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!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mt 14:13-21 Little Do We Know

Mt 14:13-21 Little Do We Know

(Click here for readings)

"The disciples approached Jesus and said, 'This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.' Jesus said to them, 'There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves. But they said to him, 'Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."

A few days ago a gentleman approached me after Mass and wanted to share a story with me. I told him, "I love a good story. Go ahead." Here is his story.

It literally all began when a ten year-old boy approached me and asked me if I wanted to buy a rosary. This boy has been making rosaries out of legos and has been selling them over the summer. I told him, "Sure. How much?" I was stunned when he said, "Twenty dollars!"

"Twenty dollars!," I replied. He said, "It takes a lot of time to make one and the cost of the materials is pretty high!" Well, I thought it was just too high for a rosary and told the lad that I couldn't afford it.

Throughout the day I felt bad. I couldn't get this kid out of my head. So the next time I saw him I bought a rosary from him. He had lowered the price for me but I refused to pay any less than twenty dollars.

Now for the miracles. When my daughter was having a rough time in her marriage, I gave her a rosary and you know what? They are doing just fine today.

I decided to buy another rosary for a relative of mine who was very sick and needed surgery. I told her to pray the rosary and she did. Guess what? She no longer needs to have surgery.

I bought another rosary and gave it away and another miracle occurred.

Father, all those who have received a rosary have received a miraculous blessing! But now I have a problem. I asked him, "You have no more money?"

He said, "No! There is someone else who is sick and could use this rosary but they are not a believer! What should I do?" I told him, "Buy a rosary and give it to them. It isn't you who decides, it is Christ who decides."

In today's Gospel, the Lord feed at least five thousand men, not including the women and children. The Lord knew every single one of them. We don't. There are some things we can do like provide five loaves and two fish. There are some things we cannot do like multiply them and fill twelve baskets of fragments.

Little do we know what we can do. Little do we know what the Lord can do.

Allow yourself to follow the Lord. Open your heart and be generous in your giving. The Lord will open His heart and surprise you in a way you least expected.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mt 14:1-12 The Truth Cannot Be Silenced

Mt 14:1-12 The Truth Cannot Be Silenced

(Click here for readings)

“Herod the tetrarch heard of the reputation of Jesus and said to his servants, ‘This man is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.’”

We all know that Herod was responsible for the death of John the Baptist. He had him killed after the daughter of Herodias danced for him. The first to lose his head was not John but Herod!

“I want to know.” “Let me know.” “You can tell me!” “Go ahead, I can take it.” “What do you think?” “What’s on your mind?” We encourage others to be open, to speak their mind, to share their thoughts and ideas. We think we are strong. We are not! How quickly a friendship can deteriorate when a friend insists on picking our brains and ends up taking a pick axe to it!

We take pride in our Constitution, especially the amendments, especially the first amendment. We love to see freedom of speech in action. We love debates, comments, chat rooms and open forums. But we are no different from others. It isn’t that we fear being wronged; it’s that we do not like to be wrong, and we take offense to it.

We have no problems telling others what’s good for them. We have no problem telling others what we think they want to hear and not necessarily what they need to hear. We tell them that this or that will make them stronger and better; that it will keep them humble. We can give them a thousand reasons why they should not give into pressure or be disheartened. These types of conversations are like an illness. An illness can make you better, stronger, more grateful and less wasteful. But in the end, the only good or virtuous illness is the one that someone else has.

Again, not too many of us look forward to a frank conversation, a truthful dialogue, a call into the CEO’s office. Freedom of speech is a beautiful ideal that can quickly dissolve into a fit of rage where mud, slime and filth are spoken as a means to my self-defense!

In many ways, we have become a much weaker nation, a weaker people because only the “experts”, those authorized to speak, are allowed to share their opinions and thoughts on life. Once upon a time, everyone danced in a little town. Today, if you want to dance, you have to take dancing lessons. A friend can no longer give me his two cents. A penny for your thoughts has become a clever way to file a lawsuit! Only a strong person is willing to ask for an honest opinion, and there are very few honest opinions shared because there are very few strong people left. We prefer to hear a lie, like Herod and Herodias.

