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, December 3, 2013

Lk 10:21-24 A Shoot From A Stump

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
(Click here for readings)

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, "I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will..." 

I have never been a big fan of Kirsten Powers, a well known liberal contributor to USA Today and columnist for The Daily Beast and a Democratic commentator at Fox News.  Her political leanings are often contrary to mine.  Nonetheless,I have always held her in high esteem, and for obvious reasons:  she never loses her cool with hostile hosts and guests.  She is respectful of other peoples opinions.  In my humble estimation she is one very intelligent and classy journalist.

So in a certain sense, her conversion to Evangelical Christianity seven years ago did not surprise me.  What did surprise me was her attitude towards Christians prior to her conversion.  She was negative, arrogant, obnoxious and downright judgmental.  She wrote:

When I began dating a man who was into Jesus, I was not looking for God. In fact, the week before I met him, a friend had asked me if I had any deal breakers in dating. My response: "Just nobody who is religious."

A few months into our relationship, my boyfriend called to say he had something important to talk to me about. I remember exactly where I was sitting in my West Village apartment when he said, "Do you believe Jesus is your Savior?" My stomach sank. I started to panic. Oh no, was my first thought. He's crazy. 
So the deal breaker was religion, and believing in Jesus was crazy.  So much for "open-mindedness."
But something happened.  She came to realize her very own hypocrisy and ignorance.  
He said the magic words for a liberal: "Do you think you could keep an open mind about it?" Well, of course. "I'm very open-minded!" Even though I wasn't at all. I derided Christians as anti-intellectual bigots who were too weak to face the reality that there is no rhyme or reason to the world. I had found this man's church attendance an oddity to overlook, not a point in his favor.
As he talked, I grew conflicted. On the one hand, I was creeped out. On the other hand, I had enormous respect for him. He is smart, educated, and intellectually curious. I remember thinking, What if this is true, and I'm not even willing to consider it? 
When will atheists come to grips with the fact that many believers are smart, educated and intellectually curious individuals?  Apparently, this simple epiphany was all it took to unlock the double-bolted doors that sealed Kirsten's faith.  
In the end, the boyfriend broke up with her but the Lord did not.  By now, He was romantically involved with her.  His magic, His charm, His wit and life swept her off her feet. 
Like Jesse's tree (cf. Is. 11:1-10), a shoot had grown from a stump. 
At first, these new sensations frightened her.  As she rightly points out,
I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don't know what you don't know. How could I have missed something I didn't think existed?
I could not agree with her more.  Atheists have it made.  I would even dare say they have it better than believers do!  How awesome it must feel to not have to have a care in the world.  This is definitely the new opium for the masses. 
"Enjoy life now.  There is no afterlife" (Freedom From Religion Foundation).  That's right, Enjoy.  Enjoy.  Enjoy.  Do whatever you want or don't do anything at all [Warning:  Graphic Video]. There are no eternal judgments, just those deliberated by humans who wield authority and power across your face. 
You don't have to feed the poor.  You don't have to turn the other cheek.  You don't have to show mercy or compassion.  You don't have to forgive anyone or anything at all.
Wow!  What a drug.  What liberation!
And yet this sounds very creepy to me.  It is as "liberating" as refusing marriage vows and children.  Sure, I may end up having more time to enjoy myself and my whims, but it is not as rewarding as carrying the crosses that come from commitment, sacrifice, generosity and duty. 
And by the way, why in the world is "doing something rewarding" so important to me? 
Advent is all about allowing a seed of faith to fall to the ground and do it's magic:  produce a shoot from a stump like me.


  1. "a stump like me" Your blunt humility is precisely what makes a stump like me want to tell you all of my sins.

