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!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jn 11:45-56 I Know Something You Don’t

Jn 11:45-56 I Know Something You Don’t

(Click here for readings)

The chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do?” This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is best that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”

It’s all very logical. It is much better that one man die rather than an entire nation. The problem is: they were right for all the wrong reasons. You cannot be both holy and utilitarian. You cannot be a spiritual leader and a pragmatist. You have to trust in God more than in yourself, in others and in the current state of affairs. The Church thinks in centuries. Men think in the now. That’s one reason why individual men live for only a few brief years while the Church lives on forever!

The chief priests and the Pharisees were correct in sacrificing the lamb in order to save their people. But they did not know what they were doing. They knew the Word of God explicitly well. But implicitly, they did not know His Word, Jesus Christ. What they did was absolutely correct but their reasoning was absolutely incorrect. You cannot negotiate with terrorists. The Romans would eventually slaughter the people, level the cities (especially Jerusalem), destroy the nation and expel hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Jews from the Land.

The Lamb needed to be sacrificed for holy reasons; not for practical reasons.

Caiaphas said to the people, “You know nothing.” I think he was right about that. But he needed to include himself as well. Most of us know very little about God because most of us have very little experience with God. While in the seminary, our formators insisted that we have a very personal relationship with God. They made sure that we knew him not only through the reading of the Word, but also in the way we lived our lives. Poverty, Chastity and Obedience helps us to really get to know God. Difficulties, trials and tribulations help us to know God. Taking a leap of faith, living on the edge (between heaven and earth) really helps us to know God.

Yesterday, while giving my homily to a group of middle school students, I told them a story that involved a fifty dollar bill. I pulled one out of my pocket and asked the kids who wanted it (this was part of my story). Almost all the kids raised their hands. The only students that didn’t were some 8th graders. They were “too cool” to be fooled. They were certain that I was not going to give it away. They were right. But to my right were the 5th graders. And there, I saw one child nearly leap out of his seat and almost touch heaven with his hand. He wanted the fifty-dollar bill. He believed I would give it away.

Well, I finished my story and put the fifty-dollar bill back in my pocket. I looked at the 5th graders and sensed some disappointment with this one particular child. I also noticed some presumptuous looks from the 8th graders. I did not like what I saw. But what could I do? I couldn’t possibly give this child a fifty-dollar bill. But I also didn’t want the kids to think that I had fooled them. I prayed about it after communion, and the solution came to my heart.

Before the Mass ended (before I gave the final blessing), I walked towards the 5th graders and made an announcement to all the kids. I said, “You know, some of you didn’t believe I was going to give away this money, but this one child really believed that I would. And so, I am going to give this fifty-dollar bill to his teacher and she can do whatever she wants with it for her class. They can have a pizza party on me.” Now, all the 5th graders were in shock and awe! The 8th graders were in shock and disbelief! As for me, I couldn’t believe that I was giving this money away, but I was even more surprised at how moved I was by this young student’s innocent faith. And so, I did what I was trained to do, I placed my trust in the Lord. He knows everything. He knows better than I. And to my shock, this was not the end of the story.

As soon as I finished Mass, I went back to the sacristy to change. While I was changing, a woman came up to me and congratulated me on my sermon. She extended her hand and I felt something in her hand. She left and I looked at what she had given me. It was fifty-dollars.

I truly believe that the best way to welcome the great surprise of Easter is to give more than you ever expected, and wait and see how you receive more than you ever expected.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jn 10:31-42 Change and Chains

Jn 10:31-42 Change and Chains

(Click here for readings)

The Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus.

Things change.

On March 30, 1967, the number one song in America was “Happy Together” by The Turtles. And although I was not even two-years-old when it first came out, I recognized it immediately when I heard it this morning. I was amazed at how I knew it well. This would be the perfect song for any senior retreat!

Music changes. Bands change. But people will always keep writing and singing songs. The same is true of traveling. Airplanes forever changed the way we travel, and 9/11 forever changed the way we travel, but people still travel by air. Many things change, but some things never change.

As we approach Holy Week, we notice a dramatic change in the tone of the readings. Attitudes and hearts are quickly changing, and all for the worst. People are no longer bending their knees to do Jesus homage. Instead, they are bending their knees to pick up stones. People have always pushed through the crowd to get closer to the Lord, but now they are pushing through the crowd to get to him; not to welcome him but to grab him!

