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!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Mt 8:18-22 When Considering Sin

Monday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

When Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other shore.  A scribe approached and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."  Jesus answered him, "Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head."

When things were easy.  It was easy to believe in God in the good old days. A lot easier than today.  I think it's all because sinners were a lot more obvious than they are today.  Neighbor knew neighbor, passwords didn't exist, remaining "anonymous" was not even remotely possible.  Relatives really knew their relatives and friends really spoke to one another.  There was no texting to avoid face-to-face encounters, body language and voice straining.  In other words, there weren't any good places to hide. 

The Prophet Amos, aware of the sins of his countrymen, wrote the following:  "Thus says the Lord: I will not revoke my word; because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals.  They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way.  Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name" (Amos 2:6-10).

Unfortunately, today there are plenty of places for us to hide.  [At least that was the case before social media came into existence and reminded us of just how vulnerable we are to our mistakes.]  The Internet makes it possible to visit a prostitute without anyone ever leaving their home.  Personal electronic information allow criminals to commit identity theft without ever being in the presence of their victim. Drones high above us make it possible to kill a suspect without a drop of blood ever landing on the hand that pulled the trigger. 

Our sins (and not necessarily our crimes), although hidden from the eyes of our neighbors like never before, remain visible to the eyes of God. 

"Remember this, you who never think of God" (Ps 50:22a).













 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Mt 16:13-19 The Story of My Life

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul
(Click here for readings)

"When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

What does God think of me?  When Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?", He was asking a very dangerous question.  What will they say?  What will He think?  How will this change their idea of Him?

But Christ wasn't as concerned about what others thought of Him as He was about what His Father thought of Him.  He lived His entire life close to the Father and accomplished the mission His Father gave to Him.  That was more than enough for Him.

So, let's ask the dangerous question:  Do you find yourself too concerned about what others think of you?  If so, then stop doing that.  It's so unfair to yourself.  It's also unfair to those who you may ask.  Better to ask yourself what you think of yourself.  Right?

WRONG!

That's the worst thing you could ever do!  It's too subjective.  Too close to ground zero.  Depending on your psychology, you could either be too harsh with yourself (and think of yourself as worthless) or you could be too easy on yourself (and think you can do no wrong).

No!  The best thing you could ever do is ask the Lord what He thinks of you.

Now we come to the beauty of today's solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two sinners who did something about their sinfulness. 

Peter said to Jesus:  "Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man" (cf. Lk 5:8).  How often do I ask the Lord to leave me, to let me be?  How often do I think the Lord has abandoned me or forgotten me?  Think no more.  Jesus said to Peter:  "Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men" (cf. Mt 4:19).

Paul was a living nightmare for the early Church.  He persecuted Christians wherever he went.  But rather than destroy him, the Lord converted, and he went on to become the greatest preacher of love the world has ever known.  He wrote, "Love is patient, love is kind...It keeps no record of wrong doings.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails" (cf. 1Cor 13:4-8).

How did Paul come up with such a beautiful definition of love?  Simple.  He asked the Lord what He thought of him and this is what He was inspired to write.  I'm sure Paul was pleased with it, especially the part about keeping no record of wrong doings?

Read the lives of the Saints to know what the Lord thinks of you.  Pray, and the Lord will let you know.  Don't ask anyone.  Ask the Lord.  Read the documents of the Church.  Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  All these words are God's words to us.  What can change may change but what cannot change will never change.

It's time we live our lives and complete our mission.  It's time we get rid of the one thing that ruins lives, sleep, blood pressure and peace:  SIN.

Let's be like the saints and do something about it!  Let's tear this wall down!

I have kept the faith.  Peter and Paul lived life to the full, and though their lives ended tragically, they ended well.  I have always found strength in Paul's last letter to Timothy.  It is Paul's Last Will and Testament.

"I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand.  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith."

Wow!  Notice:  There isn't a hint of regret, anger, resentment or bitterness towards God in Paul's words.  How often do I feel like that when I don't get what I pray for?

Pray for holiness! 

Prayers and the World Cup.  I need to pray more and pray wiser.  I need to stop asking the Lord for "favors."  For the past two weeks I've been praying for one thing, and the Lord has not given it to me.  Does He not care about me and my things?  Does He not listen to me?  Well, I've been praying that Brazil loses in the World Cup.  AND IT HASN'T HAPPENED!!!  What is going on???  The same thing that went on with Saints Peter and Paul.  They came to realize that God's story is bigger than themselves.  This is not easy to accept, but it is truer and wiser and much better than anything I could ever pray for.

I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.  Paul understands that the story of salvation will go on without Him.  He was the greatest, but others will come after him, and they must. 

"I have competed well" means I have avoided sin and have been more generous than I ever imagined being.  "I have finished the race" means I never stopped praying.  "I have kept the faith" means I have been a loyal and obedient follower of the Lord. 

His story must be the story of my life.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us!

Heavenly Father, give us the grace and strength to live our lives closer to you and to accomplish the mission given by you.  We ask this through your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

MT 16:13-19 Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
(Click here for readings)



When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
He asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”


In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic —or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice”. So imagine you are Peter. Jesus is standing right in front of you and you have to give Him an answer. Who do you say He is?

