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!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mark 16:9-15 When We Believe in God

Mark 16:9-15 When We Believe In God

Doubts, disbelief, fears and terror. These are the sights and sounds of the early Church as they waited for their eyes to see the Risen Lord.

Surprise, joy, boldness and outreach. These are the sights and sounds of those whom the Lord revealed himself to.

In the Acts of the Apostles we witness an on-going transformation that continues to rock our world today. The Eleven, who were once locked in fear, can no longer contain themselves. They must proclaim the Good News, not because they received a death threat from the Lord but because they received his life. What was once considered impossible or dangerous (like being recognized, going out into the streets and preaching the Truth; preaching Jesus as Lord and God; preaching to the Jews and standing before the leaders, the elders and the chief priests, etc.) they now do without hesitation. They believe in themselves because the Lord believes in them.

When we believe in God, we begin to believe in ourselves. Nothing is impossible! Nothing, for nothing matters more than the Lord. What will separate me from the love of God: tribulations, betrayals, fear, suffering and pain, anxieties, bitterness, ridicule, loss of life, death, even death on a cross? Nothing. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. The old man is dead, buried and gone away. The new man has risen from the dead, and has been sent by the Lord.

Here I am Lord, send me! And he does, like he always has, and he will continue to bear fruit through me and after me.

How many times have I said, Enough!? Too many. How many times have I said, I can't do this anymore!? Too many. How many times have I said, I will never make a difference"? Too many. I could go on and on, so many more doubts come to my mind as I write this list. But the Lord loves me and loves sharing everything with me, even my dirty laundry list! The doubts we have the Apostles shared too. We, the modern-intelligent creatures, have the same doubts as the Apostles, those uncivilized-uneducated men. Yes, they may have said the exact same thing, but look and see for yourself what they did. They lived for the Lord and not for themselves. They believed in God because God shared his belief in them. He lifted them up! He told them as he told me, "Go and sin no more." God has more faith in us than we have in Him!

The Apostles woke up one morning and rocked the world. They had finally learned all things from the Master, and they began to imitate Him in everything - even his resurrection; for the Lord was the first to wake up one Sunday morning and change the world forever! We must do the same thing. Awake, O sleeper, arise from thy slumber. Christ is calling you by name!

Friday, April 29, 2011

John 21:1-14 Allowing The Lord To Reveal Himself

John 21:1-14 Allowing The Lord To Reveal Himself
(Click here for readings)

This morning I woke up at 4:00 am to drive a priest to the airport. I was not a happy camper. Some how I had volunteered to do so and near the end I was happy I did it. It is amazing how the Lord reveals himself in the cloud of unknowing. On my way back home, I was thinking about what I would say at Ursuline Academy's Senior Farewell Mass. As soon as I began to focus on that I heard something very disturbing on the radio. It turned out that one of the victims from the horrible tornadoes that ripped through Alabama was a twenty-two year old young lady that had graduated from Ursuline back in 2007. She was a Senior and was living off campus. The news hit me very hard. Before the announcer even mentioned the word Ursuline, I knew she was from Ursuline. How did I know? I have no idea except that it came from above. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Just a few minutes ago I was complaining about driving so early in the morning and then all of a sudden I hear this! Now I knew exactly why I had to be on the that I could hear this! I needed to mention this in my homily. I needed to guide my words towards this. I needed to say something about this tragic loss to the young ladies at Ursuline, "One of our graduates has graduated from this life to eternal life."

We speak so much about success. What is success? What does it mean to be successful? Dear moms and dads, I want to tell you what it means to be successful: It means that your child has made it safe and sound to Heaven. This is true success: to be a Saint; to gain the world without losing your soul. We should not measure or keep track of anything else for nothing else matters. Life is a gift, and should be lived as a gift. Everlasting life is a treasure given from above but discovered in the depths of our souls.

Today's readings remind us of the two great mysteries: life and death. The Apostles can do nothing of worth on their own - not even catch a fish, and with gentleness the Lord reminds them that with him, they can do the impossible. Two names stand out above the rest: Peter and Thomas. Both men are present and mentioned by name. Interesting. After all, Peter denied the Lord three times and Thomas did not believe in his resurrection. And yet, both are there. Both are present. Both are in need of guidance and mercy. Who gives it to them but the one who suffered for them. "The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone." (Ps. 118:22)

This is our history too. We tend to lock ourselves up in our own little world (room), just like the Apostles did, and only later do we come to realize that there is someone missing - the Lord. Ah yes, the Lord will not allow any barriers to get in his way. He will reveal himself, one way or another, and not allow any of his sheep to wander too far off. This is a good Shepherd. This is a good Father and Mother. Who are we kidding! This is a God who loves! This is a God who always reveals himself. It is time for us to grow up and get ready for graduation.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Luke 24: 35-48 Startled and Terrified!

Luke 24:35-48 Startled and Terrified

Are our eyes deceiving us? Could it possibly be the Lord? The Apostles were nothing less than terrified and startled to find the Lord once again in their midst. When will we ever learn? When will we finally get it through our thick skins and skulls that no walls, no doors, no human inventions can remove Him from our lives. Nothing can remove God. Nothing can ever replace Him. The Lord is real. He has not been invented. We have been invented!

Today's Gospel account reminds me of a beautiful article I recently read.

