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!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mk 5:21-43 Faith That Saves!

Mk 5:21-43 Faith That Saves!

(Click here for readings)

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors and had spent all that she had. She had heard about Jesus and came up to him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately, her flow of blood dried up…He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.”

As I read today’s Gospel, I felt like the Holy Spirit was helping me decode a secret message. I don’t know why, but every word seemed to have a hidden meaning.

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages... I was losing all the color, joy or pleasure for my life. I was becoming stone cold, pale, and lifeless towards life. And it was all happening very quickly. I was hemorrhaging.

She had suffered greatly…at the hands of many. I know the feeling. I know a few people in my life that have wiped away my smile, crushed my day, and demolished my evening and ruined my life! I have found myself a slave to others, at their mercy, and they have failed to help me. I have nowhere else to turn to. I have nowhere else to go. She had spent all that she had…I can no longer cover up my pain with my possessions, titles, talents or blinds. This world no longer gives me an alibi for living.

She had heard about Jesus…I was not a follow. I was not a believer. I represent the vast majority of people in the world. In my lifetime, I heard a lot about Jesus, but I never had a reason to turn to him. Now, I finally have a reason, a selfish reason. I need help.

She came up to him in the crowd… The crowd! They always seem to get in the way of everything. I either follow them or get lost in them! But this time, it is a cover. I can always hide in the crowd. I can work my way through the crowd, and while all eyes are on Jesus, I can touch him and no one will know. Here is my chance. I can do it. I can go to Church and sit in the back and not be noticed. I can listen to His Word and follow the homily without paying a cent. I can always get something out of God, even the tiniest morsel from the poorest loaf. If I can put a little effort, then I can reach him. “All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown” (Thomas Becket). If I can touch his cloak…then maybe, just maybe, I can be healed. Maybe, just maybe, I can change my life for good!

Immediately, her flow of blood dried up…There is nothing more beautiful, more exciting, and more thrilling in life than to be loved. It is better than being healed! It is far better than being right. To be loved means to really exist; to have your existence recognized. To be loved means to really be special and important. The Lord was not about to let this woman go away or get lost in the middle of the crowd. It was important for her to know the truth: “You are loved.” It was important for her to know the reason: “You believed.”

Your faith has saved you…I will be honest with you. I have always tried to live my life based on calculations. It doesn’t work. I have tried to live my life based on logical conclusions. It doesn’t work. I have tried to live my life based on my talents, strengths, education, position, money and reputation. It doesn’t work. What works? What saves? My faith in God. My faith in His mercy and love.

Go in peace and be cured of your afflictions…I know that in my life I may never experience what this woman experienced. But by faith, I know that the possibility is always there for my loss to turn into gain, my pain into compassion, and my sorrow into joy. I may say, “This is impossible.” But God says, “All things are possible to those who believe.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mk 5:1-20 Beauty and the Beast

Mk 5:1-20 Beauty and the Beast

(Click here for readings)

A man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met Jesus. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain…Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.

Can everyone be loved?

I don’t know about you, but I have met many people who live like this poor creature. What? Are you kidding?” No. I am not kidding. Names change and so do the places. We no longer see people living among the tombs, but we definitely see them living under bridges, on the streets, etc. Some places have become more sanitary and politically correct. There are no longer any insane asylums, but the truth of the matter is: many people still live their lives among the dead.

A man had been dwelling among the tombs. A person’s home can easily become a tomb. A teenager’s room can easily become their tomb. A nursing home or a hospital room can easily become a tomb. I know quite a few people who do not dare step out of their room or home or hospital bed. They shut the window blinds, allowing no life and no sunlight to enter. They live as if they were counted among the dead. They wish to have no contact with family members or friends. It could have all started long ago or recently with the loss of a loved one. It could have started with an irreparable argument. These poor creatures have abandoned themselves to the deepest of holes: despair, depression, distrust. How I pity them! How I pray that I may never be one of them! They live as if they were dead; that is, as if they have no one to turn to; no faith to resurrect them; no one to love them. All they have to hold on to are distant memories of long ago years.

Night and day he was crying out. Sleep is essential. Without it, we begin to lose our mind and equilibrium. We begin to hear strange (and strangely soothing) voices. We lose all sense of time, of boundaries, of right and wrong. We begin to see night as day and day as night. This poor beast could no longer rest. His past, his life, his surroundings were tormenting him. He spent all day crying out and bruising himself. Sound familiar? Of course we no longer cut ourselves with rocks. Why bother when you can do it with a razor blade. This poor beast was cutting himself and feeding his addictions.

What have you to do with me, Jesus? Often I have to go visit people who are possessed by their demons. It is not a pretty site. Way too often it is a battle of wills. Have you ever experienced this? I am sure you have! It is very common for someone who needs your help to reject your help! “I will be just fine. Leave me alone!” “I can take care of myself. I don’t need your help!” And so we leave. And yet, we should never leave. We should never give up. Don’t give up.

“Have you come to torment me?” My friends have become my enemies. And those who love me the most do not understand me! That’s right! Can you believe this? The Lord has become this man’s enemy! I know how he feels. As soon as I enter a patient’s room, the “beast” typically turns around and looks the other way, or will not make eye contact with me. They don’t want me in their room. They want me out of their life!

All were amazed. Just recently, I was invited by a family to see the movie, “Beauty and the Beast”. I wasn’t too thrilled to see it. But now I know why I had to see it. We all must remember something: that a thing must be loved before it can be lovable. Everyone can be loved. Sometimes it takes a day. Sometimes it takes a week. Maybe it may take a year. But in the end, love never fails.

That’s why Jesus never fails to amaze.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mk 1:21-28 Try Something New

Mk 1:21-28 Try Something New

(Click here for readings)

Jesus entered the synagogue in Capernaum and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. A man with an unclean spirit cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us?” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed.

A few days ago, I was asked to give a talk to children preparing for their first confession. I wanted to stress the point that they would be nervous and scared, but that there was nothing to fear. I told them that there was only one person in the world that did not want them to confess their sins. I asked them, “Who do you think that is?” At that moment a mom took her hands and wrapped them over her child’s ears. One child raised his hand and said, “The devil.” I looked back at this mom who was shielding her daughter’s ears and could read her lips as she told her child, “It’s not true.”

I am all for keeping our children innocent. But what I don’t appreciate are parents that want to keep their children naïve. There is a difference. Our Lord was always innocent and never naïve. We should teach our children to never fear the devil, but to fear the Lord, for it is the beginning of wisdom (Ps. 111:10).

I know a lot of religious people that have a tendency to think that some of the devil stories in the Gospel are sort of fake. After all, where are they? Why don’t we see them anymore? Well, I have seen one, and it was in a Church.

About five years ago, while I was giving my homily at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Irving, a man suddenly jumped up from his seat and started crawling in the middle of the center aisle, towards the altar. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to say. I thought he would stop, but he didn’t. He kept crawling closer and closer to me. He went up the steps and stopped in front of the altar. I tried to understand what he was saying but I couldn’t understand a word. I went over to him, I looked at him, and the only way I can describe to you what I saw is by saying “He looked torn apart”. This man was totally broken. I whispered to him, “Stand up. You are not an animal. You are a man.” I took him by the hand and he stood up. I gave him a blessing and he became calm. He stopped shaking. At that moment, some people from the congregation helped him down and brought him to the back of the Church.

Let’s not be so naïve as to think the devil was more believable back then than today. Let’s not be so naïve to think that being holy was any easier back then than it is today. Let’s not think that being broken was different back then than it is today.

Christ’s words are more inspiring, more uplifting, and more believable than any politician’s words during a political campaign. The humanity and divinity of Christ is much more believable than any person I know. What is so amazing about the Lord? What drove people to love him or dismiss him or hate him?

He taught them as one having authority. Having authority is much more than just preaching your own doctrine or quoting a scholar. Having authority means living your life and not allowing others to live it for you. It means being coherent. That is, you live by what you preach; you are not a divided or broken. You are One. The possessed man spoke in plural. “What have you to do with us? Have you come to destroy us? We know who you are!”

When we don’t understand something, like God or the devil or a teaching of the Church, then we tend to want to change it rather than to study it or try it.

Try something new! Be who you claim to be! Stop blaming others or making up excuses for your failures or lack of faith. Stop allowing the devil inside you (or outside of you) from taking over.

