Meditation is an ideal way to pray. Using God's word (Lectio Divina) allows me to hear, listen and reflect on what the Lord wants to say to me - to one of his disciples - just like He did two thousand years ago.
The best time to reflect is at the beginning of the day and for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Prior to going to sleep, read the Mass readings for the next day and then, in the morning, reflect on the Meditation offered on this website.
I hope these daily meditations allow you to know, love and imitate the Lord in a more meaningful way.
God bless you!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mt 13:36-43 Coexist

Mt 13:36-43  Coexist
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.”
While driving back home, I noticed a bumper sticker that read “Coexist”.  The letters were written in the form of various religious symbols.  The “C” was in the form of a crescent moon (Islam); the “T” was in the form of a cross (Christianity); the “X” was in the form of the Star of David.
Although I have no doubts of the owner’s good intentions, I do wonder if the designer was open to any religion at all.  I wonder because I could easily design a bumper sticker myself with the same word but written in an entirely different form.  Why limit our hope to just religion, especially if our goal is to live in perfect harmony?  Why limit ourselves to religion when we can use so many political and national symbols or colors as well. 
For example, I would love to see “Coexist” written in various colors.  “C” in blue (Capitalists), “E” in green (Environmentalists), “S” in red (Socialists), “X” in black (national socialists).  Or better yet, why not write the letters using the colors of national flags:  “C” (USA), “O” (North Korea), “E”(Israel), “X” (Iran), “I” (Iraq), “S” (Saudi Arabia)? 
Why not?  Unless, we have a hidden bias against religion; that religious piety is the source of all our problems and not human thinking?  Or, to be more specific, that religion, and not human beings, is the source of all our problems.
People love to group religions together, as if they were all the same.  Would we do that to animals?  Would we place a cat in the cage with a lion?  Are they not the same? Would we do that to a dog and a coyote?    I don’t think so. 
Would a math teacher be upset with me if I claimed that all numbers are the same?  Can’t we group them all together?  Is one more significant than the other?  Can’t they coexist?
There is a place in our world for coexistence.  For example, I dream to see a Republican endorse a Democrat, not because he/she is a Democrat, but because he/she is really the better candidate.   I would love to see a Democrat nominate a Republican as their running mate, not because they have lost their mind, but because two minds are better than one.  This is real coexistence. 
But when it comes to the truth, there can be no space for falsehoods; when it comes to love, there can be no place for hate; when it comes to unity, there can be no time for sin.
My concern with false ideology is how it disguises itself as authentic piety.  Why should religions coexist?  Did the Lord ask for coexistence?  Of course not!  He asked for his disciples to go throughout the world and baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.   He did not ask us to declare war on religion, like atheists have done.  Neither did he ask us to declare war on religious liberty, like secularists have done.  He asked us to declare war on sin, like Christ has done by dying to oneself and “loving one another as I have loved you.” 
Let us compete.  Let us race.  Christianity, like all religions, was not created to coexist.  Christianity was created to stand alone, like the number “1” or a gold medalist.  Let us compete.  Let us race.  Most religious people would find nothing wrong with this statement.  Islam was not created to coexist; it was not created to be one truth among many truths.  What distinguishes one religion from another is the truth; the truth found in its founder. Christianity is not like any other religion because Christ was like no other.  He did not die in battle.  He died on a Cross.  He did not hate his enemies; he loved His enemies.  He is not God or man; He is God and man.  He sowed good seed where there was only bad seed. 
Christianity is not a religion of conquerors, unless you consider love conquering.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mt 13:31-35 A Seed of A Different Kind

