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, September 30, 2012

Mk 9:38-48 On a Limb

Mk 9:38-48  Out on a Limb
Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut if off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna…And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna...  Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.” 
If I had to lose a limb for every sin, then I am sure I would end up with just my earlobe! 
I am not kidding.  And I am not alone.
As we continue to believe that it takes little to no effort to get into heaven, the Lord, in a very dramatic way, reminds us that we do have “a part to give" in our salvation. 
As we continue to “lower the bar” in order to appease everyone, the Lord continues to raise His bar up, ever so forcefully, so that we never take our salvation or His sacrifices for granted.
When I was meditating again on today’s Gospel passage, I asked myself why the Lord exaggerated so much.  But then, I realized he wasn’t exaggerating.  He was being sarcastic.
I will do whatever it takes!  Christ knows us.  He knows us well.  He knows to what lengths we will go to get what we want.  Take for example the young football player who is more than willing to take steroids to get on the team.  “I will do whatever it takes to get on this team!”    And take the not-so-young football player who will take steroids to stay on the team.  “I will do whatever it takes to stay on the team!”    Why do you think the Olympic committee banned performance enhancing drugs?  Because athletes would do whatever it took to win the gold medal! 
We all know young teens will starve themselves to death to get the perfect body!  “I don’t care!  It’s worth it!”  We are just know learning that College students will take ADHD medication or even Alzheimer drugs to stay focused, get the competitive edge and get an A+.  “It’s all worth it…for my career.”  And there are parents (not doctors) who are doing it  for them.
We will do whatever it takes to be successful, competitive and comfortable.  Even a single mom may end her pregnancy to further her education, reputation and make life just a little less complicated.  "You murdered the one who offers you no resistance" (cf. James 5:6).
Can we blame the Lord for saying what he said?  If you are willing to do all these things for yourself, then why not cut off your hand and foot to get into heaven?  Why not?  Unless…it’s not worth it to you.
What is Heaven worth to you?  Is it worth more than a career, an education, extra playing time, your body? 
The Lord is not against sacrifice.  And He knows we are more than capable of making sacrifices.  His problem is not that we sacrifice; His problem is with why we sacrifice.  When I say “It’s worth it!”, am I not really saying: “I’m worth it?” 
Do I sacrifice out of selfishness or do I sacrifice out of selflessness?
Am I willing to sacrifice my morals, my values, my faith for titles, privileges, and greater fame and fortune?  If so, then the Lord tells us that it is better to lose your hands and feet!
After all, He did. 
Better to lose a hand…lose a foot.  The Lord was not only being sarcastic; He was being prophetic.  He chose His words very carefully.  This morning, when I looked at my crucifix, I noticed how the Lord lost his hands and feet.  On the cross, He is saying, “It’s worth it”, but what He's really saying to me is: “YOU are worth it!”
It’s time to cut ourselves away from our pride, vanity and sensuality.  It’s time to lose the chains of sin. 
If we are willing to do whatever it takes to extend our career; to get noticed; to be successful, then why not do whatever it takes to obtain eternal life?
Better to lose a limb, then to lose a soul.  Better to sacrifice your life than to take a life.  Better to love unconditionally than to live unconditionally.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Mark 9:38-48 Do Not Prevent Them

Mark 9:38-48  Do Not Prevent Them
Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.  If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…and if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.”
I just got back from John Paul II High School for their 4th annual “Hike For Life!”  It was amazing how many young people were present.  Over three hundred students at JPII are members of the Pro-Life group.  It is very heartwarming to see so many young people not only respect life but appreciate it.
I gave some words to the kids a few weeks ago and again today.  Here is what I said and didn’t say in both occasions.
Life is not fair.  It is remarkable!  Conception is remarkable.  Birth is remarkable.  Childhood is remarkable.  Adults are remarkable.  Life is remarkable!  And from the very first moment of our existence, we fought for our lives.  In fact, throughout our lives we have had to fight for our lives.  Now, today, we are fighting for others lives.  But what we are truly fighting for is not that others may live, but that our life may be much more valued.