If you asked around you would probably get a lot of different answers: a prophet, a wise man, a great teacher, a liar, a crazed lunatic, a bearded carpentera rabbi, a revolutionary, hippie, a vegetarian, a homosexual, a lover of Magdalene, a partier, a victima healer, a misunderstood leader, a philosopher of love, a liberal, a conservative,handsome entrepreneur, rebel, a scapegoat, a communist, a figment of Paul’s imagination…the list could go on and on. Throughout history people have always tried to make Jesus who they wanted Him to be, but despite all the self-serving labels theyhave tried to tame Him with, the fact remains: He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. And God is love.

Love isn’t safe. But He’s good. Love is powerful. But He’s gentle. Love hurts. But Hebinds all woundsLove is a sacrifice, and Jesus is our living sacrifice. From the cross to the monstrance His love for us has never changed. He gave us His body and blood on Calvary, and He continues to offer us His body and blood in every Mass. His love is untamable. Until we are convinced of this love we cannot preach it to others. We can try,but they will see right through our fake smiles and free Bibles.

A good evangelist loves. St. Paul did not automatically become a saint after his conversion; he became a saint because he loved. He loved everyone as a child of God and his love brought others to an encounter with Christ. Are you convinced that God is love and that He loves you beyond all your faults and imperfections? Are you so filled with His love that you can’t help but pour it out on others? That’s how true evangelization works – in humility we are emptied of self so that God can fill us with His love, and then we pour it. We don’t receive His love and mercy to keep it to ourselves but to give it to others.  

Second Chances Mother Angelica once said that when we go to confession it’s like throwing a drop of water into the ocean – our sins are completely consumed by the ocean of God’s mercy. And if you put a drop of water into the ocean, could you ever find it again? No way. That’s the way it is when we repent – the Lord doesn’t just forgive but he forgets too! He must forget, because if remembered I doubt he would put Peter and Paul in charge of the early Church. Think of how many times they failed! And yet He entrusted them with His bride, the Church!

Sometimes we can’t forgive ourselves and don’t think that God could be calling us to serve Him in the Church because of our past sins, but I stand by Saints Peter and Paul when I tell you that the past doesn’t matter. If you feel God calling you to serve then you have to give up your shame and pride and follow Him out upon the deepest waters of His mercy. It would be easy to make excuses like Jeremiah (cf. Jer 1:4-10) or run away like Jonah (cf. Jon 1:1-3), but we are called to repent and join in building the Church like saints Peter and Paul.

Preparing for the Mission Pope Francis recently gave a homily during which he said,The Lord prepares the soul, prepares the heart – He prepares it in trial, He prepares it in obedience, He prepares it in perseverance. This is the difference between the apostolic mission given us by the Lord, and a common task. When the Lord gives a mission, He always has us enter into a process, a process of purification, a process of discernment, a process of obedience, a process of prayer. The great and the good also need the help of the Lord and preparation for the mission.” Speaking of the Old Testament prophet Elijah, the Holy Father also said, “he walks, obeys, suffers, discerns, prays…he finds the Lord.”

God has to bring us down to our knees sometimes to teach us to trust in His love.Would St. Paul have ever experienced such a deep conversion if he had been blinded by the light of God? Probably not. Without that experience he probably would have gone on persecuting the mystical body of Christ, the Church. Would St. Peter have been prepared to receive the keys to the Kingdom if he had not fallen so greatly by denying Jesus not once but three times? I don’t think so. As St. Therese of Lisieux said, “I understand very well why St. Peter fell. Poor Peter, he was relying upon himself. Before ruling the Church that is filled with sinners he had to experience for himself what a person is capable of with God’s help.”

Sometimes Love knocks you down. Sometimes Love lets you trip on your own pride. And sometimes Love allows you to experience the pain and suffering of othersGod allows us to experience these things to make us kinder and more compassionate towards one another. Without experiencing such great trials in their own lives Saints Peter and Paul would not have been prepared to lead a pilgrim Church – a church of sinners seeking the to know the Lord.

Who does He say that we are? I think St. John Paul the II put it best when he said“We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures. We are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son. With sacrament of reconciliation that Jesus instituted when he gave the apostles the power to forgive sins(cf. Jn 20:21-23, Mt 9:6), He also gave us the ability to conform our hearts to His. If we were the sum of our weaknesses and failures then Simon son of Jonah could never have become St. Peter, and Saul of Tarsus could never have become St. Paul.

You and I are called to become saints as well. Each of us has a vocation to sainthood by rite of our baptism. But we cannot get there on our own. Like Saints Peter and Paul we have to entrust all our failures and past sins to the infinite love and mercy of Christ. And we have to entrust our futures to His amazing grace as our Blessed Mother Mary taught us when she said “do whatever He tells you” (cf. Jn 2:5). When we do these things we become the true image of the Son.


Saint Peter and Saint Paul, pray for us!


This meditation was written by Stephanie Juarez.  She is a confirmation teacher and a member of the youth ministry core team at St. Monica Catholic Church in Dallas, TX.  For more of her writings please visit her blog Lover of the Light.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Lk 2:41-51 Lost and Now Found

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
 
Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.


Friday morning my telephone rang at 5:45 am. My heart raced as I thought: "That's got to be mom calling about a medical emergency.  Maybe something happened to my sister or my grandparents? Oh no!"  I picked up the receiver.  An automated voice from the city police department announced a lost teenager missing since 3:30 am.  A complete description of her height, weight, and clothing followed.  I'm used to radio Amber alerts and freeway Silver alerts , but I'd never received a call from the city regarding a missing person.  It's comforting to know the suburb I live in offers such a service.  I prayed a quick "Hail Mary" and "Our Father" for the young teen. Thank the Lord only a few hours later another message left on my voicemail confirmed the girl was located.  Where had she been all night?  Hmmm.....I think most parents can make an educated guess or two.


What have you lost?   Have you recently lost something like your car keys, a piece of jewelry, or an important document?  We all lose things every once and a while. How we deal with these losses is the key. Do we lose our marbles?  Do we complain and beat ourselves over the head in disgust and anger?  Or, do we logically retrace our steps back to the point we lost the object?  Of course, we can say a prayer to Saint Anthony.  Along with prayer, simply calming down our anxious minds helps.  I find nine out of ten times when I stop freaking out about something lost I suddenly find it.  Worst case scenario:  I simply forget that I lost the object to begin with. No gain, no foul.   For example, I lost an extra set of house keys, figuring I dropped them on the sidewalk while walking my dachshund.  One year later I discovered the missing keys in a bag of old Halloween decorations stored in the closet. Amazing how things lost are found when we no longer make a fuss over them.


Finding Jesus in the temple  One of my favorite Mysteries of the Holy Rosary is this passage from scripture about Mary and Joseph finding Jesus in the temple. I understand the horror parents must feel when a child suddenly goes missing.  Mary and Joseph experienced the same situation.  Fear and confusion suddenly become overwhelming. What happened to Jesus?  Is he safe? Dear God, please bring him back to us!  After three days, they find Jesus in the temple engaging in dialog with the teachers.  That's when Mary and Joseph understood Jesus to be a blessed child like no other.  He possessed wisdom and knowledge advanced for his years.  He was simply astounding and amazing for a mere youth!


What can be found?  When we have lost our way in life, burdened by grief and hardship, we can find new meaning and hope in Jesus Christ.  All we have to do is open ourselves to him -- our entire mind, heart, body and soul.  Most importantly is the heart.  When our heart is conjoined with the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we discover joy and contentment.  We suddenly find that some people we've lost may not be worth finding.  Perhaps God only intended us to associate with a girlfriend or boyfriend for a short period of our life.  Furthermore, we realize some things may be worth the find, especially if they brings us closer to Christ.  Maybe you've drifted away from the Church for a while.  Jesus and the Blessed Mother are pulling at your heart strings inviting you back to the Sacraments!  Make an effort to reconnect with Jesus again.  He is more than willing to receive you back with loving and open arms!

 

"Mary, give me your Heart: so beautiful, so pure, so immaculate; your Heart so full of love and humility that I may be able to receive Jesus in the Bread of Life and love Him as you love Him and serve Him in the distressing guise of the poor."

-Mother Theresa

 

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Pray for Us!

 

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

Friday, June 27, 2014

Mt 11:25-30 Sacred Heart Of Jesus

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
(Click here  for readings)

At that time Jesus exclaimed:  "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."

Showing Off His Heart.  Since Jesus is both God and man, then there are two things that must always be found together in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:  His Heart of flesh and His love for us - both of which are found in streets of Nazareth, on the Cross, in the Blessed Sacrament, in His teaching and healing, and in His praying and working. 

When we speak of the Sacred Heart, we mean Jesus showing off His heart.

What will you offer to me?  As Christ holds His heart in one hand, He extends the other as if to say, "I give my heart to you.  Now what will you give to me?  My heart has become like a burning bush that will never be consumed."  

Love is never threatened or consumed by giving or sacrifice; It is only renewed and purified by it.  Hence, surrounding the Lord's heart are the thorns that pierced His human flesh but never His holy Will.  These, along with the Roman's lance, may have scared the Lord's sacred body, but never damaged His sacred Heart, for suffering and sacrifice are the fires that forge human hearts into the heart of God.

I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.  Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.

What's in your heart?  Are they the same things that are in your wallet?  What's in your wallet? 

We need to be careful not to store earthly treasures in heavenly vessels.  Credit cards, money, identity cards do not belong in our hearts.  They belong in our wallets.  What belongs to the heart are heavenly things:  God's Will, God's Commandments, God's identity card:  "They will know you belong to me by the way you love one another."

Forgiveness comes easy to all of us when we are left with no alternatives.  Likewise, service to the Church comes easy when we are advanced in age; that is, when family and friends have rejected us (or died) and there is nothing else to do.

We must learn to serve at an early age and to forgive and serve others when our options are wide open.  Only in this way, will our hearts be filled with the same (and right) stuff that keeps the Lord's heart burning with passion for sinners. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mt 7:210-29 House of Cards

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven."

I am shocked!  Christ's words today a bit disconcerting to me, for it seems like the ones who are doing great things are not going to make it far in the future.  He says to his disciples, "Many will say to me...'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?  Did we not drive out demons in your name?  Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'I never knew you.  Depart from me, you evildoers.'"

Ouch!  These people are evildoers?  Com'on.  What's going on?

Pride and annoyance.  All talents and gifts come from the Lord.  What we do with them are our gifts back to Him.  If we forget this, we run the risk of being forgotten and left out.

A few years ago I received a letter from a parishioner demanding that something be done to silence our Catholic congregation.  Apparently, they did not consider it appropriate or respectful or prayerful to applaud after a homily. [I hoped they were not upset because the noise disturbed their sleep!]

Anyways, they insisted that something be done about it.  

Well, there is nothing wrong with driving out demons, doing mighty deeds in His name, and a congregation applauding after a homily...as long as it doesn't go to the disciple's head!

