Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lk11:14-23 To Be With The Lord

Lk11:14-23 To Be With The Lord

(Click here for readings)

If you go to Barnes and Nobles, you may find, in the 50% discount section of the store, a book entitled, “The Two Marys – The Hidden History of the Mother and wife of Jesus.” Authored by Sylvia Browne (New York Times #1 bestselling author), I flipped through the pages of this heretical book and was disgusted that someone would claim to have this hidden knowledge, especially two thousand years after the fact. In other words, we are to believe that a woman, who never met either Mary except in her dreams, knew more than the Apostles who had Mary under their roof?

“Whoever is not with me is against me.”

Do you notice that Sylvia does not claim Mary has the Mother of God? She is not a believer. She only claims to have the scoop! And yet, she cannot allow herself to believe in the ultimate truth: Jesus is Lord. He is God. The truth is, the greatest story ever told cannot be great! It must be reduced. Christ cannot be God; the stale argument goes, because God cannot be God. He must be something else, anything else, but not God since he is an illusion, a figment of our imagination or as Scrooge pointed out, the result of a bad cup of soup! And yet, our Lord goes beyond our wildest imaginations! We could never come up with a story like this! No one ever did. Mohammad never confused himself with Allah, nor did Buddha with his philosophy, Look to my philosophy of life, not at me. Moses never claimed to be YHWH. So why on earth would Christ’s Apostles get it wrong so soon, so uniquely? Unless…Christ is not from the earth but begotten from Heaven.

The Pharisees are pulling out their hair by pulling the thinnest of arguments against Jesus. The new claim against Jesus is simply ridiculous. He is evil. He drives out demons by being a demon, or He is evil for doing what is good, right and holy. So now The Lord is bad for being good. Is this not the original temptation set before man? Sin has turned people upside down. It’s good to be bad, and it’s bad to be good! Ask any teenager, and they will agree - this is the way it is. The foundations of the world have been turned upside down.

How long must the Lord put up with criticisms that have no foundation! And yet Christ makes his case very clear, and his answer leaves no doubt for anyone who wishes to hear: “If you are not with me, then you are against me. If you do not allow love and forgiveness, compassion and mercy to rule your heart, then you are not with me. Who am I to judge anyone? Who am I to condemn anyone? Do I pray for my enemies? Do I pray for those who hurt me? Does the love of God command me to stop doing what is spiteful, to stop actively participating in evil? Do I walk away, as the Lord did, from those who wish to harm me? “He walked right through the crowd and went on his way” (Luke 4:30).

The fall of man began a long dark winter for all of us. Religion is not for ignorant and superstitious. No, it is for the “meek and humble of heart.” “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts!” (Ps 95:8) In the old days, we had to turn away from facing God, lest we die. Christ changed all that. Turn your face to Him, not your back (cf. Jer. 7:23-28).

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mt 5:17-19 The Greatest In The Kingdom

Mt 5:17-19 The Greatest In The Kingdom

(Click here for readings)

Can you love someone and still break a commandment? No. Even the Lord of Love directs his disciples to observe the Commandments - even the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter of the law. There is no love without justice and no justice without forgiveness.

Freedom without responsibility is a disaster! I learned that lesson on a ski trip to the Matterhorn ski resort in Switzerland. We took a group of international students in the middle of August to go ski. Did you say, August? Yes, so you can appreciate how high up we were. Four thousand four hundred and seventy eight meters high! As we approached the summit, I looked down and was seriously frightened of the prospect of skiing. First, the air was thin. Second, I was chaperoning a group of high school kids I didn’t even know. Third, some of the kids had a disregard for rules and regulations. Keep the Commandments, says the Lord, for they are a prescription for good living.

The doors of the gondola opened, we put on our skis and we were ready to go. Immediately I noticed the thin air. So did everyone else. I told my group to stick together. But as I was saying these words, five kids went under a thin yellow rope and took off, heading towards the bottom. “We’ll see you at the bottom Brother Alfonse.” I didn’t even have a chance to stop them. Off they went, and unknowingly heading towards a one thousand meter cliff. The leader of the pack was a rebel. He had given me so much consternation the night before that I punished him by making him carry in his backpack all the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It was providential. It saved his back, if not his life. He took off in front of the group, full speed ahead, and looked back and told the others, “I bet you, you can’t catch meeeee.” That’s right. He disappeared. It was a miracle that the others didn’t fall off with him. It was a miracle that he survived. Two rescue helicopters had to come in and save his life. He fell right on top of a slab of rock that was sticking out of the cliff. He fell on his back and was saved. The sandwiches were not so lucky.