John the Baptist was not an expert in marital relations. He was not a welcomed liar. He spoke honestly and truthfully, and he was contained. He was silenced before he even knew it; buried before his friends could mourn. But he came back to life. John the Baptist was replaced by Jesus of Nazareth. And this time, as hard as they try, the truth could not be buried because the Truth is a Person who knows his way out of the grave! The truth can no longer be silenced because his voice is heard throughout the world! His words are found in Sacred Scripture. His life is found in the eyes of the Saints. The names may change throughout the centuries, but the truth remains. The truth can no longer be beheaded because the Truth is found in the Body of Christ.

Here we are. We are witnesses to Christ. The truth has set us free. We have nothing to fear. We have much to do. Guided by the Spirit, encouraged by His fruits and aided by the family of God, we can see the truth better than ever in a world more fractured and divided. This world continues to be plagued by sin and surrounded in fear. “I am the truth, the way and the life” says the Lord. I have come to set you free. “Whoever hears my voice, hears the Truth and the Truth shall set you free!”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mt 13:54-58 When Life Gets Boring

Mt 13:54-58 When Life Gets Boring

“Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house.’ And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith.”

What makes life boring? A lack of vision, a lack of faith.

To live life as a true and proper atheist would be to live immersed in Quaker Oats, in grits! You are what you eat. You see what you get. You are one with your environment. I am surrounded by quick sand with no chance of escape, no bearings to heed, no compass that will lead, no GPS to guide me. There is no right or wrong, no heights or depths, no crossroads for decision. I am on the edge of a pointless world within a lost universe. I am in the midst of a meaningless moment. I am not who I am. I am not at all.

My imagination is limited to only what I can see, for nothing exists outside of material things. A scream in the night should give little fright, for nightmares are like sound waves that carry no weight.

We are immersed in an endless fire of greed and envy. We are covered in sores like pride and vanity. We are burning in heat; we are fond of death.

All our ailments can be attributed to one single thing – a lack of faith. The Lord came into the world and his own did not want anything to do with him. Jesus was uncommon. He was unique. He was not who he appeared to be. And that was why he had to sink.

Is he not the carpenter’s son? No, He’s not. From the very beginning, his accusers were wrong. When we take away mystery at the very beginning of our logical assumptions, we end up highly disorientated and unfortunately dead wrong.

The Pharisees find a twisted excitement by distorting the truth and creating a stir. They seek to destroy by inciting a riot, a diversion. They hope to knock down what they cannot see. The Lord does not fall into any of our categories. We know what it means to be a liar. We know what it means to be a lunatic. But we do not know what it means to be the Lord of All.

The cause of Christ’s death is found only in Scripture. The word sin does not appear in any autopsy report or scientific journal. And yet, it is the cause of all his and our problems. And the sin that caused our biggest problem is the same sin that caused all His problems. We, since the very beginning of time, have the problem of thinking too much which will always be too little; of thinking the world as round, as round as a penny! The Lord was too big to fit in our heads so he had to be broken and crushed with hammers and nails.

Very few miracles were performed in Christ’s childhood neighborhood. Life in Nazareth was dominated by highly rational and able bodied men who lived a very normal and boring existence. Things can only be what we expect them to be. We can only seek what we can grasp. So when Jesus approached, the leaders quickly sought to strike. They spoke in spite! They ruled in rules. They made the giver of life unapproachable. The River of Life had been rejected in favor of standing, murky well-water. Fishermen threw their nets, and as expected, found what was expected, and it was very little. The kingdom of heaven remained buried like a treasure, all picks and shovels remained idle. Why bother to search for what cannot be seen?

The Lord came and left. He did not return. He did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith. The same will be true to those who seek to understand before they believe.

No matter how hard people try; no matter what people may think, the love of God, the Cross of Christ, cannot be denied, not even in a painting depicting the universe, a painting full of darkness and surprise.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Mt 13:47-53 Like It Or Not

Mt 13:47-53 Like It Or Not

(Click here for readings)

“The kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore…What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age…Do you understand all these things?”