Notice:  Out of all the examples the Lord could have used, why did He have to use "driving out demons" and performing "mighty deeds in His name?"  Why not something more frivolous and ridiculous, like praying to God for a successful terrorist attack or drug cartel hit?  Why did the Lord take great achievements and turn them into stone? 

Sure, we all want to do great things for the Lord.  But we have to be careful it doesn't turn into something less Godly, like ourselves. 

The Lord's warning is well-founded because it is well-rooted in sinful human pride; and pride is not always obvious - it can easily be masked as piety and holiness.

Sure, I want to give a great homily for the Lord.  Sure, I want to please my congregation, but am I doing it for the Lord or am I doing it more for myself?  That is the heavenly question! 

Today, the Lord is inviting His disciples to examine their conscience. 

Do I work just as hard on my weekday homilies as I do on weekend ones?  No.  Not at all.  Why?  Because the congregation is smaller, less awake and don't give an offering (just kidding).

Do I turn down invitations from organizations because they are irrelevant or small in numbers? 

Do I pray "better" when I am alone or with other people?  This is like saying, "Do I use table manners when I dine alone or just when I am around other people?"  Understand?

"Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock."

House of cards.  To prevent your life from falling apart, earnestly and energetically examine your conscience.  Every so often we need to examine our conscience.  In doing so, we will find our faults and weaknesses, but also the resources and graces to reinforce our lives. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mt 7:15-20 Ignoring the Bad Fruit


Wednesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

“By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.”

No one, except God, can look into people’s hearts and see what dwells within them. This inability to see within prevents perfect knowledge of others, but God has provided men with the gifts of the senses and reason to know, at least partially, other people as well as the world in which they all live. A person can come to know another person by looking at them, listening to them, and interacting with them, which he will use to construct a profile in the mind that classifies certain features, deduces certain causes, and evaluates and analyzes certain words and actions. In knowing a person or knowing a thing, every person observes what lies outside, using the senses, and processes what lies inside, using the mind.

No one can know as God knows, that is, perfectly from within. Therefore, no one can judge as God judges; if one does not perfectly know what rests within a man’s soul, one cannot judge his soul as good or bad. However, this does not prevent people from making any kind of judgment, for judgment springs from knowledge, and while man cannot know what lies within, he can know what lies appears outside and consequently make a judgment about it. As the classic maxim advises: he cannot judge the sinner, but he can, and should, judge the sin. 

In line with popular opinion, many people today will praise themselves for not judging anyone. They do not criticize; they do not doubt; they remain tolerant and accepting. They chastise only those who take it upon themselves to judge, who disrupt the supposed tranquility of tolerance. According to the logic of tolerance, intolerant people cannot judge because they cannot know. Rather, these misguided, hateful, people should follow the example of those who wisely know that they do not know, and simply let everything be. Should excesses occur, let the law resolve it—never mind the fact that human beings determine what they mean by law, not God.

Herein lies the problem with unbridled tolerance: when people stop judging the words and actions to be good or bad, people also stop bothering with even knowing about those words or actions, or with the actual meaning of good or bad. Contrary to what people believe about tolerance, it has not brought people together, nor enlightened them, nor even created any kind of peace. Rather, as history has proven repeatedly and as current news can attest, tolerance has encouraged division and isolation, fostered ignorance, and has fomented unrest and instability on all levels. Consider the following sequence that plays out each time: when people stop judging, they stop knowing; when they stop knowing, they stop thinking and observing; when they stop thinking and observing, sin eventually this vacuum of values and holiness consequently recedes.

Speaking for all times and all places, Jesus exhorts Christians to use common sense and remain steadfast. He does not excuse sinners for being “only human” but appeals to their humanity to follow the good and avoid evil. Human beings may not know what God knows, but they do know something, and they should apply that knowledge. Otherwise, they will consume and produce “bad fruit,” bad ideas, bad morality, bad habits, bad tastes, bad arguments. These things will unfortunately exist in society, as do “thistles,” “thornbushes,” and “rotten trees” will unfortunately exist in nature, but simply ignoring the problem or redefining the problem will not fix it. First, one must identify the problem (observe and think), understand the problem (know), and consider a possible solution (judge). Like bad fruit and weeds, problems will multiply if not addressed, so one must keep his eyes open.

More than tolerating other people, Jesus tells Christians to love them, not for their own sake, but for God’s sake. When someone love another person for God’s sake, he wants to know that person and help that person, not because he wants something in return, but because God wants it and He does this Himself. Man can produce good fruit in a relationship of love: truth, virtue, life, joy, peace. If he does not produce this, he is likely not loving properly, but selfishly, or he is only tolerating, which more often ignores than affirms.

Bad fruit abounds in a world without God, Who is Love and Truth. Abandoning the holy principles of love and truth, even the best organizations and individuals degenerate into the worst ones; the fruit of their thoughts and actions will inevitably betray them. Therefore, man must cling to God, through learning “the way of [His] decrees,” seeing the good blessed fruit that results, and imitating those ways to become good and fruitful themselves. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mt 7:1-5 Measuring Sticks

Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you."

Measuring stick.  The destruction of Israel came about because "the children of Israel sinned against the LORD, their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt, from under the domination of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and because they venerated other gods" (cf. 2Kgs 17:13-15a).  In other words, the children of Israel used their own measuring stick when it came to faith and morals.

Often we think of the Lord's commandment "Stop judging!" to mean "Stop sharing your faith with others" or "Mind your own business."  But given today's readings, I think it could easily mean something like: "Stop judging things according to your own measuring stick."

