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!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Lk 14:1-6 Let's Answer His Question

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

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees...In front of him was a man suffering from dropsy.  Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees...asking, "Is it lawful to cure on the Sabbath or not?"

Guess who continues to be one of the Pope's biggest fans?  Sir Elton John.  Recently, he said the following:  "He is compassionate, loving man who wants everybody included in the love of God...He is courageous and he is fearless, and that's what we need in the world today...Make this man a saint now, OK?" 

The heart of the matter.  Much has been said in the secular and religious world regarding the most recent Synod on the Family.  And most of it has centered on the original mid-term document (Relatio post disceptationem) regarding homosexual people.  Many secular and religious commentators were shocked and/or surprised by the honest and welcoming statements that came out from the Synod, namely paragraph 50: 

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?

I must admit that after reading this, I, too, was somewhat surprised by it all, but I was not shocked.  I was somewhat relieved.  The Synod's Fathers asked a very honest question - a question that urgently needed to be asked:  Are we capable of providing for these people a place of fellowship in our communities? 

From the Gospel passages, it is evidently clear the Lord exercised His mission and ministry of welcoming, healing, forgiving and saving far from the homes of Pharisees and scribes and well outside the houses of worship (synagogues and Temple). 

People in need did not come to the Lord, at least not at first.  He went to them.  Pope Francis has picked up on this obvious fact.

Are people avoiding you? 
Are sinners afraid of you? 

Are you afraid of sinners? 
Are you avoiding people? 

Is our Church avoiding certain people, especially those in irregular situations?  Are young people avoiding the Church like the plague, and not just for confession but also for marriage???

The Church's problem may not be that her message isn't getting out into the world.  Her problem may actually be that her members are not getting out into the world! 

The Holy Father is not afraid to speak with those who disagree with him.  Twice he has accepted the invitation of a leading atheist to be interviewed.  The outcome?  The atheist asked him to bless his family.

Jorge Bergoglio is not afraid to engage in serious dialogue with the rough and tough of this world.  As Archbishop of Buenos Aries, he's had to negotiate with radical right-wingers, fanatical left-wingers, military assassins and political despots.  He's had to sit down with big shots!  But before I forget, he's never forgotten the poor or forgotten.  As Archbishop, he was routinely found mingling among the poor from the slums surrounding Buenos Aries.  Did Bergoglio ever imagine himself being in Rome?  Never.  That's probably why he is today the head of the Roman Catholic Church.  Blame it on God and on his prayer life, nothing else.

Was the Sabbath made for man?  Are we capable of providing for homosexual people a place of fellowship in our communities?  Great question! And Pope Francis is asking the leading figures of the Church to pray long and hard before answering his question.  In all honesty, it is similar to a question posed two thousand years ago by the Lord to the leading figures of the house of Israel:  "Who among you, if your son fell into a cistern, would not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"

Regrettably, we are told "they were unable to answer his question."

God forbid this happens again.

The critics of Christ thought He was throwing out the rules.  He wasn't.  He was simply following the Father's Golden Rule:  Never give up on anyone. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lk 13:22-30 Catholics and “Catholics”

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


Lord, open the door for us.’
He will say to you in reply,
I do not know where you are from.’
And you will say,
We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.’
Then he will say to you,
I do not know where you are from.
Depart from me, all you evildoers!’

Many people around the world profess to be Catholic (1.1 billion, according to a poll in 2010), but a very small percentage of them actually practice their faith and live out the Catholic life. The majority do not attend Mass weekly, let alone on the Holy Days of Obligation. Even those who do attend Mass weekly will often fail to make a regular confession. Among those few who do confess and do go to Mass, the great majority of them harbor deep personal misgivings with the Church's teachings, stubbornly clinging to their own interpretation of the gospel. Poll after poll reveal that the majority of Catholics use birth control and promote it, and that they think same-sex marriage is fine. More importantly, the truth of transubstantiation mostly eludes the understanding of the majority of the faithful even though they hear the words of liturgy repeated at Mass every time—although if most only attend Mass sparingly, and passively, the repetition will not mean anything.

Those Catholics hoping in the future of the Church should probably reconsider their optimism. Many young people ironically leave the Church as soon as they receive Confirmation. Among those who attend Catholic schools, many of them leave their faith behind like they leave behind their old uniforms. With a precious few exceptions, Catholic universities have utterly abandoned their religious identity and have adopted the avarice and boorish snobbery of most private colleges. Even among those faithful Catholics who immigrate from the south and raise their children here often struggle to maintain serious religious practice in their family beyond two generations.

Quite naturally, vocations have dropped. They have dropped as birthrates have dropped and as marriages have dropped. People feel less called to holy matrimony and parenthood, let alone the spiritual parenthood of the priesthood and holy orders. They do feel called to expensive, yet increasingly meaningless, college degrees, new cars, and new houses, that all make them slaves to debt and their jobs for the rest of their lives. They also feel called to cohabitate, to experiment, to hookup, and to fall back on aging parents when all those non-commitments fall through.

