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


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lk 13:31-35 Are You A People Pleaser?

Thursday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, "Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you."  He replied, "Go and tell that fox, 'Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.'"

Our Lord will not allow anyone or anything to come in between Him and us.  Will you?

What will separate you from the love of Christ?  Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?  (cf. Rm 8:31b-39)

When St. Paul made out his list, he did it by memory, recent memory.  He experienced it all after his conversion to Christ.  I am sure he noticed it.  Did you?

He experienced it all:  Heartache and heartbreak was all too familiar to him; physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain, even spiritual pain were daily realities.  And although he dedicated his life to serve and to love, he was persecuted and threatened night and day with death.  He endured sleepless and cold nights.  In the end, he underwent the sword for the Lord. 

Now I know He knew better.  I know he got the hint.  Paul was no dummy.  He knew it wouldn't end "well" for him. But he marched on, as long as he could, along the Via Crucis, The Way, never looking back and never once regretting the decision He had made.

St. Paul, pray for us!

Why are the lives of the Saints so easy to read and so difficult to live?  Why do they bring tears to my eyes but fear in my heart?  Why are they so inspiring to my eyes and ears, yet so torturous for my hands and feet?

It may very well be because my life is still very much self-centered.

Herod is looking to kill you.  The Lord got the bad news from some unlikely sources:  Pharisees.  Maybe they thought they could scare Him on Halloween day.  After all, if we can't accuse Him of anything, then maybe we can use Herod to scare Him.  Well, they failed.  He did not budge.  Why?  Because a king is nothing in the presence of a principle. 

Principles.  Principles.  Principles.  Are you principled-centered or are you still a people-pleaser?  Are you driven by Christ or by pride, vanity and sensuality?  Are you still seeking MTV's "Best Dad Ever" award or TIME Magazine's "Most Influential Person Ever" Award or your High School's "Most Likely To Succeed" Award?

Give the Lord a break, please!  What pitiful honors are these when compared to the Lord and His principles.

Choose well.  Choose the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Do it now!  What will it be?  Will it be the death agony of happiness or the death agony of virtue? 

In Victor Hugo's amazing novel, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is caught in a dilemma:  He must either reveal his true identity to a court of law and return to prison, or hide himself and allow an innocent man to take his place and be sent to prison.  Of course all of this went against his life plan: "His goal was to conceal his name and sanctify his life and to escape from men and return to God.  Now, it was necessary to sanctify his life he must reveal his name.  He must return to men and carry his cross."

What will it be?  Will you carry your cross and sanctify your life in this world, or conceal your true identity and walk away from this world? 

This is not an easy choice.  Let us not kid ourselves of such serious business.  But to budge or not to budge is not the real question, for sometimes it is good to budge a little.  No, the real question is whether or not to love and not be loved.  That is the real question!  For to love someone means to seek what is good for them.  Unfortunately, this will not always what they sought, nor will their response to you always be what you expected.  But "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Amen!

Happy Halloween.  Let's not forget to take off the mask after today.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Diverse, Yet Narrow

Wednesday of the Thirtieth Week 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."

Will tomorrow's test be easy?  Does this question sound familiar to you?  It does to me!  I used to ask it all the time.  Of course, none of my experienced teachers ever answered my question, and for good reason.

Lord, will only a few people be saved?  In other words, "Lord, is it easy to get into heaven?  Or, "What's the minimum I need to do to get into Heaven?"

Notice the Lord does not say either "yes" or "no", but "strive!"  STRIVE!  TRY!  Make it a priority!  Make it important!

Practice makes perfect. When a young aspiring pianist asked an old man how to get to Carnegie Hall, the old man told him, "Practice man!  Practice!"

Strive.  Try.  The good must get better and the better must get betterer.  We have an entire lifetime to improve, to "be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect."  Yes, perfection is not impossible, but it does take a lifetime. 

Do you think you can do this all on your own?  Forget it.  No one changes on their own.  No one is saved on their own.  No one gets to heaven on their own.  I think we can all believe this.  We need help.  We need the Lord's help.  We need His grace.  We need His grace to do what is good, right and holy.  We need His grace for everything, especially for an increase in faith, hope and love.  We cannot have faith in Him without Him.  We cannot live in hope without Him.  We cannot love the way He demands us to love without Him.  We need Him.  We need the Lord and He needs us. He will not save us alone.  "The Lord created us without our consent but He will not save us without our consent" (St. Augustine).

But is getting to heaven something you strive for?  Yes, but be careful.  Getting to Heaven for a Christian is like winning the Medal of Honor for a soldier.  It is not something you seek but rather an acknowledgement of what you sought after in life.  Heaven does not go to the victor.  It goes to those who gave their very best, their personal best.  Those who seek the Medal of Honor will always fall short.  Those who strive to enter Heaven will never be strong enough to enter. 

So we should all think about Heaven as often as a musician thinks about winning an Emmy, or an actor an Oscar, or a soldier The Medal of Honor:  almost never.  No one lays down their life for a Medal just like no one lays down their life to get to Heaven.  Rather, it is given freely out of love and received out of love - love of art, of music, of country, but most importantly of God and neighbor.

Heaven is not something we strive for, per se, but an acknowledgement of a life driven by God through faith, hope and love. 

The gate is narrow.  Heaven may be very diverse, but it has a very narrow definition.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lk 13:18-21 The Real Deal

Tuesday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said, "What is the Kingdom of God like?  To what can I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden.  When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches."