Do I understand these things? There is a heaven and there is a hell, and neither will disappear, regardless of my personal beliefs or feelings or philosophy or persuasions for or against God. It will not make a single bit of difference if I disagree with the Lord of Scripture or agree with the Lord of Warm Fuzziness.

I can claim intellectual atheism. I can shake my hands and plead agnosticism. But in the end, the Lord of Life will decide, once and for all, my fate, my destiny, my life.

I can say it is barbaric. I can argue until I am black and blue in the face, cold as ice and rigid as rigor mortis. But in the end, it will not be I who lives in me but Christ or nihil that lives in me.

A favorite pet, lying on the side of the road, is typically a dead pet. It is no longer. It is gone and it will not return to me regardless of if I wish it, demand it, will it or care for it. All I can do is live with it.

This is the brutal reality of life: it comes to an end. And then there is conclusion: judgment. It is what it is, like it or not.

Religion, opium for the people. To those suffering pain, humiliation, illness, and serfdom, it promised a reward in the afterlife. And now we are witnessing a transformation. New opium for the people is a belief in nothingness and death – the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice and murders we are not going to be judged.” (Czeslaw Milosz, taken from Roadside Dog)

The Lord does not often repeat himself. But in this past week, he has given us parable after parable about death, judgment and heaven and hell.

Will he be just? You bet! Will he show mercy? Yes. How do we know? Because we know how these parables end – in real life! They end with Christ instructing his disciples to be fishers of men, all men - the good and the bad. They just need to be breathing! If they are breathing, then they still have a chance. How many souls have come to the Lord on their death bed? It’s not the best; after all, these poor souls wasted maybe forty, fifty, sixty years of their life enslaved to sin, but the good news is that they came in with a pulse!

A while back I visited an individual who was dying of AIDS, hepatitis C, and anal cancer. This person had been away from the faith for over twenty years. But while lying in bed, dying in a hospital room, a request to see a priest was made. This person wanted to come back to their childhood faith. I came. I saw. I gave this person Christ. Mission Impossible completed by God’s grace. If only you could see their face.

Are you surprised? There’s nothing to be surprised about. It’s all in a day’s work!

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Children, have you caught anything to eat? They answered him, ‘No.’ So he said to them, ‘Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something…They dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.”

That’s a lot of fish!

There’s a lot of people to catch!

God has given us the best net ever: Christ. Now, all we have to do is cast Him, set Him free, and let the Lord be who He is: THE LORD of heaven and earth!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mt 13:44-46 Hidden Treasure

Mt 13:44-46 Hidden Treasure

(Click here for readings)

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field.”

Take a few moments to write down the treasures in your life… Do not continue reading this meditation until you have made your list.

Now, if you even made a list, take a look and see if faith, hope and love made it on your treasure list (I know, it’s early in the morning).

I think we would all agree that we need to take time to pray. But it is also important to take time to write down our thoughts. I know, with our busy schedules we barely have enough time to eat let alone think, pray and meditate. But I’m not convinced the problem is with time. I think for the most part, the problem is with patience. Good things come to those who wait; that is, who are patient. The same is true for treasures. They are buried for a reason: to be preserved and protected for the right moment.

When is faith needed most, if not during nights of blindness? Is hope not a must during moments of trial? Even love must be preserved and protected when shocked by betrayal! Our faith, hope and love are a gift from God that can only be strengthened, protected and preserved through prayer and reflection.

Very often, I encourage teenagers to look upon their beauty as a treasure – that is, something that is holy, exciting, amazing, and unique. It is exciting because it is sought after. It is amazing because it causes an internal and external war among one’s suitors! It is unique because it is found only in you. In a certain sense, the young soul that respects his/her body is a young soul that is full of faith, hope and love. It is a soul that prays.

Throughout Scripture we find so many powerful stories of personal conversion. The Lord changes lives. How can we forget the adulterous woman who was willing to give away her precious oil for free and for the Lord, oil she had labored and slaved over for years? Do we remember Zacchaeus who was willing to give half his belongings to the poor and four times the amount he owed to those he had extorted? We should not forget the Roman Centurion who approached the Lord with great faith and great risk of losing the respect of his country and his men! All these, plus more, were willing to sell what they owned to buy what they treasured most.