Take for example the sacrament of marriage.  A few days ago I read that the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in favor of allowing same-sex marriages.  This Church has lost nearly half its members in the past forty years.  I am sure it will lose another half this coming year.  Regardless, here is a Christian community that has decided to judge the morality of same-sex marriage according to their own measuring stick (votes), and not by Jesus Christ (The Word) and His Church (The Way).

The Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer, "Keep my commandments and statutes..."  And yet, the temptation throughout the history of mankind has always been the same:  to judge people and things according to our own measuring stick.

So what is wrong with that? 

The fickleness of humans.  People are constantly changing their minds.  And they do so especially when they are under a lot of emotional stress, financial pressure or personal guilt.  Take for example the case where someone you love has broken the law.  It's easy to feel a lot of sympathy for them, or turn a blind eye for them, and make up a ton of excuses for them because you love them or because you can identify with them.  It's not at all difficult to avoid these feelings when the person is far removed from you or you downright hate them. 

As you can see, our measuring stick (or scale) can easily shift from one end to the other, according to personal feelings rather than God's commandments.

Therefore, the problem isn't that there is too much judging going on in the world.  The problem is that it can become highly personal and emotional. 

So the question is:  By what measuring stick are you judging?  Your own or Christ's.  

Let's be prayerful about it, otherwise we might find ourselves on the wrong side of human history and salvation history. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Jn 6:51-58 The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds:  "I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

The Gift that never goes out of style.  I heard today that Apple Inc. will be coming out with an electronic watch - the, you guessed it,  iWatch.  Reportedly, the going price will be around $200.00 a pop.  As for me, I will wait for the demand to go down, as well as the price, just like it did for my first iPhone (I bought the iPhone 3 for 99 cents!).

Which brings me to the apple of God's eye:  The Eucharist.  Undoubtedly, the Eucharist constitutes the most amazing gift that has neither gone out of style or diminished in worth.  Heck, even sinners are lining up every week to receive it!

McDonalds once boasted of having served billions of burgers since its inception.  They have nothing to boast about.  The Catholic Church serves billions every year! 

The secrets to the Eucharist's longevity and appeal are found in its significance and simplicity, both of which never go out of style.    As politicians and religious figures go out of style, the Lord never goes out of style.  As movements and churches go out of style, the Catholic Church keeps on ticking.  As modernity gives way to, well, modernity, the Church becomes more and more attractive and appealing. 

The Church is the Eucharist.  The only reason why the Catholic Church is not died is because the Eucharist lives forever.  And the only reason why there is so much drama in the Church today (and yesterday and tomorrow) is because the Lord long ago rose from the dead.  Just when you thought He was dead and gone, He comes back to life.  Just when you thought the Apostles had returned to their former ways of life, they return to Jerusalem filled with the Holy Spirit. 

All thanks to the Eucharist!

The Church is not its buildings, regardless of how beautiful they are.  Beauty fades.  The Church is not its Pope, regardless of how amazing he is.  Popes die.  The Church is not even the people of God, regardless of how in tune or out of tune they are in their sanctity. People change.  No!  The Church is the continuation of Christ's presence in the world - the sacrament of Jesus Christ.  She is the visible sign of His body, blood, soul and divinity. 

Come, let us adore Him and receive Him today!  

But there is one last thing I need to mention.  Not only is the Eucharist the sacrament of Christ's body, blood, soul and divinity, it is also the sacrament of His Love.  The Bread of His life is none other than the Bread of His Love.  No wonder why it is the gift that keeps on giving, regardless of how worthy the recipient is.

Come, let us love Him and receive Him properly today!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mt 6:24-34 Live More

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his disciples:  "...Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"

Do not worry about what you will eat or drink.  How could the Lord say these words with millions of his fellow country men starving to death.  Well first of all, there weren't millions of his country men starving to death.  In fact, there weren't even hundreds of his country men starving to death.  People back then were a lot more resourceful than people today, and people back then cared a lot more about their neighbor than neighbors today.

Times have changed and we've changed in many ways, but we've also remained the same in many more ways. 

Looking for meaning.  Not too long ago I had the chance to visit my good friend's ranch.  He's got lots of land, lots of antiques, lots of cattle and lots of buffalos.  As he was feeding his cattle with some kind of special treat, I asked him how often he gives it to them.  He said, "Often.  I want my cows to be happy."  

Treats! That's it!  That's the secret to happiness.  It's that simple.  That's all it takes...for them. 

But what about us? What does it take for us to be happy?  Well...a perfunctory glance of various TV stations and commercials would make us all believe the same holds true for us as well.  It seems like all we need are treats - lots of treats - to be happy. 

But com'on!  Although we all fall into the temptation now and then again, we all know life is more than a commercial, just like love is more than sex.  Right??? 

Sure, it can be very tempting (and profitable) to reduce life to its most basic carnal desires like food, clothing, sleep and sex.  But those of us who have lived past our thirties know better. It just took us a long time to get over Hollywood's spell, and the spell from all those brainless commercials.

Now, please, don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with food, clothing and sex.  But the Lord is asking us a serious question:  "Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?"  Without a doubt, we would all agree, even if somewhat reluctantly.  But I believe many of us would have a difficult time agreeing as to what exactly makes life more than food and the body more than clothing?

What is the secret to living life to the max?  Is it eating the acai berry or taking tons of Omega-3?  Is it doing whatever you want, or doing whatever it takes to stay young?  Is the secret to life watching porn or having sex or making millions?  What is it???

