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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mk 13:33-37 What If...

First Sunday of Advent
(Click here for readings)


Jesus said to his disciples:  "Be watchful!  Be alert!  You do not know when the time will come.  It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch."

God is always faithful.  Today's first reading, a letter from St. Paul to the Corinthians, is a great way to start off the season of Advent.  It is a heartfelt letter written to a community that is experiencing a lot of heartache, all for the sake of the Gospel.   

Are you going through tough times?  Are you experiencing a lot of drama in your life?  Has this year been dragging you down?  Have you been torn apart - physically, emotionally, and spiritually?  Then tis the reason for the season. 

Nearly five years had gone by between St. Paul's founding of the Church in Corinth and the arrival of this letter.  During his absence the community had fallen victim to a number of vices that were beginning to fracture its unity and drag members away from the faith.  St. Paul sees only blessings and graces in it all, for they are experiencing what he and the other Apostles experienced early on in their journey of faith. 

"Brothers and sisters:  ...I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way..."

"He will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

God is always faithful.  Are you? 

Sin has a way of separating ourselves from our true Love.  Life without the Lord is Hell, literally!  Advent is that time of year when we invite the Lord back into our world and back into our lives. 

What would life be like without Jesus Christ?  Recently, I saw a trailer for the movie "America" by Dinesh D'Sousa.  I haven't watched the movie, yet, but I did find the trailer very interesting.  The narrator begins his presentation with a series of questions: 

"What would the world look like if America did not exist?... 
What if George Washington had been killed by a sniper's bullet?...  What if the Civil War tore our country into two or ten?... 
What if Hitler got the atomic bomb first." 

We could never know the answer to any of these questions, and any attempt to answer them would be highly speculative. 

But what about this:  What would the world look like if Jesus had never entered it?  Can we know?  I think so, by breaking it down and asking the question:  What would I be like if Christ had never entered into my life?  Now this I can know! 

And I can even tell wouldn't be pretty. 

I know that if Christ had not entered into my life, then it would be an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."  I would be like a terrorist, and I would have no qualms about it.  I would do whatever it took to succeed.  I would do whatever it took to get ahead.  I would allow my "natural" instinct to govern my emotions and my decisions.  I know...because I have it in me. 

And so do so many of us.  Just watch the nightly news. 

If someone had wronged me, my fury would go out of control.  My bitterness would only grow.  My resentment would find no quiet until sweet revenge had been achieved.  I would be unchained!

All of us need Advent.  We all need to be put back into that awkward - yes, awkward - position that Christ has placed us in:  Love your enemies...Do good to those who harm you...Forgive seven times seventy times. 

For what would my life be like if Christ were not a part of it? easy! 

But an easier life does not necessarily mean a better life. 

What would have happened to America if George Washington had been killed?  We don't know.  But we do know what happened to the Apostles when Jesus was killed.  They prayed and kept going. 

What would have happened to America if America had been torn into two or ten countries?  We don't know.  But we do know what happened when the Apostles were scattered like sheep and ran off in every direction.  They prayed and regrouped. 

What would have happened to America if the Nazis had invented the atomic bomb first?  We don't know.  But we do know what happened when Christ's enemies crucified Him:  they fell apart or converted. 

The Lord has already given His followers the worst case scenario.  We don't need to imagine a world lost or a world without Him.  We already know...and it isn't pretty.

Advent is all about praying, regrouping and converting; that is, preparing ourselves for the coming of the Lord.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

LK 21:34-36 Drowsy Hearts

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


Jesus said to his disciples:
Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.

This Gospel is a tough one! It reminds us that, someday, we will have to undergo a final judgement from our God. We will have no where to run and no excuses when that day comes. When we finally see Jesus face to face, will it be a joyful encounter? Do we trust in His divine mercy and long to see His face or do we run from prayer?

Love demands a response If our hearts are drowsy or anxious it is because we have forgotten The Lords great love for us. If we have gotten drunk on envy or high on pride it is because we are living for ourselves and not for Christ. If we have let the tasks of daily life or the desire for material things overwhelm us it is because we have lost sight of Heaven. This tends to happen a lot around the holidays. Ironically, it gets worse as we get closer to Christmas. But we must not forget that Love (i.e. God) demands a response. His love should change us into more loving people. His humility should make us more humble. Our hearts should be awakened and conformed daily to look more like His sacred heart. This is the life of a Christian. Constant and deep conversion.

Hidden Love When I reflect on what it means to be humble, obedient, and merciful I always think of St. Faustina. In the eyes of the world she was a simple nun: poor, uneducated, and basically a nobody! Yet Jesus chose her to be the secretary of His Divine Mercy. Through His apparitions to her He revealed how much He desires to extend healing mercy to those souls that are willing to trust totally in Him. He also revealed how much He desires to unite Himself with us not just in eternal life but right now through the Eucharist! You see, Holy Communion prepares us for our final union with Christ. The more we prepare ourselves to receive Him in a state of grace when He is hidden in the host, the more prepared we will be to stand before Him at the hour of our death! In the host He is humble, hidden, vulnerable, and thirsting for our love. How do we respond? How are we preparing ourselves to meet our Savior?