Tried and Tested.  It is easy to think that Christianity has failed.  After all, look at all the mess we Christians are in.  But perception is not always reality.  With the exception of a few brave souls and for some brief and scattered moments in time, the problem is not that Christianity has failed.  The problem is that it hasn't really been tried.

The world should not expect anything from atheism, and atheists do not want the world to expect anything from them, for they are the first to admit that they cannot agree on anything, except that God does not exist.  So they can neither fail the world or help it to succeed.

But Christianity fails to rescue the world only when Christians are not, well, very Christian; priests are not very holy; Confessions are not very honest; Communion is not properly received; and Baptism is only a tradition. 

We can easily fail to become fully grown if the seed is thrown and left alone.

But if it is planted, then watch out!  Once it is fully grown, it promises the world a safe zone, a peaceful place, a resting place, an oasis of life, a waterfall for the body, a spa for the soul.

"Brothers and sisters:  Creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God" (Rom 8:18).

We are these kids!  The world is waiting for us grow up and to burst onto the world scene and shed some light.  Creation awaits Christians.  It is dying for us to bring back color to this black and white world; to show mercy and compassion to a world filled with hatred and revenge. 

The world needs Christians, and not much more.  It does not need the World Bank.  It needs hearts full of gold.  It does not need us to be more efficient.  It needs us to be less wasteful.  It does not need more Navy SEALS, it needs more Christians, people like Jesus Christ, lovers of souls.  It does not need us to have more jails, it needs us to protect and promote the sanctity of marriage and family, two essential ingredients for healthy minds, bodies and souls.  It does not need us to promote abortions, for children are like flowers, and the world can never have enough flowers.    

The world needs Christians, real life Christians, not in name alone but in real life; not some sort of representation but the real thing, the real deal.

So what are we waiting for?  The position?  The title?  The money?  Do I think I need money to do great things?  Do I think I need a title to get people to listen to me?  Do I believe I need to be in a position of authority to get things done?   None of these things are required.  What is required is faith and humility.  Has Christ's Word failed me or have my words (and the words of so many others) failed me?  

Though He was betrayed and abandoned, beaten and bruised, twisted and put to death, "the Lord has done marvels for us" (Ps 126:3a). 

We should never get bored of our faith until we have actually lived it.  We should not give up on it until we have climbed to the top of it.  We should never lose our faith until we have actually tried it.  Until then, we are not who we claim to be.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Luke 6:12-16 Are You Passionate?

Feasts of Saints Simon and Jude
(Click here for readings)

Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.  When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.

If you ever wondered if the lives of the Apostles were made-up stories, then today's saints offer some strong evidence to suggest otherwise.  We know very little about the lives of Saints Simon and Jude.   Apparently, no one ever took the time to "make-up" a story about their lives.

What we do know for sure is that Simon's friends nicknamed him "the zealot"; that is, a passionate and uncompromising man.  Knowing that, I am convinced he must have been the unassuming type of Apostle, a Lone Ranger of sorts, working closely, one-on-one, with simple people.  Unlike Paul, he never took the time to write letters or have someone keep a journal or diary for him and for posterity.  Hence, to me, it seems a bit unfair to label St. Paul the greatest Apostle EVER simply because he wrote more than the others and therefore we know him better than the others.  We will know the truth one day, when we are in heaven, and chances are it will not matter one way or the other.

What matters most is that we are passionate for the Lord and uncompromising in His Will.

Are you passionate?  Are you zealous for God?

This morning someone forwarded me an article written in The Guardian regarding Islam in England.  It turns out that approximately 5,000 people (mostly women) convert each year to Islam.  This is interesting, considering how secular England has become.  Some of the converts grew up in atheistic families.  Most of them came from non-practicing religious households.  All of them were introduced to Islam by a friend or work associate. 

When will you start talking to your friends about the Lord, especially to non-Christian friends?  When will stop giving up so quickly?  When will you reject the mindless and bogus nonsense that you should never (or are not allowed to) share your faith with others? 

The world is changing, and it will change with or without you, and for better or for worse.  You can make a difference, a big difference, one soul at a time.  Start today.  Make a difference.  Get involved.  Share your love for Jesus Christ.  We have something special here.  We know someone very special.  We have the King of Love with us.  What are you waiting for?  Get moving.  Get going.  The Church does not need you more than the world needs you!  Especially in today's ruthless and cut-throat society.

I know people who get upset when someone takes their parking spot.  Do you get upset when you read what celebrities or bloggers are saying about our faith?  It's one thing to ignore Jesus Christ.  It's another thing to publically mock Jesus Christ and His Church.  Stand up.  Make some calls.  Write some comments.  Get involved.  Make a difference.

Their message goes out through all the earth.  Does yours?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Luke 18:9-14 Look At Him!

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.

What the Pharisee said.  "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity - greedy, dishonest, adulterous - or even like this tax collector."

Does anyone really pray like this?  Honestly, I don't know anyone who does, but I must admit this is how we often talk about ourselves:  very fondly.

And maybe that's the Lord's point.  Is this Pharisee really praying?  Of course not.  What he is doing is going over his résumé.  And to him, it looks pretty darn impressive. 

But for someone who has read a lot of resumes, and has hired and fired a few people, as soon as I read this, I said to myself, "This is too good to be true."  And it is.  It's all one-sided.

Are your prayers all one-sided?

Let's examine for a moment this Pharisees' prayer.

Thank God I'm not like him.  As the Pharisee took his place and looked around, he got a good look at the brutal reality of sin.  But instead of being humbled by the experience, he became boastful.  Rather than saying, "Thank God I am not like these others," he should have said, "There, but for the grace of God go I." That would have been better, a lot better.  How could he not have known this?  Wasn't he an expert in the Law?  Doesn't he know human nature?

