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!


Sunday, May 27, 2012

John 20:19-23 Pentecost

John 20:19-23 Pentecost
(Click here for readings)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you…As the Father has sent me, so I send you…Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
“I’ve done more now with one hand than I ever did with two.”  These are the words of a wounded Iraqi veteran.  They make no sense, no sense at all, unless you take into account the human spirit. 
“I’ve forgiven the person who harmed me the most.”  These words make no sense, no sense at all, unless you take into account the Holy Spirit.
Yesterday morning, I scanned through the DaMN (Dallas Morning News) and was surprised to see a beautiful photograph, in the Metro section, of a Euless student with cerebral palsy.  This year is a very special year in this young man’s life.  This year, he will achieve a goal he set out to accomplish.  This year, he will graduate from Trinity High School. 
But what struck me more than his goal was the smile on his face and the contagiousness of his laughter.  The photograph, on the front page of the Metro section, brilliantly captured the moment; not the moment that he graduated, but the moment of his laughter and smile, a smile and laughter that makes no sense, no sense at all, especially to so many high school teenagers.
You would be amazed if I told you how infrequently teenagers smile and laugh.  This young man’s smile was the biggest and brightest smile I have seen this entire year.  Congratulations to him!  Not for achieving a once in a lifetime goal, but for achieving a life time of smiles!
Oh, how the wise are fooled; and fooled to the point of embarrassment.  I work with teenagers all the time.  When they are not asked to the prom, they wish they were dead.  When they don’t get the car of their choice, they consider themselves the most unfortunate.  Although I’m surrounded by teens all day long, I almost never see them smile. 
It seems to me that it is simple to graduate from High School.  And it is.  It’s easier now than ever before.  But what seems to be so complicated, so difficult, and nearly impossible for a teenager to do is achieve a smile on their face.  It makes no sense, no sense at all, if they have so much, and yet no smiles to show.
Lord Jesus, you appeared before your unfaithful apostles hidden in a locked room out of fear of torture and death, and said to them, “Peace be with you…As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  These words make no sense, no sense at all, unless you take into account the Holy Spirit and Salvation History.  We know what they did.  We know how they did it.  And we are amazed!
I’d like to teach the world to sing… Well, I hate to say it, but it already knows how to sing.  In fact, the world sings quite beautifully without me.  For this reason, it sings in perfect harmony.  But what song are we supposed to sing in perfect harmony?  Why don't they tell us?  Why keep us all in suspense?  The reason is:  they don't know. 

The Lord has a song he would like us all to learn to sing:  “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful people and enkindle in them a fire of your love.” 
“No!  No!  No!”  You say.  Let’s instead write a song about teaching the world to sing.  Let’s go round and round in a lunatic’s circle without being specific about anything.  Let’s use cheap thoughts and cheap talk to keep the world chattering while it’s faltering.
Let’s tell people, “You can be whoever you want!”  but let’s never tell them how to go about doing just that.  Let’s tell the world that we can be free!  But let’s not tell them exactly what we mean by that.  Let’s tell them that we can be free from Commandments, morals, values, religion, but let’s not tell them that they will destroy their lives, their families, their reputation and dignity.  Let's not tell them that they will lose their freedom to the slavery of sin.   
Last night I saw a commercial featuring an anchor woman advertising her own TV program for Memorial Day.  It’s all about recycling and it’s all about how “I can save the planet”.  I thought to myself, “How can we save the planet when most American’s don’t even know the name of their next door neighbor?"  How are we going to save the planet when we haven't even solved the problems St. Paul mentions in Galatians:  "immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like" (Gal 5:16-25). The commercial ended by saying, “This program will change your life.” 
I’m sorry.  But do actors and actresses, anchors and anchoress really think that we are that na├»ve?  I guess they do.  Is the billion dollar business of “saving the Planet” secularism’s way to give us something to live for? 
Our schools across the contrary have carried the “Save the Planet” banner for years now.  I think it is just a distraction, a distraction to us from them.  I think what they are trying to say is this:  “We may be near the bottom of the world’s list when it comes to math, science and reading scores, but at least we are the first in self-esteem and saving the planet.”  So am I to think that the more ignorant we are, the better we will be at saving our planet?  I don’t get it.  I’m not buying it.  These ridiculous campaigns brought to us by Exxon and Chevron that “WE AGREE!”, etc… to “Save the Planet” is a sort of “plan D” to make us feel better about ourselves after having failed miserably to “Save children”, “Saving families”, “Saving our country”, “Saving our school system”, “Save our souls.”
Lord, breathe on us so that we may receive your Spirit! 
What songs should we be singing?  What words should we be saying?  Today, at Mass, we sang “America, The Beautiful!” by Katharine Lee Bates (1913).  I was struck by the words from the third verse: 
O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life! 
America!  America! 
May God thy gold refine
till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
We don’t ever seem to get to this verse.  We don’t ever seem to get to the very bottom of things.  You would almost think that it was a conspiracy. 
What does the world really need?  The world needs songs and prayers with words of forgiveness and giving; songs and prayers about humility and patience; songs and prayers about family and respect; songs about life and mystery; songs about lives won and lives lost.  What the world really needs is songs and prayers to God.
Come Holy Spirit!  May our songs of praise and words of prayer have the weight of meaning and be directed towards The Father and The Son.  May the world be enriched by the gift of your Spirit of love.  May the world learn to sing a song and smile along.  We ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.