Today, I prepare for the coming of the King. What am I, and who are You, O Lord, King of eternal glory? O my heart, are you aware of who is coming to you today ? Yes, I know, but - strangely - I am not able to grasp it. Oh, if He were just a king, but He is the King of kings, the Lord of lords. Before Him, all power and domination tremble. He is coming to my heart today... I hear Him approaching. I go out to meet Him and invite Him. When He entered the dwelling of my heart, it was filled with such reverence that it fainted with fear, falling at His feet.

Jesus gives her His hand and graciously permits her to take her place beside Him. He reassures her saying, See, I have left My heavenly throne to become united with you. What you see is just a tiny part and already your soul swoons with love. How amazed will your heart be when you see Me in all My glory. But I want to tell you that eternal life must begin already here on earth through Holy Communion. Each Holy Communion makes you more capable of communing with God throughout eternity.” (Diary of St. Faustina #1810-1811)

As we prepare for Sunday Mass tomorrow and for the season of Advent, let us be vigilant of the things that cause our hearts to fall asleep and our souls to wander away from The Lord. Do not be afraid to make changes or to let go of whatever is keeping you from a deeper, more joyful union with Jesus. Our Blessed Mother can help us along this journey through her powerful intercession. I am going to begin the Novena to the Immaculate Conception today, please consider joining me!

Pray, hope and don't worry. Anxiety doesn't help at all. Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer.” - St. Padre Pio

This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. You can read more of her writings on her blog Lover of the Light.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lk 17:11-19 The Gifts We Take For Granted

Thanksgiving 2014


And when he saw them, he said,
“Go show yourselves to the priests.”
As they were going they were cleansed. 
And one of them, realizing he had been healed,
returned, glorifying God in a loud voice;
and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. 

The other day I saw a video (link to ) about a girl named Kayla Montgomery, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis at age 14. When her symptoms appeared, she would lose feeling in her legs. With medication, she could reduce the effect of these symptoms, but she was no longer allowed to play soccer, her favorite sport.

Instead, she picked up cross-country. She was a slow runner, but she told her coach, Patrick Cromwell, to push her to be the best she could be.

By senior year, she was competing in state competitions. However, she was no ordinary runner. Every race, at the one mile mark, her body temperature increased, triggering her MS symptoms. She could still run, but she felt nothing. Unable to come to a coordinated stop after the race, she relied upon her coach to help her at finish line as her legs gave out. As she crossed—and collapsed—he would catch her, carry her, and give her water and ice to cool down.

Every race, Kayla collapses. Every race, she moans and pleads for water as she is carried away. Why go through that? Why do it?

"Since I know that my mobility is a gift right now, I guess I make every day that I run as best I can, so I don't waste that gift,” Kayla says.

Kayla falls down after each race, but she doesn’t fall with bitterness or anger, cursing her limitations. She falls down victoriously. She falls down in thanksgiving. She falls down because she has given her all; for those few miles, she has conquered her limitations.

Like the cleansed leper who falls down at Jesus’ feet, we are called to humble ourselves in thanksgiving, recognizing, despite our limitations, all that Christ has done for us.

He doesn’t ask for this praise. In fact, He didn’t even tell the lepers to return to thank Him. Rather, He told them toleave. It was the thankful leper who disobeyed, who came back to Jesus. He put off being declared clean, being reintegrated into Jewish society, because He recognized that thanking God was more important.

That’s the price we must pay as Christians. Thanking God is our first priority. Amid joy and amid pain, God has blessed us. There’s no denying that.

So if you have encountered great blessings in your life, go thank God. And if you have encountered great woes…go thank God.

In the end, we all have something to be thankful for.

People like Kayla serve as examples of the fact that even amid suffering and limitations, God is calling us to greatness. He’s calling us to find the wonderful things He has in store for us, to run the race, and to run so as to win.

And at the end of the race, when we have given it our all, He is waiting at the finish line, ready to catch us as we, like Kayla, fall to His feet in thanksgiving.

Thank God we have the opportunity to run this race. So let’s run it well. Happy Thanksgiving!

Faith Noah graduated from Ursuline Academy way back in 2014 and was valedictorian of her class.  She is currently a student at Vanderbilt University and contributes to this blog whenever she can.  She is an outstanding young lady with amazing grace and faith.