Not yet.  When your child shouts to you and says, "Mom!  Look at that guy with all those tattoos!"  The best thing to say is to them is, "Honey, wait until you grow up."  When your teen makes fun of the old folks, the best thing to say to them is, "Honey, just wait."  When your son makes fun of all the fat people, just say to him, "Did you ever see a picture of your dad when he was your age?" 

The Lord is the perennial Teacher.  He is constantly educating us, illuminating us and, most importantly, humbling us. 

When you read the newspaper and are shocked at what you find, be careful.  It's easy to say "I would never do that!"  Be humble and say "Thank God not yet."  This will help you to remain vigilant at all times, for you are no different than others, and what you read about others could easily happen to you, especially if you found yourself in their shoes. 

When I was boy, I thought someone had to be out of their minds to break one of the commandments.  Then I became a teenager.  When I was a seminarian, I believed other seminarians were just excusing themselves by questioning their vocation.  Then I experienced my own wave of doubts.  When I was a priest, I thought some priests were just plain lazy.  Then I grew old. 


This tax collector.    The Pharisee made one fundamental error in his prayer:  he compared himself to the wrong person.   A tax collector.  How convenient of him.  It was an easy target, a soft target.  The wrong target.  Why?  Because maybe the tax collector never received the education he received.  Maybe the tax collector went to a public school all his life.  Maybe he grew up poor.  Maybe his parents were poor, very poor.  Maybe he grew up on mean, very mean, streets. 

Regardless, the Pharisee's comparison is a low blow, a cheap comparison, equivalent to that of a child and an ant. 

Like children, ants always have to be careful.  They are the small kid on the block.  They always have to look over their "shoulder" and look up. They always have to give the right of way to others.  And like children, their biggest enemies are children.  Since kids can't beat up on their big brother or mom or dad, they go after the little guy, an ant.  So what does a child do to an ant?  As soon as he sees it he steps on it.  And then he smiles.  Maybe even pounds his chest. 

This is exactly what the Pharisee did.  He started beating up on the little guy.   

Do you do that?  Do you compare yourself to ants, to the little people?  Do you step all over them?  "I wanna talk to the store manager!"  "I'm gonna sue you!"  "I'm gonna get you fired."  "Wait until you hear from my lawyer."

Do you not realize you were called to be like Christ.  "As the Father loves me, so I love you... Love one another as I have loved you."    If we are to compare ourselves to anyone, then it should be to Christ.

Stop judging!  Stop condemning!  If there is one common thread throughout the Pharisee's "prayer", it is his remarkable ability to judge others so succinctly, so neatly and so harshly. 

So why shouldn't he judge the tax collector?  Simple.  Because he doesn't have all the evidence.  He doesn't know him from the inside out.  This is the reason why we should never judge anyone, and this is the reason why God can judge everyone.  He know everyone inside and out.

We will never have all the information.  But I know what you are thinking:  I can't help myself!  I know.  I can't either.  So what can we do?  Well, we can still judge, but only if we always come up with the same conclusion all the time; that is, this person really needs my help. 

It is divine to err on the life-giving side than on the life-ending side.

Let us avoid jumping to conclusions.  Watch out!  An old monk recently told me what his old Irish grandmother once told him:  "The one exercise we do most in our life is jumping to conclusions."

The fruit of personal prayer is get closer to the Lord.  Where is the Lord?  "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves" (cf. Psalm 34).  If you want to get closer to God, then a good shortcut would be to get closer to the brokenhearted. 

Let's pray for others, not condemn them.  Let's help others, not hurt them.  In this way, we will be close to God and neighbor.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lk 12:54-59 Pulled Aside

Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowds, "When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain - and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot - and so it is.  You hypocrites!  You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?"

I believe it was Mother Theresa who said, "A heart full of envy is a heart full of grief."

A cloud is rising in the west.  Do you see it?  I do.  I see our nation becoming more and more polarized.  It's getting harder and harder for politicians from both sides of the aisle to sit down and resolve their differences.  Most pundits "think" the only way around the gridlock or impasse in Washington is if one party dominates everything:  Senate, House and Presidency. 

In Western Europe there is wave of discontent for mainstream political parties.  In fact, after years and years of socialistic policies, the far-right is once again finding a sympathetic ear in the highly educated citizen.  Recent polls suggest significant gains for the far-right in France, Austria, Holland and Greece. 

People are upset, very upset.  They are upset with judicial activism.  They are upset with politicians who do not listen to their consciences.  They are upset with representatives who do not represent their constituents.

A cloud is rising in the West. 

I see our families struggling to pay their bills.  Today, more Americans are on Food Stamps than ever before.  So what ever happened on our way to La-La Land? I thought abortion was suppose to reduce the surplus population, and as a consequence, reduce poverty and unemployment?   

Well, first of all, the family hit a snag.  While our government and Hollywood spent years trying to redefine and reconfigure the family, the modern family became a euphemism for the dysfunctional family.  Parents abdicated their mother and father roles to their children, who became far too entitled and enlightened to be content and understood.  As a consequence, our public school system across the nation soon became everything but a school.  Yep, far too many public schools today are simply teenage day-care centers, drop-off boxes for stressed out parents, foster homes and healthcare clinics. 

While the 60's generation worked so hard to make abortion legal (so that young people could get a "second" or "third" or "fourth" chance at "life", this latest generation is working equally hard to legalize marijuana and take away the one and only chance they have at "life"

A thick dark cloud of smoke is rising in the West. 