Youthfulness and beauty are treasures that are found on the surface on the field. Faith, hope, love and prayer are buried much deeper within the soil. But what is buried in the deepest depths of the field is the greatest treasure of all: Christ.

If we dig deeper, reflect and meditate more, we shall encounter the Lord of life; we shall find the pearl of great value. We shall discover the purpose and meaning of our life and death. We shall no longer settle for less; we shall no longer be content with more. We shall have found the fountain of youth and the power of wisdom; the source of joy and the beauty of tears. We shall experience the paradox of losing one’s life to find one’s life. In summary, we shall have found the Risen Lord at the moment we strike the empty tomb.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mt 13:36-43 Truth Through Parables

Mt 13:36-43 Truth Through Parables

“The disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

Why did the Lord love to speak in parables? Why not make things so much clearer?

A beautiful and well thought out explanation may be found in a new study bible published by Ignatius Press and with commentary by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch.

First of all, parables are a spoken literary “comparison” between two things for illustration. Jesus uses parables in the New Testament for two purposes: to reveal and to conceal divine mysteries. (1) Parables invite the humble to reach behind the images and lay hold of God’s truth. Parables sketch out earthly scenarios that reveal heavenly mysteries. (2) Conversely, they obstruct the proud and conceal divine mysteries from the unworthy…Jesus speaks in parables for the benefit of the faithful and the judgment of unbelievers.

Christ spoke openly at the beginning of his ministry. He then switched to parables when he began to be persecuted. Humble people reflect quickly. Arrogant people react quickly! They leave no time or space in considering another’s point of view. In many ways they are like weeds, they grow and spread quickly without considering where the wheat stands. They seek to suffocate. They muse themselves through numbers, “I know I’m right because so many others support me.”

In an exceptional move, the Vatican has recalled its nuncio to Ireland so that he could participate in meetings aimed at drafting a formal response to an Irish government report on clerical sex abuse. After centuries of friendship; after centuries of standing alone with Ireland during its brutal occupancy and treatment under English rule; and after the current left-wing Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, threw a virile barrage of hatred toward the Holy See, the Vatican has decided to defend herself. Just a few days ago, in a charismatic speech to the nation, the Prime Minister accused the Holy See of dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism.

We all know that Ireland is facing a financial crisis that could topple the government any day. So I guess we are to assume that the failed Irish government, along with its PM, is above dysfunction, disconnection, elitism and narcissism. What we are witnessing is an historical event; that is, we are seeing something we have seen before, and it has the name scapegoat!

The Vatican will respond, and its response will be far more cultured, civilized and accurate than the inflammatory rhetoric of a pride-filled Prime Minister to his indebted nation. This man is simply stroking the flames of hate away from himself (and government) and towards a sacrificial lamb or goat. His plan is simple, “Let’s burn the goat, before it can speak out.” Hopefully, the Irish people are a bit smarter than that.

Now for some good news…

Recently discovered documents show that Pope Pius XII, the wartime Pontiff during the 1940’s was directly responsible for bringing an end to the arrests of thousands of Jews in 1943. In a statement for Pave the Way Foundation, Gary Krupp, a Jew, announced the recent findings:

“Many have criticized Pius XII for remaining ‘silent’ during the arrest and when trains left Rome containing 1,007 Jews who were sent to the death camp Auschwitz. The critics also do not acknowledge Pius XII’s direct intervention to end the arrests of Oct. 16th, 1943.”

“New discoveries prove that Pius XII acted directly behind the scenes to end the arrests at 2:00 pm, on the very day they began, but who was powerless to stop the ill-fated train.”

In 1943, there were approximately 12,428 Jews in Rome. “Pope Pius XII’s direct action saved the lives of over 11,400 Jews.”

