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, June 30, 2015

Mt 8:23-27 Getting Through Life

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

By FR. ALFONSE NAZZARO

As Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him.  Suddenly a violent storm came up on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by waves; but he was asleep.

His disciples followed him.  Do you want to make your life harder than it has to be?  Then follow Him.  Do you want to make it more challenging and thrilling than it already is?  Then follow Him. 

Get in the boat and sail away into the big and bad and dark storm.

Today's Gospel passage is perfect for personal meditation. 

Are you going through some tough times right now?  Is your marriage falling apart?  Are your  kids a disaster?  Are you unhappy with your life?  Do you feel uncomfortable in your own skin?  Do you feel like our country is ruining itself?  Are you sick?  Are you alone?  Are you clinging to people?  Are you experiencing a mid-life crisis? 

If any of these things are happening to you right now, then re-read today's Gospel passage and begin to reflect on it.

He was asleep.  The Lord was sound asleep as the boat was being swamped by waves.  Asleep?  How could He be asleep?  Isn't this the number one criticism directed towards God - towards organized religion?  And hasn't Christianity made things worse by claiming God a loving Father (the Father) who is aware of all that is happening?

Does God fall asleep often or just when we need Him?

O you of little faith.  Last night I watched a very interesting movie.  It was about spies and agents and other cool stuff.  Now part of the movie was about training new agents.  One test involved all the cadets jumping out of a plane and landing on top of a certain target.  The tricky part would be the landing, at least that's what they all thought. 

One by one they jumped.  The jump went well.  But as they were falling from the sky, the instructor made an astonishing announcement.  He told the group that one of their peers had no parachute.  The test quickly became a test on sacrifice and teamwork. 

From thousands of feet above the ground, the sky divers quickly grouped together.  One by one they pulled the ripcord until only two cadets remained.  As the final two hung on to each other, one of them pulled the ripcord.  It worked.  The cadet without a chute was saved.  But he was upset! Immediately after landing, he marched over to the instructor and demanded to know why he was left without a parachute.

Why me?  Did you think I was the dispensable one? 

Easy, son!  Did you ever think of pulling your ripcord? 

The instructor leaned forward and pulled the cadets ripcord.  Immediately, his parachute opened up. 

All of them had a parachute. 

We are perishing.  Near the end of the movie, the main instructor clearly states what everyone suspected:  the cadets were never in danger of perishing. 

Christ feels the same way.  I will never let you perish.  This is why He can look His Apostles in the eyes and on the boat and in the midst of a storm and say, "Why are you terrified?  O you of little faith."  Don't you know I would never let you perish!!!

So is the Lord testing them?  I don't think so.  What I believe He is doing is teaching them to call out to Him.  He is telling them, You can't do life without me. 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mt 16:13-19 Steadfast

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

By KATIE GROSS

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

Today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, two of the most important men in the early Church. Saint Peter, as this part of Matthew’s Gospel recounts, was the first Pope. Saint Paul wrote thirteen out of twenty books of the New Testament, known as the Pauline Epistles, or perhaps better known as all of those books named after cities that you can’t pronounce. In today’s Gospel, we read Peter’s profession of faith. When I read this beautiful profession of faith, I wish that I had faith like Peter.  But when I read in the first reading about Peter’s imprisonment and persecution… well… I’m not so sure that I want it anymore. You see, I want Peter’s cleverness but not his crucifixion. I want Paul’s eloquence but not his imprisonment. And as many people—perhaps even many of us Christians—want, I want Christ but not the cross.

Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is afraid of hardship. If something doesn’t feel right, or isn’t easy, we are told nine times out of ten that there is a way to remedy the situation, and that the situation should be remedied at all costs. Too many pregnant mothers have been told that they should simply “take care of the situation” by ending the life of the child—that way, they can go on without the burden of parenthood. Too many young people have been told that they should resort to drugs and alcohol to take care of deeper insecurities—that way, they don’t have to face their issues. Perhaps most egregiously, I once saw a fa├žade for a business called “Soft Divorce.” Their slogan?“Because divorce doesn’t have to be hard.” More succinctly put, there is something about human nature that makes us terribly averse to all forms of hardship.