It's author, Alex Renton, an English journalist, wrote that his six year old daughter came home from school one afternoon with an assignment. She had to write a letter to God. The little girl sat down and wrote, "To God how did you get invented? From Lulu ox"

Poor Alex could not write the response. You see, he is a devote atheist. Neither could his wife. So instead of making something up, he asked the experts. He sent his daughter's letter to the Episcopalians and the Presbyerians, but they never replied. He also sent the letter to the Scottish Catholic Church and to Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He states that Monsignor Paul Conroy, of the Catholic Bishop's Conference of Scotland, wrote the following: "My reply would be along the lines of 'God is like us - he wasn't invented - but unlike us he has always been there. God is like someone we've always loved - we don't remember when he came into our lives because like the people we love who have been there all our lives it's as if we can't imagine what it would be like without him.'"

It's not bad, but a little heavy for a six year old to read.
Lambeth Palace waited a couple of weeks and then asked Alex to wait a couple of more weeks because someone special was going to write to her. It was the Archbishop himself who wrote a beautiful response. Although he is Anglican, it is a touching example of how a Bishop can humble himself and take the time to write a letter in response to a little girl's quest for truth. Here is his response in its entirety.

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It's a difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this -

"Dear Lulu - Nobody invented me - but lots of people discovered me and were quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn't expected.

Then they invented ideas about me - some of them sensible and some of them not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints - specially in the life of Jesus - to help them get closer to what I'm really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward questions!

And then he would send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn't usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on his behalf.

Lots of love from me too. + Archbishop Rowan

The letter not only moved Alex's young daughter it also moved him beyond his imagination and tore down some of his walls. He was impressed with the Archbishop's kindness and wisdom. Well done Rowan!

Yes, God does not write letters but the Archbishop was doing what he was supposed to do: He spoke in God's name, just like His ancient followers, and bore witness and gave testimony that shocked and shook the world back in its place! The Apostles were terrifed and startled beyond their imaginations. Alex was shocked beyond his wildest dreams. Love is shocking and terrifying, but in its very essence, love is surprising! The greatest mystery in the world is why in the world did the Lord choose men and women to help him? We already know the answer: Because we can love!

The world is a different world today because He changed us and "You are witnesses of these things."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Luke 24:13-35 They Thought Too Much

Luke 24:13-35 They Thought Too Much
(Click here for readings)

God knows when we are having a bad day and even invites us to "be glad and rejoice in it."

The Shepherd had been killed and his sheep scattered. Some of the Lord's most intimate friends were locked in a room. Others had no were to hide, and so decided to walk home and return to their former way of life. I asked myself this morning why did some stay and others leave? What made all the difference? I think the answer is in how each disciple handled the situation. Some prayed and others did not. In the case of our two young disciples, they thought too much and prayed too little.

Our faith in Jesus Christ is both immensely spiritual and immensely intellectual. It feeds the soul and body, just like the Eucharist. The famous English convert Robert Hughes Benson understood the need to place his emotions below his Reason and Will, because both reason and will are objective, whereas emotions are purely subjective. At times he didn't feel like worshipping the Lord, but he knew he had to. At times he didn't fully understand the reasons for certain devotions, but formed his will and accepted them. At times, he didn't feel like converting to the faith, but he took a leap of faith and did it.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus were downcast, drained and frightened, and what did they do? They made a decision: they left, and it was a big mistake. We should never make an important decision when we are emotionally drained or in a poor state of mind. They thought too much, way too much and on the wrong things! There is no mention of them ever praying for light, for faith. They were blinded not by the light but by darkness. The Lord opened their eyes by burning their hearts. He brought "understanding" to them which evedntaully led to the bringing of himself.

We have to be very careful not to turn our feelings into thoughts: "The Lord hates me!" or "God has forgotten me!" Worse, "The Lord no longer loves me!" Rubbish! Nonsense! Feelings or emotions that diguise themselves as thoughts are called, "nonsense."

Why is this account so important, so powerful? Because at times we can feel downcast. It is at these moments that we turn to "The Eternal facts of our Faith." God has created me; God loves me; God died for me; God wants me.

The lost disciples turned back towards Jerusalem to share the Good News with the others. They told them what had happened. They were interrupted by the tears and laughter of the others. In different ways, they had come to the truth and could all say, "The Lord has truly been raised and we are witnesses to Him who lives forever."

I am sure they broke bread later that evening!

It is good to feel good. It is better to know better. But it is best to pray at all times.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

John 20:11-18 Weeping In Sorrow

John 20:11-18 Weeping in Sorrow

(Click here for readings)

Mary Magdalene could not believe her eyes. What she was seeing did not correspond to her broken heart. She could not allow herself to believe the unbelieveable. That is, to one day find genuine comfort. So, she refused to allow herself to be happy again, even at the sight of the greatest miracle ever. In an all too familiar way she felt a certain comfort in being left alone, even as she wept uncontrollably.

Those who have experienced loss know exactly what Mary is going through. All the miracles in the world; all the unimaginable success stories she would inspire would never be enough to move her away from sorrow and pain - not even angels sent from Heaven. It is a lesson for all of us to learn. The only one who is capable of healing the broken heart is Jesus Christ. Only he can wipe away our tears for good.

"Whom are you looking for?" Is this not the most important question ever asked? The answer will not only reveal who I am looking for but also who I am! It will reveal all that I desire, all that I wish for, all that drives me and all that chases after me. It will also reveal all that limits me, for nothing on earth will ever be worthy of all my love - nothing!

Mary seeks a body without a soul. She seeks that which does not exist. She has limited her search in life to a dead man, and that will never bring her comfort in life.

