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!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mark 4:21-25 Staying Relevant and Alive

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed…?  …The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.  To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
We are to give what is expected of us and not hide what has been given to us.
We are to give what is expected of us.  Too many Christians voluntarily place their light underneath a bushel basket, for they consider themselves “unworthy” to share the light with others.  But whose light is it?  Is it theirs or is it Christ’s?  Is it Christ who wishes that share His light with others or is it you who wish to share your light with others?  This might be a tough question considering the immense popularity of Facebook and Instagram. 
If we understand that our light is simply Christ’s light, then why do we hide it?  Why do play into our pride, and allow others to play with it as well?  “Look at yourself!  How can you call yourself a Christian?”    Easily, by the Sacraments!
Have we forgotten that the Church exists for sinners?  This fact baffles the small minds of those who secretly hate us and would love to label us to blow out our light.  Well, we should know better.  And we should not let anyone tickle and awaken our pride, for from our sense of unworthiness comes our sense of sacredness. 
If I can’t be a good Catholic then at least I can be a bad one, and even a bad Catholic has received grace upon grace, a great deal more than any non-believer.
Being unworthy is not a club but a clue.  It is a hint towards understanding the compassion of mercy of Jesus Christ.  In examining the lives of the Saints, one does not find great talent but great humility.         
Far too many Christians are trapped in a thick mixture of sin and pride.  And it is silencing their voices and choking their lives.  They could easily break free from it with grace and humility. 
Do not hide what has been given to you.   What do we all carry with us?  Experiences:  good and bad.  And these experiences should not to be hidden but revealed. 
It takes a lot of courage for women to march with signs revealing their souls and saying, “I regret my abortion.”  What has been revealed?  Overwhelming Sin and amazing grace!  The revelation has been made known and complete.  A conversion has taken place.  Humility has overpowered pride.  The old has been replaced with the new.  The Lord’s light has been removed from underneath a bed.      
How can you call yourself a Catholic?  Easily, by the Sacraments.  When Douglas Hyde (1911-1996), one of the leading communists from England, converted to Catholicism, he sent shock waves throughout the communist world.  After he confessed his sins and the trail of misery he had left in his path, he asked Father Devas if such a man could become a Catholic.  Father Devas replied that the Church existed for sinners, a reply that astounded and confounded Hyde because redemption had found no place in his communist vocabulary.  He writes, “With a twinkle in his eye, Fr. Devas told me that if one could not be a good Catholic one could at least be a bad one; that even the bad Catholic had a great deal the communist had not got” (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts, pg. 248).
What a lesson! 
We have no excuse to hide Christ’s light from others.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mk 4:1-20 Seeds And Paths

(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to the crowd:  “Hear this!  A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep.  And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain.  And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit.”
Seed that fell on the path.  These are the ones who “just” believe in God, and to believe in a god, any god, is no big deal, for even the devil believes in God.  The unfortunate reality of this seed is that it never had a chance to grow because it never had a chance to settle in.  The world around them was too harsh. 
Babies get baptized into the faith all the time and then… they disappear.  Young adults go to Catechism classes and get confirmed, and then… they disappear.  Why?  What happened?  The unfortunate reality of these children is that they never got a chance to grow because they never got a chance to settle in.  They were rushed in by their parents and rushed out.  They were thrown in one day and blown away the next.  Did the graces they receive ever get a chance to mature?  Not on the path of self-reliance.  Not on the path of “I know better.”  Not on the path of self-righteousness.  No!  Not even the path paved with a ton of opinions and very little study would do the trick. 
This seed was snatched as soon as it fell.   There were birds hiding and waiting.    
The birds came and ate it up.  To believe in God means to embrace the Lord in every single aspect of your life.  It means to allow Him to be the one and only one to define who you are and what you should do.  What exactly does it mean to believe in God?  It means to be another Christ.  What exactly does it mean to not believe in God?  It means to become fodder – a meal - for creatures.  This is exactly what is happening to so many of our youth today.  They are getting picked off like seed, along the path that leads to destruction.  Of course they thought they had chosen the path that would bring them success.  Instead, it turned out to be a path taken by many before them, in which they were used and sold as fodder – a means to an end - for creatures to maintain power over them.
Seed Sown on rocky ground.  These are the ones who receive the word of God with great joy, but when tribulation or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away.
Just recently I heard that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) may be reversing their long standing opposition regarding gay scout leaders.  If you recall, this organization studied the matter for nearly two years and recently concluded that it would be best for the ban to be maintained.  Now, six months later, they may be reversing their decision.  Why?  It's clear.
If these rumors are true, then the BSA's change of heart has nothing to do with additional study but with additional pressure: pressure from within and from without.  The BSA has finally been dragged into place…last place, right behind the Susan G. Komen foundation.  [Whenever an organization reverses itself in less than a week it has nothing to do with a change of heart, but with a loss of a lot of change.] 
I think many parents across the country will have a tough choice ahead of them if the BSA reverses itself.  Why?  Not so much for their reversal on gay scout leaders, but for the fact that their decision is inconsistent with their mission.  The BSA prides itself in raising boys to men.  So when did surrendering under pressure make someone a man? 
Now I also heard (from the local media) that the BSA leadership may be abdicating their role in setting policy by allowing local branches to decide for themselves.  Believe me when I tell you, like every weak leader and council, this is simply a well known strategy to shift attention and focus away from them and place the burden on others.  Let’s have no doubts about it.  In the end, the leaders betrayed their followers and all will have to fall in place, one way or another, today or tomorrow, because of them. 
The BSA, after so many hard fought legal battles and victories, may have surrendered their morals and values to public opinion and investors.  What merit badge can one earn from that? 

