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, October 31, 2011

Lk 14:12-14 Friends Forever

Lk 14:12-14 Friends Forever

(Click here for readings)

On a Sabbath Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees. He said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors…Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Someone once told me, “Make friends with people who are better than you.” I guess the reason was so that I could get further ahead in the world. I actually know quite a few people who think like this; who introduce themselves to me hoping to get something out of our new found relationship. And they do: I make sure they get the faith!

But in today’s Gospel the Lord seems to be telling us just the opposite. He begs us to make friends with those who are disfigured in relation to us and in their relationship with God. He does not want the blind leading the blind. He does not want two people falling into the same pit! He wants those who have received much to give much and without compensation – without reward.

Of course we can read this passage as being a literal invitation to help heal those who are physically challenged. He wants us to bring peace and justice to those who are without. But the Lord works at both ends of the spectrum: he heals and forgives; he cures and commands; he lends and demands. He wants us to not only think of others has being physically challenged but also spiritually broken.

The Poor. Who are they - that beg for love or for understanding? Are they my roommates or classmates or business partners or dear friends that are looking for love and find only companionship? Are they those who live together but without any vows or promises? Are they the ones who have children but no husband? Are they the ones who have sold their soul or destroyed their womb to get a job or further ahead? Who among us live without love?

The Crippled. Who are they – that beg for forgiveness? That continue to live every single day crippled by their past sins or failures. Who are they that should be walking tall but rather are slumped over due to the weight of their past transgressions? Who among us is crippled - that seeks one good friend to help and guide and lead them to Christ? Who among us lives without hope?

The Lame. Who are our friends and neighbors that bought into the failed philosophies of carpe diem, nihilism, positivism, atheism, agnosticism, feminism, narcissism? Who thinks among us that we have political “saviors” or “anointed ones”? Who really believes that dogmas and belief is only reserved for the religious and not for those who believe in rational thinking?

The Blind. Who among us are gripped in darkness? Who cannot take a step forward? Who are constantly stifled by despair or depression? Who are they – that see their past as their future? Who among us must see to believe rather than believe to see? Who among us lives without faith?

Lord, may we never forget the Gospel message you preached and lived. May we never forget the command you gave to your Apostles. May we see as you see, walk as you walk, talk as you talk and live as you live. May we never forget that the entire Gospel message can be summarized in the following words: “I love you.” We ask this through your love, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mt 23:1-12 Be Jealous of Me

Mt 23:1-12 Be Jealous of Me

(Click here for Readings)

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example…The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

I laugh out loud whenever I hear newly married couples explain to me why married life is so difficult. I love and laugh at their tiny complaints. They say, “It’s so hard Father because he likes this brand of cereal while I enjoy another” or “she likes cooking such-and-such this way while I am used to eating it my way.”

I can honestly say that I am grateful to God for giving me eighteen years of seminary and religious life where I was unable to choose a single thing. Not a single thing! Whenever I needed something, I would write the item down on a piece of paper and hand it to my superior. It would generally take a few weeks from the time I asked to the time I saw something in front of my door. When I needed a sweater, I got a sweater. But I did not have the right to choose the color, the brand or type of sweater I got. If I needed a pair of shoes or sneakers, then I got a pair of shoes or sneakers. I did not pick or choose them. I simply got what I got. The same held true for food. We had no menu in the seminary. We ate and drank what was placed and poured before us. No one complained. If we didn’t like the way the meat or chicken or tuna fish was prepared, it quickly went away due to hunger.

One of my first “duties” in the seminary was organizing the kitchen and pantry. I did an awesome job with the food that was donated to us. When I was told that I would be the cook, I was surprised and bewildered as to how they picked me. I knew not how to cook. I asked my superior why I was chosen. He told me because I knew where everything was. That was the end of it. When I cooked my first soup it looked and tasted like soap. I had cooked the noodles along with the soup. I knew something was wrong because it had a darkness to it I had never seen before and it had a film on top of it that was hard to crack. No one complained. No one said a word. They didn’t have to. All the bathrooms were full! From that moment on, we all appreciated our parent’s cooking! You would never suspect that seminaries (like boot camp and drill sergeants) could help young men to become good men and better husbands.

In the seminary, we quickly learned what was essential and non-essential; what was important and unimportant; what mattered and what did not matter at all; why we were there and why we should not be there! Through sacrifice, we learned to love unconditionally and I can honestly say that everyone in the town loved us - unconditionally! Our tiny seminary transformed the town we lived in and gave so much hope to the people surrounding us. We learned that when we were humble, Christ (along with us) would be exalted.

Of course at times we felt rejected by God (and by our superiors) by the food we ate and by the way we had to dress. But we had to learn (the hard way) that we could not be loved by the way we dressed (clericalism) or by the way we ate (privileged) but rather by the Way of Christ. We had to be loved like Christ for his poverty, humility and obedience. Only this way could we ever become a dear friend of his, and one to each other.

“The Lord will not abandon his people.” The Lord does not stop loving the holy ones nor does he stop loving the sinner. What the Lord constantly does is prune his plants and till the soul till fruit is produced. For this reason St. Paul reminds his friends why the Gentiles are accepting Christ faster than the Jews. He says, “Do you not know what the Scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? Hence I ask, did they stumble so as to fall? Of course not! But through their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make them [the Jews] jealous. The Jews thought they had it made while all along they were losing it all! They were keeping what was non-essential and losing what was essential. Husbands and wives: do not do the same exact thing!

This Sunday (October 30th) is priesthood Sunday. Priests can actually help married couples live better lives! How? By making couples feel jealous! And they should through the power of Christ’s (and their) simplicity, humility, joyfulness and childlike spirit; by their love for life and love for others; by their willingness to give more than they receive. Priests should make others feel jealous at how quickly they can love and by how quickly they can forgive. No wonder why a happy priest inspires the young to follow Jesus and is often invited to married couples homes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Lk 14: 1,7-11 Life Is Surprise

Lk 14: 1,7-11 Life Is Surprise

(Click here for Readings)

Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.

I was speaking to a young man just the other day who told me that his wife thinks he is the most unromantic man in the world! I was about to tell him the same thing before he brought it up.

If there is any word that is synonymous to life, it should be the word “surprise”. Life is surprise. It is not one surprise after another, for that might imply that there are some moments that are not surprising. No; rather, life is surprise. Life should not be. I should not be! In fact, nothing should be. And every time I go down this meditative path and reflect more and more on the incredible surprise that is life, then I must humble myself. I must get down on my knees and take my place, the place where I belong - the smallest seat at the furthest table at the great Host’s banquet.

But if life is surprise, then love is shocking! What happens? When I least expect it, the Lord calls me by name and invites me to sit by Him, to take the place of honor! How shocking! How mysterious! How loving! Love is what makes life shocking! That someone would want to spend their life with me! That someone would want to make a promise to me! That someone would want to be with me! Marriage, like the priesthood, is more than surprising – it is shocking!

Whoever humbles themselves will find life is surprise and love shocking!

This past Sunday, a couple that had been married for seventy-two years died one hour apart from each other. Gordon died at 3:38 pm. Norma died one hour later. They were both conscience when they arrived at the hospital, victims of a car accident. They insisted on being put in the same room and in the same bed so that they could hold each other’s hands. They were both in serious condition. They would not recover. While the doctors were working on them, Gordon and Norma were asking them to take care of the other. Then all of a sudden, Gordon stopped breathing. For a moment there was confusion in the room because his heart monitor continued to pick up a heartbeat. That’s when the doctors and nurses realized that the monitor was detecting his wife’s heartbeat through their clasped hand. Their son, Dennis, said, “Oh my gosh, Mom’s heart is beating through him.” Norma died an hour later.

Life is full of surprises, especially in life’s tragedies. But love takes the prize! It continues to shock us all, especially in life’s tragedies.

Christ's life is God's way of surprising (awing) us and shocking us. When He spoke, He surprised. When He performed miracles, He surprised. When He died, He surprised. When He rose from the dead, He surprised. But what shocks us is His unconditional and undying love for us! Life is surprise and love is shocking when you consider yourself unworthy of both of them.

Father, help us to live our lives not only as your Son lived His - surprisingly - but to love you and others as you love us: shockingly and unconditionally! May your Son's heart beat through ours so that ours will beat through each other. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lk 6:12-16 I Love You!

Lk 6:12-16 I Love You!

(Click here for readings)

“Jesus went up to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.”

We all long to be loved. All of us! If you are human, then you have a deep seated yearning to be loved. One does not get married to have company. One gets married to love and be loved. One does not have children to be busy all the time or to make life so much harder. One has children to love and be loved. One does not love and live to eat. One eats to love and live.

I love you! How these three little words can change everything! Because of love, everything changes! Everything! For those who have waited for and experienced authentic love, you know what I am saying. For those who have not, your wait is over! The Lord’s calling is a calling of love to love and be loved. It is a calling of who I should be, what I should do and what I should seek.

Look throughout Scripture. Examine it. God’s love for man is well documented from beginning to the end; from top to bottom, from East to West. It summarizes the entire Bible. It is the summary of all His Commandments. We were created in God’s image, and since God is love, we were created out of love to love and be loved. We are to love unconditionally. We will be recognized by Him and known to belong to Him by the way we love. “I love you!” brings a smile on one’s face and warmth to the other’s embrace. I love you!” collapses the Universe into a cozy place. “I love you” is our Christian message to you! “Their message goes out through all the earth” (Ps. 19: 5a).

Don't get me wrong. Christian love does not mean that we applaud all things or endorse all things. We don't try to get people to love us by saying "everything is okay". We tell them, out of love, "everything could be so much better!"

He called his disciples to himself. The Lord chose these holy men for their unfeigned love, and gave them eternal glory! (Entrance Antiphon) Today we celebrate the lives of the Apostles Jude and Simon. But we know that the lives of all the Twelve changed forever. All of them fell in love with the Lord in a very radical way. Life did not become easier for them. Life did not become less stressful, less dangerous, less tempting or less painful. No! Instead, life became wild and adventurous. It actually became more stressful, more dangerous, and much more painful. Love brings about the same sentiments and reactions as childbirth, for love always creates and procreates - it always gives life to another! So love is worthwhile. It does the heart a lot of good. It makes life worth living! It puts an end to evil by ending all arguments, all disagreements, all selfishness, all sinfulness, all loneliness and all forgetfulness. Perfect love brings us home and heaven is home. “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”

Heavenly Father, help us receive your love so as to give it as you gave it. You sent us your Son – your heart and your love. By doing so, you gave us a message that became flesh and blood: “I love you!” Help us to love as you love us. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lk 13:31-35 Tell That Fox!

Lk 13:31-35 Tell That Fox!

(Click here for readings)

Some Pharisees came to Jesus and said, “Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.” He replied, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.”

Who is Herod today? There are many! There is the Herod of the fashion industry that would love to kill the innocence, the purity and the sanity of our children. Back in April, Jenna Lyons, president and creative director of J.Crew, appeared in a controversial ad for the clothing company featuring her young son with his toenails painted hot-pink. Many were appalled and called the ad “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.” Some defended the ad, saying critics were overreacting. Today, it has been reported that Jenna is leaving her artist husband for another woman. Mystery solved. Are we to believe that the fashion, music and movie industry is not saturated with flaky artists with daffy philosophies and wacky lifestyles?

Then there is the neo-Herod of Politics: the intolerant tolerant. On October 22nd, 2011, Ann Widdecombe, a former Conservative party minister, accused the English government of double standards in its threats to cut aid to countries which persecute gay people while turning a blind eye to persecution against Christians. The persecution of Christians is nothing new; in fact, it is never ending! But she sees a double standard. She is not homophobic. She believes homosexuals deserve protection. “But what about Christians?” she asks. “When do we qualify for protection or don’t we?”

Bishop William C. Lori, of Bridgeport, Connecticut, recently spoke to a House subcommittee regarding the “grave threats to religious liberty”. He told House members, “The bishops of the United States have watched with increasing alarm as this great national legacy of religious liberty, so profoundly in harmony with our own teachings, has been subject to ever more frequent assaults and ever more rapid erosion.” Back in June, the bishops found it necessary to create a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Under the Obama Administration, we have seen an erosion of conscience clauses and legal assaults on Catholic social services across the nation. It is very clear to see that religious freedom, enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence are being tucked away at the expense of modern trends and through government interference! The current administration is telling the Catholic Church what the Pharisees told Jesus Christ: “Go away, leave this area…because Herod wants to kill you!”