Some may say we are fighting to end abortion.  We are, of course, but the real fight that we face is to defend the dignity, the beauty, the remarkableness, the uniqueness, the tremendous gift that life is.  We don’t know what we have until it is gone.  We take it for granted.  We don’t appreciate life the way it should be.  We have forgotten how precious it is. 
I can’t even believe that we are having this debate.  I can’t believe that we have to organize hikes to save the lives of babies.  I can’t believe we have to defend our position.  I can’t believe that anyone would ever claim God to be anything other than pro-life?  After all, what makes the earth so different from all the other planets?  What makes earth so remarkable, so beautiful, so striking, so amazing, so glorious?  Life.  Life is a good thing.  It is a very good thing.  It is remarkable!  And we have forgotten this…when it comes to human beings.  We haven’t so much forgotten this when it comes to wildlife and forests and the oceans and seas.  But boy have we forgotten this when it comes to baby girls, especially in China and India. 
Over forty years ago, the Supreme Court legalized abortion.  Where were the mass demonstrations?  Where were the mass protests?  Where were the marches?  Although I was only seven-years-old when this happened, I do not remember ever hearing of or seeing a film clip showing millions of people protesting at the steps of the Supreme Court building.  Where were our parents and grandparents?  Where were our church buses?
We try not to talk much about it today.  We tend to forget the lives of others in the voting booth, in our pocket books, in our debates and in our conversations.  We even think little of life in the way we live our lives.
So what is the fight of our lives?  That we never forget how remarkable life is; that we don’t own it; that we can’t own it; that we never take it for granted.  God is known as the giver of life, all life, human and divine.  Life is not an accident.  Life is diligently and mindfully created.
The Lord reminds us of the seriousness of sin.  Better to cut something out of your life than to take someone’s life; better to downsize than to make an excuse.  It’s less important to save your life than to save a life; a crippled child-of-God has a greater chance of entering heaven than a man of-the-World with two legs and two arms.
I have yet to meet a mom who regretted changing her mind and saved her baby’s life.  I have met far too many who regret taking it away.
I don’t know about you, but I did get a chance to see the Paralympics in London.   I was amazed at how these men and women competed.  I am very much convinced that not a single one of them feels sorry for themselves.  I am also very convinced that every single one of them thanked their parents for giving them a chance to live.  This is our fight.  It’s all about appreciation.  It’s all about the remarkableness of life!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Luke 9:18-22 What you see and don’t see…

Luke 9:18-22  What you see and don’t see…
Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 
It was bound to happen.  After spending three years with His disciples, Peter finally figured it out.  Actually, the moment had arrived for him to figure it out.  The Holy Spirit had enlightened his heart and mind to know that Jesus is God. 
Now, all the Apostles know who He is.  The Word is out.  Actually, the Word has finally materialized.  What I find remarkable is how long it took them to realize it.  Moms and dads:  Isn’t it remarkable how long it takes for your son or daughter to figure out that you truly love them???  [Sorry, I had to throw that in there!]
The point I am trying to make is the following:  Although the Apostles spent days and weeks with Jesus; although they saw him and heard him constantly, it was not enough to know Him.  It still took the Heavenly Father to reveal Him.  Faith is a grace.  And no matter how often the Apostles saw the Lord’s face, it still took the Father’s grace to reveal His Son to them. 
The same holds true today.  No matter how hard a Christian tries to convert someone to the faith, it still takes God’s grace to reveal His face to them.  We convert no one.  We simply draw them closer to the Lord.  It is the Lord, and only the Lord, that can make the blind see, the deaf hear and the dumb believe.
And just when we think we know Him, He slips away from us.  The Lord will not be controlled.  Unlike us, He will not allow His friends to distort Him, confuse Him, demean Him, twist Him or change Him.  He will not be manipulated.  He will not allow Himself to be placed in a test tube and experimented on.  Peter discovers this quickly, and is reminded ferociously to let God be God.  Let the Lord do what He must do: “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” 

Although Christ did not allow others to manipulate Him, He did allow them to define Him.  When His enemies tried to twist Him, He did not change.  When they tried to bend Him and break Him, He stood tall.  Though Judas' betrayed Him, He would not betray his people.  He accepted Peter's denial as he accepted his sorrow.  He was saddened by Thomas' doubt but never doubted His Apostles.    