8 comments:

  1. I've noticed not only a lack of smiles from teenagers but a lack of smiles from so many adults! I don't know how many times I've served Holy Communion to a parishioner with either a frown or uninterested expression on the face. They are about to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ! That's something to smile about! I know how contagious a sincere smile and laughter can fill a room. Why so many gloomy faces at Mass? Why so much complaining that the homily is too long, a lector's outfit isn't "up to code," or the child is crying too loud? I noticed the beautiful words of the "God Bless America" hymn at St. Monica's this morning, too. It brought a smile to my face to hear something so patriotic. The gift of Holy Spirit is a reason to smile and celebrate.

    I found it very interesting when I was visited by Jehovah's Witnesses on the Vigil Feast Day of Pentecost. This lovely couple came up to my front door and presented me with a tract about "the truth of the bible." Jehovah's Witnesses only believe in "One God" and not the trinitarian God, so the idea of the Holy Spirit is unacceptable to their faith. Once the couple knew I was Catholic they didn't want to stick around long to share the Word with me; however, I just thought how ironic the Holy Spirit brought along a couple who's faith practices are not in line with the belief in the Holy Spirit!

    Let's all Sing a Song to the Lord! Alleluah!

    Happy Memorial Day!

    -Jennifer

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  2. I have two signs on my front porch, both in Latin. One says Come Holy Spirit and the other says Be Gone Satan!!

    I think it kind of works like 'no solicitors and beware of dog'.

    The UPS guy drops stuff and runs.

    Wen I see the Jahovas Witness and Mormans coming, I meet them on the sidewalk and start asking questions;-)

    I think Im on their list of houses to skip!

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  3. Father, I agree with everything you are saying, and I know that it seems ridiculous to not see teenagers smiling. I mean, so many of us have everything. I know that only by having Jesus close in our lives may we be truly happy, but trust me, I try to smile so much every day but so many little things have the potential to bring me down. Do you have any advice?
    I understand I am so lucky and blessed and I have everything, but a big problem are the "little things." if we don't get asked to prom.. it does feel like the end of the world. (We feel unwanted, rejected, abandoned.. I know it seems dramatic, but that's what it feels like.) If we lose our friends, we feel sad. We see our friends making so many bad decisions and even though we try to help them they don't listen. A lot of our friends do drugs, have sex with everyone they meet basically, and they don't want to get close to God. It feels bad to not be able to help them. If we are failing a class, we feel like we are disappointing our parents. If we make a mistake, we feel disappointed with ourselves. Going to school can be really hard sometimes. There are many bullies and people who love to bring you down. They point out every flaw that you could have making you feel insecure, people talk behind your back and write mean messages to you on the internet. No one thinks we are good enough. We are underestimated and truth is, we are terrified about the future, we are terrified about the decisions we have to make, and we are stressed out about school and scared because our teachers tell us "we won't get into college." We are worried for our parents because they fight all day because they can't find a job, for the parents of our friends that died in a car accident because they were drinking too much and failed to listen to anyone else. We are terrified about our future because we see so much hate going on and everything will get harder, and we can't change it by ourselves. It is saddening to know that many people don't care about one another. We are worried about our friends who cut themselves because no one is willing to listen to them for five minutes. We are terrified of offending the Lord, and it is scary to follow him sometimes when everyone tells you you you are a "Jesus-freak" and they don't what to be your friend because of it. (It is totally worth it to follow HIM but it is scary when your peers disprove of you) We are sad that many adults think we are not good for anything, but we are actually trying our best. We are scared that if everything seems so hard right now, how will we be able to go on when we are older. When you are older, there are so many more responsibilities, so many more worries, so much stress. We are also worried for people who are actually suffering a lot. We go out on mission trips and realize how stupid we are worrying about our little problems when there are so many people in terrible pain, and we smile for a few weeks, but after a while we forget and come back to our daily routines and not smile again. We are worried about what other people think of us every second of the day, I guess because we are young and we need more wisdom, but we do. Everyone's comments bring you down. Magazines and t.v. shows make our self-esteem plummet to the ground. We become obsessed with trying to look perfect because we feel that if we aren't perfect, we will never be able to fit in. It comes to the point that some of us don't even want to brush our teeth in front of the mirror, so do it in the shower, so we don't have to look at our faces.

