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!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Lk 9:51-56 Guts and Glory. Lamb Tough.

Memorial of St. Jerome
(Click here for readings)

When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem... On the way they entered a Samaritan village...but they did not welcome him...  When the disciples...saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?" Jesus turned and rebuked them...

Perish the day.  Are you having a bad day?  Are you ready to give up?  Then you're having a day like Job. 

"Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, 'The child is a boy!  Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?" [In other words, 'Why couldn't we have done away with this "life" thing and just get it over with immediately!] (Job 3:1-3,11).

The Book of Job is an inspired-by-God Jewish attempt at answering one of life's most challenging questions: "Why do good people suffer?"  Atheists have answered the question with their astonishing over-confidence:  "Because God does not exist."  That's it!  Problem solved.  Now have a nice day.

But life, death, pain, suffering, joy and sacrifice are so much more deeper than what eye can see and ear can hear.

The answer to the problem of pain and suffering is made even more complicated by those who believe in Jesus Christ; that is, for Christians who believe that God is all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful. 

[Now if we only got rid of one of these three attributes, then our problem with God would be resolved. For example:  If God were not all-knowing, then we could say that He created us and took off running, just like a Father who abandons his family.  On the other hand, if God were not all-loving, then we could say He knows what's going on and He could do something about it, but He doesn't care.  Finally, if we said God were not all-powerful, then we could say He knows what's going on and He loves us, but He can't do anything about it.  There it is, problem solved!

But amazingly enough, the Jews (as well as the Christians) never abandoned their understanding of God, even with all the pain and suffering they went through.  They always maintained that God was good God, an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful God, even through their blood, tears and sweat.

You gotta give it to them for sticking to their beliefs.  All I can say is they help me to be a little braver in the face of tribulations!

Now Job's friends tried to give him a logical reason for all his woes. They said to him what most people only think:  "Wow!  You must have done something wrong to deserve this!"  But Job wouldn't have any of it.  He answered His friends and asked them to leave him alone. To not be outdone by Job, even God wouldn't have any of it.  In fact, He declared Job to be a righteous man in His sight, someone who had not sinned. 

This is stunning!  It is also prophetic. 

So why do good people suffer?  God answers the question through His Son, Jesus Christ.  How?  When?  By the way He lived His life, starting with His incarnation and ending with His passion, death and resurrection. 

God is all-knowing.  The Lord did not abandon us.  In fact, He joined us.  He joined the human race and suffered and died like one of us.  His life was filled with both joys and triumphs, but also humiliation, betrayal, denial, misunderstanding, suspicion, ridicule, torture and death, even death on a Cross.  God knows pain.  He knows suffering.  He has not shielded himself from it.

God is all-loving.    He isn't the cookie monster, the Church of the flying spaghetti saucer, or the Candy Man.  He is Love.  And love works in very mysterious ways.  Sometimes our greatest act of love can leave us very bloody.  Sometimes our greatest or most heroic moment can be to forgive someone, as painful as that may seem.  Sometimes the greatest lessons we learned came from the most painful experiences we had.  The list of paradoxes goes on and on and on.  Christ added so many to them!

God is all-powerful.  Yes, "Our God is an awesome God.  He reigns from Heaven above."  And yes, "Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God you are higher than any other.  Our God is Healer, Awesome in Power, Our God!  Our God!"

But...

What makes God all-powerful is how humble and patient and kind and merciful and understanding He is.  He never writes anyone off.  He never throws in the towel and quits.  He doesn't seek temporal powers but "to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God" (cf. Mt 22:21).

Why? Why? Why?  We've been taught to think that there is a reason and season for everything.  There is.  But the Lord teaches us something that is much more useful and practical.  When the days for Jesus to be taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him... When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them."  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

What's the lesson in times of trial?  Just remain faithful.  Do only what is right, good and holy. Regardless of the outcome or how you feel, remain steadfast.  Do not fall into despair or temptation.  Do not change course.  The Lord knows.  The Lord loves.  The Lord is God.

Guts and Glory.  Lamb tough.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Jon 1:47-51 The Child Under Every Fig Tree


Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and St. Raphael, Archangels
(Click here for readings)

By KATIE GROSS

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him,
“Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him,
“Do you believe
because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?
You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you,
you will see heaven opened
and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

 To me, Nathanael represents the perfect picture of childlike faith. If any of you have children or have spent time with children, you know that they are amazed by everything. They haven’t lost that sense of wonder that often fades away with age.

Every once in a while, my family and I pull out a box of old video cassette tapes (if that is even what they are called) and watch old home videos. My favorite video is from my older brother’s first Christmas in ‘91. Besides being able to see my mother with a perm and my dad with ridiculous glasses, the funniest part is when my brother comes downstairs to see his present in the morning. My mom was so psyched about what she got him-- a plastic basketball hoop. She was sure that my brother would be so excited. But of course, my brother completely ignored the basketball hoop. The first thing that caught his attention was the cardboard box it came in. He was instantly absorbed by the box.