What you see is what you get.  How can I understand the Lord?  Get a bigger brain!  Sorry, but it is true.  Can you fit the entire ocean into a lake?  Can you fit the entire world’s knowledge into your head?  Every day is a learning day.  Every day we are learning more and more about the world we had nothing to do with.  So how can I believe in the Lord?  Use the brain that God gave to you.  But that is not enough.  For starters, you must receive the Lord’s grace.  How does one receive grace?  By asking for it.
What you see is what you get, right?  So does that mean “What you don’t see is what you don’t get?”  For some people it is.
Yesterday I got into a debate with an atheist.  I published one of his comments and responded to it.  But then I refused to publish anymore because the atheist turned into a Ranter [A Ranter is someone who spews out his thoughts without thinking.]  In his recent comment (which I did not publish), he wrote:  "People are animals.  Read a biology book for a change."  Ahh yes, quick to judge…If he only knew how many science books I had to read in my life, especially while I was earning my Master of Science degree at RIT!  But maybe his advice to me reveals his limitations.  Maybe that’s his problem, that he never read anything other than a biology book.  And of course, if that is all you know about being human, then you might begin to believe that that’s all there is to being a man or a woman.  What you read is what you know, right?  But if he ever picked up a book of poetry, then he would begin to see some human beings as more than animals.  He would see them as poets.  And if he picked up some music and played it, then he would see some human beings as more than flesh and bones,  he would see them as musicians. And if he ever picked up the Bible and read it, then maybe he would see Christianity as different from other religions; and God as different from “god”; and Christians as evolved human beings who love their enemies and forgive them seven times seventy-times.  If he did any of these things, then he might very well begin to see humans as aliens more than as animals.  And he would be right!
What you see is what you get.  What you don’t see is what you don’t get! 
For the longest time, the Apostles only saw a man, Jesus, standing next to them.  What they couldn’t get is how He could love them so much.  Eventually they did, and were blinded by the light.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Luke 9:7-9 Perplexed

Luke 9:7-9  Perplexed
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, “John has been raised from the dead”; others were saying, “Elijah has appeared”; still others, “One of the ancient prophets has arisen.”  But Herod said, “John I beheaded.  Who then is this about whom I hear such things?”
Herod looked perplexed.  He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  Things were not as self-evident as he thought they were.  After all, he had killed The Baptist.  That should have been the end of the story.  Never did he ever imagine that it was the beginning of the story.
Not too long ago, I gave a talk at a Catholic school.  To my “Catholic” audience, I told them that if they wished to ever be a better Christian, then they must learn to think logically and live “illogically”.  Of course my young audience was a little perplexed, but I went on to explain how they must constantly be searching for the truth, in a very logical and structured way, but continue to live like Christ, who spoke and lived in a very “illogical” or “paradoxical” way. 
I then went on to explain to them the failures of atheism.  How atheism is nothing more than a backhanded slap on the face of God and more of a frontal attack on wonder and faith.  For the atheist, nothing is surprising, not even evil; nothing is beautiful, not even love; nothing is exciting, not even life.  It is all what it was supposed to be.  It is as thrilling and as amazing as dissecting a worm.    
For them, everything is self-evident…except for The Everything!  They say, “Of course the Universe exists, duh?!  What did you expect?”  Or, “Of course an apple falls from a tree.  It’s all based on the laws of physics!” …It’s as if the laws of atoms were like the laws of governments…not made but self-evident.
An atheist prides himself on believing only what he can see, and not what others have seen, which to him means everyone is sick (or blind and deformed).  It could never mean that he may be sick (or blind and deformed). 