Well, I never did hear clear reasons for the BSA's ban, so I'm somewhat curious to hear the reasons for their reversal (if it happens).
Very few institutions have the soil it takes for seed to take root and grow.  Most are simply content with their members falling in line and following the path of saying and doing what is expected of them. Unfortunately, they only end up getting swallowed. 

But the Lord made it clear:  seed needs rich soil, and we know how soil becomes rich.  In fact, most people who consider the Church their enemy actually describe us quite accurately, which may explain our longevity. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mk 3:31-35 Standing Outside Part II

(Click here for readings)
The Mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.  Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him...  But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Who are my brothers and sisters?  Michael Garcia is a kind and simple man.  He doesn’t look for fights.  He works as a waiter in a Houston restaurant and loves what he does.  But most of all, he loves the families he has met.  One family in particular are regulars.  They have a young son, Milo, who has Down syndrome.   
Milo is five-years-old and, of course, is a little rambunctious.  When Garcia saw a patron at the restaurant making fun of the child, he remained calm.  But when he overheard the patron say:  “Special needs kids need to be special somewhere else”, that was the last straw.  Garcia politely told the person that he would not be serving him.  The individual got up and left the restaurant.
 We need to stand up and stand out!  There is much to fear if we do.  But there is even more to fear if we don’t.  The Lord has made it very clear who we are in relation to each other:  We are our brother’s keeper.”  The Lord has made it very clear who we are in relation to Him:  Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.
Recently, a young Ursuline student by the name of Kristen Beach was featured in the Texas Catholic. I know Kristen.  She is a brilliant student and a radiant young lady.  She loves school, but she loves kids even more.  But most of all, she loves kids who have special needs.   She works as a volunteer for Best Buddies, an organization that creates opportunities for children with special needs to not feel left out.  She has done fantastic work with these kids.  But I personally believe that her greatest accomplishment has been to get other students from Ursuline to put their heart, mind and soul into this amazing organization.  As a fruit of her labor, she has won the hearts of “her kids”, her classmates and her classmates to these kids.    

There are plenty of examples of teens reaching out to others and to their peers.  Here's one and here's another
Who are my brothers and sisters?  90% of children with Down syndrome are terminated in the United States of America.  Not surprisingly, there is no evidence that suggests a lower termination rate for couples who are very well off.  Only couples who are committed Christians, have much lower termination rates.  Most know well who their brothers and sisters are:  The socially awkward, the crippled, the sick, the lepers, the blind, the forgotten, the abandoned, the ridiculed, the hated, the lost.       
Who are my brothers and sisters?   It’s easy to forget the obvious.  It’s easy to dismiss the people who share your last name.
Yes, while we are all working very hard in “saving the world” and highlighting “human rights” issues in various parts of the world, let’s not forget our very own parents, brothers and sisters that are home alone.  Let’s not forget our very own, especially our younger siblings who are seeking love, compassion, understanding and an ear from us.  Let’s not forget them my dear teenagers!  Let’s not forget them my dear adults!
Although it is not recorded in Scripture, I have no doubts that once the Lord heard that his mother and brothers and sisters were outside, he immediately instructed his disciples to let them in.    
The Lord has made it clear He wants us in.  Have we made it clear we want Him in? 

