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!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mt 25:14-30 We Are Family

Saturday of the Twenty-First Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples this parable:  "A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them.  To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one - to each according to his ability..."

I believe.  Faith in God demands more than lip service.  Its essence goes beyond recited creeds.  Like God himself, faith must reach out and touch the very heart of men.  Its goal is to imitate the life of Jesus Christ.  Its purpose is to inspire followers to decisions and actions that go beyond human reason and understanding, even human logic. 

Just a few days ago, President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ty M. Carter.  He is a soldier.  He is also a very religious man.  His training, his love and his faith gave him the courage to jump out of his "foxhole" (a Humvee) and into the arms of one of his fallen comrades.  Before a packed audience of dignitaries, family members and soldiers, President Obama took to the podium and read the following statement:

Ty jumped out of bed, put on his boots and his helmet and his Kevlar vest, grabbed some ammo and he ran -- into bullets coming down like rain, for a hundred meters -- to resupply his comrades out in that Humvee.  When they needed more, he ran back, blasted the locks off supply rooms and sprinted yet again -- dodging explosions, darting between craters -- back to the Humvee. 

The ferocious fire forced them inside.  And so it was that five American soldiers -- including Ty and Specialist Stephan Mace -- found themselves trapped in that Humvee, the tires flat, RPGs pouring in, peppering them with shrapnel, threatening to break through the armor of their vehicle.  And, worst of all, Taliban fighters were penetrating the camp.  The choice, it seemed, was simple -- stay and die, or make a run for it.  

So once more, Ty stepped out into the barrage, and along with Sergeant Brad Larson, he laid down fire, providing cover for the other three -- including Stephan -- as they dashed for safety.  But in those hellish moments, one man went down, and then another.  And Stephan disappeared into the dust and smoke. 

Back in that Humvee, Ty and Brad held out, for hours; rolling down the window, just a crack, taking a shot, over and over; holding the line, preventing that outpost from being completely overrun.  Ty would later say, “We weren’t going to surrender.”  We were going to fight “to the last round.”  And then they saw him -- their buddy, Stephan -- on the ground, wounded, about 30 yards away.

When the moment was right, Ty stepped out again and ran to Stephan, and applying a tourniquet to one of his legs, bandaging the other, tending to his wounds, grabbing a tree branch to splint his ankle.  And if you are left with just one image from that day, let it be this:  Ty Carter bending over, picking up Stephan Mace, cradling him in his arms, and carrying him -- through all those bullets -- and getting him back to that Humvee.    

And then Ty stepped out again -- recovering a radio, finally making contact with the rest of the troop, and they came up with a plan.  As Clint Romesha and his team provided cover, these three soldiers made their escape -- Ty, Brad carrying Stephan on a stretcher, through the chaos, delivering Stephan to the medics.

And the battle was still not over, so Ty returned to the fight.  With much of the outpost on fire, the flames bearing down on the aid station, with so many wounded inside, Ty stepped out, one last time, exposing himself to enemy fire; grabbed a chainsaw, cut down a burning tree, saved the aid station, and helped to rally his troop as they fought, yard by yard.  They pushed the enemy back.  Our soldiers retook their camp.

After reading the President's prepared remarks, it may sound to you (as it did to me at times) as if Ty had no choice in his actions:  He did what he had to do.  But if that were the case, then there would have been no award ceremony.  Simply, another tragedy recorded in the U.S. Army war annals.   But Ty had plenty of choices.  And that's what makes his story so remarkable.  In fact, what makes his actions so memorable and honorable is that he went beyond the call of duty.  It is Ty's faith in the Father and the Son (our brother), that allows him to say, "We are family."

We are family.    This family is not simply based on DNA, nor is it based on survival.  This family is based on love.  God is love.  All love comes from God, acknowledged or not.  We have this love in our DNA.  This love is elegantly expressed in the words and sacrifice of Jesus Christ:  There's no greater love than this:  to lay down your life for another.

St. Paul tells us:  "On the subject of fraternal charity you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another" (1Thess. 4:9-11).

The Third Servant.  Like the third (and useless) servant in today's parable, Ty could have complained to the Divine Master while he was pinned down in his Humvee.  He could have whined about being worse off than all the others.  He even could have refused all help (out of pride) and tried to do it alone!  Instead, he asked for assistance from God and from his comrades.  He rose to the occasion and became rich in love.  Of course he doesn't see himself as a hero.  You would expect that from a Christian, who takes his faith seriously - in words and in deeds.  He says the medal belongs to all the men who fought with him that day, including the ones who did not see the next. 

Today, Ty suffers from PTSD.  He suffers from this horrible condition due to the memory of those he loved and lost, and from the evil he saw. 

War is Hell. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mt 25:1-13 The Flask That Oils Our Lamps

Friday of the Twenty-First Week In Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples this parable:  "The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them."

I never really liked this parable because I never really understood its significance beyond that of our Lord's Second Coming.  What's the meaning behind the rich symbols of ten virgins with their lamps and oil?

Eureka!  It finally dawned on me!  This parable sounds like the making of the Church's baptismal liturgy. 

Children come to the Church dressed like brides, in white garments; a reminder of their Christian dignity.  That they were created to love and be loved.  

They are anointed with oil and given a candle that is to be kept burning brightly:  "May you keep the flame of faith alive in your heart.  When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom." 

They are to save themselves for the Love of their life. 

But like all of Christ's parables, there is so much more here than what is first imagined. 

Virgins.  Until we are united with Him, the supreme lover of all souls, we are all virgins.  God is the bridegroom, and the day of our wedding is fast approaching.  Will we be prepared?  Or will we be found fast asleep?   

Everything on earth is created in the image and likeness of heaven or hell.  Our birth is an image of our heavenly birth.  Our wedding is an image of when God units himself to us.  Our death on earth is the reality of things to come:  the bringing together of loved ones or the brutal and eternal separation from loved ones.  This is an image of either eternal bliss or eternal loneliness. 

The "virgins" are a powerful reminder of our ultimate vocation on earth.  We are all called to be virgins; to save ourselves for the Lord.  The fact that there are "ten virgins" means that all are welcomed to be His bride.  

Oil as strength.  Oil has always been the symbol of strength.  In the olden days, priests, prophets and kings were anointed with oil.  By our baptism we have been called by God.  "We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people set apart."  We are set for life.  We have all that it takes to get to heaven.  Nothing but our selfishness can stop us now. 

Oil as Faith.  The extra flask the five virgins have is that supernatural faith they take with them.  These individuals do not simply have faith in humanity, in science and in calculations.  They have faith in God.  This faith allows them to function beyond their sight; beyond their understanding; and even beyond the odds.  Faith in God is to their advantage, especially in times of trouble and as others fall away.  It becomes a supreme necessity when the night is at its most darkest hour.      

It is this faith that keeps the candle burning brightly until our heavenly spouse arrives to take us away. 

Please share this meditation with your friends.

P.S.  Do you have any prayer intentions?  Please share them with our readers before this Sunday's Masses.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mark 6:17-29 Biting Someone's Head Off

The Passion of St. John The Baptist
(Click here for readings)

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.  John had said to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.  Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him..."

Christian churches, and especially the Catholic Church, are said to be obsessed by sex and to devote far too much time and spiritual energy to dealing with it. 

Wow!  I don't know about you, but I think it is Hollywood, the entertainment industry and the music industry that is obsessed by sex.  To be more specific, I think it is Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Madonna that are obsessed by sex.  Wait...come to think of it, I think it is our entire society and the millions of boys, girls, men and women that are addicted and obsessed by sex!

If the Church appears to be obsessed with sex, it is because it knows perfectly well what it can do to people. 

Sex is a huge force within us and can easily take control (possession) of us.  It can even reach the point of being a rival to God!

Sex can drive a men (men and women) bonkers! 

God created them male and female.  We take gender for granted.  We shouldn't.  God didn't.  He spelled it out and made it a significant factor from the very beginning of time.  

I find it remarkable at how quickly the Jews opposed nearly all the religious systems of the Ancient Near East and gave no gender to heavenly bodies.   

We know that the plant world can easily reproduce without the aid of sexual desire.  We also know that the animal kingdom desires sex only to propagate.  What we have a difficult time admitting is that, among humans, sex can take on a life of its own, and apart from reproduction.

God created sex.  He also created love.  "Love has an infinity of expressions.  Not only does it make possible evolution through natural selection but, in its higher expressions, it produces perpetual dramas - histories, comedies, tragedies.  It combines endless physical possibilities with endless emotional possibilities." (- Paul Johnson, "The Quest for God")

Today is the feast day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist, a prophet sent by God and killed by a weak and decrepit king.  We know the story well.  King Herod, who was married to his brother's wife, secretly lusted over his wife's daughter and was eventually seduced by her. Over his better judgment, he turned John's head over to her. 

King Herod fell into a common trap.  Instead of biting his tongue, he bite the head off of God's messenger.  Sound familiar?  Sex and raging fantasies can do that to a man.  Grudges and jealousy can do that to a woman.  Herodias is as guilty as Herod.

This morning, I read of an atheist king (without doubt one of the most beloved and feared in his country) who executed his former lover along with twelve performing artists.  OMG!  Déjà vu!

Apparently, Kim Jong-un's new girlfriend may have been a bit jealous of the ex.  Well, when one or two are joined together without morals, then anything can go, including a life.