  2. Father, I like the "stump like me" analogy. Clever!

    "It is as "liberating" as refusing marriage vows and children. Sure, I may end up having more time to enjoy myself and my whims, but it is not as rewarding as carrying the crosses that come from commitment, sacrifice, generosity and duty. "

    Sorry for my ignorance and confusion. I don't want anyone to think that I'm slow to praise and quick to correct. (Thanks to an anonymous comment from yesterday that I did not appreciate.) But are you saying that those who "refuse" marriage and children don't have their own crosses to bear? Are they not generous/committed individuals, too? Why is marriage and children so much more rewarding? Are the unmarried and childless only dead stumps in the eyes of the church? I just don't understand what you mean. The comment sounds very sarcastic as if people purposely "refuse" marriage and children when circumstances in their life may have not allowed them the "benefit" of a family. First and foremost, I know a lot of people who are willing to sacrifice and commit to marriage. Just look at the thousands of never married registered on sites like Catholic Match or other online dating sites. Today it's even a bigger sacrifice and duty to find someone special who is compatible. I don't think most people want to be alone just enjoying life on a whim, especially as they get older!

    I'm sorry I've diverted off the understanding path. I just want to make sure you don't lump all unmarried and childless as part of a liberation front. Maybe this comment was focused on the atheist? Again, please do not grind down or throw an axe into the questioning stump! This includes insensitive anonymous commenters.

    Blessings & Peace,

    - Jennifer

    1. With all due respect, I think it's understood that not all unmarried people should be lumped together. It does sound as if this is a sensitive topic for you, but goodness, if every meditation author had to be concerned about including caveats for every audience that could be possibly be offended, meditations or essays could be quite lengthy! Maybe we can just view it as a piece that's meant to be thought-provoking about the general state of our culture.

      Priests are among those who are most concerned and compassionate toward those who are marginalized and hurting, including singles/never marrieds. I think they know...

    2. I may be wrong, but I read it as Fr's own choice to become a priest and not get married and have children, not necessarily directed at others who are not married.

      Of course, if you believe St Paul, it is better not to be married.

  3. Thank you for your candor, Anonymous. I appreciate your reply. I know Father doesn't have to be concerned about all caveats or write tomes to appease everyone. I think basic respect is always warranted though.

    I prefer Father Alfonse actually answer my questions unless he is suffering from a case of pansism . (Just allow the Anonymous comments do a little skinning alive. I'm too busy serving the married with children!) Yes, I know I'm being sarcastic, too, which doesn't help soothe my discomfort. I like thought-provoking mediations about the general state of our culture minus some of the bias and sarcasm that every now and then flows through his posts.

    If a priest is truly concerned and compassionate, understanding the hurting and marginalization of the singles/never marrieds, why on earth write a sarcastic comment suggesting something wrong with people who appear to be "refusing" marriage/children as if they are some worthless liberal atheist??! Uh... Father Alfonse could have re-phrased his words a lot less harsh. Creepy and liberating? Unmarried and childless only enjoy themselves and their whims? Please! Just awful and one of the worst paragraphs I've ever read. I love this blog so much. Only on rare occasions does a Father Alfonse meditation rub me wrong way.

    My sincere apologies for offending Father or anyone. I've experienced trouble sleeping lately which is making me a more irritable than usual. I'm sure my dislike for this day's meditation will subside.



    1. Yesterday there was a response to your comment suggesting that you be given the benefit of the doubt, which you probably appreciated. Why not give Father the benefit of the doubt in this case?

      I do not notice sarcasm, just a perspective. It is difficult to interpret a person's intention behind words, especially written words. In a conversation, it's easier, but we don't have that luxury.

      We should all be able to think of a time when something we said or wrote was misinterpreted by another. Your perception of sarcasm may not be accurate.

      Others of us have asked questions directly of Father and not gotten responses, but it's likely because there are not enough hours in the day. It may not be possible to do so.

    2. You must be very special to Fr. Why else would he post your meditation on his own very popular blog. It makes no since that you would feel like he is lumping you into this group or anyone else that loves The Lord as much as you do.

  4. And let's not forget, they too have rejected marriage.

    But rejecting something may be for various reasons: for a higher good or because it is considered a bad thing. I think that is why Fr. added the video from Argentina. The violent reaction of these atheists towards believers is disgusting and repulsive.

    1. The video from Argentina was disturbing. Chilling.

    2. I'm sure for every video like the ones Fr posted, you can find similar videos of atrocities committed in the name of religion.

    3. By all means, show us one where faithful Catholics are undressing and spitting at others. Go ahead. When you say "religion" you are avoiding the obvious, and you know it.

      Or better yet, show us a video where atheists or Pro-Choice advocates are getting spit at by Catholics. Good LUCK!!!

      The devil and God is in the detail, remember?

    4. "Sorry, no actual video. But I'm sure you'll get the idea."

      Yep. We got the idea all right, anonymous. You have no video and if you did produce any video, then it would represent unfaithful Catholics.

      You apparently understand your dilemma. Theatrical productions are useless. Ideas are not the same as video.

  5. I usually do not bother to comment, but cannot resist. Wow, Wow, and Wow. The comments on this are hilarious, scarey, but hilarious. I honestly have laughed out loud rereading over and over these comments the last 20 minutes. I even looked up pansism on google and surprisingly got a hit for a Nov.22 meditation. So pansism means being a pansy...interesting. Well, taking all the emotion out of this, I take this meditatiion for face value. When we don't take things for face value, we read sooooooo much between the lines and usually our assumptions are soooooo wrong. I will be a pansy and sign as anonymous.

  6. "When will atheists come to grips with the fact that many believers are smart, educated and intellectually curious individuals? "

    Probably about the same time christians realize that atheism has nothing to do with communism, nazism, satanism, etc. and that atheists are not immoral hedonists who only live their lives for themselves.

    There are also many smart, educated and intellectually curious individuals who believe in aliens, healing crystals, pyramid power, homeopathy, astrology, etc. It doesn't mean they are right.

    "Atheists have it made. I would even dare say they have it better than believers do! How awesome it must feel to not have to have a care in the world...You don't have to feed the poor. You don't have to turn the other cheek. You don't have to show mercy or compassion. You don't have to forgive anyone or anything at all."

    But many still do.

    1. "Atheism has nothing to do with Communism?" Are you serious???

      "There are also many smart, educated and intellectually curious individuals who believe in aliens, healing crystals, pyramid power, homeopathy, astrology, etc. It doesn't mean they are right."

      So being an atheist has nothing to do with being smart, correct? It's all based on faith, right?

    2. Apparently, anonymous has never read a work by Karl Marx. He so eloquently blames religion for sustaining Capitalism and appeasing the masses with the promise of eternal happiness.

      Silly Anonymous: This is not a high school. Serious thought (and scholarship) should go into your comments.

      So what is the relationship between communism and atheism? Answer: Atheists. For atheists developed the economic theories behind communism. They perpetuated it, sustained it and enforced it upon millions of people throughout the world.

      You know the names. If you don't, you should look them up.

    3. "...atheists developed the economic theories behind communism. They perpetuated it,.."

      So is an atheist required to be a communist? Are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet communists?

    4. "So is an atheist required to be a communist?" Of course not. In fact, they are not required to be ANYTHING! That's the problem. I love going around and around in a circle with you. You simply don't get the point. That's the point! Sorry, but it's true!

      But to make things clear: a communist is required to be an atheist. And all of its leaders were. Are you not aware of this? You sound like you aren't.

      Are you not aware that all the leaders of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia were (are) Communists and atheists?

      You asked a simple question: What is the relationship between Communism and atheism. I answered it. Are you denying this link? Or do you think of it as a missing link? The question you must answer is why were all the thinkers of communism professed atheists?

      Not all atheists are communists. Not all Catholics are practicing Catholics. But why are all communists supposed to be atheists? And why are all Catholics supposed to be peaceful?

      By mentioning Catholic youth in Ireland throwing bottles at Protestants is a useless consideration, given the simple fact that they are not practicing their faith. Don't you see that? Don't you know it was condemned by Catholic authorities in Ireland?

      I have yet to hear you condemn the atrocities that were committed by atheists. Instead, I continue to get deflections from you.

    5. "a communist is required to be an atheist. And all of its leaders were."

      IF this were true, all communists are atheists, but all atheists are not communists. Sounds like the problem lies with communism then, not with atheism. Your statement is roughly equivalent of comparing christians and KKK members.

      The Communist PARTY may have required its leaders to be atheists, but this does not mean that communism itself is directly atheistic. Communism is a social/political framework. It cares nothing about religion. Same with socialism. Same with capitalism. Which system do you think Jesus would have preached, telling people to sell all their worldly possessions and feed the poor?