The worst kept secret.  The secret to living life to the max has to be as obvious as it is mysterious; that is, something easy to point to but also transparent; something we can grasp at but can never fully contain; something we can relate to but that goes beyond human comprehension; something we can experience but that comes and goes with great ease; something that is earthly but also transcends time and space; something that is a challenging but not unforgiving. 

This secret cannot be so well kept that it remains a secret forever.  It must reveal itself in a way that all can understand.  Hence, the answer to our secret cannot be a "thing" but a "who", someone both God and man - a person like us in all things but sin; someone above us but also with us.

The secret must be JESUS CHRIST.

It's time we stop looking at other options and look to the one who was, is and forever will be.  The secret to living life to the max is to live it through Him, with Him and in Him. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Mt 6:19-23 Earthly vs. Heavenly Treasures

Friday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

(click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be...."

A few months ago, I heard about a woman who died inside her home.  As a recluse, nobody knew she had passed away until a week later.  She lived as a hoarder with vast amounts of possessions occupying the rooms of her small, run-down home.  Hired workers spent months cleaning out the house, taking inventory of bank statements, stamp and coin collections, art, and jewelry.  More items were discovered in local storage facilities. The woman's estate was worth millions; however, because she didn't have a will, or known relatives, her prized possessions were auctioned off and sold.   Sadly, this woman led a solitary life with no husband, children, or close family members. Her earthly collections consumed her whole existence. I wondered: "Why did she hoard instead of share? Did she have faith in Christ or did she worship a ‘god’ consisting of her most prized possessions?"

Earthly Treasures   According to a recent Verizon cellular commercial:  Everybody wants more!  By signing up for one the "more is better" plans, a customer can get more data, coverage, and texting.... more, more, more.  This commercial annoys me because it's a clear example of how marketing heavily influences over-consumption in our materialistic society. It's as if collecting a treasure chest full of electronic gadgets, fancy cars, big houses, luxury apparel, all bundled up with a large stock portfolio, is the ultimate goal in life.  The more money we spend on "stuff" we don't need to impress people we don't like in order to live up The Jones' appears shallow and pointless. 

What happened to the idea of living simply and within our means?  What happened to not allowing material possessions to become the chief focus of our lives?  The material possessions we accumulate on earth will not travel with us into the pearly gates of heaven.  In fact, our earthly treasures become worthless and meaningless in the end:  fine apparel eaten by moths, jewelry tarnished and broken, and all of the electronic gadgets outdated and rusting away in a junk yard.

Heavenly Treasures By contrast, the treasures in heaven are made up of love and faith in Jesus Christ.  As our faith in Christ grows, we begin to see that maybe the latest greatest iPhone or the big fancy BMW isn't that big of a deal.  Instead of building up possessions we focus on building up rich spiritual lives. We treasure our spouse and children.  We treasure our neighbors and community.  We treasure the small little details in life that remind us of God's creation - the sunrise and sunset and the beauty of Mother Nature.  We know heavenly treasures are safe in the hands of Our Lord.

Where's your heart?  Blaise Pascal, the famous Philosopher and Mathematician, wrote:

There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the creator, made known through Jesus.

Where's your heart?  Does it lie within your material possessions?  Is your heart greedy and selfish?  Is it sucked dry by consumerism and materialism? Or, is your heart beating alongside the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

The emptiness of life should not be filled with a bunch of needless "stuff" but fulfilled with Christ's love and grace.  Instead of being a Pirate of Possessions, become a Conquistador for Christ. Store up heavenly treasures instead of earthly ones.


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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Mt 6:6-6:15 Praying like Pagans

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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By Benedict Augustine

Jesus said to his disciples:
'In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.'”

During Jesus' times, the pagans, predominantly Greeks and Romans, had an exasperating habit of composing and delivering long prayers that had little to do with anything. First, they would address each of their multiple gods, including the florid recital of each god's genealogy and exploits; then, they would actually describe their particular problem, again with elaborate figurative language crammed with numerous allusions to various myths; and finally, they would praise the gods in flattering terms and quote pious platitudes. Obviously, their purpose in making these prayers was not actually appeal to the gods, but rather to appeal to the men listening.

One can find a few examples of these pagan prayers in the Greek tragedies, like those of Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides. In each of the tragedies, after so much action takes place among the main characters, a chorus delivers a lengthy prayer to the gods before the plot proceeds to the next episode. At the beginning of this tradition, these prayers had a bigger precedence and reflected a sincere piety, but these spiritual meditations quickly degenerated into poetic convention as tragedies grew more popular. Audiences would revel in the style and movements of these prayers/poems, soon allowing their souls to suffer the same fate: their own piety flattened into affectation, a mark of civility and culture, not an openness to the divine. By the end of the fifth century BC, a vain liturgy propounding a false religion created a vain populace deluded with falsehoods.

Ultimately, St. Paul would have to come and sort through the spiritual confusion that resulted from this Hellenistic combination of aestheticism and polytheism. Before him, Plato recounts a few of the dialogues Socrates had on this very issue. Obviously perceiving the contradictions that arose from multiple gods, many of whom hated one another and led dissolute lives, Socrates innocently asks in the dialogue Euthyphro how one should worship the gods. Needless to say, his partner could not say, nor could Socrates himself offer a complete solution except to live justly and study philosophy—a conclusion that Socrates reaches in nearly every dialogue. Following Socrates' example, most of the philosophic schools after him eventually intellectualized the activities of piety and prayer, reducing religion to a matter of thinking and feeling correctly. For the rest of the Greeks, and the Romans after them, they simply continued the traditional forms of religion, enjoying the shows and superstitions, while the educated elite could try to think their way to heaven.