Lk 17:11-19 The Attitude of Gratitude

Thanksgiving 2014
(Click here for readings)


As they were going they were cleansed.  And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a used set of "The Liturgy of the Hours" from a third-party seller on  Inside the pages I discovered several prayer cards left by the previous owner.  "What I wonderful, personal touch." I thought to myself.   "I'm so blessed to receive these books in such excellent condition and with an added bonus.  No way I'd find such prayer cards in a new set."  As I thumbed through one of the volumes, a small piece of cellophane dropped on the floor.  Sealed inside the cellophane was a real four-leaf clover! The previous owner used it as a bookmark for years.  The clover showed age, yet remained beautifully preserved. I didn't know this until recently, but a four-leaf clover symbolizes "God's grace."  I felt a wave of gratitude inside my heart, thanking the Lord for connecting me with these books.  He continuously pours out his grace through the little things.  I never thought an old used set of books along with a four-leaf clover would bring a smile to my face.  I plan to treasure these Liturgy of the Hours volumes for years to come.

The Attitude of Gratitude   Today is Thanksgiving Day in America.  It's a day of turkey comas, football mania, and shop-until-you-drop pre-Black Friday sales.  Sadly, I see more people stressed out around this time of the year than at their jobs.  Thanksgiving has certainly become commercialized with the whole "buy, buy, buy" mentality.  We still get together as a family to eat and drink, but it is often short lived. Within just a few hours we're in front of the television cheering for our favorite football team or buying Christmas gifts at the local store.  Do we thank God for all of  the blessings he's given us? Do we pray together as a family? Do we  thank our loved ones and friends, letting them know how much they mean to us? Do we thank the Pilgrims and Indians who started the Thanksgiving tradition?  The big question lingers:  Do we adopt an attitude of gratitude?    

An attitude of gratitude creates an environment where we become more aware of others. Simply put, we get out of our own selfishness and see a whole other side of humanity.  In today's gospel reading, only one of the ten lepers thanks Jesus for being cured.  He's even a foreigner! Why is this?  Is it that the other lepers aren't as grateful?  Perhaps. However, I think it's more of an act of ignorance. These lepers just don't realize the precious gift of healing given to them by Christ.  They go on through their life, relieved of the painful symptoms but completely oblivious to the source of relief.  This is how faith is.  Some people believe and others don't.  Faith and gratitude go hand and hand.  When we have faith in Jesus Christ, and set our minds to follow his teachings, gratitude is a welcomed side effect.

On this day, while enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with family, take a few moments to remember all of your blessings.  Go around the table and say one thing you are most thankful for.  Cherish the family moment together and remember God's grace touches the lives of everybody in subtle, unique ways.  Adopt an attitude to gratitude!

"Thanksgiving is good but thanks-living is better." 
(Matthew Henry, 17th Century Welsh Non-Conformist Minister)

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lk 21:12-19 The Never-Ending History of Christian Persecution

Wednesday of the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time


“’They will seize and persecute you,
they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons,
and they will have you led before kings and governors
because of my name.’”

In the comfort of a developed country, with friends and family sitting in our pews on a Sunday morning, listening to a homily that assures us God’s love, Catholics in the Western world have a difficult time understanding Jesus’ warnings of persecution and physical death. So much of it seems like needlessfearmongering, conspiracy theory, and irrational fundamentalism.

Perhaps Jesus’ disciples living in the oppressiveRoman Empire, which often killed its problems rather than solved them, as well as living with an increasingly desperate Jewish Nationalist sect, the Sanhedrin, who was also willing to use force to advance its agenda, would prompt Jesus to state the obvious: becoming Christian will put the believer at odds with his neighbors. Nothing less than God’s own Holy Spirit could empower new believers to face such adversity. Nothing less than John’s revelation of Christ’s return could instill such hope into Christian who knew that torture and death awaited him. Nothing less than Jesus’ prophecies and later His resurrection could counter the leviathan of the world. Such difficult times called for difficult words, and this explains Jesus’ warnings.

Nevertheless, these words still apply throughout the ages. The first three centuries of the Roman Empire witnessed the torture and death of thousands of Christians. Even after Christianity became the state religion, the Arian heresy acted as the oriflamme of persecutors who set their sights on eliminatingorthodox Christians for the next three centuries.

After Rome declined in the West, Muslim armies from the east soon swamped the Mediterranean and nearly all of Europe, slaughtering Christians or enslaving them while endangering Christendom for nearly a millennium. Pagans like the Huns, the Mongols, and the Vikings also joined in attacking Christians during this time.

At the tail end of Muslim hegemony, which ruled over most of the Eastern hemisphere with the exception of Western Europe, the Protestant Reformation arose, breaking up Christendom with bloody wars and national rivalries would last indefinitely and lead to renewed persecutions and divisions.

With the religious wars casting the shadow of skepticism over religion in general, political movements such as socialism, nationalism, fascism, or some other ideology promising heaven on earth soon led persecutions against the church once more. Whenever a revolution or civil war broke out (i.e. the French Revolution, the English Civil War, the Spanish Civil War, the Bolshevik Revolution, etc.),Catholics would lose no matter which side won.

