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!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

John 14:27-31a Swim In Peace

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
A couple of days ago, Pope Francis confirmed forty-four people, including two teens from Ridgewood, N.J. 
The Catholic News Service reported that both teens were chosen from a pastor who pulled their names from a hard hat.  For the teens, it was like a dream come true.
Fourteen-year-old Brigid Miniter, from Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, said she was fine “until I got to the step right before I was anointed.”  Seventeen-year-old Anthony Merejo said he was relaxed at the Mass until he realized “I’m going to be face-to-face with Pope Francis.
Long before Brigid was picked to go to Rome, she had chosen St. Francis of Assisi as her confirmation saint.  “I love animals,” she added, “and he’s the patron saint of animals, so it was a no-brainer.”
Anthony wanted to pick a name that would sound good in English and in Spanish.  After searching for some time, he found the name Ignatius (Ignacio), the founder of the Jesuits.
Now the two were slightly disappointed when they learned that Pope Benedict had resigned. “Who would be the next Pope?” they wondered.  “Where would he come from?”  “What name would he choose?” 
Well, Divine Providence has a remarkable way of taking us by surprise.  It also has a wonderful way of confirming us in our faith.  I’m sure Brigid never imagined that the next Pope would be the first to take the papal name “Francis.”  I’m also sure that Anthony never dreamed the next Pope would be the first Jesuit ever and the first Latin American as well. 
Brigid and Anthony may have been a little nervous, after all, they were the only two Americans confirmed by Pope Francis.  But these coincidences brought great peace on the road to Rome and in their journey of faith.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you”  There is a peace we all desire that no one can really give; and that is, the peace of knowing that I lived a “worthy” life. 
So many parents and teachers sacrifice their life (time, talents and resources) for their children only to later see them turn a blind eye on all their efforts.  “Was it worth it?”  “Did I waste my time, my life?” Did it amount to anything?  Christ’s answer:  “Peace be with you.” 
Should I stay or should I go?  I’m positive the Apostles were debating among themselves whether or not they should stay or go.  After all, was the Lord a success or an abysmal failure?  By human accounts, he was a failure.  But what appears to be small in the eyes of men appears to be great in the eyes of God.  What appears to be human wisdom is foolishness to God.  “Did he win or did he lose?”  How foolish! To know that, one must know a person’s heart.   “But who cares if the messenger has a great message if the messenger is soundly beaten?”
The Lord spent three years on the road preaching, teaching and healing.  He did not travel around the world because He couldn’t but because He didn’t want to.  Like the chosen people, the Apostles would have to personally deliver His message to others.  And like them, endure what He endured, even the worst.
That was a good move by Christ. "You gotta live what you preach."
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”  We can take great comfort in knowing that when we preach the Gospel (and live it too) we are always living a most worthy life. 

Someone recently commented that you can be a good Christian and a bad person too.  An anonymous commentator responded:  Really?  Who?  Who lived like Christ and was a bad person?

I'm interested in knowing as well.

At the Confirmation ceremony in Rome, Pope Francis told the young people there to “swim against the tide.  It’s good for the heart.”  It's also good for the world.