Atheism is not only a denial of God; it is a denial of humanity, for to be a man means to be blessed in believing the unbelievable.  My dear atheist friend, you cannot be an atheist because you were conceived out of nothing!  Do you yet not understand?  Man is not only capable of believing what he cannot see but what he can dream, which allows him to eventually realize his dreams.   If he did not dream the impossible dream, then he would forever remain a prisoner in the land of what-you-see-is-what-you-have.  This man is insane, for he sees only what is there and thinks only what is humanly reasonable and observable.  If the world were truly what he could only observe, then the world would be as big as his head: small.
But no atheist ever believed himself.  No atheist will ever tell you that we have discovered everything that exists.  He knows there is still much more to discover; that there is much more that exists.  But for the sake of argument, he pretends to think we have discovered everything and that God does not exist.
Well… the reason why I mention all of this is for the fact that after I spoke, I had a student come up to me and ask me politely never speak about atheism again.  I asked the student why?  She told me that she felt insulted by what I had said.  Now, I must say I was taken aback a little by what she said since I was speaking in a school, in a Catholic school, and in the United States of America - a nation that prides itself on freedom of speech.  I was a little surprised that someone would propose censorship rather than scholarship. 
Now my response surprised the student as much as it surprised me.  I went back to Christianity.  I went back to the paradox of our faith.  I told the young student that what I had said was far less important to me than she was to me.  I told her that I would respect her wish for the time being. 
My response surprised her.  In fact, I think she was stunned, perplexed, at what I had said.  And maybe, just maybe, for the first time in her young atheist life, nothing and no one was as self-evident as her.  Maybe, just maybe, someone no longer fit in her head.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Luke 9:1-6 Abandonment vs. Loneliness

Luke 9:1-6  Abandonment vs. Loneliness
Jesus summoned the Twelve and gave them power and authority… and he sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic.”
While I was working at Kodak, I enjoyed the benefits of a salary and excellent health insurance.  When I left the business world and entered the seminary, I lost both, my salary and health insurance.  So, for nearly twenty years, I never earned a salary and never had health insurance.  At first this was a huge concern to me, but I gradually began to trust in God and my concerns nearly vanished. I can honestly say I never got seriously ill while I was a religious.  Then, in 2010, I began the process of incardination in the Diocese of Dallas.  I immediately received health insurance.  And within a year, I was admitted into the emergency room at least three times!  Wow!
What is the moral of the story?  There might be a few.  (1) The Lord provides everything we need when we need it.  (2) The more we have, the more we worry.  [I find this one to be more in tune with my personality.]
Take nothing for the journey.  Of course the Lord wants his Apostles to take something with them.  But what is it?  What is the essential item?  What does He want us to take with us whenever we go somewhere or whenever we do something?  What are we supposed to never neglect, never abandon and never leave behind?  What are we supposed to keep in mind before we make an important decision? 
One word answer:  Himself.  The Lord wants us to take Him along our journey of life. 
Take me with you in what you do and where you go! 
The Lord sent His Apostles, two by two, and with less and less, to learn the meaning of divine abandonment:  to place their trust, their lives, their mission, their joy, their security and peace, and sanity and health in His hands. 
Of course it was not easy, but it was the best thing He could ever do.  The earlier we learn from this, the more successful (and peaceful) we will be.  Take a look and see for yourself. 
Have you ever noticed how pretty people worry a lot about their appearance?  And how all their worrying takes away nearly all their peace?  Teenagers are scared out of their minds if they don’t have this or don’t have that.  They weigh themselves incessantly; look at themselves far more often than occasionally; manicure and whiten just about everything.  Has this increased their sense of dignity and morality?  Has it made them more virtuous and less stressed?  Where has all their security gone?  I tell you it has gone out the window along with their smile and happiness.
Have you noticed how ‘ugly’ people do not worry about their appearances?  They live with what they got.  And they actually appreciate what they have received.  In fact, they focus on other things…and for the better. 
I never worried much about my appearance.  I knew where I stood.  And that allowed me to focus on other things, far more important things.  I learned to give my attention rather than to receive attention, and that has made a happy difference in my life.
Hold on to that which is eternal; let all that is temporal slip through your fingers.  It's okay.  It's actually a good thing.
The life of Christ (of his Apostles and disciples, martyrs and saints) was a life defined by divine abandonment and human simplicity.  He and his companions learned not to fret over what they did not have.  They learned to seek no more than they needed.  They neither lived in a mansion nor drove a Ferrari.  They dressed reasonably, not fashionably.  In fact, none of us exactly know what any of them looked like.  They did not have their portraits taken or a bust made in their image.  But with all their human limitations and empires fighting against them, they still managed to turn the other cheek, conquer the Roman Empire and turn it into one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. 
Now that’s the power of Divine abandonment...and the difference between loneliness. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Luke 8:19-21 Dynasties

Luke 8:19-21 Dynasties
The Mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.”  He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”
Thus spoke the Lord.  In one glorious swipe, he effectively dismissed the idea of creating any sort of dynasty, or empire, or royalty or priesthood among his blood relatives.  The Lord would not be succeeded by a blood relative.  Neither would any family member receive any type of inheritance other than the cross.
We have a lot to learn from this and much to appreciate from it.
Although there are very few kings and queens today, there are still certain dynasties that appear to be created not by vocation but by circulation; that is, by procreation.
Political Dynasties.  Take for example politicians.  I sense that most politicians are born to be politicians, not by any sort of spiritual calling, but by a “close” calling (or association) to a family member.  Why were so many from the Kennedy family elected to office?  Did they all have a miraculous calling from above to serve, or did they all have some sort of genetic disorder that made them twice as likely to be politically inclined?  Was it expected of them to serve or were their constituents voting that Camelot would survive?  Maybe it was all of the above.  But given the results, I doubt that most of the brood ever had a vocation to service. 

Now I could go on and on and discuss the Bush family dynasty; the Clinton family dynasty; the Pelosi family dynasty, etc...but I won't.  I hope I have made my point.  
What exactly did the American Revolution replace the “Royal Family” with?  Maybe with nothing.  Maybe it just nixed the “Royal”.
Pastoral Dynasties.  We cannot avoid this.  It is so obvious and unfortunate.  So many famous “Pastors” who were called by God allowed their children, who were not called by God, to fill their robes.  The Rev. Dr. Robert Schuller, founder of Crystal Cathedral Ministries, worked and sacrificed his entire life to build his Christian ministry headquarters out in Orange County, California only to see it collapse at the helm of his daughter, Pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman. 
Oral Roberts, the anti-Catholic preacher and minister, worked hard and fearfully at building his University out in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I say “fearfully” since he was reportedly threatened by God with death if he did not raise enough cash to get the University financially stable.  Well, Oral did it and survived only to see his son turn it into a house of illegal financial activity that nearly burn it into the ground.  Now I wonder why God would have killed Oral and not his son if he wanted to see the school flourish?  I guess God’s ways are not our ways.
Thank God for celibacy.  Thank God that most priests discovered their vocation not in following their father’s footsteps, but in following the enormous footsteps of The Father.  Thank God there was no empire, or ministry or dynasty to inherit but rather a simple mission church or parish community that was not of their choosing.  Thank God disciples are still “sent”…and put through the ringer.  We need that.  We need more of that!  We need to make sure that we are in ministry for all the right reasons.
Christian Dynasty.  Is there a Christian dynasty to inherit?  There is.  And it is a family affair.  But it is not based on race, gender, nationality or even blood relations.  It is based on faith; faith-in-action.  Who are my brothers and sisters?  Those who hear the word of God and act on it. 
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (1Peter2:9) 
This is an important statement because it is coming from the first Holy Father, St. Peter.  We are all equal.  We are all peasants and we are all kings.  And yet we are all distinct – given specific tasks to carry out in the mystical Body of Christ.  What distinguishes us from each other is the vocation we have received from the Lord.  Now the vocations may be different, but the mission remains the same:  Witness to the world the wonderful things that God has done.
Declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Luke 8:16-18 You Never Know

Luke 8:16-18  You Never Know
Jesus said to the crowd:  “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”
Early this morning I received a phone call from the emergency line.  It was someone asking what time morning Mass was.  I couldn’t believe it!  This person was calling me on the emergency line for that? “What did you say?” I said.  But before they could repeat the question, I looked at the time on my cell phone.  Now I really couldn’t believe it!  It was 6:20 am and I was still in bed!
On any given day I would have been pretty upset about that phone call.  But this morning, I was extremely grateful.  Why?  Because it woke me up.  I arrived just in the nick of time to celebrate the 6:45 morning Mass.  I couldn’t believe it.
You never know the good you can do.  Take for example the person who called me this morning.  I am convinced they have a lot of faith in priests.  After all, would you call a priest early in the morning on the emergency line just to find out what time Mass is?  I wouldn’t!  I know what kind of person would do something like that:  a humble – very humble – person; a person with a tremendously thick skin and rich faith.
We should all be like that, for you never know just how your faith and goodwill could “save” someone today. 
At the conclusion of today’s Mass, someone came up to me and said, “Father, thank you for being here.  Your homily was exactly what I needed to hear this morning.  Thank you!”  Little did they know how close I was to not being there at all.
You never know the good you can do.  That got me thinking again.  We have been conditioned, one could even say “brainwashed” into thinking that faith is something that should be reserved and privately observed.  What nonsense!
This morning’s call was a wake-up call for me in more than one way.  It reminded me that I am here to feed my sheep, and not to worry so much about feeding anger in the wolves that surround me.
Today’s first reading is from the Old Testament.  It is a classic example of the Old Law:  “Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim…Plot no evil against your neighbor, against one who lives in peace with you…Quarrel not with a man without cause…with one who has done you no harm.”
The Old Law was all about justice.  “Refuse no one the good…HE HAS A CLAIM TO.”  “Plot no evil against your neighbor…THE ONE WHO LIVES IN PEACE WITH YOU.”  Do you see something wrong with this?  Do you see something wrong with being nice to those who are nice to you, and good to those who are good to you?  If you do, then you know the difference between the Old Law of justice and the New Law of love.
Christians are not lambs that live on the safe side.  Christians are lambs that cross to the other side.  They live among the wolves; among their distant relatives.  And this can be very annoying, irritating and considered arrogant by those who live on the other side!  It’s true!  But if one lamb can save one wolf before being devoured by an entire pack of wolves, then it was well worth it.  We know this by our history.  Good always triumphs over evil.  One ray of light is all it takes to break the darkness of the night. 
Far too often we are reluctant to share our faith because we are concerned about “offending” others.  And we feel this way even while the “others” are offending us and gaining ground. 
But the truth of the matter is made clear in Christ’s words and actions.  We are no longer called to have the faith of our Jewish brothers and sisters.  We are no longer restricted by the Law which is found in the Old Testament or in today’s first reading.  We have been set free by the Lord to cross to the other side and visit with sinners, converse with them and save them.
The Law that now governs us is found written in the heart of Jesus Christ.  It is the Law of Love and Light.  The Lord commanded his followers to shine everywhere.  He invited them to be a BIG TARGET; to let people know where you are, where you stand, what you believe in!  And even though the vast majority of people will do whatever it takes to take you out - to blow you out - so be it.  It is still important that you keep the light burning where it can be seen by all and for as long as you can.   
And don’t forget:  like the empty tomb, even a blown out candle can be an eloquent witness to the lasting power of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mk 9:30-37 Incomprehensible

Mk 9:30-37 Incomprehensible
Jesus and his disciples began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.”  But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him.” 
What did the disciples not understand?  When the Lord told them that he would be handed over to men and killed, what did they not understand?  Was it the obvious?  No.  It was the incomprehensible. 
You see, atheists say that there is a lack of evidence of God.  Isn’t it obvious that there isn’t?  Isn’t it obvious that there isn’t a lack of evidence of God but rather a lack of reflection by man? 
For example, let’s say I went to my computer and typed the following:  UR2GR82B4GO10.   At first glance, you might say that these letters and numbers were randomly put together.  But upon further reflection, you might actually figure out that these letters and numbers are actually in a certain order that express a certain sentiment.  In fact, they may actually be a teenager's way of writing “You are too great to be forgotten”. 
The Apostles understood the obvious.  They understood what Jesus was telling them; that is, that He would be arrested and handed over and killed by men.  The Apostles understood that.  But what they did not understand is what it meant.  Why?  Why would the Son of God allow himself to be arrested and put to death?  Why would He do that?  Why not just run away? 

What was the Lord communicating to His Apostles by telling them that He would die for them? 
My dear friends, this is so important.  Understanding this is like opening a treasure.  If someone is willing to die for you, what are they telling you?  Isn’t it obvious?  Isn’t it obvious what God is telling you, that YOU ARE WORTH IT! 
You are worth all the pain, all the fear, all the hurt, and all the suffering.  You are worth my life!
Today at Mass, I asked all the fifteen-year-olds to raise their hands.  There were six out of seven hundred.  Most people in the congregation could not believe it.  I did!  I didn’t have a hard time believing that at all!!!  Why?  Because I just finished giving a retreat to a bunch of fifteen year olds.  At a certain point in the retreat, I asked them to write down on a piece of paper what they were thinking.  This is what they wrote.
1.        I feel like I don’t have any friends.  Why do fifteen-year-olds feel like they have no friends?  Answer:  Because they don’t know Jesus Christ.  Jesus said to his disciples, “I call you friends” (Jn 15:15).  Why are our kids committing suicide?  Because they don’t know Jesus Christ; they don't know the magnitude of their worth! 
2.       I feel worthless.  St. John wrote, “For God so loved the world that He sent His Son to save the world” (Jn 3:16).  With God all things are possible (cf. Jn 15:5).  We are dependent on Jesus for life, but we are also dependent on Jesus for our lives to matter.  Why do our kids feel worthless?  Because they don’t know Jesus Christ.
3.       I feel totally alone.  Jesus said, “I will be with you till the end of time” (Mt 28:20).  Why do our kids feel alone or abandoned?  Because they don’t know Jesus Christ. 
4.       I feel like I will never live up to my parent’s expectations.  Jesus said, “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).  To know Christ Jesus is to be perfect.  To believe Him, to love Him, and to imitate Him is the Father’s idea of perfection. 
5.       I don’t know who I am.  St. Paul felt the same way, but when he changed his life he found his life and said, “It is no longer I who live in me, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
The Apostles found the Lord “incomprehensible” because they were thinking not as God thinks but as men think.  As they were journeying to Galilee, they were arguing along the way as to who was the greatest.  The Lord sat them down and told them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 
The Lord will remain hidden to me as long as my life remains hidden to me.  The Lord’s words and actions will remain “incomprehensible” to me as long as I remain arrogant and obnoxious and belligerent to Him.  No wonder the Lord took a child in his hands and said, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” 
To be a believer in the Lord requires more than just having feet.  It requires humility.  Eyes that see miracles and ears that hear amazing words may be enough to acknowledge and recognize someone, but it is generally not enough to understand them and love them.  At least it wasn’t enough for the Apostles.  They needed more, much more.  They needed to witness for themselves how great God’s love for them is.  And they got what they needed.  They witnessed it in such an intense way that it took them years to fully comprehend it.  But they did.  And they continued to transmit that intense love not only by their words and sacrifices but by their own death’s as well. 
To be a Christian means to be like the Son of God, who loved the world so much that He came into the world to show us for himself how much we are worth. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Luke 8: 4-15 Fuming All Over!

Luke 8: 4-15  Fuming All Over!
When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable. “A sower went out to sow his seed.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up…And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundred-fold…”
There still exists some bitter arguing among Protestants and Catholics regarding Martin Luther’s theological “dogma” known as Sola fides (faith alone).  But there is a new “dogma” out there which is far more dangerous and worse in scope and has failed to catch the attention of most Christian pastors and priests.  It is a doctrine that is very seductive and can suck the life out of any Christian at any given moment.  This dogma is spreading like wildfire and has become prevalent in nearly every single Christian denomination.  It is the dogma I affectionately call:  Affectus solum.  That is, “Feelings alone”. 