"I sought him, whom my heart loves - I sought him but I did not find him. The watchmen came upon me, as they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves? I had hardly left them when I found him whom my heart loves. I took hold of him and would not let him go." (Song of Songs 3:1, 3-4a)

May we never limit our hopes and joys in an empty tomb but in the risen Lord. May the Risen Lord open our hearts to his daily miracles so that our weeping will be of joy and never again of sorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mt 28:8-15 Fearful Yet Overjoyed

Mt 28:8-15 Fearful Yet Overjoyed

(Click here for readings)

Every year, the major news agencies publish articles giving the world a new twist on the already well established, authentic and amazing drama of Easter. A few years back it was the “twist” that Jesus never really died on the cross and therefore, he appeared before his disciples, still with his wounds, and near the point of death. This, we are told, was really the miracle of the “resurrection.” Then, the following year we were told that Jesus asked Judas to betray him in order to force the fulfillment of the prophecies! I still get a chuckle out of that one. If there is anything in this world you don't have to ask for, it is a friend who betrays you! That's a guarantee! Another, not too long ago, gave us the astonishing news that the Lord’s tomb had been discovered, with bones included. After two thousand years and so many years of Church history, a secular archeologist claimed to have discovered the remains and tomb of the Savior of the World. As quickly as this story appeared it disappeared. Not out of fear for his life, but out of fear for his academic reputation. And of course, it appeared right before Easter.

Just recently, another individual discovered the “nails” that were used to crucify the Lord. I enjoyed a response to that article that used the simple headline: “Nails used to crucify Christ discovered, again!” Whoever discovered them should have gone to the Santa Croce di Gerusalemme in Rome. There, he would have discovered the real nails taken and conserved for centuries by the Lord’s Apostles and their faithful disciples.

So many outsiders would love to dampen our joy! So many people have tried to crush our spirits. But they cannot. This story will not go away. It is the Story of stories. It is the Story of The Lord. Like him, this story will never die.

What is striking is the very first “twist”, the original twist, the one brought by evil men, at the very beginning, that the Lord's body had been stolen. In other words, no one denies the empty tomb. No one, not even the Pharisees or the Scribes deny this fact. The story that circulated among the Jews was that Christ’s body had been stolen. But how could the body have been taken with Roman soldiers and temple guards standing and watching? These men were professionals, not amateurs. They knew well what had been said about him – that he would rise from the dead. If anything, they were ready for everything!

Then we have the story of the eye-witnesses. Who would believe what they had seen? Two women approach the tomb and find it empty. Then they claim they have seen the Lord. They tell the disciples. Who should have believed them? If this is all fake, why start a hard-to-believe story with an even harder to believe story that women were the first to see him. The testimony of women counted for nothing back then! I'm sorry, but if you are going to fake a story then do it well! Please! Start with believable testimony! Start with men, or start with the guards seeing it themselves rather than falling asleep! Oh, and by the way, don’t start with Mary Magdalene! Come on! Do you remember what type of reputation she had? Hardly the one who would be believed! Our story is wrong in so many ways! It would never pass the test in Hollywood!

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. There is a hierarchy in the Church. There are men who have authority in the Church. But the Lord trumps love over authority. He searches the hearts. He loves us all, but he loves the meek and humble a little more. Yes, the Lord loves the meek and humble of heart. He loves the ones who do not calculate the dangers; or see the threats that surround him. For this reason, they are the first to receive the Good News because the Lord loves to surprise his most beautiful and faithful children. I wish I could be one too!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jn 20:1-9 Love Conquers All

Jn 20:1-9 Love Conquers All

(Click here for readings)

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad! (Ps 118:24)

Christ did not rise from the dead to show us what he, and only he, could do. Jesus rose from the dead to show us what he could do for us!

Christ, the Son of God, has risen from the dead. Alleluia! Everything he said came true. Everything he did is true! He has shattered the darkness and destroyed death; sin no longer has its sting!

One of the greatest lessons I ever learned as a seminarian came from a tiny town in Italy called Casale Corte Cerro. I was in charge of a group of fourth graders. Their assignment was to design an Easter egg and bring it into school. It was to represent the resurrection. All the girls did a beautiful job, no exceptions. The eggs they decorated were colorful on the outside and warm and fuzzy on the inside. The boys did a good job, except for one child. He had been the trouble maker all year long and had tested my patience on numerous occasions. He came with an Easter egg that was BLACK and dirty! I opened it and inside there was nothing! I told him in very strong terms how disappointed I was in him and demanded from him an explanation. With tears in his eyes and choking on every word he told me that the outside was black and dirty because the tomb must have been like that. On the inside it was empty because Christ had risen from the dead. He was no longer there. Now it was my turn to fight the tears back and choke on every word! He had understood Easter better than any of the other children. Darkness, Filth (sin), and Death no longer have to be a part of our lives! We have been saved!

We no longer have to fear the darkness! The most powerful prayer in the world, said by Jesus the Christ, shattered the darkness of the night! “Father, do whatever you want with me!” This prayer alone set the stage for the greatest story ever recorded and ever lived! We will never truly live our lives until we say this prayer; otherwise, we will be gripped with fear for the rest of our lives. This is the greatest prayer in the world because it was said by our Lord. It is the most powerful prayer because the Father always answers it with a yes. It is the scariest prayer in the world because it means to lay down your life for another. What holds us back? Fear of the unknown– darkness. But the Lord has a surprise for us! What will happen to the one who says it? It will make them a Saint! We too shall rise from the dead! The darkness of the tomb has been shattered by a single ray of light! “Come follow me, I am the light of the world.” The Lord has risen and shown us the way out of the tomb and into his light! We too shall rise with Him.

My filth has been removed! Last night we saw a young lady walk in the center isle of our Church and receive baptism. While she was walking alone, towards the baptismal font, we sang, in the most moving way, the litany of the Saints. St. Mary Magdala, pray for us! St. Augustine, pray for us! St. Ignatius, pray for us! That is, a former hooker, a former play boy and a former agnostic who will forever be known as children of God. The Lord has removed my filth, my sins. He has forgiven me. I no longer have to be known for my sins. By his blood he has washed me clean. By his resurrection, he has given me a new life! Regardless of what I have done, I can be a Saint!

O Death, where is thy sting? The Resurrection of our Lord is more than just his physical body rising from the dead. He has risen, spiritually, physically, emotionally, psychologically! Death no longer has a grip on him, Mary Magdala does! The Lord on Easter Sunday proved to us something he said over and over again: “Love.” Love is more powerful than death. Love is more powerful than evil. Love is more powerful than fear, resentment, bitterness, and anger. The same energy that created the Universe; the same force that created life will give it back to us one day for love conquers all, even death!

If you get anything out of this mediatation, I hope it is the realization of what is Christ's greatest scandal. It is not His resurrection, it is the fact that whatever you have done in your life; whatever sins you have committed, you can still become a Saint! This has never been an easy thing to accept. But the One who committed no sin is the One who told us this. If you feel like ending it all, if you feel like there is no way out, then ask the Lord and he will tell you, "Hey, I know the way out! I know the way out of the tomb. Come, follow me."

Lord, you are the light of the world. Be my light at the end of my life.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reflection: “In the Tomb”

Reflection: “In the Tomb”

I was not planning on posting any mediation today. But as evening approaches, I began to reflect on the hearts and minds of the Apostles. What were they going through?

Today, the Church is in mourning. We and the Apostles are at a loss for what has happened. We feel scattered, beaten and frightened. Since the beginning of its history the Church of Jesus Christ has been brutally attacked, and it will continue this way till the very end of history. With only a few words the Lord predicted a long and grueling life for any follower: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (Jn 15:18). We have experienced a sudden loss. There seems to be nothing for us to do today except shake our heads, rub our hands and pace back and forth. The Apostles remain quiet, still and hidden for they too are under attack by forces beyond their reach: men, the devil and maybe even by God (?).

The Lord has not only been rejected; he has been defeated. They have nowhere to go. They cannot go back home; that’s out of the question! They cannot go back to their former way of life. Never! They gave all they had, long ago, and followed Him. Their names are well known, written on the “Most Wanted, Most Hated” lists. They are the true Public Enemy #1. They never hid their involvement with Him. They were not like Joseph of Arimathea, “secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews”. They were not like Nicodemus, “the one who had first come to him at night” No! They had embraced and committed themselves to Jesus of Nazareth. They were not in a dream. The report that John had given them of the Messiah’s crucifixion must have been horrific. And now these Eleven men were living their worst imaginable nightmare. They were locked in their tomb, locked from the inside, dead from fear and with no help on the way.

“What are you willing to give me?” (Mt 26:15) Judas had escaped the upper room by cheating life and embracing death. He had sold his soul for the world. How often do I sell my Lord for something as cheap as sin! 30 pieces of silver was a good amount. But to give away eternal love, eternal life for 30 pieces of silver is a tragedy, if not a stupidity. Why didn’t Judas ask the Lord the same question, “What are you willing to give me”? The Lord would have told him the truth: “Everything I have, I give to you.” Instead, Judas, like all of us, looks for immediate satisfaction, or self-gratification. We don’t want to wait for later – it’s too long – or so it seems. The Lord offers us his father’s mansion – a room there, if only we can wait a little while longer. To be His, we must follow Him, love Him and imitate Him so that we can do His work and help others to do it too. The room must be prepared. How we live our life on earth will determine if this room is ever made ready.

This Holy Saturday, we find the Lord locked in his tomb, the Apostles locked in their tomb and Judas buried in the Field of Blood. Death seems to surround me wherever I go! Where do I find myself this evening? Am I in my upper room, locked in fear and trembling? Or am I with the pious women, with Mary the Mother of God and Mary of Magdala, in prayer and open defiance, ready to prepare the Body of My Lord and be surprised?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jn 18:1-19:42 God Is Dead

Jn 18:1-19:42 God Is Dead

(Click here for readings)

Father, into your hands I commend my spirit. (Lk 23:46)

Last night at midnight I knelt in front of the Tabernacle, opened the doors and took our Lord into my hands. As I walked the short distance from the chapel to the sacristy I thought of the words, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” How humbling it is for me to have been called to be a priest, to have Christ so near and so present in my life. And then I thought how humiliating it is for God to have called someone like me!

Today, on Holy Friday, Christ is no longer among us. The excitement of Palm Sunday has not died down, it has died. We have all been put to shame! We have crucified our Savior! I do not care what anyone says, “It had to happen in order to fulfill the prophecies.” Nonsense! The prophecies were written because they had already been set in our stony hearts and minds. Yes, how could we turn back? How could we ever admit our mistake? The rebel never surrenders; he kills or is killed! Once our eyes and ears rebelled against the Creator, it was just a matter of time before the rebellion would turn to our tongues and hands; and it all turned vicious and bloody!