Try living the Gospel truth and then see what happens! Try being faithful to the Lord! Try being loving and honest. Try being generous without conditions! Try being Christian and holy! Try being another Christ – who is “old” and still very new! Then, and only then, will you have your children’s obedience, your family’s respect and the admiration of doubters and seekers.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mk 4:35-41 Mirror-Mirror

Mk 4:35-41 Mirror-Mirror

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us cross to the other side.” A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. The disciples said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

The Lord knew perfectly well that a storm was going to hit them hard and that his disciples were going to be afraid. The Lord also knows what storms will pound down on us. How we react or respond to them will depend greatly on how close we are to Him. Will I abandon ship? Will I lose my faith? Will I turn to Him? Will I trust in Him?

Some time ago I was hearing confessions at a local University. One student, a young female student, came to me for confession. She confessed her sins and I absolved her. Case closed. But I could tell that something was still not right with her. I called her back and asked her, “What’s wrong?” She looked at me and began to cry.

“When I was a senior in High School I was not the most popular girl in school. In fact, I wasn’t popular at all. I was very shy and nerdish and most of the time the other girls just ignored me. So I was very surprised when the most popular girl invited me to her birthday party. I couldn’t believe it. I mean, ‘why in the world would she invite me?’ Well, I was very happy to go. When I got there, I was surprised that no one greeted me at the door. In fact, no one really talked to me at all. It was as if I wasn’t even there! Everyone at the party was having a great time, laughing and talking, and I felt so out of place. After being there for an hour, I decided I was going to leave. That’s when one of the girls put her arm around my neck and took me into the bathroom. There were other girls there too. They were waiting for me. The birthday girl told me, ‘Just look at yourself! Look at how pathetic you are! You are so ugly! Say it, ‘I’m ugly!’ Say it!!! That’s when I said it, ‘I’m ugly’. ‘Say it again!!!’ she demanded. I said it over and over again. Then she said, ‘You’re stupid! Say it!’ And I said it out loud, ‘I’m stupid.’”

While this young girl was telling me this, I was thinking in the back of my mind, “If something like this had happened to me, I would have grabbed the back of this person’s neck and slammed it against the mirror, saying, “You don’t look so pretty with all that glass embedded in your skull!!!” But I had to remind myself, “You’re a man…be quiet!”

She continued…“Just recently, I received an e-mail and an apology from the girl that had done this to me. But what happened that night has left a very deep scare in my heart and in my life. I am having a hard time forgiving her and loving myself. I have a hard time getting to sleep at night.”

I asked her why she thought this girl had apologized. “I don’t know, Father. Maybe she felt sorry for me.” I told her, “I don’t think that’s the reason. I think it is obvious: SHE WAS LYING. You are a beautiful young lady.” Then I asked her, “How are you doing in school?” She told me that she was going to graduate this year, one year ahead of schedule! I looked at her and said, “If you are stupid, then I must be an idiot!” She laughed.

King David’s sin was horrible! He ruined not just another man’s life, but his best friend’s life. He took advantage of Uriah’s patriotism, blind obedience, friendship, honor and dignity. David surely deserved to die. But the Lord showed mercy on his soul. Why? Because David begged for mercy! All of us sin. Not all of us confess our sins.

“Create a clean heart in me, O God!”

The Lord was fast asleep while he was being tossed about in the sea. Sleeping beauty was fast asleep while surrounded by so much evil. The lesson of our Lord is the same as that of sleeping beauty: A clear conscience allows us to sleep at night.

It is true, “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life.” But it is also true that God so loved the world, that he allowed me to be a part of it, regardless of what others say, others do, and others faults. Are these not the real true storms that affect our lives?

May we remain steadfast in our loyalty to Christ who deserves it above all others!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mk 4:26-34 Be Merciful, O Lord, for I Have Sinned

Mk 4:26-34 Be Merciful, O Lord, for I Have Sinned

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit.”

