Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

John 20:1-9 Get Rid Of That Boulder!

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
Happy Easter!  Thank God the Lord has risen!
Yes, thank God that it is all true.  Thank God that everything that Christ said and did was worth every drop of blood, every tear shed and every piece of flesh torn from his body.
What would life be without love?  The same as that without a resurrection:  a colossal failure - a glitch in an otherwise incredible adventure.  But since God is love, then it is obvious that love conquers all things, including death itself.  Here lies the great lesson of Jesus Christ:  the more you love, the more you live.    God is LOVE, and boy does He LIVE!
Christ’s resurrection cannot be taken out of context; that is, stripped of Salvation History and/or His very own passion and death.  God forbid!  Never!  Otherwise, this event would be as meaningless as a leprechaun rising from the dead.  The Lord’s resurrection is meaningful because it is tied to sacrifice and love.
Yes, as Christians, we know the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth defies human reasoning, but, with all due respect, so does the entire Christian faith!  For to “Love your enemies” may actually be more shocking to our senses than God rising from the dead!  And to “do good to those who harm you” and “seek those who betray you”, jolts our senses as much as forgiving someone seven times seventy-seven times.
Thank God for Christ’s resurrection!  Thank God that God is love!  Thank God that love and life have meaning!  The Resurrection defies human reasoning just as much as life and love defy human reasoning!
Get Rid of That Boulder!  On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
The time has come for us to remove all stones that are keeping us away from Christ’s Way, Truth and Life.  Even the Apostles had their “boulders” to remove.  They were still seeking “the living among the dead.” 
So many things need to be cleared away from our hearts and minds:  fear, doubt, anger, resentment, frustrations, and even our very own sins.  All these things can thwart our ability to “understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.”
Religion is not something that people lean on when tragedy strikes.  Rather, inspiration leans on tragedy just like it leans on observations.  The empty tomb inspires man to dive into the mysteries of God, Love and Life.  Let’s remove all obstacles from our path! 
Last night at St. Monica, nearly 100 people entered into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.  After two years of preparation, these brave souls gradually chipped away at the boulders that were blocking their view of Christ, The Church, and the beauty of the Christian faith.  They did it.  They succeeded in discovering who they are and who God is.  They succeeded in penetrating into themselves and peering into the life of Jesus Christ.  They all took a look inside themselves and in the tomb and discovered both were empty.  One discovery led to the other, and the rest is Salvation History! 
The Lord has truly risen not only in His life, but in ours as well. 
Heavenly Father, you taught us through your Son that to live means to love; to die means to give; and to rise means to forgive.  May we, your servants, always trust in your Divine Will.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Saturday Reflections

The Lord lies hidden from the world.  God is dead.  We have killed Him.
Why was Christ crucified?  I know you know the answer.  Christ was crucified because of our sins.  He died because we sinned.  But this interpretation is made by those who are believers; those who are followers in Jesus Christ.  What about those who do not believe?  Well, based on the testimony we have, for the Jews, the Lord made himself out to be God.  For the Romans, Christ came too close for comfort.  He made himself out to be a King, in competition with Caesar. 
In other words, the Lord was too religious and too political.
Isn’t this the same argument made against Christianity today?  Isn’t the Church considered too “political” and even too “religious” today?  Well, it could very well be if you are a self-serving politician or a non-practicing Christian.
I know.   You don’t have to tell me.  I know the problems of the Church are many.  I know they have a billion problems, but what most people don’t know is why?  It’s because they have over a billion members.  And each of them bring with them to Church their multiple problems. 
But though the Church may be filled every Sunday with sinners, and the worst of the worst, it is also full of Saints and God.  And those who do not go to Church because they say it is full of “hypocrites” must not see straight due to the plank in their eye. 
Although we will never say it, we truly believe we are "the center of the Universe."  But in all honesty, we are simply at one end (either end) of the teeter-totter.  Christ is in the middle.  The Church is in the middle.  This is what I realized long ago in my own life.  I thought I was balanced.  But I soon realized that I was not.  Most people have not yet made this discovery in their life. 
What made me realize this?  Reading the books of secularists and/or atheists.  Who helped me to put it all together?  A convert by the name G.K. Chesterton. 
Too pessimistic or too optimistic.    In his book “Orthodoxy”, G.K. Chesterton noticed certain tendencies in atheistic thought.  He noticed how some authors would claim the Church was too pessimistic; that is, always speaking or writing about hell, judgment, sins, dying to oneself, abnegation, suffering, etc… Chesterton immediately agreed with them, but then he noticed how other atheists thought the Church was too optimistic; that is, far too forgiving of others especially of criminals, insisting on eternal life, heaven, re-birth, love, mercy, joy and happiness during trials and tribulations, etc…  Well, that completely confused him until he discovered that the problem was not with the Church but with these authors.  They were either too pessimistic or too optimistic!  It was the Church that was balanced.
Too squeamish or too warish.  I remember how one atheist wrote that Christianity was responsible for the destruction of the Roman Empire.  How come?  Because they turned warriors into wimps!  All this talk about “loving your enemy” and “doing good to those who hate you” and “forgiving seven times seventy times”, had turned a strong Empire into a marshmallow.  I agreed.  But like Chesterton, as soon as I agreed, I had to disagree.  Because the very next author claimed that the Catholic Church was responsible for all wars!  What???  No way!  Now, it turned out that the Church was responsible for so much fighting and bloodshed…of too much testosterone!  Again, I was completely confused until I discovered that the authors were either wimps or warmongers.  The Church it turned out was completely balanced when it came to war and peace.
Well, it became clear to me that “any stick was good enough to beat up the Church with” (G.K. Chesterton).
Christ was beat up with sticks and for no good reason.  We made Him out to be a lunatic when in reality we were the lunatics.  We thought of him as a liar as we were coming up with our own lies.  We made Him a threat so as to go to war with Him.  We knew He was the King and the Lord when we continued to pretend that we were a king and a lord.
From what I have read, it is clear the World does not know Christ because it does not know Love and therefore how to love. We killed Him because we wished to appease our constituents.  We know how to be kind.  We don’t know how to love.  We don’t know Love.