Mk 3:31-35 Standing Outside

(Click here for readings)
The Mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.  Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him...  But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
When C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) converted to Christianity, he chose to become a high Anglican; that is, an Anglo-Catholic.  His good friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, a cradle Catholic, was disappointed when Lewis didn’t follow in the footsteps of other literary contemporaries into the Catholic Church.  Now Tolkien may have gone too far when he accused Lewis of being an anti-Catholic at heart.  But if one considers the fact that C.S. Lewis grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, an English Territory and a Protestant hotbed, then there may have been a good deal of ‘Ulster Protestant’ still left in him, even if it was hidden from him.
Although T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) described himself as a Catholic, and a militantly traditional one at that, he too became an Anglo-Catholic around the year 1930.  He truly believed (at that time) that traditional Catholicism could be practiced in the Church of England.  It is surprising that someone so well educated in philosophy and theology would choose to become a member of the Church of England not for religious reasons but for cultural reasons.  “The great majority of English speaking people, or at least the vast majority of persons of British descent…are outside of the Roman communion.”
Soon after he entered the Church of England, he became a British subject.  In this way, he completed the metamorphosis from Yankee to English gentleman.
The Lord’s family arrived at a house where Jesus was staying.  The crowd informed him:  “Your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.”  This statement allowed the Lord to teach an important lesson to the crowd:  “Who are my mother and brothers?   Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 
How novel!  In this one statement, the Lord knowingly opened wide the doors to Heaven by creating a universal, “Catholic”, Church.  This Church, founded by Jesus Christ, would not be attached to a national identity or a particular culture, or a particular people.  No, this Church, this Catholic Church, would be open to all, regardless of race, sex, blood relations, etc…  The only condition for admittance would be to do the Will of God.
There would be no special privileges for being a blood relative of the Lord.  Mary would not become a priest because she was entitled to become a priest, nor would his “brothers” or “sisters” lead the Church after his death.  On the contrary, Peter would become Pope and Mary would become His Mother!  In reality, Mary would become the Mother of all believers since she was the first to believe it all!
Although we are made of many parts, we are all one body.  Although we have been baptized in the faith by different people, we have all been received into the one faith.  We have all confessed our faith in the one true God; the one who revealed himself to humanity. 
Let us pray to the Lord to rid ourselves from all types of “parochialism”; that is, a narrow mindedness that excludes the Universality of the Roman Catholic Church.  The Church is not Roman because Peter was Roman.  It is Roman because Peter, the head, the 'capital', shed his blood in Rome. 
And the blood of the martyrs is seed for the Church. 
Let me end with the following story.  Wilfred Blunt (1840-1922), an English poet and writer, desperately wanted to believe in God:  “How willingly would I believe if only I could but, woe is me, I cannot”.  Hilaire Belloc (1870-1953), a brilliant Catholic writer, was intent on helping him.  After returning from a trip to Rome, he presented to his friend a crucifix that was blessed by Pope Pius XI.  “It found me”, Blunt recorded in his diary. 
Belloc assured his friend that being already a Catholic he was entitled to ask for the sacraments.  Feeling unworthy, Belloc reminded him:
“I am by all nature of mind skeptical, by all my nature of body exceedingly sensual.  So sensual that the virtues restrictive of sense are but phrases to me.  But I accept these phrases as true and act upon them as well as a struggling man can.  And as to the doubt of the soul I discover it to be false:  a mood:  not a conclusion.  My conclusion – and that of all men who have ever once seen it – is the faith.  Corporate, organized, a personality, teaching.  A thing, not a theory.  It.”  (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts, pg. 114).
All are invited to come into the Catholic Church.  No one should be standing outside...unless they want to.         