Mt 13:31-35  A Seed of A Different Kind
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.  “The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
I believe it is an American proverb:  “When it rains, it pours.”  It’s not always a bad thing, especially when half the nation is in a terrible drought. 
Yesterday evening I returned home after having spent the weekend in Mexico City.  It was a long day of travel that only got longer.  Of course I was thrilled to be there.  It was the first wedding I ever performed in Mexico.  It was the first wedding I ever performed in which the bride and groom were former students of mine.   Although it was an honor and a privilege to be with them and their families, I was ready to get back home. 
American Airlines flies non-stop from Dallas to Mexico City.  They have four or five flights a day every day.  But yesterday, my flight (and only my flight) got cancelled.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had beat Montezuma’s revenge; I had beat the traffic; I had survived the roads; I had beat getting mugged or robbed.  Like Spirit Airlines, American Airlines could offer me nothing except an early morning flight the following day.  I was furious!  I left the airport bitter and got the first cab I could find.  
As I was heading back to the Hotel (the one I had just checked out of) the traffic became unbearable.  Bicyclists appeared in every direction.  Since the driver couldn’t get near the Hotel, he asked me to get out and walk ten blocks from the Hotel.  I couldn’t believe it.  With a bag in my hand, I began the walk.  I still left him a tip. 
When I got to the Hotel, I sought out a friend of mine.  He is a Platinum member with American Airlines.  He got on the phone and Viola! …I had a ticket in my name for one of the evening flights out of Mexico City.  Let’s not fool ourselves:  money talks.  I’m sure some poor guy is scratching his head wondering how “he” made a mistake that cost him his seat.
I went back to the airport, and without thinking twice, I checked in my bag.  Afterwards, I realized that I had left my prescription sunglasses in one of the outer compartments.  I thought to myself, “Oh no, I hope they don’t get crushed.”
I (along with my bag) made it back to Dallas. Better late than never.  While I was driving home, I noticed an object in the middle of the road.  I couldn't avoid it and ended up hitting a piece of an 18-wheeler’s tire.  I heard a horrible noise as I drove away.  It turns out the front bottom of my car is damaged.  I will need to get that fixed.
When I made it back to my house, I opened up my luggage to check and see if my sunglasses had survived the journey.  I opened the case and discovered that the glasses were gone.  I couldn’t believe it.  Actually, I could…and I did.  I began to do what most people would do.  I began to think horrible thoughts about people; generalize an entire nation; think of ways to get back at them; imagine what I would do the next time, etc.

To top it all off, I think I got Montezuma's revenge.

If we were to take today’s Gospel and turn it upside down we would get a very good description of the Kingdom of hell.  Yes, the Kingdom of hell is like a very small seed that a person took and planted in your field.  It is the smallest, yet when full-blown it can quickly grow and spread into the greatest of plants.  It consumes everything around it and leaves shade to hide. 

Those who are possessed by hatred, resentment and bitterness can quickly consume the good people that are around them.  Not a single living creature would dare come near or even think of dwelling or resting  upon them.    

Hell has a tendency of spreading like a wild fire in the midst of a drought.  Hell begins for plenty of good reasons.

Christ entered where no man dared come near to.
But as there are many good reasons to hate, there are plenty of good reasons to love and be loved.  “It was not you who chose me, says the Lord, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (cf. Jn 15:16).
The Lord had plenty of good reasons to hate.  That reality is what makes him so much more remarkable.  A weak man knows how to hate.  It takes a very strong man to know how to love.  We have the model in Jesus Christ.  Do not forget God who gave you birth.” (Dt 32)

Moments like the one I had above are moments that test our patience and our faith.  It's good to have moments like these.  It helps us to see just how much spiritual progress has been made.
Christians are called to be seeds of a different kind: of Christ’s kind and of Christ’s kindness. 

We grow were least expected. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mt 13:18-23 Seeds That Grows

