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, June 30, 2012

Mt 8:5-17 Surprise Yourself and The Lord

Mt 8:5-17  Surprise Yourself and The Lord
A centurion approached Jesus and appealed to him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”  He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”  The centurion said in reply, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the words and my servant will be healed.”  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
He handed it right to me.  What I was hoping for he placed in my hands.  He gave me his credit card.
While I was up in Michigan, working as the Executive Director at an independent Catholic school, I was placed in charge of raising money for our fledgling little school.  It needed students (like most schools) and it needed money (like all schools).  We needed to raise a ton of money.  Where to begin… Well, as a young priest, I decided the best way to raise money would be to get to know each family.  I began meeting one family after another.  Without knowing it, I had scheduled a dinner with a wonderful family.  I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.  As I drove up to their home, I realized for the very first time that this family had money.  The husband had been very successful in his business and he was not reluctant to show it off.  As we ate, I mentioned our school and how we struggle in paying our bills.  As soon as I finished, he pulled out his wallet and handed me his credit card.  I couldn’t believe it.  He said to me, “Is this what you need?  Go ahead and take it.  Use it as you need.”  I was shocked and I said the stupidest thing I have ever said in my life.  I said, “No, its okay.”
As I returned to the rectory, I recounted to an older priest what had happened.  He shook his head and told me flat out, “You should have taken it.”
But I think my “stupid” response surprised me as much as it surprised the husband and wife I ate with.  And I was right.  Instead of taking the money and running, he gave me back the reason for my priesthood; and I gave him back the reason for his faith.

That evening, I realized what it meant to be a priest.    I didn’t want to go back to my room and label this family “Rich” and another family “Poor”.  I didn’t want to think this family was “a leader” family while other families were not.  I didn’t want to visit people to see if they had money or with an agenda in mind.  I wanted to be a priest, like Jesus Christ, who spoke to people regardless of who they were:  rich, poor, Romans, Tax Collectors, Pharisees, sinners.  I didn’t want to start being wishy-washy; that is, telling people what they wanted to hear for fear of not getting what I wanted.  I wanted to tell everyone what they needed to hear, regardless of lost “opportunities”. 
That evening, and without knowing it, I started a relationship, a friendship, with a man and his family that was based on faith and trust, and not on wealth, influence, position or power. 
A few years later, this man who had everything, lost just about everything...but not his faith.  As for the school, it was saved by other very generous donors of whom I had nothing to do with.  I’m so happy!    
Unfortunately, so many of us seek friendships to serve selfish purposes.
Do you try to get to know someone because you seek something from them?  Do you operate with an agenda in your relationships?  Are you trying to convert someone?  If so, then surprise that person just like the centurion surprised the Lord.  Put the agenda down and put that person in its place!  Let them be your agenda!  Let them be to you what you are to the Lord:  a soul.  Let them know they have a friend.  Do not attach any strings to it.
The Roman soldier surprised the Lord by asking him for a favor.   And the Lord surprised the Roman soldier (as well as the crowd and his disciples) when he began to listen to him, speak to him, and accept his request to heal his slave.  But the centurion's greatest surprise occurred when the Lord said to him, “I will come and cure him.”  
What?  You will come into my house?  You would do that for me?  To enter into the house of a pagan, would have meant to be labeled ‘unclean’.   The centurion could not believe it!  He had everything he could have asked for and wanted in his hands.  With that, the centurion surprised himself and the Lord when he said, “You don’t have to come to my house.  Just say it and I know it will happen.” 
Some things are more important than others.  Some things are not that important. 
This young soldier came to the Lord in good faith; actually in better faith than anyone else.  And the Lord responded in good faith; actually in better faith than anyone else.  When the Lord spoke to someone, he spoke to them as a human being; a soul.  Christ saw through the façade of façades, agendas, political and social status.  He saw through the sinner as well.  He went straight to the heart of the matter.  In everyone he came in contact with, he saw an opportunity to show the Father’s unconditional love; the most important thing of all.
Where to begin…
Begin with Christ.  Begin with faith.  Do everything out of faith.  Allow the Lord to be the one who carries the burden of providence.  Allow the Lord to be the one who directs your heart and mind. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mt 16:13-19 Who Is Truly True?