Today, the tradition of persecuting Christians still holds strong, for even if new threats to the Churchsprout up, the old ones tend to linger and sometimes even worsen in their terror. The Muslim world continues to viciously persecute Christians with impunity. Nationalists and Socialists in Asia continue to brutalize Christians without a murmur from the media. Although not physically militant, skeptics and secularists in the West openly defy and marginalize the Church through deceit and mass scandalAs a result, many Christians in the West have succumbed to ignorance, vice, and delusion. The world goes up in flames, and we laugh, doubting its reality as we create our own. At least those who suffer a physical death because of their faith can look forward to a heavenly reward; those who trade away their baptismal birthright for uninhibited dissolution—like Esau trading away his birthright for a bowl of redstew—have nothing to hope for after the party ends.

As usual, Jesus speaks for all times, not just His own. This is a fallen world, and the cross neverdisappears. Until He comes again with His angels, Catholics will have to endure the adversity of the world. Seeking the good, the true, the beautiful will separate us from the majority, who seek the bad, the false, and the ugly. Even when offered as a choice, one good and one evil, the former often proves too difficult while the latter proves so easy. Persecution is easier than conversion; ignorance is easier than wisdom; hatred is easier than love. As long as this remains true, devout Catholics will have enemies in their midst, both inside and outside the Church, for even “parents, brothers, relatives, and friends” will become hostile.

Fortunately, God will come to out aid if we let Him. Jesus, the Word Himself, will supply the words of our defense. He will inform (and reform) our hearts, if not our minds, with the Truth. He will save those who stay with him and persevere for His sake. For this, we should be happy, even grateful. In our faith, we have hope, and in our hope we can truly love. Our enemies cannot make such a claim. Our struggle will end, and in this struggle we will find true joy, but their struggle never ends, and, after so muchpleasure-seeking and ridicule, they will inevitablyfind true sadness.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Lk 21:5-11 Stones Thrown

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

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with 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."

America is so fragile.  Often we think of how fragile our world is.  There is so much concern about global warming and its effects and how easily our planet could be destroyed.  But I, on the other hand, often think of how fragile our country, civility and democracy is, and how easily it could crumble. 

All nations and governments are fragile, including America's. Her institutions and laws are fragile than we care to think.  Our way of life could easily change and become unrecognizable within a generation or two.  And given all the wrong "environmental" conditions, our Constitution could easily become just a scarp of paper.

When Ebola hit Dallas, I wondered what would happen to us and our institutions if things got out of control.  Would there be mass quarantining, lootings, and chaos?  My imagination went even wilder when I found out that one nurse, who was infected with the deadly disease, had taken a flight to Cleveland, Ohio! What would become of us if our neighbors began getting sick?  How would we treat them?  What would happen to our hospitals if they became overwhelmed?  And what about our police force and emergency services?  What would happen to our government if our leaders began calling in sick?   

Sure, America is militarily powerful but that's nothing.  If there lessons to be learned from history, then we should fear destruction from the inside, rather than from the outside. 

Last night I watched St. Louis Prosecutor Bob McCulloch report the ruling from the grand jury on the Michael Brown/Officer Darren Wilson case.  Like most Americans, I watched and listened carefully to every word he said.  I was very impressed by the prosecutor's professionalism. 

The grand jury, comprising nine white and three black individuals, met on 25 separate days over a three month period.  They heard more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses and sifted through a mountain of evidence - all the evidence: recordings, photographs, physical/forensic evidence, eye-witness testimonies, expert opinions, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms. 

Conclusion? The grand jury declined to indict the police officer. 

Shortly after the news conference, authorities released more than 1,000 pages of grand jury documents, including Wilson's testimony.  Although the deliberations were not recorded and the vote from each member was not revealed, the evidence the grand jury examined was released and made public for all to see. 

Result?  Tears, sadness, dismay, anger, violence, vandalism, arrests. 

Businesses - many of them owned by hard working blue collar workers - were torched.  Family-owned businesses were destroyed.  Property destroyed.  Lives destroyed. 

Last night, the poor town of Ferguson got a little poorer.  And so did America.

What I find disturbing is how the media appeared to be adding fuel to an already hot situation.  Some journalists asked Prosecutor McCulloch if he "would be able to sleep tonight."  What???  What kind of question is that? 

Others reporters said he looked "defensive."  What is all this subjective gobbledygook?     

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.

If evidence in this case had not been released to the public, or if it had pointed to a different conclusion, then I would completely understand all the angry and confusion in Ferguson.  But this is not the case.  This is a very different and very sad case. 

No one wants to see a young man killed.  But does anyone want to see an innocent man's life ruined? 

Attorneys for Michael Brown's family on Tuesday vowed to push for federal charges against the Ferguson police officer who killed the unarmed 18-year-old.

My fear is that they are being set up for another let down...and another stone thrown.  

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lk 21:1-4 Big Rewards with Small Coins

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 into the treasury and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.

A small boy with a massive tumor.  I'd like to share with you an article I read not too long ago:

"Surgeons in New Mexico have removed a rare, football-sized tumor from the neck and upper body of a Mexican boy, capping a two-year charitable effort to get the disfigured child U.S. medical attention."