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  4. We are scared to tell adults how we are feeling because we feel that they will think we are extremely stupid and selfish for feeling so upset about a lot of things that shouldn't even matter. And most importantly, a lot of us are worried about what God will think of of for thinking that way. Truth is, a lot of us need help, and I mean help as in a word of advice or encouragement once in a while. Someone caring is what fills everyone's heart with joy and peace. Sorry for writing all of this, but it is honestly what a lot of teenagers are thinking. I know it sounds selfish and bad. Sorry we don't smile. We really want to. At least I do. All I want is to be happy and make others happy. We admire you so much Father. The way that you spread love is incredible. You are so cool. Thanks for everything.

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  5. Dear Anonymous,

    I'm sure Father Alfonse can provide meaningful answers and more comfort than myself. At least I'll give it a try....

    I just wanted to let you know that you are truly loved and we are praying for you!! I'm moved to tears with your honest words. I wish I could give you a hug right now! You don't have to feel afraid, stupid or selfish. Please do not be sorry for expressing your feelings.

    I understand how difficult it for a teenager to smile. I was that way myself. I was a nerd and a geek. I wasn't much of a "Jesus Freak" but I was bullied for being four-eyes, non-athletic, and a little overweight. I looked in the mirror and didn't see much worth in myself. At the time, the social media wasn't around. I just got to hear the insults face to face.

    I find it best to step away from the social media for a while. I understand it's so much a part of the teen life. But, don't you agree it could help bring a smile to the face not reading all of the terrible news, Facebook posts, and Tweets? (I know the "little things" can become too much!) Get involved with your parish teen ministry, pray the rosary daily, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Do whatever it takes to make God the center of your life! Don't be afraid to talk to your parents, a priest (Father "Surprise" Alfonse), a school counselor, or a close adult friend whom you trust. The teenage years are tough but you will get through them!! We all made it. At least you're a Catholic and you have all of Jesus' divine tools to help you through these challenging years. I'd try to smile at one person each day - a stranger, a friend, even an enemy! Smiling is contagious and it will make you feel good, too.

    God Bless You!

    -Jennifer

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  6. To Anonymous ,Good one ! stick with it !

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  7. Dear Anonymous, beautiful reflection because it is absolutely sincere and full of heart. I wouldn't even dare try to solve these issues with a comment. What I would do is to try to solve these things in front of the Blessed Sacrament. "I am the Way"...stick with it; actually, with Him. "I am the Truth", stick with it - with Him. "I am the Life", stick with Him.
    To be completely surrounded by negativity is a clear sign that you are in the right place! Wow! What a field of view. What a terrifying way to raise the banner and shout to the world, "You see folks! Jesus really is the WAY!" Everything you described was beautifully narrated in the Hunger Games: A world without God is Hell. And yet, here you are, just in time, in the place and with the right people. Feed yourself well. Arm yourself to the teeth. Love one soul at a time. And be the man or woman that God created you to be. Seek guidance from a priest, a spiritual director, a person trustworthy. Good luck on your mission of hope. Use the beatitudes, the golden rule, the paradoxes of our faith at your disposal and in the way you see fit: either by word or by action.

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  8. It is difficult to accept but what you are describing is the world we live in now.

    Believe it or not many adults have very similar feelings fears and experiences that you are describing. It is unfortunate but the only thing we can change is ourselves. I know that doesn't give anyone comfort, but it is the truth.

    Satan is alive and well all over our world and He's fighting real hard to get the young because they are the future of this world.

    You sound like you are very depressed, which unfortunately is common in not only teens but much of the population in general.

    I suggest you reach out for help with that now because when you are starting out with dark sunglasses on, no matter what changes on the outside, you won't be able to see it or experience it.

    If your parents are unwilling to help you with this, there are school counselors, youth ministers and other adults that may be able to assist you in finding the right help. I’m sure Father Alfonse can also refer you to someone. Remember he is a priest not a professional counselor so please don’t be disappointed if he cannot give you the answers, advice and guidance you need.

    I am glad to see in your post that you are aware that you cannot fix these problems yourself. When you reach out to another, you are giving them an opportunity to be charitable; you are giving them an opportunity to be like Jesus. Believe it or not you are giving in your asking:)

    And once you are able to clear some of the darkness, you will start to see that there are some things you can do yourself that will affect the world that you and I live in in a positive way.

    You are not alone and you don't have to go through this alone. You will be able to smile again and it will be sincere. It will reflect your heart, no matter what changes on the outside.


    I will pray for you.

    God Bless,
    Been there done that

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