Mt 16:13-19  Who Is Truly True?
Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
I heard on FOXNEWS that a chocolate a day helps keep the doctor away (I’m not sure about the dentist). That’s a new twist in an already twisted medical world, and in our ever growing twist to just about everything. 
It seems as though wisdom is an annual thing.  That is, this year something is good, the next year it is bad.  Save your breath in telling me that we are constantly evolving because we are constantly learning.  I would have believed that years ago, but it seems to me the more we learn, the more we go around in a circle.
A while back I was told by my doctor that there were two types of cholesterol:  good and bad.  Now, I’ve been told that the “good” cholesterol is not really good, and the “bad” cholesterol is really bad.  That was really bad news for me because I just about drank a pint of olive oil every day!  I thought it was good for me, now I find out it was good for the doctors.
What’s truly true? 
I recently read an incredible quote from an incredible actor:  Charlie Sheen.  Yes, the madman from last summer appears to have recovered from his madness.  I was stunned at what he said.  I am so proud of what he said.  He hit the nail on the head!  I couldn’t believe.  I never even expected it.  And worse, I was envious of him of what he said because I had not said it first.  After nearly thirty years in Hollywood, he’s leaving.  He’s calling it quits.  He’ll be leaving, moving on in his life to spend more time with his kids.  The kid actor has finally grown up.  What did he say that was so remarkable and true?  He said…“I’m leaving Hollywood.  I’m sick and tired of worshiping fiction.” 
WOW!!!  Doesn’t that give you goose bumps?  I really wish I had said this first.  But I guess it took someone who had spent their childhood and adult life in it to have said it.
“I’m sick and tired of worshipping fiction.”  Yes, I’m very proud of Charlie Sheen.  He gets it.  He knows the truth.  Hollywood and all its movies, and all its actors, and props, and star-studded galas and performances, are nothing more than fiction.  And millions of people across our nation worship this fiction on a daily basis.  The teens have their recent idols.  The adults have their past idols.  The world has its false and fallen idols.
What’s truly true?  Jesus Christ!  What’s not truly true?  Everything else. 
It’s important that we learn this; otherwise, we set ourselves up for a huge let down, just like we’ve been doing in a very circular way.
What I’m about to say should not shock you.  But every person is not who they claim to be.  We all have a tendency to hide our darker side.  Every politician is not who they claim to be.  We have Republicans disguised as Democrats, and vice-versa.  And if you place your trust in a politician like you place your trust in God, you will ultimately be disappointed.  The same is true for judges.  If you think every judge judges wisely (or even fairly) in every case, then you are a fool.  If you think a judge sets aside his political ideas when deciding on a case you fool yourself.  Do you think that news reporters really cover just “the news”?  Think again, please! 
The irony of it all is that the best politicians are the least political.  The best judges are the most juridical.   The best news reporters are the eye-witnesses.    
What about the saints?  Were they really not sinners?  Yes.  And that’s what makes them saints!  Only sinners can become saints, for only sinners need a Savior.  And what makes a sinner a saint is that they are the first to acknowledge this reality.  To be a Christian means to admit a fall; an insult; to be the first to raise your hand and say, “I did it.  I’m so sorry.”    
In Christ’s world, to admit your mistake (and regret it) can actually make you great and appreciate your mistake!
Jesus is not a Saint.  Jesus is God.  And the reason why He is God is because he is truly true; the great I AM:  “I am who I am”. 
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me”, says the Lord (cf. Jn 14:1).  Our faith in God removes all doubt in Him and places it back on everyone else.  It liberates me to ask an important question to myself and to my neighbor: If Jesus is Lord, then who am I…and who are you?  The answer will either be true or false. 
Every time someone asks you who you are, be honest.  Tell them the good, the bad and the ugly.  Tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  If you do so, you will be truly free; you will know what it means to be truly true.  Confession is a great way to do this.  It’s the place where you can be true to yourself and get to know who God truly is:  LOVE.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mt 7:21-29 A Person Built On Rock

Mt 7:21-29  A Person Built On Rock
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.  And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
Are you wise or foolish?
This morning I went for a walk.  As I passed by one multimillion dollar home after another, I thought to myself, “Is this home built on the Rock?  I hope so!  Otherwise, it would be a beautiful waste." 

I know beautiful families that live in beautiful homes.  I also know a few that feel like they live in a 'beautiful' prison.  It's hard to believe, but it's true.  Building a home, like a family, takes more than good planning, good intentions and good finances. 