Mt 13:18-23  Seeds That Grows
(Click here for readings)
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Hear the parable of the sower…The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
We all look for excitement while we all appreciate what’s common.  What’s common is what is very stable.  For example, in order for a seed to grow it must fall on rich soil; take root; and persevere in times of trial. 
The Lord knows human nature as well as he knows plants.  Without stability; without roots; without Christ, we have little to no chance of surviving like humans and living like saints. 
Yesterday, I saw a very disturbing video of a nine-year old boy in a daycare center that viciously punched and kicked other children while they were waiting for a parent or guardian to pick them up.  He attacked children as little as nine-months old!  He knew what he was doing.  He actually waited for the day care assistant to turn her back before he ruthlessly attacked the children.  At one moment, he positioned a little girl, turned his head to make sure the assistant wasn’t looking, and kicked the little girl in the back.  When the assistant turned to see what had happened, he cleverly went over to the baby and picked her up, giving the appearance that he was consoling her.
Let me guess:  He has “mental health” issues, right?  He needs to be medicated.  Health officials should have informed the daycare center that he was capable of doing great harm to others.  They should be held liable for not predicting this type of behavior.  Or maybe the answer (or solution) is that he was born evil.  Some people get more of original sin than others.  Original sin affects the genetics of a person, right?  WRONG!
What’s wrong with our kids today?  What’s changed, other than time?  Have their bodies evolved?  Do they no longer need two arms but three?  Do they see from their ears and hear from their eyes?  Are they no longer born with an umbilical cord, like the first humans?  Kids do not evolve, they grow.  There is a difference.
What’s changed is the following:  they no longer have any type of roots; that is, they have little to no stability; little to no responsibility; little to no morality.  Man has not evolved with time, but marriage and family have, and they have left everyone behind, especially their children, our future.
Far too many of us will do whatever it takes to be happy, even at the expense of those who depend on us.  We will do whatever makes us happy but not whatever it takes for our children to be happy.  Sometimes the two coincide.  Many times they don’t.   
Evolution can be a great thing.  It can also be a lousy thing.  Supposedly we have become stronger over time, but so have viruses and bacteria.  Whatever gains we made with our minds, we’ve definitely lost with our hearts.  We have evolved into thinking that a child born out of wedlock is worse than a child being born.  Kids that know this think about this and grow up with this.  They value their comfort level much more than their sense of honor, duty and responsibility.
Human nature has not changed with time.  We still need to eat.  We still need to sleep.  We still need to be taught order, discipline, stability, responsibility and morality.  We still need someone to take care of us when we are vulnerable and someone to love us always.  If we take a beautiful tree that has been firmly planted in the ground and uproot it to move it, watch out:  chances are it will die. 
That’s what’s happening to our kids.  They don’t have a family that will love them so they find a family in a gang, prison or cult.  They have no one to spend hours with so they text, tweet, chat, and Facebook.  They don’t have a sibling as a friend so they find a sibling in a friend.  They don’t have a mother or a father to love them so they find a boyfriend or a girlfriend that will.  They don’t have someone that will teach them, discipline them, help them, tough-love them and be honest with them, so they find a mother or a father in a coach, teacher, social worker, priest or neighbor. 
But what eventually ends up happening is that they find out just how inhumane they really are.   They are not human.  They are like an artificial plant; no leaves, no roots, no soil.  And we are content with it, as long as we can get by with it.
Although the world around us may evolve over time, plants still need what they have always needed since the dawn of time. 
Although marriage and family may evolve in name and over time, children still need what they have always needed since the dawn of man. 
The lack of it will be ever more noticeable (and shocking) over time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mt 13:10-17 No Scapechicken!

Mt 13:10-17  No Scapechicken!
(Click here for readings)
The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”  He said to them in reply, “…This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand…Blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.”
A sociology professor asked his class if anybody was a racist.  Of course all the students shook their heads in denial.  “Are you sure?” the professor asked.  A few minutes later, he tested one student by asking him, “Tell me what you think about this statement:  If you want to make the world a better place, then you have to kill all the African-Americans, all the Jewish people and all the firemen.”   The student, looking confused, responded, “Why all the firemen?” 
The professor walked away with a smile on his face, satisfied that he had made his point. 
However, I think I would have objected to such a rash conclusion.  The student was not being a racist.  He was being a student.
We know, from our history, that African-Americans have been the object of discrimination and slavery by others.  We also know, from history, that the Jews have been slaughtered by the millions by others.  But the reaction of the student, regarding firemen, would have made me wonder:  Why are firemen the object of this man's fury?
The same question can be asked regarding Christians who support (traditional) marriage:  Why are they the object (or target) of so much fury? 
If I was a supporter of "gay marriage" and asked a Southern Baptist gentleman what he thought about "gay marriage”, I would hope he would be honest with me.  Then I would hope he would agree with me.  But if he didn't, I wouldn't be surprised.  In fact, I’d like to know why he didn't agree with me and I’d like to have the opportunity to share my point of view with him.  But since I asked him the question and hoped he would be honest with me, would it be right to be furious with him?  Did I ask him the question in order to set him up to be a scapegoat?
When I walk into a restaurant, I want to be served quickly and be treated with respect, with dignity and with good food.  I don’t expect the owner of the fast food chain or the waiter or even the cashier to agree with me on any other issues, especially political or social issues.  Just like the President of the United States, I want my food to taste great and be void of all diseases. 
But now, it appears as though the gay community wants all restaurant owners, all cashiers and all waiters to agree with them when it comes to accepting “gay marriage”.  BEWARE ALL CASHIERS, ALL WAITERS, ALL OWNERS, ALL PEOPLE!  Beware if anyone asks you a question regarding “gay marriage”.  Beware if you speak your mind and defend what has never had to be defended before.  Beware if you are honest.  Beware if you do not agree with them.  Watch out!
Why in the world is the gay community (and its hysterical supporters) shocked by a practicing Christian’s belief in scripture; in marriage; and in honesty?  And, at the same time, would serve anyone, regardless of their gender specific tendencies, a good meal? 
What did they expect this man to say?  Are they upset that he was honest?  Are they upset that he is a Christian?  Will they do the same to others as well; to Muslim owners?
The Boys Scouts of America (BSA) recently received over 300,000 signatures from individuals who oppose their policy regarding homosexuals serving as leaders.  But not one of those signatures proves a thing; namely, why the BSA’s stance is wrong.  After all, when millions of Germans voted for Hitler, did it mean they were right?
This Tuesday is Chick-fil-A appreciation day.  The gay community went after the wrong man.  They thought he only cared about money; they thought he only cared about chicken.   This scapechicken may very well turn out to be a lightning rod for Christians everywhere. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mt 20:20-28 Ignoring The Past