How would Jesus describe these recent events? He would probably describe them with the following parable, “The Church of God may be likened to a lamb led to slaughter.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mt 13:31-35 From Smallest To Largest

Mt 13:31-35 From Smallest To Largest

(Click here for readings)

“[The Lord] proposed another parable. The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.”

I cannot think of a single thing in existence that did not start off small. Even our universe is the result of a tiny explosion. Even our Lord began as a child.

I said I cannot think of a single thing that did not start off small. This is true not only in the physical world but also in the spiritual realm. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.” Mary was the first to believe and rightly so is the mother of all believers. She is the Mother of the Church. Her yes - her faith and love – initiated the tremor that would eventually become an earthquake that would be felt throughout the world. Her yes was the first glimmer of light from the sun that would rise and bring light to the world.

Great things start off small. It is also true that horrible things start off small.

We have all heard of the massacre in Norway. Anders Behring Breivik, a Norwegian citizen, was captured by police and has confessed to having placed a bomb outside the government’s headquarters. He has also confessed to police of having killed over sixty children attending a political rally on an island campsite.

Who was this man? Early reports linked him to Christian fundamentalism. This is very disturbing; after all, a Christian fundamentalist is unlike any other fundamentalist. By definition, he is someone who adheres to and strictly abides to the teachings of Christ. This label b y the media is a callous attempt to group all sorts of fundamentalists into one category: evil.

What the politically-correct and highly anti-Christian media would love to say is, “You see, there is such a thing as Christian fundamentalists, and they are just as bad as Muslim fundamentalists!” Not so fast! In fact, as the media continues to try to get the story straight on this massacre, there appears to be a downplaying of any type of Christian affiliation for Anders. In fact, unlike Muslim jihadists, who routinely frequent their local Mosque for instruction, authorities are not even sure if this “Christian fundamentalist” and Mass Murderer ever went to Church! The truth shall be known, but many lies shall be left in print.

Who are the Christian radicals? Who are the Christian fundamentalists? They are the Saints! They are the men and women who lived life like Christ. They are the Jesus-like peacemakers who were butchered during the French Revolution and the Spanish Civil War. They are the Jesus-like meek and humble of heart who took the place of condemned men in the Nazi concentration camps. They are the Jesus-like lambs who volunteered to lay down their life and go on remote islands to love lepers and die as a leper. They are the highly irrational and unreasonably Jesus-like poor-in-spirit who beg for the poor so that they can live as sisters to the poor.

Fundamentalists go after the heart of their founders. They are all like mustard seeds; they start off small, like their founders. But when the Christian fundamentalist is fully grown, he self-destructs unlike others! His dying to self gives life to others.

If there is anything that we can say about them, it would have to be that they are the Big Bang that is not of this world!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mt 13:44-52 The Treasure

Mt 13:44-52 The Treasure

(Click here for readings)

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

What are you digging for? What treasure are you looking for?

I think to myself…for years success was extremely important to me; and for me, success included wealth, health, influence, respect, recognition, image and security. Success can mean a lot of things for a lot of people. For King Solomon, it meant wisdom. And he got it! The Lord was very good to him, “Because you have asked for wisdom – not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right – I do as you requested.”

Solomon received the gift of wisdom. He was wiser than any other individual alive. He was also the biggest disaster ever in the history of Israel! He destroyed the Kingdom. He ruined his people, including his children. He ruined his numerous wives. Instead of wisdom, he should have asked for holiness. Instead of a big brain, he should have asked for the Lord’s heart.

Too many of us continue digging in the wrong field for the wrong treasure. I did. And it’s not like I didn’t find my treasure. I almost always did. But it was always my treasure. I never found the Lord’s treasure until much later in life. I feel sorry for the ones who continue wasting their time, their resources and, most importantly, their life moving from one field to another, still looking for that elusive Treasure.

“I don’t want to know anything about God!” We have all said it or heard it at one time or another in our life. Sometimes we are just not ready to start digging in the right field. We know where it is, but we don’t even want to go there.