Things are changing, but Christ’s heart never changes. And that is a welcomed change. Regardless of what is being prepared for Him; regardless of what is being said about Him; regardless of what will happen to Him; Jesus is not budging a bit. He continues to love till the very end. He continues to forgive till the very end. He continues to give till the very end.

Later this morning I will be celebrating Mass at a senior retreat. Last night I was thinking about what I could possibly say to these kids. Nothing, absolutely nothing, came to mind. What could I tell them? How could I prepare them? What will help them? I was at a loss. So, I texted some freshmen in College and asked if they could help me. What I received blew my mind! It was perfect! It was exactly what needs to be said. I must say, I am so impressed with the maturity level of some of our young people. They are truly a gift from God. One person wrote back, “I guess I would tell them that things are going to change. People will change, dynamics between people will change, passions will change, and the list goes on and on. Sometimes all of this change makes us worry; it makes us scared, or even ignorant. It’s during these difficult times that we should turn to the one person who will never change, Jesus Christ. We may not have control over the change that happens in our life, but God has more control than we could ever imagine. It is this that brings peace to my anxious heart within a world that can change almost overnight.”

“In my distress I called upon the Lord, and he heard my voice.” (Ps. 18:7) Even while the Lord is under duress, he hears my cry. Even while the Lord is being scourged, he feels my pain. Even while the Lord is in chains, he sets me free.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jn 8:51-59 And You Are?

Jn 8:51-59 And You Are?

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?”

There was much debate within the walls of the Vatican regarding Maximilian Kolbe’s canonization. No one doubted his holiness. Rather, the question being debated centered on whether or not he died a martyr’s death or a tragic death. Pope John Paul II entered the debate and put an end to the debate by reminding members of the Congregation in charge of such matters of a simple question that was asked that fateful day. After Maximilian Kolbe stepped forward and offered to take the place of a condemned man, the Nazi concentration camp commander asked him, “Who are you?” Maximilian replied, “I am a Catholic priest.” Maximilian was killed out of hatred of the Catholic faith.

“Who are you?” I consider it amazing that St. Maximilian Kolbe did not answer the evil commander’s question by just stating his name. If he had, then God’s glory may have shined in a completely different way that day and for all eternity. But we know the way Maximilian answered the question because the man he saved (Francis Gajowniczek) survived that day; that concentration camp; and the remaining months of that devastating war. In fact, he even survived Maximilian’s canonization ceremony!

“Who are you?” We are not used to people asking a direct question like this one. Typically, we go around the bush with them, asking a few questions like, “What’s your name?”, “Where did you grow up?” or “Where did you go to school?” etc…. It is our cowardly attempt to gather information so that we can define who someone is. So, I end up defining the person rather than allowing them to define themselves! If you are someone like me, you often find yourself in the embarrassing situation of not even remembering an acquaintances name, and knowing that you could not possibly ask it again, you find yourself spending more energy trying to remember their name than having a conversation with them!

“Who are you?” The Lord spent very little time with Pharisees and scribes. There was a reason for it. He was getting bored with their one question. Finally, at the right moment, the Lord told them straight out: “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” It was a decisive moment. They could have either bent their knees and did him homage or they could have bent their knees and picked up stones. They did the later.

“Who are you?” A person is not defined by words alone, but it can help. Christ’s words are truly eternal, not so much in the sense that they live on forever, but in the sense that they remain true forever. That’s incredible! Think for just a moment on how many books, written in the 18th or 19th century, that still capture our attention today. There are very few. They just don’t seem to talk to me. Christ’s words - his parables and his lessons especially – talk to me. The Word is living. They touch man’s heart and mind regardless of time or era. The Word lives yesterday, today and forever. The Pharisees should have picked up on this, but they didn’t, for while they were asking Christ one question, they were spending all their energy preparing the next. They could have listened to His word, but they preferred to hear in order to refute.

A person is not defined by what they do, but it can help. Christ’s life continues to be a model for living. He loved more than anyone else. He forgave more than anyone else. He gave more than anyone else. The Pharisees and scribes should have picked up on this, but they didn’t. They were present in order to accuse. They were focused so as to abuse. But Christ’s actions speak as loud as his words. He stands the test of time. His miracles back then are considered miracles today! Pagan miracles have long ago been refuted by science, but Christ’s miracles remain a mystery even to this day. And I consider some of His greatest miracles to be those that are down to earth. For example, He touched the lepers without gloves; he forgave his own executioners; he loved his enemies and cursed not his foes; he turned the other cheek; he wept for Judas; he ate with the refuse of life. The Lord judged not; he condemned not. The Pharisees and scribes should have picked up on this, but they did not. They witnessed it all so that they could twist it all.

