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, November 30, 2013

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle

Saturday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)


As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.  He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men"

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Andrew.   Known as Peter's brother and a follower of John the Baptist,  Andrew accepted Jesus' invitation to become one of his first and closest Apostles. Like Peter, Andrew later became a martyr for the faith brutally undergoing crucifixion. He's honored as the Patron Saint of Scotland, Greece, Russia, Romania, and the Ukraine.

 On a personal note, if I ever gave birth to a son I'd choose the name Andrew. What if he accepted the call to become a "fisher of men" and joined the priesthood?  What a proud mama I'd be!

Joy of Gazing  Featured in Magnificat's Meditation of the Day is Saint Theresa of Avila's  poem  To Saint Andrew.  She ends each stanza with the follow words:  What joy will gazing on You be?  

I pondered this question in light of a Christian's call to follow Jesus. Some people may be called to religious life.  Others may be called to the vocation of marriage or to the single life.  All of us no matter our chosen vocation can become  fishers of men (and women) by radiating the joy of Christ in our decisions and actions. By gazing up at the crucifix during Mass, a crucifix in our homes, or the crucifix we wear, we can prayerfully meditate on ways to best serve our community.  Minister in communities with similar problems and issues the Apostles often experienced themselves.

How can I be a better disciple of Christ? What can I do to radiate joy and love toward others?  Am I willing to become a martyr for the faith?  

Confess Jesus is Lord  Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans states:  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  

It's sad when people profane Christ's name instead of proclaiming it with joy.  Within our highly secularized world, the idea of being saved becomes selfish and meaningless.  We can "save" ourselves from bullying by becoming a bully.  We can save ourselves from family discord by filing for divorce.  We can save ourselves from emotional pain by blurring our minds with drugs and alcohol.  Why don't we rely on Christ Jesus to save us from our burdens and sufferings?  Jesus is Lord!  He loves us so much!  Yet, we turn our backs away from him.  We avoid the joy of gazing into his life and following his example.  It's too hard.  It's too complicated. It's too against our modern ways!

Have there been times in my life when I thought badly of Christ and blamed him for my sufferings?  Have I ever turned my back away from him?  Have I ever been a non-believer relying on secular conveniences for happiness and content?

Come after Me, My Child!    We're blessed by many generous women and men who've consecrated their lives to Christ and His Church.  I'd like to send a special THANK-YOU to all of our priests and religious.  Their joy for Christ radiates in their humble, courageous, and dedicated service to Catholics around the world!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  To read more of her writings, please follow her blog  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality 


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving Day is a unique celebration.  I know of no other nation that celebrates a day of "Thanks".

Given the state of our union and families, I think it is worthy to mention on this solemn occasion some words expressed by our very first President.

The following Thanksgiving proclamation was made by President George Washington on Oct. 3, 1789:

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and
Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness":

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the Beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lk 21:12-19 Remarkable Testimonies of Faith

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowd:  "They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kinds and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony."

As a boy, I never did much studying, and of all the subjects I detested, history was at the top of my list.  But thanks to my father's amazing library, I began to grow in love with history, modern history to be exact.  I grew fond of World War II and read as many books as I could on the subject.  After years of reading, I thought I had a pretty good understanding on what happened in those brief years, but when I entered the seminary, I realized that I had missed some of the most moving and heroic accounts of bravery I had ever read. 

Here are just a few of the men who brought courage to my soul.

BERNARD LICTEMBERG:  Born on December 3rd, 1875 in Ohlaw, Germany.  He was ordained a priest in Wroclaw, Poland in 1899.  A year later he began his pastoral mission in Berlin and was very active in the Central party where he began to protest against the cruelties of the Concentration camps. 

From 1938, he became well known for his evening prayers in the cathedral.  After watching his every step, the Gestapo finally arrested him on May 22nd, 1942.  He was given a two-year prison sentence for "mis-use of his official position".  The Gestapo considered his presence in the capital a threat and ordered him to be transferred to Dachau, but he never made it.  Due to his poor health, he died in a cattle car on November 5, 1945 as the transport train neared the concentration camp.

KARL LEISNER:  Born on February 28th, 1915 in Rees, Germany.  He studied theology in the Diocese of Munster and tried to establish Catholic youth groups, but the Nazis sought to control all youth work.  So he began to take teenagers on so called "camping" trips to Belgium and the Netherlands, where they could discuss the Church's teaching.

Ordained a deacon in 1939, he was detained by the Nazis for having criticized Hitler.  On December 14th, 1941 he was transferred to Dachau, where, on Gaudete Sunday, December 17th, 1944 he was secretly ordained a priest by a French bishop also arrested by the Nazis.  In the concentration camp, he celebrated his first and only Mass.

When the allies liberated the camp on May 4th, 1945, his health was extremely poor and was admitted to the hospital where he died of tuberculosis on August 12, 1945.

BLESSED OTTO NEURURER: Born on the 25th of May, in Piller, Austria.  His father died when he was a young boy.  So all responsibilities of the home were placed on the shoulders of his mother. 

