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, August 31, 2011

Lk 4:38-44 Getting Well And Serving

Lk 4:38-44 Getting Well And Serving

(Click here for readings)

“After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.”

So much of our life is spent taking care of our health. We are living much longer than ever before. U.S. life expectancy has hit an all time high, rising above 78 years (for a baby born in 2009). The life expectancy of a man living in the time of Christ was much less. How much? I am not sure, but I cannot imagine it being above fifty.

The life expectancy of our Lord was just thirty-three years. He knew well when his hour had approached. He knew when he would have to leave this world and return to the Father. He knew and took time to prepare his heart, his mind and his will to accomplish all – everything - the Father had commanded him to be and do. He did not fail.

We all should have a strong natural desire to live longer, but I’m not so sure if we all know what to do with a longer life! I know I want to live, but am I really sure why I want to live? Is my life all about realizing my goals and having some thrills. I mean, “Is this all that life is?” No wonder our lives are marked by long periods of boredom, despair or even suicidal thoughts. It appears as though all the modern thrills have not replaced the grilling realities of life.

What I have noticed is that I will definitely shorten my life when what I seek most is to receive some kind of a standing ovation! I don’t know what the life expectancy of a successful music artist is but I presume it is just as low as that of a Hollywood star. It appears as though stardom quickly degenerates to boredom, and we all know that addictive personalities are fed by restlessness, irritability and discontent (RID).

Fortunately many movies tend to lose their audience with time. Unfortunately, most music tend to leave a following even long after the record artist fell to their demise. Modern singers cannot sustain themselves when they follow their own advice. But like I said before, unfortunately, the messages tend to remain, even well after the demise of the messenger. It's a suicidal twist of the truth - of shooting the messenger with their own message.

The young Ozzy Osbourne inspired millions with a very old message of living life freely and irresponsibly. He inspires only a few today with his new message. But the ones who are most inspired today were never really inspired back then. They knew better and now he does too! He knows he is very fortunate to be alive today! His message today is that of recovery! And that's a message we all like to hear.

You can’t always get what you want. You just can’t. You can only get what the Lord wants or you’ll end worse than getting nothing. You’ll end up dead.

"He stood over her, rebuked the fever and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.”

The Lord’s message is one of recovery too. He came to seek what was lost. He came to cure the ill, not the healthy. He lived a very short life in human years, but he left an enduring legacy of giving and forgiving; of loving others and serving them unconditionally. His way of living would quickly grow and those who followed him would love and serve him unconditionally.

Serve the Lord and feel better about yourself! This is today’s Gospel message. Serve the Lord (and others) with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and the Lord (and others) will have something to share with you. That is the best way, the only real way, to live life on earth and prepare for eternity!

Life on earth will always be short when compared to eternity!

Live life on high with Christ Jesus!

P.S. Here's a song that deserves to endure the test of time: LEGACY

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lk 4:31-37 Have You Come To Destroy Us?

Lk 4:31-37 Have You Come To Destroy Us?

(Click here for readings)

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man with the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out in a loud voice, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth. Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are ‘The Holy One of God!’”

“Have you come to destroy me?” could easily be translated by a teenager into “What do you want?” It is a mystery why we turn our backs on those who love us the most and could help us the most! It truly is a mystery.

The devil seems to know who Jesus is, but he doesn’t seem to know who God is. Jesus is not the God of destruction or the God of hate! Jesus is the love of God made flesh! God loves man. He loves us more than we could ever merit; more than we could ever earn; more than we could ever imagine!

I didn’t learn much in my CCD classes. I know I didn’t learn much because I don’t remember much at all. But I do remember one lesson. I remember one of my teachers pulling out a fifty dollar bill and asking everyone in the classroom who would like it. I raised my hand faster than I had ever raised it before. That was an easy question to answer, “I do!!!” I couldn’t believe that he was asking us. Who wouldn’t want a fifty dollar bill – a real one!

The bill in his hand was pristine. It looked like it had just come out of the mint! Then, before our eyes, he took it and crumbled it all up. Then he asked us if we would still like it. Of course, we all raised our hand again and shouted out, again, “I do!!!”

Finally, our teachers took the bill and dropped it on the floor and began to step on it, stomp on it and grind it into the floor with his shoe. Then he looked at us and asked us if we still wanted it. Of course we all wanted the fifty dollar bill.