Later, I asked him what he was thinking or saying as he headed towards the bottom. He told me that he promised the Lord everything if he would just give him one more chance. That’s when he stopped falling.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God are those who obey and teach the commandments of the Lord. “Take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.” (Dt 4:9)

This story is so unbelievable and yet, one high school student that was on the trip was from Dallas. He attended the Highlands School. When I arrived there five years ago he came up to me and asked me if I remembered him. I told him no. He looked at me and simply said, “I was at the Matterhorn.” He knows. So do I. How can we ever forget?

The temptation will always be to do what is easy, comfortable and selfish. The Lord's commandments can be summarized in the following way: Do what is right; do what is good; do what is holy. In this way, the Lord will be with me in times of trouble for I will be with him in paradise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mt 18:21-35 Seventy-Seven Times

Mt 18:21-35 Seventy-Seven Times

(Click here for readings)

During an open forum a question was asked, “Why is it so much easier to forgive someone than to forgive yourself?”

I responded immediately, “Is it really easy to forgive someone else?” We would like to think so. But I can tell you from firsthand experience; it is not easy at all. If anything, it is far too easy for someone to hold on to grudges; to be highly resentful of another, even to the point that it blinds them from that day’s truth or facts, the day that the relationship or friendship went sour.

There are always two sides to every story.

I find it amazing how the Lord has given the Church this Gospel passage today! I needed this. I’m sure you needed this too. Out of all the days! Why today? Today, the Lord speaks about forgiving those who have sinned against us. What is striking, is that the Lord does not demand from his followers or his disciples any written or oral apologies. Why? I think back to that first Sunday, when the Lord appeared in their midst’s; how fearful the Apostles must have been on the day of Christ’s resurrection. Peter saying to himself, “What will he say to me? After all, I denied him three times.”

And here is the amazing fact. The Lord made no requests for apologies. It’s not good enough to say he didn’t need it, he is God. Yes, he is God and man, he is fully human. And yet, there are no demands placed upon the Apostles except to believe in Him and to serve others. There is no pointing of fingers – except that of Thomas, as he places his finger in Christ’s side. The resurrection still occurred in spite of the wounds. The victory of the meek and humble of heart is assured. Did the Apostles apologize to Jesus for their running away, their cowardice, or for falling asleep and failing to live up to his expectations? Did they apologize for their denials? If they did, the Gospels are silent. Why? Would this not be an important step towards healing and forgiveness? Why are the Gospels silent? Well, maybe they did apologize. But then, why would this not be included? Believe me, I am just as shocked as you are! I don’t understand. Maybe we must look beyond mere words.

In the parable of the Prodigal son, the child that comes home is not even given the opportunity to admit his sorrow. The Father ignores him as he embraces him. It is obviously not important to him. Why? I think it is because the Father can stand on his own two feet. He doesn’t need it. He is confident in what is right and wrong; good and evil; holy and unholy. He doesn’t need the crutch of an apology to witness his son's conversion or goodness of heart. He simply wants what is good for his son, the love of his life. Those who demand an apology will never be able to forgive. It is the same as those who demand a reason to love; they will end up not loving.

The Lord reminds us today that it is good to receive an apology and to forgive. But it is much better to seek no apology and still forgive. The resurrection occurred despite the wounds. How hard it is to accept the chalice of the Lord. May the Lord grant me the grace to accept the shortcomings of others and may they come to accept mine as well. Lord, help us with your Divine Mercy.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lk 1:26-38 The Power of A Little Girl

Lk 1:26-38 A Little Girl

(Click here for readings)

In an interesting article published by, Sandro Magister writes, with regards to the Holy Father’s driven vigor to restore meaning to the Lenten season, that the Pope is taking the initiative to “open a court of the gentiles” who seek God. In the Sacred Temple of Jerusalem, there was a place where gentiles were allowed to congregate. The Pope is interested in “making God present in this world and to show all men and women of good will, the way to God.” This initiative is already underway.

Why? Because this is the mission of the Church. We are called to pastor, protect, provide. We are called to give reason for our faith, our hope and our love. Why do you believe in God? I believe because he has done great things for me. He has called me to “come follow” him. He has called me “friend”. He was the first, the Lord, to enter my soul: “It is no longer I who live in me, but Christ who lives in me.” Christ loves to enter the scene. He comes out of Himself and creates the Universe. He entered the world, front and center by back stage left! He did not come into the world just for the Jews. He came for all. He did not just come for me, he came for you too. He is the solution to all our problems.