It takes a good solid-rock foundation.
Our world was built on a rock.  But it was the storms, floods, earthquakes and volcano eruptions that gave it life!  Our problem is that we continue to think that the storms in our life are bad things.  They are not; unless we are made paper thin, skin deep.
I argue with myself once in a while.  I say, “If only I had this or that in my life, then I would be ‘great’ today.”  But what I'm saying is gravely mistaken.  And I know it…I think.  Maybe you know what I mean.  Do you think perfect conditions help create perfect people?  Well, Adam and Eve had the perfect conditions and look what happened!  I'm more likely to believe that perfect men (holy people) create perfect conditions. 
Take for example the materially rich.  Do they lack in any physical comfort or mental culture?  And yet, look and see for yourself.  Why do some of their young die as if they were poor?  Why do their kids rebel as if their mansion were a prison?  You would think they would follow in their parent’s footsteps.  They don’t.  I personally know a family that is worth billions of dollars.  They have four kids.  The son graduated from Georgetown University and became a marine last year.  Their daughter is currently spending her summer vacation in Ethiopia.  Another is building homes in Honduras.  The youngest one is doing nothing; she is the spoiled rotten little girl.  Oh well, two out of three ain’t bad.  But contrary to what you may think, none of them are doing what they are doing because of some altruistic reasons.   They are doing what they are doing because they are in open rebellion. 
Grace produces good fruit.  Sin produces bad fruit.  Grace is independent of wealth and privilege.  In fact, wealth and privilege may very well be an obstacle to grace; whereas poverty may allow grace to penetrate more easily, turning stone into bread!
Dawn Loggins worked hard as a janitor at Burns High School.  She was painstakingly methodical in her work, even when she had to mentally prepare for an upcoming test.  She was a straight-A student at the very school she used to clean!  Life has not been easy for Dawn.  Homeless at a very young age, abandoned by her parents and brought up by her grandmother, she had to work most of her young life.  But while she worked, she matured beyond her years.  She knows how cruel some of her peers can be.  She knows how disgusting they can be, especially in the way they use the bathrooms.  But at the end of this school year, Dawn graduated from High School and was accepted to Harvard University.  She prayed for this moment and worked diligently to achieve it.  She did it, and as long as she keeps her head on straight; as long as she remembers her humble beginnings; and as long as she keeps her feet planted on solid ground, she will do many other remarkable things. 
Storms do not make or break us.  It is the size of the rock that we hold onto that will. 
May our homes and our lives be firmly planted on the Rock that is Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mt 7:15-20 Fruit From The Family Tree