Then our teacher said, “My dear children, we have all learned a very valuable lesson today. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth fifty dollars. Many times in our lives, we fall, we crumple up and are ground into the dirt by the sins we commit or by the sins of other. In the eyes of God, we will never, ever, lose our worth. Dirty or clean, you are still priceless in the eyes of love; in the eyes of God.”

What can I say…it was the 70’s you know! But what my teacher told me that day is still true today. In fact, it has always been true. We are loved by our Creator. We are loved by our Father.

What is it about God’s word that is so powerful? It is the message, the Good News, that he brings to us! When people abandon us, the Lord speaks loud and clear, “I am with you till the end of time.” When no one appears ready to help us, the Lord speaks even louder and clearer, “Never forget, I lay down my life for you!”

The Lord did not come to destroy us. He actually came into this world to save us from ourselves!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mk 6:17-29 Peace and Pieces

Mk 6:17-29 Peace and Pieces

(Click here for readings)

“Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison.”

“We live in a terrible time, of war and rumor of war…International idealism in its effort to hold the world together…is admittedly weakened and often disappointed. I should say simply that it does not go deep enough…If we really wish to make vivid the horrors of destruction and mere disciplined murder we must see them more simply as attacks on the hearth and the human family; and feel about Hitler as men felt about Herod.” (G. K. Chesterton)

These words were written in one of his customary Christmas articles at the close of 1935, six months before his death. He did not live to see how prophetic his words were.

John the Baptist was not concerned with hurting his enemy’s feelings. He was interested in getting his enemy into heaven. We all have this inner weakness: to say nothing and to do nothing; to think it’s not my problem; and so, to let my neighbor slide into hell rather than to scare him into heaven.

John the Baptist was no Neville Chamberlain. The Baptist was clear in his words. He knew that might did not make things right. He knew that threats and ugly accusations would not change God’s truth. On the other hand, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister in 1938, appears to have wished so much for peace that he mistook Hitler’s piece for England’s peace. The joke is that Chamberlain claimed that Hitler wanted peace. What he did not understand was German language, and that this German wanted a piece of Poland, a piece of Norway…a piece of Europe! Wishful thinking can lead to disastrous conclusions.

Here we are, in the year 2011, in one battle after another for truth and justice. Does the way my neighbor live his life affect me? If it didn’t, the Lord would not have commanded us to love our neighbor as much as ourselves. We are all connected. No man is an isolated island. No man can get off this island. When one group declares their rights; it appears as though the other groups must either capitulate or fight.

No one thought that same-sex marriage in Indiana would mean no more state funding for Catholic Charities adoptive services. Just last week, a judge ruled that the state of Illinois did not have to renew its contract with this Catholic organization. After almost forty years of working hand-in-hand with the state in placing children in loving heterosexual families, the state recently decided to cut all funding to them. Why? Because Catholic Charities refuses, on religious grounds, to play around with the real lives of children, and place them in an environment analogous to Disney’s EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

How pathetic! How disgraceful! How deceitful are those who claim to respect religious beliefs and to promote unity and harmony are unwilling to support an organization that prefers to accommodate children in the most natural human setting possible; and, in no way stands in the way of the State’s right to place them in politically generated and overly glorified alternative family settings.

Will we stand silent? Who among us is willing to risk being labeled a fanatic, a bigot an intolerant and religious fanatic, and speak loud and clear out of respect for the dignity of the human person; on the natural rights of children to have a mother and father; and on the rights of all men to obey God’s Laws above all human laws!

Throughout history there have been few men like John the Baptist and far too many men like Neville Chamberlain that were be willing to do and say whatever it took to promote peace, while Europe and Europeans were being blown to pieces!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mt 16:21-27 You Duped Me Lord!

Mt 16:21-27 You Duped Me Lord!

(Click here for readings)

“You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” (Jer 20:7)

These words are like music to my ears! They ring true to me. You duped me, O Lord, you duped me! And I let myself be duped!

I entered the seminary not knowing what I was getting myself into. I entered not knowing that I would spend seventeen years of my life waking up every morning at 5:15 am. I didn’t know that I would have to change my hairstyle; that I would not be allowed to grow a beard; or that I would not be allowed to hold on to anything. I didn’t know that my mail would be opened. And when I complained and asked them why I couldn’t keep anything, I was told that I didn’t own anything. After all, what could I possibly take with me to Heaven?

You duped me, Lord, you duped me!

