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!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mk 10:17-27 What Must I Do?

Mk 10:17-27 What Must I Do?

Good teacher, what must I do?

I have a little joke I wish to share with you. I heard it at a dinner a few nights ago. A pope and a lawyer died on the same day and both made it to heaven. St. Peter greeted them and escorted them to their living quarters. St. Peter showed the Holy Father his new home. It was a simple, modest home. The Pope looked at it and was very grateful. Then he took the lawyer to his new home. It was a mansion! The lawyer was shocked to see such an enormous home. He thought that maybe there had been a mistake. St. Peter reassured him. It was no mistake. The lawyer asked, "How can this be, why me? After all, I am just a lawyer." St. Peter replied, "We have many popes in heaven. You are the first lawyer."

I can only imagine what Christ’s facial expression must have been when he heard this young man call out to him, "teacher". I am sure it is similar to my facial expression when I am pulled over by the police, for some minor traffic violation, and the officer calls me sir rather than father! It is a look that says, “This is not going to go well.”

This unknown man, who ran to Jesus and yet still had miles to go - whose name is forever hidden from man, placed in the unfortunate category of would be followers, lost the greatest race ever by never starting the race. He did not care to know Jesus. He was content with knowing him as his “teacher.” His single answer to Christ’s questions is bogus, “I have done all these things since my youth.” Anyone who has taught children knows well how kids will answer their teacher’s questions only to stump him. This young man still considers the world his playground.

I know I might be sounding a little harsh. After all, maybe he didn’t have a vocation. Of course this is nonsense. The Lord does not call only to revoke his call. How many times, in my ten years of formation, did I almost turn my back on the Lord? Too many. The vocation is a gift from God, but in order for a gift to be truly a gift, it must be accepted. Even God’s gifts must be freely accepted. Today's Gospel is an example of a gift being rejected.

What must I do? Here is the million dollar question! The answer is, I must tear down the walls I have worked hard to put up. A mighty fortress am I! But it is all built on sand.

I will give this young man some credit. He asked a question that not even the Lord’s disciples asked, or had the courage to ask. The rich young man asked it but was not ready for the answer. Am I ready for the answer? Enough of this, what must I do? I must strip myself of my possessions before the Lord does it for me.

In this particular case, we have the problem of money – of wealth, of possessions. There are four walls that surrounded this man (and that surround us too) and they must come down.

First wall: Money will make you happy.

Second wall: Money will give you more security.

Third wall: Money will bring you peace.

Fourth wall: Money will help you get ahead.

What did he have? What was he so attached to? Compared to today, he had nothing. What were his possessions? A donkey? A mud floor? A grass roof? I am sure he smelled like the rest and with lice in his hair too (they all had it back then). Today, he would be considered a poor man, one of the poorest. With all his wealth we can honestly say that he possessed nothing, took nothing and was worth nothing. Money yields a false sense of power and greatness. We must never forget that he had the chance, the invitation, to follow the greatest man ever, the Lord himself, the King of Kings and he couldn’t do it.

Worst of all, he walked away crushed, crushed by the weight of his possessions. He left sad. His face fallen. His smile gone. Not even the Commandments can put a smile on someone’s face. Only Christ can do that.

Lent is approaching. It is a time of stripping, stripping ourselves before the Lord does it for us. It is not a matter of "if" but of "when".

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mt 6:24-34 Two Masters

Mt 6:24-34 Two Masters

(Click here for readings)

There is only one thing that God Almighty, Creator of the Universe and Master of all things cannot do. Do you know what it is? He cannot make a mistake.

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear…Do not worry about your clothes.”

The Problem: We are very much afraid of being alone and of not being able to take care of ourselves. Has the Lord forgotten me? Has the Lord abandoned me? This single verse from today’s Gospel is worth meditating on for at least one week. How true these words are for our generation that is so obsessed with the perfect body and the perfect life. But, let us never forget that the reason for the obsession is the fear of being alone, abandoned, forgotten.

The Cause: Parents know (or should know) that kids look up to stars. Before their downfall, one past generation openly or secretly looked up to Spears, Lohan, Moss, Richie, and Hilton. But what they may not always be aware of is that our children believe such celebrities set standards of beauty. And kids are not the only ones trying to live up to the Hollywood ideal. Many moms and dads try to live up to the standards set by the stars. They too want to be in the “in” and work hard and spend tons of money to make sure that their image coincides with the person on the screen, magazine, daytime soap and even the evening news!