The news is reporting that they were all executed for making a sex tape.  Interesting...I guess when you're above God, then pornography is a more serious crime than mass murder.

I love the picture I chose.  It spoke to me.  There he is:  confident, smiling, and so kingly.  And look at all those ladies.  See how they cry.  I wonder:  Is it out of love or fear?  Probably a little bit of both, for they know their king has their life in his hands, and they may actually wish they had a hand in his murderous hands. 

Today, let's be extra careful not to bite someone's head off, especially out of jealousy or resentment.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mt 23: 23-26 What's Going On?

Tuesday of the Twenty-First Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said:  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You pay tithes of mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law:  judgment and mercy and fidelity.

Last week was a very busy week for me.  It was also a very interesting week.  I felt like a firefighter, and everywhere I went, I was putting out fires.

At the hospital.    I went to visit an elderly man who was suffering from a very serious infection.  He could barely speak to me due to the excruciating pain he was in.  His son, a man who had recently returned to the Church, was standing next to me.  He asked me to speak to his dad alone.  He told me his dad had a lot of things to confess.  He left us alone in the room and I sat down beside the ill man's bed.  He tried to speak, but the pain was just too much for him.  After about 30 minutes, I told him not to worry and to rest.  I then proceeded to anoint his forehead, saying:  "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy bless you with the Holy Spirit."  I then anointed his hands, saying:  "May the Lord free you from your sins and save you and raise you up."

I called the son back into the room and said, "Your father was in too much pain to do a confession, so I went ahead and anointed him.  Don't worry.  His sins have been forgiven." 

But I guess that wasn't good enough for him.  He began to ask his father why he thought he was in so much pain; and if his pain may have been related to the state of his soul.  I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  From the sound of it, the son held some animosity towards his father and I wanted him to stop talking to his father like that.  I stared at him but I didn't get his attention.  Finally, I kicked his foot, looked at him and said, "Enough!" 

You have neglected the weightier things of the law:  judgment and mercy and fidelity.

As I said before, the son had just come back to the Church.  He's a good man.  But you know what happens:  We've been away from the Church for years.  We come back.  We come back with a vengeance!  A sense of superiority.  In the end, this son may have felt superior to his father.  But it is not to be this way.  The Son is always at the service of The Father.

As a priest I have witnessed for myself the incredible power of mercy and humility, and how they have the power to heal and save loved ones, relationships, families and friendships. Through Christ, they are the means to our salvation.

My experience has been this:  when someone is in pain, the best thing to do is to listen to them and stay near them.  When someone asks a lot of tough questions about the Catholic faith, the first thing to do is look into their eyes and ask them one simple question:  What's going on?

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Monday, August 26, 2013

Mt 23:13-22 Love And Order

Monday of the Twenty-First Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men.  You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter."

Just a few days ago, a senior from a local public high school asked me to answer some questions for him regarding Catholicism.  I was surprised, given the fact that this topic was of a religious nature.  He told me it was for a class he was enrolled in.  I agreed and was ready to set up an interview when he insisted that he would write down the questions and email them to me.   He wanted a written document.  Hmmm. Okay, no problem. Unfortunately, when I read his questions, I was disappointed, for they centered solely around the Church's teachings regarding homosexuality.   When I read his questions for a second time, I realized that they were very misleading and very "leading".

A leading question is a question which subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. Leading questions are generally undesirable as they result in false or slanted information. For example: "How fast was the blue car going when it crashed into the white van?"  This question is "leading" because it suggests that the blue car is to blame for the accident.

I never mailed my responses.  Here are his questions.  Here are my answers.

1.       Does religion in general play a major role in society’s culture?  Yes.  It always has and always will.  Sometimes more. Sometimes less.  But like a language, religion is a part of who we are.  We celebrate.  We mourn.  We hope.  We love.  We do all these things in a very religious way. 

2.       How has Catholicism affected society’s culture and mindset? (i.e. abortion, homosexuality)  Catholics have contributed to Western Society in many ways:  in the building of Universities (the first being the University of Bologna (1158), Oxford, Cambridge and Paris); in the building of hospitals; in scientific research (the theory of the Big Bang came from Fr. George Lemaitre, a Belgium priest); in the legal rights of indigenous people (Fr. Francisco de Victoria is described as the father of International law).  

The Catholic Church has affected society in its long standing respect for human life, regardless of the age or "quality" of that life.  The dignity of the human person never changes.  It is not defined by their "usefulness" or how efficient they are.  All life, from conception to natural death, must be respected.  All individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, deserve to be loved. 

3.       What does the Catholic Church say about Homosexuality and same-sex marriage? 
Paragraph 2357 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:  "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."

4.       In your opinion, is homosexuality a choice?  I find it interesting that you are now asking for my opinion.  What good is my opinion?  What good is your opinion?  For centuries, opinions have led to many erroneous beliefs or positions.  Is this an admission on your part that there is no conclusive evidence available to us? Contrary to popular opinion, genes can't control behavior completely.
"Affecting something is not the same as having complete control over it.  Environment, like genetics, plays an important role in how our behavior develops.  For example:  Alcoholism runs in families not only because there is a genetic component to alcoholism, but also because children learn to cope with stress by watching how their parents and siblings behave in stressful situations"
[Scientific American, Oct. 23, 2012].  Likewise, your environment affects your sexual and romantic relationships.  With regards to homosexuality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. 

5.       Is being in a homosexual relationship a sin?   If you notice, the church does not use the word sin in its explanation, and there is good reason for it.   Would it be a "sin" to have one arm? Would it be a sin to have a medical condition?  Would it be a sin to have an addiction? It is not a sin to be homosexual.  But it would be naïve to say that nothing is wrong. 

6.       Are Homosexuals expected to live a life of chastity?  From the Catechism of the Church:  2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.

Unfortunately, in today's hyper-sexualized world, chastity is very much ridiculed rather than respected.

7.       How will the legalization of same-sex marriage affect the church and the sanctity of marriage?  If the definition of marriage changes, then our whole understanding of the family will change as well.  The importance we place on children being raised by a father and mother will change.  And down the road, words such as "life", "family", "children", "parents", "liberty", "freedom", may change, and change for the worse.  Changing the definition of words is no small matter.  It creates confusion.  After all, this is how we understand one another. 

8.       Can Homosexuals li[v]e a homosexual lifestyle and be involved with the church at the same time?  Everyone is welcomed.  Not everything is welcomed.  All people are to be loved.  But to love someone doesn’t necessarily mean you have to agree with them on everything. 

9.       Will Catholicism ever be accepting of the Homosexual lifestyle?  Accepting, no.  Understanding, yes.  Doctrines may be black and white, but people are not so clear cut.  Yes, we all need rules, but we also need compassion.  Compassion and understanding are absolutely necessary for life to be worth living.

10.   Are those who advocate same-sex marriage just as sinful as those getting married? Sinful?  No.  I would say they are misinformed.  Far too many advocates are under the impression that to love someone means you have to agree with them on everything.  They equate being "nice" with being accepting.  That’s how a lot of teens feel these days, and that's why so many of them have a hard time telling their friends the truth.  They equate "telling the truth" with "not being very supportive.”  They are well meaning, but not very helpful.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees.  What makes the Catholic faith so beautiful is also what makes it extremely messy.  Our doctrines may be clear cut, but our people are not.  Words are carefully defined, but people are all over the place.  Logic is in perfect order, but people are messy!  We are good, but we do bad things.  We have a good heart, but not all our thoughts are good.  Our Catholic faith understands this. but not everyone appreciates it [for example,  secularists].

Secularists are like modern day Pharisees. They like to have clear cut answers from the Church.  They demand yes and no answers.  The individual that wrote these questions wrote them like a politician or lawyer, not like a lover of truth or a doctor; like a robot, not like a human being.  He expected black and white answers.  He got gray instead.  People are more than the sum of their parts.

We come from a nation that is heavily influenced by "Bible Christians."  The problem with them is that they routinely remove the human dimension from the word of God.  

In the Catholic Church, Sacred Tradition plays as much as an important role as the Bible, for it is a sacred reminder as to how the word of God should be applied to real life.  This human experience allows us to give flesh and bones to words, an absolute requirement ever since the Word became flesh...and dwelt among us. 

The scribes and Pharisees treated people like they treated the law:  with exacting precision.  They treated Christ like they treated their writings:  by crossing their t's. 

And what the world got was a Cross and a person nailed to it.

Writing the law down is not a bad idea.  Nailing people to it is.  We need to know what is right and wrong.  But writing off people is a bad idea, for only God knows the hearts and minds of all His people.  As the Pope recently said, "Who am I to judge?"  The Pope's response shocked our secular media and many uninformed Christians.  Why?  Because they still don't know Jesus Christ.


John 1:45-51 Finding Jesus

Feast of St. Bartholomew
(Click here for readings)

Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth."  But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  Philip said to him, "Come and see."

Jesus found Philip.  Philip found Nathanael.  Nathanael found Jesus. 

"Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom" (Ps 145:12).

Who was it that brought you to Christ?  Was it your parents?  Was it a relative?  Was it a neighbor or friend?  Was it a boyfriend or girlfriend?  Was it an atheist? 

Well, whoever it was, you should thank them today, immediately! 

I have many people to thank, but one in particular.  She was an old girlfriend who worked with me in the same department at Kodak.  Although we were close in proximity, we were miles apart in faith.  She had it.  I did not.