We all need discipline in our lives. We all need to pick up our cross if we wish to follow the Lord. A gentleman recently asked me why I didn’t wear casual clothes, especially in the 104 degree Texas heat. I gave him only a couple of reasons. I mentioned to him that I was inspired by a priest who would wear his uniform in public. But the most important reason was because I needed to be constantly reminded of who I represented! Believe me, it’s no fun to wear four layers of clothes in 104 degree weather. But all priests, like all human beings, need to make some sacrifices in their lives; otherwise, we can easily, like all human beings, becomes creatures of comfort! Yes, we have this natural desire to seek comfort. But what seems to happen is that we over-indulge ourselves in comforts. And when that happens, we begin to let our guard down and become lazy and weak in our battles against sin.

Carrying our cross help us to stay fit and thin. In fact, sacrifices tend to give us a sharp edge over sin. They help us to stay focused and alert.

A very good friend of mine, a pastor at a Lutheran church, commented to me recently that he liked that I wore my priestly uniform, regardless of the temperature outside. We try to get together for lunch once every two months. This Lutheran pastor is a wonderful man, a gifted man and a very holy man. Tragedy recently struck his family when his son died in Afghanistan. He shared with me this story. While they were at the funeral service, he saw a marine in the sweltering heat with his dress blues. He walked over to him and invited the officer to take off his jacket. The officer looked at him and said, “I cannot. It’s our code.” My friend reminded the marine that only his family was now present. The officer replied, “It doesn’t matter. It’s our code.” We all need to have a code of life. We all need to have a code of conduct. Here is the Lord’s code of conduct for all of us:

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it…The Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then repay all according to his conduct.”

We know the wage of sin is death. We know the wage of grace is life! We continue to sin because we continue to seek comfort. But sin is a lie that leads to disillusionment; to disaster! We sin because we have no fight in us! Sacrifices, on a daily basis, help to bring that fighting spirit back into our lives. It helps us to rise from the dead! Peter didn’t realize that when he told the Lord, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you!” His words are reminiscent of the words spoken by the devil to Eve, “You certainly will not die.” No wonder the Lord told Peter, “Get behind me Satan!”

Men seek comfort. God seeks love. There can be no love without sacrifice. There can be no sacrifice without Cross.

For many years I never had a very good answer to why I became a priest. Of course, I know why I did, but I had a hard time explaining it. Only recently, I was able to put it succinctly and well. I became a priest because I wanted to be surprised!

Sin stopped shocking me. I knew where it was leading me: nowhere. But then grace began to surprise me and I knew not where it would lead me!

Sacrifices done in the name of the Lord will surprise us, just like the Lord’s cross and resurrection surprised the Apostles!

We fear the Cross because it cancels what we truly love: the “I” in me. Father, give us the strength and courage to pick up the cross that leads us back to you! If you’re not sure what your cross is, then ask yourself what you dread doing the most. Chances are, that’s your cross!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mt 25:14-30 Our Talents

Mt 25:14-30 Our Talents

(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man called his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents…After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. The one who had received five talents came forward bringing an additional five. The master said to him, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”

What are the talents the Lord has given to man? What distinguishes us from all the other creatures in the world? What distinguishes the Christian from others?

The Talent to Smile. Yes! The Lord has given us the muscles, the flexibility, to raise a smile. He has given us the emotional faculties to do it meaningfully. A smile is something purely human. It is something that is exclusive to the human race. All humans, regardless of age, regardless of sex, regardless of race and of nationality, are endowed by the Creator to smile. This is a gift that not only changes my day, but of those around me. I can actually give my smile to another and they will smile in return. This is a talent that once given can quickly spread to others. Christians have taken the natural human smile and brought it to a supernatural level: to smile as one lays down his life for another.

The Talent of Laughter. Yes! The Lord has given us the ability to laugh at ourselves, and to laugh with others! Not a bad thing at all. Laughter is something that only humans can do. No other creature in the world can laugh. No other creature can tell a joke! Laughter is the cure to a multiple number of ailments: depression, despair, sadness and loneliness. A friend should be defined as someone who helps another to laugh - especially when the other can no longer do it on their own! There is no sound or music more beautiful than children giggling and laughing while playing. Laughter attracts an audience. It gathers people together. It captures our attention. It can make us envious too! Many times I will stop by the elementary school just to hear the kids laughing. It makes my day just as much as it makes theirs! Warning: it is very contagious! It is so infectious that it can easily spread to others just by sound! Christians have taken this talent to the extreme. Saints can laugh at themselves while converting their enemies. That is usually the way they succeed.