Today, we hear about the healing of Naaman, the army commander of the king of Aram. He was a pagan, a gentile, a soldier of an occupying force. He had it all. He was respected, admired, feared, powerful, strong, courageous, victorious and most likely handsome. He had brought many victories to his king. He had honors, medals and titles. His image was plastered on every dirt wall. He should have been the happiest man in the world. Instead, he was miserable.

He was a leper. He was in pain and he was dying. All his medals, honors, titles meant nothing to him.

[Scene] Enter front and center by back stage left a little girl.

During one of their campaigns, the Arameans had captured a little Israeli girl, who became the servant of Naaman’s wife. She wanted to help her master. Why? To show the power of her god, the God is Israel. Like many kids, they are not shy when it comes to expressing themselves. “Hey mom, look! That man’s nose is falling off!!!” Shhhh….

Blessed are the children, for theirs is the kingdom of God! She was not shy in telling the truth about her God, nor was she shy in sharing him with others, even the worst of pagans! Her faith was strong. With a girl’s heart and the courage of a man, she approached her master and told him, salvation comes from YHWH.

If we dig a little deeper, we see that this little girl is the complete opposite of Naaman. He is the Commander, yet she orders him around. He is highly esteemed, she is highly underestimated. He is well respected, she is a slave. He is valiant, she, a faithful follower. He is sick, she is full of life. He is proud, she is humble. She shared the only wealth she owned: the Lord. Naaman had given up all hope.

While I was a fund raiser in the Midwest, we traveled around in our rented car visiting families that could help maintain our seminary. We had just arrived in Minnesota and to the home of a beautiful, numerous Catholic family. When we parked the car, the alarm went off inside our car. We didn’t even know we had an alarm! We tried looking for a button to turn it off and we couldn’t find it. It was making so much noise. We called to find out what to do. As we were calling I asked the smallest child, age ten, what we should do? He told me with those innocent eyes, “Pray.” He was right! We prayed and immediately, not even two seconds later, the button was found and the alarm was turned off. It takes the faith of a little child to open the eyes of adults.

This little girl reminds me of another little Jewish girl who prayed and said “yes” to the Lord and (indirectly) opened the eyes, ears and tongues of many throughout Israel and beyond.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jn 4:5-42 Digging In or Digging Deeper

Jn 4:5-42 Digging In or Digging Deeper

(Click here for readings)

In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses. Saying “Why did you ever make us leave Egypt... Is the LORD with us or not?”

A demanding people they are. A demanding people we are. We grumble, mumble, complain, accuse, shout and scream not only at God but also at all the people who love us! We grab the gift of our freedom, but we’re not exactly sure what to do with it. It never dawned on these Jews to take a shovel and start digging for water. Everything, everything had to be given to them. Everything had to be easy, at surface level. We know that God does not operate on the surface, but prefers to work deep into the soil (soul). It is for this reason that it took forty years for them to get out of the desert and into the Promised Land. Not a single adult that left Egypt entered the Promised Land alive. They tried sliding their way into Paradise and ended up digging their own graves.

Have I come to realize that freedom is not enough? That a goal, a dream, a vision is not enough? Is bread enough to live on? No. Is water simply H2O? No. It is much more. There is much more here than meets the eye: “If you only knew the gift of God.”

An obscure woman, a Samaritan woman, begins a forbidden dialogue with a man, a Jew, as she draws near to Jacob’s well. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan, for water?” The Lord’s reply is truly divine, “If you only knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, give me a drink, you would ask him and he would give you living water.” The open well is similar to the open tomb: deep, refreshing, life sustaining and life changing! Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, will no longer be just a man, a Jew, a mystery.

Whereas the Jews are completely closed to discussion, the Samaritan woman is very much open to dialogue, to learn, to understand and to appreciate this chance encounter with an obscure but fascinating Jew. The open well is similar to the open tomb, which is similar to her open heart, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” (Ps 95:8) Read and meditate on the dialogue. It is not an easy one. Many of her faults are exposed. And yet, she does not recoil in what the Lord has to say. She is not married, and she knows it. In fact, the fifth man she is living with is not her husband. She can call it whatever she wants, but it is not a marriage. The real miracle is her power to stay humble. Instead of getting upset or walking away, she prefers to dig deeper. The Lord’s words are sharp and true. He has invited her to taste living water that surges from Jacob’s well. This well exists for only one purpose: His purpose, which is our purpose.