Or when my cousins were young, they used to come over and sit beside my piano bench while I played. I would play some ridiculous little song like chopsticks, and their eyes would light up, and they would get excited and bang on the piano with me. They didn’t want to hear some elaborate classical piece I had been working on. Chopsticks was the most incredible thing they had ever heard!

This is what I imagine our faith to be like. We get only little glimpses of the full glory of God, but yet we are consumed by them. What God is actually capable of—what God actually has in store for us—is beyond what we could ever imagine. When we encounter glimpses of God on earth, we are like little kids overjoyed with a cardboard box or a simple tune.

“You will see greater things than this.” How could there be something greater than what Jesus told Nathanael? Jesus, in essence, revealed to Nathanael that He miraculously had knowledge of his whereabouts. To Nathanael, that was clearly evidence that Jesus was God. That was all he needed. Of course, we know that Jesus had much more in store. Besides being all-knowing, He raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, and even defeated death. How could Nathanael have known?

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” I think sometimes we have heard Scripture so much that we forget just how absurd some of it must have sounded to the people Jesus spoke to. Imagine having no knowledge of Christianity, and having somebody come up and say this to you. Heaven opened? Angels of God ascending and descending? What does that even mean???

Saint Augustine says in his Confessions, “What matters it to me if someone does not understand this? Let him too rejoice and say, ‘What is this?’ Let him rejoice even at this, and let him love to find you while not finding it out, rather than, while finding it out, not to find you.” We should rejoice in the fact that God’s ways are so high above our understanding.  It is because of this that we can find peace in the midst of chaos, and joy even when we do not understand a single thing happening in our lives.

God is a mystery.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mt 21: 28-32 God is Bigger Than We Think

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:  "What is your opinion? A man had two sons.  He came to the first and said, 'Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.' He said in reply, 'I will not,' but afterwards changed his mind and went.  The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, 'Yes, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did his father's will?"

Ask and you will receive?  Ground Zero is the struggle between the Father's Will and my will.  Will I do what the Lord asks of me or will I refuse?  It's easy to say, "Yes, sir."  It's another thing to actually do it.

This is our greatest struggle - battle - in life.  Whose life is this, anyways?  Does it belong to us alone or does it belong to us and to the author of life?

With Christ, our life takes on a new dimension.  It becomes something to be shared, given and received.  It becomes a gift to the world.  Am I ready to make this jump, this necessary step, and on a daily basis?

I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  This is a good start.  But it is only a start, the beginning.  Actually, it is only the first day out of many long and dark days and nights. 
Recently I heard a man on the radio who claimed to have accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior back in 1993. "And then?" I asked myself.  I was waiting for the struggle, the battle, the difficulties and the trials, the CROSS...but it never came up.  It almost sounded like he was already in Heaven.  He just kept on going, talking about how God had blessed him and his family with lucrative record deals and wonderful children.  Good for him.  I switched channels.

I know that twenty years ago I took my vows.  And then?  Oh, boy.  Then the Cross appeared.  The difficulties, the long and endless nights. The struggles, the insecurities, the shame, the regrets, the feeling of being inadequate.  What came worse was the pride! Oh yes, the PRIDE!  That has never fully left me.  It occasionally (often) sticks its ugly head out.  What I have learned is that every day I must renew my vows.  Every day I must accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior.  Every day I must renew my vows or else...it will be back to Ground Zero. 

Conversion.  Today's readings are all about change - changing one's mind; that is, thoughts, words and actions.  In other words, changing one's life! Are you changing, and changing for good and God?

We are on course towards heaven, and either we will softly land there or crash and burn there (hell)!  Every day is an important day in the battle for souls, and the Lord is fighting tooth and nail for us to win.  Who are we fighting against, you ask?  A fallen world, fallen angels, fallen lives, and a fallen self. 

We are very weird.

Thus says the Lord:  You say, "The Lord's way is not fair!"  Hear now, house of Israel:  Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?  When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.  But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed, he does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life..."

God's ways are not weird; our ways are weird.  We work so hard for temporal things.  We kill ourselves to provide for our families only to lose our families.  We think more about personal success than about personal sacrifice.  We aim to appease and please, rather than seek truth and love.  We care so much more about the "perfect" body, house and job than the "perfect" heart, home and vocation.  We seek a comfortable life, rather than a virtuous life.  We'll pick up the phone for a conference call but miss out on a piano recital. We think poetry boring because it adds nothing to our technology.

We are so weird.

But then comes along the convert. 

A few days ago I read an interesting article entitled:  "Chief of $2 trillion investment firm decided to quit after 10-year-old daughter presented him with list of 22 milestones in her life that he had missed."

Wow!  How so-out-of-touch with today's notion of success.  How archaic and primitive or, better yet, "Medieval" of her to think her life matters?  Doesn't the 10-year-old understand that daddy needs to work so that she can attend the best private schools and have the most interesting public life?  Doesn't she know that a house, electronic gadgets and the most up-to-date wardrobe is what every little girl dreams of?  Doesn't she know success is measured in dollars?  How else would it be measured? 

What's the direct, measureable and quantifiable measurement for success?

Read the article.  Draw parallels.  Make your own conclusions.  What is happening to this gentleman is happening to many others.  He is thinking of the little things in life that are bigger than we think.