"The 11-year-old patient, Jose Antonio Ramirez Serrano from Ciudad Juarez...was expected to remain at the University of New Mexico Children's Hospital for at least a month recovering from Monday's surgery. 

[U.S. missionaries] first noticed the child walking across a street in the impoverished Anapra neighborhood of Juarez two years ago and learned the child's family had exhausted all medical efforts in Mexico...

Faith-filled widow with two small coins.  What I find most striking about today's beautiful Gospel passage is how nothing - not even a "small" act of faith and love - escapes God's eyes.  The Lord saw what this poor widow did, and he set her on a pedestal, apart from all the others, for all to see, including his own Apostles.  Her act of faith was enormous - gigantic!

How in the world could it have gone unnoticed by so many people?

Today's article and today's Gospel passage are so similar.  How in the world could Jose Antonio's medical condition gone unnoticed by so many people? 

What were the doctors in Mexico thinking?  Are you going to tell me they were unaware of the great hospitals in the United States?  They didn't care.  They sent him away.  They weren't concerned enough or determined enough to see this boy get the help he needed. 

Where were the religious - the priests and nuns and local missionaries - in Cuidad Jauarez?  Why didn't they mobilize the full force of the Catholic Church?  Are you going to tell me they didn't have any important phone numbers or contacts? 

What happened to the doctors and the religious is what happens to so many of us:  we don't see our neighbor in the mirror.  We don't see ourselves as Jose Antonio or ourselves as Jesus Christ!  We don't see ourselves choking and dying a painful death because no one will really - honestly - help.  We don't see ourselves as the one picking up our Cross and carrying it until everything is finished!  It is finished!  

The Spanish ministry coordinator for the First Baptist Church, Kristean Alcocer, said "Many promises were made [to the family] over the years, but no one ever came through with a meaningful solution."

So it took two foreigners, two American missionaries, from a Protestant Church to imagine themselves in this child's shoes and imagine themselves as Jesus Christ...and move some serious mountains!

God bless them!  

It's amazing the big things we can do for little people if we only have the faith the size of a mustard seed...or two small coins. 

Lk 21:1-4 Against Complacency

Memorial of Saint Andrew Dŭng-Lạc, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs
(Click here for readings)


When Jesus looked up he saw some wealthy people
putting their offerings into the treasury
and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins.
He said, “I tell you truly,
this poor widow put in more than all the rest;
for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth,
but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.”

Over this past summer, one of my friends went on a long hiking trip.  Every time he goes on one of these trips, he wears a dog tag with a verse from Scripture on the back—Philippians 4:13. However, before this past trip, he mistakenly told me that the verse was Philippians 4:12, so I looked it up. It says, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”  

What is St. Paul saying in this verse? He is not merely recounting his past wealth or bragging about his spiritual might; in fact, in Philippians 4:13, he claims that he could not have lived well without God’s assistance:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Instead, St. Paul is saying that he found just as much difficulty in living in prosperity as he did in humility. He needed the same assistance of Christ to live out his vocation in both seasons of his life.

How is this? How did St. Paul, who was eventually imprisoned and beheaded for his faith, find the same struggling in wealth as in his persecution? The truth is that comfort is a great temptation against faith. It breeds belief in self-sufficiency. It breeds complacency. But it’s not just the super-wealthy that are tempted to complacency. The truth is, unless you are travelling all across the world and evangelizing like St. Paul, you are probably tempted to complacency every day.

What is complacency? Simply put, it’s the temptation to say to ourselves that we are good in our current station of life. We don’t need to pray more, strive more, act more. We are fine. What a terrible lie, but what a tempting one!

How many times have we gone to Mass to simply fulfill an obligation? Like the wealthy men in the Gospel reading, we put in one houbut not a minute more, lest it should interfere with our comfortable Sunday. Two weeks ago, a family member was baptized in a very large Baptist church in the area. It is not uncommon for service at that church to last for an hour and a half to two hours, or more. I have to admit that I could not find it within myself to be attentive for the whole service. One of my Catholic family members upon leaving the church joked, “I like being a Catholic because our services are one and done”—of course, referring to the length of the Mass. I have to admit that I laughed, but upon further reflection, how sad! If our Masses were two hours long, would we go as easily? Could we spare another hour of our time for the man who spent much more than an hour living and dying for us?

Or think about complacency in prayer. We say prayer before meals, and maybe upon rising and before going to sleep. But can we find motivation to pray more? And if we do, can we sustain it, even when it seems to be inconvenient or even unfruitful?