The Samaritan woman drops her water jug, the original reason for being at the well, and goes into town to tell the people who she has seen and heard. By allowing the Lord to dig into her life, she has discovered her deepest desire in life: a purpose. Her mission is very similar to our mission: to dig deeper, cost whatever it costs, and to go out and to proclaim the marvelous words and deeds of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.

An open well lead her to the open tomb because she had an open heart. This is all it takes to encounter the Lord of Life. Open your hearts to Him today!

Peace will reign within our hearts only when we have come to realize that Jesus is LORD, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God. (Rom 5:1-2)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lk 15:11-32 The Child That Stayed Home And Sinned

Lk 15:11-32 The Child That Stayed Home And Sinned

(Click here for readings)

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Is 53:6)

“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and overseer of your souls.” (1Peter 2:25)

Many of us, when reading the story of the “Prodigal Son”, identify ourselves wholeheartedly as the young soul that took off on his great adventure and found himself with his face fallen in the mud. I think to myself, this is my life. I am this young person. I have been arrogant, obnoxious, rude, vulgar, and tactless. I have decided to leave the security of my home – my faith, morals, values and principles- and have quietly begun the great divorce within my mind, between them and my honor, between me and them. Only through sin could something this horrible happen. Sin can only enter when I allow my mind to grow weak and my heart to go faint. It doesn’t all happen overnight. This young man does not leave one night. It takes years for all this decay. Many of us can see it in others. Few of us can see it in ourselves. This is the setting for my rebellion. I have gone off to rebel, only to find myself eventually shattered, broken and crippled by my own hands and tongue.

Graduation for many of our youth is coming soon. This is the time of year when many lose their virginity in preparation for College. This is the time of year when far too many seek what they should never find and knock on the door they should never enter. Not now. Not there. This is the time when far too many begin to sell themselves off for cheap and lose their dignity to dirt.

The greatest pain, the greatest tears I have seen is when a young lady breaks up with her faith, morals, values and dignity before they break up with him. Of course, the same could be said for a young man. In fact, it actually does more damage to him than to her. He doesn’t seem to learn as quickly as she does.

This is the story of the Prodigal child. His problem was not that he was not loved enough; his problem was that he did not trust enough. Maybe he received far too little help from his older brother. This is an interesting addition in the Lord’s parable. Why mention an older son? The Father had two sons: The Jews and the rest of the world. The eldest Son, the Jewish people, is close to his heart. The youngest Son, the Pagans, is off in some distant land. They are both loved and both very much confused. It is the father who has to deal with both of them. As easily as we could identify ourselves with the young man that goes off and squanders that which he should cherish, I think we can now see a little bit of our “Christian selves” – you know, we who have been saved, the Jesus loves me crowd - in the young man that stayed home and did nothing except judge and condemn, criticize and speak harshly towards our brothers and sisters. How much more pathetic is he?

Lord, allow me to be more like your beloved Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, who was kind and merciful, giving and forgiving towards all his brothers and sisters - those who are close to him and those who are far from him. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lk 1:26-38 Presence as Present

Lk 1:26-38 Presence as Present

(Click here for readings)

The prophets were sent by God; the angel Gabriel was sent from God; Jesus was sent by His Father; the Apostles were sent by the Lord; the disciples were sent by the Apostles, and every Christian is reborn through the Lord’s disciples. The presence of the Lord is felt by all, one way or another.

God is with us! This is the greatest annunciation! God dwells among us. God is present among us. God begins it all, like in the beginning: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you! Our ancestor's response cannot be my response. It must be an heart warming, arms open acceptance, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” No questions, no doubts, no bargains, but tons of fear.

A Christian’s presence should always be a present, a gift to another. This is frightening. It means to relinquish power and to transfer it over to another. God is hidden in Mary’s womb. God travels along his mother’s path. God is obedient to creation. How beautiful as long as that gift is not manipulated and distorted due to evil.

In today’s dialogue, I am amazed at how brief it all is. There are no “what if’s…” or demands or certain conditions and guarantees requested. Mary is frightened. Not in her mission but in this angel. Is this angel an angel from God or from below? She knows perfectly well why she should be on guard. After all, it was a fallen angel that deceived Eve; a fallen angel that promised glory and honors. The angel makes himself clear: there will be no glory, no honors. Simeon drives the point home, “a sword shall pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35).