Friday, March 29, 2013

John 18:19-42 Good Friday

Jesus went out and said to [the soldiers], “Whom are you looking for?”  They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.”  He said to them, “I AM.”
You’re worth it.   A few weeks back, I received a text from a College student who is totally disgusted by the drunken frenzies and sex parties that go on on campus.  She wrote:   “I’ve given up on mankind!”  I wrote back and said, “I can’t!  That’s my purpose in life!”  
Why did God come down from Heaven?  Why did He preach to us, walk with us, heal us, suffer and die for us?  What exactly did he need to prove to us?  The answer should be obvious.  He still loved us and wants to share His life with us.  He truly (and deeply) wants us to know that we are worth all the pain and suffering that goes with our relationship.
Good Friday.   Out of all the days to call “good,” how could this be one of them?  Imagine for a moment if what happened to the Lord should ever happen to you, would you want the world to call this day a good day?  It depends.  It all depends on whether or not I suffered and died out of love or out of selfishness?  Exactly.  This is the first lesson of the Cross.  To suffer for what is right, good and holy is worth all the pain and glory.
This morning I heard a shocking Good Friday story.  A very close friend of mine told me how her father’s maid, a devout Roman Catholic, would wake her children up and spank them on this day.  The reason for it was so that they would know (and I guess never forget) what Christ went through for them.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  I asked my dear friend if this lady also washed her children’s feet on Holy Thursday. 
Well, I thoroughly disagree with her lesson plan.  If anything, I would have insisted on my children attending the Church’s Good Friday service.  There’s much more meaning in this than in a good spanking.
I am with you always.  Life is strewn with many beatings.  It is full of disappointing moments.  So it’s all the more important that we handle them the same way our Lord handled them:  with the Father.   The Lord demanded that if we wished to come after Him, then we must pick up and carry our cross.  In other words, life is not about avoiding at all cost pain and suffering.  It’s not even about taking pleasure in it (being a pseudo masochist).  It’s about “man-handling” it through Him who gives me strength!  Christ is the only reason and purpose that makes any life worth living.   After all, He is the only person in the world that could have taken the Cross – a symbol of torture and pain – and turned it into the universal symbol of hope and love.
A big part of life is converting burdens into blessings.
Therefore, is there something still hidden in Christ’s Cross?  Or is it an open and shut case in failure.  Is there something beyond the obvious, the human eye or “I”?  Well, like so many things in life, we find a deeper meaning, a higher calling, only after further reflection. 
The Cross and I.  The Cross is a poignant reminder of what sacrificing for others can do to us:  it crosses us out.  The Cross crosses out the “I.”  Hence, every single time we sacrifice ourselves for others, we give a little bit more of our selfishness away and replace it with Christ.  As St. Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live in me but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). 
The Cross and Christ.  What exactly did the Lord carry on this Friday?  Was it simply a wooden beam?  No.  It was me.  It was us.  On that awful Friday, the Lord made a covenant with humanity.  He took us.  He carried us.  And he nailed himself to us.  This is a poetic reminder for each and every one of us of what the Lord will never do to us:  He will never let go of us.  "He loved His own till the end."  God nailed himself to us.  No matter what you do, no matter what you say, I will never stop loving you.  Thank God!  TGIF!!!
Till death do we reunite!
Resolution:  Pick up your Cross, like the Lord, and follow Him.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