The situation has grown so dire that Church leaders now consider loosening some rules to simply bring back a few souls. In the confusion of the recent Synod, only one thing was clear: there is a huge gap between the ideal discipline of the Church and the actual discipline of her members. Like any mediocre person in denial, most modern Catholics blame the rules, not themselves. They went to Church (sometimes), and knew the Church's teachings (vaguely), and donated to the poor (occasionally), and sent their kids to Catholic schools (for lack of a better option). If they fail to even do these things, they could always say that they “grew up Catholic.” Unfortunately, these are the people that the Church hopes to somehow bring back: complacent, ignorant, selfish, defiant, broken people.

Although the small minority of devout Catholics might feel tempted to compromise with pathetic spirituality to contain the damage of modern secular culture, they should resist this impulse. The way to treat widespread lethargy and indifference is through rigor and zeal, not lower expectations and moral relativism. A lax religious discipline does not bring in converts in any circumstance, whether during times of persecution or times of tolerance—tragically, the Church seems to struggle more with prosperity than with adversity. Neither adults nor children want to emulate people who fail in their commitments, change their minds on dogma, and only follow the rules that suit them. People searching for meaning, for a fuller humanity, will not look to a church that demands nothing except positive dispositions and high self-esteem. Rather, they want the Church, that institution of Jesus Himself, that endured the torrents of persecution, heresy, warfare, and corruption, all while keeping her soul. They want the Church of saints, martyrs, holy orders, missionaries, scholars, an authoritative clergy, and a stalwart laity. Most of all, they want the Church who offers repentant sinners the Body and Blood of Jesus Himself. The faithful need the Catholic Church, and the Church needs the faithful. The faithless and the shameless need to repent before they offer their commentary on what the Church and faithful should do.

Happily, where there is Jesus, there is hope; and hope is not a virtue until it put in hopeless circumstances. In his teachings, Jesus offers a chance at life for those who follow and obey. Of the billion or so “Catholics,” a good many will probably knock on the door hoping to join in Jesus' banquet. As those in the parable, they will make the same pitiful claims they make today for not practicing their faith, and they will assume that their physical proximity to the Church equates to active devotion. Only a people completely uninterested in God and completely consumed with themselves could be so deluded. Thus, Christ sends them to a place that does not have God — one wonders if people in Jesus' day accused him of being intolerant and unpastoral for saying this. These many souls may not like it, but they had every opportunity to change their ways. Instead they stayed the same, and God grants them an afterlife that, in the end, also stays the same, forever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Lk 6:12-16 Praying Includes Listening

Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles(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...

Pray before any important decisions.  The Lord spent the entire night in prayer to His heavenly Father.  Why?  Because He had to make an important decision.  He had to pick Twelve men who would extend His work on earth - that is, live with Him, in Him and through Him.  And so the Lord spent the night in prayer.

Now I doubt the Lord spent the entire night trying to figure out who to pick.  No.  Knowing something about the priesthood, I am convinced He spent the entire night praying for their sanctification - that they would persevere till the end of their lives. 

What is the purpose of prayer?  To unite ourselves, our loved ones and our world to the Will of the Father.  This is Christ's personal prayer: "that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me" (cf. Jn 17:21). 

The purpose of prayer is to unite our body, mind and soul to the Will of the Father; that I may love what He loves, and hate what He hates and do what He always does.  [Yes, I can perform miracles as well!]  Prayer is not some cute thing.  It is essential to the pursuit of happiness, for true happiness is directly related to God's plan for me.

Are you praying?  Are you spending some quality time with the Lord?

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.  I admit it.  I'm not a very good listener, but I don't think it's because I don't try.  God knows I try.  I think it's because some people just love to talk (especially at the worst moments possible), and talk about what they want to talk about. 

Stop doing this to others!  Stop forcing nice people to listen to you go on and on and on.  Twitter's success has proven that we can say something in less than 140 characters.

When you speak, do you give others a chance to say something [This includes God].  Try it out.  Let's all avoid having one way conversations. 

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Lk 13:10-17 This Daughter of Abraham

Monday of the Thirtieth Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)


Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done..."
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!...
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”

Forgive me in advance for any information that may be incorrect or any inadvertent heresies I may stumble into (more common than you would think, from my experience in freshman theology). As I have said before on Father’s blog, I am no theologian.

That being said, this Gospel seems to be very timely with regards to current events in our Church.

All I have to do is log into Twitter these days and there are at least thirteen retweeted articles on the Synod on the family. Isn’t it interesting that hundreds of people claim their theology is airtight and better than all others, yet still report radically different interpretations of the synod? (By the way, according to CNN, did you know that the Catholic Church is now going to ordain anyone regardless of gender, age, or species and have no concept of this archaic thing called ‘sin’?) All jokes aside, some of the stuff I have seen circulating is downright disappointing. I am sure that if Jesus had a Twitter, He would be shaking his head.

Many people in the Church have written that they are upset about the findings of the Synod because they believe the Church is losing some of its conservative character. In response, they write out lists of ‘rules’ from the Catechism and Church documents about why things should be stricter and why we should crack down on the ‘rules’ in our parishes.