The Talent to Sacrifice. We were created in the image and likeness of God. And if there is one thing we can say about God, it is that He Loves; which means, He sacrifices. Only humans can love because only humans can sacrifice. To sacrifice yourself for another makes no sense. It is highly illogical and highly irrational. But to sacrifice is the surest and greatest way to love. We love it because we love Him: the Way of Love. This talent glows in the dark. It shines brightest when the world is in darkness! Throughout recent history we have seen an increase in wars and a propensity for massacres and genocides. We have seen a lack of love in one of our most important institutions: the public schools. They teach all subjects (except religion). They answer all kinds of questions (except religious). But they fail to teach how it all goes together. They fail to answer the most important questions: Why am I alive? What am I here for? The Christian can truly love because the Christian can truly sacrifice. He can sacrifice his life and lay it down for others because he knows why he lives and for whom he lives for! “Every attempt to expel the Gospel reenacts the drama that reveals it!” - Gil Baille

The Talent to Hope and Believe. We alone can hope. We alone can believe. The saying, “You get what you see” is not true. We cannot see the future; and what we get always plays out in the future. Monet sold his paintings for little, compared to what they are worth today. Those who believed bought! Those who could believe are wealthy today! There is nothing that can be seen in its entirety. Man was not created to just understand. He was created to believe and hope. It is entirely understandable to hold on to a grudge. But we have not been called to understand; we have been called to believe and let go.

We have all been given talents from above. Over the years, some of us have buried them for another day. If we do not go out and share our talents on a daily basis, we will look back on our lives and see how cheaply we lived.

The Lord invites us to go out and multiple his talents! His talents are our talents!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mt 25:1-13 Breaking Taboos and Splitting Heads

Mt 25:1-13 Breaking Taboos and Splitting Heads(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”

Yesterday morning I went to visit a family. The TV was on and while I was waiting for them I sat down and watched, for the very first time in my life, a soap opera. It was “All My Children.” I only watched about two minutes of it, but what I saw was enough to make me understand the power of the media in advocating cultural change. When I sat down, I saw some guy dialoging with another woman. He wanted custody of his son who was currently living with his mom, the man’s ex-wife, who, it turns out, is romantically involved with another woman. The father, disgusted by the fact that his son was living with two women, was determined to get him back. The woman he was speaking to looked shocked! She asked the poor man, “What time warp did you come out of!” Her question was as if this father belonged to the Dark Ages and not to the third millennium. Let me remind everyone that in the year 2000, not a single state had legalized same-sex marriages.

Of course the dialogue was one sided. The man was illogical, illiterate, and incoherent while the woman was highly sophisticated, intelligent, and totally up-to-speed with the latest legal and propagandistic paradigms afforded to her by the media.

I don’t mind television shows bringing up social issues. What I don’t like is that the dialogues are absolutely lopsided. Therefore, soap operas are the first in setting the stage. That is, those who disagree with same-sex marriage are quickly dismissed by the crowd as being an idiot, a fanatic, an illogical or illiterate bigot from the “Dark Ages.”

In reading today’s Gospel, I am struck at how some virgins were so naive. Obviously, they had not taken the advice of their parents! Be prepared at all times! We know honey, we’ve seen it before! We know these virgins were not the first to go out looking for a groom. But because of their pride and vanity, they had decided to ignore the advice of their ancestors, running right out the door and never thinking twice or looking back. The same is true today. It's always exciting to do something new or to change things up. But you cannot forget the essentials. It's exciting when you first get your driver's license and begin to drive, but you have to keep in mind the very boring act of filling up the tank! We rush to establish new laws, new rights, new definitions, without ever quite understanding what the impact may be! We think we know it all. We should all know by now; we don’t!

Hollywood actors and rock stars love to surprise their audience by breaking taboos! What they end up doing is breaking themselves, but not before the damage is done! They have a strong influence on many of our youth, because many of our youth are weak and insecure; and they are weak and insecure because many of their parents are weaker and more insecure. It’s no wonder we live in such a wounded and broken time.

Christian movie studios and artists are becoming a greater force in America. Movies with values are still box office hits! Music that lifts up the soul will always outperform and outlive music that degrades the human person (and body). The truth does not change, regardless of the changing times. Christians built this nation. Christians continue to build all that is positive and good in our nation. We need to encourage them and the next generation that follows!