Our Families: People from just about every walk of life are getting liposucked, tummy-tucked, implanted, rearranged, sculpted down, germadermed, dermajuved, botoxed, etc…(The technology keeps changing and I cannot even keep up!) The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reported that nearly eleven million cosmetic operations were performed in the U.S. in 2006, a 7% increase from 2005. I do know that many of these operations were performed for serious reasons, such as breast tumor removal; but far too many for literally “superficial” reasons.

From the numbers alone, it is clear that we have a strong tendency to jump on any boat to improve our looks and to feel good and look good.

The Lord takes a different approach. True beauty is found in being good and doing good.

Our God’s Response: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

There we have it! Our Lord even predicted it; He foresaw it for he knows our hearts and our minds better than we do. And if we reflect upon it, we will see that he is absolutely right! How many generations will it take to heed his words, his advice, his honesty. I believe we are losing the battle. There have been some false attempts (or movements) in the past. In the 1960’s we had a desire to go back to “nature” with the hair movement, peace movement, hippy movement, and of course the so-called love movement. All of which were really selfish-beyond-belief (self-centered) movements. Nothing new there!

In the end, it always comes down to this: Will I serve the Lord or myself? The Psalmist provides the answer, “Rest in God alone, my soul” (Ps. 62:6a). Amen to that. Christ Jesus says it more beautifully, “Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest.”

The Lord does not forget his own, even in their sin. Isaiah tells God that people ("Zion") are asking if He has forgotten them. I think Isaiah is asking the question for himself and using Zion as his excuse! That's what we typically do too. The Lord knows and his answer sends our hearts to our throats. His son completes the answer, Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will fall into place. Today, we are asked to choose well in preparation for Lent; to sacrifice, and to complete the formula of love by giving what is sacrificed to others.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mk 10:13-16 Fear and Kindness

Mk 10:13-16 Fear and Kindness

(Click here for readings)

The Lord does not in any way, shape or form indulge his children. No, not at all! He lets them fall, and fall hard sometimes. He lets them learn tough lessons, even to the point of death. He is not warm and fuzzy. Nor is he like a Grandpapa. No. God is never referred to as "grandpa" in Scripture. He is The Father, and is willing to allow his children to stumble and fall; to learn how to get back up, even at a tremendous price – the price of his only begotten Son.

In a recent article, I read how a twelve-year-old girl successfully sued her father for not allowing her to go to an end of year “graduation” field trip. The lawyer, having left behind her brain after her bar exam, said she was being denied a significant rite of passage. “This is something that would never happen again in the child’s life. It was the end of a stage in her life.” Huh? Since when has a field trip been a rite of passage? Since when is graduating from elementary school a significant event? Well, we can all see the writing on the wall, nice and clear, that indulging children does them no favors.

I know a mom who was determined to give her children everything that her father did not give to her. She succeeded. She gave her daughter anorexia, drug and alcohol addictions, and no College degree.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him, for he knows how we are formed; he remembers that we are dust.” (Ps 103:13-14)

What makes a child so precious in the eyes of God? In the old days it was said that “Children are to be seen and not heard.” They were considered second-class citizens. They were pooped upon by all. Now, it appears as though the citizenship has been reversed. Parents need to defend themselves from their own off-spring. The newly ordained gurus of child therapists consider ancient rites such as spanking as a no-no, even worse, as a criminal offense. And yet, who will save the children from themselves? Who will help them to mature and to grow healthy so that they can one day embrace their children and be blessed by them? Too many educators, coaches, pastors and ministers have distanced themselves from children out of fear and do not wish to get involved. They repeat too often, "It's too risky. It’s not worth it."

The Psalmist does not dare call our God “Our Father.” Instead, he makes a simple analogy to human fatherhood. It will take the Son of God to give us the courage to call God, “Our Father.” And if God is my Father, then I am his beloved child. For this reason the Lord did not rebuke the little children. Instead, he encouraged them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

The God of Israel created for man “counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears, and an inventive heart, and filled them with the discipline of understanding. He created in them knowledge of the spirit; with wisdom he fills their heart; good and evil he shows them” (Sir 17:1-15).