In a way, I understand their perspective. The teachings of the Church are beautiful and are not something to be taken lightly. We live in an age that is very much hostile to what the Church teaches, and as such, we are called to defend these teachings. But then remains the question: how should we go about defending what the Church teaches? How “strict” should we be?

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath…. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” Sometimes it seems that some have forgotten about what lies at the heart of our faith: mercy. Jesus constantly was reaching out to those who were on the outskirts of society—criminals, tax collectors, lepers—everyone that society viewed as “unclean” were precisely the people that Jesus spent his life on earth reaching out to. After all, doctors in a hospital tend to the most critical patients first, don’t they? Jesus is our spiritual healer. He is still reaching out to those who are seemingly the farthest away from Him. That means everybody who is far away from Him—even those whose lives are in the center of the controversy.
He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God. When God truly frees a person, that person usually spends their life thanking Him for it. Imagine if the early Church had written off St. Augustine for being a wretched sinner. Talk about someone with a misconception about the family—he had multiple mistresses and even a son out of wedlock! But this is why his writings are so rich—he writes as one thanking God from the bottom of his heart for his salvation. Just read his famous passage beginning “late have I loved you,” referring to the beauties of the Church he once denied, and you will understand. Without sinners, we would be missing a lot of the rich tradition of our Church. Ironically, this same tradition is sometimes used by Catholics in order to condemn others.

But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” I would venture to say that we are quick to condemn because we do not trust in the mercy of God. We do not believe that prayer can change hearts. We do not believe that the good example of one person can change the way another lives their life. We see the corruption of once beautiful things in the world around us and we say, “This cannot be fixed. This is beyond redemption.” We forget that God gives grace when and where He wills. We lock ourselves behind the rules, trying to keep our hands clean of the nonsense we see in the world.

We need to go out and make a mess! We don’t have to disregard the teachings of the Church. In fact, we shouldn’t, especially in matters so crucial as marriage and the family. But at the same time, we must recognize that God works in ways that we cannot possibly understand. We cannot reduce God solely to a set of rules that must be followed. He knows what is best for each one of His children who seek him in good will, and He will work in their lives in whatever way He wills. That is the reality of this Gospel reading. That is our faith.

One of the articles that popped up on my Twitter feed the other day was very good, and demonstrated this point well. It was not explicitly about the Synod, but comments on how people in serious sin sometimes “stumble” towards God and He receives them, even if the person is ignorant of Church teaching. The author was an atheist, and is now a Daughter of St. Paul (go figure!) You can find the article here:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mt 22:34-40 All You Need Is Love

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A scholar of the law tested [Jesus] by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"  He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Love is enough.  Not too long ago, I read a book by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (today, Pope Benedict XVI) entitled:  "What it means to be a Christian."  I came across this little story:

"A story current in late Judaism, in Jesus' time, tells how one day a pagan came to Rabbi Shammai, the famous head of a school, and told him that he would be willing to join the Jewish religion if the Rabbi could tell him about its beliefs in the time someone could stand on one leg.  The Rabbi probably thought in his mind about the five books of Moses, with all the ideas in them, and everything that Jewish interpretation had added in the meantime and had declared to be equally obligatory, necessary, and essential for salvation.  As he went over all this...he had to admit that it would be impossible for him to summarize in a couple of sentences the whole of everything that made up the religion of Israel.  The strange petitioner was not a whit discouraged.  He the competition:  to the other famous head of a school, Rabbi Hillel... Hillel found the suggestion in no way impossible and answered him straight out, "Whatever is offensive to you yourself, do not do that to your neighbor.  That is the whole law.  Everything else is interpretation." 

I wish I had read this a long time ago, for a non-Christian once asked me what it meant to be a Catholic.  Instead of answering his question, I handed him a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  I thought I was being pretty smart.  I wasn't.  The poor man looked at me and said, "I don't think God ever wanted to make it this hard to get into heaven." 

He was right, at least when it came to understanding God's Law.

I find it interesting how a scholar of the Law asked Jesus what he must do to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.  I find it refreshing what the Lord said:  "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depends all the law and the prophets."

What does it mean to love someone?  Cardinal Ratzinger goes on to explain: "Being a Christian means having love.  That is unbelievably difficult and, at the same time, incredibly simple."   It is difficult because most of us have not yet experienced the Copernican revolution; that is, we still think and act as if everyone revolves around me - that I am at the center of the Universe - that all things and people should be serving and loving and honoring me.  Well, it's not going to happen, and it's not going to happen because the world was not made that way. 

Face it:  the world and life revolves around the Son.  That, my dear friends, is the honest truth. 

Have you come to terms with this reality? 

Of course this does not sound very appealing (or even loving) to any of us. It's hard to admit this, but this is simply due to our fallen nature.  Sin has distorted everyone and everything.  But the irony of it all is how Christ resolves the problem. He takes a dip for us as well.  That's right!  Think about it.  When God became man He fell. When He stepped down from heaven He scratched His name off the top of the list.  When He became a simple man He left most of His Light back home.  And when He preached to simple folks He kept a safe distance from the top brass of humanity. It was only when He ate at the homes of sinners and forgive their sins that the light of darkness began to shine on Him.  "Who does this man think he is?  Who is this that forgives sinners???"  For those in power, it was at this moment that "He" became "he." 

Why did the Lord waste His time and life on simple people?  Were they people better than others?  Of course not.  Then why did He help them?  Because the Lord knows how to love.

The Lord does not love us because we are good, or because we can do something for Him, or because He can get something out of us.  The Lord loves us because He is good. 

So simple and profound.  

What does it mean to be a Christian?  "In our generation the Christian faith finds itself in a much deeper crisis than at any other time in the past... If faith is to survive this age, then it must be lived, and above all, lived in this age.  And this is possible only if a manifestation of faith is shown to have value for our present day..." - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

To be a Christian means to be another Christ.  To be a Christian means to put God in your heart, in your soul and in your mind.  It means to think like Christ, speak like Christ, move like Christ, live like Christ.  To be a Christian literally means to be another Christ.

And what exactly did Christ do that our neighbor finds so difficult to do?  Love unconditionally.  And what does it mean to love someone unconditionally?  It means to give and forgive.  

We Americans - and not necessarily just Christians - are a very giving people.  We really are.  We cherish giving to others and helping others.  We encourage it among our children and we do it ourselves.  We help our own and we even help others, especially the undocumented or illegals that come to our country.  We really try to live the words of Christ:  "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me." 

We are good at doing good things.  But we are also extremely bad when it comes to doing tough things, like forgiving others. 

Forgive like no other.  What does it mean to be a Christian?  It means to forgive like no other - to forgive the unforgiveable.  It means to forgive like it's nobody's business.   Wow!

This is our valuable contribution to civilization.  This is what we can do better than anyone else.  We must, for world peace, global partnerships, worldwide efforts in combating the ills of our world depend on it. 

We are not doing a good job at it.

Man (man and woman) is horrible at forgiving; that is, forgiving the sins and failings and mistakes of others.  Man loves to rub dirt in people's noses.  He loves to remind people of their wrong doings.  He actually enjoys keeping a keep a record of it, and, if possible, keeping it on page one of Google searches.  

He loves to see people pay with pain for their transgressions.  This is why life has become unsustainable and almost impossible!  Where is the humanity in all of this!!!     

Of all the major religions in the world, no religion speaks more loudly or forcefully or convincingly about the need to forgive than Christianity. Forgiveness is at the top of Christ's list of things to do.  It is in His heart, mind, soul, body and blood.  It is on Christ's lips ALL THE TIME!

Forgiveness is all about giving life to the dead.  It is the most powerful and efficient tool Christians have at their disposal to cast out Satan (and others) from the center of our world and replace them with Christ and our neighbor. 

I love you, Lord, my strength!  (Ps 18:2).

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lk 12:54-59 Don't Live in Weather Vain!

Friday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time


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?"

Whenever a rain storm approaches, my allergies flare up.  My nose transforms into a weather vane indicating the direction of the winds, predicting the onset of storm activity. I sneeze and cough as my head pounds from the change in barometric pressure.  Feeling lethargic, I say to myself:  Come on, Mother Nature!  Just rain and clean out this air!  I feel miserable, and everyone around me thinks I'm getting sick.........

Appearance of the earth and sky  I imagine our Lord, after his sermon, silently praying on the mountain top. Rain clouds form high in the sky showering his head with water droplets. Jesus is annoyed by the crowds lack of understanding and frustrated they are experts in the weather, yet ignorant of the faith.  Jesus wants his children to love one another and care for one another.  He wishes for them to let go of sin (i.e. pride, lust, vanity) and live a holy life.  He hopes they will finally believe he is the Messiah - God in human flesh sent to convert and heal his Chosen people.

In modern day life, we often choose wrong over right.  We "value" concupiscence over chastity; anger over love; ignorance over knowledge; and even murder over life. Many of us live in our own weather-related "bubbles" with heavy storm clouds following us wherever we go.  If the sunshine does slip through every once in a while, it's difficult for us to tan ourselves under its brilliant rays.  Why don't we desire a blast of Vitamin "G" (God!) to get ourselves back on track? It's easier to remain pale and withdrawn, wallowing ourselves in our own personal dramas, than to open our hearts to Christ.

Present time   Social media promotes self expression and individualism but in ways that can damage us.  Yes, social media is good in many respects.  We are given access to information much more quickly. However, the rise of pride, vanity, and sensuality is a side effect.  Twenty years ago we'd never imagine a teenager building his self-esteem based on how many "likes" on Facebook or followers on Twitter.  We never considered young women advertising their bodies on YouTube with the question "Am I pretty?"  We never considered terrorist groups recruiting followers over wikis and underground Internet websites.  It's as if social media has created a more narcissistic culture.  It's all about me, myself and I; how I can be better than someone else; how I can look more attractive and more successful than another person; how I can be more anti-religious and more radical.  Qoheleth's words from Ecclesiastes "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" come to mind when I think about the effect of social media on our secular culture.