I’ve done some pretty stupid things in my life. Actually, let me translate that better by saying I’ve done some pretty bad things in my life. One thing I regret having done happened while I was in High School. I was way over my head my senior year and had made the mistake of taking way too many AP (Advanced Placement) classes at the same time. One subject that was making my life a living hell was AP Biology, and I wasn’t doing well at all. At that time, it seemed like getting a good grade in that class was the most important thing in my life, and I was willing to do whatever it took to get a good grade. I thought the solution would be to study harder, but the devil opened a drawer instead.

On one occasion, I got up from my chair and went to my teacher to ask her a question. While I was waiting in line, I looked down and saw one of her desk drawers wide open. I glanced to see what was inside and was amazed at what I saw. It was our next test. I was shocked to see it. I felt my heart race and I couldn’t even remember the question I wanted to ask. I went back to my chair and told my friends what I had seen. One friend of mine, very intelligent and very clever, told me that he knew a way to get a copy of the test.

That same afternoon, right after dismissal, my friend went up to a very sweet and innocent janitor who had worked for years at the school. He asked her if he could borrow her keys to get into the biology room. He said that he had forgotten his books and needed them for tonight. The janitor, a wonderful lady, believed every word he said. He even promised her he would be back with the keys in less than five minutes. Being back in five minutes was the only honest thing he said. My friend entered the classroom, opened the drawer, took the test and made a copy of it and put the original back in the drawer in less than five minutes!

On the day of our exam, I scored a perfect score – 100%! My teacher wrote the sweetest comments on my test. “Al, I am shocked at how well you did on your test. I am very proud of your improvement.” I will be very honest with you; I could care less about the morality of the perfect score! I justified it all with twisted logic! After all, my teacher was unfair by being so demanding, way too much of a perfectionist and way too much of a teacher! That’s how I justified it! That’s when I learned that you can “justify” just about anything in this world, including lying, cheating and stealing! All you have to do is just place the blame on someone else!

I wish I could say that that was the only time my friends and I did this. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. But one day it got worse. One afternoon, I saw my friend leaving the classroom not only with the test but with our teacher’s notebook. I asked him what he was doing with that. He just smiled. The notebook he held in his hands was our teacher’s most prized possession. It was the result of years and years of research. It was very important to her and she always used it while teaching. I couldn’t believe he had it. And what did he do with it? He burned it.

That year, and after nearly thirty years of service, she retired. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

How things change with time! How people change with time! “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how”.

Many years later I had the opportunity to apologize to this teacher and ask for her forgiveness. Of course, it no longer mattered to her, especially when she realized that I had become a seminarian. But I did what I needed to do, and that was a major step forward for me!

All of us commit sins. Not all of us confess them. It is this painful reality that keeps the world from uniting with Heaven.

King David committed a grave sin when he killed his best friend and took his wife (cf. 2 Sm 1:1-17). Later on, he would confess his sin, but only after it had been discovered.

“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps. 51:3)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mk 4:21-25 Gifts and Apps!

Mk 4:21-25 Gifts and Apps!

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?

It is striking to me how the Lord tells us that we should not hide our light nor place it on the floor, but that we should lift it high on a lampstand for the entire world to see!

Am I doing my part to share the Good News?

Yesterday morning I spent four hours speaking to four different groups of 8th graders at a Catholic school. For me, it was a wonderful experience. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Why? Because I could see a real transformation (conversion) in their hearts and minds. I was sharing my Catholic faith with them in a no nonsense manner. Almost all the children asked the question, “Why did you choose to become a priest.” They were stunned when I told them, “It is not I who chose Christ, but Christ who chose me. I simply answered his call.” Another child asked, “Is faith a gift or a choice?” I told the kids, “It’s both. The Lord gives it, like you give a gift. Now, it is up to you to either accept it or reject it.”

Another child asked, “Why do I need to be Confirmed?” I answered, “The Sacrament of Confirmation gives you everything you need to live in this world, do battle in it and be successful. Remember, you will be receiving what the Apostles received (except for Judas) and what all the Saints received.”

By the look in their eyes, I could tell that they were having a hard time believing this or understanding what I was trying to saying, so I made a comparison they could all understand. Once child blurted out, “But sometimes it seems as though Confirmation doesn’t work!” Forgive me if I sound heretical here, but I told the kids that Confirmation was like receiving an iphone. PLEASE DO NOT HATE ME!!!