Mt 20:20-28  Ignoring The Past
The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and asked Him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit at your right and the other at your left.”
Though it may not be uncommon for a mom to seek the best for her children, it is uncommon for her to seek or accept what needs to take place for it to happen.
We can all agree on what’s wrong with society.  It’s another matter to agree on what it will take to fix it. 
“Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?”    If we are looking forward to the “future”, it would be wise to take a look at the past.  If we are planning for the future, we should bring along with us some lessons learned from the past.  We all have a tendency to say that the future is the brightest. And the reason why we say it is not necessarily because we believe.  I think it is because we want to believe it!  And the best way to believe it is to turn our backs on our past mistakes.
There’s nothing wrong with moving forward, but to do so, without ever correcting past mistakes, is a big mistake.  Maybe that’s why we find ourselves repeating history every seventy years, or in a lifetime.
I am amazed at how intelligent Marcel and DC comics are.  I mean, you would never think that Marvel or DC comics would have something more to offer mankind than just plan entertainment.  I am stunned at what I am about to say.  I think these two organizations would win an award for advancing the slowing down of science!  If you have seen any of their movies (Avengers, Captain America, Batman, Spider Man, etc…), you will find a common thread that runs through all of them:  The threat of unmitigated scientific research. 
Science can be a very dangerous thing to mankind. 
In DC comics latest hit, “The Dark Knight Rises”, Bruce Wayne unilaterally decides not to commercialize one of his greatest inventions:  a fusion machine; a machine that simulates how the sun shines and that would guarantee clean and reliable energy on earth forever.  Talk about current event issues!  Talk about not being politically correct!  Imagine for a moment a machine like that!  Think of its potentials!  How all wars over fossil fuels would come to an end; how natural resources could be preserved and conserved.  Think about what it would do to the Green Movement (and its political wing).  It would turn red with envy and with all sincerity!  It would finally show its true radical and communist colors! 
Now why in the world would Bruce Wayne hide this machine to the world?  In the movie, he makes his decision very clear.  He says, “If this machine ever got into the hands of the wrong people, it could destroy the world.  I won’t release it until society is ready for it.”   I won’t release it until society is ready for it?  Wow!  Amazing!  DC and Marvel understand history and human nature better than anyone else.  They understand that powerful toys in the hands of irreligious and unethical men could be a very dangerous thing.  It seems as though they understand how bright the future could be:  either as bright as the Son or as bright as an atomic explosion!
While I was a student at RIT, I remember a group of pacifists (nuns included) marching on campus and calling for an end to NATO and the CIA.  They were convinced that the end of Communism, the cold war, and Berlin Wall should mean the end of national security.  I would have loved to have seen their faces on September 11th, 2001. 
“A bright future” will always make for great propaganda, especially for those who tend to ignore past lessons and mistakes, like December 7th, 1941.  Never letting our guard down is one concrete lesson learned from our past that would help secure a bright future.
If you wish to bask in the sun, then be prepared to be baked in the sun.  That’s a hard taught lesson from our past.  Sacrifice, dedication and perseverance will always be necessary ingredients for greater glory.  The mother of the sons of Zebedee learned that lesson well, if she lived long enough to see it happen to her two boys. 
There is no Christ without a Cross.  There is no resurrection without a crucifixion.    
Why do we read Scripture?  To learn from the past and hope for a brighter future. 
If we keep ignoring God in our families, in our schools, in our entertainment and in our conversations, then how in this world will we have a brighter future?  Talk about creating high expectations for our kids with the idea of heaven on earth and leading them to a hell on earth!
One reason why we keep failing in our quest for a brighter future is because we keep ignoring the brighter moments of our past. 
There are two ways for an archer to hit his intended target:  either by shooting an arrow through it or by changing his mind.  The only reason why we keep thinking we are doing better is because we keep redefining what “success”, “life”, “marriage” and “family” mean.    But beware!  If we can play this game, than others can too, and with words like "freedom" and "liberty". 
Let's put an end to wishful thinking not by putting an end to happy endings but by putting to rest the mistakes of our past.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mt 12:46-50 Two Canes and A Will

