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!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

John 13:16-17 Be Careful

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master
nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.
If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.

I don’t understand Jesus’s dictum most of the time. I wonder how many of my friends may have gotten into a “better” college than I did. I feel a little  insecure about people who do better than me, and a little superior to people are doing “worse” than me (in quotes because no one does “worse” than anyone else, only differently). And if we’re being honest with ourselves, most of us feel a little insecure when we know a colleague might be up for a big promotion, when a friend moves on to a bigger, better, job, when a friend’s child is accepted to an Ivy League school and ours is rejected from a state university. But it’s okay. Jesus tells us in this Gospel that it’s all going to be okay because no person is greater than anyone else. Despite the decisions that we make, despite any mistakes or awards, despite any promotions or positions, we are all equal in God’s eyes, if not in the eyes of the world.

The next time you look at someone sideways, with narrowed eyes because they seem to be doing “better” than you, remember that we are all equal. Even the saints are on the same footing with us, and they’re considered some of the holiest people...but only by us. If we attain heaven, we are all “saints” in God’s eyes.  But God knows that there’s a capacity in each of us for greatness and a capacity for doing bad things, and it is up to us to choose. We all have an equal ability to choose right and wrong, but even if we choose wrong, our decisions to not make us “less” in God’s eyes. And those are the only eyes that matter.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 Keeping One's Religion to Oneself

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter

By Benedict Augustine

May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!

A growing number of people in the developed world have perpetuated the idea that one must “keep one's religion to oneself.” It is common when teaching proper behavior to young people to insist that they refrain from speaking of religion and politics; and in most cases, this will effectively steer most minds to religious matters. For those who defy the rules of decency, the uncivilized Christians who dare discuss their faith or ask about the faith of others, people will now actively silence them claiming in the most sanctimonious tones that they keep their beliefs to themselves.

In fact, such an instance happened recently. A student of mine who fancies himself as a civilized AP student condescended to ask me questions about my Catholic faith – I imagine he had time to kill and evidently presumed I have nothing to do during my conference period. Most teachers at this point would usher him out swiftly to avoid such a conversation, but I try to remain open in these matters for two reasons: one, students—even AP students—rarely have the chance to talk seriously to an adult about faith, which, for all the bluster of journalists, still figures strongly into our culture and intellectual tradition; and two, I always have to assume that God could have sent this person my way to change his path, similar to Philip running into the eunuch trying to read holy scripture.

At first, the student manages to restrain his impulse to blare out his own opinions, something he does fairly often in class. He asked questions about where I go to Church, how I pray, what I might pray for. Some people find these questions personal, but that does not mean they have to be private, so I attempted to answer his questions as clearly as time permitted. He seemed unimpressed. I think he hoped to hear wonderful eloquence: if I could make difficult concepts in English credible and understandable, I should do the same for religion. His eyes rolled as I explained the various proofs for God, man's incapacity to cope with suffering without Jesus, and the beauty of the Mass and the universe. He obviously did not intend to listen, and these questions merely acted as a token of courtesy before he listed his complaints about “Christians.” I could at least applaud his tact and patience. Some atheists, even ones I consider friends, launch into some pretty nasty invectives without even bothering to check with me.

In any case, secular society taught this child well. He assured me that he tolerated, and sometimes even admired, people of faith, but he could not stand religious people airing their religious convictions in public. I refrained from pointing out the irony of this person airing his own convictions—in himself, not God, in good secularist fashion—while refusing this freedom to others. His complaint originated from an instance of some coach asking some of the players to say a prayer before some big game, which he cited as a flagrant violation of Church and State – because public school educators and their students are somehow forbidden from expressing their faith in any manner whatsoever. He, good person and teammate that he is, grins and bears their praying, but still cannot help but think that these people around them were idiots, which is actually a common opinion among unchurched AP kids. He said that he found me interesting because I happened to practice Christianity and yet retained some measure of intelligence.

As with all complaints against religion, this opened a can of worms that I could not close in the few minutes I had. I tried empathizing with him, sharing that I thought religion was pretty silly when I was younger until God introduced me to some more brilliant Christian thinkers like St. Augustine and C.S. Lewis. Unfortunately, the conversation became muddled after that because he wanted to move onto other subjects – my love for books and reading bored him even more than my love for Catholicism. I suppose he wanted to make his point and leave it at that. So much for dialogue.

Oddly enough, although I doubt he thought about it, his team went quite far in their tournament, breaking school records left and right. The prayers must have worked, I thought, even though the matter of a school's athletic program doing well seemed fairly trivial. Maybe this would change that student's mind and make him think twice. If not, at least I thought twice.