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mark 3:22-30 The Flight From Reason

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”  Summoning them, he began to speak to them in parables, “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand…And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand; that is the end of him… Amen, I say to you…whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness…
St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest and immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism (“rationalism”).  Today, the Church honors his memory, for not only did he have a brilliant mind but also a radiant faith.  St. Thomas knew how to think and how to pray, and he did much of both.  Yes, thinking and praying are essential for good living.  They are like two guard rails on either side of the road.  They help us to stay on the road while avoiding cliffs to the left and boulders to the right.   Without them, living would be a dangerous thing, as we well know from the results of our very modern yet decadent culture with a very scientific yet violent mentality.     
St. Thomas was not a mathematician, but he brought a nearly mathematical precision to his philosophy.  He did not write novels to explain his beliefs.  He wrote arguments for and against them.  He brought discipline and honesty to philosophy.  His approach to explaining God and just about everything else was highly systematic, highly rational and highly organized.  He built up his arguments with logic and revelation, one upon the other.  This philosophical approach to understanding God, man and the Universe enabled Western scientists to search with hope for universal principles.   
Although St. Thomas Aquinas lived and worked in the 13th century, his writings continue to be of great importance to those who seek God and Truth.  He has his critics, who doesn’t?  Bertrand Russell, an atheist philosopher and sex addict, wrote that Thomas Aquinas simply went about proving what he already believed in.  “It is extraordinary”, writes Anthony Kenny (Aquinas on Mind) “that that accusation should be made by Russell, who in the book ‘Principia Mathematica’ takes hundreds of pages to prove that two plus two equals four, which is something he had believed all his life before he proved it.
Arnold Lunn (1888 – 1974) was a renowned English skier, mountaineer and writer.  He was also a renowned agnostic.  And he would have been happy staying that way all his life if it weren’t for his love of God and Truth. 
Lunn’s journey began when he wrote a scathing attack on Ronald Knox’s A Spiritual Aeneid which described the latter’s conversion.  But in his attack, he was honest enough to admit that he had discovered that most of the beliefs with which Catholics were credited were not, in fact, held by Catholics.  So, what did Catholics believe in?  Well, in order to find that out, he began his research starting with St. Thomas Aquinas.
Lunn was impressed by the fairness with which St. Thomas summarized the principal arguments against his theses.  Lunn was craving for objectivity and found it with Aquinas.  He then made an important observation:  “There was a contract between the objectivity with which St. Thomas states and meets the arguments against the Faith and the evasive conspiracy of silence with which the arguments against evolution are ignored.  The contract between the confident rationalism of St. Thomas and the timid emotionalism of our modern prophets was the theme of my book ‘The Flight From Reason’.”
“This book, published in 1930, represented the fruit of Lunn’s labors into the philosophy of St Thomas and the medieval scholastics.  Its title referred to the modern mind’s ‘flight from reason’ but was also his own flight ‘to’ reason, his scrambling on to the rock of scholasticism as an escape from the quicksands of subjectivism” (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts, pg. 177).
I personally find his critique of scientific materialism even more convincing:  “If materialism be true, then our thoughts are the mere product of material processes uninfluenced by reason.  They are, therefore, determined by irrational processes, and the thoughts which lead to the conclusion that materialism is true have no basis in reason.”
The Catholic Church today challenges all her faithful (and not-so-faithful) members to pray to God that “we may understand what St. Thomas taught and imitate what he accomplished” (Collect). 
All I can say to that is:  good Luck!  Well…maybe I should say instead, “St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!”

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Luke 1:1-21 From Passage To Person

Jesus stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”  Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant…He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Someone once said to me:  “All religions are the same.”  [I’m sure you’ve heard that one before, right?] 
Well, in reply, I said to him:  “Saying this simply means you don’t know your own religion let alone any religion well.”  He said in his defense:  “Just look at the facts.  All religions worship a higher being.  Almost all of them have temples and altars.  And most have ‘priests’ or ‘priestesses’.” 
What would you say to that? 
I began to explain my position to my ‘friend’ with the following analogy:  “Imagine for a moment you were alive in 1941 and standing in front of the Nazi army and the American army.  Are you going to tell me that both armies are the same?  After all, they all wear helmets, uniforms and boots.  They all carry guns in their arms and have tanks behind their backs.  Well, on the surface they appear the same - at a very superficial level.  But in a deep (profound) way, they have very little in common.”    
There are many similarities among the major religions because there is one true God.  The Lord is in the details, whereas the ‘devil’ is in the similarities.
Now, I have to admit to you something:  I didn’t come up with this answer.  Someone else came up with it for me and long before I ever discovered it.  His name was G.K. Chesterton, and I first read this argument in his book Orthodoxy.   I am not exaggerating when I say to you this book changed my life.  It helped me to see myself in a new way, my objections to belief in an honest way, and to live my life in an entirely different way.  In some ways, I feel like Chesterton wrote these words for me!  Only the Bible has had more of an influence in my life than this book.
Regardless of how long ago something is written, the written word has a lot of power:  the power to confuse men, to break men or to make men.  If simple words have this power, imagine for a moment the everlasting power of the True Word, the Word of God to sanctify men.  If only more people would read it, eat it, reflect on it, and live up to it!
Jesus entered a synagogue on the sabbath day.  He was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:  “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor”.  These words from the prophet Isaiah were written many years before the Lord.  They were written to help the Chosen People prepare for the coming of the Messiah.  These words were written for them; but even more so for Him.  It identified Him and He identified with it.
This scripture passage was the spark that would set the Lord on fire, These holy words would propel the Lord into the public square and subject him to hate and love; jealousy and fidelity; betrayal and confession.  The Word had finally become flesh and was dwelling among His people. 
Scripture, The Word of God, can do the same to us. 
Heavenly Father, your Son identified himself when He read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  May we always identify ourselves to your Word, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Mk 3:20-21 He Is Out Of His Mind