The changing of our times simply means we need to come prepared: with our flasks full and our flame burning brightly.

“Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mt 24:42-51 Never Drop Your Guard!

Mt 24:42-51 Never Drop Your Guard!

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared.”

When you think you have achieved all your goals, think again! When you consider yourself a successful individual, consider it again!

Heaven is not on earth. Of course there are moments in which we enjoy some peace and stability, some success and happiness. But these moments should be considered as rest stops along a highway. They are only temporary. No matter how hard we try, we cannot stay there for long.

A few days ago I celebrated Mass for a group of students on retreat. I was accompanied by a man who had recently been married. This young man really has his head on straight. Why do I say that? Because men have a tendency to be goal driven, which means once they accomplish their goal, they sit back and relax. But not this young man! He understands very well that when he got married, he entered a temporary rest stop. He went with me on this retreat because he wanted to see his wife. He wanted to surprise her. Ah, the beauty of marriage! This is what it is all about: to be surprised on a daily basis in simple and honest ways! This young man knows that his marriage starts over every single day. It cannot be taken for granted!

This past week, so many parents wished their College bound children farewell. Be attentive! Stay alert! The rest period is over! The parenting begins again. Do not be fooled! Now, you must be in constant communication with your children. Continue to guide and encourage them. Let them know you expect nothing less than their best! It’s no time to relax. It’s time to be vigilant. So many young men begin College, so few graduate on time. The damage done on a College campus can be long lasting! And it does no one any good to wish it away or to think that it is their responsibility. We know what will happen if they mess up. They will end up back home and stay their till the age of twenty-five or even thirty-five! You also know, who he/she will blame? Oh, there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

People often ask me how I’m doing. I don’t know what to tell them. I do the same things over and over again. I say my prayers, do my meditation, celebrate Mass, hear confessions, anoint the sick, speak to people, listen to people, give talks, sit in meetings, etc… In one year and two months I have driven over 34,000 miles on my car! And I’m a parish priest!!! But although I appear to do the same things over and over again, it’s never the same things. Every day I may celebrate Mass but I’m constantly reflecting and meditating on a new passage of Scripture in a changing world! I hear confessions to a variety of people and although the sins may sound the same, they are never the same. When I anoint the sick, there are never any two that are the same. A success today may be marked by a failure tomorrow.

What must stay the same? What must I be attentive to? That my life is centered on Christ. He must be my guide when I take my next step. He must be my teacher when I speak my words. On my next assignment, he must be the one pointing the way.

There are a group of ladies praying the rosary after every Mass. As I pass them in the morning, I feel strength directed towards me! They are praying for me! They are being vigilant for me! They are staying awake for me! God bless you!

Heaven is not on earth. But one day, God willing, we will finally rest in Heaven, and that will be our best graduation gift ever!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

John 1:45-51 Can Anything Good Come Out Of You?

John 1:45-51 Can Anything Good Come Out Of You?

(Click here for readings)

“Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.’ But Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come from Nazareth.”

While I was in middle school, a teacher once told me that if I wanted to pass a test, I had to shoot for an A+. Those were the days before we had A++ or GPA’s that were above 4.0! My problem was that I was always shooting for a 65 and ended up getting a 55. Someone finally helped me to understand my mistake!

I have never heard a child tell me that when they grow up they would like to be a drug dealer or drug addict, or an alcoholic or a lazy bum; or that they would like to be single with a child, or divorced at least twice, or living in some abandoned apartment or living on welfare.

No! Not at all!

I always hear the kids tell me that when they grow up they would like to be a policeman or fireman, or racecar driver or football player, or a doctor or a lawyer, or a millionaire or billionaire.

I always tell them, “You should think harder and aim higher! You can be much more than these things. You can be a Saint!”

A new children’s book about dieting has sparked media controversy. Maggie Goes on a Diet, goes on the market in October. It’s about an overweight 14-year-old girl with low self-esteem who changes her life after losing weight from diet and exercise. Her life changes in the following way: as she loses weight, she begins to win trophies and becomes a soccer superstar. In other words, foot and eye coordination increases as weight decreases. Hmmm….The author, Dr. Kramer, defended his book on FOX News Channel by saying, “I am not advocating, and never did, that children should go on a diet.” Interesting…, since the title of the book is Maggie Goes on a Diet!