In the past, these questions/objections used to bother me; they still do sometimes. However, it becomes clear that the subject of religion incites resentment among nonbelievers and diffidence among believers because everyone makes the mistake of seeing religion as some ideology or source of identity. False religion may have those characteristics, but true religion transcends such limitations. Evangelization only requires love and devotion. In his work De Doctrina Christiana, St. Augustine discusses the avid fan of drama dragging all his friends to see a certain play or a certain actor, showing how much more the Christian should follow his example.

I should not seek to teach—even if I do teach for a living—but should share my faith with enthusiasm. I do this because it makes me happy, not only because Jesus commands it. Faith understood this way illuminates the jubilation of some of the Psalms, the work of Paul and Barnabas, and the profound simplicity of Jesus' ministry. Yes, they talked about religion, even in the face of persecution, not because they feared God's wrath, but because they loved God. They loved what He gave them. They loved learning His ways. They loved thinking about Him and His creation. In thinking about God, one will find himself thinking about everything and everyone. In loving Him, one begins to love all others.

Society might decide to take away the right to express this love—even as it stridently permits the expressions of other kinds of love. Nevertheless, true devotion will lead the Christian past the disapproval of the intellectual class, or the secularized or fanaticized majority, or the law. They will go on preaching the gospel because it makes life worth living. A silent faith kept bottled up in one's heart does no one any good, not even the person who occasionally professes to hold it. A vocal faith, while often dangerous and unpredictable, will most certainly make a positive difference both for the believer and the world around him.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Acts 11:19-26 Scattering and Gathering

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


Those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch...

Scattering.  We have all heard of the tragic Christian exodus occurring in the Middle East.  Christian communities, that have existed for centuries (or for a thousand years) in places such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and Gaza, are being forced out, and there appears to be no end in sight from their plight.

This tragedy extends well beyond the Christian communities, for without Christians in the Middle East, moderate Muslims will fall victim to fundamentalists.

Speaking at UNESCO in Paris on April 25th, Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rei said Christians were "irreplaceable peacemakers" and, without them, "Islam will fall into the hands of fundamentalists."  He called on Europe and the international community "to ensure that Christians remain in their countries." 

He said resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the first step that needed to be taken. 

Two thousand years ago another conflict needed to be resolved:  the Jewish-Christian conflict.  Prior to the Roman persecution, Christians were being persecuted by their fellow Jewish brothers and sisters, among them a man named Saul, who consented to their arrest and even death. 

Hence, the early Christian communities often lived in fear and trembling, with many leaving their homes and going off to far away places.

Why would God let this happen? 

Gathering.  Does God have anything to do with past and even present exoduses?  Of course He does.  We cannot forget that we believe in a God who knows everything. He is not oblivious to our cries or needs.  As Christians, we cannot say that persecution is not a part of God's doing.  We cannot!, since God is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving. 

God allows these things to happen to good people. 

Why would God let this happen?

Well, if the past is any indication of the future, then we know that the early Christians went off to far lands and began to share the Good News with others. 

They spread the Gospel message far and wide, and it all happened in a state of weakness.

What is happening in the Middle East is a tragedy, let's make no mistakes about it.  But we know that the Father works many miracles through tragedies, starting with His very own Son.

Christians around the world should unite in prayer and in support for their suffering brothers and sisters.  They should decry the countless beheadings of their brothers and sisters in Christ and imitate their bravery at home and at work.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jn 10:1-10 The Voice

Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
“Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate
but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.
But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice,
as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
When he has driven out all his own,
he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him,
because they recognize his voice.
But they will not follow a stranger;
they will run away from him,
because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
Although Jesus used this figure of speech,
they did not realize what he was trying to tell them."

In both yesterday’s and today’s Gospel readings, Jesus presents us with the beautiful metaphor of a shepherd and his sheep for God and His people.  It seems simple enough: we just have to listen for the voice of God and then follow it, right? If only. In fact, the root of all sin is our human tendency to resist following the voice of God. We are proud. We are stubborn. Our hearts are hard. However, if we focus on humbling ourselves and then being totally open to the call of God, we can overcome sin and truly listen to what God has to say.

Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.  At my old public school, we had an “accelerated” program for students that had a certain IQ. The program consisted of pulling students out of normal English and History classes for more diverse instruction in music, history, logic, and the humanities. Everybody loved it. However, in my last year of public school, we had a long-term sub that really got under some people’s skin. He walked into our “accelerated” class and immediately wrote his name (and Army rank!) on the board. Then, he looked us all in the eye and said: “I’m not sure if anyone has ever told you this, but you’re not that smart.” Parents complained. Kids ranted angrily on social media.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every teacher out there should take this approach with their students. However, on a fundamental level, I think the teacher had something important to teach: contrary to what Protagoras says, man is not the measure of all things. 