At the time of the Nazis' occupation of Tirol, he was working as a parish priest in a village nearby.  Moved by a strong sense of responsibility, he advised a girl not to marry a certain man.  The man happened to be a personal friend of Gauleiter, the highest Nazi authority in Tirol.  Immediately, Father Neururer was arrested on the charge of "slander to the detriment of German marriage" and sent off to the concentration camp of Buchenwald.  The sadistic tortures he was subjected to caused incredible suffering, but he still shared his scarce food rations with other prisoners.  In Buchenwald, he was approached by a prisoner who asked to be baptized.  He suspected that the request was a trap, but his sense of duty did not allow him to refuse.  Two days later, he was transferred to the much feared "bunker".  There he was hung upside down until he died.

Fr. Otto Neururer was the first priest killed in a concentration camp.
 
Here is my favorite.
 

Fr. Jakob Gapp.  Austrian Father Jakob Gapp saw things in terms of either/or.  Either you were for the truth or you were against it.  His extremism for justice tolerated no accommodation with evil.  So when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Father Gapp publicly condemned the Nazis.  From that moment on the Nazis were out to get him.

Youthful hardships molded Fr. Gapp’s steely character.  He came from a poor family.  He Served in World War I, was wounded and was a POW for nearly a year.  Later, he entered the seminary and was ordained a priest.

One Sunday afternoon a couple posing as Jews interested in converting invited him for a picnic near the French boarder.  There the Gestapo arrested him.  He was tried and condemned to death for treason.  On August 13th, 1943 he was executed.  John Paul II declared him Blessed on the same day fifty years later. 

On the day of his execution, he wrote the following in a moving letter to his relatives.  This is what Jakob Gapp wrote. 
 
Here I am, at the end of my battle, arrested eight months ago for defending my Christian faith. Today, they have announced my condemnation to death.

I've been fighting for a single cause: that all men may achieve eternal salvation.

I've defended the faith with my actions and my words. Now the moment has arrived to do it one last time for eternal life.

Today, the sentence will be carried out.

At seven o'clock tonight I will meet my Redeemer to whom I have always passionately loved.  Don't be sad for me, all things pass away, only Heaven remains.

I confess, that after the annexation of Austria to the third Reich, I, in good conscience, and as a Catholic priest, felt it was my unconditional duty to teach the truth and fight against the errors of the national socialistic government.

Examining the testimony of the first Christians, I understood that the faith had to be defended by the people, but much more by the priests.

It is worthwhile to defend the Church's rights, which in reality are the rights of God, even if it means losing my own life.

Without doubt I've lived bitter moments during my detention, I've sunk down to the most dark sadness.

But this has helped me to prepare myself better for my death.

To spill my blood for Christ and His Church has become for me my greatest desire.

After having fought against myself, I now consider this day to be the most beautiful in my life.  Today, the priesthood, appears clearer and more attractive to me and I can but only repeat: When you have left all the things that entrap and embrace the human heart and no human hope attracts you, and you have forgotten yourself, saying goodbye to your own name; When you reject all the things in this world and say goodbye to your own existence and look only for Him and have Him at your side from morning till evening; When the different paths in which Christ directs you have aimed you to his heart; When in all things you are just in Him and for Him: then you can say to yourself: 

I AM A PRIEST.
 


 
 
 
 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lk 21:5-11 We Are Family?

Tuesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned wit costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, "All that you see here - the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down."

Things crumble.  Nations crumble.  I have no doubt in my mind that America will one day crumble.  Why?  Because history has a way of repeating itself and nations have a way of recycling themselves. 

This morning I read an article written in the New York Times entitled, "The Changing American Family."  How sterile.  How blah.  Neither hot or cold.  Is the change good or bad?  Who am I to judge, right?   

CHELSEA, MICH. — Kristi and Michael Burns have a lot in common. They love crossword puzzles, football, going to museums and reading five or six books at a time. They describe themselves as mild-mannered introverts who suffer from an array of chronic medical problems. The two share similar marital résumés, too. On their wedding day in 2011, the groom was 43 years old and the bride 39, yet it was marriage No. 3 for both.   

Today, their blended family is a sprawling, sometimes uneasy ensemble of two sharp-eyed sons from her two previous husbands, a daughter and son from his second marriage, ex-spouses of varying degrees of involvement, the partners of ex-spouses, the bemused in-laws and a kitten named Agnes that likes to sleep on computer keyboards.

So what do you think?  I will tell you what I thought:  Just another day in paradise.  Of course, it is not paradise, especially for kids. In fact, for many of them, it is another day in hell.

According to the Wall Street Journal, married couples with children make up only 19% of U.S. households today, down from 40% in 1970.   Did you notice they did not use the term "family."  I can understand that.  What exactly does family mean today?  In my opinion, it means nothing.  The word has lost all meaning, all crispness, all wholeness.  Nowadays anything (and nothing) can be considered a family.  And while word continues to flow - or spill over - and "evolve", or better yet "dissolve," so to does our understanding of two other words:  civility and society. 