What Christ did remains surprising; what the Pharisees did remains all too familiar. What Christ did is out of this world; what the Pharisees did remains well entrenched in our world. They could have picked up on it, but instead they picked up stones.

I have no doubt in my mind that Christ is the Son of God.

“Who are you?” During this Lent, the Lord has called me to ask this question to myself and to make the answer obvious to all who come in contact with me. For all of us, to be more like Him means to be like Him yesterday, and even better today and forever.

This is a question that should be asked only once in a lifetime and answered throughout our lifetime.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Jn 8:31-42 God and Health Care

Jn 8:31-42 God and Health Care

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Inspired by recent debates, I would say that the Lord provides “affordable health care” to all Americans; and yes, even those with pre-existing conditions. Jesus Christ has forever changed the relationship between the individual and God: He has made it more intimate and less bureaucratic! And for this reason, I will put my trust in God’s Laws and Church before I put a little of it in man’s laws and government.

The Lord does not ration his love with his health care mandate. He covers all failings and falls, always. If you remain in my word, you will truly be covered, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

According to "Internet dictionary", a dogma is a doctrine or a corpus of doctrines relating to matters such as morality and faith, set forth in an authoritative manner. Rationalists like dogmas as much as they like religion. They like neither because neither are scientific. And yet, I find them, and even the above definition, very amusing given the fact that these so-called scholars have limited dogmas to matters such as morality and faith. I find it all very amusing considering the fact that we have nine Supreme Court justices hearing arguments regarding the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that the Supreme Justices are hearing this case. But to those who agree or disagree, can anyone prove that nine justices are scientific? Why not seven? Or that the Constitution of the United States is a scientific document? Or that the Affordable Health Care Act is not dogmatic? And that this Court (or its ruling) is not authoritative? How amusing it all is!

Our lives are centered on dogmas, but there is one dogma that tops them all: Life. Life is the greatest dogma ever!

And so the question is: Who should be the center of my dogma? Who truly sets me free, even free from my physical limitations, intellectual opinions and logical narrowness? Who will free me from the night that may engulf me or the day that can confuse me? Who will free me from the fads and fashions that surround me? Who can free me from my genetic code, my instinctive mode, the environment that is around me? Education? The Internet? The U.S. government? The State of Texas? The answer is obvious: None of the above. All these work within the “matrix”.

God. Family. Country. I agree with this gigantic dogma. God must ALWAYS be first; regardless of what happens to my country or my family. Why? Because He is the only One that blows my mind like the Big Bang and encourages me to explore outside the matrix, the box; outside the Universe of limited things such as time, people and place.

In today’s first reading, King Nebuchadnezzar’s face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because they would not worship the King’s phony god. The King, therefore, ordered these men to be burned to death. As they were being thrown into the furnace, a Son of God appears and the King immediately converts saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” Like I said above, the Lord does not ration his individual health care mandate. If you remain in my word, you will truly be covered, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. Fidelity to God goes a long way, all the way to heaven.

I can honestly say that I would never put my country before my God or my family. There is something seriously wrong with saying, “My country right or wrong”. It is as unhealthy and unpatriotic as saying, “My family right or wrong.” Who in their right mind would lead or follow their family or friends into an abyss? A patriot fights, not only when his country is right but especially when it is wrong. "My country right or wong" does not originate in America during the Vietnam War. It was actually expressed years before in Britain, in the late 19th century, and during an unpopular war. What this proves, over and over again, is that we are constantly falling back into old and stale arguments when repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

This brings me to another point. I would say there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “God right or wrong”, because every time we try to prove God wrong, we end up proving him right. We could say the exact same thing with regards to His Church’s dogmatic teachings. After all, history has demonstrated that they may be more illuminating, inspiring and honest than we may care to admit!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jn 8:21-30 Looking For Jesus

Jn 8:21-30 Looking For Jesus

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.”

I enjoy preaching to kids. They love a good surprise and I love giving them a surprise.

Today, I asked the children if they were having a good day. I was happy to see a lot of little heads bob up and down. “Great!” I said. But then I asked what a good day meant to them. They gave me the typical responses: A good day is when people are nice to you, when you are having fun, when everything is going your way. So I asked them if they ever thought that a good day could be when someone is mean to you, hurts you and things don’t go your way.

I was sad to see that a lot of little heads turned left and right.