Let us begin to fear the Lord and rise above ourselves and grow in authentic kindness. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It isn’t the end point, but it is a good start. It leads to the greatest gift of kindness ever, Christ.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mk 10:1-12 A Big Word: Promise

Mk 10:1-12 A Big Word: Promise

(Click here for readings)

“Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.” (Sir 6:7)

A few years back, while I was in the seminary, one of my superiors was giving a talk about friendships. It was a casual conversation. He was speaking to about one hundred seminarians. We had just finished dinner and it was an open mic opportunity so we asked him questions. He was a well known priest, very busy, very visible, and very much trusted and greatly appreciated by the community in large. Then someone, a seminarian, asked him a question. “Fr, how many friends do you have?” His response has forever been in my heart and mind. I expected him to say something like “many”, or “thousands.” He thought about it for a while. Then, he sheepishly answered, “One. Maybe two…” I don’t know why, but his answer shocked me. I should have known better. I was na├»ve.

“He who finds one friend finds a treasure.” (Sir 6:16) This is definitely true and definitely something to remember. How true and how sad it is. Why? Why is it so hard to find a friend, a true friend, a faithful friend, a loving and honest friend? You know, someone that will stand by you through the good times and the bad, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health? Yes, you know the answer already. It is the reason for so many of our ills, seen and unseen, hidden and revealed. It is because we all suffer from sin, and sin inherently leads to doubt and confusion which leads to misunderstandings and misgivings, self-preservation and selfishness at all costs and beyond all imagining. “What’s in it for me?” is a good way to sum up the obstacles in friendship.

Recently, I cancelled a talk I was supposed to give because very few people were going to attend. I wasn't going to waste my time and do it, so I bailed. I found out yesterday that another priest filled in my spot. Another good lesson learned I suppose. It seems like I learn good lessons on a daily basis and yet fail to learn them well.

What is the greatest cure for such sins? To make and keep our promises at all cost.

The Lord never broke his promises. Neither should we. For this reason, and for only this reason, Noah built his Ark; Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only beloved son and Moses lead his people out of Egypt. That’s why David became King, the prophets said what they said and did what they did and John the Baptist went out into the desert and stood his ground and met his death. That’s why the Apostles followed Christ, imitated Him and died for Him. God never breaks his promises, regardless of how bad things get or how dark they appear. The Lord stand firm forever no matter how angry people get or what people say. This is very comforting to know.

A promise is what keeps us trustworthy. We all struggle with keeping our promises and being faithful to our words and actions.

It is obvious to ask the questions: Why should I trust so much in God? Why should I go the extra mile? Why should I never give up? Why should I always choose what is true, good and beautiful? Why should I pray for my enemy? Why should I care about my enemy? Why should I love my enemy? The answer is simple: Christ keeps his promises.

“I am with you always.” “I will not leave you orphans.” “I will be with you till the end of time.” “Everything I have, I give to you.” “I will lay down my life for you.” “I will send you my Spirit.” “I will be your God and you will be my people.” “I will give you all that you need.” “I will be your Rock, your Fortress, and your friend.”

The Old Testament is reactive. The New Testament is proactive. The Lord taught his followers that they may never find a good friend, but they can be a good friend to others. How? By being faithful to His word and living according to His word.

Today, I will walk the talk, seeking nothing in return.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mk 9:41-50 A Little Word Called Honor

Mk 9:41-50 A Little Word Called Honor

(Click here for readings)

“Better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

These are pretty harsh words from our warm and fuzzy Jesus. Some time ago I received a letter from someone who did not approve of a talk I gave with regards to a hot-button issue. This person reminded me of how the Lord was gentle and tolerant. Really? I wonder if this person ever took the time to read the Gospels! In today’s Gospel, the Lord is clear and direct: there is a justice, there is a judgment and there is a Hell. We must do whatever it takes to get to Heaven. Better to crawl into Heaven then to walk into Hell. It is better to cut off the sinning member of your body rather than to lose heaven over one eye, ear, tongue or foot. It is very important that we reign in our passions; otherwise, we lose that which the Lord is forever passionate about.