"Unless you become like this child, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (cf. Mt 18:3).

God is bigger than we think.

Conversion isn't a once-in-a-life-time event.  It is like growing up.  It's ongoing. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

LK 9:43-45 Hidden in the Fall

Memorial of Saint Vincent de Paul, Priest
(Click here for readings)

By Stephanie Juarez

While they were all amazed at his every deed,
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Pay attention to what I am telling you.
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men.”
But they did not understand this saying;
its meaning was hidden from them
so that they should not understand it,
and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

Paying attention to what the Lord is telling me is not exactly my strong point. Sometimes I hear Him, but don’t understand. Sometimes I hear Him perfectly but am too stubborn to do what He is asking of me. And sometimes, like the apostlesI am afraid to ask questions the tough questions.
St. Therese of Lisieux aka “The Little Flower”, whose feast day we will celebrate on October 1st, wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions. In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, she writes

I wondered for a long time why God has preferences, why all souls don’t receive an equal amount of graces. I was surprised when I saw Him shower His extraordinary favors on saints who had offended Him, for instance, St. Paul and St. Augustine, and whom He forced, so to speak, to accept His graces…. I was puzzled at seeing how Our Lord was pleased to caress certain ones from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their way when coming to Him.…

Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understood how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away from the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.

The only way we can become what God wills us to be is to first seek holinessTo become holy is our universal call as Catholic Christians. Yet as St. Therese explained, we each called to a different level and form of holiness. We may never have our autobiography published around the world like she has or have hundreds of charitable organizations named after us like St. Vincent de Paul, but we are all still called to the communion of saints.

You have to listen for it though. The call is not always in roaring rush of wind, but in a gentle whisper (cf. 1 Kings 19:11-13). And sometimes it’s hidden in suffering. Sometimes we hear the call in the center of our hearts after a great fall.

A few months ago, I started learning to play guitar. The first thing you have to do before you can even play one chord (much less a whole song) is to tune your guitar. If it’s not tuned it won’t matter how perfectly you try to play the chords, the song is going to sound terrible! Learning to tune your guitar by ear takes a lot of time and effort. You have to memorize the sounds of each string to differentiate between the notes. Some notes are way higher or lower than the others so it’s easy to tell them apart but some differences are much more subtle.

I think this is a reflection of our spiritual life. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what the Lord is asking of us because our hearts haven’t gotten in tune with His most Sacred Heart. ConfessionHoly Communion, and recourse to Our Blessed Mother, are the best way I have found to retune my heart when it gets off beat.

Have you ever wondered if the Lord really loves you? Have you ever thought that you totally screwed up God’s plan for your life? Have you ever questioned whether God even has a plan for you? Have you ever felt that you are just too broken and weird and messed up to ever become a saint? I have. I’ve wondered all these things at some point or another. But that was because, like Eve, I was starting to pay too much attention to what the devil wanted me to believe rather than what the Lord was trying to tell me.

I’heard a thousand times that the Lord loves us and that He Himself is Love, but I never got it. For most of my life I didn’t understand that His love for each one of us is completely unique. He sees us separate from the others. We’re not all lumped together in a sort of general love for humanity. His relationship with each one of His children is different. Therefore, He doesn’t speak to me in the same way He speaks to you.

He speaks to each one of us in a way we can understand if we only pay attention and listen in humility.

St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!




This mediation was written by Stephanie Juarez. For more of her writings please visit her blogLover of the Light.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lk 9:16-22 Who Do People Say That I Am?

Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?" They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, 'One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'" Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Who is Christ?  This is an important question.  The answer a person gives will say a lot about that person.  If Jesus is truly my Lord and my Savior, then I will strive to live my life in imitation of Him.  If He is my worst fear, then chances are I will live my life in intimidation of Him.  Of course none of this changes who Jesus is.  He is Lord, regardless of what I think, but the way I see Christ will influence the way I see myself, my life and the lives of those around me, even the lives of those inside of me.

Who do people say that my child is?  This past week, I read an article in the Dallas Morning News (DMN) entitled: "Bishop Lynch coach's courage despite unborn baby's defect inspires team."  Notice how they used the word "baby" instead of fetus or mass of tissue or blob of tissue. 

I was impressed by the DMN's honesty.

Tricia Roos is a hero in every sense of the word.  She exhibits courage in a culture full of cynicism and critics; honesty in a environment full of euphemisms; faith in a data driven/positivistic mentality; and poetry in an all-too-efficient society.

Tricia is 5 1/2 months-pregnant with a baby girl who is seriously ill with Trisomy 18.  Here's the "data:"  Fewer than 10 percent of babies with Trisomy 18 survive.  "It's because of these poor statistics that most doctors recommend terminating the pregnancy.  So much so that Roos didn't even realize there was another option:"  to keep going.

Roos has made it clear:  "This isn't a mistake.  There's a higher purpose for this."

What's the higher purpose?  To educate our young people that life - all life - is sacred, precious and priceless.

Who did people say that I am?  The God who knows all hearts and minds will say:  You're mom knew you were her baby girl.  She even gave you a name.