Mt 12:46-50  Two Canes and A Will
Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.”  But he said in reply, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  And stretching out his hand towards his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
I don’t know why I said yes, but I did.  It was some time ago when I agreed to do it and I didn’t think much about it.  Yesterday I was supposed to go out to The Pines to celebrate Mass and hear confessions.  The devil really tempted me not to go; to come up with some clever excuses to get out of it.  The trip to The Pines is a very long one, nearly two hours and yesterday I felt exhausted; the day was long; the heat was tremendous.  Over and over again, I kept thinking:  "If I didn’t go, then I will have my entire evening free!"  Believe me, that’s a very nice feeling.
As the hour approached for me to leave, I was putting the finishing touches on one excuse, a lie.  I could say, “Guess what…You’ll never believe this…I’m on the road and I got a flat tire! Oh well, I guess you didn’t pray hard enough for me to get out there!!!” 
Could I do this? 
Right before I got in my car, I called the camp office to double check if everything was still a go for the outdoor Mass; that is, if all the permissions had been granted; if all the red tape had been cleared.  Isn’t it amazing how there is no red tape when you don’t want to do something and a ton of red tape when you want to do something?
Well, everything was a go.  While I was driving, I kept thinking to myself, “Why do I agree to these things?  Why do I agree to drive four hours to celebrate one Mass?”  As soon as I arrived, I remembered why.  I saw two hundred kids with their big smiles just waiting for the priest to arrive so that he could give them Jesus.  I arrived.  I delivered.  I left. 
This morning at St. Monica I celebrated the 8:00 am Mass.  I saw all the familiar faces, especially one elderly gentleman who comes to Mass every morning.  He struggles to drive.  He struggles to get out of his car.  He struggles to go up the stairs.  He struggles to sit.  He struggles to stand.  He uses two walking canes.  It probably takes him two hours to get to Mass and two hours to get back home.  Not because of distance, but because of weakness and pain. 
His daily example helped me to overcome my weakness and cowardice. 
The Lord is our King and we are his brothers and sisters.  His royalty is passed down from one generation to another not by blood, but by faith.  The Lord has opened his Kingdom to all, but at a price.  We are no longer the chosen people of God.  We are a people who must choose God.  We are no longer a people of God by race.  We are a people of God by creed.  We are no longer automatically entitled to an inheritance.  We inherit our inheritance by what we say and do.   
Mary is not entitled to any special privileges simply because she was related by blood to her Son.  She was entitled to special privileges because she was willing to shed her blood for her Son.  She did not receive her Son’s Last Will and Testament.  She accepted the Will of her Son’s Father and we all received the New Testament.  And because she did the Will of the Father, she became the Mother of God.
Following God’s Will will make us special, very special, a son and daughter of God.  Following the examples of our holy brothers and sisters, will make us One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mt 12:38-42 Full of Surprises

Mt 12:38-42  Full of Surprises
Jesus said to the Pharisees, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet…At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Life is full of disappointments.  And they occur every time we are fooled into believing certain things are superior when in reality they are inferior. 
Yesterday I downloaded an app for my iphone 3G.  I was surprised to learn that I could get books on tape from my iphone!  I looked for one and found one that was free (whoopee!) and had available many of my favorite authors.  I found the book I’ve been trying to read for a while now (G. K. Chesterton’s classic, “What’s Wrong with the World”); I put my earphones on and settled in for what I thought would be a very relaxing and enjoyable evening.  Suddenly, my joy turned to sorrow. 

Look, I don’t mind dealing with an AT&T operator from another country.  I wouldn’t even mind dealing with an operator from another world.  But to listen to a book read by a speaker who sounds like a foreign exchange student, well…sorry.  I couldn’t believe it!  Who in the world would ask someone from the Middle East or India to read out loud a book that is already hard to comprehend? 
Life is full of disappointments.  I was very disappointed.
But life can also be full of wonderful surprises when we are fooled into believing certain things or people as inferior when in reality they are superior.
Jesus Christ grew up in an insignificant part of the world and was the only child of an insignificant couple.  He did not receive the greatest education or go off to study at the greatest academies of higher learning at that time.  He was a poor Jewish boy who lived engulfed in turmoil and surrounded by enemies.  Who would have thought…he would be the Savior of the world! 
Something greater here.  Jesus is unique because it is unique to find someone with a type A personality and a type B mentality.  It is unheard of to find someone who is incredibly intelligent and exceedingly humble.  It is unknown of to know someone who is very practical and very romantic.  No one ever expected to hear words of great wisdom from Jesus of Nazareth.  Nor did anyone ever expect to hear him speak words of forgiveness as he died on a cross.  Would you expect a Jew to go out of his way for a Roman centurion, a Samaritan woman or a sinful woman?  Would you expect a Jew today to go out of his way for a Nazi, a Muslim or a Palestinian?  No one ever thought in their right mind that the sinless One would dine with a bunch of sinners; touch sinners; and heal sinners.  No one thought He would ever pick sinners to follow Him! 
Although He left not a single written word, His Word lives on forever.  His Word is eternal.  Many prophets and sages came before Him and have come after Him, but not a single one was able to be Him.  Jesus is unique.  No one has ever been able to be like Him:  to combine love with truth, mercy with sinless, and wisdom with humility.  No one! 
And yet, so many of us have heard of Him.  We’ve even studied Him and yet we have a hard time, a very hard time, imitating Him!  If He was just a man, and we’ve had over two thousand years to be like Him, why is it so difficult to be like Him in all things?  It must be because there is something greater than Jonah [human] here.    