Then I asked the children what we call the day that Jesus died on the Cross for us. One child knew. He said, “Good Friday.” I was happy to bob my head up and down in agreement. He was absolutely correct.

Regardless of how old I get, there will always be two things in and out of this world that will always amaze me: What God will do for me and what I can do for God.

As surprising as it may be, Christian’s call the day their Savior was savagely tortured and brutally crucified “Good Friday.” Why? Because it is the day that our Lord showed, beyond reason and beyond doubt, what he would endure for us; how far he would go for all us. And yes, this makes most of us very happy and a few of us even glad to imitate him.

“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they believe in anything” (G.K. Chesterton). People will say a lot of things about love. But there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another. People will claim a lot of things are good. But there is nothing better than to give what you have.

Every time we sin, we fall prey to certain involuntary movements. For example, we fold our arms, close our minds and block our hearts to name just a few things. You would think that that person doesn’t want to do anything, think about anything, or love anyone. The truth of the matter is just the opposite. They want to do everything but not what God wants. They want to think anything but not what God thinks. They want to love everything except what God loves. They have their own Commandments, their own beatitudes, their own parables of life. The falsehood of the matter is: they think they are their own master. The truth of the matter is: they make themselves The Masters (or Monsters) of the human race!

Faith is freedom. It involves one simple transaction: to believe is to receive. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. You belong to what is below. I belong to what is above.” The Lord extended his hand out to the Pharisees in order to extend his life in them. He wished to give them something new: His World! His Abundance! His Overflow! The Pharisees and scribes refused to accept his hand and left shaken. They wished to save their own skins instead of saving the skins of their own people!

What exactly does the Lord give? He gives the world what it was missing. He gave a lot of heaven to earth. He gave the human race the fullest meaning to life. He demonstrated the power of grace over sin, and revealed beauty within adversity. He gave us a mission in life: Be like me! And I am amazed at how often I see him.

This morning I was on my cell phone speaking to a priest friend when my office phone rang. For some strange reason, I picked up the other line. The receptionist asked me if I could come down to bless some rosaries. I could easily have said, “Please tell these folks I will bless them later.” Instead, I went down the flight of stairs while still on the phone and went over to bless the rosaries. I asked the young lady that had them who they were for. I was surprised at what she told me. “Father, they are for my brother. Last night someone tried to break into my brother’s home and he was shot.” I couldn’t believe it. I asked if he was all by himself. “No”, she replied, “My mother was in the home too. They were about to shoot her but he ran in front of her. She is good. My brother may not make it.”

There are two things in life that fill me with wonder and awe: What God did for me and my neighbor and what I can do for God and my neighbor.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Lk 1:26-38 Overshadowed

Lk 1:26-38 Overshadowed

(Click here for readings)

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

I have always been surprised at Mary’s reaction; that is, how Mary never asked the angel Gabriel, “How will this all work out? Will it end happily ever after?” That says a lot about her. Although she was young, Mary knew where to stand at all times: next to the Lord. It didn’t matter one bit how it would all turn out. She knew who she was: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Mary was neither a pessimist nor an optimist. She was a gymnast. She walked a tightrope between two extremes: pessimism and optimism. She walked along the line of realism. “Okay…this is it. This is the way it will be. God’s will be done!”

My childhood friend and I were always in competition. We competed against each other in everything: sports, grades, girls, awards, craziness, college, careers and money. If I got an A, he would kill himself to get an A+. If I had a girlfriend, he would look for any girl. If I bought a car, he would buy a bigger and more expensive car. Our competitive spirit brought us to point of absurdity. If I got in trouble with my parents, then he would get in trouble with his parents. I remember very well, back in Kindergarten, tearing a new pair of pants during recess. I told my friend to do the same thing so that I could say that I was not the only one. To my surprise, he did it!

Although we were ridiculously competitive, we always remained very good friends. The day I decided to enter the seminary, I invited him to come along. He politely declined. The day I joined the seminary, he got married. After two years of trying to conceive, my friend and his wife realized that they could not have any children of their own. After years of thinking about what to do, they decided to adopt a baby from Columbia. Once they were back in the states, it didn’t take long for them to notice that something was seriously wrong with the child. A doctor gave them the news: the child is autistic.