I still remember a female co-worker of mine that I was dating that would leave a balloon in my office every morning. It drove me nuts for one reason alone. Every time I got one I would pop it, and inside of it there was a quote from the Bible. She was a protestant. One time, the quote was from Proverbs 31:10. It read, “Blessed the man who finds a worthy woman, her value is far beyond pearls…she is an unfailing prize.” I thought to myself, “Hah! Blessed is the woman who finds a stud and awesome guy like me!!! Who does she think she is?” To my shame, she was a much better person than I. I just hope that she never lowered her morals; that is, I hope she never stopped digging until she had reached the pearl.

Some poor souls don’t even believe this treasure exists. They stop digging. They settle for mediocrity. They settle for less. “I’ll take any man”, “I’ll take any woman”, “I’ll take any job”, “and I’ll do whatever it takes to be attractive; to be wanted; to make it to the top; to make money.”

The man in the Gospel who found the treasure knew where to look. So do we. True, it is buried. We have to do some work. But we know where to find it, and when we do, we will sell all our limited dreams and successes for it! We will never be the same again. We will be much better!

The hidden treasure, the pearl of our life is Jesus Christ. The irony of it all is that for Jesus, his pearl, his treasure is…us. He buys the entire field. He wants to be found. A bride once confided in me that her faith was weak from childhood. She never believed the love story, our story, that God (or anyone) could ever love her as much as we told her. I believe this is the greatest struggle of our faith: Is it really possible that Jesus could love me as much as he says? I reminded this young bride that nothing on earth could ever compare to God’s love. But, in the Sacrament of Marriage, when a man says to his bride, “I will love honor you and love you all the days of my life”, the door to this great mystery is ever slightly opened to shed a single ray of light of God’s infinite love for us.

Yes, it is possible. In fact, it’s better said, “I do."

Heavenly Father, give us the courage to never dig for counterfeits, for fools gold. Give us the strength to never stop digging - to never doubt or give up - until we obtain you. We ask this through Christ our Lord and pearl. Amen.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mt 13:24-30 Weeds and Wheat Part II

Mt 13:24-30 Weeds and Wheat Part II

(Click here for readings)

“Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds… ‘The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat…The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them…Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time.”

There is a weed in Israel called “darnel” that resembles wheat in the early stages of its growth. Only when it fully matures can it be distinguished and separated from wheat. Back in the day, this parable was very practical and must have been well understood. I am not sure if my parish priest back in New York was aware of it. One day he asked me to do just the opposite of the householder in the parable.

I don’t remember all the details but I do remember getting caught saying some choice words to another student. Our parish priest heard the whole thing and immediately intervened. He asked me to step outside with him and take a walk. Although I had belonged to this parish all my life I had never really taken the time to know our priest. I was about twelve years old and full of myself! I was a 60’s baby boomer and a fully fledged believer in “Mr. Roger’s” hypnotic voice. From him I received free counseling as he sang his now famous “you’re special” song at the end of his weekly brain washing session. It all worked. I can honestly say I felt self-entitled. I might be exaggerating a bit, but that’s exactly what a twelve year old does with a little knowledge!

The priest took me outside and asked me if I had a problem with cussing. I told him I didn’t think so. Actually, I didn’t think cussing was a sin either. Anyways, during our one-sided conversation, he asked me to pull out a weed that was in front of him. I thought to myself, “Oh no, I’m going to have to pull out every single weed from his garden.” Well, I did what he asked and proceeded, I pulled the weed out successfully and proceeded to leave. He called out, “That was pretty easy right?” I stopped, turned around and said, “I guess.” Then he asked me to do something very bizarre. He stood near a tree and asked me to pull out the tree. I looked at him and thought he was crazy! No one could pull out that tree! Nothing could pull out this enormous tree. I told him, “I can’t.” He then gave me the greatest advice I have ever heard. “Exactly, you see when you start having a little problem; the best thing to do is to pull it out immediately, before it gets too big and too hard to pull out. That’s why the best thing to do is to pull out a bad habit while it is still small. Otherwise, it will only deepen and become impossible to uproot.”

Great advice! It might appear to some to be contrary to what Jesus speaks of in the parable but it is not. Today, I understand better than ever what the Lord was seeking and what my priest was saying. When someone looks at a child, a young soul, they could easily make the mistake and think of them as darnel - when in reality they are not. Let it be. Let it grow. Let us wait.

For this reason we are patient, but not idle. We can continue to fertilize the ground with tons of virtues (not manure), and we shall see great results.

The Lord continues to cultivate, even today. He does not condemn, not even today.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mt 13:18-23 Persecution

Mt 13:18-23 Persecution

“The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away.”

These are tough times for the Holy Roman Catholic Church. That is, tough times for all faithful bishops, priests and lay men and women who wish to live and proclaim their faith in private and in public. No one, no government, no institution, no culture has the right to control one’s conscience, especially if they are faithful to God! A faithful Catholic is still greater than anything secular society can muster! I repeat - A faithful Catholic, a holy Catholic, is greater than anything our secular, modern, progressive, medically and artificially sustained culture can generate.

In the old days, the persecution of our faith was self-evident. It was bloody and you could smell it and see it for yourself. People were dragged from their homes, thrown into the streets, paraded before atheist authorities and decapitated in public squares. It was all done in the name of liberte, eqalite, fraternite. The language may change, but the propaganda, the slogan, the fruit stand ad never changes: “Come to us, we have the sweetest apples from this tree!”

Today, the persecution is much more sophisticated, clever and always concealed under the cloak of tolerance, freedom, love. But make no mistakes; there is nothing tolerant about those who oppose our Catholic faith. When voters in California went to the polls and approved a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman, all hell broke out in the streets of California. Gay activists went on the Internet and published hateful, spiteful, derogatory and inflammatory statements about Christianity and especially Catholicism. These same activists went on a vandalizing spree, breaking old stain glass windows of Churches and defacing them with blasphemous and vile statements. On the contrary, when the Governor of New York signed into law the “Marriage Equality Bill”, there was not a single peep of hatred from Archbishop Dolan or from any of the Catholic faithful. No effigies were burned of the governor or of gays and lesbians – unlike the burning effigies of the Pope and mockery by transvestites of priests and nuns in gay parades. In fact, when a reporter asked the Archbishop of New York if he had anything to say to gays and lesbians, he simply said, “I want you to know I love you.”

Hatred for our faith runs deep, and few know its history. While Gay History will now be taught in all California elementary schools (including Kindergarten) starting this year, Anti-Catholic bigotry in America is still not a part of the curriculum in any of the fifty States! It should be, but it isn’t because it’s still the only acceptable bigotry left in the U.S.

American Catholics are suffering for their fidelity and their faith. A few days ago, at least two Town Clerks in New York submitted a letter of resignation citing religious beliefs. They would prefer to resign rather than officiate same-sex marriages. Ken Runion told CBS 6 news, “I was surprised because we all take the oath of civil service and promise to follow the law…Regardless of personal beliefs, Same-Sex marriage is now legal and we have to follow the law.” Yes, like the blind leading the blind, or like sheep without a Shepherd. Funny! Is this the best logical argument that can be mustered from a Town Supervisor? When the Town Clerk took her oath, she swore to protect the laws of the land, not some futuristic laws. Second, if a law had been passed to euthanize people older than sixty, would we not see people resigning? I hope so!

Finally, we have the sad case of priests being verbally accosted in the United States and in Ireland where the child abuse scandals have hit hardest. Good priests, holy priests are placed in the same category as bad priests because they are, well… Catholic priests. The same categorizing would never be tolerated for Jews, Muslims or even politicians. A Judas will always be present in the Church just as there are politicians who would prefer to be called Caesar rather than Mr. President.

Progressive Catholics are calling for a change in the way the Church is structured. Some are calling for a Catholic Tahrir Square! But would we get better or worse? We still don’t know the outcome from the Egyptian revolution. On the Catholic side we have two thousand years of life and growth. The Roman Pontiff has survived a lot of coups, sackings, and invasions from the outside and, regrettably, from the inside! It seems as though God does know what he is doing. Are we supposed to believe that an elected Bishop could be better than a nominated Bishop? Has our democracy and right to vote given us fewer corrupt politicians, less secrets and more transparency?

In Ireland, the Prime Minister recently warned priests that they could face up to five years in prison if they do not report the names of individuals who have confessed the sin of child abuse. "After all", he said, "The Law of the Land supersedes all other laws." I guess that includes God's Law as well. I know many priests that would gladly spend five years in prison rather than break the seal of confession. I pray that faithful priests will continue to wear their collar in public, for a faithful priest is still greater than anything secular society can muster!

Let us pray for Christians, especially our Catholic brothers and sisters consecrated to the Lord who are persecuted for the Truth, and those lay Catholics who lose their jobs and suffer ridicule and persecution because they prefer to serve the Lord of Life rather than the Prince of Lies.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mt 13:10-17 Blessed Are Your Eyes

Mt 13:10-17 Blessed Are Your Eyes

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“Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”

To see things clearly means to have 20/20 vision. To see things more clearly means to allow the Spirit to work through you and be a part of you so as to see beyond what the human eye can see. To see things more clearly means to invite God to enhance your internal imaging process. For example: to hear a symphony by observing a pastoral setting or to write poetry while observing a field of wheat.

Many read Scripture. Some are inspired, others are not. Some read it as a novel while others read it as Sacred. Some consider it as brilliant literature. Others can see it as divine intervention. “Blessed are your eyes, because they see.”

Many motorists passed her by. Many never even considered investigating the twisted metal. But one newly ordained priest understood that something was seriously wrong.

I personally know Fr. Jorge Garcia, L.C. He was a seminarian in Rome while I was preparing for my ordination. On December 12th, on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, he was ordained a priest. Two days later, he traveled with his family to San Giovanni Rotondo to celebrate Mass. The journey was long, roughly five hours from Rome, but the longing to visit St. Padre Pio’s tomb and monastery was strong, very strong. After a few hours there, the family headed back to Rome. The day appeared to be complete. Little did they know what would happen next.

As night descended, Fr. Jorge’s brother insisted that they stop at a store to fix his cell phone. It hadn’t been working at all that day. It was already getting late and Father really didn’t want to. “Can’t this wait?” he thought to himself. But in the end he relented, and solved what appeared to be a non-essential matter.

The traffic was slow. A young lady, riding a motorcycle, was slowing down traffic. She was driving very cautiously on the winding roads. The weather had turned bad only a few minutes ago and everyone was anxious to get back home before midnight.

Suddenly, the cars began to move at a normal pace. As they turned in what appeared to be an endless number of curves, Father Jorge noticed a twisted motorcycle up ahead. Here, I want to stress to you that not a single car stopped or slowed down as they passed the broken motorcycle near the guard rail. The Garcia family passed to, but Fr. Jorge immediately had a reaction, a knee jerk reaction. He knew, without seeing, that something serious had happened. They stopped. He got out. He walked over to the wreckage and saw no one and heard nothing. He called out. Nothing. He called out again. Nothing. He walked a few feet and into the bushes. There he saw a young girl, Rosanna, 17 years old, lying on the ground. One arm had been completely severed, the other was severely cut. She was bleeding profusely. Her head had been crushed and she was alone, dying. He reached out to her and spoke to her: “I am a priest…can you hear me? If you want, I can give you absolution…” Her head moved slightly up and down.

Fr. Jorge asked his brother to use his cell phone to call paramedics. They arrived almost immediately. But as soon as they saw this young girl, they knew she would not make it. She didn’t. She died in priest's arms. When the time came to call Rosanna’s mother, he learned that Rosanna had just finished a novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This was her second time. She had Holy Communion and Confession on the first nine Fridays of every month. That is why she did not die alone. That is why she died in the arms of a priest.

All in all: We have a personal desire to see the tomb of Padre Pio; a heartfelt need to celebrate Mass five hours away from home; and an irrational insistence to fix a cell phone that would delay the return home. We have a young girl who had made a special devotion to the Heart of Jesus and there was no way that Jesus would not keep his promise. Who would ever have seen these three coming together and for a completely different reason.

“Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”

As Fulton Sheen would often say, “It appears as though the number of coincidences increases for those who pray.”