We want to change the Commandments, but they will never change. We want them to be easier, but the pains and consequences of ignoring them are far worse than following them. We want them to be easier. Why? So we can ease people into Hell?

The Lord’s words are not barbaric, rudimentary, uncivilized, crude, immoral, or unwise. They are sanitary, healthy, loving, warm and personal. They are the truth and we should not doubt His brotherly advice to us, His beloved brothers and sisters. Far too many of us fear not the fire but the words and prefer to throw water not over the fire but over the fire-fighter! We prefer to kill the messenger rather than to look out the window and see the approaching enemy.

Just recently I read an article, conveniently lost in cyber-space and therefore hardly known and barely read, about the dangers of oral sex. Researchers found a 225% increase in oral cancer cases in the U.S. from 1974 to 2007. The conclusion: the more oral-sex partners, the greater the risk of oral cancer. Immediately what comes to my mind is the following: We are not animals. We are called to a higher calling. Sex must go hand in hand with love, fidelity, commitment and vows.

We know what will be the result of this study: We need to find a vaccine!!! We need to begin vaccinations for these types of sexually transmitted diseases starting at the age of twelve - no ten! This is always our solution. This is always our solution: A shot rather than a Scroll. We should be demanding best rather than settling for mediocrity. There are so many other illnesses that come from multiple partners that are not physical or even detectable but that penetrate deep into the heart and soul of an individual that no shot could ever reach. Will we ever learn? Do we understand what we are talking about? Our moral collapses manifest themselves in more than just a physical way. Something that the Lord spoke to us about, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

We have an obligation, regardless of whether or not we are laughed off the stage; and we are called to fulfill it. The Lord has called upon us to speak the truth and to die for it.

“Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mk 9:38-40 Do Not Prevent Him

Mk 9:38-40 Do Not Prevent Him

(Click here for readings)

“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not have lived in vain. If I can ease one life from aching, I shall not have lived in vain.” (Emily Dickenson)

The Apostles were gravely mistaken for preventing this man to speak in the Lord’s name. A door had been opened for them and they shut the door tight! How foolish! Being an Apostle may be a vocation, a privilege and not a right. But being a Christian is a God given right open to all men and women of good will. It is there for the taking and receiving. It is as clear as the night and as bright as the sun. It gathers. Jesus invites his Apostles to take advantage of whatever binds the Kingdom together. “Do not prevent him. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

What does it take to be good? The question was already asked and documented over two thousand years ago. A rich young man asked Jesus, “Master, what good must I do?” The Lord replied, “Love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself.” Sounds simple but we all know it’s not. Great faith, hope and love are required. Humility too is required, especially when we fail, which brings us to the need for forgiveness and opens the door to the Sacrament of Reconciliation: the need for a Savior and the need for His Church. Thus my eyes and the eyes of others are opened not so much by what I do, but what the Lord has done for me. This is the door - the gate - that remains open for all to enter.

This man admired the Lord. How do we know when we admire someone? My answer would be when we begin to imitate them; when we have this tremendous desire to be more like them. In today’s Gospel we read of someone wanting to be like the Lord, attempting to drive out demons in his name. This individual is forced to stop by Christ’s apostles because he is not one of them. But this unknown Christian has accepted the Lord. He knows the Lord, and because he knows Him, he loves Him and because he loves Him, he wishes to imitate Him. He is a Christian in the truest sense of the word: One who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and lives it. Words are meaningful only if they are objective and not subjective. It is much more reasonable to call a baptized Christian who does not act like a Christian a bad Christian rather than not a Christian at all. This is a door - a gate – that swings back and forth.

Doing good is what we are all called to do. It is universal. Great peace have they who love your law, O Lord (Ps. 119:165a). Do good and avoid evil is a universal law written in the hearts of all men, regardless of the era and religious affiliation. The sticky point is in the meaning of the word good. What does it mean to be good or to do good? For the Lord, doing good actually means becoming more like Him. It means purification, conversion and imitation. It does not mean to look good or to feel good. It is not something that comes from the depths of our heart but from the heart of Christ. It means allowing the Lord to repair my heart so that I can imitate His heart. Two hearts beating as one.