Monday, April 29, 2013

John 14:21-26 The Best Way To Reveal The Son of God

Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”  Judas, not the Iscariot, said to him, “Master, then what happened that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”
Why not reveal yourself to the world?  Great question Judas!  I like it.  Why doesn’t the Lord just get it over with, once and for all, and do the job himself?  Why doesn’t Jesus just do it all for us?
Last night, I turned on the TV and watched a bit of Investigation Discovery.  A man, by the name of Dennis Rabbitt, had been raping women for nearly twenty-five years in the St. Louis (MI) area.  After a special task force was established to catch this criminal, the police finally caught him, six years after they began their investigation.  When detectives and prosecutors examined his life, looking for clues as to why he committed these serious crimes, they discovered that his father had babied him all his life.  Really?  Yep!  Daddy gave his son everything he ever wanted.  He often justified or excused for his son’s behavior at school and at home.  He basically let him off the hook all the time. 
It’s amazing what happens to an individual’s psychology when they are not allowed to grow up!
Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  How will the Lord reveal himself to the world?  Through His followers.  Through us.  The hard way.  That’s how.  It’s not the most efficient way.  It may not even be the most effective way.  But it is the most authentic way.  It is His Way. 
Christ insists that we be a part of His plan of salvation.  He wants our active participation.  He insists on it.  He demands that we bring people closer to Him not by fairy dust but by living what we preach.  He insists that we help change people’s lives.  He insists that we do something for others along The Way.
It’s clearly not the easiest way.  But it is the best way, the most authentic way. 
Think of it like this.  Our mom would have done everything for us if she chose to (or if we allowed her to).  She would have cooked for us all our life, cleaned up for us, bathed us, put us to bed, dressed us, etc… But thank God one day she said:  “Okay…Now it’s your turn.  Do it yourself.”   
The same goes for our father.  He could have done it all for us as well.  He could have fixed everything for us and spent his own money for us.  But one day he said, “Enough!  Now, it’s up to you.  You do it.  You fix it.  You pay.”
Unfortunately (or fortunately), this is the only way people mature.  God is not a force.  Nor is He a grandfather.  He is our eldest brother and Father.  These are the terms He has chosen for himself.  And we all know that big brothers and fathers tend to help us grow up fast and the hard way.
With this in mind, it should come as no mystery as to why converts to Catholicism are generally the more orthodox, strident, energetic and enthusiastic of all; and why cradle Catholics tend to be a bit more laidback, relaxed and uninspiring.  There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but it makes a tremendous difference in one’s life to discover God (and faith) rather than have it spoon fed all your life.         
Sharpen your faith.  Whenever G.K. Chesterton was having doubts of faith, he found relief by reading Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells (two non-believers).  It worked for him and it kept him sharp.  I know that whenever I feel as though I am getting bored, all I do is crack open a little bit of Dawkins and Hitchens and my faith comes right back to life.  I love it when they try to explain Christianity (or religion in general).  They’re so…well…immature. 
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.  Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Jn 13:31-35 A New Commandment

Fifth Sunday of Easter
When Judas had left them, Jesus said …“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer.  I give you a new commandment:  love one another.  As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.  This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I find it remarkable how today’s Gospel passage fits in perfectly with some commentaries that have been going on within this blog.  Someone (I assume an atheist) recently asked, Can we really know what it means to be a “good” Christian?  They go on to say that it’s impossible to know. 
But it seems as though Divine Providence, through today's Gospel passage, may have given His answer:  “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 
Jesus knows.  He set the standard.  Actually, He is the standard: “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
I give you a new commandment:  Love one another.    Before this morning's Mass, I noticed some of the front pews were reserved.  During Mass I noticed who was sitting in them:  Moms with their sons.  Later I found out that the school had organized a “Mother-Son brunch” for today.  Well, at the start of my homily, I told the boys (ages 10-11) to give their moms a big hug.  I then added:  “Throw in a kiss as well.”  This occasion offered me a perfect start to my homily. 
Can love be commanded?  Yes, but only if the one commanding it loves first.  Before we knew how to love, God loved us first (cf. 1Jn 4:19).
Now let’s put Christ’s famous words in their proper context.  The Lord is about to be betrayed.  In fact, Judas had just left them.  He knows He is about to experience the worst forty-eight hours of His life.  How does He react?  What does He do?  He gives His Apostles a new commandment:  love one another. 

Instead of reacting with scorn and indignation, the Lord reacts with confidence and sublimity.  Instead of acting out, He gathers His little flock.  Instead of being filled with anger, resentment, bitterness and hatred, He is filled with compassion and love.  Instead of allowing His emotions to get the best of Him, the Lord gives a new commandment:  love one another.
Now is the Son of Man glorified.  Christ is the Incarnation of the word love.  The WORD (love) became flesh in Jesus Christ and His response to evil is the manifestation of His glory.  Yes, Christ reaches His pinnacle when his Love encounters great evil; that is, when Great Love responds to great evil.  This is the moment when God can truly be God and when Heaven can come down to earth:  “I saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…I heard a voice saying, ‘Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race.’” (Rev. 21:1-5a).
Do you understand this?   How do you react in times of trial?  With love?  What are your first thoughts when facing evil?  Are they of love and not revenge? 
As the Church began to grow, so did persecution.  As hundreds were being added to the fold, thousands more were working to destroy it.  Hence, it became more and more necessary for the leaders of the Church to spell things out:  “After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.  They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, ‘It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:21-22).   
It’s so easy to buy into Big Brother’s notion that we should not talk about religion in public.  This is the new (modern) and improved way to persecute and stifle the mission of the Church.  We should never give in.  Until Big Brother can control our hearts, our minds and our tongues, we should continue to do everything possible to communicate the Good News to our brothers and sisters!  In fact, we may actually prevent this from ever happening!  We can change the world, for better.
We all have to be careful to not fall into the temptation of remaining silent.  Recently, I went to two parties in which I was bombarded by questions.  I was more than happy to answer everyone's questions.  But at both parties, some people were actually trying to tell others to stop asking me questions, to leave me alone, to let me relax and enjoy the party.  No!  No!  No!  I was more than happy to be asked and more than happy to answer.  This is what we should all be doing! 