The Lord knew, from the very beginning, what would happen; what our independent and free willed choices would be. He knew the consequences that would follow. We will never be able to escape the reality that we alone crucified our Lord and God. Time has not healed the wound; On the contrary, it has caused the wound to fester and become grotesque. We are just as responsible for the murder of our Lord as those famous names recorded in Scripture. We have filled pages and pages of history with bloody murder! All history! All murders, except the Lord’s murder. We refuse to acknowledge, en masse, the greatest evil ever committed and so the horrible consequences of that murder continue to this day. No matter how hard we try, we cannot escape the reality that the Lord chose to descend from Heaven and be our Lamb.

How lonely the world is today. There is nowhere to go and nothing to look forward to. Today, the priests are all dead. There is no one that can forgive my sins or show mercy or compassion. There is no one I can trust; no one I can open my heart to. Everything has suddenly turned sour and bitter. The colors of life have been swept away and replaced with dullness. Our daily burdens have become unbearable. How crazy it is. How crazy it all is! I seek a Church, a place where I can worship, but all the churches feel cold and empty, for indeed they are. There is no Eucharist, no Christ to adore. There are no priests, no ministers, no one to reach out to. Today, not a single Church throughout the world has Christ! The Catholic Churches are joined together with their separated brethren in having no Christ, no Eucharist, no adoration. “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science)

We have killed God – you and I. All of us are his murderers…God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” (Nietzsche, The Gay Science) What is scary about all of this is that it is no exaggeration.

Some say everyday is crucifixion and resurrection. Maybe, but not so fast! Today is just crucifixion, The Crucifixion that scarred the world for life and made all other scars possible. If I can kill God, then I can capable of killing my own child, my best friend, my neighbor.

Where you there when they crucified my Lord? Yes, I was. And mostly likely I was the soldier that nailed the Lord to the Cross, or the thief that could have been forgiven but refused to seek it, or a bystander that did nothing to stop (or at least ease) the pain of my Lord and God.

Today, do not be afraid to reflect on the Lord's Passion. It will make Easter Sunday even more meaningful!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Jn 13:21-38 To Surrender and Win

Jn 13:21-38 To Surrender and Win

(Click here for readings)

Today, we meditate on the foot washing of the Lord’s disciples. At this solemn moment in his life, just before the start of his sacred passion, Jesus rises, takes off his outer garments. He places a towel around his waist. Then he pours water into a basin and begins to wash the disciples’ feet. The disciples must have been filled with embarrassment and revulsion. Only Peter has the courage to say something: Master, never! You will never wash my feet!

Why now? Why at this moment would the Lord serve and humble himself in such a way?

We know that Christ never takes a role just to set an example. Of course he was exemplary, the model; but we know that the Lord’s actions go far deeper than simple (or even dramatic) actions. There is a lesson that must be learned. The Lord says to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” This is serious. This is a make or break moment for Christ and his followers.

We know that the Lord emptied himself of all divine privilege, taking the form of a man, so as to be with us. St. Paul tells us, “Though he was by nature God, he did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like men.” (Phil 2:6-7) The Lord emptied himself so that he could descend to us. Not only did he descend, taking the form of man, but he took the form of a slave, a low life slave – a man without a name, a people, or a nation. Jesus lowered himself to that of a slave so as to be lifted up on a cross, becoming a criminal, a sinner, and a man hated by his own people and handed over to their enemies, their persecutors!

Jesus came down not only to walk on earth, but to penetrate to levels we could not even imagine! He is my savior because he alone is willing to rescue me from my place, assume my place and die in my place! And he did so without complaining.

When we are about to make a tremendous sacrifice, do something out of love for our children, or spouse, or neighbor, the last thing we want to do is travel one single extra mile! “I have done enough! What else do you want from me? I’m so sick and tired of you asking me to do more and more!” The Lord is about to be betrayed, arrested, beaten, scourged and tortured. And still he finds it within himself to serve his disciples by washing their feet. No one will wash his. Not a single disciple.

Enough is enough! And yet, true humility would prohibit the disciples from doing anything. To serve means to lower oneself and take the form of a slave. But who are we in the presence of the Lord? After all, if we wash the Lord’s feet, we are only doing what is proper and right. Only the one who is superior can be truly be humble to the one who is inferior. Only God can save us because only God can truly descend, truly love and truly be humble. It takes all three to save. It took the Supreme Master to surrender himself to man, and win!

No wonder why the disciples are confused! Everything is really upside-down! Peter must participate in the mystery of divine surrender if he is to share in the life of Christ, for it is the kernel of Christianity. (Romano Guardini, The Lord)

Every Christian one day reaches the point where he too must be ready to accompany the Master into destruction and oblivion. Whatever it is to be: suffering, dishonor, the loss of loved ones or the shattering of a lifetime oeuvre, this is the decisive test of his Christianity…To be a Christian means to participate in the life of Christ – all of it; only the whole brings peace…Do not let your hearts be troubled, or be afraid. Peace comes only from living this through to the end. One way or another we must brush the depths Christ divinely plummeted, taste the dregs he drained to the last drop: “It is consummated.” From this unreserved realization of the Father’s will comes the illimitable peace of Christ, also for us. (Romano Guardini, The Lord)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jn 13:21-38 What Will It Be?

Jn 13:21-38 What Will It Be?