If we imitate the Lord, it means we have come to the full realization of who He is. It is not partial or selective, it is total. It is all or nothing. I cannot love someone I do not know. And if I love Him, then it means I cannot live without Him. My life is a reflection of Him, created in his image and likeness. For this reason he invites us all to imitate him: to knock on the door, to be the door, and to be the doorkeeper for he says, “I am the Gate, who ever enters through me will be saved.” (Jn 10:9)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mk 9:30-37 Preparing For the Worst

Mk 9:30-37 Preparing For the Worst

When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone around you is crying. (- from Coffee News)

The Lord sat his disciples down and told them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to ask.

Did they not understand? I have a hard time believing that they did not understand the plain and simple truth the Lord was expounding to them. It must have been more like a horrible shock, like those who say, “What part of ‘no’ did you not understand!”

I believe with all my heart that the hearts and minds of the Apostles could not even begin to fathom, let alone imagine their life without the Lord. What would they do? How would they continue? After all, they knew better than anyone else, “We are not you.” They could never speak like Jesus. They could never perform the miracles that the Lord performed – raise the dead, cure the sick, heal the brokenhearted. They lacked faith and hope, not to mention the tremendous amount of love the Lord possessed in his very being. How could they go on? What could they possibly offer the world but a memory? And yet the greatest miracle, the conversion of billions of people to Christ, is living testimony to the greatest miracle the world has ever believed: The Resurrection. There is life after death. There is something to hope for; something to die for; someone to believe in. They saw it with their own eyes and their eyes were never the same again. Now it is time for them to hear it again, for a second time, “I will be killed.”

The Lord was preparing them for the worst and telling them, “You must continue.”

Just yesterday a beloved son, brother, husband and father died in his home from an apparent heart attack. It came as a complete surprise to all. He was forty-five. He was loved by many, especially his wife of over twenty years and adored by his children. To all who knew him, his death sent an entire community and student body into mourning. He was loved by so many. His wife and children ask, “How will we go on without him?” “It will never be the same again?” Are these not the same words that the Apostles, the Lord’s family, must have been muttering on that awful Friday afternoon? What is striking in all of this is the similarity between our God and our lives; his family and our family; His death and our death. The Lord spent time with those he loved. We spend time with those we love too. We know that our lives are a gift. We must prepare for the worst. And the worst is not our death, but the separation that comes from it. That is by far the worst.

Let us all learn from the Lord and from his apostles. We should never take anyone for granted. Cherish every day, every smile, every laugh, every conversation, every lesson we can take in. From this day forward one hopes that the Apostles no longer wasted time asking, “Who would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven!” For the days are counted, the months give way to years and the years to a life time that is only the smallest portion of our eternal existence. Let us all prepare for the worst by recalling the greatest truth ever: “Whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mk 9:14-39 Re-humanizing

Mk 9:14-39 Re-humanizing

(Click here for readings)

“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.” Here we have a boy that only a father and mother could love. Since childhood he would fall to the ground, roll around, grind his teeth, foam at the mouth and become rigid. He was, at best, an embarrassment to his family. But to those looking from the outside, he was less than human. He was, in the whispers of many, an animal.

We have a tendency, a very strong tendency, to de-humanize the mentally, physically and spiritually ill. I repeat, we have a tendency to de-humanize those who are ugly, disgusting and filthy. Let me say it another way: We have a strong urge to reduce to the level of sub-humans those who hurt themselves and hurt us. We call them nasty names like predators and savages. We must. Otherwise, we may begin to actually think of them as humans, humans with a title like father, mother, brother or sister, son or daughter. I have begun to see the growing trend. But it is an historical reality. It is a far too common occurrence to de-humanize your enemy; to call them by all sorts of names, but never human; and to categorize them into one big group, but never place them under the human family. This is very important to understand. This is how all massacres and all witch-hunts begin. In Rwanda, the Hutus referred to Tutsis as cockroaches. They were not human beings. The Hutus would say to one another, ‘Don’t worry; you’re not killing humans like you. You are killing some vermin that belongs under your shoe. You’re killing cockroaches.” And so the hunt begins and the game is captured and slaughtered.