Of course my friend and his wife were devastated. The first time I saw him (after having adopted), I could tell that he was hurting. He had lost a lot of his hair and a lot of his faith. It is not easy at all to raise an autistic child. But my friend was blessed with a wonderful wife and an amazingly successful career. He told me, “Al, to have an autistic child is like having ten children. Your day, your life, your wife and your money revolve around him. I can’t do it anymore.” I told my friend, “What are you going to do? Are you going to give back the child? Are you going to send him back to Columbia?” He looked at me as if I was an alien. “No way! Never! I could never do that to my son.” He got it. He understood the meaning of life. You see, life may very well be like a roller coaster or like a deck of cards, but who cares what life is like!

Life is a gift, with a string attached to it. Life is mission.

My friend understood perfectly well that he was called by God to care for this child. If he had not answered the call, this child would be dead. Today, he is alive and very well. My friend understood why the Lord had blessed him with a lot of money: to give most of it for his child.

We know Mary did not know how this mystery would end. The Virgin Mary is not God. We also know that Mary didn’t care one bit what the outcome would be. What she really cared about was that she was there for God and that God’s Will be done!

There is a lot to learn from Mary. There is a lot I learned from my friend. What matters most in life is not that we accomplish all that we set out to do. No, what matters most is that the Lord accomplishes all that He sent us out to do.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jn 12:20-33 Drawing Everyone To Him

Jn 12:20-33 Drawing Everyone To Him

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said, “This voice did not come for my sake but for yours. Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

Let’s make a deal. Try living a life according to God’s commandments and let’s see what will happen. I am sure, almost 100% that you will find peace in your life. Avoid a life of sin. Avoid falling into the same sins over and over again, and let us see what will happen? I am almost 100% sure that you will live a life that is complete, abundant and enriching.

How can I be so sure? Well, on a purely human level, Jesus lived a very upright and moral life. He surprised the “hell” (literally) out of the world, becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of the world. He surprised the “hell” (literally) out of everyone by showing mercy and compassion towards his enemies and by forgiving sinners. He surprised the “hell” (symbolically) out of the devil by not falling for his tricks, his bribes, or his empty promises. Christ surprised the “hell” out of the Apostles when he appeared to them after his crucifixion. He surprised all of us by turning these fearful men into fearless Saints! He surprised all his would-be-followers to sell what they had and give it to the poor. He surprised them when He told them to pick up their cross and follow him. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. How does the Lord bring souls closer to Him? By surprising them!

Christ lived a life very similar to all of us. He interacted with good and bad people; saints and sinners. He had good days and bad days. He experienced joy, love, admiration and success from his people, as well as hatred, bitterness and resentment from his people. The Lord prayed for strength and went through exhaustion, pain and suffering; he found very few comforts. He traveled all the time. By friends and foes, the Lord was misunderstood often, ignored frequently, and rejected all too soon. His life was short, too short. But he did not sin. He considered all things and all experiences as grace upon grace. He considered all people, friends and enemies, as his mission. He considered all his prayers answered. He was a man after His Father’s heart. He would not gather anyone if he lost the only One. The Lord lived a life similar to all of us, except in sin. He did not sin. Neither should we.

Although Christ’s earthly life was short, his eternal life endures forever. Our life will be the same, and we should not fear, for those who believe in Him will live forever. He mimics us in everything. We too live in humble surroundings, obscure times and obscure places. Regardless of what people say, no one place is the center of the world. But that never stopped the Lord from being the center of truth, of life and of love! It should not stop us either.

There are many who openly attack Christians, but very few who will even dare attack Christ. When our enemies attack our Lord, they do so by attacking his teachings; the teachings found in the Church. They say, “This is not what Jesus would have said.” Of course, we know that he did. But the attempt to keep Christ on his pedestal while undercutting his Church has not gone unnoticed. The devil tried to do it. St. Paul tried to do it, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me!” And even we have tried to do it too! It is all familiar ground, as familiar and as ancient as the snake; one of the few creatures that roam the earth without legs. For centuries, people have been trying to undercut God by attacking his Church. This should not stop us from drawing closer to Him.

Christ wishes to draw everyone to Him. By his life and death, we should know that fear, trouble and sin does not get in His way. It should not get in our way either.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jn 7:40-53 No One Has Ever Lived Like This

Jn 7:40-53 No One Has Ever Lived Like This

(Click here for readings)

The guards went to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked him, “Why did you not bring him?” The guards answered, “Never before has anyone spoken like this man.” So the Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived?”

Today our 8th graders will be getting confirmed in their Catholic faith. Please pray for them because my biggest concern for them is that many of them don’t really know the faith they are confirming. So yesterday, I spent over four hours with them and asked them if they had any questions regarding our Catholic faith.