Losing weight may generate a bit of self-esteem, but not as much as it generates self-gloating, selfishness and self-entitlement. The book is geared for children 4 to 8. The cover shows a seemingly heavy young girl in front of a mirror holding up a low cut dress. She also appears slimmer in the mirror. “Mirror mirror on the wall who is the most attractive one of all!!!” That’s a question that only witches and self-fulfilling step-sisters ask!

Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Jesus may have responded, “Can anything good come from you?” We know the answer. Nathanael is a Saint! He is a Saint because of Him!

Try harder! Prayer higher! Temptations surround us. Sin knocks us down. To feel good about yourself really means to be good with God. That’s the best and simplest way to treat yourself as you should: as a child of the MOST HIGH!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mt 23:23-26 Fidelity In The Little Things

Mt 23:23-26 Fidelity In The Little Things

(Click here for readings)

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel.”

I give up! I really do this time! I won’t try to write my meditations the night before because every single time I try (to save time) I end up throwing away everything I wrote. As soon as I sat down to begin my morning mediation, my heart and soul moved me in a completely different direction than last night, when I tried to have my mind and reason move me! No more. I’m sticking to my normal routine.

As I was re-reading this morning’s Gospel passage, I immediately thought back to my seminary days in northern Italy, I thank the Lord for the amazing experience I had. Overall, it was a very good experience. All of it was very, very positive. That does not mean that there were no God fearing moments. There were plenty of them!

My superior at the time was not from the United States. He was not an Italian either. I won’t say where he was from, but I will say he had a negative bias towards Americans. He thought that Americans worried too much. I would call it “prudence.” About a year into my training, I began to develop a skin rash. It was in an area that was constantly covered. With all the heat, and the sweating, and the constant activity, it quickly got much worse. At first I tried to take care of it myself, and I thought I had solved the problem, but I actually made it worse! Finally, I went to the infirmary to ask for some medicine. The junior superior of our community, a young man around the age of 20, gave me an ointment for hemorrhoids! I asked him if he knew what this cream was for. He looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. I gave it back to him.

Then I went to my superior and asked him if I could go see a doctor. After a very brief conversation, he told me flat out, “I don’t care if your leg falls off, you worry too much!” Needless to say, I was deeply offended. Eventually, I did go to the doctor’s office. I felt relieved when the doctor told me it was the worst case of a fungus infection he had seen in many years. I felt relieved because I felt vindicated.

I never forgot the incident because I never wanted to forget the lesson. In the seminary, we lived according to a very strict rule. Everything was monitored. Following the external rules was very important. Silence, table manners, dress code, punctuality, posture in the chapel, even how we made our beds and cleaned our rooms was very important! The superiors would often say, “Be attentive to the little things”, or, “if you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the big things.” These words eventually meant very little to me because I had experienced just the opposite. My mentors were faithful in the little things but failed miserably in the big things, such as love, mercy and faith.

With time, this would become ever more apparent.

Once, a very confident superior said to me, “Father, you should try to be more loving when dealing with others, like superiors.” I mentioned to him, “If I am not loving towards my superiors it’s because they never taught me with love.”

The Lord strongly encourages us not to be unfaithful in the little things, but to make sure that we are faithful in the weightier things. Remember, “Without love I am nothing.”

Too often, very conscientious and extremely religious parents spend time teaching their children the faith only to see them run away from it later in life. What were missing were not solid discipline or doctrine but mercy and forgiveness.

Way too often our Catholic Schools emphasize the education of the brain over the education of the heart. The Church has nothing to fear with intellectuals, except those who have no heart.

Finally, parents, spouses and professionals of all walks of life have a tendency to lack humility. What we need is not overly confident parents, spouses and professionals. What we need are parents, spouses and professionals who are much more confident in the Lord than in themselves.

I think at times we are afraid to be humble because we are afraid to appear weak. The Lord did not fear appearing weak, nor did he fear shedding a tear or getting nailed to the cross. If his “weaknesses” made it impossible to believe in Him, it made his resurrection all the more possible! “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mt 23:13-22 Mass Transformation!

Mt 23:13-22 Mass Transformation!

(Click here for readings)

“Woe to you, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter.”

After a very successful World Youth Day (WYD) celebration in Madrid, the Holy Father’s final stop was an audience with over two thousand volunteers. These young men and women came from all over the world and most of them sacrificed their last vacation days (before school) to assist the pilgrims. Their mission was simple and gigantic: that the pilgrims have a safe and wonderful experience. Many of these volunteers never had the opportunity to see or hear the Holy Father even though they were at WYD. Many were working behind the scenes. But the Holy Father gave them what they sought: an opportunity to serve Him, to help His ministry. Why? Because by helping him they were helping the Church, which means, they were helping Christ. It also means the Holy Father continues to be a faithful witness to The Truth and to The Way! He continues to show the Way!

Priests are pulled in every single direction. Many of the faithful seek just a few seconds of their time. But these seconds soon become minutes and minutes become hours. I cannot tell you how often I am asked to spend just a couple of minutes with this group or another. But it is a little sad to speak in front of only ten or twenty people. It is a little discouraging to celebrate Mass in a nearly empty Church. This does not happen often, but when it does, it is a wake-up call to all of us. People, including young people desire God! We must remember that we have been asked to bear witness to Christ everywhere and at all times. Don't get me wrong. I love a challenge! I wish I could give more and more! And I think I often do. I just wish I could multiply myself. The remarkable thing is…I can, with your help!

St. Paul remarks in today’s first reading: “We give thanks to God always for you, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing how you were chosen.” (1Thes 1:1-10)

Without these faithful few, St. Paul would never have been able to go from one city to the next. The Apostle to the Gentiles would never have been able to spread The Word and carry out his God-given ministry. Why am I mentioning this? Because too often, after I give a talk on this or that subject, I hear the faithful complain to me that they are not getting anything out of Mass. Of course we all know the knee-jerk reaction, “What are you putting into Mass?” But I would prefer to remind everyone that Mass is a call to live our baptismal commitment as priest, prophet and King. To be a priest means to bring Christ to others. To be a prophet means to speak the Word of God to others. To be a king means to make it your responsibility to care for others. Mass can be a very powerful moment if we allow the Lord to transform us. The reason why we go to Mass is to allow the Lord to do with us what He does in the Eucharist: transform our substance into His Body and Blood. We are not called to receive and leave, but to “go in peace to serve and love the Lord.” If we are not careful, if we do not do what the Lord charged us to do, then we can easily become religious hyporcrities. How easy it is to create our own God! How easy it is to follow our own will!

We can do the same thing the early Christians did, AND, be just as successful as they were! The Mass has been around since the very beginning of Christianity. St. Justin Martyr wrote a letter to emperor Antoninus Pius describing what Christians did when they gathered together. This letter is dated 155 A.D. It is the earliest written description of the parts of the Mass. Our transformation during Mass will help transform our Church, which will transform the World!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mt 16:13-20 The Rock!

Mt 16:13-20 The Rock!

(Click here for readings)

“Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’…Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. As so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.’”

Most children secretly hope (and maybe even pray) that one day their parents will wake up in the morning and hear the news that grease is good for you or that French fries and fast foods do not stunt growth or clog arteries. Or imagine for a moment the doctors telling us that we couldn’t get enough cholesterol in a day. The more, the better! Just think about how our world would change if the APA (American Psychiatric Association) informed us that we could never get enough hours of video games in a day! Or that it was actually very good to spend hours and hours sitting in front of a TV watching sports rather than playing them.

Well, if we can’t get slimmer we might as well change our idea of what slim is. Right? After all, if we can’t pass the test, we might as well change the test. For example, the Dallas Independent School District recently informed teachers that they can no longer give a zero to students for late assignments! That’s one way to make “progress”; to make the number of graduates go up. But if you lower the bar, you end up stepping not over it but on it.

I would venture to say that some would consider this to be true progress. After all, a world without limits is a world without shame! Indeed, a race without limits would be a race without shame. It would also be a race without a finish line.

“Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Son of the living God.” Peter’s answer was man’s greatest reply ever to God’s grace! Peter opened the doors to a new world just waiting to be discovered. For this reason, he received the keys of faith. His faith enabled all of us to unlock the chains of our past – to get past the storms and floods and the natural disasters that tend to define us for life, and bring forth a new day, a new beginning, a new man with a new mission. “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.”

The Lord did not say to Peter that you can build your church. He told him, “I will build my church.” How often have we heard the sarcastic expression, “Because Christ’s Kingdom was rejected, He gave us the Church.” I will take the Catholic Church over anything yesterday, today or tomorrow! I will take the Church above any form of government, any type of political leader (or savior), or any philosophical or scientific academy! I will take the Church above anything this world can offer.

If there is anything good about evil, it’s the simple fact that it makes good appear all around it. We should never doubt our faith because of human weaknesses. We should never lower the bar to get everyone across it; otherwise, it will only shift our problems from one end to the other; from one side to the other; from one generation to the next.

We need to call things the way they are, for “when the world goes wrong, it proves rather that the Church is right. The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do!” (G.K. Chesterton)

Physical and spiritual storms will come our way. That’s for sure. Tornadoes and hurricanes will uproot and tear apart many families, many cultures, many churches. But the family, the culture, and the church that is built upon Peter will withstand the rains, the floods, the storms and the disasters that fall upon it! Not so with the wicked! No so! “The gates of the nether world shall not prevail against the tidal wave of the Church!” The gates of evil shall not prevail against the hands of Saints! They know how to break the lock. They know how to decipher the times. The know how to break the code!

How? By not being human but holy, and to be holy does not mean to be intelligent. “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you…” Peter wasn’t the sharpest knife in the kit! He wasn’t the brightest star in the group. But he was willing to take a leap of faith, to go for it, and to be righteous in the sight of God! He placed the Lord above all other considerations.

We don’t need more intelligent men or women. We don’t need more professors. What we really need more than ever is a rock, a compass, a standard, a guide and a purpose that stands above all the rest. For this reason the Mass begins with a procession. The Cross of Christ is lifted high above the congregation, above our daily concerns, above ourselves, and the Gospel, the Word of God, is lifted high above the words of men, the promises of men! What changed Peter for good is exactly what can change you: God’s Word and His Loving Sacrifice. Simon became Peter when he spoke God’s word. Simon became Peter when he accepted Christ’s love. The same will happen to you!

What we all need in our life is someone who will challenge us. Jesus Christ and His vicar will do just that.

Well over a million youth are in Madrid right now for only one thing: to find the rock in their life!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mt 23:1-12 Taking Your Seat

Mt 23:1-12 Taking Your Seat

(Click here for readings)

“Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whosoever they tell you, but do not follow their example…For they preach but to not practice. They tie heavy burdens hard to carry…They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels…they love places of honor at banquets…’”

Today, the Lord is admonishing the religious! The Lord did not speak harshly to sinners (with the exception of the Canaanite woman). He spoke lovingly, mercifully and honestly to them. But with the religious, that’s a different story. He was stern with them. He set very high expectations for them. He told the crowd to “do and observe all things whosoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.” Yes, they are the legitimate authority. They have the right to determine what should and should not be done. They receive that authority from the Father.

Christ does not take away the authority of the scribes or the Pharisees. He does not lead the Jewish people away from them. But he makes a point that drives a wedge – “they preach but do not practice.”

I can honestly say that being a priest can be very comfortable. You can pretty much set your own schedule after you’ve done your daily Mass, made your hospital visits and heard your weekly confessions. After that, you’re pretty much free. You can decide how busy you wish to be. You can decide how many hours a week you will be available for appointments. You can pray as often as you would like, or not at all. The same is true for anyone. You can put in as much as you like in your work, with your spouse and with your children. You can come home from work and sit on a couch and watch TV all night long or you can play with the children, put them to bed and read them a story.

It is striking how throughout our lives we are not so much known for our name but rather for our titles. Our children spend their entire life calling us mom and dad. Our wife calls us honey or our husband calls us sweetie. I believe for this reason the Lord makes it clear for us to be careful of what people call you; otherwise, you may be causing a scandal. “Do not be called ‘Rabbi’, call no one on earth your ‘father’…Do not be called ‘Master.’” All fathers (physical fathers and spiritual fathers) take their name from God The Father. We men must take this title seriously. There is no greater honor for a father (and The Father) to hear his son (His Son) say, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you."

When the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey retired in 2002, he paid his respects to Pope John Paul II, who, by that time, was very frail. When a reporter asked the Archbishop what he planned on doing next, he remarked that he wanted to spend time with his grandchildren, work in his garden, and travel around the world. The reporter then asked the Holy Father if he would ever consider retiring. The Holy Father responded by pointing to a crucifix in front of him. I will never forget what he said. He said, “Christ did not come down from the Cross when the Pharisees mockingly asked him to. If the Lord did not do so, then how could I? I will serve the Lord till the very end!”

Even with all his human limitations and weaknesses, John Paul II was one, among many popes, we could truly call, Holy Father, for he was found by God to be worthy of succeeding St. Peter, and ultimately sit next to Jesus Christ.

Taking your seat should not be confused with sitting on your seat!