Is this so hard to see?  Probably, due to all the smoke and mirrors!

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.

After having been pulled over a few times in my life by the Police (for speeding and nothing else, thank God). I found the time I spent off to the side of the road surprisingly beneficial for personal reflection, meditation and examination.

As a people belonging to the greatest nation on earth, I think we need to be pulled aside for a while. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Luke 12:49 Faith And Fire

Thursday of the Twenty-Ninth Week 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!"

Instead of imagining a world with "no religion", let's try imagining everyone like Jesus Christ.  What a wonderful world it would be!

Sin and grace.  "My dear brothers and sisters, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires.  Do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness" (cf. Rom. 6:12-13).

We are in the midst of a battle of gigantic proportions.  It is a battle we do not fight alone.  But the consequences are my own. 

We have many enemies.  We have many friends.  But we face only two choices.  Either we can be a slave to God or a slave to sin (something other than God). 

Do not even fool yourself!   Do not even think you are truly free.  How foolish!  How naïve! I cannot think of anything worse than being a slave, except thinking one is free when one is not. 

A while back someone recommended I read a New York Times article about the Pope.  I recommended they read a FOXNEWS article.  They shot back and told me they would never read an article written by a news organization filled with extremists and radicals!  This person then asked me why I would even read such articles. I smiled and politely told them not to worry about me, "since we both know that FOXNEWS is biased, but apparently only I know the New York Times is as well." 

I am a slave to no one!  Really?  Do  you really think you are your own master?  Try it.  See what happens next?  I am quite positive that as soon as you attempt to exert your "mastery", another, one stronger than you, will come and take it away.  You fool!  Have you forgotten you are trapped in your own mortal flesh and are limited by time and space?  You are not your own.  You have been conditioned.  You are not free.  We are a slave.  The question now is, to whom? 

Are you a slave to God or a slave to sin?  Are you a slave to God's love or a slave to the devil's manipulation of it?  If you are not sure, then remember what St. Paul wrote:  "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one who you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" (Rom 6:17-18) 

So who is my master?  Is it my body?  Does my body occupy my thoughts, and are my thoughts occupied by my carnal passions?  Am I obsessed with feeling good and looking good?  Am I addicted to sex, alcohol and/or drugs?  Am I concerned with always being right and never being wrong? Am I so fearful of what others think of me that I have driven myself to extinction? 

Am I a slave to sin? 

Yesterday, I read a very disturbing article in the Dallas Morning News regarding a young woman who was repeatedly sexually abused by her therapist.  At the age of fifteen, this girl was severely broken.  "She had had two surgeries for scoliosis, was anorexic, was depressed and was suicidal when she started therapy.  She also used to cut herself every day with a razor blade, carving words like 'fat' and 'whore' and 'guilty whore' into her skin."

How could this have happened?  What in the world was lacking in her life?  Apparently, the therapist knew, and, in a very twisted way, took what was sacred and profaned it!

We are in a real-life battle to save our lives; that is, our true selves, our image and likeness of the one true God!  I cannot give up.  I can never give up.  Never!  Surrender means death.  If I do not fight, then I will become a slave to sin, "which leads to death." 

So fight the good fight, and consider all things so much as rubbish that we may gain Christ and be found in him (cf. Phil 3:8).

Our dignity - Truth, Beauty and Freedom - is found in the person of Jesus Christ.  "Follow me." 

The Lord set the earth on fire and it continues to blaze.  It is the Lord's "reset button."  But He did not leave us devastated.  On the contrary, just like the Big Bang and the Burning Bush, this fire gives a new faith, a new hope and a new life to us.   

"Our help is in the name of the Lord!" (Ps. 124:8a).  "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord" (Ps 40:5). 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Lk 12:35-38 Get Ready

Tuesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week In Ordinary Time


(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master's return..."

Today's Gospel passage can be understood in at least two ways:  now and in the future.

I have no doubts we will all be dead before the Lord's second coming, so allow me to concentrate on the "now" of this passage.

At your command.  The Lord said, "Gird your loins [Get ready] and light your lamps" [strengthen your faith] "and be like servants" [and do as I do]..."Be ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks" [be ready to fight the good fight at the moment the Lord commands]. 

Are we ready?

"And should he come in the second or third watch" [And should he come at the darkest - most difficult - moments of your life], "blessed are those servants" [good for you].

Where can I find the Lord's graces?  Where do I find what I am looking for?  Well, like so many things in life, we tend to find what we are looking for in the unlikeliest of places.

Where can I find love?  In sacrifice.  Love and sacrifice go together like Christ and the Cross.  The two are nailed to each other.  Where can I find peace?  At the foot of the Cross.  In the voluntary abandonment to divine providence.  Where can I find grace?  In life's filthiest and nastiest moments and places!  "If by that one person's transgressions the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many" (cf. Rom 5:17-19).

Where can I find my King and my God?  In a child's body.  In the insignificant town of Bethlehem.  From the womb of a Virgin.  From a holy and poor family.  Where can I find fulfillment?  In giving.  The more you give, the more you receive.  Go on missions. Seek to serve!  Seek out the forgotten, the abandoned, the neglected - the losers of the world.   

How can I get strong?  When I am weak then I am strong (cf. 2Cor 12:10).  Where can I learn to forgive?  By asking for forgiveness.  In the Confessional.  How do I find my life?  Start by losing your life.  How can I make it to the top?  By gradually working your way to the bottom.  How can I increase my faith?  Take a leap of faith.  See if what the Lord said is true.  See it for yourself.  Find out on your own.  Let your reason take you to the mountain base.  Let your faith take you to the top.

