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!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jn 1:1-18 All Because Of Him

Jn 1:1-18 All Because Of Him

(Click here for readings)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

“In the beginning” is the perfect passage as we approach the end of another year. No life is similar. No day is really similar. Today, I find myself writing from Israel. Next year, who knows? Some things change. Some things never change. God never changes. He is the first and the last. His reign never ends; mercy endures forever; his offer of salvation remains open to all now and forever.

Today’s Gospel passage is the same that is used on Christmas day. Christ is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. All things, all people, great or small revolve around him, like it or not. History orbits around him. The powerful revolve around him. The meek and humble of heart are surrounded by Him. Christ is King, regardless of whether or not he is lying in a manger, sitting on a donkey, or nailed to a cross!

This morning I celebrated Mass at the Shepherd’s field in Bethlehem. It is a beautiful patch of grass land that is used even today. We know that the angels approached shepherds in this region, near to where I celebrated Mass. All the Shepherds in Bethlehem know these fields. Now I know them too.

In this morning’s tour, our local guide asked us an interesting question. He started by reminding us that one of the most beautiful representations of Jesus known to man is that of the Good Shepherd; that is, Christ carrying a sheep on his back. This image is very well known to every Christian. But why would Jesus carry a little lamb on his back? Why would any shepherd carry a lamb on their back? As we were approaching the fields, I, along with the others on our bus, actually saw two young shepherds running after a poor little lost sheep. What I didn’t know is that the lost sheep are almost always the new ones, the little ones. You see, they don’t know the Shepherd’s voice, not yet. And so, they normally run away. Therefore, what a typical shepherd will do is break one of its legs. That’s right! The Shepherd will break one of the little lamb’s legs so that it cannot escape and must be carried for a few months. In this manner, the little creature will begin a close relationship with the shepherd and will recognize his master’s voice and by the time that the fracture is healed. It will no longer run away.

While everyone in the group was visibly disturbed at the thought of a little lamb being harmed, I, on the contrary, was meditating and reflecting. I dared to say, in my homily to them, that it would be beautiful if the Lord would break my “spiritual” leg (my crutch you may say) and carry me upon his shoulders! How beautiful it would be to be dependent upon Him so as to know Him, to recognize Him and to fall in love with Him while being so close to Him! Imagine the thought!

What the tour guide failed to mention is that the image of the Good Shepherd with the lost sheep upon his shoulders is also similar to another image that is universal in character: the image of the champion! In every culture the victor, the champion, the winner is always carried upon the shoulders of a man that is proud of him, knows him and contributed to his success. Yes, behind (or under) every successful man is a Man that is even more successful! The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Christ is the alpha and omega, the first and the last. He is the first that makes himself last so that we can be first. You gotta love Him for that!

Happy New Year! Break a leg!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lk 2:22-40 The Holy Family

Lk 2:22-40 The Holy Family

(Click here for readings)

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon…There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.

What makes the Holy Family holy? I am more than convinced it is their faith. The Holy Family is a holy family because it is a strong family, and a strong family is a family that is strong in virtue and in faith.

This is the problem with our families today. They crumble and fall and end up upside down faster and easier than we would like to admit. Roles are reversed: children command and parents obey. And parents do not seem to mind. After all, who wouldn’t mind having someone make decisions for you? What a perfect way to point the finger at a parent, a teacher, a coach, a spouse and a priest; that is, someone other than yourself!

Today we drove by a neighborhood in Jerusalem that is inhabited by a sect of ultra-orthodox Jews. These men and women neither work or pay taxes. They do not vote nor do they participate in any way with the State of Israel, except enrolling themselves on its welfare system. Their young, in fact, do not even serve in the military! I asked our tour guide, “How can this be?” He told me flat out, “They do not believe in the State of Israel. They do not even speak Hebrew. They speak Yiddish. They are against the State of Israel because it is not governed the way they would want to see it governed…by religious men! Therefore, they distance themselves from others, exclude others from entering their neighborhoods and defend their families and way of life to death!”

Interesting enough, the number of ultra-orthodox Jews is on the rise. Why? Because their faith is strong and that makes their families strong. They have large families, eight to nine children per family. Dating is out of the question. All marriages are arranged by a matchmaker who knows everyone by name. The divorce rate among them is negligible, even though divorce is allowed.