Have you heard of a new game that is raging out of control among young teens across America?  It's called the "Knockout Game."  It's the latest version of another (and older) game called bullying and it is spreading like wildfire all over America.  It doesn't matter who gets "picked":  old, young, male, or female.  And the object of the game is to knock out some unsuspecting person with just one punch.   

Today, I read a comment left by an atheist, who wrote:  "We know humans acquire a sense of morality without a supernatural account or explanation. Church attendance remains on the decline as more people realize that religion is evil..." (lonborghini)

Wow!  Talk about a twisted sense of morality.  Religion is evil, and Communism (no religion) was...?  Oh, well, if morality is acquired, then who do we acquire it from:  Atheists?  Communists?  Nazis?  You're guess is as good as...well...a guess, I guess. 

Now there is nothing wrong with division and fractions in mathematics.  But when families are divided and fractured, then the remaining members can go seriously wrong, especially the little ones.   

Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be.  After all, when children are in pain it won't take long for unsuspecting people to feel their pain - especially when they are so willing to voluntarily and violently share it with others. 

How will we attempt to solve this problem?  Like we have with so many other issues:  Cameras, videos, increased police surveillance and public announcements. 

As long as we do nothing to save our families and nurture our faith, these problems will not go away.  Instead, they will simple evolve into something more grave and barbarous. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Lk 21:1-4 Keeping It Simple

Monday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings...and her noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.

It's nice to get noticed.  It's especially nice to get noticed for no apparent reason at all.

I recently participated in an event that was packed with a lot of big shots.  As I went around greeting some very important people, I noticed a group of students in the corner.  Some of them were former students of mine.  Others were current students from the local high schools.  I immediately worked my way over to them to say hello.  I was pleasantly surprised at how happy they were to see me.  But I was even more surprised at how a few of them were shocked that I would have bothered to greet them. 

They just don't realize how special they are to me.

Keep it simple.  The prophet Daniel kept it simple, very simple.  While other Jews of royal blood ate and drank at the King's royal table, Daniel, along with three other men, ate only vegetables and drank plenty of water.  Only these men - who, after ten days, looked the healthiest - were chosen to enter into the King's royal service and as his most trusted advisors.

Mind you, this happened long before the FDA or USDA existed and anyone recommended a certain daily allowance of calories.

Keep it simple.  That's the secret.  For there is more to vegetables than meets the eye and tongue. 

The same holds true of love.  There is more to love than often meets the eye.  We can see this with our heart from today's Gospel passage.  The poor widow put in all she had, more than any wealthy man before her and after her, but due to their outward appearances and offerings, garnered much more respect, interest and attention than she did. 

Be wary of the externals.  Things do not always appear as they are.  Keep it simple.  Look to the heart.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Lk 23: 35-43 Christ Our King

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
(Click here for readings)

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, "He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God."  Even the soldiers jeered at him.  ...Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us."  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God...?  Indeed, we have been condemned justly,...but this man has done nothing criminal."

Today is the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  So did today's Gospel passage shock you?  I always wondered why the Church did not use a more "appropriate" reading for the King of Kings, such as one of Christ's miracles or his entry into Jerusalem.  

Well, I am no longer shocked by the selection.  In fact, I consider it a very wise choice for the occasion, and for the following reasons.

Save yourself and us.  The Lord came to save others, not himself.  He does not need saving.  We need saving, for we are sinners.  So, which sinner (thief) am I?  Am I the thief on the left or the one on the right?  Am I the one constantly protesting against the Lord or the one seeking His mercy and forgiveness? 

These two men represent all of humanity, for we are all sinners, deserving of human and divine punishment.  But where humans lack mercy, God's mercy is made abundantly clear, on the cross, at the point of death - his death and that of the repentant sinner - and in his final words. Today, you will be with me in paradise.  

The making of a King.  In his recent interview with America magazine, Pope Francis discussed the importance of discernment.  Drawing upon the words of St. Ignatius, he offered a glimpse into his pontificate:  "Non coerceri a maximo, sed continieri a minimo divinum est."  That is, "Not to be limited by the greatest and yet to be contained in the tiniest - this is the divine." 

What exactly does this mean?  Well, to grasp this means to comprehend the pontificate of Pope Francis, and ultimately, the mission, power and might of our Lord. 

Do not be limited by the greatest.  Although Francis is the head of the Catholic Church, and all power rests with him, he refuses to be limited by the greatest, and instead prefers to be contained in the tiniest.  In other words, he prefers "Servant of servants" to "Vicar of Christ."

Although the Pope could have any car his heart desires, he prefers a Ford Focus.  Although he could reserve his time to dignitaries alone, he insists on meeting and greeting the dignitary's employees, staff and their families.  Although he could dialogue with friends alone, he wishes to reach out and enter into communication with his critics.  Although he could govern with an iron rod, he prefers to have a council of eight.  I could go on and on, but you get the point.

The Holy Father is imitating the life of Christ, for although the Lord could have it His way, all the time, He prefers to enter into communion with His enemies and friends.  Although He could live for all eternity, He prefers to enter into time, and be subjected to life and death.  Although His Kingdom is of Heaven, He prefers a manger in the remote town of Bethlehem.  Although He could be the Son of a King, He prefers to be the son of a carpenter.  Although He could rule with an iron rod, He prefers the Commandment of love.  Although He could spend His time with dignitaries, He prefers the abandoned, the forgotten, the lonely and the lowly.  

From Christ's perspective, He sees might makes right as a human illness, a symptom of sin, and a perversion of the divine commandment of right makes might.

In today's readings we see the immensity of the Lord's love which is His might.  We see it clearly, from the tiniest of places, the foot of the Cross.  From there we can see the Cross as His throne, the thorns as His Crown and His words as His final decree.

We also see the divine will of the Father. 

God the Father takes the immensity of His very being and brings it to its finest detail through His Son.  This too is what every Christian is called to do:  to take the enormity of love and bring it to its finest detail by means of an act of love.

Christ our King!  Thy Kingdom Come! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Heroic Media Keynote Speech

On November 21st, 2013, I had the honor to be the keynote speaker for Heroic Media's first ever "Prayer breakfast for Life."  The event took place at the Hilton Lincoln Centre in Dallas. 

Good morning everyone!  I'm not a morning person, which isn't a good thing if you are a priest...So I hope and pray my message today makes some sense.

We just finished watching some of Heroic Media's ads and I must say they inspired me.  But they also inspired the artist in me. So if Mike ever got the awful idea of asking me to design an ad for Heroic Media, I would do the following:  I would have a baby in the middle of the screen with the number of abortions per year superimposed.  That number would begin to go down from over one million to zero.  And then John Lennon's song would be heard:  "Imagine all the people, LIVING."   That's it.  It would stop right there, right after the word "living."  Living is fundamental. 

Life is what makes earth special.  Living is what makes life so special.  I find it bizarre - weird - how we must organize events to promote, yep, LIFE!  I find it very Orwellian how we must advertise for... LIFE. 

How sad.

Imagine for a moment if NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, discovered a living cell.  The major media outlets would be screaming  "THERE IS LIFE ON MARS!"  And yet, very few are willing to acknowledge the life found in a mother's womb.

How ridiculous.  How sad.  But it is not surprising.  Pro-lifers are sane people in an insane world.

We have all read the recent headlines:

BLOOMBERG:  "Pope says Church should stop obsessing over... abortion"
CBS LOCAL:  "Pope Francis tells Catholic Church to stop obsessing over...abortion"
REUTERS:    "Pope says Church must end obsession with...abortion"
HUFFINGTON POST:  "...Abortion too much of Catholic Church's obsession."
THE GUARDIAN:  "Pope Francis sets out vision for more gay people and women in 'new' Church." 
THE DAILY BEAST:  "The Pope confesses Church's obsession with...abortion."

Now you know what I read in the morning!  I'm sure you were all expecting FOXNEWS. 

But what exactly is the Holy Father saying?  It's simple.  A long time ago, our Church leaders basically said, Don't focus on political parties; focus on issues.  So rather than endorse a particular party or specific candidate, the Catholic Church decided to focus on the issues.  Now, Pope Francis is taking it one step further.  He is asking us to not only focus on issues but more importantly on people, all people.  All sorts of people:  atheists, gays, the poor, the abandoned, etc...

This is both new and old. 

Jesus saw a tax collector.  He looked at him with love and said, "Follow me" (cf. Mt 9:9).  He even looked at the adulterous woman with love and said, "No one has condemned you?  Neither do I.  Go and sin no more" (cf. John 8:10). 

What has made the Pro-Life movement so successful in the United States?  Again, it's simple.  While the world is truly obsessed with abortion and abortion rights, we have been obsessed with people and their dignity. 

You may not realize it, but unfortunately there are places in the Church (and world) where women, who have had an abortion, are shunned and slammed by Church officials.  Thank God, not here!  And this is why we have been so successful at reducing the number of abortions, increasing the number of Pro-Life supporters and converting the hearts of well known abortion advocates as well as providers. 

The Pro-Life movement reaches out to women before and after their abortions.  Now, we must begin to do the same with others:  boyfriends, husbands, parents and even grandparents!  We must change our culture, and it will only happen if we look at people with love. 

The Holy Father recently compared the Catholic Church to a field hospital.  What is the mission of the Church?  Heal wounds.  Warm hearts.  Hold hands.  People need nearness, proximity.  The Church is a hospital with lots of wounded.

The Holy Father's hope is this:  That we see not only the child we wish to save, but also child in each and every one of us.

To do this is nothing short of heroic.

Heroic Media saves lives through the power of media.  Heroic Media's mission to connect women in crisis pregnancies with pregnancy resource centers and adoptions agencies changes the lives of women and saves the lives of their babies.  For more information, visit their website:  www.heroicmedia.org

Lk 20:27-40 The Spirit and the Bride


Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
 
Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels.”

I have a confession. I confess that I once made an idol of marriage – I watched one too many episodes of “Say Yes to the Dress” and somehow let secular society convince me that a wedding was my ticket to living happily ever after. Pathetic, I know. But unfortunately I am not the only one who has fallen into this trap. So many awesome single Christians act like hamsters on crack around other single Christians because they have forgotten that God is love and that He alone can completely satisfy our hearts. It has taken me twenty-five years and a ridiculous amount of sin and heartbreak to realize that what Saint Augustine said is true, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In college I thought sex, drugs, and non-stop partying were the things that could make me happy. I looked to everything under the sun to find my worth and value. Ultimately I turned to the Son after everything and everyone else had failed me and it when then that my heart finally found rest. That is how I know for a fact that no other human being can truly give me the love I long for. I’ve tried it all. Like the prodigal son, I left home and wasted everything the Father gave me but when I finally came home I found forgiveness and healing. I sinned against God more times than I care to remember only to find out that my worth and value comes is rooted in God alone. We are all made in His image and likeness and that alone makes us worthy of love.

God is the most romantic lover of all time. Every day He is there for us - body, blood, soul, and divinity. Every day He seeks to be in union with us through the sacraments. And every day His bride, the Church is there to offer us the sacraments. Marriage is a sacrament. It is holy and sacred and it is meant to make us holy and sacred. It’s not about living happily ever after it’s about dying to oneself for the sake of holiness – that is exactly why it does not exist in Heaven. The angels and saints in Heaven do not need baptism, Holy Communion, reconciliation, confirmation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, or marriage because they are all living in perfect union with God. The sacraments purify us so that we may become worthy to attend the marriage supper of the Lamb, once we’re there they become unnecessary.

Husbands and wives will never be able to completely satisfy one another but they can always choose to sanctify one another. I learned that lesson from my parents. My mom and dad blamed one another for their unhappiness so they got a divorce. As a child I thought that if they just tried harder, if they were nicer to one another, if they didn’t yell so much, if my dad didn’t work so much, or if my mom got along with her in-laws that they could work things out and get back together. But neither one of them would help the other carry their cross. I realize now that their marriage failed because of their unwillingness to participate in the other sacraments, mainly the sacrament of reconciliation. Pride and selfishness prevented them from leading one another to the Cross. They couldn’t help each other get to Heaven because they were unwilling to sacrifice. And if there is one thing I know for sure after leaving the Church for ten years it is that we can sacrifice with loving but we can never love without sacrificing.

Another lesson I learned along my journey back to the Church is that humility cures every pain and every hurt. Humble people are happy because they are holy. Mama Mary is holy not just because she is a virgin but because she humbled herself before the Lord. She submitted herself to the will of God when everything seemed impossible and because of her humility she became His first tabernacle.  Because of his obedience to the will of God, Joseph was entrusted with the holy family. I used to think that humility meant being boring and useless. How wrong was I? I now know that humility and holiness lead to a full life and abundant love whether you are married or single.

Love of self without love of God is selfishness; love of neighbor without love of God embraces only those who are pleasing to us, not those who are hateful.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Three to Get Married

This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. She is a pro-life advocate in Dallas, TX and serves as confirmation catechist at St. Monica church. For more of her writings please visit her blog Lover of the Light.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lk 19:45-48 When You're Right, You're Right.

Friday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, "It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."

Righteous anger.  My dad recently came to visit me from upstate New York.  I thought it was important for him to stay at a nice hotel close to me.  I found one, La Quinta. 

On his very first night he noticed water dripping from the ceiling and into his bathroom.  The amount was so much it made it impossible for him to get a good night sleep.  So at 4:00 am he moved from one room to another.  When I found out, I immediately went to the front desk to complain.  The hotel manager promised me a full refund at checkout.  When that day arrived, there was no refund. 

Today, I am still working on it.

Now if something like this had happened to me before I became a priest, I can honestly say this issue would have been settled long ago.  Why?  Because I would not have held back.  I would have made a scene.  And believe me:  I know how to make a scene, for I have seen how to make a scene with my very own eyes.

"Sorry, sir, there is nothing we can do."  That's what the ticket master said to me after they (American Airlines) announced my flight had been cancelled.  "Oh, darn", I said.  And I said it very politely.  I walked away with my head down, not knowing what to do.  The next person in line was told the same exact thing.  But this passenger demanded in a very loud tone of voice that they book him on another flight.  I turned around and looked at him and thought to myself, "What a fool!  Why insist?  'There is nothing they can do.'"  

How stupid I was.

The man left with a dozen free meal tickets and a hotel room.  And even with that, he said, "You haven't heard the last from me."

I couldn't believe it!

Politeness or pansism.    Are you a pansy?  Do you let people take advantage of you?  Do you hide your pansism with politeness? 

If people can take advantage of you, they will!  If they don't feel any pressure to give you something, they won't!...even if you deserve it.

The Church.  Back in the 1960's the Church opened herself up to the world.  With love she reached out to others...and got her spine broken. 

When did Catholics become so spineless?  When did we lose our will to fight for what is right, good and holy?

"Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things...And every day he was teaching in the temple area."

He cleaned out the place and made room for himself!  He got what he wanted. 

The Lord knew He was right.  The Pharisees knew He was right.  Those who where selling things knew He was right.  When you're right, you're right! 

Do you know you're right?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lk 19:11-28 Engage in the Faith Trade

Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return.  He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, 'Engage in trade with these until I return.'

I imagine the nobleman as a wealthy client of an Antiquities Investment Firm asking his portfolio managers (i.e. servants) to do a bit of trading on the Biblical Gold Exchange.  Two of the managers are highly aggressive investors whereas the third manager is a bit of a newbie, fearful his client's gold will drop in value.  The third manager obviously doesn't like his "demanding" client.  Why even bother to make money for the new king?  Just store the gold coin in a ratty-old used handkerchief and give it back to him.

Engage in the Faith Trade.  When I think of the ten gold coins I think of the Lord's Ten Commandments.  Thou shall not steal, thou shall not kill, thou shall not covet, etc...

Am I guilty of disobeying one of the Commandments?  Have I sincerely followed the concept of "do unto others"?  Have I made an effort to engage in the faith trade - sharing my faith with others through Godly actions, words, and deeds?

The Faith Trade is a challenge.  It's not created for the weak or the faint of heart.  It's Christ focused, God infused, and Holy Spirit driven.  The Faith Trade takes perseverance, integrity, strength, dedication and courage.  The wicked servant in Jesus' parable made a costly and foolish mistake. His coin was taken away and given to another with ten.  He didn't obey his master's request to trade the money wisely.  Instead he harbored bitterness and criticism of his master choosing to do absolutely nothing out of fear. 

Is there a time in my life when I've been asked to do something and didn't follow through?  Does bitterness ravage my soul to the point I won't lift up a finger to help someone in need?

Be faithful in small matters.  Well done, Servant!  Boy, how I love to hear praise for a job well done even for something minor.  I like to be rewarded for my hard-earned effort.  I deserve it!  I did my best!  I was over the top!  Not so fast...Christ wants us to be humbly faithful in small matters.  Never take anything or anyone for granted.  Don't become haughty and arrogant.  Handle small matters with integrity and dignity.  We want others to see Christ in us and through us.  In the case of the good servants, the nobleman rewarded them by letting them take charge of ten cities.  At the end of time, will God reward those faithful in small matters entrance into the Kingdom of God?  It's all up to how we live our lives on earth.

Do I distort small matters in perverted ways or handle small matters in holy ways?

Who has, more will be given.  To have or have not...That is the question!  The more we share the faith of Christ with others, the more we will reap the benefits.   For every ounce of heavenly gold we share the more spiritually rich we become.  Faith flourishes when it's nurtured and treasured.   On the flip side, we may become spiritually penniless by our lack of faith.  What may be a reason for a lack of faith?  Tragedy, illness, death, resentment, anger, antipathy and ignorance.

The list goes on and on...  We should never allow our burdens to overpower us.  We have so much to look forward to in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let's participate in a global faith trade and evangelize the message of Christ Jesus!

Jennifer Burgin is a convert to Catholicism.  She graduated from the University of Dallas Catholic Biblical School in 2011.  As a member of St. Joseph in Richardson, TX, she is an active Lector and Eucharistic Minister.  You can follow her blog "Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality" at jenniferburgin.blogspot.com
 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lk 19:1-10 He's Not Disgusting. He's My Brother.

Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.  Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was.

Now we know who he is.  According to The Independent,

The disfigured man whose meeting with Pope Francis made headlines all over the world has finally spoken out about the experience – and said the moment left him speechless. 

...Speaking for the first time to the Italian magazine Panorama, Mr Vinicio Riva, 53, said the moment captured by photographers in St Peter’s Square on 6 November “all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity”, and that it was “like being in Paradise”.

Mr Riva spoke of his shock when, after meeting Pope Francis and kissing his hand, the Pontiff then pulled the 53-year-old towards him.

“What most astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me,” Mr Riva said. “I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.

“I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn't: The emotion was too strong.”

Afterwards, Mr Riva turned to his aunt who accompanied him to the Vatican and said: “Here I leave my pain.”

In a previous post, I mentioned an atheist commentator who sarcastically asked, How did the Pope heal him?   

Simple.  By showing love.  By embracing him.  By taking a man's shame and pain away.  Capisce?

Zacchaeus was a tax collector; that is, a disgusting man, a filthy man, a man who was the brunt of many jokes.  And yet, the Lord still embraced him, and it did Zacchaeus a world of good.   This moment changed his life.  It made him human again.  It gave him courage to come down from that tree and be face-to-face with the rest of humanity. 

How do you treat those who disgust you?  With love or with indifference? 

Well, it is time for us to get to work.  Let's make a difference.  In today's Gospel passage the Lord is encouraging us to share our love with those who, yes, disgust us.  Let's do it! I know it won't be easy for me.  I nitpick on just about everything.  But I think I can share a smile, an embrace, some time and some resources on those who I do not particularly care for.

Let's do it, and not only will it open a brave new world for those around us but it will do a world of good for ourselves as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Lk 21:5-19 Perseverence in the Philippines

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said, "By your perseverance you will secure your lives."

Philippines 2013.  With horror I looked at the hundreds of images of total destruction caused by super-typhoon Haiyan.  My heart went out to the Filipino people.  I love these people.  I know many of them.  I am proud to say I had the grace to go visit the Philippines a few years back.  In fact, I went there twice and I loved every single bit of it.

The Filipinos are a faith-filled people.  Hence, they are a service oriented people.  Without doubt, they are the best at hosting foreigners.  To put it in a nutshell:  they love people because they love God.  Is there any wonder why so many of them work as nurses and caregivers around the world? 

While I was there, I was struck by their strong devotions, sincere prayers and tremendous love for the Catholic Church.  I wondered where this faith in God and Church came from?  Their answer was historical and spiritual.  

A History Lesson.    From 1965 to 1983, the Filipinos lived under a ruthless dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.  While he, his wife and their cronies accumulated millions of dollars, the majority of the Filipino people had to sell the little they had just to survive.  But with the backing of the Catholic Church, a daughter of the Church, Corazon Aquino, led a non-violent "yellow" revolution to overturn the government.  The people succeeded and the beginning of an era of freedom and accountability emerged.

"People Power" still has a long way to go to stamp out corruption, but they trust in God and in the Church that is with them in their needs.  With tears of joy in my eyes, I read an article on just how strong their faith is: 

TACLOBAN, Philippines – Hours after the storm hit the Philippines, the Rev. Amadero Alvero was on the streets, sprinkling holy water over the dead and praying for them. By late afternoon, the 44-year-priest had blessed about 50 corpses in the remains of this shattered city.
He then returned to his half-destroyed Santo Nino church and led Mass. Today, Alvero was again overseeing worship at the peach-colored building, leading services for hundreds of survivors of one of the worst storms on record.
“Despite what happened, we still believe in God,” he said. “The church may have been destroyed, but our faith is intact, as believers, as a people of God, our faith has not been destroyed.”

But the joy did not last long.  After reading another article, I scrolled through the comments and read one left by a religious bigot.  Can you believe this individual actually chastised the Filipinos for rebuilding their Churches?!   This person obviously does not their history or understand just how important a church and the Church is to them.  To the poor, a church is not only the house of God but there house as well.  To the poor, the Church is not only a set of beliefs, but thousands of people who serve them unconditionally.

Perseverance.  Filipinos are hardworking people.  They work hard even for the little they get.  They don't complain.  They don't give up.  Instead, they persevere.  How?  Through faith.

Faith is perseverance.  And the people of the Philippines have a faith that endures all things, bears all things and hopes all things.  They know how to love because they know what to believe. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lk 17:26-37 Got A Surprise?

Friday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man; they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage up to the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all."

Making the Most Of It.  I have heard that we only use a tiny fraction of our brain.  I think the same can be said of love and life. 

We need to learn how to make the most out of these two amazing gifts.  But how?

Well, there is nothing wrong with making merry.  It's great!  Really!  Be happy!  Love life!  Make the most out of it.  But don't get drunk.  Don't jump off the cliff.  Don't take drugs.  Don't become a slave to addictions, especially to pornography.   Get the most out of life.  Be holy. 

Whoever seeks to preserve their life will lose it.   Self-centeredness is as common as the common cold.  It is easy to catch and makes us dreadfully ill.  However, instead of infecting the ears, throat and nose, this illness affects the heart, mind and will.   Self-centeredness stifles creativity, generosity and forgiveness.  It numbs the heart and boggles the mind.  Simply put:  it sucks the life out of those who contract it. 

Self-centeredness paralyzes the body; it prevents us from reaching out to others.  It stifles the mind.  It hinders us from living beyond the moment and ourselves.  It leaves us half dead and ready to be used and abused by others. 

"Where the body is, there also the vultures will gather."

Crazy generous.  How can we make the most out of life?  Be crazy!  In other words, be like Christ who did some pretty crazy things.  He spoke to sinners!  He spoke to women.  He ate at the homes of tax collectors.  He went to parties but didn't get drunk.  He gave and gave and gave.  He loved and loved and loved.  He surprised everyone, friend and enemy.  

When was the last time you surprised someone?  When was the last time you did something great and holy? 

Let's get to work before the Lord surprises us.  After all, he loves to surprise people. "There will be two people in one bed; one will be taken, the other left."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lk 17:20-25 How Wise Of Him

Thursday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, "The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or 'There it is.'  For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you."

What is wisdom?  According to the Book of Wisdom, "Wisdom is a spirit intelligent, holy, unique, Manifold, subtle, agile, clear, unstained, certain, not baneful, loving the good, keen, unhampered, beneficent, kindly, Firm, secure, tranquil, all-powerful, all-seeking, And pervading all spirits, though they be intelligent, pure and very subtle" (Wis. 7:22b-8:1)

God is Wisdom.  And she comes to us just as lightning lights up the sky:  In a flash.  Now you see her.  Now you don't. 

And Wisdom became flesh.  Yes, the Lord is that flash of brilliance.  And like lightening, He stretches his arms across humanity, enlightening the hearts and minds of all people, for all time.  His brilliance embraces the width and depth of humanity.  Now we can see the light and seek what is truly good, right and holy.