Many so-called outreach organizations continue to do the same thing. In helping their victims, they tend to de-humanize their opposition, label their so-called opponents as belligerent, hostile, arrogant and deceitful, while at the same time super-humanize the victim who can do no wrong. All organizations must have an opposition, their very existence requires one. But when the opposition becomes sub-human then the dignity of all humans is at risk.

I noticed this also in not too few religious movies. In the Italian movie, John XXIII, the producers, in order to elevate the holiness of the Holy Father, would often criminalize the antagonists; reducing them to sheer conspirators or deceptive manipulators. Those who sincerely disagreed with the Holy Father’s ideas of reform were reduced to ashes and blown away by the wins of the victors.

The Lord teaches us what it truly means to be a Shepherd: to see the humanity of all his sheep. We are all sinners foaming at the mouth. Our sins make us rigid and angry. This young man would grind his teeth because he could not stand losing his dignity, his honor. He would often ask himself, “Why me?” He hated to shame himself in front of others. The curse was upon him, his household and his family name. It is upon all of us. No wonder he would try to throw himself into fire or water in order to end his life. This type of sin requires compassion and love. This is what the father, who suffers with his son, asks for: “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” The Lord does. He took him by the hand and raised him up. He gave to him a human face.

“Lord, give us the grace to speak and to act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12-13).

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mt 5:38-48 How To Not Be Boring

Mt 5:38-48 How To Not Be Boring

(Click here for readings)

“You have heard that it was said…But now I say to you.”

So much for the Ten Command-ments! In today’s Gospel passage, we have in writing what the Lord wishes to say to us: What you have heard and read in the past is not good enough. It's not good enough to not hurt anyone. It's not good enough to love your neighbor as yourself. No, we must know "love one another as I have loved you." These words from the Lord give to all Christians - followers of Christ, the mandate to live life in an unprecedented way: His Way. That is, to rock the boat, to cause mass confusion, to surprise unknown guests (and even unwelcomed guests), to boldly live by extending a hand to help and not to hurt. To leave the other in AWE! The Law, the Torah, has been replaced with The Cross.

On February 10th, 2011, I received a beautiful e-mail from a couple that was from Pittsburg and staying in Dallas for the Super Bowl. They write, “We were in town to watch and cheer for our team…while the final score did not quite turn out the way we would have liked, you and your parish made our trip a complete success. Let me explain. First, we attended your Mass, not only do you have a beautiful church but the feeling of friendliness bestowed upon us as we arrived was unbelievable. We enjoyed the Mass. While we were waiting for the Hotel shuttle to pick us up a very kind family not only offered to ride us back to our hotel but also wanted to take us to dinner. My wife and I were actually awestruck. We declined because the shuttle was on its way. We patiently waited for him, but he never showed up! We were stuck. Then, a young lady and her mom pulled up and asked if we were ok. We explained our situation and still anticipated the hotel was on the way, they said they would stay with us until they arrived. After several more calls to the Hotel we realized that they were not coming anytime soon, if at all. So we took our new found angels offer for a ride back to our Hotel. My wife and I still cannot believe the kindness that was shown to us from five people that did not know us at all. We continually thank our Lord for all the blessings that we have received in our life. We will always not only be thankful for the kindness shown to us but we will keep these five wonderful people and your whole parish in our prayers.

Father Nazzaro what I am about to say next may seem a bit odd to you but I truly believe it was a sign for me and my wife. This weekend is going to be our beloved Priest’s last weekend at our parish, St. Gregory in Zelienople, Pa. Because of a lack of priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese our priest will be transferring to a larger parish. In our selfishness we have been quite sad for ourselves wondering what we are going to do without our beloved Shepherd. After enjoying your Mass last week and while we were patiently waiting for our ride, my wife and I were talking about what a beautiful Mass we just came from, and if we could be 1200 miles from home and garner such a spiritual uplifting then we are going to be just fine as we move forward in our home parish with our yet unnamed new priest. I believe it is God’s way of letting us know that all is going to be okay.

I know this a bit of a long letter, but I hope the point hits home, and that is, HIS WAY will always be the best way, regardless of the unknown, the circumstances, the fears and the threats. Being inside the boat with the Lord on a stormy night will always be much better, much safer and much more exhilarating than safe and sound in a quiet hotel room. At times, the Lord will demand that we travel great distances and overcome huge obstacles to get his point across: Our cross, his point.