Mt 7:15-20  Fruit From The Family Tree
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.  By their fruits you will know them.”
I was really surprised when I saw him.  He was back with his family and they were happy to have him.  After almost two years of “being dead”, the prodigal son had returned to his senses.  Or had he?
I had good reasons to suspect he was up to no good.  But I wasn’t sure.  Then one night, I received a text message confirming my suspicions.  A member of the family wrote and said, “After a beautiful evening spent together, my brother let his true colors show when he asked mom and dad to loan him a ton of money.  They said no.  At that, he burst out the door throwing a fit (and not a few horrible insults) vowing never to return again.” 
I knew it.  Few people change overnight.
Recently, I had lunch with a man who had a problem on his hands.  He allowed his twenty-five-year-old niece to move into his home with his family.  She said she needed some time to pay off her credit card debts.  She promised it would be for only 10 months.  Well, after two years, five vacations, and almost one thousand dollars spent in a single day at the Dallas Galleria, she’s still living with them.  She was ‘visibly upset’ when told she had to leave in two weeks. 
She didn’t need a place to stay.  She needed a good talk and a kick in the pants!
Making good fruit out of bad trees.  For the longest time now, we’ve been trying to produce good fruit from bad trees.  In other words, we’ve been trying to get good results from bad decisions.  It won’t work.  But we keep trying, and our nation keeps spending billions (maybe even trillions) of dollars fixing problems rather than preventing them.  Let me give you one example out of thousands.  Our government will give free bibles to any inmate that asks for one.  But it won't give a free bible to any student that asks for one.  Why is it?  Why are we so backwards?  Why are we so decadent in our religious intolerance?  When did Jesus Christ ever hurt anyone?  When did the federal government ever hurt anyone?  Ooh…ooh…I know…I know!!!
Making good fruit out of a good tree.  Many Americans think that poor people need handouts.  I agree.  But what kind of handouts do they need?  What handouts did the Irish or Italians, or Jews or Chinese or Koreans receive?  Many!! But none from the federal government.  Instead, the government insisted that they get help from family and friends.  And so, knowingly or unknowingly, government strengthened family ties.  You can still see the remnants of this reality when you visit “Little Italy”, “Chinatown”, “Little Havana”, “Irish Town”, “Little Portugal”, “Little India”, “Greek town” “Little Saigon” (or not so little “Saigon Mall”), etc…
For every good the government does, it demands a break in ties (especially religious ones).  Whereas with families, every good they do ties them closer together. 
Rich people keep telling us that they are better off than the poor.  But if you ask poor people what they think, they will tell you that they are better off than rich people, and in many ways.  In fact, the poor will say (from experience) that if it weren't for them, rich people would find life meaningless!  I think they are on to something.  After all, from my personal conversations with our rich and yuppie families, it seems as though their greatest joys come from helping poor people.  In fact, rich kids tell me they find more pleasure in life when they go on missions rather than when they go to Ft. Lauderdale.  They learn more of life's lessons from poor people than they do from their rich parents!  They're envious of how closely knit the families are.  What do poor people think of all this attention?  Are they surprised to hear it?  No.  They can see it for themselves.
A good tree bears great fruit, regardless of whether or not it is a banana tree or an apple tree or an orange tree.  A poor family bears great fruit just as much as a rich one.  Is one better than the other?  In some ways yes, and in other ways no. 
Of course, you can accuse me of never being poor, or being an idiot, a fanatic, a republican, a libertarian.  But strangely enough, the one thing I cannot be accused of is being wrong.  Go visit a poor, but dignified family.  Ask them what they think.  
We love to do experiments, especially bogus ones.  We love to shoot a bullet through a watermelon to see what result it will have (like we don't know).  When it comes to social engineering experiments, we do the same thing.  Just like an atomic bomb, we drop an idea from the sky (as if the earth was one gigantic lab) and cut and run before we can wait and see.  Most of us will be dead before we see the consequences of our brave new ideas.  We haven't got a clue what to expect or what we will get.  We are a lot more cautious and careful with our environmental decisions than we are with our marriages, families and children.  A farmer knows that if he plants an apple seed, he will get an apple.  If he plants an orange seed, he will get an orange.  It would be ridiculous for the farmer to expect an apple tree from an orange tree.  But for some strange reason we think if we redefine marriage, family and even children, then we should get better than great results on our children and families.  Hmmm.  Interesting. 
What do you think we will get the day we have the best schools ever, the best technology ever, the best government ever, the best social programs (like health care and social security) ever?  What do you think we will get if we spend 1 trillion dollars more on public school education and teachers salaries?  What do you think we will see if we spend 1 trillion more on fitness centers and weight loss clinics?
You know what I think?  Without strong families, strong marriages and a strong faith, we will get the same results you get from a bad tree:  bad fruit.
Money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t produce a loving and faith-filled family.  In fact, it tends to spoil them rotten. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mt 7:6-14 Faith: A Narrow Gate