Don't live in weather "vain" Despite a secular culture, and obsession with online social presence, we don't have to live in weather "vain"!  We can decide to turn away from selfishness, and our egos, focusing more on living like Christ.  We can love and pray more.  We can be truthful and forthright.  We don't have to hide behind the clouds, masking our true selves from the world.  We don't have to wait until an earthquake or a tornado to help someone in need.  We don't have to wait for the floods to come, washing away all of the filth and stench in our lives.  We can make a conscience effort to positively impact the world through religious faith.  I'm convinced that if people were less self-absorbed and more focused on God some of our social problems would disappear.  Something to think about....

In this transition from summer to autumn, at least her in North Texas where the leaves aren't quite crimson yet and the rain is sparse, let us reflect on how we can allow Jesus to be more present in our lives.  Remember to use social media in ways that evangelize and spread the good news. As Pope Francis recently commented:  "The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people."   People can positively impact the world!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lk 12:29-53 Setting The Earth On 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!"

Set the earth on fire.  Did your fire die out long ago? 

I find it disturbing the significant number of young men and women (from the West) traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State's caliphate.  We're not talking about ten or twenty crazy people;  We're talking thousands and thousands of well-educated, well-established young men and women risking their lives to take up arms to take away lives.

They are not crazy.  They are on fire for their faith, and this is crazy!  Why is this crazy?  Because their belief is telling them:  KILL! KILL! KILL!

I used to think it difficult - especially in the 21st century - to convince a young person to take their faith - any faith - seriously.  I never imagined in a million years that thousands of young men and women could so easily be wooed to leave their family and friends, go off to war, commit suicide (or kill someone and cut off their head and take a picture of it) and be proud of it.  And do it all in the name of God.  I don't understand this! 

But what I find even more confusing is the apparent difficulty that Christians have in convincing a young person to share their faith in Jesus Christ with others, share their love for him and (God- forbid) say a personal and silent prayer in school before meals.

What is going on here?  Where is our fire?  

Do we not see that our world - our children and grandchildren - need, more than ever before, our fire for the Lord?  Why do we give up so easily?  What is wrong with us?  Do we not realize how important Christ is to the health of our children?

Our world needs Christ's understanding of Creation - that rationality and freedom are not bad but good.  It needs Christ's understanding of the sacredness of life - that all life, regardless of what others may think, are still children of God.  It needs Christ's understanding of holiness - that "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." It needs Christ's understanding of divine intervention:  mercy, compassion, forgiveness.  What does it look like?  "He who is without sin cast the first stone." What does it not look like? Look at this! WARNING:  This article is very disturbing

Are you eager to join Christ in His fight to save humanity's soul???

Is wish it were already blazing.   I have no doubt that the sickening images of women being stoned to death; and children being kidnapped and turned into sex slaves; and Islamic converts from the American heartland - who turned away from Christianity and turned into suicide killers and bombers - will stir in the hearts of many a repulsion for anything "religious."  That's what the extremists want.  They want the West to turn away from Christ and turn into secular Crusaders.  If this happens, then we will only continue to feed the fires of extreme Islamic ideology and theology, and end up creating more and more warriors for the Islamic State (ISIL). 

What the world needs right now - come to think of it, it is what the world has always needed - are not the fires of hatred and revenge - an image of hell, but the fires of Christ's image and likeness of God - of calm and peace.

Peace be with you. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lk 12:39-48 Reflections on Teaching English to the Best and Brightest

Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time


Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Teaching an AP English class, I have the opportunity to work with the school's most talented and motivated students each year. Because my class focuses mainly on writing, which reflects one's thinking, I also have the unique perspective of seeing these students' thoughts. Whether an essay prompt concerns the relationship between certainty and doubt or the morality behind offering incentives for charity, a unique pattern of reasoning and values will always filter through their essays. Some students work through the prompt like a math problem, speedily moving through a logical sequence without much analysis or nuance. Others let their imaginations roam through the many mental associations they have made on the subject, and spiral their way through an essay until their thoughts converge on a focused claim. Unfortunately, the rest of the students usually have little to say on the subject: they have no opinion, no curiosity, and no background.

For the rest of the year, I usually work on improving these types since almost no student comes into the class as a ready-made writer. I try to show the logicians how to elaborate their points, ease their transitions, and consider a deeper way of thinking about the subject in general. For the dreamers, I have to give them various grammatical and compositional structures to hold their ideas in place and give them coherence. For the raw majority, I simply have to break their mental silence with constant practice and flood their empty caves of thought with every piece of relevant content I can find. For any problem with writing (and there are many), I have a handout and prepared lecture; for any gap in general knowledge, I have an essay and list of writers for further reading; for any flippant dismissal of writing, I have powerful arguments and a loud voice to refute them.

By God's grace, many students make significant improvements in their writing and, more importantly, in their thinking. They enter the class as children sheltered from any real thought about anything outside themselves, yet leave the class as young adults prepared to engage the ideas around them. They can think through their decisions because they realize that thought involves more than a knee-jerk impulse or hunch. They can talk with adults because they can now adapt their thinking to others and ask relevant questions to develop a conversation. Finally, these students can now take a certain amount of joy in thinking and expression now that they have a certain measure of competence.