If there is one thing that this world truly lacks, I would venture to say that it is humility. Lord knows we all struggle with being humble. We receive so many subliminal messages on a day-to-day basis that we should be self-sufficient, stoic, and even self-obsessed. As a teenaged girl, I can barely watch television without being told that I must be in control of my life, the way my hair looks, etc. Perfection and total self-control is demanded of us. Somebody has to tell us that we can’t do it all! Somebody has to tell us that we are not all that bright! Good thing Jesus does.

Just like we hear today, most people that heard Jesus speak did not understand what he was trying to tell them. Jesus frequently had to go back and simplify his language-- which he had already attempted to simplify through the parable, nonetheless. On top of that, we are compared to sheep in this parable. In case you didn’t know, sheep are perhaps the dumbest animals on earth. The whole reason that shepherds have to carry staffs is to keep the sheep from running themselves off cliffs. If we think that we do not need a shepherd, if we think that we have our lives under control on our own, then we are sheep running ourselves off cliffs. Thus, the first step in hearing the voice of the shepherd is to realize our need to be shepherded. The first step is humility.

When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.  Again, what does it take to follow the shepherd? First, humility. Then, openness.
In today’s first reading, we hear Peter explain God’s revelation that Gentiles may be baptized and accepted into the Christian Church. This revelation was entirely contrary to all laws that had been set forth by the Jews and the early Church. Jews and Gentiles did not mix—or so they thought.  Peter initially put up a fight when God asked him to “eat the unclean animals,” or metaphorically, baptize Gentiles. However, through a series of visions, God challenged Peter’s beliefs and showed him that Gentiles could in fact be saved.  What connects this story from Acts to today’s Gospel is that it is all about listening to God’s voice and following it, wherever it may lead.
But again, it’s not that easy for us. Early Christians had to abandon years of deeply ingrained prejudices and accepted laws to baptize Gentiles. They had to give up all notions of what they thought was correct in favor of what God thought was correct. In other words, they had to be open.
I recently got back from a retreat. Something that I really appreciated was that the retreat leader urged us before we even heard from a speaker to be open to what God was telling us. It is easy to go into a retreat with preconceived notions of how things will go, ex: the speaker will try to force an opinion on you, you will not accept it, you will try to get out of conversation, etc.  Similarly, many Catholics today have convinced themselves that they will never accept a certain teaching or attitude of the Church, and close their mind like a deadbolt door at any mention of the subject. Imagine if Peter had done this. Imagine if he had flipped out at the first mention of baptizing Gentiles, and refused to listen to the voice of God any further. It is safe to say that if Peter had done this, today’s Church would not exist. Thus, if we really want to follow the voice of the shepherd, we must be open to listen.
Something else that they talked extensively about at my retreat was “bearing each other’s burdens.” It is so difficult to persevere in faith these days. It is so difficult to be humble as Christ was. Let’s agree to pray for each other, that we may all be more humble and open to the voice of God.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

1 Pt 5:5b-14 Steadfast in Faith

Feast of Saint Mark, Evangelist

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, steadfast in faith.

 When it comes to the word faith one of the best definitions can be found in The Book of Hebrews:

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen." (11:1)

I often lack faith in my God-given abilities and talents.  I compare myself to others thinking: "I'm just not good enough! Why didn't God make me a better person?"  I lovethe Lord with all of my heart, but sometimes my faith in him sours.  I'm unhappy with my circumstances.  I feel like I've been robbed while others rewarded.  Seeing and experiencing life's unfairness suggests that remaining steadfast in faith is an unattainable virtue.

Every now and then a crisis of faith makes an ugly appearance.  Perhaps we have fallen on hard times such as lost employment.  Maybe our health is deteriorating and loved ones feel no obligation to take care of us.  Maybe the crisis of faith goes much deeper in that we simply do not accept the Church's position against contraception, abortion, or same-sex-marriage.   We feel rejected by our parish community, or even clergy who shoo us away as if we're blood-sucking mosquitoes.

I think of faith as a lion.  For the most part, the lion of faith is tame.  It's nourished by the Holy Eucharist, taught by Holy Scripture, and inspired by the Saints.  The lion of faith is brave and courageous enough to defend attacks against the Catholic Church.   However, over time the lion of faith becomes strained to the teeth-drawing point.    The once docile cub grows into a roaring lion ready to pounce.  The roaring lion wants to renounce God and blame him for all the bad in the world.  The Lord isn't cleaning up the world's messiness at a fast-enough pace.

 We are bombarded with horrific new stories of Americans joining ISIS, mothers drowning their babies in toilet bowls, young teenage girls recruited into the sex trade, or Christians beheaded for their faith.  It appears as if the world is on the verge of utter destruction!  Why have faith in a God who allows such tragedy to happen?  

The Apostles dealt with persecution throughout their ministry, not much different than many Christians today. They continued to preach and teach despite threats on their lives. No matter what obstacles, especially those influenced by the Devil himself, the Apostles always remained steadfast in faith.  They experienced their own crisis points; however, they opened up their souls to the healing works of the Holy Spirit.

As I was preparing for this meditation, I thought of an anachronym for the word "Faith" which can help us remain steadfast despite life's upside-downs, inside-outs, and total meltdowns.

1.  Find the answers....Don't believe what society tells us; that we don't need religion or faith in God.  Read and study sources of the Truth such as the Catechism, the writings of the Saints, scripture, Catholic publications, and even Vatican news sources.  When an aspect of faith is confusing, learn more about it. 

2.  Accept that remaining steadfast in faith is not easy.  Trials and tribulations will always be thrown at us, tempting us to sin.  We will want to run away and hide.  We will want to give up on God!  Bear patience and don't give up.  

3.  Imagine the eternal benefits waiting for us in the Kingdom of Heaven. No more sickness.  No more pain.  No more hatred and violence.  Jesus and his Blessed Mother will welcome us with open arms!  Our sober, vigilant, and steadfast faith, along with a good life, gained us entrance into final Paradise.

4.  Teach others about the Christian faith.  As we instruct, our faith only grows stronger.  We won't allow the evils in the world to deaden our faith.  It will remain firm and solid.

5.  Hope that God will provide despite our burdens and anxieties.  Keep up the faith: Our Lord won't disappoint!  In fact, he will give us the means and power to improve our lives for the better.  No need to worry.  No need to be angry at situations we can no longer control.  Hand it all over to God in hope, faith, and trust!

"Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens" - J.R.R. Tolkien

"We are twice armed if we fight with faith."  - Plato

St. Mark the Evangelist, Pray for Us!

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican associated with St. Albert the Great Priory.  Please visit her blog:  Jennifer’s Spectrum of Spirituality

Friday, April 24, 2015

John 8: 10-11 Prayer is Power


Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.
Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

It’s really easy to condemn others. There’s always someone “worse” than yourself--someone who does less work than you at the office but gets more praise, someone who is an alcoholic or cheats on her husband, or someone in school who’s on drugs. It’s really easy to sit back in your chair, look heavenwards, and say “Well, she’s not going to Heaven.”

Well, are we?

All sin is sin. Although some sins seem worse than others, each sin hurts Jesus’s heart, some just hurt him more. It’s really easy to judge others without looking at ourselves, to think about every  single thing that someone else has done while forgiving ourselves for anything wrong we have done. But we should forgive not only ourselves, but others, because Jesus is able to forgive us. For everything.

Let’s put everything in perspective and view everyone as our comrades in getting to Heaven. Even though some are farther down the ladder to Heaven than others, we can always pull them up. Picture everyone you know, in armor made of light, fighting to get to Heaven but constantly being pushed down by temptation. Reach up for Jesus’s hand, reach down for someone else’s, and pull them up. You can do this in a few ways. If someone goes to you for advice, just listen. Don’t say anything. Just listen, and think about their problem. THey might even work it out when speaking to you. Then, before you say anything, ask the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Say “Come, Holy Spirit.” Then, speaking slowly, offer your advice. And then pray for them whether or not they choose to accept it.

Make a prayer list for specific prayers. Pray for your kids or your parents or your priest. Pray for Jude Cobler, who is a fourth grader who recently got cancer for the second time. Pray for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East, but also for the persecuted people of all faiths and none the world over. And whenever you see someone who might need a little divine help, close your eyes and just say a little prayer. And then, if there’s any action that you can do to help that person, do it. Faith and actions are the most powerful together.

Jn 6:52-59 The Way

Friday of the Third Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.  For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my Flesh and drinks my Blood remains in me and I in him.

Get in other peoples lives.  As Americans we pride ourselves in our independence.  We do not want to be dependent on anyone.  That's a tragedy given the fact we are social creatures by nature, and that we need each other.

If you still have doubts, then examine Christ's words:  "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you do not have life within you."   In other words, in order to "get a life" you must share your life with others. 

Christ's words should be taken spiritually as well as physically.  He wants to share his life fully, and not just psychologically, emotionally, figuratively and subjectively.  He wants to get into our lives.

Why?  So that we find The Way.

"Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priests and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus that, if he should find any men or women who belong to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains" (Acts 9:1-2).

Seek first the Kingdom of God.  This morning I celebrated Mass for some Juniors on retreat.  If you don't remember, then let me remind you:  Junior year can be a very stressful year.  There are SAT's and ACT's, Prom, applications for scholarships and colleges, etc... 

While speaking to some of them, I noticed that a lot of them were really stressed out!  I don't blame them.  Again, there's a lot of pressure on them from themselves and from family, friends, boy/girl friends to perform academically, athletically and even "physically."  Therefore, during my homily I wanted to make sure I didn't add any extra stress to their lives.  I used the words of Christ to inspire them and to encourage them to seek something above all other things.

Where does stress come from?  Does it come from what is above or from what is below; from God or from ourselves (and neighbors);  from what God expects from me or from what others expect from me? 

The Lord knows a lot about stress because He knows us.  And because He knows us, His words resonate so well with us.  His most famous sermon begins with the words, "You have heard that is was said..."

I took these words and applied them to today's teens...

"You have heard that is was said:"
- You have to have the perfect look...
- You have to get a scholarship...
- You have to get into this school...
- You have to become a cheerleader...
- You have to get selected on the football team...
- You have to get all A's...
- You have to get a "5" on your AP exam...
- You have to have a boy/girl friend...
- You have to be popular...
- You have to fit in...
- You have to be a leader...
- You have to be at the top...
- You have to be the best...
- You have to be perfect...
- You have to be more than human...

"But I say to you..."

+Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Mt 6:33).

So what does it look like when we put other things before God?  May I show you?  It's a true story. 

Have you heard of Mackenzie Moretter, the ten year old girl who suffers from a rare genetic disorder that makes it hard for her to socialize? Well, her mother organized a birthday party for her tenth birthday.  She sent out invitations to all of Mackenzie's classmates.  Unfortunately, none of her classmates responded; which really means that none of the parents responded. 

This is what it looks like when we put other things before God.  Sad.

But when we seek first the kingdom of God, then all hell freezes over and the magic begins! 

Mackenzie's mom had an idea, a scriptural idea (cf. Mt 22:1-14).  Not giving up, she decided to invite strangers via Facebook to her daughter's party.  To her surprise, hundreds of people showed up, including a Minnesota Vikings player and his family, and a woman dressed up as Elsa from Frozen.

To her surprise, people of all ages came with gifts, food, party favors and even a banner that read, "Happy Birthday Mackenzie."

To her amazement, local companies donated food and people brought chairs to the area.

To her utter astonishment, the Mayor of Shakopee issued a proclamation announcing that Saturday would be Mackenzie Moretter Day, giving the girl a signed certificate of the declaration.

Even the local Fire Department showed up and gave kids a chance to hop on their fire trucks!

Oh the magic of life!
Oh the magic of faith, hope and love! 
Oh the magic of humility, empathy and mercy! 
Oh the magic of Christ's life, death and resurrection! 

Seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you.

This is The Way.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jn 6:35-40 Accepting God’s Gifts

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
By Benedict Augustine

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.”

Out of sheer goodness and love do God and His Son do what they do. Out of pure benevolence does the Father create, the Son redeem, and Holy Spiritanimate. They do this of Their own will and being; nothing outside of Them compels them to do this. They exist beyond necessity and causes, and act independently.

Put simply, no person in the Holy Trinity really has anything to gain – except maybe Jesus. Jesus does have a fully divine and fully human nature: He cansuffer, yet He can also feel joy and pleasure. Human beings cannot reward a Spiritual Creator since they would only be giving Him something they already received, but they can give Jesus something for the miracles He performs—in this case, feeding five thousand people in the wilderness. They can bestow upon Him the title of king, or great riches, or some epics in the style of Virgil to sing His praises instead the rather quotidian historical accounts in the gospels.

Of course, giving something back immediatelyimplies a hierarchy. Those who have something to give can curry more favor than those who have nothing. People of all ages purchase influence this way, offering gifts and flattery to those with power and finding themselves on a higher level than the other followers. What evolves is an inner circle of generous donors that ripples into outer circles which donate a little less than them, until a group of ne’er-do-wells peers in from the outside of this hierarchy feeling excluded yet again from God’s goodness as well as the world’s. This happens in every form of government: monarchy, oligarchy, and even democracy.

Jesus does not want this. He does not want anyone’s support; He has God’s support, which is more than enough. Even when He calls His disciples, He does not do this for His own sake, but for their sake and His father’s sake. He repeats this constantly in the gospel of John: everything He says and does is for His Father in heaven. He may have a fully human nature, but He does not have a human perspective. His divinity has led Him to see as His Father sees. He sees the world as it is, people as the are, and His mission to save people from the world. God gives Jesus His eyes, and this makes some of what Jesus says difficult to understand clearly.

God also give Jesus His children, all of humanity. Jesus does not pick favorites, for He loves them all. In being this way, He models for disciples how theyshould act in their own capacity. No one in His Church should reject what God has given. The only thing a disciple should reject is sin; after all, sin constitutes a rejection of God. If one comes to the Church, repentant and desirous of following Jesus’ commandments, they may join the table and share in the Bread of Life.

In other words, Jesus gives Himself and His Father’s salvation as gifts. He gives these giftsindiscriminately. The only condition is that one must accept His love as a gift, not as payment for good behavior or as token of approval for bad behavior. He gives as His Father gives, freely and lovingly, yet we must accept his gifts in the same manner, freely and lovingly. This requires the kind of humility and patience that many people might not possess. We need God’s eyes.

When we accept Jesus’ gift, we will start to havethose eyes. We will stop doing our will, which considers things like payment and favor, and do God’s will, building the kingdom and saving souls. The cycle of utility and exchange in all dimensions of life can be broken. The love of the Father, the love of the Son, and the holy love of the apostles all break that cycle. No one is rejected, except those who reject. All are welcome.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Jn 6:30-35 Feeling a little Stiff-necked?

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


The crowd said to Jesus: "What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?"

I believe there are two ways to get to Jesus.  The first way is what I call the "positive approach"; that is, to believe and live what the Lord preached and did.  The second way is what I call the "negative approach"; that is, to believe and live what the Pharisees and scribes preached and did. 

If someone is truly searching for God, then all roads lead to Jesus. 

Now I am not sure if one path is less painful than the other, but I am sure the first path will get us to our final destination sooner rather than later. 

You stiffed-neck people.  A few weeks before Christmas (2014), Pope Francis gathered together his closest advisors and subordinates for a late evening chat at the Vatican.  The Holy Father's talk inspired a world famous Harvard professor (and non-Catholic), Gary Hamel, to write about it.  His article, "The 15 diseases of Leadership, according to Pope Francis" is an easy-to-read summary of the Holy Father's talk. 

You may not have heard of Gary Hamel, but The Wall Street Journal ranked Hamel as one of the world's most influential business thinkers, and Forbes magazine has called him "the world's leading expert on business strategy."  Enough said about him. 

So what exactly does it mean to be stiff-necked?  Pope Francis would diagnosis this condition (or disease) as "Mental Petrification." 

It is found in leaders who have a heart of stone; in those who in the course of time lose their interior serenity, alertness and daring, and hide under a pile of papers, turning into paper pushers and not men and women of compassion.  It is dangerous to lose the human sensitivity that enables us to weep with those who weep and to rejoice with those who rejoice!  Because as time goes on, our hearts grow hard and become incapable of loving all those around us. Being a humane leader means having the sentiments of humility and unselfishness, of detachment and generosity.

Who in their right mind would ever stone someone to death?  Only those who have forgotten how sinful they are. 

So when it came to blasphemy or adultery, did God (Jesus) have a change of heart?  No.  I think He made things clearer:  He who is without sin cast the first stone. 

Apparently, not everyone got the memo.

We all have something to learn.  According to Gary Hamel, to have a healthy organization you need to have healthy leaders.  According to Pope Francis, to have a healthy church you need to have healthy leaders.  The Pope's message to his colleagues was blunt:  leaders are susceptible to an array of debilitating maladies, including arrogance, intolerance, myopia, and pettiness.  When those sicknesses go untreated, the organization itself is debilitated.   

Today's first reading recounts what happened to the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen.

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes:  "You stiff-necked always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? ...You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it. ...When they heard this, they were infuriated, and they ground their teeth at him. ...covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.  They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.

According to Pope Francis, the elders and scribes were covering their ears and grinding their teeth because they were suffering from the disease of thinking they were immortal, immune or downright indispensable.  Gary Hamel summarizes this in the following way:  They were neglecting the need for regular check-ups.  A leadership team which is not self-critical [and/or held accountable], which does not keep up with things, which does not seek to be more fit, [and does not allow for open discussion] is a sick body.   

The Sanhedrin was a sick body.  The Pharisaical party was a sick party.  The Roman Curia is a sick body.  The Pope knows this...and is cleaning house.

Now for us.  Do you think you're well?  Are you a healthy Catholic Christian?

Gary Hamel offers a quick test to see how well you're doing. 

On a scale of 1 to 5, to what extent do I...

  • Feel superior to those who work for me?
  • Demonstrate an imbalance between work and other areas of life?
  • Substitute formality for true human intimacy?
  • Rely too much on plans and not enough on intuition and improvisation?
  • Spend too little time breaking silos and building bridges?
  • Fail to regularly acknowledge the debt I owe to my mentors and to others?
  • Take too much satisfaction in my perks and privileges?
  • Isolate myself from customers and first-level employees?
  • Denigrate the motives and accomplishments of others?
  • Exhibit or encourage undue deference and servility?
  • Put my own success ahead of the success of others?
  • Fail to cultivate a fun and joy-filled work environment?
  • Exhibit selfishness when it comes to sharing rewards and praise?
  • Encourage parochialism rather than community?
  • Behave in ways that seem egocentric to those around me?
As in all health matters, it's good to get a second or third opinion.  Ask your colleagues to score you on the same fifteen items. 

Hamel concludes his article with some wise advice:  "Remember: the responsibilities you hold as a leader, and the influence you have over others' lives, can be profound.  Why not turn to the Pope - a spiritual leader of leaders - for wisdom and advice?"

I couldn't agree more.

Jn 6:22-29 Signs of Wonder

Monday of the Third Week of Easter


When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there,
they themselves got into boats
and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
And when they found him across the sea they said to him,
“Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered them and said,
“Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me
not because you saw signs
but because you ate the loaves and were filled.
Do not work for food that perishes
but for the food that endures for eternal life,
which the Son of Man will give you.
For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”
So they said to him,
“What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them,
“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

I once had a theology teacher who would always warn us about worshipping the “vending machine God.” By this, of course, she meant that we shouldn’t pray as if we were making demands of God, or seeking to get something out of Him. This is a trap that is all too easy to fall into, especially as we go through trials and recognize our needs. However, we must remember that God alone fulfills our needs—not any emotion or consolation that we may get from Him.

Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. I am a teenager. If any of you have teenagers or have worked with teenagers, you probably know that we are big bundles of emotion with a dash of reason thrown in. As such, a trap that many Christians my age are tempted into is the trap of the “emotional God,” who makes us feel warm and accepted. Of course, this is not a bad thing—God does love us and accept us, and we certainly can feel His love in certain situations. However, there is often the temptation to latch onto emotion as the basis of our faith. There is a problem here. Emotions change. Emotions fade. If faith is linked to emotion, our faith will change and fade with it. This is not just true for teenagers, but for Christians of all ages. We must remember that Jesus is not a feeling. Jesus is a human being—just as human as you and me.

Mother Teresa is one of my favorite saints. As I frequently write about on this blog, a group from my school and I volunteer from time to time at a shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity in Dallas. The sisters there really sparked in me an admiration for Mother Teresa, a truly selfless servant. Something that Mother Teresa deeply understood was that faith is not based on emotion. In fact, she admitted before her death that she did not feel God’s presence for the majority of her ministry. In her novel, she wrote the following: “I am told God lives in me — and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul… I want God with all the power of my soul — and yet between us there is terrible separation.”  Of course, I do not wish this darkness on anybody. I do not wish it on myself, either. The point is that we are called to persevere in our faith even when the emotional aspect is completely absent. Mother Teresa is now on her way to canonization and has one confirmed miracle. I am sure that her joy is now complete in God, and that her perseverance was completely worth it.

Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life,which the Son of Man will give you. One time when I was on a retreat, a song leader said something that really struck me. We had had adoration as a group the previous night and were preparing to have Mass. In case you don’t know, some youth ministers are skeptical about offering adoration because many young people get frustrated if they don’t have an emotional experience and one of their peers does. The song leader understood this, and said something along the lines of, “Don’t make adoration the height of this retreat. Mass is where you actually get to receive the Lord. Mass should be more beautiful.” Mass may not always be an emotional experience for us. Sometimes, we may not “get anything out of” Mass. However, we must be wary of such reasoning—even if we do not “feel anything,” we must remember that Jesus gives Himself fully to us at every Mass.  Emotions are food that perishes. The food that endures for eternal life is Jesus himself.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Acts 3:17-19. We Will Win

Third Sunday of Easter


'Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; but this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer.  Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out
Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”

This is the prayer that each of us must say when we pray for the terrorists, the abortionists, the dictators  of the world. This is the prayer that each of us must say when we hear someone say something cutting about us, or untrue. This is the prayer that we pray that others remember when we say something against them. The whole world must know this prayer.

People are just people. Most people don't think through decisions before they make them, and all of us possess the power to justify whatever we do, whether that be choosing to eat an extra dessert or a decision that will affect the outcomes of nations. Most of us prefer not to think of the negative consequences of a decision, preferring to believe that as long as we believe that something will happen, it will.
Because of our capacity to blind ourselves from reality and reason, we must be able to forgive others when they choose to do the same, regardless of how powerful they might be. We need not agree, and we might fight against their decision, but we must forgive them, because we are all God's children and he forgives us. All of us.

He forgives those who perform embryonic stem cell research and create humans just to destroy them. He forgives those who perform abortions and those who aid in them. He forgives those who assist in physician-assisted suicide, and those who shoot before they think. He forgives the terrorists, the murderers, the rapists, the whole world. He forgives because He is all-giving and completely loving. And he forgives them, and us, when we sin because we are his children and he knows that we sometimes forget to think before we speak, before we act. He knows that sometimes we put the blinders on. He knows that sometimes we get lost and don't want to come back to Him because we think that He will condemn us for our blindness. He knows that sometimes we fall into despair about the state of the world, forgetting that there are so many people in Heaven praying for us and our world. Remember—all the saints, all those who went through what we are going through, praying, hoping, and knowing that we will make a difference in our world! All those who suffered being burned in the Roman gardens  or shot at the hands of their government, all those who were fed to the lions or executed as heretics, all those who suffered all their lives, all of those strong, beautiful souls are praying just for the whole world! They were real. They lived our life. And now they are cheering for us.

So forgive and remember that in the game of Life, we are the players. Remember that we, as John Paul II said, “are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Let's make that our fight song. Remember that we have cheerleaders, all the Saints, cheering for us, complete with yellow-and-white pompoms for the Vatican. Remember that if we have all these people, all this joy on our side, we cannot lose. We will win.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Jn 6:16-21 Do Not Be Afraid

Saturday of the Second Week of Easter
(Click here for readings)


The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they began to be afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” They wanted to take him into the boat, but the boat immediately arrived at the shore to which they were heading.

A scary incident happened to me several years ago.  I've never been so terrified in my life....

I worked as a chemist in a food laboratory.  One morning I arrived early to begin a routine test. While cleaning glassware, I heard a loud "Va-voosh!" Flames ignited -- flash fire!!!  I grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and discharged dry chemical on the flames.  It took two very heavy extinguishers to put out the fire!

Throughout the emergency my fear turned into an adrenaline-fueled rush.  I remember the trembling and tears as my life literally "flashed" before my eyes.  Lord, please help me!! Don't let me die! 

The fire trucks arrived as I sat outside covered in yellow powder.  Labored in breathing, the medics placed an oxygen mask on my face. The firemen looked shocked to see a petite woman not only extinguish out a fire by herself but do it without serious injury. Reflecting back, I was so scared I'd get fired from my job due to negligence.  I blamed myself for the blaze.  However, it turned out I didn't do anything wrong.  What caused the fire was an air flow problem amplified by a recent room expansion.

I knew on that very day that God wasn't ready to take me over to his "neck of the heavens" yet.  He prepared a life mission for me, but I had no clue what.

Sadly, in 2015 this same facility I worked at 17 years ago burned down to the ground. No injuries or casualties, thank the Lord.

Intensity of Fear   Everybody experiences fear.  Maybe we are scared of bee stings or traumatized by needles and blood. Perhaps we fear public speaking or tall heights. Maybe we fear dying from an incurable disease or witnessing a loved one die.  Fear is a natural emotional response.  However, we should never allow fear to overtake our lives.  

What is a remedy to fear?  Faith and Trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Satan loves to use fear to keep us out of the shadows of God's mercy and into the webs of his cunning deceit.  Satan gently whispers into our ears:

Oh, you don't need Jesus Christ as your savior!  He's the reason you're such a scared-dycat!  Why not follow me?  I can give you everything you want!  You don't need to pray.  Heck, you don't even have to go to church anymore.  Just worship me and all of your fears will disappear.

Be brave and don't fall for Satan's lies!  In fact, pray even more diligently; receive the sacraments even more frequently; make it to confession more regularly. Fears can be overcome.  Remember the disciples were frightened out of their wits seeing Jesus' resurrected body walking on the sea.  But his simple, "It is I, do not be afraid" brought them peace and comfort. They arrived at the shore safely despite the fierce storm.

Government of Fear In my Lay Dominican formation, we recently read a letter by former Master of the Order Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. titled "Dominican Freedom and Responsibility Towards a Spirituality of Government." As I prepared for this meditation, I stumbled upon an interesting section talking about fear in terms of responsibility.   Fr. Radcliffe writes, "Fear destroys all good government."  He was speaking aboutdemocratic government within the Order of Preachers; however, I think this phrase is applicable to our US government today.  How often does fear cause our nation to makequestionable decisions?  How often does fear rush us into war zones when we have no business getting into another country's civil disputes?  Hmmm...Something to think and pray about.

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  - Saint Pope John Paul II

This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin, a Lay Dominican candidate associated with St. Albert the Great Dominican Priory.  Please follow her blog:  Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality