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, June 25, 2015

Acts 13: 22-26 Show Some Respect!

Solemnity of the nativity of St. John the Baptist
(Click here for readings)

By Benedict Augustine

John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance
to all the people of Israel;
and as John was completing his course, he would say,
What do you suppose that I am? I am not he.
Behold, one is coming after me;
I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.’’

In parishes all over the world, Catholics treat Jesus with appalling contempt—some with full knowledge but most through ignorance. The vast majority of them distribute the Eucharist, Jesus’ Own Body and Blood, as though it were a snack on an airplane. Very few even see the Mass as a solemn event. It is more an occasion for the priest to put on a show, privileged laymen to display their pious choreography, and musicians to rock and sway to Broadway tunes with religious lyrics. The congregation completes the scene by dressing in casual, sometimes scandalous, clothing. For the average Catholic, nothing about the Mass is all that serious.

Between Masses, the Host—again, this is the Body and Blood of Jesus—is usually stored in some oddly designed box (the tabernacle) placed to the side or in some unseen nook away from the center of the church. A few parishes will have adoration where people can sit quietly with Jesus during the week, but most parishes have dispensed with this practice. In these places, Jesus sits in His box while parishioners gossip and shoot the breeze a few steps away, oblivious to His Presence.

While all Catholics receiving Jesus in Holy Communion are supposed to receive Him with a clear conscience and without the stain of mortal sin, many hardly bother with this mandate. After all, this would require them to know that Holy Communion is a serious matter, and most churches have done away with such seriousness. Consequently, few parishioners even think of examining their conscience and attending Confession regularly. Although these same people will dress professionally and observe basic hygiene in order to have a pleasant appearance at their job or in public, they will blithely present a cluttered and dirty soul to God when they meet Him at the altar.

Outside the sacraments, which still remain under the purview of priests and deacons, committees of laypeople organize events and organizations to increase involvement in the parish. They discuss logistics, finances, schedules, and marketing; at the very bottom of the list is increasing actual holiness among the parish. Oftentimes, religion acts more like a decorative motif than a guiding principal for these well-intentioned endeavors. Rarely do they produce any conversions or increased fervor.

So many older Catholics express wonder at the drop in religious vocations and in the exodus of young people from the Church. Is it really a mystery in light of the way the church now operates in so many places? There is no reverence to be found anywhere. While John felt unworthy to tie Jesus’ sandals, many Catholics today feel comfortable wearing sandals and football jerseys to Mass. While John announced the coming of Jesus and gave the people a good cleaning, both physically and morally, before He arrived, most people handle Jesus carelessly with their grubby hands before consuming Him in the same way they consume a potato chip – and no, squirting disinfectant in one’s hands and smiling politely does not quite equal John’s baptism of repentance. People, both priests and laypeople, have made the Church silly, and it is truly a miracle that anyone feels drawn to serve Her anymore. I would say there is no better proof of the Holy Spirit than this.

In most cases, the only way to feel anything from this is to be part of the show. I know this from experience. I played music for the Mass, taught Catechism to kids receiving their sacraments, helped with RCIA, joined in different Scripture studies, and even blogged (for over a year now) about the faith. I did these things with the hope of feeling God’s presence, of becoming holy; but more often, I felt unchallenged and self-satisfied.

So, I left my parish to find a place that took the faith more seriously, that would help a person like myself. That led to me attending a Latin Mass Parish, the only one in the metroplex. Here, I discovered the beauty of the Mass, the joy of true repentance a regular confession, and the real challenge of living as a Christian. Not surprisingly, I also discovered young people, big families, and three—three!—priests who acted more like fathers than like managers. Apparently, many more such Latin Mass priests of the FSSP order are being trained at their seminaries, proving that the Latin Mass succeeds in producing vocations to the religious life.

Even though I was not the darling that I was in my last parish—being a relatively young guy involved in church activities, a rarity in parishes dominated by women and the elderly—I felt uplifted here. They took the Mass seriously! They took the sacraments seriously! They took prayer seriously!  Jesus was not my indifferent friend who overlooked my many faults, but my Lord and Master, the Man of whom John the Baptist, Isaiah, and Paul speak, Who wanted perfect obedience from me.  

I believed there is hope for restless Catholics and it lies in recovering this reverence for the Holy Trinity. All churches, not just traditional ones, can do this. Reverence should permeate our prayers, our actions, and most importantly our liturgy for the Mass. Only after this can we show reverence to the earth and the poor as Pope Francis enjoins the faithful to do, or show reverence to our families and communities. Sincere reverence will restore dignity to life, and instill a true humility and respect for God’s many blessings. St. John the Baptist repeated this lesson endlessly and modeled it in the wilderness. On this feast day, all members of the Church should listen to John once more and prepare their souls for Christ.

7 comments:

  1. Being old enough to remember the pre-VaticanII days, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment... and feel sorry for those that haven't had that experience...though,perhaps not having had it, and thus having an inadequate frame of reference, it is easier to swallow the "blue pill" and believe the change was a good thing.

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  2. Reasons to Believe in Jesus


    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer
    347-417-4703
    http://www.newevangelization.info

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  3. Wow! I agree with what you wrote. The problem we have is that many of us were taught that it was okay to attend Mass "just the way you are". Jesus doesn't care that you are in your football jersey, just coming from practice or on your way to a pool party. As long as you attend Mass, Jesus is happy. All of society has gotten too relaxed and inconsiderate of others. I would love to see all of us embrace the change to go back to the way it was; to show reverence to Jesus and His House. Wouldn't it be nice to have all of us prepare to worship in our Sunday best? Not just on Easter and Christmas? A lot of this starts at home. But isn't it true that somehow the message of Jesus just wants you to show up was taken too far?
    Thank you for stating what you see. It certainly is right on the mark.

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  4. I’m glad that you found your home, your sense of belonging in your new Catholic Church. We all have to find our home where we feel comfortable and appreciated. Even if you gave to CCD, RCIA,and whatever other programs you helped out with, it seems that you expected something in return. You might have to ask yourself: who did you do all that for? Was it for your satisfaction that you would see results (wonderful conversions) or did you do it for God and God alone? I am having to ask myself the same question over and again.

    How do I love God? (which is different from how I love my neighbor.) I love God, not by works of mercy; He doesn’t need that. Obeying the commandments are only the first baby steps in loving Him. But as I mature, I love God by allowing Jesus to transform me into Him. When I condemn someone else, for whatever reason, I am not doing my part to be more like Jesus. “I did not come to condemn the world but to save it.” We become more like Jesus by forgiving others, praying for their conversion and dying to ourselves. Let’s help save these people instead of condemning them.

    How do we love our neighbor? By works of mercy. By serving them “where they are”!!! We must ‘make ourselves one’ with the other person. Put ourselves in their shoes. Once you have teenagers you will see what I mean. You can give them all the advice and best ways to behave and talk and serve others, but you cannot force them to do it. You can condemn them, yell at them, ground them and take every devices they have away from them, but you will not change them. Only love will change them. We can talk about ‘what is more love in this situation’ (tough love) but it will be a form of love that will change them.

    So my advice? Direct your passions to God, for God. Keep your determination and energy, just steer it in a different direction. Offer up all your frustrations and you will become more like Jesus. Why do you think the martyrs were so happy when they knew they were going to die for their faith? Because they understood the meaning of ‘when a grain of wheat dies.' They had achieved their goal! And their goal was to bring others to Christ. By giving their lives, they gave others Jesus. They knew that Jesus didn’t change this world when He was here, so they also knew that they would not be changing this world either. It’s not in the plans, until He comes again.

    The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians. We can only help God by dying to ourselves. Our daily sacrifices / offerings and acts of love that only God knows about are the best. I don’t want anyone to know of my hardships because by offering it to God, it is a more precious gift to Him. Of course, I fail - all the time, but that is my dream.

    My 72 year old neighbor is losing his eyesight due to macular degeneration. His wife caught him standing at the backdoor looking out at the rain for a long time. She asked him if he was ok. He said he was working on “acceptance” of going blind. That is what all of us have to work on: acceptance of a situation that after we have tried our best, we have to accept the situation as it is and Let It Go!!!

    ‘Shake the sand from your sandals’ theme is not about ‘good riddance’ of someone….. like in the churches / people you didn’t like. I think Jesus is telling us: don’t take all the regrets, resentments, and negativity with you that you encountered with someone as you journey on. Let It Go! These things will not help you but only hinder you, drag you down on your way to holiness.

    I try to ask myself often: why am doing what I’m doing? what is my motive? If I’m honest with myself, most of the time I cannot answer that it is for God Alone. I must start again so very many times a day, but only with God’s Grace will I be able to change that.

    Godspeed Benedict Augustine. I will be praying for you.