How do we serve others? Do we give just enough to satisfy our guilt, or do we give entirely of ourselves like the widow did? I have told this story before in a previous blog post, so if you have already read it, bear with me. In my English class this year, our teacher had us watch a speech by a woman who risked everything to start a small company that gives microloans to impoverished business owners in Asia and Africa (usually women who sell things they make, small farmers, etc.). She said that before she resolved to take a risk and do more, she was simply throwing money in donation jars to satisfy her own guilt. Her service was mostly motivated by selfishness, or a sense that she was obligated to give. We have all been there, much like the wealthy men in this Gospel reading who only give to fulfill an obligation—NEVER sacrificing their own comfort. John Paul II once said that our lives only find meaning when they are poured out for another. Do we believe it? Can we do more than the bare minimum in our service to others? Could we give of our very livelihood in service? These are great aspirations, but we must know how to live them out. We must learn how to fight complacency and truly give what is due to God.

Teenagers or students who may be reading—never get too busy for the important things; namely, prayer, your family, and your community. I am slightly biased, but I think complacency is easiest to fall into in this stage of life. Everything in our culture says that we should be working towards our own comfort and success. Unless we give ourselves to God through prayer and service, we will look back and find that we are slipping down a slippery slope.

Mothers and fathers who may be reading—never forget how important your job is. I have been greatly blessed in my life with incredible parents who give of themselves every day for me.  Now that I am getting closer to leaving home, I have been getting more sentimental than I would like to admit. When I look back through the years, I realize that I owe everything I have and everything that I am to my parents (well, to God first, but through them-- you understand). Parents, you have blank canvases before you in your children. The way you live your vocation as a parent will determine the way your children will live their vocation as Christians. Don’t do the bare minimum for the faith of your family. Don’t just take your kids to Mass on Sunday and be done—talk with them about how God has worked in your life as a family, and pray together. Mother Teresa said that world peace begins in the family. How right is she!

We need to be on our guard against complacency. We need to get rid of the bare minimum mentality. Today, let’s ask God to help us, because we need His help in all things.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mt 25:31-46 The Best Who Served The Rest

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


Jesus said to his disciples:  "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."

Jesus Christ, Shepherd of the Universe.  What a sight it will be!  A glorious throne.  Nations assembled before Him.  Emperors, Dictators, Presidents - everyone in a position of power and authority - will be bowing and shaking before the almighty King.  Peasants - simple folks - will be bowing and shaking as well.  Some will go to His right.  Others will go to His left.  They will know their place.  They will know who stands for Him and who stands against Him.  They will know the real King - the only King - of all things.  LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION!

Will Christ will pound His chest and declare His authority for all to hear and fear?  Will He point His finger and make us blush?  Will He sentence some to life and others to death?  Will people cheer?  Is there applause in heaven?  Will He make us feel weak and small?  Will He Lord himself over us?

Will He repeat what others have done throughout the centuries?


The refrain.  Today's reading reminds me of a song written with two verses and a refrain.  What is the refrain?  "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

What?  Is this right? 

I find today's "refrain" to be abrupt and somewhat out of place, even shockingly unceremonious and downright underwhelming.  Could this be right?  Is this what it takes to inherit God's kingdom?  Is this what makes us royals?

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.  I'm sure the Lord never physically pounded his chest, or sat in a high chair or throne.  I'm also sure He never went on top of any mountain to coronate himself.  But in today's first and second staves, it sure sounds like He could have...if He had wanted to.

What's Christ's secret to being a King, a real King, a noble King?  Being a servant.   

What's the secret to living a long and prosperous life while keeping your mind sane and your body healthy?  Serving others.

Why are so many people sick today, with unhealthy thoughts and unhealthy bodies?  Could it possibly be that we are spending way too much time thinking about ourselves and not enough on others?

"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

Stop thinking about all the times you were rejected.  Stop reliving them in your head.  Stop worrying so much about what you eat, what you wear and how you look? 
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw your neighbor???

For I was hungry... This world is starving for Christ.  It thirsts for righteousness.  We're all looking for a good friend and someone to love.  Have you found him/her?  Is it real?  Is it noble?  Is it holy?


To be a king, you have to treat others as kings.  To be a royal, you have to start giving others the royal treatment:  "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me."

If you want people to worship you, then you must first worship them.  If you want people to love you, then you must love them first.  If you want people to delight over you, then take delight over them.

Jealousy:  the killer of Saints.  I've said it before and I will say it again.  Jealousy is a very ugly sin because it is a very unforgiving sin.  It spiritually, emotionally and physically kills its host! 

If all I do in life is compare myself to those in front of me, and never notice those behind me, then I will always appear to be a loser.  

Be fair.  Look in front of you and behind you.  There is nothing to be jealous of.  Learn from the best to serve the rest!

Now here is the twist:  As a priest, I've noticed something.  I've learned more from the "rest" than from the "best."  I've learned I have very little to fear, and that I can do without, and that it's more appealing and attractive to shine a spotlight on others than on yourself.   

So after careful review, I have determined that today's refrain is not frightfully unceremonious or underwhelming, but rather plucky and refreshing. 

Look in the mirror and see all those who need you.  See God and neighbor. "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me."

This isn't a story of rags to riches, but of service to riches.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Lk 19:45-48 My Body, His Temple

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(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."