What about us? How are we doing back in the United States of America, home of the free? Well, the divorce rate among married couples is fast approaching 3:4. The number of children per family is shrinking. We are witnessing an alarming increase in unmarried couples, divorced couples, single parent households, etc… What have been the consequences? Devastating! Our children grow up weak. They stand up for nothing and believe in nothing except for a few fuzzy sentimental notions such as peace, love and civic duty. They are insecure about themselves; fear grips them about their looks, their weight, and their datability. What is missing is faith in God, faith in His ways, faith in family and faith in the future. A good dose of virtue and faith is what every single family in America is in need of. Why not? They seem to take daily doses of just about everything, why not a single shot of faith and virtue? After all, this is all the Holy Family possessed. This is all we need too.

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (from today’s Collect)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Lk 2:22-35 To See Him

Lk 2:22-35 To See Him

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Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

Theodore Herzl was the leader of the Zionist movement in the 19th century. His dream was to see the creation of a nation for Jews. He did not live to see his dream come true; that is, to see the existence of the State of Israel.

In the late 19th century, he and his movement called out to all Jews around the world to leave the comforts of their adopted homelands and to settle in Palestine. He called it ‘alah, which means “to go up” or “ascend” to Jerusalem. Many Jews thought he was crazy. After all, why in the world would anyone voluntarily leave the comfort of their homes, their businesses, and their language (Hebrew was a dead language by this time) and start their lives all over again in an overheated wasteland that was Palestine? Regardless of the criticism, Herzl made his plea and many orthodox Jews answered. That was the first ‘alah. A second would follow in the early part of the 20th century, and those that would answer the call would be primarily socialists and communists.

Today in Israel you see two types of Jews: secular and orthodox. And both are at each other’s throats when it comes to setting national policy and direction. Being here in Israel, I think I would have more in common with an orthodox Jew than with a secular one. The funny thing is that I would probably be treated better by a secular Jew than by an orthodox Jew.

Beloved: The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar. (1Jn 2:3)

This morning I preached at the Dormition abbey in Jerusalem, a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. As a priest, it was a special honor and privilege to celebrate Mass in this beautiful sanctuary and to be physically present where Mary slept. What an experience of a life time! But I realized at that moment that I was not here in Jerusalem to gather more “facts” about the life of Christ. I was not even sent here to walk in his footsteps. I am not even here to take pictures (though there are plenty of people in our group that I will get pictures from!) No, I am not an archeologist, or a tourist or a historian. I am a believer, and believers exist in order to see the Lord. This is our giant leap of faith! All our decisions must be based on faith, hope and love. We cannot settle for baby steps. Knowing the Lord is an essential first step, but it is not the final step. I must love the Lord. But to love the Lord means to serve Him. And in today’s Gospel passage Simeon reminds us that if we serve Him, we shall see Him.

Anyone can say, “I know Jesus.” In fact, for far too many, this really means “I know myself”. These two statements end up being equivalent, for without faith, hope and love, I will end up creating God in my very own image.

Faith, hope and love are three essential ingredients that help us see the Lord of our days in our days and help to make our days much more mysterious, surprising, appealing, satisfying and digestible. Simeon waited all his life for this day. Mary was obedient all the days of her life. Joseph accepted this day like the other days.

This day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad! (Ps 118:24)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mt 2:13-18 The Innocent

Mt 2:13-18 The Innocent

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The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you”….When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet.

Mary and Joseph, the two most highly favored people on God’s list, are on the run. In fact, they will be fleeing, hiding and escaping for what appears to be their entire life. Is this how God treats his friends? No! God treats his friends very well. It is evil and confused men continue to pursue and attempt to discredit and destroy spiritual people. I think it is important that we get it in our heads that we can try to dialogue with the world, but in the end, the world will always try to gobble us up!