Every morning I would go to work and find a inflated balloon in my office.  I hated it.  It was always from her, and I knew what I was supposed to do with it:  I was supposed to pop it and read a little piece of paper that had an inspirational bible verse written on it.  I dreaded it.  I thought she was a religious fanatic!

Now look at me today!

Although our relationship never blossomed, and we ended up going our separate ways, I still need to thank her, for she wasn't afraid to share her faith with me and suffer the consequences for it. 

She never thought that faith had to be sacrificed for "romance" or personal beliefs for a relationship.  This is remarkable.  Looking back at our time together, I can honestly say that this young lady was far more mature than I was.  In the face of so much ridiculing (sarcasms and sophisms hidden by bombastic phrases), this woman never buckled in her quest to win my soul for Christ.    

I need to start thanking all those people who brought me to Christ Jesus.  Most of them are alive.  Some have been dead for nearly a century.  It doesn't matter.  They are all my friends.

"Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom" (Ps 145:12).

Who have you brought to Jesus Christ?  We have a lot of people to thank, but do we have anyone that will thank us?  Have I brought anyone closer to our Lord?   Have I invited anyone to come closer to the Lord?  If not, then reach out to some of your friends, family members and even past enemies.

The Lord does not ask us to convert anyone.  He asks us to simply proclaim the Good News.  We would be foolish to think that our words or actions could replace God's words or actions; that our presence could replace the Holy Spirit's presence.  Only the Lord knows the hearts of His people.  Only He knows us by heart. 

We are simply his beloved instruments that have come to know and believe that Jesus is our greatest treasure.

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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Luke 13:22-30 This Is All For You!

Twenty-first Sunday In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem.  Someone asked him, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?"  He answered them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough."

If God created man and woman in his image and likeness, then we should not be surprised is earth was created in the image and likeness of heaven and hell.

Locked doors.  God is constantly inviting us to be one with Him in mind, body, heart and soul.  Are you with Him?  Are you on board?  Or are you still missing the point of life?  Has the ship set sail without you?  I'm not always on board.  That's when the door gets slammed in my face!  I know all too well that painful and horrible feeling of being "locked out" from God's grace.  And only because of my refusal to follow along with His plan, His mission, His Will. 

God has given us a certain amount of time to get things done before we are "locked out" forever.  But beware, for the doors begin to close here on earth.

Salvation is one of them.

Do you realize that life is for you?  Have you come to appreciate the life you have?  If not, then start now, for time is running out.  

Again, we have all experienced that nasty feeling of being locked out:  that day when I could have asked a girl to the prom, but didn't; that day when I should have made that phone call, but didn't; that day when I should have turned the other cheek, but didn't; that day when I should have held my spouses hand or embraced them in bed, but didn't; that day when I should have apologized, or tried harder, or not given up so easily.   

Yesterday, I celebrated a couple's 50th anniversary of marriage.  It was a beautiful occasion and a wonderful reminder that I was made for life and love! 

Fifty years is a long time, and not an easy time at all.  I know for a fact this couple went through some rough times.  I know for a fact they got through them, together.  During my homily I noticed that they weren't holding each other's hands, so I immediately told them to do it.  It was a great moment for me to remind all the other couples in attendance that they should never take anyone for granted, not even their spouse.  We all know that one of the biggest threats to married life is a product of married life; that is, a false sense of security and stability; that things will never change; that my spouse will be forever by my side.

How in the world could I not hold my spouse's hand while they are next to me???

The Lord is constantly reminding me that everything is for me:  that life is for me; that the day is for me; that love is for me. 

Kiss the one you love, before its too late; before the door gets slammed in your face!  Hug your friend, before it's too late.  Wake up with the other in your arms, before it's too late.  Do you really think that you will be able to do so forever? 

"So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees" (Heb. 12:11-13). 

Yes, life is for you!  The stars are for you!  The moon is for you!  This evening is for you!  Love is for you!  Your spouse is for you!  Salvation is for you! 

Even your enemies are for you!

Take them!  Accept them!  Embrace them!  Be grateful for them..."before the Master of the house rises and locks the door."

Lord, open the door for us!  Not so fast, says the Lord.  What took you so long?  Was fidelity, forgiveness, compassion and love not exciting enough for you?  Were they not fast enough for you?  Were they not good enough for you?

"The first shall be last and the last shall be first," says the Lord. 

If you haven't gone through any tough times lately, then consider this a curse and a precursor to disaster.  Tough times help us to grow up, to mature.  Enemies help us to unite.  Tough times help us to appreciate the good times; to appreciate time in general. 

"My son and daughter, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciples; he scourges every son he acknowledges.  Endure your trials as "discipline"; God treats you as sons and daughters...At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it" (Heb. 12:5-7).

It's time to get to work.  After all, time was made for me: not too fast, not too slow, but just right, and with just the right amount of it as well...for those who never take it for granted. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mt 22:1-14 True Victory?

Thursday of the Twentieth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, "The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come..."

He spoke in parables.  The beauty of parables is that they never seem to get outdated.  Everyone can relate to them, and they will be just as relevant today as they were two thousand years ago and will be two thousand years from now. 

A feast made for a king.  The King had it all planned out.  I'm gonna throw a banquet for my son and all the invited guests will attend.  But they didn't, and he was totally wrong. 

Missing the boat.  Are you missing the boat.  That is, are you missing the point of life?  In today's Gospel passage, we read how some people ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business.  The rest laid hold of the king's servants and mistreated them! 

Wow!  Are you too busy for Church?  Are you too busy to pray?  Have you become so angry, bitter and resentful of God and religion (organized religion) that you openly mock them and ridicule those who hold fast to them?

The Lord reaches out to us all the time.  Do you reach out as well? Or do you push back?

Here I am, Lord.  From the moment we were conceived, the Lord sent out an open invitation:  "Come follow me" (cf. Mt. 4:19).  "Blessed the man who makes the Lord his trust.; who turns not to idolatry or to those who stray after falsehood." 

These falsehoods are the most common mistakes we could ever make in our lives.  They are the most futile attempts at finding meaning in our lives.  By now we should know them and be working diligently to prevent them from falling into our children's hearts and minds. 

What are they?  Here are the most prevalent ones.  (1) To trust more in men than in God; (2) To win (be successful) at all cost and above God's Commandments; (3) To attempt to find meaning through work rather than service; (4) To strive for pleasure instead of virtue; (5) To replace selflessness with selfishness; love with sex; and family with friends.

Be careful what you pray for.  In the Book of Judges, we read how Jephthah prayed to God for victory over his enemies.  Victory was so important to him that he made a weird vow:  "If you deliver the Ammonites into my hands... then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph shall belong to the Lord.  I shall offer him up as a burnt offering" (cf. Judges 11:29-39c).

His daughter, his only daughter was the first one to come greet him.  He couldn't believe it!  But what kind of person would make such a silly vow in the first place?  Maybe someone who valued victory over life? 

Today is the feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Mary is beautiful because she placed God's love above her own loves, and God's Commandments above her very own dreams.  It is her fidelity to God that makes her so beautiful.  But what makes Mary Queen of the Universe and of the Apostles is that she placed herself at the service of the Lord; that is, at the feet of her Son; at the foot of the Cross.

The salvation of our enemies is far more important than their destruction.  This is victory.  This is true victory.

NEW:  You can now hear my Sunday homilies by clicking on the link "Sunday homilies - at All Saints" found on the right-hand side of this blog.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mt 19:23-30 Wealth and Intelligence

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Amen I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of an needle than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God."

The last shall be first.  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, "Who then can be saved?"  The Lord said to them, "For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible."

Everyone loves an underdog?  Everyone loves a humble person.  No one likes an arrogant and prideful person.

The atheist and zoologist Richard Dawkins has accomplished a feat typical of so many other atheists:  He has managed to insult over one billion people.  He recently tweeted the following:

The reaction against him was swift.  Writer and Independent columnist Owen Jones responded: "How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment."

The problem with this statement is that far too many atheists routinely dress their atheism with religious bigotry.   They routinely mock and ridicule religion AND religious people.  Now not all atheists are like this; but unfortunately, the most influential ones appear to be.  After all, more people follow Richard Dawkin's religious bigotry than Westboro Baptist Church's anti-gay and anti-Catholic bigotry!

I think I have finally understood what G.K. Chesterton meant when he wrote:  "If God did not exist, then atheists would not exist."  He meant that atheists need religion in order to give meaning to their cause; otherwise what would they talk about?  What would they write about?  Who would they mock? 

So although atheists cannot exist without religion, religious can exist perfectly fine with atheists.  They can talk about their God and share their personal experiences with God.  They can write about and explain their creed, their cult and their code of conduct.

Most of us know that atheists openly mock religion.  What most of us don't know is that they actually sell it.  There's one atheist company that prides itself (and sells its stuff) on mocking religion.  Here are some fine examples:

"Science flies you to the moon..."  Yes, it does.  It also builds A-bombs and provides a delivery system for them to reach their destination. 

Are you surprised?  Notice also how careful they are in saying religion and not religious.  That would make their hatred too obvious.

We know from recent history how mocking an entire group of people and placing them all in one category can easily lead to the hatred and genocide of an entire group of people.  

Now not all atheists buy Richard Dawkin's quotes, but let's not forget that this highly intelligent, highly scientific, highly rational and well educated zoologist currently has nearly one million followers on his twitter account.

Wow...that's scary!  I thought education was suppose to eliminate bigotry and racism?  My favorite atheist t-shirt reads:  "I think,  therefore, I'm an atheist." 

Richard Dawkins definitely thinks a lot about himself. 

Now I'm no saint.  And far too often I think too much about myself!  I shouldn't.  I know better.  And so all this makes me wonder:  Does being "intelligent" have the same effect as being "rich"?  Does it go to our brains? Does it make us feel omnipotent?   Does it make us feel superior towards others?  Does it make us feel better about ourselves?  Is it any different from being religiously self-righteous?

"Jesus became poor although he was rich..." (2Cor 8:9).

You have to wonder. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mt 19:16-22 Do You Wish To Be Perfect?

Monday of the Twentieth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A young man approached Jesus and said, "Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?"  He answered him, "Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good."

What is good?  Only God knows.  I'm not joking.  Only God knows what is good and bad.  That's why we are to take his advice and follow Him. 

How often do you hear people say, "Well, you don't need to believe in God in order to be good and to do good."  I'm not so sure about that.  After all, what does it mean to be "good"?  Who decides?  Is it decided by politicians and judges?  Is it decided by votes and court decisions?  Or is it decided by "the times"? If so, then what is "good" can easily change like slavery and abortion, where slavery was once considered good and abortion is now considered good. 

History has shown that people have had some very different ideas of what is good.  The Romans believed it was discipline and authority.  The Greeks believed it was wisdom and knowledge.  The Nazis believed it was power and race.  The Communists believed it was atheism and camaraderie. 

Some people would still agree.

So maybe "good" must be decided by each and every one of us.  How convenient, especially for the rich and powerful who can quickly sway public opinion like so many have done before, and like most of us never can. 

I have actually heard some say that even God changes his ideas of what is good and bad.  But that is simply ignorance of the Scriptures, for even Christ said, when speaking about men divorcing their wives, that "because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed men to divorce, but it was not so from the very beginning."   Because of the hardness of our hearts...

Unlike so many us, God prefers to work with us over time, even if it takes a long time. 

I have even heard some say that God ordered the massacre of thousands of villagers in the Old Testament, as if to justify man's massacre of all the men, women and children in the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima!

So men have a right to act like God?  No, but we've always wanted to!

We need a standard, and we have one in the God that created us.

The Jews and the Baals (cf. Judges 2:11-19).  The Jews of old constantly struggled with idolatry.  We struggle with the same exact thing.  We prefer and desire a god that is created in our image; and like the Jews, we will always be tempted by the gods of least resistance. 

The Baals were just what the politicians ordered.  The children of Israel were promised that these gods would make their lives so much easier, and that by following them, they would get along much better with their neighbors: the nations that were stronger than them, surrounding them and constantly threatening them.

What happened to them next is typical of what happens to all of us when we follow our cravings, our passions and our desires:  we become the slaves of others.   

Jesus and the rich young man.  Jesus asked the rich young man:  "Why do you ask me about the good?  There is only One who is good."  If we don't talk about this; if we don't see eye-to-eye on this, then we won't be able to agree on much, not even on what is "good".  

If you noticed, the Lord told the young man to follow the Commandments, but only the commandments that do not relate to Him, to God:  "Do not commit adultery.  Do not steal.  Do not bear false witness.  Do not kill.  Love your neighbor as yourself."   

Why just these Commandments?  What about the first three Commandments?  First the civil man, then the holy man.

By not doing certain bad things, the rich young man won't be holy, but he won't be a tyrant to others either.  This way, at least, there may be a bit of peace on earth and in our neighborhoods.

The above Commandments are respected in nearly every single culture.  But who hasn't broken them?  Who hasn't struggled with them?  It isn't enough.  We need more.

The Lord provides.

"If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have... and... come follow me."

We will always be tempted to follow the god created in our image, rather than the God who created us in His image.

Do you wish to be perfect? Then follow the Lord.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Luke 12:49-53 I Have This Fire!

Twentieth Sunday In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!"

The Prophet Jeremiah.  One of Israel's greatest prophets, Jeremiah, was thrown into a cistern by his enemies!  Why?  Why did they do something like this!

We all know the famous saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names [words] will never hurt me."    I don't know if teachers still teach this in schools, but it's not true!  Words do hurt us.  Jeremiah was thrown into a well because his words were considered "demoralizing."

As children we were brought up learning that lies would land us in trouble.  Parents:  Have you broken the bad news to your kids, yet?  Have you told them that telling the truth will land them into even bigger problems at work and with the government?  Most teenagers figure it for themselves, especially when they lose a close friend because they told them the truth.

Jeremiah got in trouble with his own people not because he told them lies or what they wanted to hear.  He got in trouble because he told them what they didn't want to hear; that is, he told them the truth.

I have come to set the earth on fire.  Christ has this incredible, almost insatiable, desire to set the world on fire; to reveal himself to us! 

He has so much to tell us, and it's consuming Him.  He has so much to do, and it is killing Him.  He is the Word made flesh and He feels trapped in his own skin!

He wants to put a new song into our mouth (cf. Ps 40:3).

I recently watched the new Lady Gaga video ("Applause") and I wasn't surprised.  A lot of critics weren't either.  They gave it a big "F".  It didn't make to the top of any charts.  It didn't make it to the number one, number two or even the number three spot.  The producers said it would be shocking.  It wasn't.  It was actually quite boring.  There's just so little you can wear until you're naked.  And that's no longer shocking to anyone.  So what will be next?  Will we see her internal organs?

Katy Perry came out with her new song:  "Roar."  The critics called it lame.  They said it was more like a kitten's meow.  I agree.

What is shocking?  Duck Dynasty!  That's shocking!  I just read that season premiere shattered cable TV's record with 11 million viewers!  Why?  What's so special about this program?  Well, it's wholesome, and wholesome, my dear friends, is shocking today.  It's about normal people, and that is very shocking today.  It's about hard working brothers that work together, play together, and pray together, and that is unheard of today.  And the fact that this is shocking is shocking!  I guess it is unfashionable in today's highly dysfunctional society to have a functional family life.

Again, that's shocking!

Faith is shocking, and it shocks the hell out of this world, literally.

Faith gives life to life.  It brings life to life.  It makes life worth living.  Let's get some matches burning, shall we? 

Let's start putting some faith in our romances; in our relationships; in our marriages; in our culture; in our homes; in our work; in our sports; and in our lives! 

It's not easy, but it's worth trying.  And try we must.  Don't give me that bull that it's hard to do.  In the letter to the Hebrews, the author writes:  "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood."

How true!  I usually give-up long before I even start sweating, let alone shedding, and shedding blood!  

Enough is enough!  Time to shed some blood.  Time to put some faith back into my life!

Push yourself to have a more intimate relationship with the Lord; to make yourself more familiar with the things of God.

Start saying and doing what Christ was dying to say and do.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mt 19:13-15 Let The Children Come To Me

Saturday of the Nineteenth Week In Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Children were brought to Jesus that he might lay his hands on them and pray.  The disciples rebuked them, but Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

This morning I celebrated a baptism.  The Gospel passage offered on this occasion should be familiar to all of us:  "Love God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your mind and with all your soul."

As Catholics we are often asked why we baptize children.  Isn't it obvious?  We want to give them our very best.  Our faith in God is our very best.

Today's Gospel passage ties in perfectly with this morning's baptism.

Christ and a Child's Body.  Young parents are so protective of their babies.  They want to give them the highest quality products and are willing to spend the extra money for them, including organic products.  They check twice the expiration date on everything, even non-perishable items!  So, why wouldn't they give their children God, who is the very best for their heart, their soul, their mind and their body.

Believe me when I tell you that children are shocked when they first learn that there is someone that actually loves them more than their mom and dad.  It's an even bigger shock for them when they find out that there is a place they can go to when they can't open up to their mom or dad about a problem they have or a mistake they have made(Confession). 

Children need Christ like they need their body.  They need Christ's constant reminder that their body is a temple of God's glory, and that it is not to be used or abused or turned into an object.  Let the children come to me is a gentle reminder from God to them that their worth does not come from what others say but about them but from the one who created them. 

In our super-hyper-sexualized world, children have fallen victim not only to adult abuse but also to child-on-child abuse:  physical and sexual.  Parents need to be vigilant.  Kids are sexting.  Kids are engaging in inappropriate touching with their friends.  Kids are experimenting with each other.  All these things can lead to serious and long lasting consequences.

If I were a parent, I would be very weary to allow my child's friends to come over for a sleep over.  The hype regarding  one's body and "sexuality" is causing more and more children to question their sexuality; to become curious about their "sexuality" and to experiment with their "sexuality."

I have heard far too many horror stories where tweens of the same sex, during a sleep over, inappropriately touched each other and were mimicking what they had seen adults do on TV and/or on the Internet. 

Be aware of this!

Christ and a child's heart, mind and soul.  Christ's words are not only good for the body but for the heart, mind, and soul as well.  They are comforting.  They are reassuring.  They are balancing. 

Christ's words are like a soothing ointment to our wounds.  Let the children come to me is once again a gentle reminder that children can do no wrong that is unforgivable.

This is good for their psychology.  This is good for our society!  They need to know there is forgiveness of sins.  That there is redemption, salvation and hope.  They need to know there is love and that love conquers all things. 

They know their parents would die for them.  Now they need to know that someone else already did.