Probably observing this spiritual eclecticism rampant in the Gentile communities, and even filtering into some of the Jewish communities, Jesus instructs His disciples on how to pray before they start imitating the babbling of their neighbors. Unlike the inflated appeals of the pagan poets, the content of the Lord's prayer reorients the disciple to serving and praising God, not God serving and praising him: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Even in its simple direct style, the Lord's prayer places God before man, stressing sincerity over showiness. Prayer becomes an exercise of the heart, of one's internal disposition instead of an exercise of the mind, of one's external concerns. The humble petitions of daily bread, forgiveness, a resistance of temptation, and a deliverance from evil, each reflect the ardent aspiration for holiness, not glory or power. Saying this prayer sincerely and often would help form the disciples in the image of Christ, who became holy as His father was holy.

In His words, and even more in His actions, Jesus teaches that prayer constitutes the core of an individual's  being. Prayer reflects what rests, or does not rest, within one's soul. Those who do not pray at all suffer from personal emptiness. In ignoring God, they consequently ignore their own souls, depriving their lives of inspiration, growth, and love. Their only choices for fulfillment rest in gaining more knowledge or more material goods and services. Ironically, the pursuit of knowledge will more often lead many skeptics to despair of knowledge itself—also known as existentialism and relativism—and the pursuit of material goods leads them to suffer from addictions as a result of depression.

Those who babble their prayers experience the same flattening as the pagans of the Roman Empire. They never know God because they never actually seek God. They follow the currents of fashion in their beliefs, and often form God in their own image instead of allowing God to form them in His image. For this reason, a plethora of mystery cults, churches which served as exclusive social clubs that dabbled in spirituality, and state religions worshiping the emperor, popped up all over the empire. One does not have to stretch his imagination to see the same kinds of development in modern society.  Ultimately, this superficial piety does not last, does not satisfy, and does not really change anything in the person or the person's culture.

If one prays as Jesus tells him to pray, he will experience true conversion: he will change from within, which will strengthen him against the forces hoping to change him from without. Most importantly, one must say the Lord's prayer with Jesus, and Jesus' sacrifice, in mind. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says, “No one can build a bridge to the infinite by his own strength. No one's voice is loud enough to summon the infinite. No intelligence can adequately and securely conceive who God is.” Therefore, prayer never happens in isolation, but in communion with Christ and His church. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus helps the disciples to find God, and eventually to find themselves.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mt. 6:1-6; 16-18 Consumers of Christianity

Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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By Benedict Augustine
 
“And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

A few years ago after our graduate class on St. Augustine's Confessions had concluded for that evening, I talked with my friend about converting to Catholicism. He was a Calvinist Reformed Baptist Protestant, but he had a special affinity for St. Augustine and seemed to tolerate my thoughts of religion well enough whenever we discussed it. I brought up this fact to him, and asked him why he had not considered converting.

I expected some reply involving some abstract expatiation on the differences he held concerning predestination, or the emphasis on faith or scripture alone, passages of scripture, or some such topic since he did this in past, relishing those opportunities to show off his intellect—even more than me. This time, however, he answered more candidly: “The Catholic Church is dying. It doesn't bear fruit anymore, not like it did in the past. I do like St. Augustine, and I think he would probably go to the church that I go to now, one that is growing and alive.” He went on to tell me how his church had a vibrant singles group, mission trips, a charismatic pastor who gave inspiring talks, a new campus in the making, and all sorts of ministries and programs that benefited the community. From what he could tell, the Catholic church had none of these things. By this criteria, his church was a winner, and mine was a loser. Although I now find it ironic that he said this in a Catholic university (University of Dallas), after a class centered around a Catholic saint making a confession of his Catholic faith, at the time, I had no reply; not because I could not think of anything, but because I did not know where to start—something tells me that most Catholics have run into this situation.

My friend expressed a common sentiment held by the majority of American Christians. Conditioned by commercialism and centuries of Puritan theology which held that God picks winners and losers regardless of one's actions, many people flock to churches with the most outward appeal. As they do with cars, houses, and country clubs, they shop around, consider their options, and pick the church that best fits. Many churches, and not a few atheist organizations, have adapted to this behavior, sending out flyers and pamphlets, making televisions ads, sponsoring programs on the radio, and even writing up contracts for prospective members to sign. Like my friend, they talk up their innumerable ministries, their successful fundraisers, their superior fellowship—which, compared to typical Catholic congregations, often have an eerily homogenous makeup—in the hopes of attracting new members and collecting more tithes, which many of them vigorously enforce. Unfortunately, in America one's religion frequently resembles a brand of clothing more than a community's way of life.

The Catholic church could do more on this front, and many desperate Catholics, seeing their family members leave one-by-one for various reasons, insist it should do more before our churches turn into museums as many have in Europe. However, before plunging into the competitive spiritual marketplace in the hopes of making a big splash, we should reflect on Jesus' admonitions concerning such an outward display of piety. In His time, the pharisees made such a point of their spirituality, announcing their acts of charity, delivering their prayers to a crowd, making appearances in places of honor, and even drumming up their penance. In hopes of boosting numbers in a crowded spiritual market of Isreal, they wanted to show that they were winners and the others were losers in hopes of making a splash. Assuming that they succeeded with this strategy, and they likely did before the Romans destroyed their temple in 70 AD, they essentially made their church a superficial entity, appealing to people's insecurities, not feeding their souls. They made faith more a matter of style than substance. For good reason, Jesus spoke against this repeatedly.