Mary’s remarkable fiat is all the more remarkable once we place ourselves in her life. Her life is not much different than ours: a life of tears, fears, hard work and little comment. But her presence is felt throughout the world, even in the netherworld. She is a walking earthquake. She makes her presence felt.

Mary’s beauty is uncovered when she discovers the meaning of her life. Her presence is the greatest gift she gives to the world, and she has been called to be a present for many.

I learned seven years ago that talent and titles are not necessarily necessary to make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes we think that if we were in a higher position, or accumulated a little more wealth, and/or possessed better skills, we could make more of a difference in the world. This is what I thought, until I was sent to Mexico to train in being the head of a school.

In 2003, after being ordained a deacon, I was sent to a tiny town called Aguascalientes to train under the leadership of a priest who had been in charge of schools for many years. He was the best. I got there and began my three month training by being his gofer. He told me flat out that he didn’t have time for me. I thought, “Great, another brilliant idea from the top brass.” We would drive together to school and then I would spend the entire day in a tiny cubicle reading over manuals written in Spanish.

Then one day, I heard the kids outside during recess. I went out and started talking to them. They asked me a ton of questions, “Where did you come from?” “What are you doing here?” My answers weren’t too thrilling, especially since they were in a horrible Spanish. I really didn’t know what to say. But the kids invited me nonetheless, “Want to play soccer? Want to go to lunch with us? Come visit our classroom! Come over to our house. Want to come to my recital? Our play? When I saw a kid alone and outside his classroom I would come over and talk to him. I got to know many by doing that!

The three months went by fairly quickly. I was kind of sad to leave and get back to Rome. The day before my departure, I was invited to a surprise party. I didn’t know exactly what the occasion was for, but I got there and we were all waiting for the head of the school to walk in. As the door began to open, I saw everyone around me getting excited. The head of the school walked in, but there was no applause, no shouting, no “Surprise!!!!” Instead, he walked over to me, and as he did, the crowd began to come around me. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Surprise! The party is for you!”

For me? Yes, he replied. The kids and their families wanted to thank you for all that you had done for them. You see, to be the head of the school means to be among the kids, teachers and families. When they are there, you’re there. When they are not there, that’s when you’re in your office.

Presence trumps all other things: titles, business skills, managing skills, human resources skills. Presence is more important than being able to fix the plumbing, the roof, the car. Your presence is what makes the gift you give special.

Presence is the reason why we love Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They [are] were a present to each other in the good, the bad and difficult times of their lives.

May we learn to be a gift to others, and may the Lord protect us from those who wish to take advantage of our presence.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lk 16:19-31 Hope In the Lord

Lk 16:19-31 Hope In the Lord

(Click here for readings)

There is no better or more appropriate title for this meditation than the one above. And so, what do we place our hopes in? No, really? What do I place my hopes in? A better love life? Health? More money?

I have had the immense displeasure of being locked up in the rectory for a few days now. I won’t bore you with the details but I will say that I had to do the unthinkable for me: I watched some TV. I was going nuts! I can read, and read a lot. I can meditate and watch the birds in the sky and all that stuff. I can plan and organize for the following week, even month. But, eventually, I needed to hear someone’s voice! So, I turned on the TV.

I will be very honest with you. I have not watched TV in a very long time. Really! Once in a while, when I visit a family and it’s the Super Bowl…yes, ok, but to watch TV alone, my eyes, ears and mind focused on what is in front of me and listen to the commercials in their entirety, it’s been a while. All I can say is, THANK YOU LORD! Thank you for having removed from my life this source of garbage. In seventeen years, it hasn’t gotten better. No. It has gotten far worse than I had ever imagined.

There are three commercials that appear to play non-stop: Gold, Lawsuits and Male/Female Dysfunctions. This is where we are today. The twenty-first century! America at its best?

I kept asking myself, why has the value of Gold climbed so high? And why do they want me to buy it? It finally dawned on me that someone, or some group, must have bought tons of gold when it was cheap (cheaper) and is now selling it at a much higher price. In other words, the price of gold went up artificially, creating an artificial demand for it so that the price will go up even higher.

The other commercials are self-evident: Power and Sex. So we have the three plagues that have plagued humanity for centuries: Power, Money and Sex. We are no different than our ancestors, except our ways of exploiting the sick, stealing from the poor and ignorant, and pursuing happiness have improved tremendously. Oh, what technology can do for us!