One young lady asked, “Father, last year one of our teachers told us that only Catholics go to Heaven. Is this true?” I don’t know for sure if the teacher really said this, but I do know that it is not true, and I was pleased to see that all of our kids agreed with me. But then I asked, “If that is the case, then who goes to Heaven?” One child responded, “Christians.” But then I asked, “What about the rest of the world, the nearly 70% of the world that does not know Christ? Are they doomed to Hell out of no fault of their own?” Then another child responded, “Well then everyone goes to Heaven!” That was an answer I had heard many years ago in my own CCD class. But that answer was immediately shot down when it became obvious that if everyone goes to Heaven, then there really is no good or evil to choose from.

The answer is simple. Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the World. There is no other. We are redeemed through Him; we are loved by Him; we are saved because of Him. So, anyone can be saved (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, etc.), as long as they implicitly or explicitly accept Jesus in their lives.

Of course it is much easier to get to Heaven by being a Christian because we have it all. We have all that it takes to get to Heaven. We have the Word of God. We have the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Communion, Confession and Confirmation). Yes, we have it all, so no excuses. I explained to my young audience that it is much easier to stay healthy by eating right and exercising often. However, you can still stay healthy by having open heart surgery or liposuction or by taking injections of insulin. But which is easier? What is better? The answer is obvious.

However, I wasn’t content with just this answer. I wanted to surprise the kids. So I asked them, “If anyone can be saved, then why be a Christian?” They had no idea. So, I asked them, “If someone struck you in the cheek and instead of retaliating you offered them the other cheek. What do you think would be their reaction?” One child answered, “Shock.” That was good, but not good enough. Another child responded, “Surprise.” That was it!

“If someone said to you, ‘I hate you’, and you responded, ‘I will never hate you.’ What do you think their reaction would be?” They said, “Surprised!” “If instead of gossiping about someone you never talked bad about them. What would be their reaction?” The answer was unanimous: Surprised!”

To the girls, I asked them, “How do you think your boyfriend would react if you were beautiful AND moral?” They answered, “Surprised!” To the boys, I asked them, “What would your friends think if you were very athletic AND very humble?” They answered, “Surprised!”

“This is what it means to be a Christian: We surprise the Hell out of the world…Literally!” The guards who were sent to arrest Jesus came back and said, “We have never heard anyone speak like this man.” They should have been more honest and said, “We have never seen anything like this. We have never seen anyone live like this man!”

The Saints live like this. St. Maximilian Kolbe surprised the hell out of the Nazi commandant when he stepped forward and offered to lay down his life for a fellow prisoner. In fact, the Nazi commander said, “Who the hell are you?” “A Catholic priest”, was his reply. No one takes my life. I lay it down.

Throughout India you will find 7 ft or 8 ft tall statutes of Mother Teresa. You would almost think that she was that tall, but she wasn’t. She was less than 5 ft tall, but she was a giant! Surprise!

When St. Francis of Assisi told his father that he wanted to be a priest, his father insisted that he come home with him. After all, everything the young man had belonged to his father, even the clothes on his back! So, what did the young man do? In front of his father, he took off all his clothes and gave them back to him. Surprise!

There is nothing surprising about a young man who kills three children in retaliation for the deaths of three other children. No surprise there, just horror! There is nothing surprising about someone who strikes back, fights back or shoots someone in the back!

Our world is an amazing surprise, but Christians are even more of a surprise, and we have been personally called, by God, to think differently; speak differently and live differently. We are not the surprise party guest; we are the surprise party surprise guest. Wherever we go, we surprise! At home, we surprise. At work, we surprise. At school, we surprise. How? By dedicating our life, our words, and our work to Jesus Christ.

So, wherever you go, be another Christ! Those who are confirmed are considered Soldiers for Christ. Onward Christian Soldier!

Christianity has become boring because Christians have become boring. But all it takes is a little faith, the size of a mustard seed, and we will move mountains. Surprise!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jn 7:1-2,10,25-30 Crooked Lies!

Jn 7:1-2,10,25-30 Crooked Lines!

(Click here for readings)

Jesus moved about within Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, “Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from.”

God writes in crooked lines. That is a most crooked lie! I heard this expression for the first time while listening to a priest as he was justifying the immoral behavior of another. What he was trying to say was that “something good can come from something bad.” I couldn’t agree with him more. But to accuse God of allowing certain evil acts to happen is like accusing God of setting us up for a horrific fall! How amazing this is; that is, how amazingly untrue this is, and not only is this untrue but it is also insulting to God, and for various reasons.