May we be blessed in never forgetting the point of his cross.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mk 9:2-13 Good To Be Here

Mk 9:2-13 Good To Be Here

(Click here for readings)

Peter Hill has grown a lot closer to the Lord since he suggested to his future wife in the car that God created all things and therefore must be responsible for evil. He looks back on it and recalls how all four tires blew out one right after the other after he made his little comment.

Peter Hill did not grow up with a lot of faith. His future wife, Sue, did. What prompted her to marry him? Love. And so began a journey of a life time. They have eleven children, all of them precious in their eyes. Peter has grown in his faith over the years. But what prompted Peter and Sue Hill to seek a Papal Blessing for their baby girl Claire? Only God knows.

The Pope was in Sydney and was traveling in the Pope Mobile. A photograph captures the moment when a security guard lifts a baby girl up to the Pope so that he can bless her. Little did anyone suspect that years later Claire would be on the front page of a major newspaper. Not so much because of the blessing but because of a horrific accident. On Tuesday afternoon, February 15th, 2011, Peter rolled the family’s 22-seater bus on top of her while waiting in line for an open pump at a gas station. An hour before the accident, Sue had placed a miraculous medal of Mary on her baby girl. What happened is unclear, except for the miracle part. Peter Hill states that he jumped in the driver’s seat and just rolled forward. Unknown to him, Claire (3 years old) opened the door and hopped out of the car, and the next thing he knew, someone’s banging on the bus. I went to look and saw Claire lying underneath the two back wheels pinned to the ground. At that moment I thought: God, I’ve killed her.

The tire marks of the four ton bus were still visible yesterday on her tiny abdomen, but she astounded her parents and medical specialists by surviving the ordeal without internal injuries, broken bones or lasting physical damage of any kind. As Claire lay in bed at Sydney Children’s Hospital, prayer book in hand, she states that it was her dad and God that saved her.

Her father struggles to find an explanation for his youngest child’s remarkable escape from death. I’d like to suggest a couple of possibilities: miraculous medal, Holy Father’s blessing and mom’s prayers.

Peter Hill is on the road to recovery too. With the latest miracle in his life, his faith in God seems to have rebounded. He’s a good man that has seen the Risen Lord shine on his little baby. The same was necessary for another Peter, the Apostle and the Rock of the Church. His faith needed a bit of a jump start and the Lord provided by bringing him up the mountain for a closer encounter. There are few distractions when you are at the top of a mountain. You get a clearer look, a bigger picture of the important things in life. Jesus is the biggest picture - An eye opening experience. For this reason, it is good to be here. Better than looking under the tires of a four ton truck!

It is good to go on a retreat, to climb to the mountain top, to be in the presence of the Lord.

Lord, increase my faith so that I may see the hour of your glory shine. May I praise your name for ever, Lord!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Mk 8:34-9:1 What It Takes

Mk 8:34-9:1 What It Takes

(Click here for readings)

In Genesis 11: 1-9, God-Almighty confused the world with various languages so that the only language the entire world could understand would be that of our actions. The language that speaks louder than words and unites all of God’s children is the language of love. This is the language of Christ.

How many years the Lord wishes to give to each and every one of us may be a mystery. What may happen tomorrow or 5 years from now remains a mystery. Who comes into our lives and who exits our world will always come as a surprise to us. But there is one thing that we can all be sure of, and that is what purpose our lives serve.

Jesus whole existence can be summed up in the words, “Yes, I have come to do your will.” I do not know who said this, I suspect the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, but in one simple sentence this unknown author summarizes brilliantly the rhyme and reason for Christ’s existence, and the Lord also sheds light and helps to clarify the purpose of my life too. After all, we are brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Christ died for us. His death cleansed us of our sins. In fact, his death killed death itself. This is what it means to be a Christian: to believe in this. But to live as a Christian means to undergo a certain kind of death – to surrender your will and lay down your arms of pride, vanity and sensuality to the Lord so that He, and only He, can transform you back into himself.