In the past, this achievement alone would content me. As a teacher, I had succeeded in all the meaningful ways. My students have earned their AP credit, learned the necessary skills, and can now follow their dreams. Although I still feel this way to some extent, I have now started worrying about less academic matters. They have fine minds and great potential, but what does this mean if they have nothing in their hearts?

I normally have to keep this concern to myself because public schools and most parents think teachers should remain morally neutral—or empty, depending on how one looks at it—and treat their students as products rolling down an assembly line. After I affix the proper equipment and input the proper sequences at my station, the students move on to a destination that I never really have the chance to see. I have made the students a little more human, albeit in a rather mechanical way, but what for? Where do they go? I always hope that they will go on to find God, find their neighbor, and love them both; yet I know, based on my conversations with them, that they go on to find the World, find themselves, and love nothing. They do not see their education as a gift, something that liberates their mind and frees their heart; they rather see it as a set of marketable skills in an already glutted marketplace. Instead of rising above the grind of working and consuming, they become further entrenched in it, competing for petty honors and empty pleasures. I helped along in their journey, but they were going the wrong way all along.

In my own quiet way, I try to help my students find a Catholic alternative, sometimes mentioning a feast day (today is Sts. Celine and Viator, by the way), discussing Catholic history, referencing a rhetorical strategy that I heard in a priest's homily, or offering a Catholic perspective on issues that sometime arise. I pray in the “moment of silence” and cross myself at the conclusion of that tiny oasis of silence and reflection. I embrace my job despite its many crosses and its modest compensation, and try to communicate the hidden joys that come from learning and helping others. I could add that what I teach and what I do helps brings me closer to God, but I might lose my job if I say that. A few students notice this, but most of them already have their courses fixed on the star of apparent success. Even though they are not even old enough to vote, they still have enough wisdom to somehow pity me in my idealism.

Pitied or not, I choose to rest in my idealism confident in my Savior's words. As I read, as I write, as I teach, I “draw joyfully from the springs of salvation.” His words are truth and endure forever, and I must follow them as well as I can. Jesus expects this of me and every other disciple. He also expects these bright young people to bring God into the world and make life better for all His creatures. Jesus expects them to use their talents and gifts to care for those in need, not enter the rat race and pretend that death does not exist. Obviously, their minds need instruction; perhaps less obviously, their hearts need Jesus. If we truly loved our young people, as Jesus loves them, we would teach them how to love before anything else.

Lk 12:39-48 Be Prepared

Wednesday of the Twenty-Ninth Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

 A few weeks ago I received an unexpected phone call from my grandfather. He voiced concern because he had not yet received my monthly loan payment.  I looked at my online checking account, noticing the check cleared. Upon further investigation, I discovered the check had been endorsed by someone other than my grandfather!  It was a very bad forgery.  To this day we don't know if the check was stolen by someone in the Post Office or someone who received the wrong mail in his mailbox.  Sending checks through the mail for years, this was the first time something like this has happened.  Fortunately, within a short time the bank reimbursed the stolen funds.  Still I will always wonder, "How did this happen? How can a similar incident be prevented in the future?"

We must always be prepared.  We never know when something will strike us out of the norm. A severe thunderstorm may leave us out of electricity for days.  A sudden illness may leave us out of work for weeks. Our houses may be flooded or damaged by a fire leaving us homeless for months while rebuilding is underway......

At an hour we do not expect, the Lord may decide to take us from this earth.  Our death is determined, but we don't know exactly the number of years we have.  It may be a short span, like when we lose a child, or a great number of years like those lived by a centenarian.

How can we better prepare ourselves for when "life happens"?  How can we better prepare ourselves for when our time is up on earth?  How can we better prepare ourselves for when the Son of Man returns?

Pray Not baby, wimpy, superficial prayers but heartfelt prayers from the inner soul!  Prayer unites us with God in ways that adore him, thank him, and honor him.  Amazing how when we pray we begin to discover ways we can help ourselves as well as others.  Prayer "prepares" us for the future because we become more aware of our surroundings.  We may "smell" when things aren't going right.  Perhaps temptation is wrapping its arms around us.  But, a healthy prayer life can stop sin dead in its tracks.  Pray the rosary.  Pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  Pray during the work commute.  When bored with nothing to do, turn to Jesus in prayer!

Frequent Confession and Communion A second powerful way of preparing our soul for the Kingdom of Heaven, and our minds for life's challenges, is through frequent confession and Holy Communion. Personally, I try to go to confession on a monthly basis.  If I don't have any mortal sins, I have no problems confessing venial sins I battle daily.  When it comes to Holy Communion, I find daily reception is the best even though it does not always work in my busy schedule.  If I can make one weekday mass and then every Sunday mass I'm set.  I've discovered that confession and communion give me the strength in preparation for what life sends my way.  I've had a host of annoyances happen this past month (i.e. the stolen check) but don't think of them in an over-dramatic way.  I know God is aware of the situations and will provide relief in due course time.