Allow people to ask you questions so that you can give them Christ’s answers!  Invite dialogue. Invite questions. Invite people to Church.
When was the last time you invited someone to Church?  When was the last time you told someone you would pray for them?  I know this isn't easy to do.  It doesn't make us feel any better, but it will make them better:  “The disciples reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
It’s so easy to do the opposite of “love one another.”  In fact, it’s very easy to reject someone, to cast them aside and to throw them out of your life!  “Get out of my life.”  “I don’t want to see you."  "I don't want anything to do with you.”  “Leave me alone.”
I’ve been reflecting more and more on the Boston Massacre, and how the oldest terrorist brother became radicalized.  I mentioned before how he was thrown out of his mosque when he publicly denounced the Imam for mentioning Martin Luther King, Jr.  At first, I thought it was a good thing.  But now I wonder.  I know it was the easiest thing to do, and even the safest thing to do (especially if some Muslims are trying to create a better image for themselves in the United States).  But was it the best thing to do?  I don’t think so. 
As Christians, we can never dismiss those who need us the most?  Are not the “hardened” of people the people we must reach out to the most?  Pope Francis recently wrote:  “If your heart is made of stone, then these stones will appear in your hand and be thrown at someone.” 
When Judas had left them.  The Lord never threw Judas out.  He never asked him to leave.  It was Judas who left the Lord.  What I find remarkable about Jesus, and this particular account, is that the Lord never tried stopping him.  He wasn’t begging Judas to stay.  Instead, He treated him like any other, an equal: free to choose, independent and capable of making his own decisions.  The Lord didn’t try to cuddle him or turn him into “the disciple most loved.”  On the contrary, He treated him like the rest.  Love is free and Judas was his own man.  His actions would be his own and solely owned by him.
Love teaches great lessons and the Lord taught His disciples one great lesson:  You can leave me, betray me, insult me, humiliate me, beat me, crucify me and kill me, but you will never change me.   
In these times of trial, tribulation and terrorism, I think the Lord is teaching America a valuable lesson:  You can hate us, but you will never change us.
Difficult times offer us the best opportunity to give and live a new commandment. 

Love one another, and see the glory of God.

Friday, April 26, 2013

John 14:1-6 I Know The Way

Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me…I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
Do not let your hearts be troubled.  That’s easier said than done.  After all, look at our world!  It’s going to hell!  We’re terrified to go out at night.  We’re scared to be alone.  We’re frightened to go to sporting events, movie theatres, the Mall, etc…  How can we not let our hearts be troubled?
Today, as I was approaching one High School classroom, my foot accidently hit the door.   It made a loud noise. I could see, from the outside, the teens jump up in fear.  The look on their faces spelled TERROR!
“How many ways are there to heaven?”  I asked the kids.  No answer.  To get them to respond, I told them that a journalist, not too long ago, asked Pope Benedict XVI that very same question.  I asked them, “What do you think he said?”    Somehow or another, I knew that would get them to participate.
One student immediately said, “Only one way.”  I was so happy to hear that.  It supported my theory that teens can be very judgmental, even though they think they are not.
I then looked at a student I know that thinks they know everything and is very critical of the Church’s teachings.    I asked the student what they thought.  “Yes, I’m sure that’s what the Pope said.”   
“Actually,” I said, “the Pope said something entirely different.  When asked ‘How many ways are there to heaven?’ the Pope responded:  ‘As many as there are people.’” 
The student was shocked.  Yes, truth is shocking, especially to those who know very little of it.
The Lord never told his disciples to be nice.  He told them to be honest.  And to be honest, means to be nice.
Too often I get stuff stuck between my teeth after a meal.  I don’t always know it.  I definitely didn’t know it on one particularly embarrassing occasion.  While I was in conversation with a group of former students, one student came up to me, bent down to my ear and whispered in my ear.  He told me that I had some green stuff stuck between my teeth.  I was very upset; not at him, but at the others who didn’t bother to say a word!  So in front of everyone, I asked them why they didn’t say anything.  They told me that they didn’t want to be mean. 
How nice!
The Lord never told his disciples to be liked; He told them to be very loving.  By now, we should all know the difference. 
There are many ways to get to heaven, as many as there are people.  There are many ways to live life as well, but not all lead to happiness.  Some actually lead to despair, anger and resentment.  Some lead to a dead end. 
If you want to climb to the top of Mount Everest, then it would a good idea to take a guide along with you; that is, someone who knows the way.  Christ knows the way.  I AM the Way. 
If you wish to live your life with more than just niceness and kindness, then it would be a good idea to model your life after someone who lived their life authentically.  Christ is the Truth.  I AM the Truth. 
If you wish to live your life to the fullest - not necessarily the longest – but a life full of love, unconditional love, then follow Jesus.  I AM the Life.
Do you know the way?  There are many roads to heaven, some harder than others.  But there is only one sure guide: the one who has been there before:  Jesus Christ.  Allow Him to be your guide.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mk 16:15-20 In A State Of Denial

Feast of St. Mark, the Evangelist
(Click here for readings)
Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:  “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
You may not believe me, but it’s hard to preach that which is self-evident, especially when your audience is in denial. 
America is a state in denial.  Our media is in a state of denial.  Our self-proclaimed “tolerant” people are in a state of denial.  They just can’t seem to place their finger on who’s (actually, “what’s”) to blame for the latest terrorist attack.  Of course we all know who committed this atrocity.  But what everyone is reluctant in saying or admitting or suggesting is what’s to blame for it.
We are in a state of denial!  Can anyone blame us?  No!  We face a scary reality.
There are so many people in our nation that would like to believe (or play “make believe”) that religion doesn’t really matter anymore and that all religions are the same.
We would prefer to believe that 9-11, the most horrific terrorist attack EVER, was an American conspiracy.  Yes!  It’s true.  There are a lot of people who would prefer to believe that some nation, even our own nation, was behind it.  They would prefer to believe in this than in the alternative: a group of unprofessional, yet highly religious Muslims. 
We would prefer to believe that these individuals were attacking our democracy and targeting our most important institutions (Twin Towers, Pentagon and the Capitol building), and not our support for Israel and religious freedom.
We would prefer to believe that a government or nation was behind the attacks, not clerics.  You see, a nation is contained to a specific geographical region, and we can put our hands around it.  But clerics?  They’re all over the world!  How do you stop them?
We would prefer to believe that all these terrorist attacks were orchestrated by a small group of individuals who died in their attacks.  Good riddance!  But the reality is quite different:  their legacy lives on; their story is being retold and repeated to this day.  More recruits are coming in… and by the thousands, and they are fighting all over the world and gaining experience.
We would prefer to think that we can kill or apprehend every single terrorist before they strike.  But it seems like sometimes we get there just a little too late, even with the latest technology.
We would prefer to believe that we will not be held hostage by terrorists.  Boston Brave!  But the people of Boston were held hostage for hours, nearly an entire day!  It wasn’t the wrong thing to do, but it was exactly what they (the terrorists) had hoped to do.
We want to believe that people in the Middle East are rejecting radical Islam and embracing something else.  But the truth is:  they are electing Islamists.  We have more countries in the Middle East that have embraced Sharia Law as their law.  In Pakistan, non-Muslims are routinely persecuted and put to death under their recent blasphemy law.   In Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, women are stoned to death.  In Saudi Arabia, criminals are beheaded.  In Iran, a Christian pastor was sentenced to death.  The head of the Iranian nation, elected by the people, continues to deny the Holocaust.  In Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood and the ultra-religious Salafists won, far and square, the Arab Spring elections. 
We would love to believe the war on terror, religious freedom and intolerance is over.  We would love to believe that our leaders are on the right track.
Maybe Christ was on to something when he told his disciples:  “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  Maybe he foresaw what would happen if we didn’t.
We have a message that needs to be told.  We have a message that is worth sharing.  Maybe they could use our help today.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jn 12:44-50 Believe In Me

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me…I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness.  And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.”
Darkness.  Has darkness fallen upon your life?  Are your days filled with anguish, despair and anger?  Has sin overcome your life?  Are you a slave to your passions and emotions?  Regardless of how bright the day is, is your mind filled with dark thoughts?  Regardless of how joyful and full of life everyone is around you, is your heart filled with sadness?
Have you given up?    
Whoever believes in me believes not only in me but also in the one who sent me.   There’s been a marked increase in the number of people who suffer from severe depression and disorders.  Is this an illness that has always been with us and only recently understood and diagnosed?  Or is it something our dysfunctional society and inhumane ideologies create in us?  I think it’s both.
We humans need to know why we exist.  We need to know why our life matters.  We also need to know that life itself (our life) has just as much of a purpose as our body parts.  We need to know that we can make a world of difference.  If not, then the world, with all its weight, will crush us.
It’s clear the “Universe” generated thinking, rational human beings with needs that go way beyond the evolutionary needs of hunting and gathering.  It’s clear the “Universe” generated thinking, rational human beings with subjective emotions and an urge for striving.  Why?  For what?   Philosophically?  To discover; to discover the world around us.  Theologically?  To know, serve and love the one True God. 
Obviously, the “Universe” “thought” it was important for us to do so.  After all, no other creature shares this need.  Is it a defect?  Is it the result of some blind disorder?  Is it a weakness?  Or is it a weakness that is turned into a great strength (virtue)?      
Well, the “Universe” must have thought it was important, just as important as creating food and water and a billion other things necessary for life and its maintainability.  Our profound desire to know who we are, why we are here and what we are supposed to do here is not some trivial matter.  It keeps us sane.  It is necessary for our survival (and I don’t mean it as a gentle means to absorb a crushing end.  I mean it as a means to an ultimate end).
Lightness.  Technically speaking science offers us theories, not “laws,” for to prove a thing would require proving a universal negative (that the hypothesis does not fail under any circumstance).  And, as they say, to prove a universal negative requires universal knowledge.  So science offers us theories, all sorts of theories, but we know that some theories stand up much better to testing than others. 
Philosophers and political scientists offer us theories as well, and some theories are better than others.  For centuries we have seen various forms of government.  We have come to believe that “democracy” is the best form of government.  We live by it and even die defending it.
Jesus Christ offers us His theories as well.  He speaks of forgiveness and of loving one’s enemies.  He speaks of God as our Father, and God being Love.  He speaks of marriage as an in dissolvable union between a man and a woman.  He considers life, all life, as sacred.  He offers us a philosophy where humility reigns:  “the first shall be last and the last shall be first; to be great means to be the least; to give is better than to receive, etc…”  Jesus offers us not only His philosophy but also a way to life.  He even offers us His Father.  He calls himself the Light of the world. 
Is this true?  Is He the best? 
Well, like political and scientific theories, let’s give Him a try.  Like science, let’s put Him to the test and let’s observe what we get.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

John 10:22-30 Keeping Us In Suspense?

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter.

The Jews gathered around Jesus and said to him, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.”

I just finished writing a reply to an anonymous writer who continues to naively believe that if someone says “I am a Christian”, then they must be a “Christian"; or if they say "I am a good Christian", then they can't be a "bad Christian", regardless of whether or not they are an atheist at heart (wolf in sheep’s clothing), have left the faith long ago or are following the teachings of Jesus Christ.  This is an obscene and cunning manner for people of not-so-good-will to accuse Christianity of being homophobic, witch hunters, ghost riders and/or crusaders and inquisitors. 

What the na├»ve “anonymous” writer fails to mention in their diatribe is the founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ and what He said and did, and how Christians should be measured according to His standard, no one else.

Jesus answered them, “I told you and you do not believe.  The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.”  You see, “works,” not “words” is the most convincing way to give testimony to God the Father. 

Now don’t get me wrong, words are still important, but when God’s works correspond to His Word, it is a sight for very sore eyes and ears.

This morning I asked the children at Mass what Christ expected them to be when they grow up.  They said, almost unanimously, a “saint.”  I was proud of them.  But when I asked them what it meant to be a saint, they didn’t have an idea.  I had to remind them:  “To be a saint means to be another Christ.” 

Christ is our anchor to the word “saint.”  Hence, I know what it means to be a good Christian and a bad Christian.  But what exactly does it mean to be a good Muslim or a bad Muslim?  There appears to be some confusion in the Middle East regarding this.  What exactly does it mean to be a "good atheist" and a "bad atheist?"  Is a "good atheist" someone who does not allow any God, including Jesus Christ, to influence their heart and mind? Is a "bad atheist" someone who does, even a little?  Who will tell me?  Better yet, who has the authority to tell me and where does that authority come from?

Now the anchor is a very early Christian symbol that has been found in Roman catacombs.  It symbolizes Christian hope in Christ.  The anchor unites the cross with various nautical Christian symbols (for example, fish and boat).  In fact, the anchor is the symbol of St. Clement of Rome, who tradition says was martyred by being sent to death by boat, tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

But more importantly, the anchor is a symbol of Christianity for another reason:  its functionality.  For what exactly does an anchor do but keep us from going adrift? 

Christ is our anchor!  In everything!  He is the anchor to our life and in our death.  He is the anchor at the bottom of every life affecting word:  good, bad, evil, holy, saint, martyr, love.  

Without Him, without Him as our anchor, our life and the meaning of these words are set free…to drift forever.

Without the Lord, words like “saint” and “martyr” can easily take on foreign and twisted meanings, as we can see from history.  And institutions like “marriage” and facts such as “the beginning of life” can take on selfish or utilitarian meanings.

For example, in order to legitimize abortion, our legal system changed the definition of when life begins.  Instead of at conception, it defined fifty years ago that life began once the fetus was free from the womb.  This definition was found useful by social engineers such as Planned Parenthood and radical politicians.  But now that Dr. Gosnell is on trial for murdering children born alive, there is a new push to “redefine” life as “that which is intended by mother and doctor.” Ah Hah! 
This isn’t done in the name of science or in the name of love.  It’s all done in the name of horrific greed and sin.  Oh, what we will do to get what we want!

The Lord wasn’t keeping anyone in suspense.  He shined light on everything and everyone.  It was the anonymous who kept Him in suspense, as they prepared His Cross.

Monday, April 22, 2013

John 10:11-18 Sheep like Shepherds

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said:  “I am the good shepherd.  A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
For those who ride horses, it must be annoying to see a horse, once fully washed, roll in the dirt!  Sometimes you wonder if a horse can really appreciate all the love it receives.
I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ book, “The Problem of Pain.”  In it, he writes: 
“If God is love, He is, by definition, something more than mere kindness.  And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt.  He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.”
He then goes on to say that our unique relationship with God “can be apprehended only by analogies.”   No wonder the Lord uses the analogy of a shepherd with his sheep.  While it is an example we can all observe and relate to, and is somewhat familiar to us; it is, at the same time, difficult to comprehend and a bit shocking, at least for the sheep.
A good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.  Because of our nature, we can express love in various ways.  One way, universally understood by all, is through our actions.  We all know that the more you love someone, the more you sacrifice for them.
Hence, it’s not hard to understand why a husband (or wife) would sacrifice their life for their spouse; they are confident the other would do the same.  It's not hard to understand why a father (or mother) would sacrifice their life for their child.  They know that one day their child will grow to understand and appreciate it.  Now I would submit to you that it isn’t hard to understand why someone would sacrifice their life for someone they don’t even know (or love).  We know, and are convinced by history, that that kind of love is met with great fanfare.
But to sacrifice one’s life for an animal?  Especially an animal that can hardly comprehend what its master thinks or does?  That’s hard to grasp, not only for ourselves but for the animal as well!  But here, I think, is where we now begin to penetrate the heart and mind of God’s love for us.   
In today’s first reading, the Lord tells Peter to evangelize the pagans.  This type of love is hard for the Jews to understand.  After all, they are God’s chosen people.  But God’s love, it turns out, reaches out and goes beyond any chosen ones. 

His love, in fact, even reaches out to us! 
This morning I celebrated Mass at a local Catholic High School.  Prior to the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I asked the kids if they had any prayer intentions.  No one spoke up.  Not a single student.   I told them they just proved to me the point I made in my homily; that is, “God’s love is superior to ours.” 