(Click here for readings)

Why in the world are we remembering the worst week ever in the history of the world? Why are we re-living the worst days in the life of our Lord! Let us put it to rest once and for all. Let us move on. The Lord would not want us to remember this week. After all, he did not remind the apostles of their betrayal, of their cowardice or of their malice. He appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” So what is the purpose of Holy Week? To never forget.

I must never forget what the Lord suffered for me. I can never forget what the Lord did for me; and I should never forget what I did to him! All these are true. All these are important. But, I must come to grips with another reality: What happened to the Lord will eventually happen to me. I too will go through my passion, my agony, my death; and I hope and pray that as I die with the Lord I will also rise with Him.

Why is Holy Week so powerful and moving? Because it begins just as we have experienced it countless times in our lives. It begins with BETRAYAL.

“If an enemy insulted me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from Him. But it is you, my companion, my friend.” (Ps 55:12-13)

This morning during Mass, I asked the children if a friend of theirs had turned their back on them. Almost every hand went up in the 8th grade. But I was shocked to see how many Kindergarten students, elementary school children, had their hands up! We start at an early age and we never seem to grow out of it.

Judas was more than just an Apostle; he was the Lord’s friend, and a close friend at that. How did the Lord overcome so many difficulties that dark night in Gethsemane? How did he do it? What helped him to get through it all? The answer is striking: He prayed. He prayed the most powerful prayer ever recorded. He said, “Father, not my will but your will be done!” The Lord opened the door to his Father’s plan. Thy Will Be Done! God forbid that I ever forget this! God forbid that I ever think I can live my life without the Lord! God forbid that I begin to boast of my own accomplishments and abilities and neglect to give the Lord the glory and the honor he deserves! He deserves it all because he gave it all. This is no false humility. It is the honest to God truth!

We remember Holy Week because I too will go through my Holy Week. “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another.” This verse is very similar to another: “Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit.” Which is again, a reminder of the Lord’s shocking prayer, “Father, not as I will, but your will be done.” This is the perfect prayer because it is perfect love. In fact, no greater love has a man!

“Father, do whatever you want with me.” Is this not the greatest fruit I could give to the Lord? Is this not the greatest gift offering? Is this not the greatest burnt offering I could give to my Lord and Savior this Holy Week? So what is stopping me from praying it?

We know the answer because we know the end of the story! We know that perfect Love, to be with God, produces everlasting life, a never ending story!

Lord, you know me. You know everything about me. I love you but not as much as I could. I believe in you, but not as much I should. Give me your grace to grow closer to you in faith, hope and love. I ask this in your holy name. Amen.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jn 13:21-38 Taken, and then Saved

Jn 13:21-38 Taken, and then Saved

(Click here for readings)

In the 2009 movie thriller “Taken”, a former spy (Liam Neeson) sets out to find his estranged teenage daughter who is kidnapped by an international prostitution ring. He will rescue her at any cost. The movie is very powerful for dads to watch because it is exactly what many of them would do if they ever found themselves in the same situation (and with the same skills). If you haven’t seen the movie, I would recommend it for parents. It is rated PG-13. It should be rated R.

What amazed me about this film were not so much the special effects but the story line. A mom who would leave behind her better judgment just to appease and please her daughter; a dad who would leave behind everything for a spoiled-rotten teenage daughter who plays mind games (heart games) between her father and her rich step-father; and of course, close friends who would betray him for money. One noteworthy dialogue between a close friend and the former spy goes something like this, “It’s not personal, it’s just business”. The father’s line is just as fitting, “It’s all personal to me.”

However, for me, the most moving part of the movie was the end. After battling against all odds; after having destroyed parts of Paris; after having murdered countless thugs; and after nearly dying a thousand times, this man returns home with his daughter and receives a “thanks daddy” before the girl takes off with her mom and step-father. I was left with my mouth wide opened and a feeling of ungratefulness that would have made me ask the question “Was it all worthwhile?” This young lady did not or could not appreciate what her father went through for her salvation.

These are the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God…My God is now my strength.” These could have been the words of our Savior after hearing the ridiculous promises of fidelity made to him by Peter and the rest.

These words could easily be ours too, especially when we are having a bad day with my boss, the kids, with my husband or wife, or with my family and close friends. How quickly it can all be lost; and what great trails we must endure to get it all back! And yet, is it ever really appreciated? Can anyone ever really appease the thirst of forsaken love?

I do not think we will ever be able to appreciate what the Lord went through for our (for my) salvation! I do not think I will ever be able to cry the tears my Lord did sweat that dark night that had fallen upon him in the garden of Gethsemane. How will I ever be able to repay such a supreme act of love? Does the Lord wish for me to suffer as he did? Yes and no. No, the Lord does not want us to suffer for him, but for others – for the conversion of souls.

Would the Lord have sacrificed himself just for me? I am reminded of a beautiful story I once read a while ago. An old man was walking along a beach at dawn, he noticed a young lad ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, he asked him why he was doing this. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun. The old man replied, “But son, the beach goes on for miles and there are millions of starfish. You won’t make a big difference.” The young boy looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to the waves. He looked up at the man and said, “It makes a difference to that one.”

How much more the Lord did, and just for you and me. We had been taken, and then saved! Now, if we could truly appreciate it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jn 12:1-11 Deep-seatedness

Jn 12:1-11 Deep-seatedness

(Click here for readings)

“What is it worth to gain the world and lose your soul?” Mary of Magdala learned that lesson the hard way – but she learned it! There are two accounts that best illustrate Mary’s conversion and devotion to the Lord: Mark 14: 3-10 and this one. Mary loved things. She spent time with men only because she loved things. She took care of her body so that she could sell her body and have more things. But everything changed after she met the Lord. She took a year’s wages (remember how she earned her money – the hard way!) and wasted it on an entire bottle of expensive oil and anointed the feet of Jesus. This aromatic oil was just as genuine as her love for the Lord was genuine. He had bought her soul with his mercy and love. Her Savior had shown her what it meant to be loved, to be human. The only one who resented the whole affair was Judas. Why? Isn’t he correct that the oil could have been sold and given to the poor?

Isn’t this what we still hear today, two thousand years later? Why give all that money to the Church? Do something better with it! Do some good with that money. Sarah Silverman, reportedly raised with no religion except that of anti-Catholicism, recently shared her inner most thoughts by stating that the Vatican should sell itself and feed the poor. How dare a multi-millionaire actress tell the world what only the Catholic Church should do? Why no mention of selling Mosques and Temples or New Age camp sites? Talk about blatant anti-Catholicism! Not only that, but what right would any Pope have to sell what does not belong to him? After all, the only reason why there is an accumulation of art and beauty is because it has never been sold. The beauty and the art were not donated to a Pope; it was given to the Church, to Christ. And isn’t this what Mary did? Did she not give her treasure, her beauty and her gift to the Lord? Is the donation from the donor not to be respected?

Ms. Silverman shares along with Judas not a deep-seated love for the poor but rather a deep-seated hatred for the body of Christ. There really is no love for the poor, but real hatred for Christ and his bride.

Even more recently we hear of an English billionaire who gave almost his entire wealth to the Church. As a penniless child, he went inside a Church, got down on his knees, and asked the Lord to make him a millionaire. If He did, he promised to give his wealth to the Church. Just last year he made good on his promise. Albert Gubay, founder of Kwik Save, knows who he belongs to and knows where his money should go. By helping the Church, he is helping Christ.

The Lord continues to be good to us. When many turn their backs on the Church for various reasons, the Lord continues to provide and set the example for others to follow. The imperfect Bride is made perfect by her Savior and we must continue to fight for His Bride. How we continue to be tempted to side with Judas! That is, to side with those who destroy rather than offer the world something to build. Mary chose life. Judas chose death.

What really made Judas so upset was not the oil but the fact that Mary worshipped Christ! She had a deep-seated love for the Lord because her heart was made whole again, totally undivided and never again to be divided among loves. Judas couldn’t take it anymore! We have a hard time being next to holy people when we ourselves are unholy. And because of this one act, it sent him over the edge. His hidden anger finally burst out. His deep-seated hatred for the Lord bore a spiritual suicide long before the physical one took place.

Adoration is unlimited love. Only God may be adored, because only God is unlimited goodness, truth and beauty. This is the greatest commandment: Love God above all things…and Mary chose the better part. She was crazy about the Lord and it is just as crazy not to be crazy about Christ as it is to be crazy about anything else! (Peter Kreeft)

God forbid we ever choose ourselves (or our possessions) over the Lord of Love. The results would be diabolic!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mt 26:14-27:66 It Is Finished

Mt 26:14-27:66 It Is Finished

(Click here for readings)

Catholic Churches throughout the world proclaim this Gospel today; the Gospel of the Passion of our Lord. He came to the world; he went up to the Holy City to fulfill what the Father had asked from Him. He did it, and we love him for it.

May we never forget that our Lord’s story is our story too. If we are to live with Christ, then we must live like Christ. We too, must follow in his footsteps and go through our Gethsemane, our Passion, our Death and, God willing, our Resurrection.

I share with you today some reflections on the word of the Lord.

“One of the Twelve.” If you ever thought that your life had no value, then think again. Yes, I am more than capable of doing either great good or great harm to those around me. Judas did great harm. And the Lord’s life on earth came to an end because of his betrayal. Friendships end the same way, with a sense of betrayal. Many plotted against the Lord, but it was one of his friends, one of his closest friends, that put the entire procedure in motion. This said, the Lord was still able to transform it for great good; Good Friday.

“Surely, it is not I, Rabbi.” Even to the end, evil disguises itself as good. It is remarkable how Judas, having spent so much time with the Lord, was unable to recognize who Christ truly is. He is not a rabbi, He is THE LORD! The other Apostles said the same thing, but differently: “Surely, it is not I, Lord.” What a difference it makes! Do I still have a hard time recognizing who Jesus is? Is he still just a great man, teacher or guru to me? May the Lord open our hearts and mind to the reality that Jesus is the Son of God. When that day comes, it will drastically improve the way I see my life, my decisions and even my death.

“This night all of you will have your faith shaken.” Yes, there will come a night when my life and my faith are shaken. I dread that day! because I know it will come. If you have not yet experienced a night of sweat, tears and fear, then God bless you! But do not hold your breath. The day will come when my world and my life will begin to fall apart. Have no fears, for the Lord gave us the means to persevere. He gave us the example of his life and what to do to overcome all fears: He taught us how to pray. Jesus said the prayer that God never refuses! Jesus taught us the most powerful prayer EVER: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” May we end each evening with the same words: “Lord, do whatever you want with me.” I know, it is a very scary prayer. But it produces a tremendous amount of graces. It is the prayer that every Christian should say. And once you are ready to say it, get ready for the greatest adventure (story) ever!

“You could not stay awake with me for one hour?” The Apostles had all these great plans, dreams and desires with the Lord. Who would sit where? Who would be in charge of this and that and the other thing? But the details killed them! Yes, the details. It kills most of our dreams and plans. Why? “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” They miscalculated, just like we do, in one thing: We think we are stronger than we really are. We never envisioned what it would take to get to the top.

“He kissed him.” Once again, evil disguises itself as good - even to the end! A twisted world we live in because it is controlled by sin. It is a world gone mad where good is bad and bad is good.

“Peter took out his sword, drew it, and struck…” We really think we can do this all on our own. I think I can conquer all my fears, addictions, temptations, difficulties, challenges and trials on my own. Please, think again. “Without me, you can do nothing.” This is a time for prayer, not for striking out!

“Prophesy for us: Who struck you?” The greatest blasphemy ever is not calling God names or ridiculing him or striking at him. The greatest blasphemy ever is insisting that God must do whatever I ask of Him! A good day is when God says “yes” to me, right? And a bad day is when God says, “No” to me. Do I still believe this? Do I still insist on this! Must God be me?

“Judas departed and went off and hanged himself.” Evil destroys itself. May I never resort to the same.

“Choose: Barabbas or Jesus called Christ!” The name Barabbas is very interesting. Bar-abbas means, “Son of the Father.” And we preferred the false god to the real one. We will always prefer idols over the true God because the false idols cannot talk back. They are made of stone. The real God is made of flesh and love. He has a voice and a will that is second to none.

“Let him be crucified.” The crowd cried out, “crucify him!” It’s wasn’t good enough for me to just let him be. No, I must crucify Him so that I can live. I must make him suffer so that I can taste and see my revenge upon Him. This is the attitude of the murderer. This is the attitude of the victim. This is the attitude of the one who cannot let go. This is the attitude of the very lonely and lost.

"A Cyrenian named Simon was pressed into service to carry his cross." It's definitive! God wants us to participate in the History of Salvation. We are called to do our part for the salvation of the world. Just when you are about to give up or can no longer carry your cross, God's miracle occurs: someone from nowhere shows up and helps.

“It is finished.” The Passion of the Lord is a reminder that my life, even in times of suffering, has great meaning. If the Lord gives you the grace to say a few words before you die, then they should be similar to the Lord’s. We should all say, at the end of our lives, “It is finished.” This means, Mission accomplished. I came to do your will.

The Passion of the Lord is a true story. It is my story too. Throughout my life I have played various roles. I have been a traitor who betrayed a friend, a soldier who treated others with scorn and hurtful words, a man who has washed his hands of responsibility, and one who thought he knew himself well. The purpose of being a Christian is to imitate no one other than the Son of God on the stage of the world.

May the Lord give us the strength to be more like His son in the way we speak and treat others, cost whatever it costs, and receive the eternal reward of everlasting life. Amen.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

John 11:45-56 The Plan

John 11:45-56 The Plan

(Click here for readings)

Two thousand years ago, a group of highly intelligent men got together and planned a murder. It would require the coordinated efforts of various rival factions from within the nation, and the assistance of enemy forces occupying it. The saying goes, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

A traitor would need to be found within the enemy’s inner circle. The chain is as strong as its weakest link. One had to be found. There had to be at least one that was prideful and vain and therefore easily manipulated. Of course there was one who was weak in conscience and extremely strong headed. There always has to be one. One who considers themselves as having been bruised, scared and hurt; yet unwilling to admit that they themselves have scared, bruised and hurt so many by their sarcasm, hypocrisy, and downright lies. The authorities would never go to him: to risky. After all, the Lord was still loved and appreciated by many. The entire plan could be a wash, scrapped, if they picked the wrong man. No, this person would have to come to them, to the Chief, the boss, and lay it all out - all his hatred, bitterness and resentment towards The Target. They knew fallen human nature very well; they lived it on a daily basis! They knew that one of them, one of his disciples, would eventually seek his own pitiful interests above the interests of goodness, righteousness and holiness.

Still, they must have been shocked when they saw the traitor approach them for the first time. I am sure they were at first speechless to see who it was. It was not a disciple; it was one of the Twelve; one from His inner circle. But of course! After all, who would know better than anyone else the target’s humanity? Who else would have seen him exhausted, hungry or even sick and begin to doubt his divinity? Of course it would be one of the Twelve that would spill, spew and vomit his guts and tell them all that they wanted to hear. Regardless of their pleasure in having found their traitor the Chief must have asked himself, "Why in the world would The Target have accepted this person? Why in the world would he have agreed to take this person in his inner circle? He should never have accepted him in the first place! We know the answer. We know why the Lord would have taken someone like this guy in the first place. It was all out of love.

Now, all that was required was a sign and the right moment. A network of spies, manipulators, and deceitful men had been gathered, groomed and highly encouraged to testify against The Target. Collaboration in their stories was a top priority, but not a show stopper. It couldn’t all be perfect; otherwise, someone might suspect that it had been a setup; that it had all been planned. We now know that it was all planned, not from evil men (surprise), but from the God who can take evil and transform it into Good. The Chief priest had prophesized without even knowing it.

Those who plot will end up (along with their victim) very lonely. But their endings couldn't be more different. The Lord will rise. These men will never see daylight again. The conspirators have expired.

O Lord, may I never fall in this trap, of wishing harm upon my enemies, upon those who hurt me. May I never seek the death of the sinner, but rather their conversion. Amen.