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Mk 6:30-34 Get Out of Here!

Mk 6:30-34  Get Out of Here!
(Click here for readings)
The Apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
“So, what did you do today?”  That’s a simple and very common question spouses, friends and neighbors ask one another.  But what you don’t very often hear is:  “So, how did you rest today?”   
Come away by yourselves.  Americans are known for their worth ethic.  We work harder than most others in the western world.  We don’t have 30 hour weeks; we have 40 hour weeks that are more like 50 hour weeks!    We don’t stop until we drop; we stop until we drop dead.  Most Americans tend to fear retirement because they don’t know what they will do. 
But it seems we are not as productive as we once were.  Even with all the technology in the world, we don’t seem to get much done.  Why?  Because our body, mind and soul are craving for rest, real rest.  Most of us have reached the breaking or turning point; that is, the more time we spend working, the less (or worse) the results are.  I really think that if we want to produce more (or get better) results, then we need more rest.  It may seem funny and bizarre to you, but isn’t funny and bizarre a reaction to something unknown or not understood, like rest? 
Looking back at my meditations, I realize how often I challenge people to get involved in this or start doing that.  We, Christians, are known throughout the world for starting up schools, churches, missions, orphanages, etc…  We have a long standing tradition for being sacrificial with our time, energy, money and lives.  We have a reputation to “kill ourselves” for others.  Pope Benedict sacrificed his retirement for the Church.  John Paul II offered up his life to Mary.  Mother Teresa sacrificed her body for the sick.  There is nothing wrong with “killing ourselves” for others.  But if we don’t rest, we will end up killing others for ourselves! 
Come away by yourselves.  The Apostles had just finished their first real mission trip.  They were back:  excited and exhausted. The Lord knew when he looked into their eyes that they needed a break.  He sent them away.    What happened next is often misunderstood.  What happened next is a great lesson for all of us. 
When the Apostles could do no more, the Lord took over.
Christ sent His Apostles to a deserted place to rest.  When He saw the crowd following them, he did not send them away, nor did He ask His disciples to get back to work.  Instead, the Lord himself dealt with them directly.  He taught them:  “He began to teach them many things.” 
It’s wrong to think we need to save the world.  It is terribly wrong to think we are the Savior of the world.  What we need to do is what the Lord instructed His followers:  “My sheep hear my voice.  I know them and they follow me.”  BINGO!  Rest is a “Come to Jesus moment.”  
We can’t do it all nor can we do it all the time.  We work for the Lord.  We don’t move hearts to conversion.  We direct hearts to Christ.  We propose; we invite.  The Lord converts. 
“Come to me all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest.”   
Moms and dads:  Spend some time alone and in prayer so that you can rest and enjoy your time together.   You will be a better spouse and a better parent if you do.  The same goes for priests and religious:  Spend some time alone and with the Lord so that you can give yourself wholeheartedly and joyfully.
Sometimes our mission is to rest.
Get out of here!  If the Lord’s Apostles needed time to rest, who do you think you are?  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mt 12:14-21 He Warned Them