“Blessed are they who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 40: 5a). “Cursed the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh!”

No, the Lord does not predispose some to live a life like Lazarus – a life of misery, illness and shame. Neither does he condemn all who are rich and famous! Rather, he asks us to love God above all these things, and to love our neighbors and to treat them as we would want to be treated.

We can easily distinguish between those who have and those who have not. But, the true scandal is when I cannot distinguish between the Christian and the non-Christian. This is where the heart of Jesus is torn apart. This is where the great chasm occurs. “Between us and you a great chasm is established.”

Let us heal the heart of Jesus. Let us go out of our way to be true to our name.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mt 20:17-28 Our Worst Nightmare

Mt 20:17-28 Our Worst Nightmare

(Click here for readings)

Our worst nightmare! It could easily be a phone call from the police in the middle of the night, a child gone missing, a diagnosis of cancer or HIV, or discovering marital infidelity or abuse within the family.

But none of these compare to the horror of facing evil alone – to be considered a villain within your own home.

Scripture is filled with such examples, of men and women considered dead among the living, strangers amidst their own and/or brushed off as if they had no purpose in life. They have no voice because they have no audience to address themselves to. They are not heard. They are not listened to. They are alone.

Jeremiah was one of them. “Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. “Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. It will not mean the loss of instruction, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets. And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue, let us carefully note his every word.” (Jer 18:18-20)

This is powerful. Every word is deep in meaning. Every word was meant to be mediated by me. These words are not for prophets alone, but for all who wish to serve the Lord in their vocations as mother, father, wife and husband.

Come, let us contrive a plot against Jeremiah. My assassins know me by name and yet they don’t know me at all! Those I am supposed to help - to reach out to, to serve and to dedicate my time and life to - are the first who wish to do me harm, to strike at me. They do not turn their backs on me. No, they face me with a multitude behind them. “Everyone does it...All my friends…Nobody's parents…”

It will not mean the loss of instruction. This is by far the worst. My words have no value, my reflections, my meditations, my advice, my counsel, my past experiences, my mistakes mean absolutely nothing to the one in front of me. It is far worse than words without meaning. It is life without purpose. I see in the eyes of the other these words written across their face: I’d do just fine without you.

Let us destroy him by his own tongue. My adversaries now have a reason to listen to me: to bite me in the back! To be used against me. Hypocrite! Lousy hypocrite! She/he isn’t at all the person they claim to be! Look at him! Look at her! Our nightmare only got worse: to cast our loneliness into our very being; to throw doubt into the very person I am. Who am I? What am I here for? Am I doing what is right? Am I a good mom, dad, etc…

If the above are happening to you, then rest assured of one thing: You are not alone. The Lord is near to those who imitate Him. To serve is hard to do. To practice what one preaches is even harder to do. But the worst nightmare that could ever happen is to give into sin - to stop serving and to stop preaching - to walk alone among the living that are truly dead!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mt23:1-12 To Practice And To Preach

Mt23:1-12 To Practice And To Preach

(Click here for readings)

“Treat others as you would have them treat you.” Or, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

These words have radically changed the laws of our humanity. They are the anti-thesis of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. One is divine, the other is diabolic. The first is forever new, the second is well, second-natured. Those who live by Christ's words may not realize how radical they are. They were brought up to think that this is simply human. However, step outside for a moment and it won't take long to realize that Christ’s words are still being...evaluated.

With the de-Christianization of the West, which means the “de-humanization of man”, we find ourselves re-living an all too familiar reality, so common among barbarians: “I will do this for you, if you do this for me.” Or, “I will help you if you help me.” Or, “I will scratch your back if you scratch mine.”

Do I see the subtle difference in what Christ says and in what we say?

Following others is not our strong point as Americans. We pride ourselves of thinking we are independent thinkers. But we are influenced by many forces - too many to list here. Christ spoke to the crowds and to his disciples with authority. His authority came from his Father and we recognize it to be true because it rings true. He could easily have told his followers to rid themselves from the tyrannical Pharisees. Instead, He tells his little flock to obey whatever they say because they sit in positions of authority. His only warning is simple: do not do what they do.

Today, far too many Catholics dissent over Church teachings. The Lord reminds all of us to follow the teachings of the Church. Follow the Bishops of the Church, regardless of whether or not they live what they preach because they speak the truth.