John 13:1-15 Holy Week: Thursday

(Click here for readings)
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.  He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.
Just a couple of days ago there was a tragedy in the skies above Florida.  Two skydivers (an instructor and a student) from Iceland were killed when their respective parachutes failed to open.  What happened remained a mystery until the sheriff’s department reviewed the video taken from the instructor’s helmet camera.  It showed the instructor, Orvar Arnarson, 41, desperately trying to pull the cord on 25-year-old Andrimar Pordarson’s parachute.
According to the skydiver “manual,” you may help your partner if their parachute fails to open, but must abandon the effort if you reach the dangerous altitude of 2,000 ft.  The video shows that Arnarson never abandoned the effort.
Instead of calling Arnarson an idiot, the sheriff called him a hero.  “He’s a hero.  He died a hero.” Indeed he is.  And he may have changed the manual for good.
These types of hero stories bring tears to our eyes, and not just because of the way they end, but because they highlight a fact that is often forgotten in the midst of tragedy; and that is, “Someone’s life is worth more than mine.” 
Last night I heard hours and hours of confessions.  The line was enormous and seemed like it would never end.  What a sight!  Who said that people no longer go to confession?  Must be those who never go!    
But why do we go?  Why are we willing to wait in line for hours?  Because we know the Lord is eager to forgive and is generous in His forgiveness. Yes, Christ wants to forgive us.  He has made it painfully obvious He wants to forgive us.  But why?  Why is it so easy?  What does this mean?  In my opinion, it can only mean one thing:  He has great hope in us, in humanity.  He sees great things that are possible with us in Him.   

Why does the Lord wash his disciple's feet? Because He knows what we are worth, and it’s much more than we think.    

We tend to make a lot of noise about nothing.  We make "something out of nothing" all the time!  But when God makes something out of nothing, it is always something incredible.  Why?  Because it's done with love and humility.  This is what turns a simple act (the washing of feet) into a enduring feat.
Our goal on earth is to be a "professional Christian."  In other words, to say and do what must be said and done, regardless of how we feel and how our world is turning upside down.
Jesus was the ultimate "professional."  He was calm before the horrific storm.  He never allowed the high-strung emotions of others to overwhelm Him.  He never allowed his very own emotions to overtakeHim.  Not once did He allow the circumstances surrounding Him to overpower Him.  He did not even allow His detractors to take away His final meal with His men.  All was according to His plans.  For on the night He was betrayed, He gave His final sermon on Love and give His men a new commandment:  “Love one another as I have loved you.”  And as His betrayer and the hour fast approached, He continued to stay with His own, serving them by washing their feet and knowing they would soon flee from Him.    
The Lord was a professional.  He could see well beyond the given moment.  He knew this moment, though excruciatingly painful, would quickly come to pass.  He knew that His disciples, once recovered, would become strong again: through Him, with Him and in Him.  He knew they would imitate Him to the four corners of the world, and how with Him, through Him and in Him, they would change the world forever!  He was not about to let this moment go unnoticed.

Today, the Lord washes the feet of His Apostles.  The first is last. He is doing something new, a new beginning, a new creation.  He is, once again, up to something:  creating something out of nothing, and turning it right-side up.

As the Lord gave His life for me, I pledge my life to Him.
Resolution:  To be a professional Christian.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Mt 26:14-25 Holy Week: Wednesday

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”  They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Betrayal is a reality that we will all experience, at one time or another, or in one form or another: as betrayed or traitor.
Betrayal shocks!  It leaves the victim crippled.  Barely able to stand, barely able to breathe! 
To be betrayed by someone close to you is the worst feeling in the world.  It happens all the time, especially to people who are in very high places and by people who have nothing to lose. 
Why do we betray others?  Like always, because of our pride (thinking we know better.  Wanting the upper hand), vanity (fear of being forgotten, unrewarded, cast away), sensuality (fear of reprisal, of death - cowardice).  
All are affected by betrayal:  friends, family, men, women and children.  All are capable of betrayal:  husbands, wives, parents, children, politicians, soldiers, friends, professionals, religious, priests, apostles.
What are you willing to give to me?   How often do I sell my Lord for something as cheap as sin? 
Sin is cheap.  And as with any counterfeit to life, it is sufficient for getting through the day.  Now compared to grace, sin is bought at a very low price, thirty pieces of silver, while Grace is bought with blood, sweat and tears.  There is a human price to be paid.  But with sin, humans are bought!  God’s Grace is purchased with His flesh and blood.  With sin, His flesh and blood are sold for dirt cheap.
Lord, what are you willing to give to me?   Why didn’t Judas ask Him this question?  He could have.  He ate and lived with Him.  The Lord would have told him the truth:  “Everything I have, I give to you.”  But this treasure comes with a condition: the Law of Love. 
Love requires sacrifice.  Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for others?  Love requires truth.  Are you willing to speak the truth out of love for others?  Love requires justice.  Are you willing to give your fair share to others?  Love requires obedience.  Are you willing to pick up your cross and imitate me?   
With sin, with betrayal, there is no law.  It is a mindless and selfish game of cat and mouse, where the little guy always gets brutally hurt.  Actually, it is a “free-for-all.”  Or better yet, it is a “free-fall”.  Everyone ends up getting hurt (Judas, Jesus, the Chosen People, the Romans, etc). 
Even the temple gets destroyed beyond repair!
We betray because we sin.  And we sin because are enticed.  There is always an apple hanging low from the tree.  There’s always a carrot that is placed in front of us to make us move.  Thirty pieces of silver is all it took for Judas, and “from that moment on he looked for an opportunity.” 
Sin has many consequences, some unseen for years.  Sin destroys innocence, it destroys the relationship between God and man, it sucks the life out of life, and it causes life to come to an abrupt end.  For these reasons alone, the Lord was correct to say:  “it would be far better for that man if he had never been born.” 
The betrayal of God (and all that is of God) is a distortion of authentic love.  It typically begins with an idea in one’s head and a carrot in front of one’s face and ends with the brutal beating and death of all that is good, holy and right. 
Resolution:  Self-denial, self-giving, self-emptying.  The only way to conquer evil is through love.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

John 13:21-33, 36-38 Holy Week: Tuesday

Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  …Peter said to him, “Master, why can I not follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you.”  Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?  Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times.”
I read somewhere that a significant difference between a man and a woman is that a man tends to underestimate the danger and overestimate his abilities, while a woman underestimates her abilities and overestimates the danger.
Well, we are not as strong as we think.  I know I’m not. 
Simon Peter was about to experience this fact.  He had followed the Lord.  He felt secure next to the Lord.  He had found his purpose in life with the Lord.  He was a proud disciple of the Lord.  But now the tide of favorability had turned against him.  Men were seeking the Master’s life.  The motion was made:  I will lay down my life for you.  The question remained:  would he stand by him or would he fall? 
We know the shocking truth to this ending.  Nothing is withheld.  Nothing is left out.  The Apostles had the courage and the foresight to spell it out for generations to come:  Peter was not as strong as he thought he was.   We were not as strong as we thought.
That very night, Peter would end up running away from the arresting soldiers and deny three times he ever knew Jesus.
There are consequences to our actions.  Peter went away and wept bitterly.   
Some time ago, a woman came to me and told me that she had made some terrible decisions in her life and that now she was living with the consequences.  I asked her about her faith journey.  She told me that she had been away from the Church for over 10 years and that she had not been to confession since she was a teenager. 
Yes, there are consequences to our actions.  But I told her something she could not have imagined:  that her very poor decisions had led to some very good consequences.
My dear woman, you have suffered tremendously due to the poor decisions you’ve made.  And now you are living with them.  But do not forget all the consequences.  For example, you have come back to the Catholic Church.  You’re back home.  You’ve begun to pray again.  You’ve come back to Sacrament of Reconciliation and have received the Lord’s forgiveness.  You were caught in your lie and have been released, set free, by the Lord.  Yes, you are truly living the consequences of your poor decision and, as a result of it, have become a gentler and humbler woman.
 What I said reminded me of today’s passage from the prophet Isaiah:  “Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God” (Is 49:4).
Did Peter not feel worthless?  Did he not feel that all was lost because of his weakness; that everything he did was a waste of time because of his grave sins?  Yes!  But he recovered!  Thank God He recovered! He understood, through prayer, that this lesson had to be learned...for his sake.  He learned, once and for all, “I am not as strong as I think I am.  I am not as strong as the Lord!”
Resolution:  I will place more of my confidence and trust in the Lord, and less in myself.