Saying you’re sorry, admitting your mistakes and acknowledging that you have been going down the wrong path is an essential ingredient to this process of surrender. It is called repentance. It is not easy. It means more than eating your vegetables. It means stripping yourself of years and years of Mr. Rogers: “You’re special.” You are not special. Sorry. You are special only if you begin to switch sides and begin to fight on the right side – the tiny army of repentant sinners: prostitutes, lepers, cripples and thieves. I think that if I could see Mr. Rogers now I would strangle him. But then, that would keep me from moving to the other side! Mr. Rogers is not alone, he and a bunch of others helped coco wash an entire generation of self-conceited and self-absorbed children. And it will only get worse before it begins to get better. The Lord today tells us, you are special when you do something special for others.

The Father will not take me back until I repent. “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” As I mentioned before, I may not know exactly when I will be called to the Kingdom, but it will happen. And I must be prepared for it to happen. The Lord will not take me back until I have willfully submitted myself to this kind of humiliation and kind of death. Will he help me? Of course he will. How? By putting a little of himself in me. We all have remorse. Regardless of where we come from, we can all feel remorse for doing wrong rather than right. The Christian acts on it and falls to his knees and repents. But he is called to go a few steps further. Actually, he is called to “deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” The Christian is called to imitate, extend and multiply the Lord. He becomes another Christ. He dies to himself so that others may live. It does not mean being a doormat. On the contrary, it means being strong enough to carry upon your shoulders and to know the Truth, share the Truth, live the Truth and love the Truth. It means not being “ashamed of the Son of Man” in this “faithless and sinful generation.”

Father, he who knew no sin was made sin for us, to save us and restore us to your friendship. Look upon our contrite heart and afflicted spirit and heal our troubled conscience, so that in the joy and strength of the Holy Spirit we may proclaim your praises and glory before all the nations. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mk 8:27-33 Rejected and Killed

Mk 8:27-33 Rejected and Killed

(Click here for readings)

While reading today’s Gospel passage, I could not help but to turn my thoughts towards a common occurrence these days: “second-guessing.”

What would we say about Jesus if he were arrested, tried and sentenced today? It is not a pretty picture. No wonder Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. “Lord, everyone will think differently of you. The people will not understand. They will think you were a common criminal? Everything you said and did will be turned against you.”

Who do people say that I am? The answer will depend upon the state and condition of the Lord and of how sin clouds my vision.

A neighbor: “I always thought that there was something strange about him. After all, he came in and out way too often. Strange people were coming and going at all hours of the night. You should have seen how many Prostitutes and degenerates I saw talking to him.” Yes, love your neighbor as yourself. Love your enemy and make him your friend can be confusing to the busy-bodies and the know-it-alls of the world. These are concepts that go beyond our realm of comprehension and yet they identify perfectly with the Lord and sublimely with his creation. We are all here together, conceived and born in the same neighborhood, living closely among each other, learning more about each other every day. The Lord invited his followers to be honest and to seek out the sinner not to use them but to heal them.

A Bystander: “I called out to him just like the other guy, but he didn’t do anything for me. It must have been all a gimmick, a set-up. You know, he planned it all ahead of time.” The prayers of the faithful – the prayers of those who are meek and humble of heart - will always be answered. They know how to pray will receive what they ask for. If it seems as though my prayers are never answered with a yes then maybe, just maybe, the problem is not with God but with me? More specifically, maybe my constant requests for immediate attention in the things I consider important are in no way important to the Lord and therefore fall to the bottom of the list? Do I see the problem? It is not about me, it is all about us.

A Fallen Away: “He kept on telling us what we had to do. Who does he think he is? I have a brain! I have a mind of my own! I couldn’t stand it when he said, ‘You have heard it said…but I tell you…’ No way, dude!!! Get your hands off my body and my life!”

John Doe: “I heard him say, ‘Let the children come to me.’ That sounds pretty fishy if you know what I mean…” Yes, the Lord called sinners and children: the two groups of humanity that would listen to him the most. Both are like sponges. Both are willing to play seek and find! But the Lord was right when he commented on how twisted and perverse this generation is!

I could go on but I won’t. I will end with the words of the Lord to Peter and to all those that are an obstacle to love, forgiveness and to sacrifice, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." We can imagine for a moment the tremendous lonliness the Lord must have felt.

Father, forgive me for I know not what I say or do.