Humbly Serve Others When we make an effort to help others, we better prepare ourselves to share eternity with Jesus in heaven.  He loves when we look after the widow and the orphan.  He smiles when we reach out to help the poor, the suffering and the neglected.  As we emulate Christ in His Way, Truth and Light, our souls benefit from the outpouring of graces.  Giving to others takes us out of ourselves. Serving others, without expecting anything in return, demonstrates our authentic witness as a disciple of Christ.  We wish for people we serve to make it into heaven along with us.

Take a moment to reflect on how well-prepared you are when life happens. Do you take it in stride with God by your side, or do you complain and fret not knowing what to do?  Preparation of the mind, heart and soul isn't a difficult task.  It takes discipline and a change of thinking.  When we place God front center in our lives, we better prepare our souls for Heaven.

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”

― Saint Pope John Paul II, Pray for Us!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Lk 12:35-38 Turning The Tables

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."

Gird your loins!  We hear this expression all the time.  But what exactly does it mean.  Here is a diagram to help you understand it's literal meaning.

So what is the Lord telling us?  Start moving!  Get going!  Get ready!  Swing into action.  Make your life an action verb.  And remember; for the Lord, to SERVE is the most important action verb there is.
God loves people who serve Him.  And to serve Him above all others guarantees serving others well.  Service completes the picture of who we are and why we are here.  It brings purpose and meaning to an otherwise boring existence. 
Hunting and gathering was never man's purpose in life; it was simply a means to survive.  Instead, man's purpose in life is to discover.  That's it!  Something easy to put into words yet deep - really deep - in meaning.  To discover who you are (an image and likeness of the Creator) and what you are (a big bang of love) brings joy to man's deepest desire:  GOD.
Growing up I always wanted to be rich.  I just never imagined in a million years it would look like this.  I am filthy rich!  My faith is a treasure.  My vocation is a blessing.  What I do; what I say; how I live is priceless, beyond words, beyond description, beyond value.  If I ever lost these tings, I would be lost like a man wandering in the desert.  If I ever had to go back to what I was doing before, I would feel like I had lost a ring from the Lord, a love letter from my Lover, an invitation to His banquet.
Turning the Tables.  But the Lord does not like to be outdone.  He will not be outdone in love, forgiveness or in generosity.  Whatever I have grudgingly given to Him, He has willingly given back to me, with blessing after blessing. 
When I gave Him my raw life, He returned it refined.
When the Master arrives to his home, what will He do?  His Love will return to his servants. "Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have [his servants] recline at table, and proceed to wait on them."
The Lord loves to turn the tables on His unsuspecting servants.  Those who served Him will be served by Him.  Those who waited for Him will be waitered by Him.  Christ will not be outdone, neither in His life nor by His death.
He has turned the tables on us and we are glad.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Lk 12:13-21 Be On Your Guard

Monday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

“Take care to guard against all greed,
for though one may be rich,
one’s life does not consist of possessions.”
This is one of the “tough” Gospels that gets the congregation squirming a little bit in their pews, but I don’t think it should be that way. What I see when I read this Gospel is an honest reflection of human nature, still entirely overshadowed by the mercy and protection of God.

But first, I want to tell a story about a timely comment that someone made to me. Yesterday, I went to work at the hospice, but my coordinator was out sick unexpectedly, so I had no clerical work to do and no list of things to get done.  When this happens, I have gotten in the habit of visiting one of my favorite patients. Although he is only a bit older than my father, he is terminally ill, and by doctor’s predictions, he should have passed away a few months ago. However, he is astoundingly almost always in good spirits. He is one of those people that just shines—that kind of person that remembers everyone’s name, goes out of his way to make others feel welcomed, and always smiles no matter what is going on. I remember one time (this is a tangent but a necessary one) he was having a rough day pain-wise, but as I was leaving his room, he got up out of bed and came down the hall to ask me if I wanted to bring home some extra iced tea that his son had brought him. Yes—he is just that kind of person. I think we all know one.

But back to the story—yesterday, I was in his room and he was in more pain than I had ever seen him in before. He was trying to be in good spirits, but looked to be tired and would drift in and out of sleep.  He told me about how the night before a family member had taken him to a movie, but he had fallen asleep. Sixty dollars in tickets and food—he lamented—wasted. But yet, he smiled. He said something that I didn’t really understand, but I feel like it applies here, roughly: “Those things don’t matter to me anymore… I have already said goodbye to those things, and I am ready for them to pass away.”

One’s life does not consist of possessions.” In the dying people that I have gotten to know, one thing has stood out to me: there is a very distinct divide in their minds between what still matters and what no longer matters. Possessions, wealth, or nice nights out nearly always fall on the side of what doesn’t matter.Being comfortable, materially or physically, falls by the wayside. Physical appearance doesn’t matter. The only things that still matter are the things that would have mattered to Jesus Christ: family, community, faith, spending quality time with others, etc. The superficial passes away.