What must we do, then? As Christians, we must live in the example of Christ. We must not fear hardship, but instead take up our crosses and set an example of self-sacrifice in the pursuit of a greater good.

This is quite a simplistic example of trying to avoid a cross, but I think it serves its purpose. Not too long ago, all of my friends were struggling through finals week of junior year. This is more colloquially known as “Hell Week,” when every student is faced with the hardest tests of their life in conjunction with the pressure of knowing that said tests could tank their transcript—the only one that ever matters for college. Fortunately for me,after exemptions and such, my schedule worked out so that I only had two finals during Hell Week. As everyone sat worrying and compulsively checking the minimum GPAs for their dream schools, I slept in until afternoon exams. When I did have to go in to school, I sat in the library and watched Netflix on my laptop. It was basically like I was already on summer vacation. Then, on Friday, I watched the excitement of all of my friends who had just completed the biggest trial of the year. In contrast,I had nothing to be excited about. After all, I had barely been tested.

You see, as simple as my example may be, it proves a point—just sailing by in life with minimum effort is ultimately unsatisfying. Sometimes hardship is necessary to make us stronger. Hardship builds character. And after being tested, one can join in with St. Paul in saying: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Notice that St. Paul didn’t say, “I have competed to an extent; I have gotten by in the race; I have done an okay job at keeping the faith.” That’s not what we are made for.

That being said, even when we give our best effort to take up our crosses, we will still find our faith challenged. Most of these challenges will come from others around us who may not understand the Christian view of hardship. They may think that our choice to take up our cross is not worthwhile. They may mock our faith. Psalm 42:10, one of the Suffering Servant passages of the Old Testament, illustrates this well: “It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me, when they say to me every day: ‘Where is your God?’… my tears have been my bread day and night, as they ask me every day, ‘Where is your God?’”  Some people just may never understand that sometimes it’s worthwhile to not take the easy way out, or the most “efficient” or “logical” route. We must still persevere in carrying our crosses, and we must never abandon our faith.  Look at St. John Paul II. As his mental soundness declined, so many people questioned why he was even persevering in his role as Pope. It wasn’t efficient for him to be suffering through his tasks. He could have retired quietly and had someone else take over. But he didn’t. And his example of suffering with dignity has inspired many.

In summation: we can’t have Christ without the cross. As the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul illustrate, for every triumph in our Christian lives, there will be a challenge. We must willingly take up these crosses, and never bow to the pressure to forsake our faith in times of hardship.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Mt 8:5-17 Lord, I Am Not Worthy

Saturday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

By JENNIFER BURGIN

The centurion said in reply,   “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;  only say the word and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;  and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith....

"Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed." -- I love these beautiful words proclaimed at Mass. How small I am compared to Our Lord's greatness!  How much I love the Lord and He loves me!  Such words soak into my heart as I prepare for reception of the Holy Eucharist.

I am unworthy to receive Jesus under my own roof, a dwelling not always clean and tidy. I stockpile bad thoughts, stow away weaknesses, or attempt to hide my sins.  Yet, the Lord sees everything I do as if I live in a glass house.  Why hide my struggles, temptations, and transgressions when the Lord is ready to forgive and heal?

In today's gospel reading, the centurion stands in front of Jesus, humbled and contrite.  In fact, Jesus is so impressed by the Gentile's faith that he heals his servant through word alone.  No laying of hands.  This is like when we receive the Eucharist.  We eat and drink the body of Christ who is no longer physically present but spiritually with us.  The Eucharist provides communicants with the strength to persevere through life no matter what obstacles.

Under the roof of "Our Common Home"  I'm reading and reflecting on Pope Francis' new encyclical Laudato Si.   I find his message on the care of the environment very thoughtfully written with excellent biblical references.  I don't quite understand why some people are quick to politicize his words, misinterpreting them in a negative manner. Our environment, that is our common homeis in shambles and needs total reconstructionand preservation!  Humans beings, no matter what political affiliation, have trashed, abused, and neglected Mother Earth for way too long.  It's time for change on so many fronts; however, the most important first step is to make people fully aware, regardless if they believe God is the Creator, of the need to protect our environment from further destruction.  The Pope is making a valiant effort to inform and spark discussion across all environmental platforms.  I commend his initiative.

In light of today's gospel reading, I wonder if some people consider themselves not worthy to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve water or recycle. (In other words, indifference takes over initiative.) On the flip side, do others think they are worthy (entitled) to use and abuse the earth's natural resources, expecting an endless supply.  

Pope Francis discusses the fact that environmental degradation mostly affects the impoverished in the world.  I think about entrepreneurs and mega corporations utilizing their own sense of worthiness to exploit valuable land resources.  The poorest of the poorare left with unclean drinking water, polluted air, toxic soil, and little chance of economic prosperity.  This is socially and morally wrong.   We are all unified, gloried, and linked together as God's creation.  When we neglect the environment as well as other human beings, we are saying to God, "I don't care about the world or the people in it!"  Sadly, I worry about how our environment will hold up for future generations.  

I'd like to conclude with a passage taken from Chapter 2 of Laudato Si.  It's especially poignant in relation to today's meditation. I highly recommend reading the entire encyclical from start to finish. Reflect on the following questions:   How can you apply some of the Pope's ideas on care of the environment in your own life or in the life of your parish?  How can you become more environmentally friendly?  

"At times we see an obsession with denying any pre-eminence to the human person; more zeal is shown in protecting other species than in defending the dignity which all human beings share in equal measure. Certainly, we should be concerned lest other living beings be treated irresponsibly. But we should be particularly indignant at the enormous inequalities in our midst, whereby we continue to tolerate some considering themselves more worthy than others. We fail to see that some are mired in desperate and degrading poverty, with no way out, while others have not the faintest idea of what to do with their possessions, vainly showing off their supposed superiority and leaving behind them so much waste which, if it were the case everywhere, would destroy the planet. In practice, we continue to tolerate that some consider themselves more human than others, as if they had been born with greater rights."
 (Paragraph 90)

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof.  However, I am responsible for care of my common home.  I love you and I praise you.  This means I will respect others around me as well as the land, the water, the soil, the animals, and the plants that surround me.   They are all precious gifts of your creation!  Amen!


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

Mt 7:15-20 So Many Different Trees

Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing,
but underneath are ravenous wolves.
By their fruits you will know them.
Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Just so, every good tree bears good fruit,
and a rotten tree bears bad fruit.
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit,
nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.
Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
and thrown into the fire.
So by their fruits you will know them.”

As the video on modesty began to finish up in Theology class, I could hear the indignant conversations. “They don’t know how hard it is to find clothes like that today!” “Why should I let a bunch of old white men tell me what to do?” “Why do I even care? They just keep saying the same things over and over again. It doesn’t even make any sense.”

I’m going to take one of these comments--the one about the “old white men.” One of the things I love about the Catholic church is that there are so many different “good trees” just like in today’s Gospel. And just as trees have many different species, such as oaks and maples and dogwoods, so too does the Catholic Church have so many different kinds of people, not just at the parish level, but at the cardinals’ level as well. Cardinals come from all over the world, from Africa, South America, and Europe. They come from so many different backgrounds; some were married before becoming priests, some entered the seminary at a very early age. Some were atheists before they became Catholic, some have been devout Catholics their whole lives. And when they meet, I can only imagine the animated discussions that they must have about the tenets of the Catholic faith and its teachings. So the Church does not encapsulate only one group of people by skin color or age, nor by intellectual ability or faith. No one can say that one single group of people is the Catholic church, for we are all the Body of Christ.

Everyone has questions about the Catholic faith. It’s so natural because there’s so much to question and then, of course,  that eternal question--but how do they really know that there’s a God? How do they really know that this is the right way? But when you read the teachings on human sexuality or the gift of human life, the writing is very logical. Every aspect of a question is considered before it is answered. And then there are groups such as those behind Chastity.com, which seek to illuminate the teachings of the Catholic Church on issues such as birth control, abortion, etc. in a way that is supported by scientific studies and additional analysis for the average lay person. And the amount of logic in the teachings of the Catholic Church also makes sense, because those who write down these teachings always invoke the Holy Spirit. If you knock, the door will be opened.

Beyond just reading the Bible, I would encourage everyone to open up the Catechism and read it for five minutes or so, on any topic. The Catholic Church is so beautifully intellectual and it really is amazing to read the text of its teachings.

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.

Monday, June 22, 2015

See you in the Eucharist.

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

By FAITH NOAH

The following post was published originally on LifeTeen.com.

 “See you in the Eucharist.”

Those five words have become a fairly common farewell among my pals in the Catholic group at college. Is it just Catholics being weirdos again? Perhaps.

But, more likely, it’s a simple reminder to us of the transcendence of the Eucharist—the power the Mass has to unite us. Only there, before the Eucharist, do we come together as one Church. Not one parish, or one diocese even, but one eternal, universal, and united Church.

GOODBYES DON’T EXIST

My college chaplain told us about how a lady in his parish was leaving to enter cloistered religious life. She had to say goodbye to one of her good friends, who was sad to realize that she would probably never see the nun-to-be again.

“But that’s not true,” she told her friend. “I will see you every day in the Eucharist.”

So what does that mean? How could this holy woman believe that this wasn’t goodbye?

Well, it wasn’t. Maybe it was the last time they would physically communicate with one another, but now they would be closer than ever.  

The two friends would be united for the rest of their lives—and after. Through praying for one another, they would be constantly in each other’s hearts. Through thinking of each other, they would be constantly in each other’s minds. And through going to Mass, they would “see” each other continually. In fact, they would see each other more clearly than if they were standing face to face.

The Eucharist brings us intimately close to each other, in such a way that cannot be experienced more fully until we reach heaven.

The Mass—the Celebration of the Eucharist—is heaven touching earth like an unforeseen kiss. Each time we participate in Mass, we enter into a mystery that has been celebrated since Christianity’s genesis. We remember a God who has existed since the beginning of time. And we prepare our hearts for a paradise that will persist with no end.

THE PAST:

The Mass isn’t merely repeating simple phrases because someone holy insists it. The Mass is not boring, or meaningless ritual. NO! The Mass is a holy union with God and His Church, a celebration of His victory that knows no earthly or timely limits.

Think about this: every Catholic who has ever lived has gone to the same Mass as you. Sure, maybe their language was unfamiliar or certain responses a bit different, but the Mass’ core essence has remained unchanged.

Name your favorite saint. St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Philip Neri, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. JP2 and more… all of them experienced the same thing we experience each time we go to Mass.
And not only did they experience the same Mass as us, but they still are experiencing this Mass. Each time the Holy Spirit descends upon the Bread and Wine, we look up at the Eucharist…and the saints look down, gazing upon the very same Eucharist. From up in heaven, they adore the same Real Presence of Christ.

In fact, they adore the Lord constantly, celebrating the Eucharist without end. Heaven is a never ending Mass, and not the so-called “boring” kind either.

THE PRESENT:

Not only do you see all the saints in heaven at Mass, but also…you see every Catholic on earth right now. You see your brothers and sisters in Christ, those who, regardless of their geography or language, partake in the same mysteries and same Church as you.

For this reason, when my friend says goodbye to me to leave for a year-long trip, I don’t have to bawl my eyes out. I can assure her of my prayers and say, “See you in the Eucharist.” Then I know that, no matter where in the world she is, we are united each time one of us kneels before His throne.

As Catholics, we are together as one Church always, both here on earth before the Eucharist and in heaven after our passing. Goodbye does not exist.

THE FUTURE:

And perhaps the most mind-blowing part of the Eucharist…you see Jesus. You see Him more clearly than you can ever hope to do through Scripture, each other, or even prayer. Because the Mass is heaven on earth, it is a preview of how clearly we will see Christ once we pass from this life.

Yes, this clarity is clouded by our human doubt and distractibility (been there many times, especially when babies are present). But that doesn’t diminish the FACT that Christ is there on that altar, more real than the pew beneath your butt.

There was a time when that pew didn’t exist. The wood for that pew didn’t even exist. And one day it will stop existing. But Christ? He’s not going anywhere.

“I will not leave you as orphans,” He tells us. “I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).