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.  Again the crowds gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
Have you ever visited a modern art gallery?  Did you ever walk out of it feeling confused?  It’s easy to.  But do not be confused, for all artists are out of their mind and their art is an expression of it. 
The great French artist, Claude Monet, was out of his mind, for when he looked at the sun, the moon, the sky, flowers, water, and landscapes, he saw what no one saw.  And only when he put it all down with paint could we see what he saw and give it a name:  Impressionism.
The great German composer, Ludwig Van Beethoven, was out of his mind, for when he went out into the countryside he heard what no one else heard.  And only when he put it all down in music form did we hear what he heard and give it a name:  Romanticism. 
Artists are out of their mind.  Lunatics are not.
Adam Lanza was not out of his mind; he was incased by his mind.  He saw a world that was strictly physical.  He only saw a world that was ‘sensibly’ there.  He could not see like an artist.  He only saw little creatures, little animals running around as he walked inside Sandy Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  He only saw easy prey.  He did not see “innocence”.  How could he...if he were not out of his mind? 
Only when we are out of our mind can we see "innocence".  Only when we are out of our mind can we see and hear "beautiful" things, "radiant things".  Only when we are out of our mind can we acknowledge "holiness". 

Otherwise, how else would we do it? Under natural or rational lighting?    
He is out of his mind.  The Lord’s relatives were right.  But while the Lord was free to roam out of his mind, his accusers were entrapped by theirs.  While the Lord was able to forgive seven times seventy-times, his accusers were out to condemn him.  While he was being creative, his detractors were being destructive.  While he was saving, his enemies were plotting to kill him.  The Lord spoke in paradoxes and his own did not understand him.   They had grown no bigger than their thoughts, no wider than their paradigms, and no more sensible than their senses.  It’s easy for someone to call another crazy if they themselves are a lunatic.  It’s easy to point a finger and say, “He’s nuts!”  However, just imagine for a moment if the lunatic could think the impossible; that is that was someone bigger, much bigger, outside their box of rational goodies.    
Whereas the artist brings out colors unseen and sounds unheard, the lunatic is someone who is entombed by his senses, his thoughts, and his life.  He literally lives in a box with the light on.  He has hidden himself (“his light”) under a bushel basket.  Hence, his mind, his thoughts and his life grow ever darker.  And if he shines, then he shines like the moon (luna), leaving everything else in near total darkness.
“The light came into the world, and the world preferred the darkness” (Jn 3:19).
God is an artist.  He is not a lunatic.  Unfortunately, not everyone appreciates His work.  It’s not his fault.  But for those who do:  His universe is an exhibition; His words are poetry and music; His hands are that of a sculptor.  His creation is a work of art.  His masterpiece is life; His centerpiece is the Christian - the loving man, the holy man - an image and likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ.    