Mt 12:14-21  He Warned Them
(Click here for readings)
“Many people followed Jesus, and he cured them all, but he warned them not to make him known.”
Why did the Lord insist on something he knew would never happen?  That the people would keep his miracles a secret?  Scripture tells us it was to fulfill the prophecies.  That at the appointed time, in the appointed place, the Lord would be handed over:  no sooner, only later.
But I would like to share with you some spiritual reflections. 
He warned them.  God is who He is before and after His miracles.  He is my Lord even before I know it, just like a piece of land before Christopher’s discovery. 
Regardless of whether or not I can feel Him or see Him.  The Lord is independent of me, even when the Lord is in front or behind me.
Kaitlyn Fonzi, a 20-year old biology student at the University of Colorado lived below James Holmes, the mass murderer of Aurora, Colorado.  When she heard music blasting from his apartment, she went upstairs to find out what was happening.  It was just around the time of the shootings; it was midnight.  As she approached the apartment, she noticed the door was not completely shut.  It was left slightly ajar.  She told police and reporters that she was tempted to open the door to see what was going on.  But she didn’t.   If she had, she would be dead right now. 
The door was a trap.  Explosives were set to go off as soon as someone touched the door.  It was a diversionary tactic.  James thought that someone would open the door, thus creating a tremendous explosion in the apartment complex, resulting in a large number of law enforcement officers rushing to the scene while the killer was in the movie theater. 
It didn’t work…because she didn’t open the door. 
A reporter for FOXNEWS told the young lady, “You can thank your lucky stars you didn’t touch that door.” 
Kaitlyn responded by saying, “I thank God…There was a voice inside of me that kept telling me, ‘Don’t open the door.’  I listened.  I didn’t open it.  It was a miracle.”
“He warned them”…He warns us.  What we do with His warnings is up to us.    
Lucky stars and thanking oneself.  Luck stars had nothing to do with Kaitlyn’s survival.  If we blame God for evil, then we should also acknowledge Him for good.  Unfortunately, we do just the opposite.  When I am having an awful day it’s common to ask, “Why me Lord.”  When I am having a wonderful day it’s common to say, “It’s all me Lord.” 
Kaitlyn was not blessed to hear a voice; she was not lucky either, unless you consider hearing voices as being lucky.  She was blessed not because she heard a voice but because she chose to listen to it; a voice from someone who knew what they were talking about. 
Not to make Him known.  Every single day the Lord speaks to us in mysterious and not so mysterious ways.  His voice should sound familiar to us by now.  But I know a few people that hear His voice and consider it to be their own.  They like to think they came up with it first.  They say things like:  Peace, not war!  You should love others.  You should be more forgiving.  You shouldn’t judge!  God bless them!  They all talk and act just like Jesus, but take all the credit!  Well, you know what?  I don’t think He minds at all, as long as we do it. 
Is it possible to love everything about a person except that person?  You bet! That’s what happens to Jesus all the time, especially when we count our “lucky stars”.  It happens once in a while to us, especially when others take all the credit they don’t deserve.  Who cares, as long as His Will be done.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mt 12:1-8 The Theology of Picking up Wheat

Mt 12:1-8  The Theology of Picking up Wheat
Jesus was going through a field of grain on the Sabbath, His disciples were hungry and began to pick the beads of grain and eat them.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the Sabbath.”  …He said to them, “If you knew what this meant, desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” 
Atheism is a horrible disease.  It strips and starves the human person of real sacredness.  By all accounts, it is a disease that is affecting more and more Americans, just like heart disease.  The consequences are devastating.  Weren’t we supposed to be better off without faith, hope and love; without Christianity?  Weren’t we supposed to be more merciful by being more rational and practical?  Wasn’t education supposed to end all forms of discrimination and indiscriminate killing?
This morning I turned on the radio and heard about another massacre.  It happened in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado.  I don’t want to sound alarmist, but Colorado seems to be a hotspot for homegrown terrorists and massacres.  Not far away from Aurora is a small town called Columbine.  Sound familiar? 
An anonymous writer left a comment this morning regarding this tragedy.  They said, "I guess God's the only one who knows why a man would massacre at least twelve people watching a batman movie." 

After taking two trips to Colorado, I'd like to give my two cents for what it's worth.   I swore I would never go back:  way too secular for me.  Not that every family is secular.  No.  But it’s become a Mecca where good secular couples go to raise small secular families.  That’s unfortunate, when you consider the space and natural air and beauty that surrounds that place.  Colorado has become the secularist’s idea of heaven on earth:  great skiing, amazing scenery, small families, lots of wealth, and lots of ways to enjoy the pleasures of life.  Paradise on earth. 