Make no mistake.  In the culture we live in today, even the most well intended and most loving people, family members and neighbors would recommend abortion.  Why?  Because we no not what we are saying.  And, if I may say, we kind of enjoy playing the role of God.

FLASHBACK:  Jesus said to the Twelve:  "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised."

Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, "Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!" (cf. Mt 16:22)

Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns." (cf. Mt 16:23)

There's a higher purpose for this.  Amen.  Amen.  Amen. 

Bishop Lynch is blessed to have a coach like Tricia Roos.  Her players are blessed to have a role model like Tricia Roos. 

We need people like Tricia Roos.  They help us to be brave.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lk 9:7-9 Who Then Is This?

Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, "John has been raised from the dead." ...But Herod said, "John I beheaded.  Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"  And he kept trying to see him.

Vanity of vanities.   You would think by now we would know how to discipline, educate and raise children; keep marriages healthy and families together; and get along with our neighbor and learn to dialogue with our foes.  But we haven't! And we shouldn't blame God for it, or say we didn't know any better or didn't have enough time to learn from our mistakes. 

Unlike scientists who learn from trial and error, we seem to have a hard time learning from past mistakes.  We even tend to make bad things even worse!

Hence, to make matters worse, we've taken our throw-away mentality and behavior and extended it to just about everything, including marriage and divorce, fetuses and babies, the sick and the elderly. 

We've made the plague of pornography easily accessible to children of all ages, and contraception and abortion available at the snap of one's fingers (and neck).  And while homework has become illegal in some parts of the country, drugs have become legal in other parts of it. 

We did all of this and we did it by removing the bottom of our civilization (the sacredness of all human life) to make room for more people to go down the unforgiving drain.

Vanity of vanities. 

Power is still craved.  Violence is still cheered.  The poor remain to be despised.  The rich remain to be envied.  Our elderly are ridiculed, while our children are feared.  Parents today are nothing and know nothing.  Hollywood has always known everything.  

"'See, this is news!' has already existed in the ages that preceded us" (Eccl. 1:10).

We need something new.  We need someone new.

Who then is this?  As old as the Lord may be, He remains a revolutionary, a rebel, an avant-garde Artist; that is, Someone new under the sun. 

Herod knows this.  He is on to something.  He knows Jesus is different.  He knows He is not John the Baptist.  Who then is this...? 

Keep searching Herod, keep searching, for your hunch and gut are directing you to the right person.  But are you ready to find out? Are you willing to lose the world to gain your soul?  Are you willing to be poor so as to become rich?  Are you willing to be last so that you can be first?

Time and time again, Christ's life and words - though dissected, picked apart and discarded over and over again - have always, without fail, come back to life.  They seem to know how to resurface, just like someone from the grave. Are you surprised? 

And just when you thought you were so over Him, you found ourselves craving and crawling back to Him.  We need you Lord!  I need you!  For when I thought I had understood you, I realized I had simply misunderstood you.

Who then is this?  It must be the Lord!  He is the incarnation of our wild imagination.  He is our dream come true.  Are you surprised?  You shouldn't be, for nothing is under the sun. 

It must come from above.   
    

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lk 9:1-6 Comfortable Christianity

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

By Benedict Augustine

Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there.
And as for those who do not welcome you,
when you leave that town,
shake the dust from your feet in testimony against them.”

Joel Osteen and his wife upset some Christians when they blithely declared that worship was not for God's sake, but for the people's sake. Some Christians rightly declared that this flew in the face of Christianity in which believers offer themselves as living sacrifices to God. Jesus Christ gave up His life for God and His fellow men; His disciples did the same; the saints afterward did the same; Christians now strive to do the same. However, the Osteens, who speak for a large number of people who profess to be Christian, finally broke the facade and admitted that worship served their interests. Jesus bore the cross for them so that they do not have to; God intervenes for their material and emotional well-being because He likes winner and hates losers; and the Holy Spirit is really another way of saying “positive energy.” Somehow, the selfless loving doctrine of Christ completely reversed itself into a selfish cynical doctrine of the ego.

These days, many Christians, including many Catholics, never really use the word, “penitential,” in regards to their daily life. Penitential describes the sinner who has remorse over his sins, desires to rectify his sinful state through penance, and come away a stronger and more spiritual person. We take on challenges, unpleasant tasks, and other people's problems because it is penitential. Mass is penitential: we confess our sins, ponder God's word, give ourselves as Jesus gives Himself in Holy Communion, and give thanks to God for loving us in spite of our sinfulness. We feel joy at Mass, not for our sakes, but for God's sake. All this helps us to become holier, saintlier people.

Unfortunately, people have jettisoned “penitential” for “uplifting.” People want better music, better homilies, shorter services, more social activities, and a nice nonthreatening blank cross, not a somber bloody crucifix. They want validation for their apparent moral uprightness, not a reminder of their actual sinfulness. They want God to send them good vibes, not send them His Son. As children of today's world, they relegate those penitential Christians to the proverbial wilderness while they work to make the Church more open, popular, and seductively comfortable.

In other words, most modern Christians, and their frequently non-Christian children, do not welcome Christ's apostles. These men have nothing to offer, whereas Joel Osteen and Oprah offer some great motivational advice and all sorts of warm fuzzies to delight their audiences. Jesus tells his apostles to “take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money” or even another set of clothes. All they have, and all they need, is Jesus and His gospel. No one could mistake their strategy. They would not cajole, or bribe, or guilt any villager; they would simply “proclaim the Kingdom of God” and “heal the sick.

The healing could have intrigued some of the physically ill, but the healing would also have to reach their souls as well to truly work. Even Jesus struggled healing those who had no faith. Faith and healing obviously depend on one another. One could only heal when one accepted the Kingdom of God, not because this was the condition for healing, but because this was the cause for healing. If people denied the source of the cure, then they denied cure as well.

Instead the Word must suffice. Christ does not promise guaranteed spiritual salvation nor does he promise material prosperity. He promises to heal sinners and give them Heaven—if they can accept it. We accept this gift by allowing His apostles into our dwellings, knowing well that they only have Christ's blessing with them. If we send them away by keeping away from Mass, keeping away from the penitential kooks praying their rosaries and confessing their sins, and instead adopt the materialist self-centered gospel of the world, Christ and his apostles will gently let us be. And as we pay our entertainers to “lift our spirits,” the true lifters of spirit will “shake the dust from [their] feet in testimony against [us],” who chose to momentarily forget our sickness instead of finally having our sickness permanently cured.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lk 8:19-21 The War On Sacredness

Tuesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time 
(Click here for readings)

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you."  He said to them in reply, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."

We are losing the war.  We are losing the war on the belief of the sanctity of human life and on the supreme dignity of every human person.  

Not too long ago, when James Foley was beheaded, I read a tweet from an individual who said, "It should have been Hilary Clinton."  This comment struck me as being typical of the mind frame of so many young adults in the West.  They have little to no regard for the dignity of human life and human death.  

The Internet if full of sarcasm and vile, reprehensible, and mean-spirited comments.  

We are losing the fight for our children's souls, and we are losing it either because we are not doing enough to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ (love) or because we don't really care.

A sea of verbal, physical and psychological violence has spread throughout the world, and it has gained traction because there is a thrill in profaning everything and leaving no soul unturned.   

Some time ago I gave a talk to some boys and girls with regards to bullying.  It took a while for me to calm down once I found out what some of them were calling their peers:  fat and/or ugly.  I was even more appalled when I found out that a few of them were telling others to harm themselves.

Years and years of Catholic education and you'd think these kids would know better.  They do!  But like so many of us, they are succumbing to our "care-free" or "care-less" culture. So either they don't realize how harmful their words can be or they simply don't care.  

I found this cartoon to be illuminating.


Don't write anything or anyone off.  The Lord knows perfectly well who His mother and brothers and sisters are, and where they are.  But He goes beyond the physical; that is, the direct, measurable and quantifiable.  He takes it to the next level:  the spiritual; that is, the indirect, meditative, reflective and contemplative.  The superficial does not settle well with the Lord.  After all, God is God and He is not settled at the superficial level, but only through profound and continual dialogue, and with all of reality in play.    We are all one family.  We have all been created in the image and likeness of God.  We are all created equal. 

The Lord knows we are all related.  But what about you?  Have you forgotten this?  If so, then you may very well be a bully. 

Jesus replied, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.

Bullies are part of the human family, but they are not necessarily our "brothers" and "sisters."  Rather, they are, as the Lord would put it, "my neighbor" ...who needs to be loved, educated and instructed.

We speak a lot about wars:  the war on terror, the war on women, the war on reproduction rights, the war on bullies.  But what we are truly fighting for (and losing big time) is the dignity and sacredness of every human person. 

We need to make more brothers and sisters and mothers.  We need to hear the word of God, act on it and share it with our neighbors.  Otherwise, our neighbor may very well strike first...and it won't be pretty.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Lk 8:16-18 Trying To Be Irrelevant

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

By KATIE GROSS

Jesus said to the crowd:
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel
or sets it under a bed;
rather, he places it on a lampstand
so that those who enter may see the light.
For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible,
and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light.”

As a high-school student, I have heard many a homily about this Gospel reading.  Sometimes, this reading is picked for school Masses or special occasion Masses even when it is not the reading for the day! On the surface, the Gospel does seem to contain a wonderful sentiment—we should make the most out of our gifts, right? We should shine the light that God has given us as bright as we possibly can by going into the world and doing incredible things. I would agree with that. However, while I do agree with the popular interpretation of this Gospel, it also raises an important question—what is the light Jesus is talking about?
 
The popular interpretation of human beings being the light of the world is correct. After all, the parallel of this reading in Matthew chapter 5 says, “You are the light of the world… neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick.” However, notice that in this passage from Luke, Jesus does not once say the word ‘you.’ He simply mentions ‘the light.’ What does that mean?  We may be the light, but the light is not created by us. The light shines through us through no act of our own power.
 
That is the temptation that we have to resist—making ‘the light’ about ‘you’! I remember being a little freshmen and getting so hyped up about how I was going to go out after school and change the world. I was going to eliminate poverty, fix corruption—all by myself! It wasn’t really until I started getting into some service projects and mission work that I saw I couldn’t really do that. My own will and my own power are like little grains of sand compared with all the suffering, injustice, and pain in the world.

We recently read a reflection in theology class by a priest named Henri Nouwen who abandoned a very scholarly position at Harvard to work in a South American community for the handicapped. His words speak better than mine ever could:
 
“Since nobody could read my books, the books could not impress anyone, and since most of them never went to school, my twenty years at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard did not provide a significant introduction… In a way, it seemed as though I was starting my life all over again… These broken, wounded and completely unpretentious people forced me to let go of my relevant self—the self that can do things, show things, prove things, build things—and forced me to reclaim that unadorned self in which I am completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of any accomplishments…. the [Christian] of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation that allows them to enter into a deep solidarity with the anguish underlying all the glitter and success, and to bring the light of Jesus there.”

What?? A vocation to be irrelevant? That is countercultural. But it is the truth. We are only the “light of the world” inasmuch as we bring the light of Christ to others. We are instrumentsWe are like the moon—we may give light, but only because light is given to us by the Son (I love that pun!). Acting on our own volition, we are entirely irrelevant.

At our baptism, we receive a candle—we receive the light of Christ. Don’t hide it. But at the same time, always acknowledge who gave that light to you—acknowledge Him who set you apart to be His light in the world!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Mt 20:1-16a Taking a Chance

Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples this parable:  "The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.  Going out about nine o'clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' ...And he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise.

Never write anyone off.  In today's first reading, we are reminded at how different we are from the Lord.  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (Is 55:8).  So what exactly are God's ways and thoughts?  Let's not forget we can know God through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we can understand God-Almighty in the humble life of His Word made flesh. 

So what exactly is God so great at?  Forgiving.  God forgives like no other and in ways that we cannot even fathom.  His mercy and forgiveness are deeper than the oceans and as "high as the heavens above the earth" (Is 55:9).  God loves to forgive.  He loves to give people a second chance, third chance, fourth chance, etc. 

We must never write anyone off.  This is the great lesson from today's first reading. 

Do you give people a second, third, even fourth chance?

Never write anything off.  From today's second reading, we are reminded at how every gesture of ours, every decision of ours, every thought, word and deed of ours and every moment in our lives - including our death -  can be significant.  In the eyes of God, nothing is insignificant or too small to go unnoticed, not even our death.  For "all things work together for good for those who love God" (Rom 8:28) and everything can move the human heart, mind and body closer to Him.

As St. Paul states:  "For to me life is Christ, and death is gain" (Phil 1:21).

We must never write anything off as being inconsequential.  This is the great lesson from today's second reading. 

Am I prepared to teach others how to live and how to die?

The Lord went out at 9:00, noon, 3:00 and 5:00 pm.  The Lord is constantly calling out to us to come join Him and His amazing work of salvation.  He goes out at all (random) hours of the day looking for all types of (random) people.  It doesn't matter the hour of the day or even the fact that it is close to the end of the day (the End Times?).  It doesn't matter who He finds:  wealthy, poor, healthy or unhealthy.  The Lord is on a mission from His Father to get as many people to work for Him, to change into Him, to live through Him.  That's the mission. 

Never write anyone off.  Never write anything off. 

Are you envious because I am generous?  What's the obstacle to our success?  Jealousy.  Jealousy is a terrible thing.  It kills the heart, mind and soul.  It cripples the body.  It enslaves the human heart.  It kills the soul.  The definition of jealousy is really sad.  In fact, it is sadness at someone else's happiness.  Ugh!  How awful!!!

We all like to compare ourselves to others.  But some of us live and feed off of it, and just like any drug, it can feed not only our addictions, like vanity, but also give us the greatest highs and/or the lowest lows.  In other words, it can make us feel like we are the greatest or make us feel like we are the lousiest.

It's not worth it!

A few days ago, I was walking around the track in our parish hall.  I was on my 5th lap when this elderly woman, who was walking at a slow pace, blurted out to me "I wish I could keep up with you."  I told her, "You don't have to.  You should never compare yourself to others, including me?"  I would never have said this to her if it were not for the fact that I had been meditating on today's Gospel passage. 

Good for me; bad for her!  Oh well...

Today's parable is a reminder - a warning - to never to compare ourselves to others.  Never!  But if we must, then let's be honest and compare ourselves to Jesus Christ. Now that's healthy.  That's being honest.  Comparing yourself to your neighbor is not honest or healthy.  It is superficial.  But comparing yourself to God is beneficial.  It is profound, refreshing, rejuvenating and rewarding.

God never writes anyone off.  And just like in today's Gospel passage, even the slightest effort on our part will be rewarded richly, fairly and justly. 

Are you envious because God is generous?  Don't be, for He is being very generous to you right now.

Never write anyone off and never write anything off is the same as saying take a chance and take someone back.

It's what we have been called to do. 

"The Church acts like Jesus.  She does not give lectures on love, on mercy.  She does not spread a philosophy, a path of wisdom throughout the world. ...Of course, Christianity is all this, but as a consequence, in reflection.  The Mother Church, like Jesus, teaches by example, and uses words to illuminate the meaning of her gestures." - Pope Francis

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lk 8:4-15 Holy Randomness!

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

When a large crowd gathered, with people from one town after another journeying to Jesus, he spoke in a parable.  "A sower went out to sow his seed.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path and was trampled, and the birds of the sky ate it up.  Some seed fell on rocky ground, and when it grew, it withered for lack of moisture.  Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it.  And some seed fell on good soil, and when it grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold...Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear."

The seed is the word of God.  Since the dawn of man, God has thrown His Word out there to all sorts of people, even when His Word became flesh. 

Jesus interacted with all kinds of people: the rich and the poor, the important and the unimportant, the influential and the insignificant, the powerful and the vulnerable, the strong and the weak, the healthy and the unhealthy, the religious and non-religious, the Jews and the pagans, the believers and unbelievers, the intelligent and the ignorant, the sinful and the saintly, the good and the bad.

In some of His interactions, the Lord spoke; while in others, He remained silent.  But in all instances, He left His mark, His footprint, His forgiveness, His compassion, His mercy - His seed! - where you would least expect it.  And for the most part...they grew.

People changed, and changed for good.

The beauty of Christianity lies in its challenging creed, specifically in the "forgiveness of sins."   

This is gigantic!  It is earthshattering.  It is so novel, dangerous and exploratory!  Talk about boldly going where very few have gone before.   

To the untrained and unstrained eye, this business of "salvation" and the "throwing of seeds" may seem all so random.  But to God it is not. 

It is all holy randomness.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lk 36-50 On God's Radar

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time

By JENNIFER BURGIN

He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 
The others at table said to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

About ten years ago, on my way to work, I got stuck in traffic on a feeder road toward the interstate.  Two stop lights emerged one after the other. Not realizing, I ran through the first red light because my eyes focused on the second green light.  As I waited to cross the intersection, I heard a tap, tap, tap on my driver's side window. Two bicycle cops stood next to my car while a third officer carried a radar gun. I rolled down the window.  "Is there a problem, officers?"  I asked calmly. One of the officers replied:  "Ma'am, you just ran that stop light back there.  We need for you to pull over out of traffic."  I was like, "What the....? Are you kidding me?"   I fumed in anger.  Here I could hardly move my vehicle in this traffic mess, and I get pulled over by bicycle patrol.  How ridiculous!  I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I blasted my horn (repeatedly) while shouting out profanities (not very lady-like!) Two of the cops laughed at my spectacle while the other one remained serious.   "Ma'am, if you don't calm down we'll take you over to the jail.  It's only on the other side of this street."  Uh oh.....Let's just say I reversed the bad attitude, apologized, and accepted the ticket with a "Have a nice day."  I was late to work carrying in my wallet a hefty $200 traffic citation. 

Shortly after the incident with the cops, I went to confession. I humbly asked for the Lord's forgiveness.  My mother always warned me that if I ever ended up in jail she would never bail me out.  This run-in with the bicycle cops forever stamped mom's warning into my stubborn brain.  

Police vs. God's Radar We are all sinners, like it or not.  We make errors, blunders, and mistakes.  God's radar detector is aimed at us 24/7.  It's not the same as a police officer's radar gun ready to pull us over and slap us with a fine for speeding.  God's radar is like a heavenly telescope watching our every move, ready to assist us at any moment. He knows when we've done things wrong , giving us the opportunity to seek forgiveness.  We should realize His presence and pray, pray, pray.  When a situation occurs out of our control, we know that God is in control.  Bad circumstances do not last forever.

Pharisee vs. Sinful Woman  In today's gospel reading, the Pharisee is critical of the sinful woman washing Jesus' feet with her hair.  What a disgraceful act.  Does Our Lord not know what kind of woman she is?  Jesus knows precisely who she is!  In fact, Jesus appreciates her great humility.  The feet can be a smelly, and dirty part of the body, especially after walking around in the desert; yet, the sinful woman bathes them with her tears.  The odor doesn't bother her.  She doesn't mind the dirt.  All she wants is to show how much she loves Jesus.  A simple, loving touch from a sinner is all Our Lord needs to pour out his graces. 

Have you been to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a while?  Maybe it's time to make an appointment with a priest.  Remember that God's radar is always keeping an eye on us - the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Take the opportunity to seek out forgiveness.  It will strengthen and encourage you!

"Oh Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising you discern my purpose from afar.  You mark when I walk or lie down, all my ways lie open to you...."  - Psalm 139


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

Lk 7:36-50 Are You An Effective Team?

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that [Jesus] was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.  Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment.  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him..."

Friend of sinners.  Not only is Christ an expert at taking our worst day and turning it into an amazing blessing, but taking the worst of sinners and turning them into the greatest among saints!  This is what He did to this woman.  This is what He did to St. Paul

"[Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the Apostles.  Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.  For I am the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective" (1Cor 15:1-11).

Changing hearts, minds and souls - lives - and turning them right-side-up is what Christ does best.  This is what the Church does best.  May we never fall into the temptation of the world and stop forgiving others. 

We, Americans, do a lot of things well.  Forgiving others is not one of them.  We are hesitant in forgiving people.  In fact, I would even dare to say we dare others to not be forgiving.  I would even go so far in saying we threaten others who forgive others.  If you don't believe what I am saying, then take a look at the recent spat of news and you will know what I mean. 

What does it mean to forgive someone?  It means to give people a second chance.

"Simon, I have something to say to you...Do you see this woman?  When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment.  So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven...But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little."

Openness.  What can we say about the woman who came to Jesus?  We can say she was courageous.  Absolutely brave!  It took a lot of courage for her to come out from hiding and into the open.  It took a lot of faith for her to approach the Son of God.  What will He do to me?  What will He say to me?   It took a lot of humility on her part to walk into the home of a Pharisee and admit her guilt. 

Today, I had the wonderful experience of sharing the Good News with the freshman at John Paul II High School.  What a great group of kids.  But I must admit...our graduates from All Saints simply shined above and beyond the rest!  They greeted the retreat team with smiles and hugs.  Their enthusiasm and joy helped fellow classmates to get into the spirit of the retreat and break down their interior "barriers" and artificial "masks."  They led from the beginning till the very end of the retreat. 

I am so proud of them!  We were a highly effective team.  God bless you!

Are you an effective team player?  Are you helping others to regain their relationship with the Lord?  Are you giving people a second chance? 

Simon didn't get it.  None of the Pharisees got it.  Holiness is not something to boast about but a solemn duty to get down and dirty with those who are looking for a second chance. 

Changing hearts and minds and souls is what Christ did best.  It is something we need to get better at.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

1 Cor 12:31-13:13 Loving like a Christian


Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
 
By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

“When I was a child, I used to talk as a child,
think as a child, reason as a child;
when I became a man, I put aside childish things.
At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
At present I know partially;
then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”


 
This passage of Corinthians probably ranks among the most well-known in Bible; it is certainly the most famous words Paul ever wrote. Christians and non-Christian can recognize these words since nearly every wedding ceremony includes them. As they hear it read, the groom and bride can look at one another, meditate over the meaning of love and apply it to their own relationship: their love is patient, kind, humble, trusting, hopeful, strong. Although context of the passage frames love in a theological sense, not necessarily a nuptial sense, the newly weds will insist on treating Paul's love as a worthy description of the love they have for each other. While this may aptly serve the occasion of a wedding, understanding Paul's words as some schmaltzy ode to love ultimately cheapens its meaning.

 
First, one must consider Paul's audience. He writes this chapter on love in his letter to the Corinthians, a group of believers having problems working together because of their passions and jealousies. Far from exalting passions or the married life, Paul actually hopes to quell the passions and caution against married life (see 1 Corinthians Ch. 7). He reprimands the Corinthians for having cliques and division among themselves and for mishandling the Eucharist. Thus, when he speaks about love, he means love in the Church, between members, and love for God, which should unite all members. Marriage applies to this passage insofar as the couple intends to serve the Church together, raise their children in the faith, and have their relationship reflect Christ and His Church.

 
In order to make his logic of love apparent, Paul couples his discussion of love with his discussion of maturity. His mention of putting “aside childish things” sounds nice on its own, but it does not make as much sense when coupled with his discussion of love. Paul wants to make the point that children grow out of their ignorance, their silliness, and their overall helplessness; in other words, the “partial” life of a child passes away and the completeness of an adult sets in. In the same fashion, a person may know God partially as a child partially knows the world, yet he will eventually mature into a complete knowledge of God. Paul himself admits to knowing God only somewhat:  “At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.”

 
This still does not resolve the question of why Paul juxtaposes these two ideas, love and knowing God, until we realize that love helps us to know God because God is love. Love serves as the foundation of the other two theological virtues, faith and hope, because love “believes all things” (faith) and “hopes all things” (hope). This love finally enables one “to endure all things” like sin, hardship, and even death so that one can finally experience God “face to face.” At the point that we experience God in heaven, hope and faith become unnecessary: we see the God we trusted and believed in, and we finally join with the God we always hoped for.

 
Until we love as Paul explains so eloquently, we remain children, ignorant and self-indulgent.  Love helps people mature out of their childish notions of God to a much richer and more resilient understanding of God. Jesus compares his generation to “children who sit in the marketplace” who complain that the world does not meet their expectations and, what is worse, does not even pay attention to them. They do not love the messiah or his prophet, but choose rather to contradict them out of pride. As a result, they never learn to love, but only to desire—which they mistakenly regard as “love.” Needless to say, this selfish love, that prevailed in the Roman empire as it does today, does not endure but fades into irrationality. Like a child, the man who loves falsely cannot recognize himself, let alone God and His Son.

 
Therefore, let us love as Paul tells us to love. It will not only make us strong and happy, but it will make us wise. In love, we may come to know ourselves,  our neighbors, and the Holy Trinity. With such knowledge, our lives will finally be complete and Heaven will have arrived.