Get ready, for the Lord is already putting us to the test.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Lk 12:13-21 Lord, Contradict Us.

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

Jesus said to the crowd, "...Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions..."

St. Teresa of Avila would often pray, "Lord, contradict me." 

When I told my extended family I wanted to become a priest, an aunt of mine questioned the wisdom of my decision.  So I asked her what she considered to be important in life.  In a very high pitch voice, she screamed out one word:  "MONEY!" 

"Without money you are worth nothing.  You're opinion is worth nothing.  Without money people will step all over you.  They will take advantage of you.  Money earns respect, especially in America!"

Now, I fully understood what she was trying to tell me.  Unfortunately, she knew not what she was saying. 

Just today I read Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old girl from Pakistan, who was shot in the head by the Taliban last October for advocating education for girls, recently spoke at the World Bank in Washington.   I also read that faculty members at George Washington University are creating curriculum tools to accompany her book, "I Am Malala." Back in September of this year she was awarded Harvard University's prestigious humanitarian of the year award.  And just this past week, Malala's name was floating around as a possible winner of Nobel's Peace prize.

Money, like the military, is not a bad thing.  But if it is used incorrectly, it can be very damaging to oneself and to others.

Hence, money, like guts and/or humility, must always be considered a means to a happy end.  The happy end being heaven.  If not, then it becomes a poison to life and a spoiler of happiness. 

Today's parable makes this crystal clear.  A rich man had a very successful harvest...  Now instead of sharing it with his children or neighbors, he decided to build a larger barn and store it all for himself.  Little did he know his life would be taken from him that very night.

Is my life tied to my wealth and/or health?  Do I consider my wealth and/or health the source of my security and peace? 

If so, then "Lord, contradict me." 

Peace Through Faith.  We often pray for peace.  And yet peace continues to eludes us.  We lack it both in our personal lives and as a nation.  Maybe the reason for it is because peace is tied to faith, a thing we have very little of these days.

St. Paul tells us:  "Abraham did not doubt God's promise in unbelief; rather, he was empowered by faith and gave glory to God and was fully convinced that what God had promised he was also able to do" (Rom 4:20).

Lord, increase my faith so I may see the impossible and do the unbelievable!

I think the problem is we don't know how to pray.  We pray for health because we think it will bring us peace of mind.  But maybe we should pray Thy Will be done, so that there is in us an increase in faith, hope and love.  We pray for money, thinking it will bring us closer to security.  But maybe we should pray for faith and humility so that it brings us closer to all humanity.  Or maybe the problem is we don't know what to work for.  We want to see an end to world hunger, so we work hard at promoting abortion.  Or we seek an end to war, but do not take the time to understand history, traditions and cultures.  We say we want peace, but are constantly ordering drone attacks. 

Lord, contradict us.

Well, the Good News is He is.  You see contradictions everywhere:  wealthy nations and high suicide rates; wealthy couples with very angry children; millions of self-esteem programs and a sharp increase in teen bullying and STD's; teens connected at a rate like never before and the rate of depression seen like never before; villages coming together to combat just about everything and families falling apart for just about any reason.      

For some of us, it is happening right now.  For others, it is just a matter of time.   

The bad news is...We won't acknowledge the problem!  What are we waiting for?  Why are we so hesitant?  What are we not convinced of, as yet?

We need to think as God thinks, not as humans.  Let's start now.  Let's not wait for the Lord to do it for us.  Let's do it now.  We need to be more like the Son of God, not the Son of Adam.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Luke 18:1-8 Remain Faithful. Stay Calm.

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

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.

Is prayer necessary?  If you want to persevere in your relationship with God and with others, then yes, absolutely!  If you want to grow - mature and blossom that is, then yes.  Definitely.

Prayer is essential for good physical, mental, psychological and spiritual health.  Those who pray, tend to handle harsh people with patience.  Those who pray, tend to handle crooks with courage.  Those who pray, tend to handle death extremely well.

Prayerful people tend to handle stressful situations with grace.  St. Philip Neri was known for his world famous smile.  Very few people knew he suffered from severe stomach ulcers.  St. Benedict of Nursia radiated the peace of Christ, even after some of his religious brothers tried to poison him.  St. John of the Cross wrote poetry while his faith community held him in prison.  St. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, spent the last years of his life on the island of Patmos, alone and in exile.

Regardless of the writing on the wall, when we pray we live; and not only do we live, but we end up giving glory to God.

St. Paul, in his final letter to his beloved son, Timothy, wrote the following: "Remain faithful to whatever you have learned and believed, because you know from whom you learned it..." (2Tim 3:14).  He wrote this letter while in prison and in chains for the Lord.  Somehow he knew this would be his final letter to his beloved disciple.  In fact, it became St. Paul's last will and testament.  Read it, if you haven't already done so.  Notice how calm he is.  Notice how calm he remains.  Remain faithful.  Remain calm.  Remain in Christ's peace.   

Instead of being overcome with fear, Paul is overwhelmed with faith.  Instead of his senses turning numb, they were heightened by the sweet aroma of everlasting life.  Oh, God, how I need you!

The widow wins.  How?  How did she do it?  How did she outfox an old fox?  She prayed.  She prayed a lot.  And because she prayed a lot, she knew how to insist...and insist....and insist, and never give up.  It's obvious where she learned this lesson:  from God, in her relationship with Him.  If she could get what she asked for from the Big Guy, then convincing a mere judge was a cinch for her.