Contrary to popular belief, Catholics actually have much to brag about. Besides simply existing for nearly two millennia, braving every heresy and social movement that has attacked it, it is by far the largest charitable organization in the world. It has by far the most members who live all over the world. It has a rich spiritual tradition, world class universities, and a ridiculously vast collection of art and literature. It has the saints, the superheroes of humanity. Besides hosting one of the biggest gatherings in the last decade (over 3 million people for World Youth Day), Pope Francis even made it on the cover of Time.

And yet, most Catholics who know all this hardly talk about it. Not because they do not care, but because most of them know that these successes should not form the basis of their faith. God does not pick winners and losers; he only picks losers, hence the constant call for humility. Probably thinking of their future persecution, Jesus tells his disciples that “God rewards in secret.” These are words to live and die by. Catholics can take some joy in the accomplishments of their church, but they should take much more joy in the accomplishments of the Holy Trinity. They should not pick Catholicism because it is a winner, but because it is True. They should not pray, give alms, and fast because for the sake of increasing membership but for the sake of increasing holiness.

On the surface, this message to practice one's faith in secret contradicts injunctions to to “be the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” but on a deeper level the two messages actually complement one another. Sincere faith shines more than the glossiest advertisements. True hope inspires people more than the catchiest song. Sacrificial love, that love that emanates from the Holy Trinity, creates a stronger bond than the coolest hippest congregation and speakers. A life of holiness will bring more souls to God than a life of success.

Jesus did not ask for salesmen; he asked for disciples. We should not sell our faith like a product, but live it because is the Way, the Truth, and Life.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Mt 5:38-42 Offer No Resistance

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
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Jesus said to his disciples: "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil...."
 
In today's first reading, we are introduced to the influences of Jezebel, the bible's wicked witch of the Middle East.   An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was her motto.  She coerced, seduced, and murdered her victims all for power and revenge.  She is the pinnacle of unholiness and evil.  A protagonist of ill will, many books and songs have been composed in her name.

Jezebel represents a rotting soul filled with greed, jealousy, hate, and revenge.  By contrast, Jesus represents a blooming soul filled with love, compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance.

Our Lord desires for us to offer no resistance toward one who is evil. In fact, the fruits of the Holy Spirit can help us.  Saint Paul writes:

....The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)

How can we handle the nastiness of the Jezebels in our lives?  How can we "keep calm and carry on" when so much evil lurks around us? 

Here are some examples of how to offer no resistance under the guidance of the fruits of the Holy Spirit:

Turn the other cheek   (Fruits: peace, self-control)  When a person strikes our right cheek with criticisms, insults, and negativity, the best thing is to remain self-controlled. Don't return the venom.  Turn the other cheek straight in their direction as if to say, "I know you're angry with me.  I've offended you even though I may not have meant to. You can say what you wish. I'm sorry for harm."  Many times people are ready for the brawl; however, simply acting in a passive manner throws them off guard.

Self-control allows peace to enter our hearts and minds in ways that are pleasing to the Lord.

Hand over your cloak  (Fruits: gentleness, faithfulness)  Many lawsuits, along with hefty legal fees, can be prevented if people settled their disagreements.  Faith and trust have been violated. One party feels as if they have been cheated by another.  When we acknowledge our guilt, and make amends for what we have done wrong, we demonstrate good character and judgment.  Symbolically, we hand over to the prosecutor our own cloak saying, "I wish to obey the law from now on.  Here is a token of my commitment."

When we have faith in one another, we become more gentle and caring.

Walk another two miles  (Fruits: patience, kindness)  When we volunteer to help others in need, sometimes we are asked to commit more time than planned.  Perhaps an elderly person wants to chat at the nursing home a while longer.  A child asks to be read a second or third story before going to sleep. The fruit of patience encourages us to walk that extra mile.  Service to others is a  rewarding experience that should never be taken for granted.

Patience allows us to love and appreciate others as children of God.

Give to one who asks  (Fruits: joy, generosity)  When driving down the street, we may notice a homeless person holding a sign requesting a handout.  A co-worker may ask to borrow $20  to fill up the gas tank. In each one of these cases, a person is asking for another's help.  We should never turn our back to others in need regardless of our dislikes or pre-conceived notions. When we wipe away our prejudices, and help others with kindness and compassion, we are filled with an inner joy.

The inner joy as a result of our generosity is truly liberating.

Life's Jezebels  Those who are evil (the Jezebels of life) will try every trick in the playbook to get us to lose our tempers, fight, argue, manipulate and hate.  Don't give into sinful temptations.  Allow God to handle difficult matters in his own way and on his own time frame.  The Jezebels in our lives can serve a meaningful purpose: to teach us a valuable lesson.  We can learn good behavior by observing the bad deeds in others, determined not to repeat them.  Best of all, we see God in action when justice is served.  The wicked will not stand a chance again the Almighty power of God.  

Always remember that the greatest fruit of the Holy Spirit is Love.  When we love one another, including our enemies, we put on the mind of Christ.  Offer no resistance and keep the Sacred Heart of Jesus nestled close to your own heart!

He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely. (Saint Catherine of Siena)


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