It will not work!

Do not fear! Foxes are similar to wolves and may lead the sheep to slaughter; but in doing so, the wolves, in sheep’s clothing, will reveal their true identity! Then all Hell shall break out! And by our “yes” to the great King and Son of God, we shall conquer even death! “For I am convinced overwhelmingly through him who loved us that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Rom 8:38-39)


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lk 13:22-30 Bad To Be Good

Lk 13:22-30 Bad To Be Good

(Click here for readings)

Jesus passed through towns and villages, teaching as he went and making his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

When is it bad to be good? I asked this question today at the beginning of my homily for St. Joseph’s school Mass. You can imagine the look on the children’s faces! They looked at me as if I were asking a question in a foreign language! After all, we are constantly telling the kids to “be good.” So, when is it bad to be good? No one knew the answer. So I gave them a hint. I told them a story. Once upon a time, a little boy went along with his parents to the Parent-Teacher conference. The teacher was very kind. She told the boy’s parents that he was a good student. He had all C’s. That’s a good student; an average student.

Now, they understood! So, I asked my question again. One young man finally gave me what I was looking for. He told me that being good could be bad if it stopped us from being better! That’s it! That’s the answer! And that’s when I accidently told them a poem that actually rhymed! I said, “Don’t be a C student or a B student, but rather the best student that you can be!”

Some of us settle with being an animal. We seek only what makes us comfortable. We sniff around for opportunities and run away from dangers. We eat like a dog and sleep like a cat. We don’t bother anyone, but neither do we bother with anyone! We don’t communicate with others but work on-line, shop on-line, play on-line and live on a thin line. For me, this is the lowest form of life! And far too many of us settle with it!

It’s also not worthy of human beings to be just human beings. It’s beneath us to just think and do things all day long. After all, I can come up with some pretty nasty thoughts and do some pretty nasty things. I can gossip a storm and use my brain and my hands to plan out some awful things! I can also say that I didn’t do anything wrong! But once again, we are going backwards in time, not forward. I am thinking Old Law rather than Christ’s Law. It’s no longer good enough not to hurt someone. I need to help someone. It’s no longer good enough not to steal; I must give. It’s no longer good enough to leave people alone; I must love people to death.

Christ gave up everything, not so that I would have nothing to do but that I would have an example to follow. “Be like me!” “Do what I do.” “Love as I love.”

Oh Lord, I am such a fool to think that I can get to you (to happiness) by pushing my way through life! I cannot believe that I still think that I am strong! I know I am not. I know far too well what my problem is: I think too much, like a human being, and pray too little like the holy people. I think too often about “risks and threats”; I calculate too much because my life still revolves around fears and weaknesses!

I know I am not alone.

I know far too many of us think we can get by on our own. But we can’t. Let us come to terms with reality. The Lord did not call us to be good. He called us to be Holy. And to be Holy means He called us to be with Him, to collaborate with Him, to love Him and to serve Him with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our strength, and with all our will. He called us to give our best while He took care of all the rest.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lk 13:18-21 My Home

Lk 13:18-21 My Home

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? To what can I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that a man took and planted in the garden. When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”

Home and Heaven are synonymous. And for this reason I very much long for a place to rest my head. I would love to have a place I call home. It is not too often, but sometimes I feel like my space is not my place; that it is only temporary. And it is. One day I will have to move; once again. A repeat performance of so many other moves I have had to make in my life. All for the sake of Christ’s kingdom!

Yesterday I spent an entire afternoon carving pumpkins for four small children. I loved every minute of it! I was spending quality time with a friend and a family I treasure so dearly. But in the end, I had to leave.