How did she win?  She persevered; which means she believed.  Perseverance means "to believe", not necessarily in thyself, but always in God.  And because this poor widow always believed in God, she always persevered ...and won.   

But be aware:  every relationship is a give and take relationship.  "The Lord gives and the Lord takes.  Blessed be God forever" (Job 1:21).

Do not be afraid.  This is not a one sided relationship.  It is a "Win-Win" relationship!

How to pray.  I think it was St. Augustine who once said, "Pray for anything that is not sinful."  Yes, pray for what you want, but always keep in mind the Lord has plans for you as well.  There is no such thing as a "Crossless" Christianity. 

The Lord did not come into the world to bring peace but the sword (cf. Mt 10:24).  Far too often we associate "peace" with good health, or wealth, or having friends and no enemies.  But as I mentioned above, the Saints never experienced perfect peace, nor did they experience a perfect life.  What they did experience is Jesus Christ. 

The name Christian reminds us of who we should be like. It also reminds us of who we should not be like. 

Remain faithful.  Stay calm.  Persevere.

P.S.  My dear friends, THANK YOU SO MUCH for keeping me in your prayers while I was on retreat.  I would also like to thank all my dear friends and students for having agreed to write (sometimes with very short notice) a meditation during my absence.  THANK YOU SO MUCH! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Luke 18:1-8 Lord, I Need You!

Saturday of the Twenty-Eighth Week In Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

I picture myself often times as a man observing Jesus when he gives these teaching moments.  I imagine him talking with confidence and charity, whose  actions are never fearful and are always in union with his Father's will.  Oh, how I desire this state of peace for myself and my loved ones.

For this teaching moment Jesus uses the example of a Judge, who "Neither fears God nor respects that which he has created in his image".  This is a strong image that is meant to grab the listener who was more than likely a faithful follower of Jesus.  The widow is no one other than someone persistent in their request for the Judge to render a just decision.  The judge knew what she was asking for was legitimate and that she would more than likely run out of patience and possibly result to physical action to get his attention.  Needless to say, the Judge accommodated her, not so much by a sense of duty but rather out of annoyance. 

Jesus then points to God in contrast to the Judge and paints a picture of a just God that is chasing us because he loves us.  God is not lying in wait or occupied with the businesses of the day but rather he wants us to petition him, "Secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night in prayer."  Once again, Jesus is making a statement with authority, "I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily."  This justice is linked to truth that is in union with the will of God.  This can be a difficult concept and a challenge because it is called for total submission to God's will and not ours.  If we are chosen then we have a familiarity with God, one that he should recognize by way of our actions in prayer and charity.  Hence Jesus states, "But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?"

I once posed this question to my children and not to make light of the situation, but to capture the reality of their faith and a bit of their attention, I stated, "Would Jesus know you if you walked into Starbucks and saw him sitting at a table reading a book?  Would he look up and call you by name and ask you to join him or would you have to introduce yourself to him?"

The point I was trying to make was to have them make a connection with Jesus outside the Church and our home.  It worked.

So now to us.  How do you get to know someone?  You spend time with them.  How do you fall In love with someone?  You spend more time with them.  How do you get to know God?  You pray and talk to him and build a relationship with his son by experiencing him.  So would God know you or would you have to introduce yourself to him?

Then Jesus told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.


Phil Lozano lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and children.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Luke 10:1-9 Look Closely

Friday of the Twenty-Eighth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be among that crowd of 72?  Picture it...

"Hey Bob, you know that guy Jesus?  He is the real deal!  I hear a whole group is gathering together to go and spread the word.  Let's head over!"  [Later after they get down to the group's gather spot...] "Bob, did you hear that?  Jesus said we need to head out in pairs.  Oh, you already paired with Steve?  Ok.  No problem.  Let me see who's left - Tom?  No, he talks to too much.  Jeff?  No, he has the weird eye thing; people may not let us in their house.  Stan?  Yes, Stan!  I hope Stan doesn't have a partner.  His tunic is clean and he's charismatic, so we'll probably be welcomed by people."

Ok, so that modernized version may be a little out of whack, but simple human nature would assume that among a group of that size people were positioning for partners and the basis for why we choose partners isn't always the best.  We do this from a very early age.  From the playground to the workplace.

Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.  Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals...

The Lord tells us that He is sending you like lambs among wolves.  But since the Lord created every single one of us out of his pure love, then many (most? all?) of those wolves are simply lambs in wolves' clothing.  They think this clothing will protect them.  Protection from the fierceness of their life.  It is a choice.

In my line of work, I have experienced some pretty fierce people.  And I'll admit, on occasion they had met their match in me.  Though, over time and through the grace of God, I have realized that these people are protecting something very precious to them, their pride.  And I can put myself right in the middle of them.  Covering ourselves in armor like cynicism, judgment, or materialism creates a superficial comfort.  I wonder if that is how the wolf feels in his pack?  If the wolf steps out of line in the order of the pack, the leaders will likely attack.  What a dangerous environment to live in, to be so "protected" by fangs (hateful words) and fur (superabundance).

Years ago, I was at a lecture series and a presenter said that he intentionally wears neutral colors when he gives a speech.  Why?  So people would focus on what he is saying not what he is wearing.  I love this concept!  No distraction from being me.  But who am I being?

The Lord calls us to be labors for Him.  However to accomplish this, I do not think the Lord wants his disciples to be uncomfortable.  Far from it!  He simply wants them to be focused with the right kind of armor.  No distractions on the mission - No money bag, no sack, no sandals.  Have faith and those comforts will be provided.