When I flew from Dallas to New York City, I carried with me my Mass kit. In the kit, I had a special container filled with wine for Mass. I did not check-in the metal box because I did not want to spend an extra fifty dollars for one extra piece of luggage. So I carried it with me and as soon as TSA scanned it, they called me over. They opened the Mass kit and asked me what was inside the container. I told them it was special wine for Holy Mass. The guard told me that I could not take it on board. I looked at him and told him that it was necessary for me to celebrate Mass. He did not seem convinced. He asked his supervisor and to my amazement I was allowed to bring it on board! The next day, for my flight from New York to Tel Aviv I had to go through another security check. Again, the TSA guard told me that I could not bring the wine on board, that is was strictly forbidden. I told the guard that it was for Mass. She told me that she was Catholic and understood but that I could not bring it on board. Then, to my amazement, she asked another supervisor and the supervisor told me that it would be ok. Then, right before boarding the airplane, we had a second security check. Again, my Mass kit was examined (for a third time now!) and again I was told by a different guard that I could not bring this wine on board. But, once again, to my amazement and without a single word from me, the same guard reversed himself and allowed me to bring the wine on board! So three times I was told I could not carry this wine on board and all three times they eventually allowed me to bring the wine on board. What is truly bizarre is that not a single time did they allow me to being my bottled water on board! I guess they thought that I could take the wine and turn it back to water!!!

How God loves to test us! How God loves to make us totally dependent and innocent to his Will and Love.

Just a few hours ago, after an almost fourteen hour flight (we waited for almost four hours at the gate), I arrived in Tel Aviv. On the way to Jerusalem, we stopped at a Church built upon the spot were King David, after defeating the enemy in Jerusalem, settled the Ark of the Covenant. This spot has been sacred for over six thousand years and I celebrated Mass there! I felt like a child in a cookie jar! Oh the beauty of first time experiences!

O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in you which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen. (Today’s opening prayer)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John 20: 1-8 Holding On For Dear Life

John 20: 1-8 Holding On For Dear Life

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When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

Two days after Christ’s birth do I see things differently? Is this another Christmas that has simply come and gone? Am I relieved it is over? Well, let’s not rush back so quickly to our daily grind! The Church will continue to celebrate Christ’s birth for another six days! Yes, we will continue to proclaim, celebrate and contemplate on the scandal of God becoming man, God becoming flesh and blood, God becoming an infant.

Think about it for a moment. Christ’s physical presence must have kept the Apostles going when they went through the dark nights of their souls. They must have recalled and repeated in their hearts and minds, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands, concerns the Word of life - for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was made visible to us.” (1Jn 1-4). The Apostle John wrote like this because to encourage his dying brothers and sisters to hold on for dear life to their faith. We too must learn from him. Regardless of the pain and suffering we endure, let us never forget the intimate contact we have had with the Lord. Let’s not wish Christmas away right away.

As I write this meditation, I do so from John F. Kennedy airport in New York City. I am finally excited about my trip to the Holy Land. It will be a beautiful continuation of Christ’s birth, Christ’s miracles, Christ’s sermons and Christ’s passion and resurrection. I just found out that when we visit Bethlehem, I will be celebrating Christmas Day Mass again! When we visit Jerusalem, the Mass will be of Easter Sunday. It turns out, regardless of the time of year, that all groups have permission from Rome to celebrate the Liturgy that corresponds to the life of Christ in that particular location. How wonderful! How amazing! How eternal! How everlasting! The City of God on earth! If only I would do that in my heart, mind and soul every day of my life!

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that the Word made flesh, proclaimed by the blessed Apostle John, may, through this mystery which we have celebrated, ever dwell among us. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Lk 2:15-20 Going To Bethlehem

Lk 2:15-20 Going To Bethlehem

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When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.

What is my least favorite thing about being a priest? I would have to say it is all the traveling that I must do.

Tomorrow, December 27th, I leave for the Holy Land. I will not be traveling alone. In fact, I will be with a group of approximately sixty pilgrims. A while back I was invited to be the group’s chaplain. I have no idea why I said yes, but I did. It was one of those God moments where the mouth speaks before the brain has time to think! A while back it sounded like a great idea. But now that the moment has arrived, I have been working very hard to get excited about the whole thing. I have been praying a lot about it.

On one particularly bad day, I began to complain about this trip to a good friend of mine that lives here in Dallas. I was on the phone, pacing back and forth, inside the main entrance of the McManus building at St. Monica’s parish. I was complaining about everything. I was complaining about the length of the flight. I was complaining about the food and the lack of comforts I would find over there. As soon as I finished complaining, an image, hanging on the wall, caught my eye. It was a painting of our lady on a donkey traveling to Bethlehem.

It was another God moment, for as soon as I saw this image, I began to reflect upon my words. I couldn’t believe that I was complaining. I confided in my friend that I was standing next to a painting of Mary on a donkey and Joseph walking by her side. I told my friend, “I can’t believe this! Here I am complaining about my flight to the Holy Land and here is Mary, serene, collected and calm, riding on a donkey, heading to Bethlehem.” My friend responded, saying, “Don’t forget…she’s also a teenager, a woman and pregnant!”

Mary and Joseph had little or no money. They had no health insurance, no food provisions, no medicines, etc…and here I was complaining about going to Israel, sleeping in Hotels, traveling by bus and having four square meals a day!!! I was complaining about visiting THE HOLY LAND!!! How foolish of me!!!

Before I knew it, God had quickly and suddenly put my foot in my mouth. I really had nothing more to say because I didn’t want to sound so silly.

Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Let us take some time today to reflect on these words, on Mary’s words (I am the handmaid of the Lord) and of course on our words. Is there any unity among the three? There should be.

Tomorrow I depart. Please keep me and the group in your prayers as we travel quite comfortably where Jesus walked not-so-comfortably. We too will be walking a lot, but not exactly with the same urgency and passion as he did. I think the best way to go on a pilgrimage like this is to remember that although I will be walking in his footsteps, He, along with His Mother on a donkey, were the first in creating them!

Lk 2:1-14 Born outside of Bethlehem

Lk 2:1-14 Born outside of Bethlehem

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While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

Heavenly Father, open our hearts to receive your son. There was no room in the world for Him because you wished your son to reside within our hearts and lives. Here our prayers today for those who cannot celebrate Christmas due to a lack of faith, hope or love. Hear our prayers for those who suffer an eternal Advent. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

While celebrating last night’s vigil Mass, I noticed that one of the prayers of the faithful was for those who have suffered the death of a child during this time of year.

Please, please, please do not get me wrong. We need to pray for all. But today is not All Souls Day. Today is not Good Friday. Today is Christmas day and we should recall how the Father has given the world His joy, His peace, His Son, His life into our most needy world.

Would it be correct to recall the Lord’s passion on this day? Would it be fitting to tell Mary that her son would soon die? I know that we are not accustomed to hearing something like this, especially from a priest, but I wonder why we make reference to children who have passed away in our prayers of the faithful on Christmas day. I would prefer that we remember their birth, their life, their love on this day. I prefer that we remember the joy that Mary and all Christian mothers experience on the birth of their firstborn child. Today is a day to celebrate the beauty of life and love and all that makes us wonder.

What can we be grateful for? That we can love; that we can love others. I can truly love someone. What an amazing gift! What a beautiful, wonderful and exclusive privilege the Almighty has given to the human race. May the Lord of love open our hearts to our greatest potential: to be an unconditional love gift to those who do not know how to love.

What can we be grateful for? That we can notice beauty; that we can detect it in things and in others. I can sense beauty in music, in art, in poetry and in dance. I can look up in the sky and say, “What a beautiful night.” I can appreciate the mountains, marvel at the stars, gaze upon the ocean. Beauty is all around us, if only we would take time to see.

What can we be grateful for? That we have life; that we exist. May the Lord in his mercy and compassion open our minds to our greatest potential: to be unique and to never wish ourselves away. There are very few things in life that only happen once and can have such a profound impact on others. Guess what? You are it! Child, no one else will ever take your place, literally. Those who died before us and those who have yet to live may read about you and analyze your pictures, but they will never know you as I know you. The sun rises and sets daily. We only appear once.

There is so much to be grateful for.

Yesterday, before Mass began, I spoke to a man and his son. They told me that right after Mass they were going to “secretly” leave some forty gifts under a family’s Christmas tree. This family has two boys that are currently in the hospital due to a horrible genetic disease. I did not ask what the children’s prognosis was, but to make matters worse, financially, the family is in shambles. So, this man and his son decided to help them out. In fact, this man’s son decided to take his $100 gift card, given to him by his grandmother, and give it to one of the boys in the hospital. What makes this story ever more remarkable is that this family lost their eldest daughter not too long ago in a tragic ski accident. This child Jesus, in the midst of tragedy was born in Bethlehem. The child Jesus, in the midst of sadness and loss, was born in this child and outside the town of Bethlehem.

Today is a day to celebrate life, love and beauty. Today, we celebrate Christ’s birth and his re-birth with us, in us and through us.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lk 1:67-79 Advent is Over!

Lk 1:67-79 Advent is Over!

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Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “You, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Here are few thoughts to fill this moment on the eve of Christ’s birth.

What would Christmas be like without Christ? Meaningless. In fact, everything would be meaningless. A compass without a terrestrial north or south or east or west would be pointless. A watch without arms would be useless. A life without God would be hopeless.

A Christmas without Christ would be a never ending Advent!

Yesterday, I spoke to a young lady who lives an eternal Advent. After years of addictions, after years of abuse, she is finally coming home for Christmas – literally and maybe even spiritually. “I searched and searched throughout my life for something better than God. I wanted to prove my parents wrong. I thought I knew it better than they. I thought I knew it all. I looked for happiness, I looked for fun. I looked for friends because I looked for love. All I found was misery and sadness.” If only I would allow the Lord to be found! My tears would dry; my smile would return. My life would be found; my sins would be lost.

Advent is magical because it comes to an end. The Magi find their King. Their journey has an ending, a happy ending. An Advent without Christmas is worse than the worst imaginable joke! It is like being told that there is a surprise but no surprise ever comes. It is like a child waiting for gifts that never arrive, or a young lady who waits and waits but never hears, “Will you marry me!”

John’s very existence was dependent upon the Lord. You, my child, will be called the prophet of the Most High...You, my child, will go before the Lord to prepare his way…The Lord guides our feet. The Lord shines in our darkest hours…The Lord gives his people knowledge and forgiveness. Christ is better than a compass; He is the sun. He rises from the East, no ifs ands or buts. He rises and I wake up. He determines the day, the night, the hour and the season. I live through Him. He shines, I see. He is the sea, I navigate. He is the rock, I stand on Him. He points, I follow. He walks me through all of life’s long sequences. Advent is holy because Christ awaits us.

Is this true for only Zechariah? Not at all. His canticle is my song. This evening I celebrated the ninth anniversary of my priestly ordination. I cannot even begin to express in words the joy that is in my heart for this marvelous and mysterious vocation! The Lord has been kind and merciful to me. He has given me the singular privilege to lift Him up, every single day, on the altar, in the Eucharist. He has given me the grace, the honor to forgive sins in His name. He has blessed me beyond belief to minister in his name to those who are suffering and dying. I thank God for having called me. I thank God for the continual courage and the strength to follow Him. I thank God for sending me, like one of his apostles, to enter into the lives of His people.

Christmas is fast approaching. May the Lord continue to be in Christmas, and may He find us ready and willing for Him to enter into the inn of our heart, mind, body and soul.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lk 1:57-66 These Are The Rules!

Lk 1:57-66 These Are The Rules!

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When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”…All were amazed.

Elizabeth breaks with tradition. There is nothing wrong with breaking traditions as long as they are human given and not God given. Our problems, our tears, our doubts and fears arise when we break with God given traditions.

I worry often about what others think of me. We all want to be liked. We all want to be respected, but at what price? A mom was just speaking to me this morning about an incident that occurred at their school. It turns out that a young student sold his brains, his reputation, his dignity and his worth for twenty dollars to an unworthy group of classmates. Why? Was it really to make money? Probably not. Most likely it was to be liked. We all want to be liked. We all want to be popular. Even when we are older, we like to be liked. It just seems to be a part of who we are. It might actually have something to do with our most base human instinct to survive. So we have it. So what? What will we do with it? Will we bend our will to others? Will we bend our morals for anything? Will we twist and turn, pull and push our bodies and faces so that we can be loved and wish ourselves away?

No, the parents and the school have an obligation to correct the problem. Christians have an obligation to correct society. This is a great teaching moment. Unfortunately, the teaching part never really seems to happen and all is swept under the carpet. That’s the real big problem. We keep on leaving the door open for worse and worse things to happen.

Cinderella lived in a glass castle and wore glass shoes. How beautiful. How amazing. How brittle. All it would take would be to throw one stone and damage it all. Throw the stone and the glass breaks. Throw no stones and the glass will last for a thousand years.

In many ways, this is what has happened to marriage, to our norms, our morals and our values. We have been chipping them away. One by one, they are vanishing. Even the beauty of marriage is no longer considered a must. The Dallas Morning News interviewed a few young people to get their take on marriage. They all agreed, “We don’t need it.” Unfortunately, the Dallas Morning News never interviewed a fifty-year-old or sixty-year-old living alone and with no children. I think they would have heard something totally different.

We are rebels. We want to fly but can’t. So we throw a fit and design a plane. And when the plane crashes we shake our fists and curse out God. Why? Why? Why? Does a tree complain that it cannot produce roses? No. We don’t seem to mind that we can only eat from our mouths. Men don’t seem to mind that they cannot bear a child. So why do we complain when marriage can only be between a man and a woman? Or that we can only have one man or one woman? Does Cinderella complain that she has to get home by twelve? No, not at all! She is simply content that she made it to the ball!!!

Elizabeth named her child John. Why? Because the Lord told her to, that’s why! Did she complain? Not at all. Why? Because John was her first and only child and Elizabeth was amazed and glad.

You can’t complain if you were never born. You cannot die if you never lived. These are the rules. Should we complain? No. If we are here, we were meant to be. Of course, so many others were meant to be, but they never appeared because some did not want to play by the rules.

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church; come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lk 1:46-56 What Does My Soul Proclaim?

Lk 1:46-56 What Does My Soul Proclaim?

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Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

If Mary can give thanks to God, then all of us can give thanks to God!

This morning I was reading an article on FOXNEWS that reported the destruction of a controversial billboard by a single vandal in New Zealand. The vandal is a Roman Catholic and the billboard portrays the Blessed Virgin Mary in shock over a positive pregnancy test. The Rev. Glynn Cardy, vicar of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, who had earlier described the poster as “thought provoking”, told reporters, “I’m disappointed that there is not more tolerance of different view. They obviously feel strongly about it. I’m just disappointed that strength of feeling has led to vandalism.” I think the reverends comments are ludicrous and down-right intolerant and insensitive of religious sentiment and feeling. I prefer the comments of the vandal, Mr. Skinner, who proclaimed proudly outside the church, “Yes, it is vandalism. I’m guilty. If they want to arrest me, be my guest. If it comes to that, I believe in being persecuted for my Christian faith.” He told the crowd of worshippers: “We are Catholics. We don’t look for trouble, but watch out if you start this sort of thing.”

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord! My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

Let us never forget what Mary was willing to endure as she said these words and walked the talk. Do I easily get tempted and fall into sin? If so, then think of Mary. Was she not thinking of all she would endure and suffer for this child? She knew her dark night was just around the corner. She also knew that the resurrection was just over the horizon. Dust kicks up before it settles. But it was He who ordained it and she who accepted it! And neither of them ever really lost control over it. Neither should you!

There’s a lot of news about our Christian faith these days. I guarantee you that it will all die down immediately after Christmas. O, how the media loves to play games with the faithful! Recently, a team of Italian scientists announced that the Shroud of Turin could not possibly be a fake; after all, they concluded, the ultraviolet energy required to produce this type of image was not available in medieval times. Logically speaking, we must conclude that it was not available in Christ’s time either. Hence, the image we see today must have been created by supernatural means.

Over here in the United States we have another team of scientists who found some earth sized planets a few million light years away from us. Since they were found in the Galactic Habitable Zone, they may actually have life on them. While that always remains a possibility (and not always a probability), we should once in a while turn the telescope around and carefully observe our very existence and planet. We seem to forget that sin ejects us from our habitable zone and throws us into our uncomfortable zone. This morning I went for a walk, and as I watched the sun rise, I breathed in the morning air and took in the morning dew. It was a beautiful sight for these poor eyes that are often flooded with artificial lighting and artificial air. How puzzling it all is. If I am so attached to all these hypotheses and theories, than why do I find it so hard to dedicate myself to the Lord? O, the mystery of pride and humility, sin and grace, life and death.

Mary sang of God’s revelation that called her by name. The Magnificat is a canticle that should be sung and read by young and old alike. It is the greatest tribute to honesty and majesty; to child and God alike.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Lk 1:39-45 Arise, My Beloved

Lk 1:39-45 Arise, My Beloved

(Click here for readings)

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.

It is that time of year when most of us prepare to visit (or be visited by) relatives. It is that time of year that we either dread or look forward to.

Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth to share the Good News. Mary visited the prophet Simeon who had some not-so-good news to share with her. But as we all know, it was all good. It was all for God’s glory. It may not have been what Mary and the prophets had suspected or suggested, but it was all in God’s glorious plan.

Today was a very interesting day for me. I didn’t have many appointments scheduled. I thought it would be a good day to get some unfinished work done. I was wrong.

It started bright and early with the 6:45 morning Mass. I had some parishioners that wished to talk to me about some very profound issues. I would like to take this time to tell everyone that it is not easy to come up with a homily (that early in the morning) let alone answer some pretty deep theological or spiritual questions. I did the best I could and went straight to the 8:00 morning Mass.

After that, it was a day filled with unexpected visits. I received a few friends this morning that wanted to wish me a very warm Christmas. They showered me with cards, gift cards, stuffed animals (interesting…), cakes and cookies! It was all very nice, but I was feeling bad because I still had not finished my meditation. So, I was itching to get back to my office and pray. As soon as I did, I received a phone call from the front desk. A person wanted to see me. They were claiming to be possessed by something, a demon or an evil spirit. I went down to greet the person and found three people waiting for me. I brought them to a room to talk. The one claiming to have problems was the boyfriend of a young woman whose father had brought them in to talk. The father immediately wanted to show me pictures from his cell phone of the strange occurrences. The young girl immediately informed me that her boyfriend had been seeing dead people. I cut them all off. I asked each one how long it had been since they had gone to Church. The father responded, “Just a year ­- as if a year was not bad. I asked the young man if he was Catholic. He said, “Yes.” I asked him how long it had been since he had gone to Church. He responded, “Two months.” I was pleased. Then I asked him how long it had been since his last confession. He told me that it had been a very long time. “This is the problem. If we are far away from the Lord, some pretty nasty things can begin to happen.” I didn’t get any further than that because as soon as I began to speak, the father got up and told his daughter and her boyfriend to get up and go. He said to them, “We went to the wrong priest! The only thing he wants us to do is go to Church! That’s the reason why I left the Catholic faith!” I tried to stop them but they kept walking. Before they went out the door I told them, “Merry Christmas.”

I got back to my office and began to pray. But as soon as I closed the door, the phone rang. It was an emergency phone call. Someone needed the anointing of the sick and they needed it immediately. I left and arrived at Parkland within a half-hour. I got there in time and as I was leaving, I decided to stop by at the Chaplain’s office to say hello to a friend. When I entered the office, the receptionist there asked me if I could go visit another two patients. Externally I was peaceful. Internally, I was upset. But of course I did it.

‘Tis the season to visit people. But what we do when we visit people will depend upon what we did the entire year. Mary was prepared for Gabriel because she was a woman after God's heart. Joseph was ready for Mary because he was a man of God. Elizabeth was ready for Mary because she was a woman of prayer. Joseph and Mary were ready for Simeon because they were a holy family. Simeon was ready for Jesus because he believed in God's promises.

May your steps be quick, your visits plentiful and your presence always helpful. This Christmas, make sure to share God’s blessings with friends, strangers and family. May you bless others with kind and loving words and may the Father bless you with a greater love and knowledge of His only Son. May the Son’s word be your only words. May your voice be sweet and your eyes inviting, for you are lovely in His eyes. (cf. Song of songs 2:14)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lk 1:5-25 God Believes In Me!

Lk 1:5-25 God Believes In Me!

(Click here for readings)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…and the virgins name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace!”…but she was greatly troubled at what was said.

Last night I spent almost five hours listening to confessions at St. Ann. We were far too few priests for the over six hundred “sinners” that were gathered together for the penance service. I was pleased to be there. It was nice to see so many beautiful people!

I laugh at those who think a priest knows nothing about love, romance or dating. We know a lot! Far too much! We also know a lot about God’s love, God’s romance and God’s constant pursuit of us!

Young girls are in desperate need of faith. Grandparents and parents have such a wonderful role to play in a young teenager’s life! Unfortunately, they give up too quickly. I am here to tell you today that, although you may be past the age of romance or dating or love, you can bring much needed peace and understanding to a teenager’s life and the turmoil that surrounds their ever changing emotions.

Mary was greatly troubled. Maybe it was because she had a hard time believing that she was so loved, so beautiful, and so special. How many of our granddaughters, grandsons, daughters and sons feel the same way? Too often they settle for less than what they are worth. Far too often, they do what they should never do in order to gain much needed attention, affection and affirmation.

The Lord has something to say to you, my child, my daughter. He says to you, “You are a princess!” You say, “I am not.” He says, “You are a treasure!” You say, “I am no treasure!” The Lord says to you, “Keep your dignity, your morals and your values high, very high!” You say, “If I do, then I will never be loved.”

This is what happens to a young soul when they distance themselves from the Lord: they stop believing in the truth; in greater things! They allow their roommates, friends and boyfriends to qualify them; to lower their dignity. They allow themselves to be deceived.

We must educate our girls in the fact that the Lord is one of just a handful of men in the world that will never lower their dignity. In fact, just like a father or big brother, He sets the bar so high, seats them on a throne so big and sets them on a mountain top so high, that these poor girls are filled with the fear of never being loved! But the angel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…for nothing will be impossible for God.” Why do our girls flee from the Church, from the Sacraments, from God? Because they fear that the bar in their life has been set too high for anyone to jump over! God reaches out to Mary and to us because He believes in Mary and in his children! He believes in us because He knows us better than we know ourselves. He believes in me more than I believe in myself!

These are the rules: take it or leave it. Young souls are afraid to have rules. They are afraid that they will be left alone. But rules help to distinguish between deceivers and believers; they help to set the record straight. “You say you love me. These are the rules. Take it or leave it.” The young man who is in love will say, “I will take it.”

May all our girls have the courage and strength to pray Mary’s prayer: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” By know we should all know that God’s word is better than a chest of gold or thirty pieces of silver!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lk 1:5-25 Keeping Silent

Lk 1:5-25 Keeping Silent

(Click here for readings)

Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Yesterday, I was listening to a secular radio station and I heard a song that was disturbing. I had never heard it before and I did not know who sang it. But while I was listening to this obnoxious, masculine sounding female singer with her annoying lyrics it dawned on me, “Could this possibly be the famous Lady Gaga?” Guess what? I was right.

Some things will never change. Scripture will never change. And yet, it never ceases to surprise and amaze. I am amazed at how superheroes, like Peter and Paul, are called to be Apostles of Jesus Christ and yet still retain their human qualities, human faults and human weaknesses. Peter can be on a pedestal one moment, and then two seconds later knocked off of it. Peter? The first Holy Father! Paul can be inviting the faithful to be “more like him for I imitate Christ” and the next minute pleading with God to take away a pain!

Zechariah was serving as high priest. He was chosen by lot. Mind you, nothing that is, is because of luck or chance. All things happen for a reason; even random things happen for a reason, we just don’t know what it is. A long time ago I got into a debate with a young man who questioned the possibility of God because of random occurring events. I gave him this example to help him see things differently. I told him, “Imagine for a moment you are on the road. It is very common to see cars drive by you from different states. You see one car and its license from the state of New York. You see another, and it’s from the state of California. A few minutes later, you see another, from the state of Oklahoma. Since you cannot predict or formulate what the next license will be, you would tell me that it is random. I would tell you that each car is on the road not for any random reason but for a specific reason that only they know all too well. The problem with the theory of randomness is that it is always measured from the eyes of the observer and never from the eyes of the Beholder!”

Zechariah’s selection was not random. Elizabeth was not random. The fact that he was chosen by lot to be the priest was not random. The reason why we are who we are, and do what we do, and go where we go is not at all random. It is all in the eyes of the Beholder! It is all Providential.

And when we are faced with some pretty heavy providential things, then sometimes the best thing we can do is remain silent.

Zechariah was forced to remain silent. That does not happen often. He must have been throwing a fit.

When we have to come face to face with reality; when our situation has changed; when we find ourselves in conflict with others, then this may very well be one of those moments when we have to step back and just remain silent. Wait and see. Observe all things. But the most important thing we can learn from all of this is: Remain faithful to God. Remain faithful always! His plan is in all of this.