Mt 7:6-14  Faith:  A Narrow Gate
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction…How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life.  And those who find it are few.” 
“You are so narrow-minded!” said the child to his teacher.    “Yes”, replied the teacher, “2+2=4.  Sorry.  But this truth can open up the entire Universe to our understanding.” 
Considering how wild, chaotic, cold, deadly and dark is the Universe that surrounds us; I find it amazing how one tiny place could be so ordered, calm, warm, comfortable and cozy.  It seems as though our solar system successfully passed through the narrow gate and constricted road that led to life. 
Of all the things that could have gone wrong, it is amazing how the earth went so right.  The earth avoided the wide and open gate of destruction and passed through the narrow gate and constricted road to a living organism.
Considering all the tyrannical and suppressing forces in play in evolution, it is striking just how kind it was to man.  He was given the freedom to break from instinct.  He was given a desire to paint, to build, to discover, to speak, to laugh, to sing, to cook and to love.  It seems as though man successfully avoided the wide open gate of the animal kingdom and passed through the narrow one to a king’s Kingdom.
When I consider how similar we all are in our biology; and how dependent we are to our chemistry, I find it remarkable at how unique I can be, for I have seen that I can successfully avoid being what I was conditioned or labeled to be by simply aiming for a smaller gate than the one that was left for me. 
I can travel down the less traveled road, and take aim at a much higher goal, if I take what is inside of me and wrap it around the one that went ahead of me. 
How do I do this?  How can I enter through the narrowest of gates?  How can I squeeze through the eye of a needle?  How can a grown man be born again? 
Simple:  Faith in Jesus Christ.  My faith is not based on feelings.  My faith is based on facts.  Those who wish to be great must pass through the narrow gate of humility.  I asked the Lord to humble me and he is trying.  I gave Him permission to silence me and he did.  He invited me to be simple and I accepted his invitation.  The Lord asked me to re-evaluate my goals in life and I did; I found my life.  He encouraged me to look beyond my sight; to love beyond myself; to live outside of my skin.  I will try and continue to try so help me God. 
Our desire to love and be loved has not changed.  But our way of going about it has.  It seems all the more elusive than ever before.  I find that when people experiment with what is new, thrive on what is thrilling, and seek what is appealing, they are really on an adventure to find meaning, happiness and love in their life.  I find it so tragic that after so many centuries and so many attempts, so few ever encounter what they went out in search of.  Their temptation is to think it is a lost cause.  But the road of deception is wide and open. 
Of all the choices the Lord could have made; of all the things he could have said; of all the things he could have been, He made the singular choice to avoid the wide and easy road to honors and privileges and instead passed through His Father's constricted road that leads to everlasting life. 
The probability of finding life on another planet is as remote as encountering an alien on earth.  The problem is not with the Universe.  The problem is not with God.  The problem is with us.  We may not be ready for such an arrival.
The probability of finding a canonizable Saint on earth is as remote as encountering the Lord on earth.  The problem is not with God.  The problem is with us.   We are sinners.  We think as grand and mistaken as men think and not as narrow and small as God thinks.  If only we had faith the size of a mustard seed! 
The problem is with us.  Not all of us are ready to do what it takes to be a Saint.  Not all of us may be ready to be a Saint.  We know that by the way we treated the Lord upon His arrival. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mt 7:1-5 Parable of The Sick Man

Mt 7:1-5  Parable of The Sick Man
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”
On July 4th, 2050, the American Medical Association came together for the last time.  A few months before, all hospitals and clinics were ordered shut for good.  After all, it had been years since anyone had been sick.  Yes, people continued to die, but they died for natural reasons. 
But a few years later, out of nowhere, came a young man who believed he was sick.  And since there were no longer any hospitals or clinics to go to, he would often wait outside the home of an elderly man who was once a doctor. 
“Doctor, I need to see you!” cried the young man standing in front of the shut door.  The elderly gentleman opened it and gently said to the poor fellow:  “Go home my dear child, go home.  You are not sick.  You are simply dying.” 
“I know I am dying”, said the young man.  “But I am too young to die.” 
The good humored man, full of wisdom and years, chuckled and said: “What is age? ...It is a human invention.  Besides, were we not born to die?” 
Saddened, the young man responded, “Yes doctor, but the aches and pains are becoming unbearable.  I can’t take it anymore.” 
With scientific love and a hand gently placed upon the frightened man’s shoulder, the former doctor replied:  “Aches and pains are a very natural thing my dear child.  They are becoming worse simply because the cancer is finally spreading, that’s all.” 
“But can it not be stopped???  I am too young to die!” 
“You are not too young to die…You are dying at the right moment.  You are being who you are.  You are living the way you were meant to live.  You see, you were born with a predisposition for cancer.  That’s all.  It’s not an illness, unless you consider old age or even life as an illness.  It’s who we are.  It’s who you are.  Accept it!  Embrace it!  This was our great discovery long ago.  The APA (American Psychological Association) got it right before we did, and just like them, we ended all illness by accepting it and, most importantly, by embracing it.  We are no longer weighed down by the enormous pressure to cure and to be cured.  Family and friends no longer have to be burdened by another’s illness.  We are free from insurance, mandates, bills and fees and pre-existing conditions.  Do you realize how good this is?  Your death will mean the end of all your aches and pains and all feelings of guilt and remorse.  In fact, it will be the end to all your feelings.  Come now…Just be who you are and bear with the days you have left.  You are not sick, my dear child, you are human.  Now go and rest in peace.”
The young men turned around and slowly walked away.  All along he kept saying to himself, “But something isn’t right here.  Something inside of me keeps telling me the opposite.”
As the young man turned back one last time, the doctor said aloud, “You’re fine…You don’t need a doctor.  You need a change in attitude.  Attitude can make everything right.  Accept this dear child.  Accept this for your own good.”     
Stop judging.   The Lord demands that we stop judging.  The reasons for it are obvious:  (1) we tend to judge harshly and incorrectly and (2) we tend to judge according to our standard rather than His. 
The problem with our standard is that it keeps changing with time.  And, given enough time (and the wrong people in a position of authority), what was once judged wrong can easily become right.  And what was once considered good can quickly become bad.  
The Lord is not asking us to stop judging.  He is not demanding that teachers stop grading papers or giving out report cards.  He is not asking judges to stop handing down sentences or giving out awards.   What He is asking is that we judge correctly, according to His standard; that is, His law, His word, Christ’s Love; that we judge honestly, mercifully and lovingly.  And to do so, we must see things clearly. 
The moral of my parable is simple.  The worst thing that could ever happen to us is not that we are denied treatment, but rather, we are told we are not sick.  We are sick!  We are sinners!  We all need a doctor, a Savior, Jesus Christ.  The means to our salvation is the forgiveness of our sins.  But if we are told that we are not sinners, then we will surely die in our sins.  All hell will break loose! 
Teachers that accept bribes will grade unfairly.  Corrupt judges will let the innocent man die.  Sinners will insist all sins are nonsense.  If we do not see clearly, we will never judge wisely. 
All hell would have broken loose if Christ did not pull the wooden beam from our own eye and carry it for our salvation.
We know how God judges:  with a lot of patience and with the patient in mind.  We know how we must judge:  through self-examination and with the Greatest Doctor in mind. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lk 1:55-66,80 What A Life Could Be

Lk 1:55-66,80  What A Life Could Be
Zechariah asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name.”…  All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” …The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.
I praise you Lord, for I am wonderfully made.  You have created me in your image and likeness.  You call me son/daughter.  I have been given life for eternal life. 
Today, we celebrate the Baptist’s birth because his introduction into the world introduced to the world what is, and will always be, our mission and goal in life:  conversion to Christ.
 A few days ago I had breakfast with a wonderful family.  They have two daughters and one son.  I hadn’t seen them in a very long time and I was shocked when I saw the boy.  His hair had grown long.  He was wearing all black.  He looked tough and secure.  I was shocked to find out that he was neither.  In fact, he was very shy and very insecure.  I could barely hear him when he spoke.  And when he did, he hardly ever looked at me or anyone for that matter. 
Not too long ago, most people dressed in a way that expressed their personality.  Today, most people dress to make up for what is lacking in their personality.  Of course there are exceptions, but the rule rules.    
John grew mighty in spirit.  So much of who we are depends on how faithful our parents are.  So much depends on the obvious.  This child, like all children, is wonderfully made (cf. Ps 139).  Depending on his parents, he will grow either strong in body and soul or weak in spirit and pitiful in character.  The Lord has done his part.  Now, we must do our part, or face the consequences. 
On Saturday, a Kansas City mother was arrested after her 10-year-old daughter, who weighed only 32 pounds, was found locked in a closet.  The girl told detectives that her mother puts her in the closet “a lot”, that she doesn’t get to eat every day and that she “does not want to go back home anymore.” 
This little girl could have had a joyful childhood, loving parents, a place to call home, and friends from the neighborhood.  She could have had it all:  faith, hope and love.  Instead, her mother decided to give her hell on earth.  And both will pay a dear price for it.    
Hear me, O distant peoples.  Listen.  The Lord called me from birth; from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.  He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm.  He made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me. (Is 46:1-3)
I suspect this little girl’s heart has been physically as well as spiritually damaged.  What she could have been is exactly what John grew up to be:  a man with a heart to go after the Lord’s heart.  I wouldn’t be surprised if John grew up in poverty or under not-so-great living conditions.  But he did grow up with all that is needed; what every child, wanted or unwanted, deserves:  A fighting chance.  And he got it. 
John grew up in love with the Lord.  His family encouraged him to go after the Lord’s heart and he did.  He searched for it and he found it.  He found Christ. 
Mission accomplished.
What, then, will this child be?   John grew in his family's shadow and under their wing.  And because he grew, he was able to blossom.  And blossom he did.  He became his own man with his own personality.  His name and personality were unique.  He lived off of wild honey and locusts.  He made the desert his home.  His clothes were made from camel hair.  He was who he was, and he dressed the part; he dressed what he wished to express. 
John’s clothing added volume to his voice.  The desert added depth to his message.  His simple way of life added much needed honesty and authority to his mission.  Everything about him (and everything around him) made him easy to understand, especially by those who could not understand.  When John spoke, he spoke in stereo, in 4-D, with heart, mind, body and soul.  For what he said required his life, our full attention, and all the help we could get. 
His message was a learned lesson.  It was not a very warm and/or fuzzy message.  It was an essential message.  His message was filled with honest-to-God words:  Repent! Commit!  Simplify!  Sacrifice! 
These are the requirements for our conversion and that of our children as well.  Good Luck on your mission.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mt 6:24-29 No One Can Serve Two Masters

Mt 6:24-29  The Sun and The Son
Jesus said to his disciples:  “No one can serve two masters.  He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon.”
A few days ago I went walking in the Galleria here in Dallas.  I’m not about to go outside to do some exercise and I’m not about to register at L.A. Fitness or 24 Hour Fitness.  I’m too cheap for that.  The Galleria is just fine for me. 
While I was walking on the first floor, I noticed a shirt that looked just like the one someone had bought for me.  It was on display.  I must admit, out of curiosity I walked inside the store to see how much it was and I was shocked.  Wow!  I thought to myself, I should have written this family a beautiful thank you letter and hand delivered it to them.  I can honestly say the shirt is beautiful, but the price is not right!
Do not worry about your body, what you will wear.  I often tell the kids, “Boy, that shirt really looks horrible!”  Or, “I’m so glad you wear that ugly uniform!”   They don’t like it.  But I say it to teach a lesson that must be learned:  what matters most is not what you have but who you are.  Someone could be wearing the most elegant outfit, the most beautiful dress, and they could still be the ugliest person in the room.  The Grim fairy tale “Cinderella” has been warped and twisted beyond recognition.  Modern versions of this fairy tale have illustrations of two physically ugly stepsisters wearing beautiful clothing and Cinderella as physically beautiful but wearing ugly rags.  In this boring scenario, it’s just a matter of time and patience before someone notices Cinderella. 
But if it was up to me, I would have Cinderella’s stepsisters with the most perfect figures imaginable and Cinderella as a beautifully simple, yet elegant, holy, virtuous and sophisticated young lady.  This is a story that is worth telling because this is a story that is worth believing!  In fact, this is the story that truly comes true, for these are the young ladies that find a man, a prince, while the others find an animal, a barbarian.
When I worked at Kodak, I would often go out on Saturday to play golf with a young lady that worked in the office with me.  Back at work, I would often get razzed by my guy friends who would ask me, “What do you see in her?  She’s as ugly as they get!”  I told them, “She’s just a friend.  That’s all.”  But as time went by, I began to enjoy her company.  She was hilarious!  And she was beginning to grow on me.  In fact, one day, I defended her before my friends and said, “Look at her.  Do you see how she has changed?”  They looked long and hard at her .  They looked long and hard at each other .  They looked long and hard at me .  And they shook their heads and said, “No!” 

They were right.  She had not changed.  I had changed.
And that’s the point of the story.  The prince, who could have anybody he wanted, was sick and tired of the loose, flimsy, jealous, superficial and plastic young ladies surrounding his court.  He had changed and he knew he had to look elsewhere.  He did, and he found her. 
It’s time we stop looking for Cinderella or Prince Charming in the bars, at the singles-mingles hangouts, the beaches and resorts, the workout centers, the spas, the salons, the ads.  It’s time we stop worrying so much about what we wear, how we look, what we feel like.  It’s time we stop serving the lord of the body, the lord of plastic, the lord of impressions. 
In my years as a priest, I have noticed a direct correlation between knowing God and loving oneself.  Yes, the more a child knows God, the more they will love themselves.  The less a child knows God, the less they will love themselves.  Of course there are other factors, but like always, God comes first.  He is the big One!

It's time we search, first and foremost, for God.  And then the beauty that is within will radiate like the sun and Son.  This is the best way we can learn to love who we are and not be wrong.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mt 6:19-23 Where’s The Beef?

Mt 6:19-23  Where’s The Beef?
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasure in heaven.  For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”
Do you remember the little old lady in the Wendy’s commercial that shouted out “Where’s the beef?”  Well, she did more than boost sales for Wendy’s.   This catchphrase became an all-purpose phrase questioning the substance of an idea, event, product and even person.  “Where’s the beef?” now means more than just beef. 
Where is Christ in your Christianity?  If you are buying a hamburger, you would think that the most important ingredient in the hamburger would be the burger, not the bun, or tomatoes, or onions or the lettuce.  Of course, all these ingredients are important in a hamburger, but the essential, not accidental, item in a hamburger should be – must be – the meat! 
Christians are good people, wholesome people, nice people.  We help others.   We give.  We are generous.  We are compassionate.  We are a community that helps others regardless of who they are.   But what makes Christians different from non-Christians?  What is essential to being Christian?  The answer is obvious; it comes from our name:  Christ. 
If we give our time, talents and financial treasure but do not receive Christ's Word, Christ’s sacraments and Christ’s graces, then we will give...something, but not everything.  If we are good to people but are not good at being Christ-like, then we will do what is possible, but not what is impossible.  This is why so many of us see holes in just about everything we do; in our “social justice curriculum” and even in our homes.  We give a lot and get a lot done, but we just don't ever seem to be able to seal the deal.  As a community, we give tons of food and clothing but are we sharing our faith, hope, and love?  Are we giving what all people need now and in the end?  While we are giving our love are we also sharing our faith in Jesus Christ?
Where is Christ in my life?  We grow up with tons of goals to achieve.  We want to be this.  We want to do that.  We want to go here.  We want to see this.  We want to experience that.  And there is nothing wrong with any of it, except for the fact that some of our goals were illusions while most of them changed with time.  It’s true.  I notice it with myself.  What seemed so important in my youth, no longer interests me in my maturity.    I see it too. I notice how young people love to dress while old people love to be able to dress.  Fast cars are at the top of the list for many young men and near the bottom of the list for many young dads.  We shouldn’t feel bad for our dads.  We should actually feel proud of them.  They get it.  They’ve grown up.  Career is important, like the lower bun of a hamburger.  Money is important, like the dressings.  Family is important like the top of the bun.  But what matters most must be Christ.  He is the way, the truth and the life.  He is the reason for it all.  Where is Christ in my life?      
Where is Christ in your children?  We spend years of our life to give our children the best.  We really do.  And that’s a lot…maybe too much.  After all, what went wrong with our children?  How did they screw things up so bad?  How did they become so narcissistic, pessimistic and problematic?  Maybe, just maybe, while we were chasing our dreams our kids were having nightmares.  While we were enjoying work, they were terrified of school and ‘friends’.  Could it be that while we were building our dream home, they were already thinking about selling it?  I see the way moms and dads treat their kids.  They have only the best in mind.  They spend and spend and spend a lot of money to get a safe car and safe car seats; they spend to buy organic foods, use organic detergents and live in ‘safe’ neighborhoods.  They want their children to receive the best education possible.  They lock the doors at night and turn on the alarm to keep their children safe and sound.  So what are we doing wrong?  Why are our kids acting like bullies, criminals and delinquents?  Why are our kids wasting their youthfulness on drugs and sex?  Why are our kids cutting themselves, abusing themselves and killing themselves?  You ask, Are they starving?  I say yes!  Are they dying?  Yes!   Are you kidding?  No!  How could they possibly be starving and dying if we are giving them everything?  We are not giving them everything.  We have given them just about everything but not everything.  We have taught them just about everything except the most important things.  We have given them just about everyone except the most important One.
What’s missing in our children's lives?  Christ!  They are starving for Christ.  Our kids are dying for Christ.
There are a wide variety of people that influence our children:  mom, dad, friends, teachers, coaches, mentors, actors, actresses, musicians, performers, etc…Some people have more influence than others.  Some people think they have more influence than others.  Some people have way too much influence, period.  But there is someone who is just dying to love our child, influence our child and be the most significant other in their life:  CHRIST.  There is something our kids could use more of and, I promise you, it will never mess them up:  faith, hope and charity.
Our treasure is our faith in Jesus Christ and the fruit of our treasure is our personal holiness. 
Who would not want that for themselves, for their children and for our world?