      Interestingly enough, there are several stories out now about Nelson Mandela being a member of the South American Communist Party. In one of your posts, you called him a christian. In one of the stories, he was quoted as saying he "never gave up his christianity." How could this be?

    6. "Sounds like the problem lies with communism then, not with atheism. Your statement is roughly equivalent of comparing christians and KKK members."

      No, it sounds like you're making an excuse. The problem with Communism is with those who came up with it. All of them were atheists. Why is that? That's a question you refuse to answer.

      Likewise, the problem with the KKK is with those who came up with it: BAD CHRISTIANS or Unfaithful Christians or maybe Non-practicing Christians. "Love one another as I have loved you???"

      Now since atheists apparently cannot agree on anything (except that there is no God), then to each his own when it comes to right and wrong, and in the most radical of ways, correct?

      "Communism is a social/political framework. It cares nothing about religion."

      Really? Have you ever read the works of Marx? Do you even know what he says about religion? For you to say something like this is mind boggling.

      "...there are several stories out now about Nelson Mandela being a member of the South American Communist Party"

      As for Nelson Mandela being a member of the "SOUTH AMERICAN communist party." That's funny! Are you sure about that? :) I think you are gravely mistaken.

      Well, let me tell you the facts. He never joined the Communist Party in South Africa. You know why? He stated later on in his life that "he did not join the Party because its atheism conflicted with his Christian faith."
      [pg 48-49, Smith, David James (2010). Young Mandela. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.] ISBN 978-0297855248.

      Hmmmm.. Interesting.

      HAPPY NEW YEAR, anonymous.

    7. "The problem with Communism is with those who came up with it. All of them were atheists."

      (And they all had beards!!!)

      "Why is that? That's a question you refuse to answer."

      Why was there a large anti-semitic component to lutheranism? Why did the catholic church burn witches and go on the crusades? Why is the KKK made up of christians? Was it the underlying beliefs? I don't know why some atheists came up with communism, but the problem isn't atheism, it was a group of individuals who instituted a totalitarian regime. Any time you get totalitarianism, bad things are bound to happen. Atheism did not cause those people to do those things.

      "the problem with the KKK is with those who came up with it: BAD CHRISTIANS"

      Know what you call a KKK member who believes in god, Jesus and the Bible? A christian. Do you similarly dismiss members of your parish (adulterers, divorcees, those on birth control, etc)? I bet if you only counted those who completely followed catholic doctrine, your parish would be pretty small. Is there a level of acceptable sin before one goes from good christian to bad?

      "Now since atheists apparently cannot agree on anything (except that there is no God)..."

      WHAT?!?! Are you finally acknowledging that the ONLY thing that defines an atheist is a lack of belief in god? Amazing!

      So you take all those KKK members, many of the chapters had pastors in their ranks and used the bible to justify their actions, and simply dismiss them by saying "oh, they aren't really christians," but then you take the work of a few people and say "look at what atheism as a whole has done." Cognitive dissonance perhaps?

      "Are you sure about that? ...Well, let me tell you the facts."

      You mean facts like these?

      "Although Mandela himself denied ever being a member of the SACP, historical research published in 2011 strongly suggested that he might have been for a short period, starting from the late 1950s or early 1960s. This was confirmed after his death by the SACP and the ANC. According to the SACP, he was not only a member of the party, but also served on the party's Central Committee, when he was arrested in 1962 and this was denied for political reasons."

      Ellis, Stephen (2011). "The Genesis of the ANC's Armed Struggle in South Africa 1948–1961". Journal of Southern African Studies 37 (4): 657–676. doi:10.1080/03057070.2011.592659.

      "At his arrest in August 1962, Nelson Mandela was not only a member of the then underground South African Communist Party, but was also a member of our Party’s Central Committee. To us as South African communists, Cde Mandela shall forever symbolise the monumental contribution of the SACP in our liberation struggle. The contribution of communists in the struggle to achieve the South African freedom has very few parallels in the history of our country. After his release from prison in 1990, Cde Madiba became a great and close friend of the communists till his last days."