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    Replies
    1. I appreciate the prayers, thank you. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to address a few points you made in your comment.

      Overall, I find your advice saturated with a spirit of resignation more than any real hope. A Christian might say that Jesus would "meet people where they are," but he could not claim that Jesus stayed there with those people, nor did He expect those people to accept their own mediocrity. He met them, converted them, and expected them to imitate Him and bear the cross. He would raise mankind to His level, not the other way around.

      For this reason, Jesus sends out His disciples into the world to do the same. His recommendation to "shake off the dust" is immediately followed by "It will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town" (Mt 10:15). Nothing suggests that the disciples shake off their frustrations, a la Taylor Swift; rather, they must evangelize with the full knowledge that their failure to convince the people will possibly endanger those people's souls forever. They did not simply "live and let live," but had to convey the gospel with as much energy as they could muster.

      Instead of letting these empty platitudes about tolerance and acceptance guide our behavior, let us apply Jesus' actual words: "Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn and tear you to pieces" (Mt 7:6). Do we not do this with the Eucharist? I'll admit that some parishes have taken a few small steps to restore some seriousness to the Eucharist, but this means little when the Host is distributed by laymen, taken in the hand, and often consumed in ignorance by the person receiving It—all to a cheesy hymn disrupting the prayerful tone of this Sacrifice. As Christ warned, when we treat His Body and Blood so cheaply, we invite indifference and even rebellion from our audience.

      Although I am not a parent of teenagers, I do teach them English for a living. I can say with experience that they quickly lose interest in things that are easy, and they actually hate things that seem arbitrary and based on emotions. They want to learn something real and master it – hence, the great appeal of sports and band. At Youth Night and CCD, we only asked their compliance; we never asked them to excel and become saints. In essence, we told them, "Just come to all the meetings, be a good sport, and you can get your sacraments and the title of 'Catholic.'" At the bequest of their parents, they attended, yawned through the lessons and corny activities, and finally got their sacraments from a church that they never intended to enter again after they moved out of the house.

      I sometimes wonder what would happen if we asked the kids to do Confession regularly, oncee every 1-2 weeks? And then ask them to perform different penances like fasting and various kinds of mortification? What if we wanted them to adopt different devotions and prayer routines, attend the Adoration, and say the rosary every day? And what if their parents did this too? True, some people might find this harsh and find a more "family-friendly" church, but I think most people would finally realize the power of living the devout life. The gospel would make sense, and holiness would abound.

      You’re right that we should direct our passions to God—along with our mind, our will, and our body. But catering to the tastes of the supposed masses seems to direct our efforts more towards ourselves than towards God. We pat ourselves on the back for creating a good show, spreading positive feelings, and creating a wholesome environment for the kiddos. Considering what new challenges faces Catholics, this approach will not suffice—nor is it sustainable, seeing how many people continue to leave the Church. Quite simply, we need saints, and the way to produce saints is to hope in God and His Son, show Them reverence in the sacraments, and repent of our sins daily.

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    2. This is my second draft. My first draft consisted in responding to your comments. But then I thought again.

      I will not convince you nor will you convince me. Beauty / Wisdom Truth are all in the eyes of the beholder. There is only one Truth but we both have our own passionate perspective.

      My original post should have just said, "When my teens complain about 'anything' I tell them I will not listen to their words until they give me 3 soulutions as to how THEY can make it better. That is now my only advice to you.

      I do not read blogs so as to listen to more complaining about what is wrong with our church. I try to read blogs that inspire me to want to live a holier life.

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  5. It is within the Christian purview to offer correction gently when warranted--gently being the key word. B.A.'s point about the lack of reverence in front of the True Presence is valid and truthful, and a reflection of the general lack of reverence prominent in our culture today. As Catholics, we have an opportunity to be counter-cultural by showing great reverence for Our Lord within our churches, but unfortunately I must agree that in a general sense collectively in many places we have lost sense of what is holy.

    If an important dignitary were present and seated at the altar, would people carry on after Mass the way so many do--talking loudly, raucous laughter, etc? It would be very rude to do so. Yet we don't have a sense that we can be quite rude when we do that just feet from where our Lord is.

    Cardinal Arinze has the following lovely reflection on the importance of reverence in the Eucharistic celebration, in which he notes that it is sad that people " converse freely inside the church as soon as the last blessing is given, as if they were leaving a sports stadium or theater." http://www.adoremus.org/1203Arinze.html

    Let us be people who show great respect an awareness of the Lord's presence!

    Ellen

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