I questioned them:  “Are you going to tell me that no one here could think of anyone who might need our prayers?  Did any of you remember the victims of West, Texas?  Did anyone think of the Boston bombing victims?  Did any of you think of praying for the terrorists?  You see, unlike God, we have a tendency to remain in our own little world.  Now maybe some of you are thinking about what you have next, or some big exam that is coming up, but try to think of your next door neighbor and what they may be going through.” 
God’s love for us is so undeserving.  Like that of a shepherd, He has entered into a relationship (marriage?) that belittles Him and is unworthy of Him.  Let's face it:  His love outweighs and outperforms our love for Him.  God’s love for us goes beyond our comprehension, period.  And as sheep can never love like the shepherd, or even sacrifice like the shepherd, so mankind can never reach the depths or the heights of the Good Shepherd’s love.  We try, but hesitate.  We buckle and collapse under peer pressure or under our very own doubts and weaknesses.  
God loves the sinner.  He loves the atheist.  He loves those who do not acknowledge Him or even love Him.  He suffered and died for all of us, even while we looked down and went about grazing in His fields.
Although God’s love goes beyond our abilities and comprehension, some sheep are trying harder than others to be more like their shepherd.  It’s impossible, but it’s worth trying.  It makes a lot of difference.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

John 10:27-30 Getting The Best Out Of Us

Fourth Sunday of Easter
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said:  “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.  No one can take them out of my hand.”
So…who do you listen to?  God?  Your friends?  Your boyfriend or girlfriend?  
Who do you follow?  What are you going after?  Money?  Power?   Fame?  
It’s wise that we ask these questions once in a while.  I think it helps put things in perspective.
I just read that Tamerlan, the oldest brother of the terrorist Tsarnaev brothers, was married.  It’s been reported that his wife, Katherine, converted to Islam.  If this is true, then I wonder what she brought to the relationship.  Was it her great looks?  Was it her intelligence?  Was it her smile and personality?  Whatever it was, it obviously wasn’t her Christian faith.  How sad.  How very sad for her, her husband and their 3-year-old child, for imagine if she had converted him to Christianity.  Wow!  What different lives they would be living today.  What different lives the victims in Boston would be living today!  How different this past week would be!  How different America would be.  How different world history would be.
Unfortunately it didn’t go that way.  Instead, it went the wrong way.  A great opportunity was lost and it all went terribly wrong. 
Of course we cannot blame Katherine for what happened, unless she secretly knew what was going on in her husband’s heart and mind.  But I don’t think I’m a dreamer when I say that if she had been much stronger in her faith than he was, then maybe, just maybe, Tamerlan’s heart and mind would have changed, and changed for the better.  For it’s amazing what a convinced Christian can do.  It’s amazing what they can teach others:  “Love those who hate you Tamerlan.  Do good to those who insult you.  Forgive them seven times seventy-seven times.”  
I’m convinced it would have changed things for the better. 

We Christians often think about what they can do to help victims, and rightly so.  Unfortunately, what we don't think enough about is what we can do to prevent them.  
Recently, the Richard’s family came out with a beautiful, meaningful and prayerful statement to reporters that utterly amazed me and (I think) the nation.  Mind you, this statement was written after the death and capture of the two Boston terrorists, the devastating loss of their 8-year-old son, Martin Richard, and the serious injuries inflicted on his mother and sister. It read as follows:
“Our family wishes to salute the thousands of officers and agents from Boston, Cambridge and Watertown Police & Fire Departments, Massachusetts State Police, FBI, ATF and other police departments and agencies who worked and collaborated around the clock to bring the perpetrators of Monday’s attack to justice.  …It worked, and tonight, our community is once again safe from these two men.  None of this will bring our beloved Martin back, or reverse the injuries these men inflicted on our family and nearly two hundred others.  We continue to pray for healing and for comfort on the long road that lies ahead for every victim and their loved ones.”
Wow!  How uplifting!
At the finish line of the Boston marathon and scene of the horrific explosion, there is a make-shift memorial to the victims of the bombing.  Thousands of strangers have left flowers and prayers in support of people they never knew.   What a fitting tribute and act of defiance from the people of Boston.  They will not be intimidated by violence or terrorism.
How amazing!
In Boston, people are coming together and hugging one another like never before.  Just a few days ago, at Fenway park, the crowd sang the Star Spangled Banner in a way never song before.  And let’s not forget that after the last terrorist was captured, the crowd cheered and applauded the police officers that risked their lives to bring peace to their neighborhood and city.   
How hopeful!
Some people think a lot of good can come from evil.  Some people think these terrorists actually brought Bostonians closer together.  Well, let’s hope and pray that we don’t ever need their “help” again.  We don't need their "help" at all.
Let’s live and love like we’ve never done before.  Let’s follow the example of our Lord.