Before you stop reading this meditation or put an end to your free subscription to my blog (or tear your garments in disgust), let me explain. This is what I told the kids.

“Imagine for a moment receiving an iphone as a gift (n.b. they didn’t have to imagine it because most of them already have it!). You can do so many things with it, right? You can send and receive phone calls and text messages, listen to music and watch movies, record audio and get Internet access. These are just a few of the things you can do with an iphone. But now imagine if you only used your iphone to make phone calls. You would not be using it to its full potential, correct?

Well, the same can be said about Confirmation. When you receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, you will be receiving everything you need for life! You will receive seven free apps (gifts) of the Holy Spirit. You will receive the gift of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, piety, knowledge and fear of the Lord. But what you do with all these gifts will depend on whether or not you chose to use them. That is totally up to you. Confirmation does not take away your free will. In fact, you are free to turn off your Sacrament and not use it at all. But if you do choose to let loose the graces, then you will discover what the Lord can do for you! And believe me; he can do amazing things if you just let him!”

They seemed to like the analogy. I hope you can use this for your children and/or grandchildren that are preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

May the Lord strengthen your commitment to Him and that of your children or grandchildren!

“A lamp to my feet is your word, a light to my path.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mk 16:15-18 Go Into The Whole World

Mk 16:15-18 Go Into The Whole World

(Click here for readings)

Jesus appeared to the Eleven and said to them: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

A few years back, while I was giving my homily at a wedding, a young woman was listening intently to every single word I said. She recently told me, “Father, what you said that day changed my life forever. I am so glad I went to my friend’s wedding. By the way, that’s the reason why I am asking you to perform my wedding ceremony.” I couldn’t even remember the homily, so I asked her, “What did I say?” She told me that it was very simple: “You said, ‘There is only one thing that God cannot do. He cannot make a mistake.’”

At a funeral Mass I told the congregation, “If you are holding on to any grudges, bitterness or resentment towards a loved one, then I want you to let go of it and find the strength to speak to or visit that person right now!” Not too long after that Mass, I received a message from a stranger who informed me that they had been to that Mass,and had done just that and were happy to have done it.

At another funeral Mass, the sister of the deceased came up to me shaking, took me by the arm to a semi-private spot in the Church and told me, “Father, I have been away from God and the Church for years. I think it is time for me to come back. Will you take me?” I smiled at her and told her, “You are very much welcomed back. We have been waiting a long time for this moment to arrive.”

These are just a few of the most recent incidents I have experienced of people coming back to their senses, coming back to Church, coming back to the Lord. How did it happen? Obviously by means of the Holy Spirit and by preaching the Good News!

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The Lord does not condemn. He doesn’t have to. This world will gladly do it for Him. The devil will gladly volunteer to do it for Him. Similar to the Gestapo, the devil will allow us to dig our own grave and bury ourselves in it. There are plenty of stress related illnesses, mental illnesses, eating disorders and undertakers out there that will gladly lend us a hand.

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord. The world is not bad. It is fallen. There is a good and a bad way to live life in this world. Live the Gospel! Live the Good News! The Lord wants to remind us that He is Holy and that the world was created perfectly. Although the seven days of Creation is symbolic, it represents something amazing and very much appealing. It represents perfection! Seven is the symbol for perfection. No wonder why Jesus said, “Forgive those who sin against you seven times seventy-seven times.” And no wonder why the devil is marked by the sign 666, for he is the most imperfect creature of all!

Like the Apostle Paul, let us be agents of the Lord, Apostles of Christ, workers for the Master’s vineyard and slayers of an evil empire. “I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (cf. Gal. 2:20)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mk 3:31-35 Whoever Does The Will Of God

Mk 3:31-35 Whoever Does The Will Of God

(Click here for readings)

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him…But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers? And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Christ’s words are nothing less than amazing when you consider the types of people following the Lord. Who are the Lord’s brothers, sisters and mother? They are those who were once the gravest of sinners. They are those who may have been rejected by mother, father, brother, sister and society!

In the Muslim world there exists a twisted and devilish tradition known as “Honor Killings.” In the Muslim world, a father or brother has the duty (and right) to kill a child or sibling that has offended the family’s honor. I heard a lot about these Honor Killings while visiting the town of Bethlehem. I was deeply saddened to hear the horror stories of young girls who were raped by a relative and then executed by a parent or sibling in order to hide or erase the irreparable shame the young girl had brought upon them. Islam is popular among men for obvious reasons. When a man sins against a woman, the man typically gets away with it; while the woman gets stoned to death because of it. Marriage and family are sacred institutions in the Muslim world. But human life is not! In fact, honor trumps life when shame or disgrace is encountered! Because of this devilish twist, I consider Islam a heresy of Christianity.

Who are my brothers, sisters and mother? No doubt they are the ones who do the will of the Father. But when they do not; when they rebel against their father, who then are they? For example, when they decide to leave or abandon the home or the faith? Then who are they? What would the Lord say to them? Without a doubt, he would say, these are my lost brothers, sisters and mother.

Obedience is kingly; but mercy is heavenly. The Lord did not come to scatter but to gather. He did not come to dismiss his children but to call out their names.

In Islam, a father may execute his sinful son. In Christianity, the Father sacrifices his sinless Son. Although the Lord carries out an execution; the execution is upon himself! What a glorious God we have! No wonder why we can call God, LOVE. No wonder why we can give God the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord reminds us why his family is heavenly and so unique. It is not based on race, patriotism or blood. It is based on faith, hope and love. The Lord’s family is comprised of those who sought God’s will in their lives. Secondly, they followed it faithfully. Thirdly, they showed mercy and compassion towards others. This is what defines, binds and holds together the Lord’s family. This is what should define and bind and hold all our extended families together.

May the Lord, through his brotherly love, seek my heart, mind and will so as to be more endeared to Him, emboldened by Him and entitled by Him. You are my son with whom I am well pleased!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mk 3:22-30 Growing More Powerful

Mk 3:22-30 Growing More Powerful

(Click here for readings)

The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul”, and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.” Jesus said, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”

All things are possible with God. All things grow with God. King David has done the impossible. He has united the scattered children (tribes) of Israel into one Kingdom. He has brought the Chosen people of God together, and by doing so, he has made them a powerful force – ready to take on the people (and cultures) that surround them.

“David grew steadily more powerful, for the Lord of hosts was with him”(2 Sm 5:10).

Oh, if only the same were true of our families! If only they were ready to take on the people (and cultures) that surround them.

I know a family whose ten-year-old daughter just made friends with their neighbor’s ten-year-old daughter. How nice! How exciting. But when the little girl got home, she told everyone that she wanted a room just like (guess who?) her new found friend. According to their daughter, this little girl had the best room EVER because she had a flat screen TV mounted on the ceiling and above her bed, making it very easy and comfortable to watch all night long! That’s when the concerned family began to understand why their neighbor’s daughter sometimes put a little bit of makeup under her eyes. It was to cover the dark spots under them!

The devil loves to suck life out of living beings. He loves to strip childhood away from children. He loves to make the young feel old and bored. He loves to make children feel like adults: used, bruised and broken!

It is time that we, as Christians, fight back and once again become the most remarkable “product” out there. What we have is very marketable! What is more beautiful than innocence? There is nothing that the competition can offer that is more appealing than innocence. Purity is striking! Can any of you think of anything that is more striking than purity? And as if that were not enough, we have the gift of transparency? Transparency is awesome! There is nothing more refreshing than honest eyes and honest glances!

What does the world have to offer? Addictions! Manipulations! Copy-cats and look-alikes! Face-lifts and fake lips! False advertizing and exaggerated smiles. Sit-coms and soaps! Isn’t it amazing how much money is spent in trying to make people laugh and appear happy?

Why do marketing giants try to sell products that remind us of clean skies, refreshing breezes and ocean mists? Because our hearts and minds and souls are filled with filth!

If you want to clear your mind, refresh your soul and renew your hearts, then stop dividing your life. Stop living in this world with one foot in and one foot out. Start living life in a different way. Enjoy the exhilarating feeling of being different. Be unique. Live life as a Christian; and grow more powerful each day.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mk 1:14-20 Teach Us Your Ways, O Lord

Mk 1:14-20 Teach Us Your Ways, O Lord

(Click here for readings)

As Jesus passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew cast their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Times change, and some insignificant things change with it, like nets and boats.

Two thousand years ago, the Lord called two fishermen, Simon and Andrew. He told them to follow him, and they did. They left behind more than just their father, their careers, their nets and boat. They left behind everything.

Yes, things change. Today, most men called by God do not leave behind their boat or net. Instead, they leave behind their car and their College degrees, but they still leave everything.

Was it easier back then? Are we to believe it was easier in 30 A.D. to leave behind your family, home, your loved ones, your possessions and “safety nets” to follow the Lord? I hope not. Like I said, some things change with time; and some things never change, regardless of the times we live in. The Lord demands from his Apostles commitment and fidelity. Is it hard to do? You bet! Is it a tremendous sacrifice? Yes! But so is raising children and spending thousands of dollars a year for private education or medical expenses! So why do we do it? Because this is what the Lord demands. Marriage has never been easy. So what will we do? Water it down? Modify it? Re-define it? Why in the world would we do that? After all, this is what makes married life, family life and the priesthood so attractive! It’s also true of being the Captain of a ship!

Oh the romance of sailing around the world! How romantic it must be to be a Captain of a large vessel. Imagine for a moment the glamour of wine-ing and dining with guests and super models! But the honor of being a Captain does not rest on this. It rests on what a Captain does when his ship is going down. What do Captain’s do? Tradition has it that they remain on board until the last passenger is off. Have we become so modern that we no longer need to demand this of them? Are we to think that this is the stuff of silly traditions and nostalgia? No! Virtue is timeless. Sacrifice, perseverance, fidelity, commitment, honor, honesty will never go out of style. But I am sure that some will start asking for a change. Just as others have been asking for a change in the priesthood and marriage!

Recently, a family sent me a “Dear Abby” letter that was published on December 23rd, 2011. It reads:

“Dear Abby: I have been in a relationship with “Anita” for four years. She moved in with me two years ago and our home life has been wonderful. We are a “unique” couple. We have discussed marriage, but neither of us believes in tradition.

I’d like to show Anita how much I love her, as well as show others we’re in a serious relationship...

Can you suggest a symbol…to show unity without indicating the eventuality of marriage?”

I wish this young man had asked me. I would have written to him saying:

Dear son in Christ. I have a wonderful idea for you. If you want all your friends to see that you are serious about this relationship, then why not invite and bring all your friends and family together in a Church, and say to your girlfriend something like, “Dear Anita, I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life!” And maybe, just maybe, as a symbol of your love, you could give her a ring!

Well, the politically correct and terribly predictable Abbey wrote back: “Why not give Anita a wristwatch engraved with, “Love you till the end of time.” Or “…’till time runs out.’”

How pathetic! How corny! It is amazing what people will do to avoid honesty, commitment and fidelity!

The Lord’s commands will never change. Our fears will never change. Instead of demanding a break from tradition, we should be praying for courage and strength.

We know the Way of the Lord, it is always the road less traveled. Now, we must ask for the virtues necessary to follow Him!

Captains die for their passengers. Husbands die for their wives. Moms and dads die for their children. Priests die to themselves. Christ dies for us, all of us! This is what makes life thrilling, beautiful, meaningful, sacred, holy and heroic!

Some things will never change.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mk 3:20-21 Out Of Their Mind

Mk 3:20-21 Out Of Their Mind

(Click here for readings)

Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

A “British” “couple” who raised their “child” as “gender neutral” in a bid to break free from stereotyping revealed Friday that their five-year-old is a boy.

Oh, what idiots will do in order to get some newspaper coverage!

Beck Laxton and her “partner” Kieran referred to their son, Sasha, as “the infant.”

Their goal was to raise their child free from any type of stereotyping. That was their goal. I guess they considered their child a neat little science project. In a world where children are starving, abused and aborted, I guess a well-to-do “couple” can afford to do something like this.

If they really wanted to avoid any type of stereotyping, then the “partners” should have done the experiment on themselves. They should have concealed their citizenship from the British government; concealed their relationship from their friends and family; and concealed their gender from each other! That way, they would never have had Sasha in the first place.

But now, they found it necessary to “reveal” and no longer “conceal” their son’s gender. Why? Because concealing is the same as stealing; and stealing is exactly what they were doing to their own child: they were stealing Sasha’s very own God-given right to be a human male and not a freak.

The “couple” allowed poor Sasha to play with only gender neutral toys. In other words, they alone, and no one else, would determine what toys Sasha played with. In this way, they avoided “societal” norms by transplanting their own “societal” norms.

Now, getting back to the Lord…

Jesus loved sinners and saints, and for this reason alone, he was called by enemy and friends: crazy!

The Lord never concealed grace or sin; he revealed both. He was able to say, “Repent!” to women and men, Jews and Gentiles, followers and non-believers. He did not sweep anything under the carpet. He called things by their name! He opened the door to our disgrace and transformed it all into His grace. He was honest with friend and foe. He did not turn our world into one huge experimental test tube; rather, he opened it up to heaven. He did not blame males for being too masculine or women for being too feminine or children for being too childlike. He reminded them that they were equal yet distinct; the same yet unique.

Jesus easily forgave those who sinned against Him not because they were headstrong like Romans, or spineless like traitors or weak like Disciples, but because they were a child, like Him, of God the Father.

Open our hearts, O Lord, to listen to the words of your Son.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mk 3:13-19 Living Saints

Mk 3:13-19 Living Saints

(Click here for readings)

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles, that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.

Today, the Lord called twelve men to follow Him. The miracle is not that they were chosen. The miracle is that they were glad to be chosen, and I have often marveled at this fact.

A while back, I celebrated Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Theresa’s religious order, who serve the poorest of the poor by being poor themselves. These nuns bind their own music books with cardboard and live in a very modest home in Oak Cliff. They invited me to stay after Mass but I couldn’t. When I told the sister that I needed to leave immediately to celebrate a funeral, her eyes lit up and a huge smile came to her face and she asked me with excitement and suspense, “Who went to heaven!!!” I was floored by her reaction. Actually, I was floored by her faith. Why is her faith so strong? What makes it possible for her to live like she does? And why are they loved by so many?

Forget for a moment that you are an away-from-home professional or a stay-at-home professional. Think for a moment and ask yourself the question, “Why in the world did these men follow the Lord? Why in the world would anyone follow an individual that demanded poverty, chastity and obedience? Why in the world would anyone give up their family, land, possessions and career? Why would anyone make such a change in their lives?” I think the answer comes down to this: They found themselves. They found themselves through Christ.

One of the biggest let downs in my life came soon after I graduated from College. I had always imagined my life would take on a refreshing and exciting twist of meaning and enlightenment once I landed a job and made big bucks. As you can see, I was not impressed at all. Yes, the money was great and I was saving as much of it as possible to ensure my future. But I noticed that working eight hours a day, five days a week, was more of a distraction than an attraction. I would not even dare allow myself to think that maybe I had picked the wrong career. But of course I picked the wrong career! I can truly sympathize with many young people who struggle picking a major or career that will lighten their lives.

After killing myself for six years and earning a Master’s Degree in Science, I could not believe that all that education, all that study had been to ensure the quality of a product: film. And that twenty years later, would become completely obsolete.

“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

While I was working, I discovered my true passion rested in discussing politics and religion with my colleagues. I knew at the time that you were not supposed to talk about these two things. But guess what? I did, and it worked! I evangelized while I worked. I even went on a date with a Jewish girl to find out more about Judaism! Only later did I realize she was a secular Jew.

I invite all of you to do your job well, but do it always with the idea of being sent – being an Apostle of Jesus Christ. Moms and dads, raise your children as if you were raising them for Jesus Christ. Husbands and wives, you have been sent by God to strengthen the beauty, the dignity and the sanctity of marriage. Regardless of where you work and what you do, make sure that your ethics, your morals and your values shine bright. Whatever you do in your life, do it for Jesus Christ. Raise the bar and raise awareness to the Lord of life! Why were the Apostles so successful? Why were they loved or hated so much? Because they tried harder. They didn’t allow barriers or walls or conventions or correctness to get in the way.

The Apostles are a microcosm of the world. What Jesus did for them he wishes to do for all of us: The Lord wants us to follow Him more closely and more dearly.