ONE BODY

Christ is not just in us; we are in Him. We are the Church. Each one of us makes up His Body. For this reason, the past, present, and future converge in celebration before Christ’s altar. We see Him and all those in Him.

The God that knows no limits brings us into His embrace. For that hour of worship, the Church celebrates as one family. We stand eternally united and infinitely treasured, closer than ever before.

There is no goodbye, just see you later.

See you in the Eucharist, friends.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Mk 4:35-41 Quieted and Stilled

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

By FR ALFONSE NAZZARO

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: "Let us cross to the other side." Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.  ...A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.  Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion.

Do you remember Adam Smith?  You know, the man who videotaped himself going through a drive through and slamming a young (and very kind) female attendant at Chick-fil-A?  Well, have you heard what has happened to him since?

He is living on food stamps with his wife and four children in the RV they are calling home.

Adam Smith went from CFO (and a $200,000 salary) to unemployable.  He said companies are afraid to hire him.  Why? They consider him to be a liability and a distraction. Unfortunately, his name will forever be associated with that awful conversation and video he envisioned and took and posted all by himself.

He has lost everything, except his wife and kids.  Thank God!

I do not condone at all what Adam did.  I just wish for him it didn't have to be forever.  Nature never intended human beings to relive their mistakes forever.  But that's what video (Youtube and the likes) does, for better and for worse.  You may be thinking, "Well, he should have known better!" Or, "He should have thought twice." Or, "He should have minded his own business."

Unfortunately, these arguments are meaningless since they ignore human nature.  We - He - is not robot but a human being, and human beings don't always act like they were programmed to.  

We, humans, are made up of lots of good physical and objective stuff.  But we also have plenty emotions and passions to go along with it all.  That's the way nature and our Creator intended things to be.  

I don't know how Adam does it.  I don't know how he doesn't blame himself or hate himself every single day.  I don't know how he doesn't break down and cry in front of his wife and kids and beg for their forgiveness.  Does he check every day to see how his name appears in Google?  Does he scan the internet to see if anyone wrote something positive about him?  Or does he stay far away from it.

Who will give him another chance?  Who will give him a chance to have another crack at life?  

I don't know if Adam is a believer.  I do know he isn't much different from the very first Adam who screwed his life up.  I also know he isn't much different from all of us.  I guess the only real difference is that we escaped the lens of the video camera.  

I feel sorry for Adam.  I think about him and his wife and children from time to time.  I'd love to reach out to him.  I'm sure he is an extraordinary man.  What would I tell him?  I'd share with him today's Gospel passage, where Christ took the raging seas and strong winds and calmed things done.  If He calmed these things down, then what's to prevent him from calming all things down, including us?


Saturday, June 20, 2015

2 Cor 12:1-10 Beauty Among the Thorns

Saturday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

By JENNIFER BURGIN

Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

year after I moved into my first home, I discovered a small wild rose bush growing in a flower bed.  It nestled perfectly along the fence.  I figured the wind transplanted a seed or two from a neighbor's yard.  The bush grew tall with gnarly thorns but no roses.  Every time I mowed the lawn I carefully cut back the rose bush's deformed leaves and stems.  One day I decided to dig up that ugly bush.  I always give plants a fighting chance but this one was too much trouble.  What's the use of keeping a plant that refuses to bloom? 

Mother Nature soon performed a miracle. The sick-looking rose bush finally produced tiny little blooms. Within a couple of days those blooms transformed into beautiful red roses.  The fragrance was exquisite, even attracting honey bees.  In my excitement, I cut a few roses for a nice bouquet.  I forgot all about those thorns until I felt a stinging on my arms.  A large thorn scratched the tar out of my flesh, drawing a few drops of blood.  I rushed back into the house, mumbling in pain, yet still happy with my prized roses.  

Beauty always lies among the thorns.... 

A rose only blooms for a short time; however, the thorns stay around for the life of the plant.  They snag, pick and prod.  When I think of thorns of a rose, I think of the thorns of everyday life.

Thorns constantly poke us at different angles and in different directions.  Thorns of hatred penetrate our gut causing us to get upset at people and situations we find appalling.  Thorns of pride allow us to think we are "better" than others in terms of status, power, and wealth.  Thorns of addiction draw us into a parallel life; a life consumed by drugs, alcohol or sex where fantasy becomes a way to mask the pain of reality. Thorns of disability, both physical and mental, cause us to doubt ourselves and our self-worth.  We are overly-conscience of our weaknesses and maybe even think that people loathe us for our imperfections.  It's as if the thorns dig deeper and deeper into our skin - a permanent reminder of our human defects.

In today's scripture reading from 2 Corinthians, Saint Paul speaks about possessing his own thorn in the flesh. Biblical scholars are uncertain about the specific "weakness" Paul refers to.  Some think he had a problem with stuttering; others contribute the weakness to a problem with his sight or even a mental illness such as bipolar disorder.  All we know is that Paul was tormented by this "thorn" given to him by an angel of Satan.  He begged God to remove it.  Yet, the Lord left Paul's weakness a part of his life.  Instead of making it disappear, God provided sufficient grace to persevere.  In fact, such perseverance in times of suffering only makes us stronger as we realize that God dwells within our hearts and minds.  We lift up our weaknesses and Christ transforms them into a beautiful reminder of his deep love for us!  As Saint Paul wrote, "I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me."  Amen!

Sometimes we blame God for all of the thorns in our lives.  We become so debilitated by our own weaknesses that we do not see the silver linings.  The only way for us to grow and develop into holier people is to take the bad and transform it into something good and meaningful. God didn't create life to be all roses but challenging enough so we will rely on His mercy and grace.

The famous French philosopher Voltaire once wrote, Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.”   To pass through life's thorns requires faith and trust in Christ.  The Lord uses our weaknesses as an instrument forgrowth. We are much better Christians when we can weed through life's thorns, fairly unscathed and tightly bound to Christ!  


 “Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lies in sweetest bud.
All men make faults.”  

-William Shakespeare


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

Friday, June 19, 2015

Mt 6:14-15 Take A Walk

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

By SOPHIE DRUFFNER

"If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

Family arguments: lots of yelling, name-calling, and screaming by people who would die if only to save you. And then, the make-ups: “You’re not sorry.” “You don’t mean that.” “You’re just going to do the same thing again.” “You said sorry last time.” And then, the forgetting, and the repeat a few months later…

How much more God feels hurt when we repeat the same transgression over and over again. “God, I’m sorry.” “I won’t do it again.” How many times He could say, if He chose: “You’re not sorry.” “You don’t mean that. “You’re just going to do the same thing again.” “You said sorry last time.”  

But he doesn’t.

And he keeps forgiving us all over again. He sees us when we say that insult under our breath, the anger we feel when someone insults us, the pain we feel when we wish that we could have drew back our hand at that last moment. It’s really incredible that he could keep forgiving us even til the final moments of our lives—we can say “sorry” even then, if we mean it! For even the most heinous of crimes. And God will only forgive us.

But even though God will forgive us, who wants to hurt Him again and again and again? So before you insult your husband or your mother-in-law, before you say something that you know will hurt them, close your mouth and turn away. Before you wish to hurt someone just as bad as they hurt you, unclench your fists and walk away.

I read somewhere that physical exercise is the best thing when you’re mad. It reduces the tension you feel and lets you get all that anger out with ever footfall on the cement. And with every footfall, you are one step farther away from your problems and with distance, the problem diminishes.

So next time you’re seconds away from a huge family fight, close your mouth, turn around, and go for a walk. Come back when you realize that there’s a simple way to talk about whatever’s bothering you, or when you realize that problem wasn’t worth worrying about at all. Enjoy the sunlight on the trees, the way the suburban flowers look at you with all their colors ablaze, the way the sun warms you, the way the wind dries the cool sweat on your face, the scents of the newly-mown grass. Then think about how the other people in the soon-to-be argument feel, what they might think of the problem, and if the problem is really worth worrying about at all. Then come back, apologize, and start talking, but only if the problem is really as big as you think it is. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mt 6:1-18 What’s the point of being good if no one notices?

IWednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE

"Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them..."

In a world where actions and results take precedent over thoughts and intents, Jesus’ words on how to give, fast, and pray seem excessive. Is it not enough that people do these things in the first place? In light of the gospel passage in the Mass readings eight days ago, in which Jesus informs His disciples that their “light must shine before other that [the people] may see their good deeds” (Mt 5:16), it seems contradictory to now tell them to keep their good deeds secret. If the Church has any chance of spreading, her disciples must show the world how pious and joyful they are.

However, this modern way of thinking confuses the meaning of Christ’s commands to evangelize. He does not want Christians to market and sell a product, but to share and love God Almighty. Marketing deals with appearances; sharing deals with reality. Selling works with the external; loving works with the internal. When people treat their faith in God as a nifty self-help program or a specific political agenda—a common failing among the Pharisees, Sadducees, and nearly all Pagan religions of that time—that faith dies and few people are truly converted. Christ does not want His listeners to simply support and follow Him, but rather believe in His Father and orient their whole lives to Him.

In matters of Christian conversion, the means do not justify the ends because both means and ends are the same. Christ is the Way (means) and the Truth (end) and the Life (means and end). The disciple cannot live a holy life without Jesus, and he cannot trade off a holy life for a sinful reward with Jesus’s help.

Unfortunately, many will try all the same. They will make a spectacle of their good deeds to win more fans, earn more respect, and reassure their own egos. With this, they can have more influence and thus power to recreate the world in their image. A billionaire can fund many projects that help others, which also helps to build his brand and puts people under his charge. The rock star who raises money with a charity concert also happens to raise money for himself by increasing his audience. And all those organizations intent on serving the poor and neglected in society often end with simply serving their own organization. Charity quickly departs God’s holy realm and enters the man-made realms of politics, economics, and entertainment.

Intentions obviously matter, and bad intentions will yield bad results. Christians must give with intention of loving the other: he is not a politician hoping to have another vote; he is not a salesman hoping to hook another client; and he is not a celebrity looking to have another admirer. If he gives with intent of loving, he gives freely and wishes freedom for the receiver. He gives as Jesus gives, with the hope of liberating and empowering the other.

The giver should not expect gratitude, though he does show gratitude towards God for having the chance to give. He only prays for the receiver’s conversion so that he may experience the same joy that comes from a life of faith. Jesus feeds thousands, but He does this for the purposes of conversion, not the purpose of winning political support as the crowd wants to think. Jesus heals the blind, sick, and possessed, again for the same reason, yet people still refuse to look beyond the spectacle despite His repeated injunctions to do so.

People both then and now have grown so accustomed to suspecting selfish motives that they cannot even fathom a selfless act. Most of them will believe that a selfless act is logically impossible. It is true that “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). God makes this way out of oneself possible with His Son. With the gifts of faith and hope, a person can love selflessly.

One might object that even if this disciple loves selflessly, he only does so to earn a place in Heaven and avoid Hell, making him a hypocrite. But then again, what is Heaven but union with God, and Hell but a divorce from Him? And what is God but Love? With this in mind, the Christian loves another person here on earth in order to love God in Heaven for eternity. Because he believes and hopes in Love, he loves and performs an act of sacrifice. This is God, not the self, at work. This kind of love is therefore infinitely different from the man who loves because he fears public disapproval or seeks some kind of gratification.


Christ does not want Christians to hide their good deeds; He wants them to hide themselves. Good deeds should only glorify God. If they are truly good, then they originate from God anyway and only He should be credited. Once this is understood and practiced, that person’s good deeds can spawn other good deeds and spark conversion. People will not make the mistake of worshipping the creature, but rather look beyond to the Creator. They will convert, not for their own sake, not for someone else’s sake, but for God’s sake. And when they do this, they may love selflessly and all the more joyfully. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mt 5:38-42 What To Do When Others Slap

Monday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
 
By KATIE GROSS
 
Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well.
If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic,
hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service for one mile,
go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you,
and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.”

It seems like every time I write for Father Alfonse’s blog lately, I write about the topic of persecution. I promise that I am not trying to be a downer or play the victim, but the hard truth is that this is a hard society to live in as Christians. It is a society where we must pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, grow a thick skin, and be ready to answer challenges to our faith. But first and foremost, it is a society that compels us to return to the Gospel, finding Christ as our model for action in persecution.
 
In today’s first reading, St. Paul is somewhat of a prophet in regards to how Christians are treated in modern society:

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
as dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
as sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many;
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.

How profound! You see, what St. Paul realized is that paradoxically, for every beautiful thing we believe about our faith, the world believes the opposite about it. Many members of society believe we are “deceivers”—take the Josh Duggar casefor example. Many believe we are “unrecognized,” a “dying” Church out of touch with the advances of modernity. Many believe we are “sorrowful” or “poor,” imposing an archaic form of life on ourselves instead of embracing whatever false freedomthe world offers us. More succinctly, as St. Paul concludes, many believe that as Christians we “havenothing.”Unfortunately, from the outside looking in, that is precisely how many people view our faith.

From the inside looking out, this negativity is incredibly frustrating. As Christians, we know that by rejecting the Church, society rejects true fulfillment. Here’s a little metaphor. Do you ever notice that the hungrier you get, the more you want junk food? At noon, you may have wanted a salad, but if you go until 2PM without eating lunch, you then want a double fudge brownie. And then, when you give into that brownie, you inevitably feel sick. For some reason, the more desperate you get for food, the more you desire things that will not satisfy your hunger in a healthy way. For some reason, our sinful naturemakes us approach our faith in the same way. The more we desire love, acceptance, community, etc., the more we are tempted to seek counterfeits for these things that will leave us unfulfilled and spiritually sick. For example, a young person may gossip because it makes her feel better about herself, while that dignity she seeks for herself can only come from Christ. An adult may chase after unhealthy relationships, while that love that he seeks can only come from Christ. A person who feels alienated or rejected may resort to despair, while that acceptance and community he seeks can only come from Christ. Paradoxically, they push away the one person that will fulfill them.
 
 Sometimes, we just want to grab these people by their shirt collars and just shake them, yelling, “Don’t you realize that you’re totally missing out! You’ve got it all wrong!” It can make us want to lash out, or cause us to be defensive. We can easily wrap ourselves up in arguments on social media or in conversation in an attempt to defend our faith. We may even have the best interests of the person in mind, desperately wanting them to see that they can find fulfillment in Christ. But what are we forgetting by arguing?
 
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. We must never forget that Christ is our model in all things. He bore the ultimate persecution and humiliation. And what did he do?  “Though harshly treated, he submitted and did not open his mouth; Like a lamb led to slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
 
This is where I struggle. I am bold, and I love a good argument. I want to go out and right all the wrongs with some great logical argument. But the truth is, arguments never change hearts. I once heard a homily from a priest who loved the showThe Office, as do IIf you don’t watch that show, here’s a little five minute summary of the whole series—Michael Scott is an egotistical, self-centered man who only changes his ways when he falls in love with a woman named Holly Flax. The thing is,people had told Michael that he was egotistical for his entire life. People had argued with him about being more considerate. But he only changed when he fell in love, and realized that his love for another person necessitated a change in his life.
 
Only love changes people’s hearts and minds! Even if you don’t know The Office, you surely know the Gospel. Think about the centurion who saw Jesus immediately following his death, hanging on a cross. Seeing his vulnerability and lovingself-sacrifice, he cried, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). Now, imagine how things would be different if Jesus had fought his crucifixion. Imagine if he had preachedfrom the cross that all of his persecutors were bound for hell.There is no way that such behavior or such arguments would have changed that centurion’s heart. The centurion would have written him off as another religious zealot and gone about his way.
 
St. Augustine is one saint who gets me. Every time I get frustrated, I remember a simple phrase that he once wrote: “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” You see, many of us are well acquainted with Anger. Anger is easy. But Courage is difficult. Courage requires us to step back from our selfish desire to argue and follow the self-sacrificial example of Christ.
 
This is all great and lovely—“flowery language,” as my English teacher once called it. But how do we actually enact the example of Christ in the face of persecution? Say that someone calls you a name for being a Christian. Say that someone gives you a funny look. Say that someone excludes you from conversation. What do you do? Smile and bear it patiently. Sure, be angry at the injustice. But have the courage to bear it as Christ did. In doing so, we can have hope that Christ will use our obedience to his example in order to change hearts and minds.