But something is terribly wrong in “paradise”.  For some reason, people feel like they need to pick up a gun to create holes to fill their own.  Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that the individual that carried out this atrocity was intelligent; not a "nutso" but a "sicko".  And this was his sick (diseased) way of doing it.  When the human body (heart, mind, body and soul) is stripped and starved of all sacredness, it will look at other means to fill the emptiness.
Secularism (Atheism) has brought three things to America:  A leaner, meaner and wealthier population.  Really!  I’m not kidding!  Families are “leaner” and “wealthier” than ever before:  “leaner” in the sense of fewer kids; “wealthier” in that they have more money to spend on them.  As a result, kids are “fatter” and “needier” than ever before:  “fatter” not only physically, but in the sense that they get all that they want; “needier” in the sense of never being satisfied with what they have!  That’s where the “meaner” part kicks in.  That’s when the disease strikes at the heart, mind, body and soul. 
Call me crazy, but this is what I see.  I see 10 million children in Africa starving to death.  I see 10 million children in America starving themselves to death.  The child in Africa can be cured with simple food.  The child in America requires a team of experts to be cured.  A bag of food costs pennies.  Therapy costs thousands of dollars.  Do we wish to replace a cheap problem with a very expensive problem?  Most third world nations don't.
Intelligence does not increase one’s worth.  Wealth does not make a life more valuable than another.  Atheism’s creed and mission is simple:  There is no God.  This world is an accident.  Man is an accident.  Man is an animal.  Man has no soul.  “Go throughout the country and spread the depressing news.”   And the news is getting through: LOUD and CLEAR.  Actually, it’s busting through the walls like bullies and bullets.
On the other hand, Christianity offers the world a creed that is vibrant and refreshing.  Life is sacred.  Why?  Because God is Life.  Man is sacred.  Why?   Because God became Man.  Material poverty is sacred.  Why?  Because the God-Man embraced poverty.  He, along with his followers, picked wheat.  Humility is uplifting.  Why?  Because God chose to be humble and chose the humble.  Forgiveness is not weakness.  Why?  Because God forgave and rose from the dead.     
The Lord taught his Apostles to live like Him:  to be honest, to be poor, to be humble, to be merciful; to pick wheat, share it with others, and never lose sight of the sacredness and dignity of life itself.    

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Mt 11:28-30 Come To Me

Mt 11:28-30  Come To Me
Jesus said:  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Come to me.  This morning, after reading the Gospel, I asked myself the question:  How does one come to the Lord?  What does “come to me” mean?  Immediately the word trust came to me.  To come to the Lord means to trust in the Lord:  Speak as I speak, live as I live, forgive as I forgive, love as I love, do as I do. 
Come to me all you who are burdened.  Why do I feel so overburdened?  Why do I feel the weight of the world upon my shoulders?  Why do I end the day totally exhausted and in fear?  Again, almost immediately, this thought came to me:  Because you are trying to play God.   Yes, that’s it! It’s true.  I’m trying to be God and I am failing miserably.  I can’t keep up.  I can’t do it all.  I can’t keep thinking about the past, what will happen in the future, and what I will do about it all.  I can’t!  I’m tired.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” 
I must trust in the Lord.  I must imitate the Lord, not replace Him.  I understand: there is a God and I am not Him.  Be meek and humble of heart. 
I am not here to say to you that what I have written above is easy to do.  Of course not!  It’s not easy to let go and allow the Lord to take control.  We all face difficult choices to make.  But the Lord is inviting us to choose Him.  If we want to play it safe, then the Lord invites us to play it safe with Him.  If we commit an error in giving up too much to Him, then He is invites us to err on His side. 
It happens far more often than we would like to think.  It’s not easy to have a child.  I know many who were blessed with many children.  I know some who were blessed with no children.  Sometimes those with many are criticized by those with a few.  Sometimes those with a few are criticized by those with many.  What’s important to remember is that all are blessed when all trust in the Lord. 
There’s no need to fight over that!
Tragedy will always strike when we choose to play God; when I place an enormous burden and a unbearable yoke around my neck.  That’s when I will feel like I am being choked to death.
Many years ago, as a seminarian, I met a couple that had two kids.  After the birth of their second child, they decided they were done.  Not too long after that, they lost one child in a terrible - freak - accident.  [Their grandfather ran over him while backing up in the driveway].  The couple was racked with guilt and burdened with doubts.  They asked me if the Lord had done this to them because of the decision they had made.  What was I going to tell them?  Could I speak for the Lord?  Could I put words in His mouth?  Could I be absolutely sure of what I was going to say?  I don’t know how I did it, but I did not tell them what I wanted to tell them.  Instead, I told them the truth.  I said, “I don’t know.” 
Over the years these types of heartbreaking stories have repeated themselves over and over again. 
But over the years I have learned something.  I’ve learned it myself and I’ve learned it the hard way:  If I want to play God, then I must be ready to go all the way; that is, I must be prepared to raise the dead.  Go ahead, raise the dead! 
If not, then take comfort:  Don’t play God.