Our Bishops have gone through rough times. In the past, some had listened far too long to secular voices, of pyschologists and of lawyers, rather than the voice of the Holy Spirit. But never have their failings turned into failed teachings, and their message is becoming clearer and clearer. Our way of life helps the Church’s message hit home. Issues such as the sanctity of marriage, of family, the gift of children and life, of the rights of the elderly and of the sick are strikingly painful yet truthful. Why is there so much pain among us? Why so many obsessive behaviors? Is it not related to dysfunctions in the family and in the messages being transmitted by the so-called “fashionable?” As our young prepare for graduation – they need to package themselves – sell themselves. How do they package themselves? With what items do they carry with them? Do they practice what they preach? Maybe. But what is it that they preach? I will help you if you help me?

Christ’s message is radical, as radical as it gets, as radical as two thousand years ago. Christ is not from another age, He is from another world!

It is not enough to just practice what you preach, but to practice to the greatest extent what Christ preached; to be an example of life for others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Luke 6:36-38 Something Beautiful

Lk 6:36-38 Something Beautiful

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you."

Here is the Old Law revised and beautified. So much for those who claim that our ancestors or ancients were thoughtless, ruthless and uncivilized beings. What we have here is our Lord's program of life, given nearly two thousand years ago, for all the world to see. Is there anything evil, immoral, or unwise in his words? Could this not be held in esteem by all, even today? Could it not be put in stone and placed in the United Nations, the Hague, or in Geneva? Is there anything controversial in His words? Would our nation not be better off if it hung in the White House, the Capitol, and the Supreme Court? Would relationships, marriages and families not blossom if at least one of the two were to faithfully abide by it? Yes, one out of the two! Most of all, would I not blossom if I were the one to do so with my words and deeds?

The Lord does not ask us to do something bizarre but something amazing - more amazing, more beautiful than imaginable - and that is to create miracles. Yes, that the blind regain their sight; the deaf hear and the dead rise.

I've been reading the letters of Jacques Fesch, a young french man who was convicted of murder and executed by guillotine on October 1st, 1957. I’ve been fascinated by this young man for a while now. There is no doubt that he committed the crime and there is no doubt that it occasioned his conversion. He died a convict but convicted in the Lord. I first learned about him while reading a portion of one of his letters in the Magnificat. I was shocked when I read the ending, "From the letters of Jacque Fesch, convicted murderer and convert."

How did his conversion take place? With the help and love of convinced Catholics - the prison chaplain, his lawyer, and his mother-in-law. Think about it. What an amazing trio!

There has been a lot of criticism from good and honest individuals toward's this young man's beatification. Cardinal Lustinger of Paris began the process "to give a great hope to those who despise themselves, who see themselves as irredeemably lost." That's good enough reason for me.

When we heed the words of Christ, not only does it change our lives but also the lives of those around us. All it takes is one of us, or three out of the four, to stop judging, stop condemning and start working. It doesn't matter who you are, as long as you are committed to the Lord.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mt 5:43-48 Be Perfect!

Mt 5:43-48 Be Perfect!

How could I ever be perfect? And how could I ever be perfect as God the Father is perfect? What does this mean? There is something in all of us that drives us towards perfection. That wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that we tend to drive others towards perfection too: moms with their daughters and dads with their sons!

Not only do we want the perfect home, perfect job, perfect kids, spouse, and parents, but we want for ourselves the perfect body – chin, hair, eyes etc… We are very much attracted to perfection and are driven to achieve it, cost whatever it costs. And it costs much more than we could ever imagine.

There was an article in MSNBC that dealt with moms forcing (yes, forcing) their children, as little as eight years old, to have certain cosmetic procedures done. In one industry, body waxing, salons are routinely dealing with twelve year olds! Moms are scared out of their minds that their daughters will be subjected to teasing due to unwanted (excessive) facial or body hair, so they request appointments, even at the reluctance of the beauticians. There is a bill that is currently circulating that would make it illegal for young children (pre-teens) to go to tanning booths. We have come to the point where the obvious is no longer obvious and the government has to protect children from their very own parents! God help us! It is a guaranteed disaster!

My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. (Is 55:8)

The Lord reminds us of where this desire, this attraction; this goal of “perfection” originates: it all comes from the Father; it comes from His creation, His works. It is the devil that distorts and twists it.