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mk 16:15-18 A 180°

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them:  “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  Whoever believes and in baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. 
When I was in High School, I was taught that Thomas Sterns (T.S.) Eliot (1888-1964) was probably the most influential poet of the 20th century.  What I never learned in my public high school is that he converted to Christianity in 1927, and his conversion sent shock waves through the literary world.
Yes, the greatest poet in the English speaking world became an Anglo-Catholic!  And he often described himself as a militantly traditional one at that.  When asked what he believed, he answered he believed in the Creed, the Invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Saints, the Sacrament of Penance, and so on.  He was seen practicing the faith he proclaimed, going to communion and confession on a very regular basis.
Writers like Virginia Woolf (an atheist) greeted the news with horror:  “I have had a most shameful and distressing interview with dear Tom Eliot, who may be called dead to us all from this day forward.  He has become an Anglo-Catholic believer in God and immortality, and goes to church…there’s something obscene in a living person sitting by the fire and believing in God”  (Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts, pg. 131).
From the pen of Virginia Woolf, it’s not hard to imagine the impact that Eliot’s conversion had on the rest of the army of moderns who idolized his poetry (for its pessimism and its undertones of despair), and yet never understood it.  It turned out that Eliot was never in their camp.  Rather, he predicted the ‘Waste Land’ and indicted the ‘Hollow Men’ for being who they were:  an image and likeness of the Godless man.
Following Eliot’s conversion, many other English writers and poets found the courage and strength to follow in his footsteps and take the path to Catholicism.  Virginia Woolf never did.  In fact, she took her own life in 1941. 
It is amazing the impact one writer’s conversion can have on so many others.
Now Saul’s conversion was even greater! 
Conversions to the faith happen all the time, and most consist of a simple and relaxed short journey back to the faith through the Sacraments.  Saul’s conversion was nothing like that.  His conversion was dramatic, lonely and shocking.  To those who knew him well, the sudden change of heart and mind was unimaginable, unintelligible… simply hard to believe!  Saul’s conversion to Christianity did not simply mean his changing sides, but rather his changing course, changing identity, turning his life upside down and emptying all his pockets!  Saul was left with nothing! This was no slight adjustment.  This was no tweaking matter.  His life had changed 180°.  Saul had been walking south and suddenly, unexpectedly, he turned north.  The old man was dead and the new man, Paul, had risen from the ashes. 
His conversion sent shock waves throughout the Jewish world. 
Saul died on the road to Damascus.  Paul died in Rome.  He ran the race and finished in the Empire’s Capital. 
Paul’s conversion can be best explained by his own words to the Corinthians:  “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, thought like a child, and reasoned like a child”... (1Cor 13:11a).  In other words, he only did what he wanted to do.  “But when I became a man, I left behind all my childish ways”.  That is, after his conversion - after doing a 180° - he did what he had to do. 
Paul’s conversion had a tremendous impact on all who knew him. I think he knew it.  Before he died, he left them with a remarkable challenge.  He said to them, “Imitate me, for I imitate Christ” (1Cor 11:1). 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mark 3:7-12 Bringing Life To Light

Jesus withdrew toward the seas with his disciples.  A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea….He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases were pressing upon him to touch him.  And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him and shout, “You are the Son of God.”  He warned them sternly not to make him known.
The Apostles understood that without light there can be no life; that is, without the Son there can be no Sun.  They understood this so well that they dedicated the rest of their lives at bringing lives to the light.
As I was preparing this morning for Mass, I forgot that it was the feast day of St. Francis de Sales.  I ended up wearing the wrong vestments.  What a blessing!  It turned out to be the cause of a great reflection.
“For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests” (Heb. 7:28).  I could tell something was wrong after I kissed the altar and noticed the expressions on people’s faces.   One look at the Sacramentary and I knew what was wrong.  As I re-read the readings, I began to reflect. 
The congregation immediately noticed my error in vestments.  But what they haven't noticed as much is the error of who is wearing them.  Should I, a sinner, be wearing such fine robes and vestments?  Should I be representing Jesus Christ?  Yes, for the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests. 
How could anyone represent Jesus Christ?  Only one way:  by His call.
The bride wears white.  Should she?  Isn’t she wearing the wrong color?  After all, not many of them have persevered for this occasion.  So what should she be wearing instead: red or black?  No!  The bride should wear white, for it is a reminder, a beautiful reminder, of the dignity that the Lord wishes to give to each and every one of us.  It is a powerful reminder of what the Lord can do for us.  He can bring life to light. 
Through the intensity and immensity of the Son, all colors turn white.
Due to tremendous pain and suffering, the body can easily become twisted, disfigured and distorted.  But behind this horrific sight lies the Will of God that can make all things alright.  The Lord followed His Father’s Will and ended up getting nailed to a Cross.  But by his example, his courage and his love, He has made straight the lives of billions of souls. 
Through darkness we have seen a great light!
We receive in so many ways.  Even through our errors, we can receive instruction and grace.  For a mistake can be an occasion for prayer; a fault, a moment of silence; a clumsy mistake, a means to a meditation.  The “sinner” can only "be" if they not what they were meant to be.  The "sinner" can only "be" if they are disconnected from an authentic person, and there is only one who is authentic:  “It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:  holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).
This separation is not to degrade us, or belittle us, or even confuse us.  It is to bring life to light; to guide us in the right direction or back to Him.
LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom.  Lead Thou me on!  The night is dark, and I am far from home - Lead Thou me on!  Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see.  The distant scene - one step enough for me. (John Henry Newman)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mark 3:1-6 The Withered Man

(Click here for readings)
Jesus entered the synagogue.  There was a man there who had a withered hand.  They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.  He said to the man, “Come up here before us.”  Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?”
This past weekend, I completed reading a book entitled Literary Converts, by Joseph Pearce.  Although a writer and convert himself, Pearce thoroughly examines the lives of hundreds of other English poets and writers from the 1900’s to the end of the 20th century who converted to the Christian/Catholic faith.  Pearce writes that starting in the 1920’s, roughly 12,000 people in England were converting annually to Catholicism.  Among them was a young lady named Dorothy Sayers.
Dorothy Sayers was only fifteen-years-old when she first read G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.  She was inspired and excited by Chesterton’s defense of the Catholic Church and faith, especially Chesterton’s portrait of the Church as a heavenly chariot “thundering through the ages, the dull heresies of atheism and secularism sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”   
Pearce writes:  “This invigorating vision rekindled her faith at a time when adolescent doubt and growing disillusionment with the low-church Puritanism to which she was accustomed was threatening to extinguish it.  ‘In the book called Orthodoxy’, she wrote, ‘there were glimpses of this other Christianity, which was beautiful and adventurous and queerly full of honor.’  She told a friend in later years, but for Chesterton’s vision of Orthodoxy, she might in her schooldays have abandoned Christianity altogether” (pg 51).
In 1938, with the threat of another war with Germany, Dorothy Sayers wrote a book entitled, Begin Here.  Her book reflects her observations on the rise of atheistic thought throughout the world and the absurdities that went along with it.  What she found most disturbing and noticeable about this gradual development “is that the more man knows, scientifically, the less he understands the purpose of existence, and the less is his individual importance in the scheme of things” (Literary Converts, pg 215).
Pearce summaries her thoughts:  Far from atheism being indicative of ‘progress’, Sayers argued that humanity was regressing.  She charted the regression in seven distinct phases representing humanity’s comprehension, or rather increasing incomprehension, of itself.  According to the teaching of Christianity…man was understood theologically to be a Whole Man, the image of God.  This was, and is, the theological man of Christian orthodoxy.  Then, from the time of the Renaissance, came ‘humanist man’ – man as a value in himself, apart from God; followed by ‘rational man’ – man as the embodied Intelligence; then ‘biological man’, Homo Sapiens – man as the intelligent animal; ‘sociological man’ – man as the member of the herd; ‘psychological man’ – man as the response to his environment; and finally, ‘economic man’ – man as the response to the means of livelihood.  The triumph of the till!”
When I read today’s Gospel passage of a man with a withered hand, I immediately connected this passage to what I had recently read in Literary Converts.  Is it so farfetched to associate ‘modern’ man to this ‘crippled’ man?  Isn’t it noticeable how the youthfulness and beauty of modern childhood is quickly wilting away?   How their teenage years have easily become crippling and devastating years?  Instead of breathing the freshness of innocence and security, their young lungs are filling up with depression and despair.  Why?  Why???  Could it be because we have kicked their legs right from under them?  Could it be because we have offered them nothing to stand on; nothing that can really support them? 
The experts, the intelligentsia and the social engineers fooled parents to march with them!  And they did.  And then parents dragged their hopeless children to march with them.  They forced them to swallow and digest their new ‘modern’ family and to create a godless society.  Now, as more and more children are coming home to empty homes and parents are enslaved by "work" and not by home, children are acting up and parents are forced to shout and scream at them for being immature, irresponsible and naive.  They shout at them because they are…kids...and not “adults” by now.
Our children are beaten in every conceivable way.  They continually bump their heads against their social media (Internet) friends; abuse their bodies to perform brilliantly (physically, sexually and academically).  They can’t keep up with us.  They can’t keep up… and are wasting away. 
“It is the modern dilemma, the paradox of progress, that scientific advances seem to go hand in hand with social disintegration – the result of an increase of knowledge coupled with a lack of understanding and precious little wisdom” (Literary Converts, pg 215)
The withered man can only be cured by the humble Man, the holy Man, the God-Man.  He can only be saved by stretching out his hand and touching Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mk 2:23-28 Coming To Grips With Reality

As Jesus was passing through a field on the sabbath, his disciples began to make a path while picking the heads of grain.  At this the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the sabbath?”  …He said to them, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”
Life is not fair and “God is not unjust” (cf. Heb 6:10).  At first glance these affirmations may appear to be contradictory but they are not, for life is remarkable (not fair) and God is faithful to all His promises.  The moment we think not is the moment we begin to break apart all our promises, our most beloved institutions and most importantly, our Christian culture and civilization. 
As we approach the end of January we find ourselves well into a new year, and with it, a need to renew our New Year’s resolutions (promises to the Lord).  Hold on to them!  Keep them!  Fight hard for them!  We know we must!  After all, the only way we could ever dream of improving our condition in life is to work on it.  If we fail, well, at least we can say we tried.  So, regardless of what happens next, let’s take advantage of it and be faithful to our God who is above all things.  I know He will be faithful to us, regardless of us, for the Son of man was greater than all his temptations and greater than the sum of all our weaknesses.  He is lord even of the sabbath! 
The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.  If they could, some people would force others to work all the time.  Thank God for God.  Thank God for the sabbath, a day of rest.  It should be a day of reflection and renewal.
God did not give us the sabbath to torture us.  He gave it to help us.  It was God’s way of reminding us that no possession, no title, no career is more important than love of God and neighbor.  It’s hard for us to admit it, but let's face it:  money was made for man, not man for money; shopping was made for man, not man for shopping; clothes may have been made by men (women), but we were not made just to fit into clothes.  Nothing on earth is superior to God, while nothing on earth is of more worth, more dignity or of value than human life.  Although man was created last, when God created him, He didn’t say it was a “good thing”; He said it was “a very good thing.”   Whenever we think not, we sin.  And sin in a way we would prefer to forget. 
The champion is not defined by the winner, but by the virtues.  What does it mean to be a winner?  Does it mean to come in first place?  No, not necessarily, “for the first shall be last and the last shall be first”.    Rather, it means to possess the humility to adjust one’s mind, heart, body and soul to reality.  This is done the old fashion way:  knowledge, self-discipline and virtue.  But recently, science and technology have been applied in order to subdue reality to the wishes of men.  The old way may be called punishing, while the new is known as doping.
Lance Armstrong recently acknowledged his use of performance enhancing drugs.  He finally came clean and coming clean is the hardest thing anyone could ever do!  I congratulate him for it. 

But when Lance cheated, he didn’t cheat for 2nd place, he cheated for 1st place.  He didn’t cheat out of love for sport; he cheated out of love for himself.  He didn’t cheat to be able to continue racing.  He cheated to continue winning. 
He is not alone.  He is surely not alone.  In one way or another we are all trying to subdue reality for ourselves; we are all bending our conscience to suit ourselves; we are all pursuing happiness the quick and easy way.
Conscience was not made to bend for men, but to inform men.  Today is the tragic anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  Forty years ago, abortion was billed as a means to liberate women.  It was technology and science, not God, that was going to “set us free”.  It didn’t, except of one thing:  any responsibility (for man and woman).
With the sudden increase in sexual perversions, we have a sudden increase in talk regarding the primacy of conscience.  To those who insist on the primacy of conscience over the primacy of Church teaching (Christ’s teachings), conscience is not a wake-up call but a snooze button.  It is not an informed decision but a feeling, a feeling that comes from the “gut”, which is a very puritanical way of saying the “groin”.
Oh, how silly we have become!  And how silly we are in thinking of new ways to destroy ourselves!
Happiness comes with man’s arrival, not his departure.  When it comes to our search for happiness, we are like bulls in a very expensive china shop.  In our hyper quest for happiness, we are destroying everything around us, especially our most cherished institutions and Christian culture:
Though the “right to happiness” is chiefly claimed for the sexual impulse, it seems to me impossible that the matter should stay there.  The fatal principle, once allowed in that department, must sooner or later seep though our whole lives.  We thus advance towards a state of society in which not only each man but every impulse in each man claims carte blanche.  And then, though our technological skill may help us to survive a little longer, our civilization will have died at heart, and will – one dare not even add ”unfortunately” – be swept away. (- from “God in the dock” by C.S. Lewis)