His Temple.  It's amazing how much the Lord can say in so few words.  We know the Temple is the place to worship God, for it is where God resides.  But we also know that the true Temple of God is the body of Jesus Christ.  "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn 2:19).  For "the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands" (Acts 17:24).

Jesus is the Temple of God.  Where He is, God is.  The Lord is worthy of not only respect and admiration but of adoration.  He is God.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God... And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (Jn 1:1,14).

My Body.  Now if the Church is the mystical body of Christ, the "sacrament" or visible sign of Jesus Christ, then we cannot forget that we are the temple of God.  "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst?" (1Cor 3:16).

So with all that said and done, the question now is:  How is my house cleaning going?

My Body, His Temple.  Unless we take matters into our own hands, then what happened to the thieves will happen to us. 

He will turn our lives upside down and clean out our pockets!

Have I turned my body into a marketplace?  Are my thoughts and actions geared towards material things?  Tis the season, you know.

Let's be on our guard against all kinds of greed, pride and vanity, for they can easily permeate within us, take on flesh and masquerade as a good rather than what they really are - an evil.

Let's no forget:  It's His Temple, our Body.  Let's put our worldly desires to death, not Him.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Lk 19:11-28 The Good Manager

Wednesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time


The first came forward and said,
Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’
He replied, ‘Well done, good servant!
You have been faithful in this very small matter;
take charge of ten cities.’
Then the second came and reported,
Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’
And to this servant too he said,
You, take charge of five cities.’

Very often, when people devote themselves to a career or a big project, they focus the product but often fail to think about the result of that product, whether their bosses will reward their labor or not. In a few cases, success will land them a promotion, or a raise, or extra vacation time, but more often their success will simply lead to a pat on the back and even more work. Younger employees always fall into this trap, going above and beyond to impress their bosses only to have additional workloads, but the seasoned employees often know better and keep a low profile in order to keep their workload to a minimum.

In an unjust, but very common, ironic twist, many bad employees are sooner promoted over good ones because the latter are more valuable to the company at the lower level than they are at a higher one. Schools will often work this way, keeping their talented teachers in the classroom while promoting the mediocre teachers to positions of administration. After all, if a school has talented teachers, the administrators do not need to do all that much except attend meetings and fill out paperwork, something any average person could do. Unfortunately, these average paper-pushers earn much more money and receive much more respect than the pedagogical geniuses of the classroom. This dynamic has created a huge problem in American education. Great teachers will do one of three things: they stop teaching and find a career that rewards their ability; they purposely stifle their excellence and pursue a promotion that will take them away from the classroom and compensate them better; or, most often, they will do amazing things for a few years, burn out, and quit the profession altogether. Bad teachers will usually stay because they figured out a way to as little as possible and still keep their job.

Far from giving more to those who have, schools (and probably many other organizations) take from those who have and give to those who have not. Besides internalizing spiritual implications, people might do well to understand Jesus' words in a practical sense. School districts could pay their teachers, the people who actually work with the students, more, and they could pay their principles, the people who work the paperwork, less. Moreover, good teachers could earn even more for doing especially well with their classes. And since secretaries and paraprofessionals handle most of the paperwork, and administering discipline is simply a matter of following predetermined protocol, the school could easily let go many of its principals, superintendents, and all the unseen education bureaucrats in the administration buildings, and replace them with more efficient grading software, new copy machines, and maybe some ping pong tables for the teachers' lounge. In such a case, Jesus' wisdom could finally shine: “I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” Teachers who have ability will have more, and those who cannot, or do not, teach will either quit or be demoted to administration.

Jesus' parable of the three servants draws a parallel between management and discipleship. The nobleman rewards his first two servants, but punishes the the third. The first two servants follow their master's command to “engage in trade” with the money he gives them; this means that they must enter the world, create, sell, and manage so that they can make a profit. In their effort to gain a profit, they invest themselves in the gift of their master. Not only do they grow richer since their master rewards them, they also grow as people because they have learned to successfully manage and acquire wealth—in a way, they have become masters themselves.

The third servant, and the people who despise the nobleman from the beginning, do not have anything to offer except excuses. Instead of growing like the first two enterprising servants, they shrink in their own pettiness and envy. The third servant, in accounting for his utter laziness, mutters the excuse of every mediocre imbecile: “you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.” Compounding his failure with defiance, the third servant actually criticizes the master for even expecting something from him—one could translate his reply as, “I'm not paid enough to do any kind of work.” Not even repentant for his failure, the servant still feels entitled to his master's mercy. Unlike the slave who follows a perverted justice that compensates dullards like himself, the master executes true justice to suit the third servant's response: “Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.” Like a good manager, he rewards excellence and punishes failure.