Why is God the Father perfect? Because His love for us is perfect. It is Love that never fails. His love conquers all: betrayal, denial, abandonment, crucifixion, and even death. His love endures all, bears all, love all: unconditionally. We are told to love your enemy, because even the Father loves them. He allows the sun to rise and the rain to fall on all his children. Can a parent lover her rebellious child? Can God love us - His sick, rebellious and fallen children? You bet! Actually, the bet has been made through Christ. The proof has already been given.

As Christians, we have a very special calling from the Lord, who is Lord of all. We are called by name to love every name, every person we meet. Yes, every person we meet because it is the Lord that sets up the meeting! Every person I meet, every soul that comes in contact with me, is a soul the Lord wants me to know and to love. How often that has happened in my life! And in the most bizarre of places: restaurants, airports, airplanes, sporting events, street corners. Have I loved them all? No. I’m still working on it. But I know that that is what the Lord considers to be most important. That is how the Lord wishes for me to be perfect. I hear him say to me, I sent you into the world for many reasons. Don’t settle for just a few. It is easy to become attached to a few friends. I know in my heart that I must move on.

The Lord moved from town to town, preaching the Good News and curing many who were sick. In each town he was overworked. God was tired, not of us but out of love! Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father has been perfect to you.

To be perfect means to be beautiful. May we never forget that King Solomon, in all his splendor, could not compare to the birds in the air and the summertime lilies. Those who live a simple, innocent and pure life are perfect! They are beautiful flowers in God’s amazing garden.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mt 5:20-26 God’s Way or The World’s

Mt 5:20-26 God’s Way or The World’s

(Click here for readings)

If the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

It was very late at night. I was spending the night at a friend’s lake house out in Mabank, Texas. While I was saying my night prayers I noticed the hands of a clock suddenly moving rapidly. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed. They were all concentrating in their prayers. Then I realized that the clock, handing on the wall, is an atomic clock. It was re-calibrating itself. Linked to a satellite it was adjusting itself to the exact time by means of a “universal” standard. I got to thinking. Christ is the standard, the universal standard, in which all life is measured. We need to be in sync with Him.

The Lord has set the standard for all of his children and we know we need to periodically adjust, calibrate, re-calibrate ourselves to His Will, His Way, His watch! Lent is a time for reflection so that we can function properly – for the purpose we were given.

Even better, Lent is for us the time to be true to our Maker.

Sin leaves us empty, broken, wasted; feeling abused and used and utterly worthless. “Turn back to me”, says the Lord. He invites us to turn back and reconcile with your brother and yourself before doing anything else. You cannot move forward if broken; otherwise the pain will only get worse.

Now is the time. Now is an acceptable time for our salvation.

What does it mean to surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees? It means to recognize my own sins! The righteous will always be good at pointing fingers at others but never at themselves. If the Lord is to create a new heart, a new spirit in us, then we will have to get rid of the old to make room for the new. Confessing our sins leaves room for a new heart, a new life!

Before asking someone on a date, going on a date, going on the Internet, reading a novel, going on Spring Break, departing on a trip; before writing a response to an e-mail, text messaging, or leaving a message on Facebook or Twitter; before all other things let us turn to the One who is in all things!

Do I need to settle with the Lord my thoughts, my intentions and my actions? Do so NOW before judgment. Catholics have Lent. Protestants have the constant twenty year cycle of predicting the end of the world. New date: 2012!

The Lord invites us to come to Him with open arms, bent knees and broken hearts. The Lord invites us to come to him as our Savior rather than as our Judge. Better to go to the Lord as our Savior and King than as our Judge and Ruler.

The Lord invites us to forgive and be forgiven; to love and be loved. He calls me from afar, from within, from above. I can heed the call or else, prepare for a long drawn out battle with the devil of intrigue, suspicion, jealousies and falsehoods. I will not win! I will surely die.

Whatever happened to the Pharisees? Why did they turn so nasty? How did they get to that place in their lives were they could no longer love or recognize goodness and purity? How did they get so cynical, judgmental and vicious? Believe me when I tell you: all these things are near to us! All these things that I hate in others are near to me! Their problem can easily be mine too: Refusing Christ!

The Lord highlighted, in every word and gesture, what was wrong with the World. Lent is a reminder that He has my name highlighted too!

Let us ask the Lord with all our hearts to keep us from falling again into sin; to deny ourselves today and not to deny those in need; to receive this day of penance as a gift and give it back through works of mercy; to master our rebellious hearts and teach generosity. We ask this in His name. Amen! (Liturgy of the Hours)