Trying to impress people with what you have is futile.  With God's direction, you are enough.  And the Lord's words are so perfect - the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.

Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment.

Start with love in your heart ("first say, 'Peace to this household.'").
We have this within our reach every moment of every day, with every person we encounter.  If they choose to accept it, then wonderful!  If they do not accept it, then you get to experience what the Lord experienced.  The Lord sees all.

Be love and enjoy the company of other people.  Especially in places like work when it may seem God is the furthest away, but if you look closely there too you will find lambs protecting themselves with armor of fangs and fur.  When we choose to look beyond the armor and the wolves' clothing is taken away, and we instead accept the hand of our fellow men and women, we are in fact accepting that the "Kingdom of God is at hand" for all of us.

This meditation was written by Kim Elenez, wife, mother and media executive in Dallas, Texas.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Luke 11:47-54 When The Truth Hurts

Thursday of the Twenty-Eight Week In Ordinary Time

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr

(Click here for readings)

Woe to you, scholars of the law!  You have taken away the key of knowledge.  You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.  When Jesus left, the scribes and Pharisees began to act with hostility toward him and to interrogate him about many things, for they were plotting to catch him at something he might say."

Have you ever been in a position where someone you loved was about to make a huge mistake that was sure to have ill affect on them and on those around them?  Would you risk losing them by speaking the truth to them?  How did they react?  Did they "plot" against you - "Stop communicating with me!" 

In today's Gospel passage, Jesus is still using the harsh phrase, "Woe to you..."

After repeating "Woe to you" six times, we can conclude that Jesus wants to make a very strong point.  Why is He so hard hitting on this particular group who has just invited Him to dine with them?  Well, if we consider the context of what just happened prior - the gathering of large crowds to see Jesus perform great miracles - then it should be obvious to all that the Pharisees are green with envy, pride and selfishness.  And their problems are compounded by their misuse of the laws and failure to recognize the Messiah standing right in front of them. 

Too often I am guilty of getting so wrapped up in my own agenda that I lose all sight of Jesus in my day.  Christ's heart went out to those who had been mislead and ill-treated by the Pharisees.  He desired, out of pure love and for the will of His father, that everyone have the fullness of truth.  Jesus who even cares deeply for them is willing to speak out in truth at the risk of losing their immediate approval.  His agape love for them will soon prove that he is willing to die for them. 

I would hope others would do the same for me.  I would hope that they would shock me and bring me back on course to seeing Jesus' salvific truth in my life.

Today, we recognize Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and martyr who took his final stand for truth in refusing to go along with pagan state religion.  As a result, 107 years after Jesus' crucifixion, St. Ignatius of Antioch is mauled to death by lions.  "I am the wheat of the Lord, " he declared, on his way to execution.  "I must be ground by the teeth of these beasts to be made the pure bread of Christ." 

Is there someone trying to approach you out of love?  Is there someone you need to be open to listening to? 

Are you faced with a challenge:  to stand for what is true and be willing to risk the esteem and approval of others? 

The truth may hurt, but it always brings glory to God.

This meditation was written by Natalie Johnson, a convert to Catholicism.  She lives in Irving, Texas with her husband and four children.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Luke 11:42-46 Freedom at its Finest

Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.”

When people hurt us, our first instinct is to hurt them back. We scratch and claw in the way that they have scratched and clawed at us. In desperation, we attempt to thrust our painful realities upon their hearts, hoping this will somehow make us free again.

But let’s be real. It doesn’t.

I have learned the hard way that when you are hurting, burdening another person with that same hurt will only make the situation worse. Inflicting pain on another will only further your pain.

However, being the imperfect human beings we are, it is only natural for us to want to seek revenge to some extent. Maybe you are a man in your late twenties whose long-term girlfriend proved to be unfaithful in the end. Seek revenge; hate her forever and never speak to her again. Or on a lighter note, maybe you’re a college student who just got out of an extremely difficult exam that you’re positive you failed. Blame the professor; it’s all his fault because he’s such a bad teacher.

It’s only human to think these thoughts when we are facing a struggle, no matter the depth of the struggle. It’s okay to experience these emotions. Life throws you curveballs every once in a while; God understands.

Yet what is not understandable and what is not okay is to act on these emotions.

Here is where we begin to separate the weak from the strong.

In the midst of our very apparent imperfection, we experience the irrational emotions we do, but only the strongest of people are those who notice this irrationality and choose not to act on their fleeting emotions.

The strongest of people are those who, when hurt by others, do not hurt others in return. Instead, they love.

Throughout my life, I constantly find myself wresting with this concept. An imperfect, immature, irrational desire to seek revenge consistently creeps its way into my heart when I face painful situations. Just a tiptoe, just a fleeting emotion, and I easily open the doors of my heart to let it all rush in. I experience pain; I throw the pain back in return. I experience darkness; I burden others with that same darkness.

It's time to wake up! This is not the path that leads to fullness of life.

I know the path that leads to life, and I am ready to start living it. I am tired of living a reciprocal kind of lifestyle, hurt for hurt, pain for pain, darkness for darkness, hate for hate.

When people throw hurt, pain, and darkness across my path, I want to throw nothing but love back. I want to learn how to love those who hurt me. I know now that responding to hate with more hate will only cause us to dig an even deeper hole for ourselves.

I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t expect people to hurt us. We don’t wake up in the mornings hoping to be overcome with pain by the end of the day. From the very moment we wake up, we hold the people in our lives to a certain standard, expecting them to love us in every way they can throughout our days.