    8. "(And they all had beards!!!)"

      Is this a cut and paste answer? The reason why beards had nothing to do with Communists or Communism is because it is not a requirement of a Communist. No where in their writings are beards considered an essential element for being a communist. But being an atheist is and they carefully explain why. This shows you have not studied their writings, philosophy or history in full or in detail.

      "oh, they aren't really Christians,"

      Whose quote is this? Is that mine? No. I didn't say they weren't Christians. I said they were bad Christians or non-practicing Christians. So why do you lie with a quote that does not belong to me?

      "Although Mandela himself denied ever being a member of the SACP..."

      That's good enough for me. The rest of the quote means nothing else. Mandela was the head of his country. He could have easily said he was once a member but he didn't.

      THEN to explain who Mandela was by quoting from the South African Communist Party's website is truly a poor choice. Do you not see the politics and propaganda in their statement? Imagine if I chose the North Korean Communist Party's website to better understand Kim Jong-Un. Of course it will be biased. Of course it will be all propaganda. Of course it will be full of inaccuracies and blatant lies.

      Bad choice.

      So are you claiming that Mandela a member of the SOUTH AMERICAN communist party as well? The fact that you cannot even admit your own blatant mistakes says a lot.

  7. "But many still do"

    And many still don't.

    And you still missed the point: They don't have to.

    1. Yes, maybe many don't. Many christians "have to" but don't as well. Who is the better person, the atheist who does even though they don't have to or the christian who has to, but doesn't?

      Is it better to do a charitable act because it is commanded or because it comes from within?

    2. You still missed the point: They don't have to.

      Arguing that some Christians do not do what they vowed to do simply illustrates a broken promise. There is no promise that must be made by an atheist.

      "Is it better to do a charitable act because it is commanded or because it comes from within?"

      Awww. So sweet. From if what comes from within never came from the outside. Understand? The vast majority of human behavior is acquired. It doesn't "spontaneously" happen, like spontaneous generation.

      Also, I would say to you that it is better to do a charitable act when it doesn't come from within. Otherwise, I will end up doing only what I "feel" like doing, rather than what I am bound to do. Imagine children doing or eating what they feel like doing, rather than what their parents tell them they should do. Or better yet, imagine our nation if we did what we felt like doing rather than what the Law demanded that we do.

      It's not such a foreign concept, anonymous. Apparently, you must have had a lapse of memory.

      Soldiers who have done brave things will often comment: "I just did my duty." Rarely ever have I heard them say that it came from "within."

  8. Thank you, Fr. Alfonse, for sharing the story of Kirsten Powers' conversion. What a pleasant surprise! It's one that certainly resonates with me given our similar professional and personal backgrounds (I was never an Atheist even though my mother and her side of the family were).

    While dating my husband, who at the time was a lukewarm Catholic, he'd bring up periodically the "c-word" (conversion) which I rejected repeatedly saying that until he actually practiced his faith and new something about it, I wouldn't give it a thought; the relationship would then be put on "hold." I grew up in a waspy-anti Catholic home, and to become Catholic would be very much frowned upon, in fact, my parents were less concerned about my marrying a Jordanian Muslim than their disapproval of marriage into a Catholic family.

    Like the good girlfriend, I would tagalong to Mass on the weekends, but on this one Sunday in particular, I remember my then boyfriend/husband giving it one last ditch effort to get me "to consider" joining the Church, and my firm response being that I would never ever convert for the sake of someone else. I truly believed, even to this day, conversion would only occur if it were my heart's desire. In looking back, I often wondered if at that moment God said, "well, then, let's get to work" for my life was dumped upside down from around that time going forward. For the next two years, through various personal and professional challenges, God began to chip away at my pride, selfishness and narcissim to make room for the seeds of faith to take root. Rather than His "charm," "magic" and "wit," I was attracted to God's great compassion, infinite love and mercy for me, a confused, and somewhat reluctant soul. I was eventually baptized into the Catholic Church, and give thanks to God every day for pursuing me, one of His very lost sheep, and for giving me the gift of faith.

    1. Dear Anonymous - Thank you for sharing your beautiful conversion story. May God bless you during this season of Advent and beyond.



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