Monday, March 25, 2013

John 12:1-11 Holy Week: Monday

(Click here for readings)
Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead…Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil…and anointed the feet of Jesus…Judas said, “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”
Have you ever had this happened to you?  That no matter how much you help others, it’s never enough…in their eyes.  I think moms and dads have.  That is, no matter how many trips you make for your children; no matter how many meals you prepare for them; no matter how many punches you take from them, it’s never enough…for them.  They still insist on questioning your love for them.  They still insist on giving you the guilt trip!
If you’re fortunate enough to not have this problem in the home, then I guarantee you will with either your business partners, friends, classmates or neighbors. 
I can’t stand you!  Let’s face it; regardless of what you say or do, there are some people in this world that will never be able to accept you, for they are so far removed from objectivity; so far removed from honesty; so far removed from reality, that no matter what you say or do, it will never be enough for them; or worse, it will always be that you wronged them!   
Welcome to Christ’s world.  This is how Christ must have felt with Judas breathing down his neck.  The Lord was never good enough for him; He was never holy enough for him; he was never worthy enough for him.  But the problem wasn’t with the Lord!  The problem was with Judas.  He was corrupted.  He had allowed his heart to become like stone; his mind to become a slave to his own passions; and his will to be entrenched in his own interests and desires.
He should have done more.  This is the new “catch-all” for all humanity.  This is the latest and greatest expression (really a judgment) that can easily and smoothly be applied to all human beings:  living as well as dead!  It is intended to inflict maximum damage on a person’s reputation, and it succeeds in making people feel and look guilty.  But no one can escape its clutches.  And so it's extremely important that it is applied first to another before it gets applied to you.    
Judas spoke first (to Mary):  “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?”  In other words, “Why aren’t you doing more for the poor?”  As we read further on, we learn that Judas was not interested at all in the poor; he was interested in himself. 
When Judas said these silly words, the Lord responded not by defending himself but by defending Mary, the sister of Lazarus:  “Leave her alone.  Let her keep this for the day of my burial.”
There are already some people who are writing articles attacking the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for his “silence” on the atrocities committed by the military junta in Argentina.  Even though he was cleared of all accusations, his accusers now say that he should have done more.  But like Judas, what these people will not say is that for some time now they have had an axe to grind with Cardinal Bergoglio and the Church. 
Most of the articles attacking the Holy Father are from Marxists, Leftists, secularists and/or atheists.  In other words, people who are so far removed from the reality of humanity, decency, honesty and Christianity, that any axe is good enough to chop someone up with.
No matter how much you help others, it’s never enough…in some people’s eyes!   I’m beginning to think this is a diversionary device to draw attention away from themselves and their own personal actions during the governments reign of terror.  Maybe the solution is for us to help these people remove the two humungous planks from their own eyes, or help them wash away their blood stained hands with mercy and forgiveness.  After all, they never cared about democracy or poverty, they're Marxists!  They never cared about ending poverty, they're the ones who spread it!  They don't care about peace, they want revolution and war!  They never cared about anything other than their own personal vendettas and agendas.    

No wonder the Lord responded to Judas' accusation by saying, "You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me." Maybe the reason why we always have the poor is because we don't always have Christ.
Resolution:  Let us learn from the Lord.  Let’s stand up to these modern day professional bullies!  Let’s stand up for Christ and humanity by thinking of others, appreciating others, and forgiving others.  Let’s help people change their lives for the better, for Christ.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Luke 22:14-23:56 Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Jesus said to Peter:  “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back,  you must strengthen your brothers.”
A woman in her sixties passed away early this morning of cancer.  She left behind a husband and two relatively young sons.  Throughout her life she sacrificed for them, and they did very little in return.  Her husband is a hardworking man, but very immature and irresponsible, especially when it comes to spending money.  One of her son’s is pretty much a lazy man.  The other has some developmental issues.  This woman single handedly took care of her family, especially her disabled son.  When she began to feel intense pain along her back, she ignored it; her threshold for pain had increased significantly with age and sacrifice.  Even the doctors were amazed at how she could handle the pain with the cancer spreading all over her back.    Well, this incredible woman didn’t have to suffer for long, but she did suffer.  This morning she died.  And for the first time since her illness, her husband and son began to weep.
There is a vicious rumor going around.  It’s been going around for some time now, and if it weren’t so evil, one could almost say it was a joke.  But this vicious rumor has been circulating for far too many generations.  It goes something like this:  “If you are blessed, then you will never suffer.” 
I do not know when this rumor began or who began it.  It may have started centuries ago, but it has spread across many Christian denominations, especially the non-denominational denominations. 
Now this rumor must put it to rest, for it is of Satan, who would love to deceive us and pleasantly disappoint us by promising to us the eternal reward of eternal life without ever having to go through our very own Passion and death.  It’s like someone promising us victory in a race without ever having to participate in the race.
“The Son of God suffered death on a Cross, not so that we might not suffer, but that our sufferings might be like His.” (George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, First Series)
This is the truth.  This is Gospel Truth.  It’s time we start this rumor that is absolutely true. 
They returned home beating their breasts.  In one way or another, all of us will suffer.  All of us will go through our very own Holy Week.  We are entering that time of year when we remember not only the Lord’s passion and death, but that we too will go through our very own passion and death. 
Everyone suffers, but not everyone suffers for the right reasons, for good reasons, for holy reasons.  This is one of the greatest tragedies in life. I can’t imagine a worse type of suffering than to suffer for all the wrong reasons.  And there are millions of people who are suffering today because they did something terribly wrong.  And there is little to no glory in that.
But if we suffer for all the right reasons, then we will receive all the glory and praise that comes from it. 
When we stand up for Christ, we know what will happen next:  the same thing that happened to Christ.  We will get humiliated, mocked and rejected.  But the glory of the Lord rests upon those who imitate Him. 
When a teen stand up to bullies or football players that humiliate others, even a defenseless girl, then that teen may get beaten up, but he/she will be considered a hero by God (and even the media!).  
This pain and suffering is well worth it, for it is the continuation of Christ’s ministry on earth.
Let us not be afraid of it.  Let us prepare for it.  But first we must get rid of this silly notion that when we follow the Lord closely, we will not get nailed closely to Him.
When we see someone suffer for us or because of us, what are they saying to us?  I believe it is something quite simple yet profound.  It is the same exact thing that Christ nailed to the Cross could have said but didn't need to say, for actions speak louder than words, remember?
What is Christ saying to us?  What are they saying to us?  “You’re worth it.  You’re worth all this pain.” 
Just like this woman’s husband, the crowd began to weep when they began to understand what they had done. 
Unfortunately, too many of us learn this lesson just a little too late. 
Resolution:  I will not fear the pain associated with following the Lord.  Instead, I will fear the pain associated with distancing myself from the Lord.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

John 11:45-56 What Are You Going To Do With Him?

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do?”
They want to kill God! 
Friedrich Nietzsche tried to kill God.  Christopher Hitchens tried as well.  All who tried have died trying.  God will not die.  He will not allow himself to be put to shame, for when we attempt to shame God, we end up embarrassing ourselves.  When we try humiliating God, we end up humiliating ourselves.  And when we try to outperform God, we end up regretting it. 
Even when we try to crucify the Lord, we end up crucifying ourselves, for every time we try to do harm to God, we end up hurting ourselves.
It’s true.  It’s all true.  When we destroy human life at its weakest moment, we embarrass ourselves and drain our favorite words like “justice”, “tolerance”, “equality” and “respect” of all meaning.  
There is an abortionist on trial in Philadelphia who is accused of killing full term fetuses by snapping their necks.  Planned Parenthood has not come out and condemned this vicious abortionist.   They can’t.  They can’t risk it.  Their business depends on killing babies.  The news media, in cahoots with Planned Parenthood, has completely ignored the trial.  They can’t report it.  They can’t risk it.  They’ve put their fingers way too deep in this disgrace.  Hence, both organizations embarrass themselves by contradicting themselves.  They will not report scandals other than those of the Catholic Church.
Throughout history, men have tried to kill God only to end up killing human lives.
When we try to humiliate God, we end up humiliating ourselves.  You hear them all the time, our meaningless slogans:  “equality” and “he/she should have done more.”  What exactly do these slogans mean if Christ is not the standard to measure our lives by?  We are told that homosexual “marriage” is about equality.  There’s nothing equal about it! Not for the children who will be adopted by them nor for the couples who wish to have more than one spouse.  After all, when we end up redefining marriage, we will immediately be denying others the right to get married according to their ills and wishes. 
There is no such thing in America as “equality” - not in pay, not in price, not in our way of life, especially when certain lives are considered cheaper than others, valued more than others, and terminated by others.  When we try to humiliate God’s creation by creating our own, we end up belittling ourselves.
There is no such thing as “equality” when we are advocating our own selfish desires and schemes. 
What are we going to do?  A person is considered a genius if they can invent an object that is independent of human intervention.  In other words, “if it runs on its own.”  And yet there are some people that consider this the very sign that there is no God!  What a bunch of hypocrites!   People are full of contradictions and are content with them, as long as they can take advantage of them.
But God is full of contradictions as well.  However, His contradictions are always inspiring, lifting, pointing in the right direction.  Christ was small yet remained a giant.  He was humble yet mighty; betrayed and tortured and still forgiving and giving.
What are you going to do with Him?  There are two historical options:  kill Him or kiss Him?  Blame Him or thank Him?  Ignore Him or Love Him? 
In a world that is constantly searching for “gods,” I will follow God, the God of Jesus Christ, all the way to Calvary. 
Resolution:  I will follow the Lord and do as He did.  I will place my trust in the Lord before I trust in men.  I will hope in the Lord before I place my hopes (and votes) in men.  I will be a sign of contradiction.

