take fairly.  But Christians, on the other hand, are expected to give more than they receive, for they have received the seed that when they give more they receive more.  This practice has been cultivated by many of our elders. 

The weeds and the wheat.    We live in a world where the good and the bad live side by side.  There is only Heaven, and Heaven is Hell for those who do not wish to be there. 

Our God allows the good to grow next to the bad.  Why?  Because there is a lot that can be learned from what surrounds us. 

There are two ways to learn something:  the easy way and the hard way.  We can learn from others or we can learn by ourselves.  We can listen to the people who love us the most or we can choose to ignore them.  Regardless of what we choose, what is good will always triumph over evil and shine brighter and stand taller, even if it smacks right in the face of modern "progress."

Like the Lord, we too grow side by side with one another, just like wheat and weeds, for the Father knows there are principally two ways for us to get back to where we belong: either by forgiving and giving or by contrition and forgiveness. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mt 12:14-21 Saying No To Bad Advice

Saturday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The Pharisees went out and took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.

Taking advice from bad people.  Getting bad advice is one thing.  Taking it from bad people is the worst possible thing anyone could ever do to themselves.

It's one thing to be led astray.  It's another to be intentionally led astray.  Nothing good comes from those who wish to see a good person harmed.

Be careful of the people you hang out with.  Misery loves company.  If you find it easy to gossip with your friends, then be careful of your friends.  As the saying goes:  "Those who gossip with you will gossip about you." 

The Pharisees wanted Christ dead, even before there was ever talk of a trial.  So they went to evil people because they sought evil advice.  

What do I seek? Who do I ask?  

Taking advice from good people.  Do I seek God?  If so, then go to those who are religious, who seek God with a sincere heart.  Do not go to someone who mocks and ridicules our Lord and His believers.  You will not find God there.  Do I seek to understand the Catholic faith?  Then read Catholic authors.  No one in their right mind would go and read a book about Catholicism from a non-Catholic.   

And if your heart still makes you wonder what to believe in, then take the advice of the Lord.  Do what He would do.  Say what He would say.  Live like He Lives!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Mt 12:1-8 Nitpicking

Friday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, "See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath."

A long time ago, a woman came up to me after Mass and complained about the way I celebrated Mass.  She told me I did not put my hands together at the proper moments.  I thanked her for her concern and told her to be careful not to nitpick. 

Nitpicking.  In the old days, nitpicking referred to "the act of removing nits (the eggs of lice, generally head lice) from the host's hair.  As the nits are cemented to individual hairs, they cannot be removed with most lice combs, and, before modern chemical methods were developed, the only options were to shave all the host's hair or to pick them free one by one. 

As nitpicking inherently requires fastidious, meticulous attention to detail, the term has become appropriated to describe the practice of meticulously searching for minor, even trivial errors in detail and then criticizing them" (Wikipedia).

The Pharisees were nitpicking.  Do you nitpick?

Someone once told me that if you look long and hard enough at someone - anyone - you will always find something to complain about.  Everyone has their defects, even the Lord.  Don't be scandalized, I said defects, not sins. 

I believe nitpicking is a consequence of jealousy and/or rushing to conclusions (judging things and others harshly).  The Pharisees were obviously jealous of Jesus.  After all, He packed the house, He impacted His audience, He changed the hearts and minds of thousands, He practiced what He preached, He sacrificed for others, He loved like no other.

The Pharisees had no other alternatives but to either humble themselves and join Him, or revert back to man's basic instinct and look for a flaw - any flaw - in his character.  They chose the road most traveled.

From today's Gospel passage, it's clear the Pharisees also suffered from the all too common tendency of harshly and rashly judging the Lord or the one and only one they were most jealous of.

Could they not see that the Lord's men were living in strict poverty?  Could they not understand all the good they were doing and how their actions had been blessed by God and collaborated by David and his men? 

For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.  Although He is God, the Lord is not above the Law.  On earth, Christ was totally and unconditionally obedient to His Father and to His Father's Laws.  The problem was:  He understood His Father and His Father's Laws better than the teachers of the Law.  He understood that "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mk 2:27).  The significance of this statement is as enormous as the significance of the Copernican model of our solar system!  The Lord just moved Man back to the center of His Father's Attention.  He turned all His Laws upside down.  Man is the center of God's love.

Let's avoid being nitpicky by putting love of God and neighbor above ourselves, our jealousies and our harsh judgments. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mt 11:28-30 Planet of the...?

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

Jesus said:  "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart."

Come to me.  I find it a bit scary how life can turn on you in a minute.  One minute you're happy, the next in tears.  It's frightening to think about the little power you have in your life.  Of course we'd all like to think we had more, but we don't.  We can barely control ourselves let alone others! 

There is so much that is out of our control that could make or break us.

Now if you think this is scary, then know it gets worse when you consider how flimsy our state and federal governments and institutions are.  They are always but a few weeks from utter collapse.  History has demonstrated that a simple riot can easily turn into a revolution that topples a government.  Computer models have predicted how genetically man-ipulated virus could easily wipe out half the population as well as all essential institutions in a flash.

Maybe the reason why I am being so negative today is because I went to see the Planet of the Apes last night! These types of movies are made believable because there is enough truth mixed in with fantasy to make them believable.

Come to me...This is music to my ears and it should be music to everyone's ears.  It's a sweet reminder that we don't have to reinvent the wheel or guess what is right or wrong.  We know it all because of Him.  It's all laid out there to take upon our shoulders.  We just need our come to Jesus moment.

Come to me, all you who labor for justice and for peace.  Believe in me, and know that my ways will work better than your tried and tested ways in creating a better world. 

Amen.