A person whose faith rests almost entirely on feelings is a faith that is dead, or soon to be dead.  Like faith without works is dead, so to faith with just feelings is dead!  People who have succumbed to this dogma (or deadly virus) tend towards hallucinations and say: “I am not religious.  I am spiritual.”
There was a man who threw some seed on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 
These poor seeds never had a chance to survive because they never had fertile ground to take root in.  They died the moment they hit the rocky or bumpy or thorny ground.  And just like a seed cannot survive without water and fertile ground; faith in God cannot survive without prayer and knowledge of God.
If Christ’s love for us was based solely on feelings, He would have thrown in the towel long before He ever picked up His Cross.  If Christ’s love for His father was based solely on feelings, He would have thrown the Cup of Sacrifice smack in His father’s face!
Don’t we know that by now?  Haven’t we had enough of the rollercoaster rides?  Haven’t we had enough of feeling great about God one moment and then accusing Him of not caring the next?  Haven’t we seen the sad results of wishy-washy sentimental love?  It plays out all the time among our most fervent yet superficial converts.  It plays out among our dearest charismatic friends and families.  It plays out among our retreatants and Medjugorje pilgrims.  It plays out among our dearest stars (Kristen Stewart comes to mind). 
Does a bride merry her spouse out of feelings of love or out of a deep knowledge of her spouse?  If it is out of feelings, then we know how long that will last; as long as a feeling lasts.  Not long at all.
Why do we place so much of our trust, hope and love in feelings rather than in real and concrete faith? 
The headline read:  “From Bible-Belt Pastor to Atheist Leader”.    I read the New York Times article with some interest.  It appears as though there are a growing number of atheists coming out from under their Protestant robes.  The man featured in the article is the former Reverend Jerry DeWitt.  I took some notes while I read the incredibly long article dedicated to religion.  What I found were few surprises.  I added some of my own notes while I read.
DeWitt is a descendent of a long line of preachers on both sides of the family [Thank God for chastity!].  His grandfather established 16 churches by himself [Church making is considered an excellent franchise in the Bible-belt].  At the age of 17 he was “saved” [Uh oh, I thought it was ‘once saved, always saved] by Jimmy Swaggart [That might explains it!].  Weeks later he was speaking in tongues [Now wait a minute…it would be interesting if he claims that was real and it would be revealing if he claims it was a hoax.  If it was real, then how could he be an atheist today?].
One day, while sitting in church, he heard his pastor call on him to deliver a homily [I should try that one day, but this sounds as real as a ‘reality’ show].  He says he spoke and the “crowd” loved it! [Yep!  Sounds fake to me].  He said, “I knew right then that preaching was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”  [Wow!  One sermon and he found his vocation.  That’s an easy way of convincing someone they can be a motivational speaker.  But chastity, poverty and obedience are the ways to find out if someone is being authentically called by God!  After all, where does one find their cross to carry?  Among your fan club?  Within the crowd worshipping you?].
DeWitt preached across the South, although he never received a college degree [What???].  In 2004, he became a full-time pastor at a church near DeRitter [Are you kidding me?]. 
After reading this nine-page article, I was no longer interested in knowing why DeWitt became an atheist.  Rather, I was much more interested in knowing how he survived being a Christian pastor for so long.  After all, it sounds like everything he did; he did it on his own!  Maybe he did it more for himself than for anyone else. 
A Pastor who runs on feelings for so long will eventually end up fuming mad!  And that’s exactly what happened. 
But how can someone, who never went to college and never got a degree (which really means he never received a deep appreciation for the faith of our fathers or a systematic understanding of Christianity).  What did he spend half his life giving to others?  No wonder why a good hearted and sentimental man now claims to be a recovering Christian. 
May our faith in you, O Lord, take root in our hearts, minds and bodies, so that the knowledge of your Son, and not our own desires, may always prevail in us.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.