Friday, March 22, 2013

John 10:31-42 Loving Words, Great Actions

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.  Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father.  For which of these are your trying to stone me?” 
It turns out the Voyager I has officially left our solar system.  Interesting…  When it comes to technology, we have made some incredible progress.  But when it comes to relationships, far too many of us are still living in the Stone Age.
“I hear the whisperings of many:  ‘Terror on every side!  Denounce!  Let us denounce him!”  All those who were my friends are on the watch for any misstep of mine” (Jer. 20:10).
Do you believe in Divine Providence?  Today, I celebrated two Masses for two local Catholic High Schools.  This reading could not have been more perfect for the occasion.  So many High School kids suffer in so many ways from their peers. 
“I hear the whisperings of many.” [I hear them talking about me.] “Denounce!  Let us denounce him!”  [Let’s gossip about him/her.]  “All those who were my friends are watching for any misstep of mine.”        
A while back, a young man messed up royally in the final minutes of a basketball game.  His error, in the last seconds of the game, caused his team to lose the game.  Now this boy is extremely hard on himself and took his mistake very hard.  To make matters worse, before the game he was arguably the most popular kid in school.  So after his mistake, you would think there would be an outpouring of support and affection for him.  No!  Not at all.  Instead, his “friends” took advantage of his error and crushed him for screwing up.  We know this is all part of the pecking process and order for teenage boys.  Well, he didn’t know that.  He thought he really had a ton of friends.  I hope this experience taught him a great lesson in friendships. 
Actions speak louder than words.  When it comes to dating, far too many teenage boys and girls get hoodwinked by their “significant” other.  Words are cheap, especially loving words.  In fact, the more loving words you use, the better the deals you get!  How easy it is for a boy to tell a girl that he “loves” her and get back something worth much more than just words!  We need to teach our kids that actions speak louder than words and that true love is best expressed by sacrifice, not by words; by laying down one’s life for the other, not by getting laid. 
Today I read in The Telegraph that Pope Francis will be breaking another tradition by celebrating Holy Thursday Mass in a juvenile detention center on the outskirts of Rome.  He is expected to wash and kiss the feet of 12 inmates, a gesture that commemorates Jesus’ humility towards his disciples and humble service towards others. 
As the English newspaper pointed out, “this is very much in keeping with his past in Argentina, where he washed the feet of Aids sufferers and met with street prostitutes.”
Though words may be cheap, they still remain necessary, for they are a very practical way of reinforcing authentic love.  This is shown by another beautiful example of the Holy Father that was recently revealed.
The Catholic News Agency reported today that Pope Francis surprised the owner of a kiosk in Buenos Aires with a telephone call to explain that he will no longer need his newspaper delivered each morning.
The son’s owner, Daniel Del Regno, answered the call and could not believe it.  He thought it was a prank.  The Pope insisted, “Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio, I’m calling you from Rome.”
“I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn’t know what to say…He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family.” 
Del Regno remembered how he would put a rubber band around each newspaper that was delivered to the cardinal.  “At the end of the month, he always brought them back to me.  All 30 of them!  I know what he is like.  He’s one of a kind.”
Thanking people for what they do for us is a no-brainer.  But it continues to be a rarity.  And at the highest levels of power, gratitude towards the humble is nearly extinct.
The Pope’s love for Jesus Christ and St. Francis, and his extraordinary simplicity, humility and sincerity, appears to be softening the hardest of hearts.  A self-proclaimed atheist recently left a comment that read: 
I would “merely add an atheist’s view that this new chap has done more in a week than his predecessor did in 8 years to:  engage directly with believers; appeal to non-believers; and by his actions, justify trust in the organization which he leads. 
By the end of the Ratzinger papacy I was convinced the Roman Catholic Church would wither to its eventual death, and that this would be a good thing.  I no longer hold either of those views.  This man seems a genuine force for good.”
I think miracles are happening!  I for one never imagined enjoying a comment left by an atheist.  I actually agree with some of his statements.
Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me, but if I perform them, even if you don’t believe me, believe the works…”
The Pope doesn’t appear to care much if people like him or not.  I think he just cares that we show great love for others, especially the poor, the marginalized and the sick.

Resolution:  I will be steadfast in my prayers to Jesus Christ, for prayer, like Christ, makes the heart grow fonder and softer.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

John 8:51-59 Relevant Pope

Jesus said to the Jews:  “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.”  So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed.  Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  Or the prophets, who died?”
We know the answer to this question, and we know the response Jesus received for it.  Yes, the Lord is greater than Abraham and all the prophets.  In fact, He is even greater than death itself.  And Abraham and all the prophets don’t mind at all.  In fact, they actually “rejoiced to see my day.”
The day of the Lord.  Yesterday, I read on my computer an article regarding the Holy Father.  I scrolled down the page to the comments section and read the first comment:  “The Pope is irrelevant.” 
The Pope is irrelevant???  Obviously, only a weak, scared and threatened individual would write something like that.  The Pope is not irrelevant, for He is relevant to me and to hundreds of millions of people around the world.  I was about to write a clever response to this individual regarding who is relevant and who is not, but then I remembered Pope Francis’ words the other day and concluded that even this individual is relevant, for hopefully he is relevant to his mother. 
How ironic!  The Holy Father, since the start of his ministry, has been insisting on respecting all human beings, especially the weak, the poor and the marginalized.  He has been insisting that we are all relevant, regardless of how much power, money and Facebook friends we have.  To claim he is irrelevant would mean his message is irrelevant. 
But maybe this person is right, for in a world in which human beings make billions of dollars exploiting other human beings, it may very well be true that the Holy Father is extending a hand out to people who would prefer to chop it off or slap it away.
Well, about an hour after I read this I got into my car and headed to meet someone for lunch.  As I was driving, I received a phone call from a woman I have known for a few years.  She told me she made a big decision today.  I asked her what it was.  She said she finally decided to become Catholic.  I couldn’t believe it!  I asked, “May I ask you what made you decide?”  She said it was the example of Pope Francis.  Wow!  I couldn’t believe it.  But then she blew my mind away with what she said next:  “And the Cardinals who elected Him.  You see, it must have been the work of the Holy Spirit.  How else could they have elected someone unlike them?”
Talk about being relevant, and from thousands of miles away.  It’s one thing to switch political parties.  It’s another thing to change religions!  That’s one giant step for anyone.
The Lord has been relevant in my life for years.  I can’t believe the changes He influenced in my life.  I left my family and career to follow Him.  I left my country and belongings to follow Him.  I left my plans and dreams to follow Him.  And it’s all been amazing! 
But I must also say that even Pope Francis has begun to impact me as well.  Ever since he introduced himself to the world from St. Peter’s, I have been preaching more and more about creation, love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion.  This man’s holiness, simplicity and humility are a magnet to bringing people together.  Who else in the world could bring a leftist President (Rafael Correa, from Ecuador), a dictator (Robert Mugabe, from Zimbabwe), Vice-President Joe Biden and former speaker of the house Nancy Pelosi from the USA all together in Rome for a Mass?  Who else could bring the leaders or representatives of various religions (Muslim, Hindu, etc…), including for the first time ever the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Chief Rabbi of Rome to Rome for his inauguration?  Who are the relevant?  The ones who show the greatest love and attract others to love!
Who else in the world today could bring so many people of different languages, religions and cultures to one place, even to Rome? 
I know for a fact that I would not be the man I am today if it were not for my Catholic Faith.  I still have a long way to go, but I know I’m going in the right direction (as long as I don’t turn back!).
A young man who recently converted to Catholicism told me that many of his business partners are asking him why he converted.  He told me he didn’t know how to answer this question in just a few minutes.  I told him, “Well, tell them the truth.  Tell them that your faith in Jesus Christ has changed the way you live your life.” 
Resolution:  Be relevant, especially with the weak, the marginalized, the poor and the unbelieving.  Share your faith, your hope and your love with others today.