“You have so many good things stored up for many years, rest, eat, drink, be merry!” We like to think we are immortal. As a teenager, I am tempted by that thought all the time. I may as well stay out really late and skip out on that family dinner, right? My family will still be there some time down the road when I need them, right? The temptation is to push all the important things to “later” and “store up” superficial things for now. As a teenager, self-image, popularity, and academic things can quickly become “stored up” while the family is left sitting at home for a later date when it’s time to settle down and start caring.

“You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”We live under the assumption that we will have time in our life to turn away from the superficial and begin to value things. There will always be tomorrow, right? I remember when I used to fight with my older sister (usually over who got to wear the cutest thing in the closet), my mom would always tell me,someday you will realize how important sisters are.” She turned out to be absolutely right. But why do we live under the assumption that that ‘someday’ will come? Why can’t we just begin to live for what is truly valuable today? Why don’t we stop counting our worth in possessions and other fleeting things?

Maybe it is because we don’t trust that God can provide for us. Maybe we are afraid that the things of true value are “messy.”Maybe we think we have to do it all for ourselves. But remember, as the first reading today says, “… by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of Godit is not from works, so no one may boast. Sometimes we forget that God is great at giving gifts. Clearly he must be, if he gives us our salvation. Let’s pray that we can begin to trust Him more, and put aside things that don’t matter for those that truly do.

This all reminds me of a very catchy song. Please excuse the late-nineties vibe the music video may give you, but I deemed that the message was greater than the negative hairstyle memories it may bring back.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Gal 5:18-25 The Spiritual Life

Wednesday of the Twenty--Eighth Week in Ordinary Time 

Now the works of the flesh are obvious:
immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry,
sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy,
outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness,
dissensions, factions, occasions of envy,
drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Those who deny the spirit usually do so in order to dismiss the good that comes with the life of spirit. The allure of the flesh drives their mind to adopt the necessary logic to justify their skepticism. As Paul says in Philippians 3:19, Their God is their stomach.” In most cases, their appetites, not their minds, direct their course through life and all good things eventually fall by the wayside while every evil thing crops up on the horizon.

In the struggle for holiness, no one should  imagine that it is a conflict of mind over the body—the body will win every time—but rather is a conflict of the soul with the flesh. The very force that works upon the mind and the will, one's own spirit, must subdue the other force that can do the same, one's body. While not inherently evil, the body can open the forces of evil into one's life if not controlled. Like an ignorant mob instigating a reign of prejudice and terror that tears apart the history and culture of a nation, the unbridled impulses of the body can decimate the nobler parts of a man. The life of the spirit properly contains these hordes and channels their energy towards more constructive ends. The spiritual individual can truly regain his humanity and adopt the virtues that Paul speaks of: “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Unfortunately, the soul often loses in its struggle with the body. After all, the body has the world on its side while the soul has God, whom many people foolishly choose to ignore. The lonely soldier that fights for the soul easily succumbs to the throng of armies fighting for the body. Neutrality does not exist in the battlefield of the one's self: either the spirit rules or the flesh does; any wavering on this point inevitably favors the latter.

At first the victory of the flesh over the soul feels wonderful. One can sin with utter abandonment, delighting in the pleasures of the world. Jettisoning the burden of self-sacrifice and personal growth, the sinner can live like a child again except with the strength and spending-power of an adult. Anything seems possible in those early period of the flesh: relationships, food, politics, and entertainment all serve as perfectly fine idols to worship. All one has to do is have these things at hand forever until they die in perfect ignorant bliss. To this end, human progress has made great strides in supplying the spiritually impoverished with all the bodily goods they could possibly want.

However, these goods, these friendly ubiquitous idols, suffer the same fate as the bodies they satisfy: they grow old and pass away. Lust does not last, nor does gluttony, nor does vanity, nor does sloth. They peak, and then they fade, leaving a person empty. The body which triumphed in its success now struggles to continue as its kingdom declines. It desperately clutches some new source of joy or pleasure even to the point of enduring great suffering, much like an old despot starving his own people and brutalizing any opposition just to remain in power. By their very nature, these pleasures quickly degenerate into division, enmity, mediocrity, and desolation. Nothing but corruption can result from selfishness.

By contrast, the spiritual life brings about spiritual goods, the goods that last. Through His grace, God confers these gifts upon men from within. They, like the spirit, endure forever and require nothing from the world; hence, the world spurns the spiritual life and constantly denies its existence. Rather than dividing people and stoking hatred, these spiritual goods bring people together in true sincere manner. Far from encouraging mediocrity and self-indulgence, the spiritual life nurtures personal excellence and “self-control.”

St. Theresa of Avila, whose feast day the Church celebrates today, strove for this life of the spirit for much of her life. All of a sudden the spiritual life brought about all the goods that Paul mentions. Theresa personally discovered what grace lay in the life of the spirit that so many Christians took for granted. Illuminated by God, she created many new monasteries, reformed her own order, and wrote many crucial works on the spiritual life and the many barriers that prevented its full adoption. She demonstrated that the life of a Christian means pursuing this life of the spirit, and that a life of the spirit is ultimately a life that never ends.