On the surface, this parable seems to suggest that Jesus lacks sympathy for the poor and only wants to make the rich richer, but the details and context lead to a different interpretation.  The servants were not rich, and they received their capital with the same request made to them. The first two became rich through hard work and obedience; the third one became poor through indolence and disobedience. In terms of discipleship, the first two servants resemble the saints who worked hard through prayer, fasting, and alms-giving and obeyed Christ's teachings to convert nonbelievers, while the third servant resembles the growing mass of lackadaisical believers who feel entitled to the sacraments and salvation without lifting a finger. Obviously, the first group will bring souls to God as they themselves grow closer to God while the second group does precisely the opposite.

Therefore, Christ, the good manager as well as the good shepherd, must elevate the first group and humiliate the second one. In keeping with this judgment, leaders of the Church and leaders of the family (and the leaders of schools) have a responsibility to do the same with their own members. To do otherwise would inevitably lead to corruption of the whole institution.

In the end, as Christians, we are all Christ's servants and we have a choice to work and obey, or not. Fortunately, Christ is a loving master and makes it clear what we should choose.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lk 19:1-10 Seek N' Save

Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time


But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

 "Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he!"   This song comes to mind every time I read the familiar story of Zacchaeus in the Sycamore tree.  I remember as a child spending summers at a Baptist day care center, sitting through boring Wednesday chapel service.  My repetitive yawning and occasional roll of the eyes kept me more fully engaged.  I somewhat enjoyed singing songs like "Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man" or "Jesus Loves Me" but the preaching was automatic tune-out material.  At the end of the long sermon, we'd be invited to stand up at the front to "Be Saved!"  There was the normal uncomfortable, dead silence.  Most of the kids were saved anyway, so I didn't understand the reason for a weekly invitation.  Every now and then a brave young soul ventured up to the front.  I understood the "real" reason why.  If a kid proclaimed that Jesus saved him, he received tons of attention!  In fact, other kids would smile and pat him on the back; kids who never paid attention on a normal day suddenly noticed him.  It was a clever attention-seeking mechanism.  Of course, stardom was only short lived....  

I often wondered how many kids were truly "saved" and believed in Jesus Christ or just pretended to be "saved" in order to get brownie points with the staff.....

I felt somewhat like Zacchaeus -- a wee little girl.  Too short in height, I climbed up the tree trying to see Jesus.  I just couldn't find him!  I climbed higher and higher.  Where are you, Jesus?  I know you are here!  All I could see was a fog of fakeness and a sea of hypocrisy in the child care center I was "dropped off" at each day.  Jesus was in my heart; I knew that for a fact.  I believed in him; however, I couldn't quite see the Lord among the haziness of memorized scripture verses and uninspiring sermons by non-ordained ministers. I trembled in fear on top of the Sycamore tree's wavering branch.  Would I ever feel connected to the Lord like all of these others who have been "saved?  Would I have the courage to seek the Lord out? I always had a funny feeling that the Southern Baptistidea of faith just wasn't for me.

 I hate to admit this, but I resented my mother for making me go to that daycare every day.  Later I understood she simply had no other choice as a single mom.  It was her best option. She never found out, until I became an adult, about the bullies.  If kids weren't bullying me then they just ignored me.  Most of the children played sports.  I lacked athletic ability, but I could definitely beat them at board games!   

Short in stature but big in heart  Some of the smallest people have hearts of gold.  They may be short in stature, quiet and shy, but they love big.  They see the good in everybody and everything.  People may snub them because they aren't as tall or sophisticated.  They may even be hated  because they stand for things that others don't like.  Certainly, Zacchaeus wasn't a very popular guy around town.  Tax collectors were known to charge higher rates and then pocket the difference.  They accumulated vast wealth at the expense of the poor. 

Zacchaeus knew he wasn't well loved by the people; yet, he was curious about Jesus.  If I sought him out would he save me?  Would he forgive me where others just shame me? I'll stay up in this tree, away from the people.  I fear what the Lord will think of me.  Will he recognize me and call me out?

Low and behold, Jesus discovers the wee little man up in that Sycamore tree.  Not very many grown men hang out in trees!  Jesus calls out to him and Zacchaeus repents!  The wee little man is so impressed with the Lord that he's willing to give up all of his possessions and redistribute his wealth to the poor.  Now this is a conversion worth a huge pat on the back and a round of applause!  

Seek N' Save  Kids of my generation (the good old 1980's) played with Speak N' Spells.  Our parents shopped and bagged their own groceries at neighborhood Sack & Save supermarkets.  It never occurred to me until I was much older the need to Seek N' Save.  Seek out God on a daily basis; seek Him out in our homes, work places, and places of worship.  When we seek God, we rediscover bits and pieces of our lost selves.  God saves these fragments in hopes that we will utilize them as we grow wiser in the faith.  For me, I've learned to forgive the daycare bullies and love them as children of God.  I've learned to respect those with different religious viewpoints.  Best of all, through years of seeking out God, and finding the Catholic Church, I finally understood the true meaning of being saved.  Christ died on the cross for our salvation.  God forgives us over and over again; he loves us that much!

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