The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected.  Who can understand the wisdom of God?  Is suffering a curse?  Apparently not.  Is it a sign of misfortune?  Not always.  Then what is it?  It may very well be a call to a greater union with God. 

Suffering for God's sake (actually, for man's sake) is honorable, beautiful and yes, holy.  And we know this to be true because we honor those who suffered and died for us.  We just never imagined that it would be someone like the Son of God. 

How wise of Him.





Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Lk 17:11-19 Pity and Love

Wednesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him.  They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, "Jesus, Master!  Have pity on us!"

What's your plan for holiness?  So what are you doing to become holy?  What's your plan?  I have a very simple one.  I actually put it together a few weeks after Pope Francis was elected.  Do you want to hear it?  It's very simple.  Every day I Google the Pope's name to find out what he is up to.  Whatever he is doing I try to do it too.  That's it.  That's my plan for to achieve holiness. 

Where did I get this idea from?  From the Bible; from St. Paul.  In fact, he wrote:  "Imitate me for I imitate Christ" (1Cor. 11:1).   Get it???  It's okay to imitate holy people, for they imitate Jesus Christ.

It's official! Today I read that Pope Francis is the internet's most popular name.  Can you believe that?  Pope Francis!  A Catholic!  A Pope!!!

Talk about turning the world upside down in just a few months.  How did he do it?

Power in Humility.  Forbes magazine recently named Pope Francis the 4th most powerful man in the world.   How did he become so powerful, and so quickly?  Through humility and authenticity.  And the only reason why he is in 4th place (and not in 1st place) is because he does not seek power.

Catholic Online:  "What makes the ranking so ironic is that Pope Francis never sought such power. Until his election as pontiff, he cooked his own meals, cooked for others, rode public transportation to work, and eschewed finery. Even now, he remains as humble as his office will permit. He shuns unimportant functions whose only purpose is ceremonial or prideful." 
   

Power in Compassion.  Last week's images of the pope kissing and praying with a man severely disfigured reminds me of the lepers who approached Jesus for healing.  Like them, this man's appearance is grossly distorted by disease.  Like them, his pain must be unthinkable.  And to make matters worse, like them, his disease has excluded him from the human race.

The Huffington Post wrote a beautiful article entitled:  "Pope Francis Kisses Man With Rare Disorder Showing the Healing Power of Compassion." 

An atheist, who apparently knows very little about compassion or human nature, responded by writing:  "Nice but why didn't the pope cure him?"  Ah, yes.  Don't you love it when atheists talk religion?  Not only is this individual ignorant of the Holy Father's powers (and what the faithful and unfaithful should expect from him), but he apparently does not know human psychology and the various forms of healing that go beyond the physical.

The Pope showed to the world what a man of God can do, and what most doctors fail to do:  Treat the sick as the most beautiful of God's children, not as case studies or interesting specimen. 

The author got it right:  The Pope demonstrated the healing power of compassion. 

So, when was the last time you embraced someone who was sick or someone who appeared to you to be a "monster" (that is, someone you despise or may have rejected and have become bitter and angry towards)? 

We all know it's not easy, not easy at all.  But the Pope is leading the way towards holiness and we should do our best to imitate him every step in The Way. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lk 17:7-10 Follow The Leader

Tuesday of the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his Apostles:  "...When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"

Call of Duty.  When teenagers do their homework and obey their parents, they are not doing something extraordinary; they are doing what they were obliged to do.   When a husband loves his wife, he is not doing something remarkable; he is doing what he promised to do.  When a sister helps her brother, she is not performing a miracle; she is doing what she was expected to do. 

Likewise, the Lord tells his Apostles:  Be on guard against your pride.  Do not think of yourselves as heroes.  You are simply doing what you were commanded to do.

And yet, we, the people, cannot help but to be pleased by their actions.  But in reality, I think we remember these souls not so much for their miracles but for their faithfulness to God and to others.  This is what we remember and appreciate most.  This is what will endure forever.

"The souls of the just are in the hand of God...because God tried them and found them worthy of himself...As gold in the furnace, he proved them" (Wis 2:23-3:9).

We should all have found memories of our grandparents.  We should all have found memories of our parents.  Not necessarily because of anything extraordinary they did in their lives, but for the faithfulness and loyalty they exhibited towards others throughout their lives.  They are and forever will be in our hearts and minds.

Beyond the Call of Duty.  Whereas others may consider some actions to be beyond the call of duty, I believe Christians do not have this luxury.  Given the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is nothing that can be considered beyond the call of duty.  All the good we do comes from grace received, and grace comes from God.  We follow orders from high above.

Love one another, as I have loved you is an order we received.  To the world, this may seem extraordinary.  To Christians, this is all in a day's work. 

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Here are some excellent articles related to today's Meditation: 

"This guy impresses the hell out of me."

More people attending Mass because of Pope Francis

Pope Francis sends 200 Euro to mugged elderly woman

Pope Francis hugs and brings comfort to disfigured man