As a child I was very fortunate to grow up in a village (not a town) that was predominately Italian, Irish and almost entirely Catholic. All my relatives lived within two or three miles from each other. My best friend was my cousin, and I had many to choose from. I didn’t appreciate it back then. I do now. I never considered it to be something extraordinary, but it is. Too many of our parents, siblings and relatives live in different states or foreign countries. A tree is very homely when it consists of only a trunk and very few branches. The same is true of a family tree. Our life can be a lonely one when there are no extended family members. As a teenager I longed to travel. I have. I have been to many places: Ireland, England, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, France, Mexico, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Philippines, Canada. Now, I wish for a place I can call home.

Of course Skype, e-mails, text messages and phone calls can help to keep us connected. But it will never replace the physical presence, the emotional connection, the sights and smells of living, breathing and loving human beings. These gadgets are obvious counterfeits to the real thing.

The Lord wants us to grow within his family tree. He wants us to be united; to treat each other as brothers and sisters, and not as advantages or opportunities, or possibilities for advancement and special treatment. He wants us to live with each other just as if we were living in our family’s home!

There is not much to gain by being at home; except to grow, and home is a place where I can grow!

This is the reason for our peace. This is the source of security that we all long for. This is the place that I wish for. Home is Heaven. It is like a mustard seed. When fully grown, it becomes a large bush and the birds of the sky dwell in its branches.

This past Sunday, the Holy Father canonized three 19th century founders of religious orders. One of them was Fr. Luigi Guanella. While in Rome, I lived across the street from one of his wonderful hospitals.

While the Holy Father was celebrating the Mass in St. Peter’s square, a young man climbed out onto the upper colonnade of the square and burned a bible. The Vatican gendarmes, a bishop and the pope’s own bodyguard talked the man back from the edge of the colonnade after he shouted, “Pope, where is Christ?” in English.

I find it very ironic that this poor man, who was obviously mentally ill, was asking this question at the same time that Fr. Guanella– a priest that dedicated his life to the poor and mentally ill - was being canonized. Where is Christ? The answer could not be more obvious: in his faithful and holy people; in the Eucharist; in Confession; on the Cross. He is in our home!

Our home can seem awfully far away if we forget who we are, why we are here, where we come from and how we get there. Our family can seem awfully small if we forget our name, our brothers and sisters (the saints), our Mother and our Father in Heaven.

For the past seventeen years of my life I have been on the move, never stopping, not yet reaching port. But I do know my home is where faith flourishes, mercy never ends and love always reigns! My home may very well be a fisherman’s boat.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lk 13:10-17 Ransomed and Released!

Lk 13:10-17 Ransomed and Released!

(Click here for readings)

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the Sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”

I have said it before, if the Catholic Church does anything well, it is her outreach towards the sinner and her readiness to forgive. I know this for sure! I experience it myself once every two weeks on my penitential day and when I administer the Sacrament of Confession every week.

The Sacrament of Confession is the means par excellence to set the sinner free! It is the best way - the most authentic way - to experience and know God’s love and mercy for you! In this Sacrament, you will actually hear the words of forgiveness. You will know that you can share your burden with another and not be judged. You will know that there is nothing that the Lord cannot forgive, cannot heal and cannot carry out of love for you. Be not afraid!

This woman for eighteen years had been crippled by an evil spirit (maybe an evil past), that would not let go of her. She was unable to stand erect because of the burden of her sins. This is a consequence of sin. When I sin, I cannot look up, I cannot feel loved; I cannot feel. My conscience ways upon me and I am overwhelmed with grief, despair and guilt. How can I face my accusers? How can I face my friends? Who can I turn to?

Jesus saw her; he called out to her and said, “You are set free.”

“Our God is the God of salvation” (Ps 68:21a). This is what the Lord does best. His name, Jesus, is “God who saves.” He is who He claims to be. He is the Lord of life, love and salvation. When all others fail me; He never fails. When all others are quick to judge me; He never condemns. Woman, where are all your accusers? Where have they gone? Go and sin no more.

For those of us involved in the ministry of compassion, love and forgiveness, there are no “days off”. If you wish to follow the Lord then you must follow Him seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. He took time to pray. He took time to eat. He took time to rest. But when there is a soul that is in need, there is no day in which I can simply walk away or say, “You know…I’m so sorry…I cannot talk to you today because it’s my day off.” It is like a husband who has the night out with the guys. If his wife calls and needs him, he must pick himself up and leave. The same of course goes for a wife. The same is true of a father or a mother whose child is in desperate need. For all of us involved in Christ’s ministry, life and mission, there really are no days off!

Why? Because He never takes time away from me. Of course he is God, but he did this has man too. He always leads the way! He never follows.

Recently, two coaches were suspended for forcing their athletes to do things that were, let us say, a bit radical. We all know that coaches want to win, and sometimes they make it look like they want their kids to succeed out of love for them. The reality can sometimes be quite different. Too often, the coach wants to WIN more than their players.

In one case, the coach tied duct tape across each player’s mouth. Another coach forced his players, after a defeat, to play dead in a cemetery.

But wait, doesn’t the Lord also ask us to do something similar? Does He not ask us to remain silent while we are humiliated or insulted or beaten? Does He not ask us to lay down our lives for others or die like a grain of wheat? He does!!! And we don’t rebel at all because He goes first; because He did it all for me – first! If the coaches really wanted their players to be leaders, to be the best, to give their best, then they should have been the first to play dead or tape their mouth shut!

The Lord is the God we follow, who releases us from our inequities and cleanses us from all our sins. “Blessed day by day be the Lord, who bears our burdens; God, who is our salvation.” (Ps 68:19)

Mt 22:34-40 Moving Forward

Mt 22:34-40 Moving Forward

(Click here for readings)

The Pharisees gathered together, and one of them asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Believe it or not, a former Catholic once told me that they left the Church because they never read or heard the Bible mentioned during Mass. Of course, anyone can say whatever they want, but that was a shocker to me! I think what they meant to say is that they couldn’t stay awake during Mass. That, at least, would have been a less ignorant statement.

The importance of scripture during Mass is obvious. Not only do we read and listen to a certain passage during Mass, we have four lengthy readings from scripture every Sunday. If you didn’t pay attention to the first reading, then the theory goes that maybe you will if you sing the second! If you still didn’t pay attention to the first or didn’t bother to sing along with us on the psalm, then we have a third reading! And still, if you didn’t catch anything from the first, second or third reading, then we have the Gospel passage of the day! God knows us well! Sometimes He has to repeat himself four times.

We read and meditate on Sacred Scripture because the Lord wishes to remind us of what he has thought, said and done for the sinner, the sick and weak, the lonely and the abandoned. He wants us to know what He has done time and time again. And we are glad to hear it. We are very glad to hear it! We actually say, “Thanks be to God!” or “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”.

If the Lord loves a sport, I think he loves Crew. Yes, rowing! Why? Because when we row our boat, we move forward while looking back. This is a great way to get ahead. It’s a great way to understand the Will of God in our lives. You ask, what does God think of the sinner? We know what he said. He said, “I take no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather in their conversion” (Ez 33:11). Thanks be to God! What does he think of the orphan or the widow? He says, “If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” (Ex 22:21). Thanks be to God! Does the Lord think of us as his slaves? No! He considers us “His friends” (Jn 15:15). Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ! Alleluia!

If you think about it, this is what we should do all the time. We should always reflect on the past for it will help us in the future! With time, we not only look back and see how we handled a difficult situation or temptation; rather, we reflect and meditate on what we did with what we now know. This is how we can make better decisions in our lives! This is how we can live better!

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” If I try to replace the Lord with someone or something else, I shall surely be disappointed. Take a look and see for yourself. Reflect on the past and ask yourself if you should have loved Him more than another, or if you should have obeyed His statutes more than your heart?

It’s okay to look back. Sometimes it’s the only way to move forward!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lk 13:1-9 An Awesome God

Lk 13:1-9 An Awesome God

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Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. He said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

We all have, swarming around us, countless number of demons. We all have our temptations. We all have our weaknesses. We all stumble. We all fall. We all make mistakes. We all lose our temper or are quick to judge. We can all point at a sinner. We can all have a double standard: one for me and another for the rest of the world. We can easily think our sins are not nearly as bad as others. We all are shocked or amazed when we find ourselves in the same situation as the one I used to judge! We all are in need of a Savior. We all are in need of forgiveness, but we do not all ask for it!

What does the Catholic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ, do best? Two things: it seeks sinners and seeks to readily release Christ’s forgiveness of sins. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever!”

We are in very bad economic times. Here at St. Joseph we receive countless requests for financial assistance, shelter, material help and prayers. It seems as though there is an endless amount of need out there. Of course, we would love to help everyone. We cannot always do what we would love to do. As I have mentioned before, we get the good, the bad and the ugly.

Recently, a young woman begged me to help her get some much needed medicine. She had no money and was asking for sixty-six dollars. I didn’t even ask her what type of medicine she needed. I trusted her. Plus, I had just received a worthy donation from a parishioner for these types of request. So, I thought, this was surely a sign from God that we needed to help her. I gave her the cash and asked her for a receipt. I told her specifically that I needed a receipt from her. She agreed and thanked me. I was so happy to see her come back the next day with a receipt. But the receipt was not from a drug store. The receipt was handwritten, and from her hand. I actually saw her write it out. I politely told her that I needed a receipt from the store – the actual receipt. She apologized and promised me that she would bring me the receipt immediately. That was almost one month ago and I have not seen her since.

How sad. How very sad. Not so much because she didn’t come back, but because she didn’t ask for forgiveness. Is she a greater sinner than I? Is she stealing from Christ’s money bag and using it for selfish purposes? Yes! But how often have I done the same thing? How often have I used my talents or time for selfish purposes rather than for Christ’s purposes?

Of course we have had to change our policies and can no longer help individuals directly. Those who are truly in need will suffer the consequences. But, I really feel sad for this individual who no longer feels as though she is welcomed at our parish. Instead of returning to the Lord, she has distanced herself from him. She has become not only poor in material things, but also poor in the spiritual things. The Lord said, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in his conversion that he may live!”

Our God is an awesome God - even when we are not so awesome! Thank God!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lk 12:54-59 The Guessing Game!

Lk 12:54-59 The Guessing Game!

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Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain and so it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

We can all refuse our great Designer, but we cannot refuse the great design! We can dismiss Heaven, but we will never be able to comfortably dismiss the testimony of a nine-year old little boy who went there and came back! We can deny Jesus as the Son of God, but we cannot deny the conversion of sinners and how they committed their life to Him. We can deny Him as the Messenger but we cannot deny the power of his message of mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love in an age that knew none of the above. We can deny He was the Lamb, but we cannot deny that he was slaughtered like one. We can doubt another’s love for us, but we can never doubt the existence of love or that of a Divine Lover. How else could I experience a lack of love if I did not know love itself? We can doubt our very existence, but we can never doubt the door we walk through or the window we look through.

I could not doubt if I could not think; and I could not think if I am not.

What has atheism given the world? The truth? If so, then this is what the truth looks like in the largest atheist nation in the world. Are you ready? It must be perfectly acceptable for a driver of a hit and run to leave the scene after hitting a baby girl. It must be perfectly acceptable for pedestrians and bicyclists and other drivers to slow down and never stop to aid a dying child. We can all deny that it was intentional, but we cannot deny the video! We can all rest assured that it could never happen here, but we cannot deny that it hasn’t happened here. If we only tell half truths, then we can expect to live a lie! Just recently, President Obama inaugurated a memorial in Washington D.C. dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. He never once mentioned God. We can deny God’s rightful place, but we cannot deny that MLK was a godly man, a Christian man, a Pastor of Jesus Christ.

A few days ago I was in the car of an elderly gentleman who was celebrating his birthday. We were off to a dinner when he suddenly and unexpectedly received a text from his estranged son. I could tell he was very happy to have received a message from his long lost boy. After all, he had not heard from him in many months! He was so delighted, that he handed me his phone and asked me if I would kindly read the message for him. I took the phone and I looked at the message. I was speechless. “Well, what did he say?” he asked. I couldn’t tell him. It was too vulgar, mean-spirited and judgmental. His son had abandoned the faith long ago, fallen into bad company, and become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Now, he was blaming his father for all his failures. While growing up, his father had only asked him to do two things: study hard, get good grades and then you can play sports. Since he didn’t do the first, he wasn’t supportive of the second. His standards were higher than the school’s policy. So, the estrangement began and continues to today.

I asked him if I could text his son back. Go ahead”, He said. I wrote the following: “My son, I guess you would say that I have not been a good father. But I would say that I welcomed you into this world and helped feed you while you were young. I took care of you while you were sick and prayed that you would be strong. I always knew that you had in you to accomplish great things, but you always refused to have someone behind you and push you higher and higher. You have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, a mouth and a nose. Use them! And stop blaming others for your poor decisions. Use all that you have that is good and do some good.” We can deny our personal upbringing, but we cannot deny our personal decisions.

There are a few in the Church that have caused us great harm, and we would love to blame it on their vows. But the vows were freely given and received. When someone in the Church commits a sin they break the Creed. When someone outside the Church commits a sin, it means they have no Creed. When the Church goes wild it breaks its own rules. When the world goes wild it’s because it has no rules. Even atheists know they need some type of Creed, but they can't get past the first two words, "We believe", because they already contradict their philosophy of life!

Nature tends to exterminate the weird beasts that roam the planet, either by beaching them or ignoring them. We can deny our Creed, but we cannot eliminate it!

Today is the day to stop guessing! Do I recognize the present time? Am I conscious of the evil that I do? Do I continue to blame others for my poor decisions? Do I see a connection between my faith in God and the decisions that I make? Why do you not know how to interpret the present times?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lk 12:49-53 Fighting Tooth and Nail

Lk 12:49-53 Fighting Tooth and Nail

(Click here for readings)

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three…

Very often I think of the world as an enormous battlefield and that my life is one great big battle. Conventional wars come close to expressing the internal wars between my body and soul; between my will and God’s Will.

Every man has his battle. What is yours? Every man has his victories and defeats. Every man has his worries and fears. What are yours? Every man has to slay his dragons or be consumed by them. Our society is a reflection of our battles – our worries and fears, our victories and defeats, our dragons and dungeons! If there is a problem with our society today, then there is a problem with our families. If our kids are a mess, then chances are we are a mess! If there is an increase in crime, then there is an increase in the great divide – of those who have and those who have not.

Yesterday I had dinner with a wonderful family (5 children, mom and dad). For the first time this year they had to send their children to public school. They had gone to Catholic school all their life. It wasn’t an easy decision. The oldest son said to me, “Father, I went from a school with five priests to a school with five police.” The oldest daughter said, “At the start of the year, we had a ‘What-not-to-wear' fashion show! It was very sad to see what some people would wear if they could." I thought to myself, they wear what their parents would wear: sexually suggestive t-shirts, skirts, jeans, piercings, etc… I asked the kids, “What surprised you the most about public school?” The middle child answered, “The random drug searches that go on and how the police enter our classroom, tell everyone to get up and leave, and then they send in the dog to search for drugs.” Forgive me if this sounds like old news to you, but for me it was nothing less than a shocker! I went to public school nearly all my life, I don’t ever remember seeing the police or dogs or metal detectors or random drug searches in my middle or high school.

What has changed? The definition and reality of family! What has changed? The definition and reality of marriage. What has changed? The purity and innocence of children. What has changed? The base and foundation of our lives.

Is this living? Is this progress? Let’s be honest! We are not living…We are trying to survive! We have all been sucked into this vortex that continues to rip apart and destroy marriages, families and children. Everyone is under attack and no one is spared – not even the unborn!

The Occupy movement in Rome recently vandalized a Church and destroyed a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary! It was all caught on tape. Now they want to blame the Blessed Virgin Mary for all our problems or the wealth of the Church! Hah!

Who is to blame for the mess we are in and the mess of what we are? We know the answer: It always goes back to our willingness towards sinfulness! Too many of us (husbands, wives, children) are losing the battle for personal holiness and we don’t mind at all! When the going gets tough; when I need to stand up for what I believe; when I need to stand up for myself and others; when I need to examine myself before a Higher Power; when it’s time to buckle down and get to work, I prefer, like so many spoiled children, to look for an easy way out - a scapegoat, an excuse so as to not blame myself!

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

Let’s begin to fight the good fight! Fight for personal holiness! Don’t give up and don’t give in!