In a sense, we “impose on people burdens hard to carry.” We expect people to fill us up, to build us up, and to strengthen our hearts with love.

But do we expect the same of ourselves? “But you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them!” Sure, we expect ourselves to be perfect when it comes to our own success in life. We strive for perfect appearances, perfect resumes, perfect occupations...but do we strive to be perfect in the way we love others?

We expect the people in our lives to love us at all times and to be there for us, but the minute we are hurt or are struggling, we are so quick to throw hurt right back in their direction.

Wake up, people. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian or not. For every person in every place at every time: STOP expecting perfection out of the people in your lives! Stop placing the burden of perfection on the individuals around you, whether family or not, friends or not. Many priests, authors, and speakers touch on the idea of not expecting perfection out of ourselves, but very few highlight the even greater issue of expecting absolute perfection out of others.

We impose on people burdens so hard to carry – like the burden of perfection – but we ourselves do not lift even one finger to touch those same burdens.

If you expect people to love you, then why do you persist in living in hatred?

If you expect people to forgive you, then why do you fail to allow others to live in the freedom of forgiveness as well?

If you expect people to be perfect, and you judge them when they’re not, then how do you possibly expect to be happy with your own undeniably imperfect self?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. No matter what you’ve done in the past, TODAY you can respond to everything you face with an attitude of acceptance and love. TODAY you can stop burdening others and yourself with the burden of perfection. And in doing so, TODAY you can get just a taste, just a sip, just a touch of what it feels like to truly be alive.

And if that isn’t freedom then I don’t know what is.

 
This meditation was written by Haley Hoyle, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. For more of Haley’s writings, please visit her blog, “The Hunger and Thirst” at www.thehungerandthirst.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lk 11:37-41 A King's Cup

Wednesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The Lord said to him, "Oh you Pharisees!  Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish, inside you are filled with plunder and evil."

[To all our readers:  Since I am on retreat this week, I invited a few students I know to write some meditations for my blog.   Please let them know what you think.  God bless you! - Fr. Alfonse]

Cleansing the outside.  We see this all the time nowadays, a fixation on outside appearance and disregard for true inner worth.  Weight-loss adds, hair loss treatments...It seems like everywhere we turn, someone is fixing up their face, their body, or their resume.  It's hard to tell what's real anymore. 

I go to an all-girls high school, and luckily, we often don't care about appearance.  Who do we have to impress, anyway?  For this reason, my classmates and I roll out of bed, throw on our uniforms, and put minimal thought into our looks.  Forget makeup and straightening hair...we sport bedhead look with pride. 

It's nice to be surrounded by this environment.  We learn to value people for what's underneath, not the clothes they wear or the makeup they cake on.  But I'd be lying if I said I never see excessive "outer cup cleansing."

Our acceptance of bedheads and raw faces is rare.  It is a concept that fades away the minute we look at a magazine, watch TV, or even go out for a football game.  Quite honestly, I barely even recognize many of my classmates at school dances!  Despite our best efforts to resist it, teenagers - and all of us, for that matter - are surrounded by a superficial culture.  It seems like a mask must be put over everything to make it appreciated or acceptable.  Your face isn't good enough.  Cover it with makeup.  You're not pretty enough.  Wear less clothing.  Your grades aren't high enough.  Stay up all night, or cheat if you have to.

No matter what we do, our true selves are just never "enough."  Just look at social media.  For a teenager, it can be a form of expression, a way to share ideas and communicate with one another.  But it also can become a trap that tempts us to build ourselves up, to create an often false representation of who we are.  It leads us to find our worth in the "likes" we get and the followers we have.  We become so focused on building up a persona and trivializing things that we are almost desensitized to depth, ignoring the things that actually matter.

Now I'm not saying that having Facebook or wearing makeup is a sin; however, it can easily lead to sins - vanity, pride separation from God - when we are defined by it.  It's of course okay to take pride in our appearance or use social media, but we must ensure that these tools are not used as masks, but as windows.  They must allow others to see into our hearts, where hopefully, they find Christ, as well.

Did not the maker of the outside also make the inside?  God made our bodies in His image.  For this reason, we must respect them and treat them like the Temples of the Holy Spirit that they are.  But there is something more spectacular about us:  our souls. God could care less about our figure, our salaries, or our looks; none of that matters to Him.  It is our souls that He examines.  It is our souls that have the chance to ascend into Heaven eternally.  Our bodies - merely temporary vessels of His love - are the shell left behind. 

This soul is unique for each of us.  It is where we derive our worth.  God loves us for our inner selves:  our thoughts, our prayers, and our actions.  He sees us as we truly are:  sons and daughters of the Father.

It's the world that complicates things, reflecting a false idea about what it means to have worth and be loved.  But the world is wrong.  No matter whether you are in high school or on your death bed, this applies to you.

The world screams that you must make money to be successful.  But God tells you a path towards Heaven is the only true success.  And that path is priceless.

I could go on and on.  The point is, each of you was created with purpose and worth.  For this reason, from the moment of your conception, God entrusted to you your very own Guardian Angel and instilled in you an intimate and profound love.  He created you with a mission in mind and a purpose because He values you for YOU. 

Despite the world coaxing us to all to fall victim to its lies, we must remain steadfast and resist the temptation to fill our cups with fleeting pleasure and false sources of worth.  This leads only to decay, both on the inside and outside as a reflection of its inner joy. 

God pours His very blood into a cup for our sake. 

What you are willing to give in return?


This meditation was written by Faith.  She writes frequently on faith.  You can find her blog at http://heavensboulevard.blogspot.com/