First, it is like saying God walks in crooked lines, which would mean that God acts like a drunk. If there is one thing that we know about God, it is what he expects from us; and what exactly does he expect from us may be found in Scripture and in two words: avoid sin. Sin does not make us better. Sin is not required to make us stronger. Sin makes us evil, period. And when we sin, we hurt ourselves and we hurt others.

Second, it would mean that God is crooked; that he is a scoundrel! God teaches us by bashing us. It is like saying that some kids had to be abused so that some good could come out from all of this. It reminds me of something I heard not too long ago from a woman on TV. In justifying her abortion, she claimed, “I wouldn’t be half the woman I am today if it were not for my abortion.” She’s right! She wouldn’t be broken if it were not for her abortion. She wouldn’t be missing her better half; her child. The truth of the matter is: she would be a better woman today if she had chosen to keep her baby.

Mind you, what I am saying does not take away from the power or beauty of conversion. But the Lord did not claim that Mary Magdalene was a better woman because she was a former prostitute. Or that Matthew was a better man because he was a former thief. Or that Peter was a better man because he started off as a sinner. No. The truth of the matter is: if it weren’t for my sins, I would be a holy man!

When you are in the line of work that I am in, you find yourself accustomed to seeing and hearing a lot of things that don’t make much sense. It is a far too common occurrence, during teen retreats to hear the testimony of teens or young adults that screwed up royally in their life and then came back to Christ. I guess the attraction to such disasters is: it doesn’t matter if you have crashed and burned; God can still work his miracles. That’s true. But if we are trying to show the power of God, then is the child that never crashed or burned just as much a miracle story as the one that did? After all, when you have been thrown to the ground and have nearly lost your life, isn’t up the only way to go? I think we have placed far too much emphasis and far too much time on those who have been to hell and back. We tend to forget the one who never dared to go there in the first place. I don’t know about you, but I think the one who came back from hell to tell all is just as much of a surprise as the one who never dared to go there in the first place. They need to tell their story too, maybe as a model and not as a warning.

“Make straight the way of the Lord” (Jn 1:12) is not the same as saying, “God writes in crooked lines”. Nor is it the same as saying, “Who can make straight what He has made crooked?” (Ecc. 7:13) What this all means is that God’s glory can be found in good times and in bad times; when we are being tested and when we are on trial, just like His Son.

God will put us to the test, but we should never put God to the test. Unfortunately, that’s what we do all the time. We are constantly testing his patience; constantly testing his love; constantly testing his mercy and forgiveness; constantly testing his advice. The fools say, “Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” (Wis 2:22) Do we need to sin to get (someone) closer to God? Did Judas need to sin to help save the world? Do we need to fall in order to stand?

Yes, the Lord is “close to the brokenhearted”, but those who put their trust in the Lord are even closer. God did not create us and put us in a maze. Rather, He created us and put us in a world that He loves very much, and with a path that couldn’t be any clearer: “Come follow me…I am the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.”

Crooked lines is the same as saying crooked lies.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Jn 5:31-47 Inconvenient Truths

Jn 5:31-47 Inconvenient Truths

(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the Jews: “If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true. But there is another who testifies on my behalf, and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.”

The term “Inconvenient Truths” was popularized by Al Gore. The problem with this popularization is that it was almost entirely driven by current hysteria and scientific falsehoods.

Coming soon to theatres near you (this Friday) is a movie that brings to light a very “inconvenient truth”: abortion survivors. I had never heard of abortion survivors until recently, and for good reason: they are rare; as rare as Holocaust survivors. How in the world can a child survive an abortion? How can an infant survive being torn to pieces or burned alive? Answer: They do. The very instinct to survive must be as incredible as the unbelievable intent to kill one’s own child.

“October Baby” is a Christian based movie without any overt Christian tones; except for the fact that the protagonists are capable of loving convenient as well as inconvenient babies. The movie is about a young lady in search of her biological mother. What she finds is truth, love and forgiveness. What she finds surprises her.

Pro-life advocates love this movie because it is about inconvenient truths, unconditional love and incredible forgiveness. It is the Gospel of Life in action! Pro-Choice advocates should love this movie because it highlights the drama of our mistaken choices and how they can come back to not haunt us, but to love us!

I have not yet seen this movie, but I am certain of what I will find: No enemies.

Truth and Love is gaining ground across the nation because it is gaining friends as well as enemies; that is, it is gaining new friends, and friends who were once adversaries.

The Pro-Life movement testifies that everyone is a victim: mom, dad, child and abortionist. The Pro-Choice movement testifies that far too many are inconvenient, including child and father.

In this battle, millions are at stake: millions of dollars and millions of lives. A Pro-Choice advocate has much to gain; a Pro-Life advocate has little to gain; except, of course, a little life.

Side-walk Christians give witness to love and bear witness to the truth by loving the infant and the mother who doesn’t. They stand in the rain, snow and hail praying a Hail Mary just in case there is a change in mind! They show great concern for the mom just as much as they can show great concern for the child. The tide is turning in favor of the Pro-Life movement, thanks in all for their love for “Pro-Choice” advocates.

It took millions of years for life to appear on earth. Life has tenacity and humility to survive. There are many on this planet that would love to sweep it all under the carpet; but life in all its tenacity and humility will not allow that to happen.

Enemies can be a very convenient excuse for our selfish thoughts, laws and actions. But truth with love conquers all; and if it doesn't, then forgiveness will re-conquer all!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Jn 5:17-30 Loving Without Lying

Jn 5:17-30 Loving Without Lying

(Click here for readings)

Jesus answered the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life…Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Not too long ago, I spoke to an RCIA group regarding the significance and sacredness of the Mass; why we worship the way that we do. I ended my talk by telling them the story of a brochure I found, produced by an evangelical church, outlining ten reasons why some people do not go to Church. I agreed with the Church's “reasons” but I disagreed with their solutions. The solutions included such things as "Rock’em, Sock’em music", live skits, soft comfortable chairs, and other extravagant things. I told the RCIA group, “Don't you think that the Catholic Church would have invested in all of the above tactics long ago if it was convinced that this was the best and long term solution to boredom and to sin? We know it is not."

A member of RCIA, who I greatly admire, raised his hand and pointed out the danger of being self-righteous when discussing issues of faith with people from other denominations. We have to be careful not to be arrogant. I could not agree with him more. In fact, I would have gone even further and said, “Be careful when discussing issues of faith with members of your own faith!” But then he got me thinking when he said that we should never compare ourselves to others; and as a priest once reminded him, “We love everyone.”

What I love about RCIA members is that I always learn a lot from them. What I love even more about them is that they help me to reflect even more on my own vocation.

What does it mean to "love everyone?" Does it mean lying to everyone? Unfortunately, I am beginning to think so. That’s right. When I can’t share the Good News with others out of fear of insulting them or offending them or hurting them, then I end up sharing no news with everyone, and that is bad news for Jesus Christ.

Kirk Cameron, the former teen idol turned famous Christian actor, recently appeared on MSNBC's "Today Show" to clarify some statements he made regarding homosexuality. When asked what he thought about it, he simply said, “I think that it is unnatural. I think that it is detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization.” Ann Curry, the star of this program, said his comments were “hurtful”.

Really? Would it have been best to not have said anything at all? Would that have been more loving?

Kirk Cameron is now being called an “extremist” by many in the homosexual industrial complex. Mind you, they do not consider their comments to be “hurtful” in the least. So my question to them is, “How should he have conveyed his opinion without being ‘hurtful’ but still honest?

Is it possible to love everyone without lying to everyone?

Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.”

These are some hurtful words. But they do not begin to compare to the pain that will be suffered by those who do not follow the Lord’s advice. Would we say that the Lord did not transmit love in his statement? I wouldn’t. I would consider his warning to be very warming, too warming in fact. Or maybe he should not have mentioned this at all. Is no news better than bad news? Are we so civilized that we must now hear only what we want to hear? How unfortunate for our civilization!

If we call ourselves Christians, then we have been called to share the Good News with others, especially with those who disagree with us. If we have been called to share the words of Jesus Christ with others, then we have also been called to share in His life; which means, we have been called to be hated and persecuted like Him.

Kirk Cameron put himself into the frying pan by answering Connie’s question honestly and lovingly. I know how he feels. It would have been so much easier for him to just have shut up and gone away. But Christians have never shut up or gone away! Persecution and hatred is something we can all look forward to, today or tomorrow, especially when we are called to stand up for our Lord, his Church and his Word.

Kirk Cameron does not hate homosexuals, and I am proud to say that no Christian doctrine ever promoted hatred (except for sin, and lying is a sin). But what he does love, more than anyone else, is Jesus Christ, who is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE.