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!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Mt 25:1-13 Ridi, Pagliaccio!

Mt 25:1-13  Ridi, Pagliaccio! 
Jesus told his disciples this parable:  “The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five were wise.  The foolish ones, when taking their lamps brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.”
The wise one is the prudent one, and the prudent one is the one who learns from the past.
I am so glad I stayed awake last night to watch the Republican National Convention (RNC).  Not so much for the speeches or guest appearances and hoopla, but because I had forgotten that Cardinal Dolan would be giving the closing benediction.  I listened intently to what he had to say.  But I must admit, while he was praying, curiosity got the better part of me.  I began to wonder whether the other stations were televising this.  So, I began to flip through the channels.  To my astonishment, all the news channels were televising it, except for one:  MSNBC.    
Of course, I didn’t really expect MSNBC to break from their goal of being the nation’s premier humanistic and anti-Christian channel.  It’s hard to deny their cynical, harsh and judgmental attitude towards Christianity in the public square.  Last night, was just another example of that.  I know what you are thinking: Maybe, they were giving their viewers an alternative.  Maybe.  But an alternative to what?  To reality?  To an inconvenient truth?  That a major political party still invokes All-mighty God’s protection and help?  That the Catholic Church continues to be a major player in our God-forbidden society?  That Roman Catholic Bishops are still highly respected in America for their defense of the sacredness of life, marriage and family?
Let us see what MSNBC will do when Cardinal Dolan gives the closing benediction for the Democratic National Convention (DNC).  I have to admit, what I found even more interesting than all of this, is that soon after Cardinal Dolan accepted the RNC’s invitation to pray, he asked the DNC if they wanted him to do the same thing.  They declined the offer, and then immediately reversed their decision once they learned he had accepted the RNC’s offer.  Now that is interesting…
Ridi, Pagliaccio!    [Laugh clown, laugh!!!] 
St. Paul writes, “Where is the wise one?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the great debater of this age?  Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?” 
You bet he has!  And how it makes us laugh at such spectacles.  Not too long ago, I was speaking to a college freshman.  He told me that he is starting to believe that the world was created by accident.  I asked them if he knew what the word accident meant.  He said, “Something that happens by accident.”  I couldn’t believe it...a college student.  I felt pity for him.  So, I helped him.  An accident is an occurrence without an intention.  In other words, it’s like creating something without conceiving it.  Do you really believe this about our world?
Then I got to thinking.  Maybe this explains how art has become an accident; how we have gone from Michelangelo to Jack the dripper! 
Long ago, scientists decided to experiment with nature so that they could control it, do violence to it, twist it and finally subdue it in order to dominate it.  Social engineers have been trying to do the same thing, but to us!  And the results have been exactly the same.  Devastating!  Instead of making our world better, we’ve actually made it worse.  Instead of making man better, we’ve actually made him a lot worse.
Of course it is all by "accident".  They just keep creating without conceiving!  Or better yet, they keep creating by twisting.  Everything they call "new" is nothing more than the old “twisted”.  For example, a homosexual marriage is nothing more than a twisted marriage.  Nasal sex (not to say something already in existence) would be nothing more than twisted sex.  The “new family” is nothing more than a twisted family.  A human clone is nothing more than a controlled man.
We think the world we live in needs improvement.  Ridi, Pagliaccio! 
Stay awake!  Stay tuned!
“The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  (1Cor 1:25)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Mt 24:42-51 The Lord As A Thief

Mt 24:42-51  The Lord As A Thief
Jesus said to his disciples:  Stay awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this:  if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”
While meditating on today’s Gospel, I discovered something that I had never noticed before.  The Lord compares himself to a thief:  “If the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake.”    Why a thief?  Why not a King?  That is: “if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the King was coming, he would have stayed awake and prepared a meal, a bed for his guest.”
There are four ways to pass a test:  You can (1) study hard and not question it; (2) cheat; or (3) hope the professor changes the grades; (4) or hope the passing grade is significantly lowered. 
Likewise, there are four ways to live life with God:  You can (1) strive for it; (2) try to slide into it; (3) hope and pray that the Lord changes the rules; (4) hope and pray that the Lord significantly widens the gates of heaven.
 Wake up Americans!  Get up my fellow Christians!
The Lord is a thief!  He is!  Little by little, He takes away the most important things in our life.  Most of the time, He follows a certain pattern.  When we are young, He takes away our grandparents, then our parents, and then, slowly but surely, He begins to work on us.  Little by little, the Lord slides the carpet out from under us.  He takes from us our wealth and our health.  And then, when we are at our weakest moment, He takes our spouse away from us.  Only in death do we part.
Why is He a thief?  Well, how else will I come to realize that He, and only He, is at the end of the tunnel; that He is the beginning and the end; the only thing that matters?  What I may not realize is that the Lord is actually blessing me.  He is actually helping me, helping me to live up to the prayers I say to Him.  For years, I have prayed the Creed.  Do I believe in Him?  He will help me to find out.  Or maybe I have never prayed the Creed.  Do I believe just in myself?  He will help me to find out! 
Every day I proclaim to the world that I love the Lord and that I believe in Him.  Now do I trust in Him?  Am I ready to place my life in His Hands?  Life is all about realizing one’s prayers of holiness. Like John the Baptist, will I not be truly blessed when I can unconditionally, unequivocally, accept God’s divine Will and live up to my own prayer: “He must increase, I must decrease”?  John prayed that his “little light” would be blown out.  Did he really mean it?  Would he go through with it?  The Lord answered his prayer for holiness, and the Baptist lived up to it and was blessed.  Now, it is time for us to do the same.
There are plenty who try to cheat their way in life and into heaven.  They are similar to those who spend beyond their means, or try to show that a sinner’s life is really the best life E-V-E-R! Like all those who have gone before them, they will write in their autobiography how they wish they could do it all over again, but without the sinning part.
Today’s extremists either insist on a wide open gate [All are welcomed!], or on a very narrow gate that excludes everyone including themselves.  They attack, without mercy, His Word; His teachers; His followers; His commandments; His laws.  They attack, without mercy, Christ and His Church.  But God’s love and mercy does not discourage “follow me” and “carry your cross”.  Can’t it all be all of the above?  After all, doesn’t it all come from above?
“Stay awake in the hour of the night!” means discover God in the darkness of the world.  Stay awake” means open your eyes, change your mentality, stop seeking external and visible signs to reinforce your own perception of God’s Will for you.  
“We will know God to the extent that we are set free from ourselves.” (Pope Benedict XVI)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mk 6:17-29 Marriage And Murder

Mk 6:17-29  Marriage And Murder
Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married.  John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”  Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but was unable to do so.
Today, kings and queens and swords and empires seem to be the thing of fairy-tales.  It’s hard for us to understand how one man could wield so much power; judge so swiftly; and engulf an entire people into chaos so easily.  It’s hard to relate to centuries old occurrences.    
But if we closely examine today’s gospel, and sift our way through the archaic names, ancient dances and dungeons and fantastic promises made by a king to his step-daughter, we can begin to see a glance of what binds our world to theirs; and what lies in store for us.
That is, we begin to see what we will suffer to save the institution of marriage. 
Is God’s word relevant in our world?  You bet!  And more than ever before! 
Just recently, an activist and volunteer worker for an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) organization stormed into the Washington based pro-family and pro-marriage Family Research Council (FRC) with over fifty rounds of ammunition and 15 Chic-Fil-A sandwiches in his backpack.  He shot the security guard, who not only survived but miraculously stripped the assailant of his gun and detained him until the police arrived. 
The security guard, a devout Christian, could have killed the man who wanted to kill him, but he chose not to, even though he had every legal right to do so.  By all accounts, the would-be-murderer had ever intent of killing every single employee in that building. 
A few days before the shooting, a well known gay-rights organization labeled the FRC a “hate-group”, a label typically reserved for Nazis and racists.  They also called the founder of the FRC, Tony Perkins, a racist, a bigot, a homophobe and a hate-monger.   After the shooting, only forty-four LGBT groups condemned the attack.  The general media has pretty much ignored this story; in no way has it received the same media attention that Trayvon Martin’s case continues to receive today.
And while we all think that the security guard did not deserve to be shot, I am sure that some good people - loving and very tolerant people - will attempt to justify, in one way or another, the actions of the LGBT volunteer.  After all, he truly cares about extending the rights of marriage to all individuals.
How in the world did we ever get to the point of calling an organization that defends the dignity and sanctity of marriage and family a hate-group?  Is this the stuff of some fairy-tale gone bad?  Is this the stuff of some ancient, bizarre, and insane emperor who went wild on his very own people?
Not only have we crossed great distances in time, but we have gone where no man has ever gone before.  We have gone where no man has ever gone before because we have sinned like no man ever sinned. 
Sure, over time, names may change…a dungeon easily becomes a correctional facility; my spouse, my “mate” or my “partner”; an infidelity is considered a slip; sin is a lack of judgment; etc…  But what doesn’t seem to change is how intolerant are the so-called tolerant and to what extent the non-believer will go to silence his opponent.  This is the advantage of being a non-believer.  There are no rules, no qualms, no conscience, no commandments and no beatitudes to abide to; especially when it comes to getting what one wants. 
There is nothing holding them back.      
St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mt 23:23-26 From the Outside In

Mt 23:23-26  From the Outside In
Jesus said:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites.  You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence.” 
A few days ago, I wrote that “Atheists believe the world goes round and round; that is, it is what it is.  Christians as well believe the world goes round and round, but upside down; that is, it isn’t what it is.” 
Upside down and outside in.  Let us pray for all our moms and dads who continue to kill themselves for the insignificant and deny themselves of the significant.  Let our thoughts go out to all our dads who continue to bust their behind for a fancier car, a bigger boat, a larger paycheck and a better yard but do not lift a finger for their spouse and family.  Let us pray for all our moms who continue to kill themselves for greater glory, greater praise and greater independence but have neglected to care for their spouse and family. 
This is life lived upside down.  This is an exercise in Futility. 
Let us pray for our boys who continue to build their bodies, but not their souls.  For our girls who wish to perfect their bodies, but not their souls.  This is life lived outside in. 
The Sensationalist.  Those who deceive (who love to be bad) love to play God.  They love to turn the truth upside down, as if we were standing on our heads, until it hurts our heads.  In our upside down world we want to be able to tell God what He should do; to tell Him what marriage is, what family is, what love is, what life is all about.  We even want to tell Him what sex is! 
What does it take to be remembered forever?  What does it take to get noticed; to get your name in print?  Be a sensationalist.  Mix some good with a lot more bad.  For example:  If you want to be a big time singer, then it’s important to have a good voice.  But it’s even more important to lose your faith.  If you want to be a political activist, then you should know a little bit of history and take a lot of lessons in singing.  But it’s even more important that you know what to name your band.  It should be something more shocking and perverted than the bands before you. 
Want some to notice you?  Don’t step in Church, step on the Church! 
By the way...If you are starting up your own Church and need a large congregation, then you should know a little bit about the bible and a lot about lighting and music.  Make sure you know that Jesus said he would return, and make sure your people think it's NOW, and you will have a very large congregation! 
Now “flashists” and sensationalists have no place in Christianity.  St Paul asks the community of believers in Thessalonica not to be shaken out of their minds by a “spirit”, or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from one of them to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.  “Let no one deceive you in any way” (cf. 2Thes 2:3a). 
The sensationalist is full of it; that is, full of sin.  He tends to crave more of that which is sensationally sinful than that which is sensationally true.  He tends to be drawn towards sensationalism, like temptation and to crave it like a drug. 
In reality, what is truly sensational is what we call “common”.  An apple falling from a tree is just as sensational as a rover landing on Mars.  Both were designed.  Both serve multiple purposes.  Both carry out functions that are truly remarkable.  But the apple falling from the tree far out functions, out performs and far exceeds (or far out-seeds) all rovers combined. 
Predicting the end times and preaching about it have always been a great source of revenue for many denominations.  We love what is sensational.  And we are always scanning the horizon for the next sensation to happen.  We live for it, and when we are through with it, we look again to satiate our appetite; looking for the next sensation, which is typically more daring, thrilling, appealing and appalling. 
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word.  (cf. 2Thes 2:17)
Christian prayer is not sensational; it is very straightforward. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mt 23:13-22 Woe to you, you hypocrites! Wow!

Mt 23:13-22  Woe to you, you hypocrites!  Wow!
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites…You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves.”
Woe to you…you hypocrites…you blind guides!  Can you believe that Jesus said this???  Wow!!!
I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  We, as Christians, tend to think that the closer we are to God - the more blessed we are - the less we will suffer. This is total nonsense!  Christ is not in heaven because he is on vacation!  He is in Heaven because He leads us.  He does not rest in heaven; he coordinates precise tactical strikes on the hearts and minds of men.   Christ is no pacifist.  He did not go AWOL.  He did not earn his purple heart long ago; He earns it every single day.  What you did to the least of my brothers, you did it to me.
God is sacred; Christianity is sacred.  But it’s not just about Him.  It’s also about us!  Life is sacred; marriage is sacred; family is sacred.  All other definitions are fiction.  All other definitions are an appeasement; an affront to Christ’s sacrifice and death.  Did the Lord die in vain?  God forbid!  Did He die and shake hands and agree to disagree?  Never!  Then why do we do this to Him?  Why do we make pretend that there are far more important matters than life, marriage and family?  Are we to believe that Christ’s death was an exaggeration?  He didn’t have to go that far.
Those who attack the sacredness of life, marriage and family do not have any difficulty in ridiculing, insulting and degrading those who think differently.  Oh well, aren’t you guys suppose to forgive us?  It’s amazing how selective is their memory and knowledge of Christianity.  Yes!  We are!  But we will not roll over and play dead.  We forgive you… for you know not what you are doing.  Let us not forget that it was Christ who forgave His enemies.  Let us not forget that His enemies never asked to be forgiven.  We know that by what they did next. 
Let’s not be hypocrites or blind guides.  Where did we ever get the idea of hiding in our Churches; preaching only to the choir; of playing dead; of not speaking out; of negotiating with sin?   
Christ was not a diplomat.  He died because he would not negotiate or surrender.  The Lord was not a weak man.  He conquered death!  All of us put him to death and He rose from the dead.  When we learned of what He did, some of us switched sides; some continued along party lines.  Once upon a time, you could tell a Christian from a non-Christian by what they were willing and not willing to do.  Those who were willing to sacrifice everything but their faith, honor, principles, morals and values were the Christians.  Now, you have Christians who are willing to sacrifice their faith, honor, principles, morals and values but not their homes, careers, income and/or status. 
The Lord never told his Apostles to mingle and mix with the latest trends; to go unnoticed; to not stand out.  Not even when all appeared lost did He call for a truce, or an evolving of ideas.  On the contrary, the Lord put his enemies on notice.  He declared all out war for the salvation of souls.  He declared it in the upper room on the night he was betrayed.  He declared it as He was nailed to the Cross.  He declared it when He said, “Do not be afraid.  Go throughout the world…”
He is looking for a few good men.  As soon as he can find a special operator that is willing to fight and die for Him, He will send Him.  This is the truth.  All other ideas of the ideal Christian are simply nonsense!  Or better yet, from the devil’s headquarters.  The devil would love for us to call off the attacks on abortion.  He would love for us to retreat on marriage and family.  “Let’s have a little respect here for people’s privacy, shall we?”  “You shouldn’t be protesting in front of our clinic doors.  Where are your manners?” 
In today’s first reading, we read of how proud St. Paul is with the Christians in Thessalonica.  Their faith is flourishing; the love they have for each other keeps growing; their endurance in the face of persecution and affliction is a model for others.  He considers their suffering as evidence of the just judgment of God.
Do you still believe that your trials and tribulations are proof that God does not exist or is absent?  Give me a break!  We know the apple does not fall far from the tree.  If they persecuted me, then they will persecute you!
St. Paul traveled to the ends of the earth to make one convert.  St. Monica traveled across the sea to convert her son.  Why did they do it?  For love of God and neighbor.  How did they do it?  By imitating Jesus Christ.  And both were very successful in accomplishing their mission.  And both paid a heavy price for it.
Let’s not make the Lord’s death (or St. Paul’s and St. Monica’s) in vain.  His death was meant to inspire us all.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jn 6:60-69 Turning the World Upright

Jn 6:60-69  Turning the World Upright
Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” 
An atheist believes the world is what it is.  A Christian, on the other hand, knows the world isn’t what it is; it’s upside down.  I think this helps explain why the world finds Christ’s sayings so hard to accept.  After all, when you are upside down, it’s hard to follow someone so upright!
You would think it would be easier to believe someone who loves you than someone who wants to love you.  Think again.  Most parents of teenagers know just how hard it is for their teens to believe them.  Although teens may have a hard time listening to and obeying their parents, they don’t seem to have a hard time listening to their friends, especially their boyfriend or girlfriend.  When a high school boy tells a high school girl that he loves her and wants her, she has a tendency to believe him.  But when her mother tells her that this boy’s hormones are out of control and that he is a smooth talker, well, she has a tendency to dismiss her mother.  You would think by now this lesson would have been learned.  Think again.
You would think that if we sell diamonds for millions of dollars and cars for thousands of dollars, that no one would ever sell their body for twenty dollars or their soul for ten.  Think again… 
Of course the atheist is correct in saying this world “is what it is”, but it is not the same as saying it is what it was always meant to be. 
Sin has turned everything, especially us, upside down.  And since God is love and sin is inversely proportional to love (the more we sin, the less we love), it's no wonder we have a difficulty understanding God.  It's no wonder God’s sayings seem to be difficult sayings that are hard to accept.
I find it amazing how I can believe every word someone says to me, but I cannot believe in God’s word.  Or how I can repeatedly place all my trust in another human being, and repeatedly be disappointed, but I can’t seem to place my trust in God who unconditionally loves me. 
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands.  Today’s first reading is not easy to accept.  I happen to love it and for a shocking reason:  it's very pro-wife!  St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells the community, “Brother and sisters:  Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church…Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her…”  (Eph 5:21-32)
This is a hard saying…what wife can accept this?  Answer:  Only those who have been unconditionally loved (served) by their husbands. 
Men often tell me, “Father, my wife ignores me.  She never does anything for me.”  If that is your case, then maybe the problem is not so much with your wife as it is with you!  What does it take for a wife to do whatever her husband asks her to do?  St. Paul tells them:  Men, if you wish to be the head of the household, then you must be the first to love; the best in loving; and the foremost teacher in love.  Remember:  the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church.
Why would I ever do anything for Christ?  Because I know He would do anything for me.  [Actually, he already did everything for me].  I would gladly be a slave for Christ because I know he would serve me before I had the slightest chance to serve Him.
Would I ever be a slave for someone?  Only if I knew they loved me.  Only if I knew they would die for me.  Christ is the head of his bride, the Church, because He earned it.  He died for her.  Here lies the true inspiration for Romeo and Juliet.
The same holds true for Christ’s body and blood.  Why did Simon Peter believe Christ?  Because Simon Peter knew he was loved by Christ.  That’s all it took. 
I’m a simple fisherman, Lord.  I don’t understand a thing you said today.  But I do know something.  I know that you love me.  And if you love me, then that’s all I need to know.  That’s all I need to know to believe in you. 
It is Christ’s love that turns our world upright.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mt 23: 1-12 Heavy Burdens To Carry

Mt 23: 1-12  Heavy Burdens To Carry
Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses.  Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.  For they preach but they do not practice.  They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry…”
Do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.   Some months ago, the Italian media began publishing hundreds of personal memos and letters by high ranking prelates working in the Vatican.  This scandal, known as “Vati-leaks”, is the stuff of soap operas.  It paints a horrible picture of some the personalities working closely with the Holy Father.  Not a few of these Cardinals and Bishops appear to be solely interested in advancing their careers.  Of course, these individuals (and documents) have become a source embarrassment and distraction for the Church, the Holy Father and the entire people of God.  Recently, the Holy Father called the entire Roman Curia together to blast them for their selfish ambitions and personal desires for personal gain.  In a nutshell, the Pope told them:  When you were invited to work at the Vatican, you were not invited to be served by others, but to serve others.  You are not here because you earned it.  You are here because you were called.  Get to work!
We really shouldn’t be scandalized by what is very human.  It’s very human to blame others for my failures.  It’s very human to point the finger at others.  It’s perfectly normal to make excuses for one’s incompetence. What’s remarkable - rather stunning - is that the Lord did not tell his disciples that the Pharisees were evil men; or that they preached evil things.  In fact, He told them that they preached what they were supposed to teach (the truth).  But they didn’t practice what they preached; or better yet, they didn’t preach what they practiced.  There’s a novelty for you! 
And by not doing so, they added extra burdens on sinners!  They isolated the open sinners from the hidden sinners.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry.  I have noticed that kids always love it when I tell them personal stories about myself, especially of my past mistakes.  They love it because they never ever expected it.  Actually, they love it because they can relate to it.  My hope and prayer for doing so is that they can relate to it in confession!  That is one of my goals during a retreat:  to get to confession and to get others to go to confession as well.
I don’t know about you, but I have noticed how the lines for communion are always much longer than the lines for confession.  I think it’s because we are far more inclined to let others see our good side than our bad side.  And this is the problem.  It’s not always a good thing.  According to today’s Gospel, the Lord’s problem with the Pharisees is not that they not perfect, it’s that they cannot relate to sinners, even though they are sinners themselves.  They tie up heavy burdens hard for others to carry because they tie their burdens upon the shoulders of others.  In other words, what makes it harder for me to carry my burden is if I think I am the only one carrying any burden at all!  If I pick up at how everyone around me is receiving communion, chances are I WILL TOO!  If I notice someone crossing their arms and receiving a blessing, I will be more inclined to do the same.
We can make ourselves more accessible (and more relatable) by making ourselves more transparent.  It’s not easy.  It’s no fun.  It’s not without its risks.  But it will end up being a bit relaxing for others.  What happens when someone opens up their heart to another?  The others follow.  And even more will eventually follow.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Friday, August 24, 2012

John 1:45-51 Under The Fig Tree

John 1:45-51  Under The Fig Tree
(Click here for readings)
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”  But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth? ...Jesus saw Nathanael and said to him, “Here is a true child of Israel...Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”  Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 
Putting things together is an important part of being a Christian.  Nathanael knew the scriptures well.  He was able to piece two important oracles together:  the fig tree and Nazareth.  The fact that he was “called” while sitting underneath a fig tree recalls how neighbors will “invite” one another under their “fig tree” in the messianic age (Zech 3:8).  And the fact that “branch” that will sprout from David is a term linked to the word Nazareth. 
When two truths join together, amazing things happen.
This morning I was driving out to Sky Ranch to celebrate Mass for the Senior girls at Ursuline Academy.   As I was heading down Walnut Hill, I got pulled over by the police.  To my “amazement”, I got pulled over because I was going a bit faster than the speed limit.  As soon as I pulled away, I kept asking myself over and over again, “Why do I do this to myself?  Why am I so stupid?  Why do I keep on agreeing to celebrate Masses that are so far away?” [Sky Ranch is about an hour-and-a-half from St. Monica.  It’s a long drive for one mass].  But in all honesty, I wasn’t asking the right questions.  Or better yet, I wasn’t allowing myself to put the right “two and two” together.  The problem was not with me being generous.  The problem was with me being devilish!   Of course I would love to be able to convince myself that generosity and sacrifices are not worth the time, the expense or the effort.  But the reality is that one can be generous and reckless at the same time.   
Either/Or or Also/And:  What makes Christianity so remarkable is its balanced approach to just about everything.   Take holiness and sinfulness as an example.  Most of our secular foes think that there is a great divide between the life of a saint and a sinner.  If there is, it isn’t our fault; it’s there’s. Most sinners would love to call themselves saints.  But it is the saint who is the first to call himself a sinner.  Christians would do well in reminding those who love to judge us that, in order to be a saint, the saint must first declare himself a sinner.   The question of holiness and sinfulness is not a question of either/or, but rather also/and.
Or take, for example, the atheist, who cherishes the use of his intellect to insult, on the grounds of reason alone, every single believer.  For him, it’s a simple question of either/or:  either you use your reason to liberate you, or you keep the faith that enslaves you.  But for the Christian it isn’t a matter of “either this or that”; it’s a matter of “both this and that”.  The Christian does not need to separate faith from reason; in fact, he believes in faith and reason; he believes that faith extends the arms of reason. 

Now every Christian knows that he has a touch of atheism in him.  After all, if he did not doubt, then he could not have faith.  Faith, by definition, requires a reasonable amount of doubt.   Of course the atheist will never admit he doubts himself.  He has too much confidence in himself.  On the other hand, the Christian should feel no shame in his weaknesses and doubts.  Humility is an essential ingredient to being a better Christian.  Paradoxically, if he did not doubt in God, he would turn himself into god...or an atheist (the two are not so far apart as you would think).
We have been taught to believe that confident people do not doubt themselves.  Nonsense!  This is like saying “confident people do not surprise themselves”.  Only those who watched the Olympics know what I am talking about.  The reality is quite obvious: confidence and doubts go hand-in-hand.  We all doubt ourselves once in a while.  Thank God!  If you didn’t have doubts in yourself, then you could never surprise yourself.  And you would take away one of the greatest joys in life.
Recently, two strong-willed women died.  Both sought to protect women’s rights.  Helen Gurley Brown, a writer, was a lifelong warrior for the Pro-Choice cause.  Nellie Gray, a lawyer, was a warrior for the Pro-life movement.  These women, who died within days of each other, were worlds apart in their views of women’s rights.   We often think of the Pro-Choice cause as synonymous with women’s rights and the Pro-life movement as synonymous as children’s rights.  This is not correct.  It is a deliberate tactic of the Pro-Choice cause when speaking incorrectly of the Pro-Life movement.    The real difference is that Brown believed you could separate the two (baby and mother).  Gray believed you could not. 
When our foes speak against us, they always use the tactic of divide and conquer.  It’s always an either/or for them.  But the Christian view of humanity is the most humane view of all.  It does not allow for anything less than also/and.  The pro-choice cause would like to consider themselves the movement for women’s rights (at the exclusion and expense of the child).   The Pro-Life movement is not a baby’s rights movement (at the exclusion and expense of the mother).  Rather, it is a movement that insists on the rights of mom and child.  This is who we are.  This is what we have always believed in.  That all life is sacred is the most humane and Christian way to respect all life.
We have more in common than in what separates us. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mt 22:1-14 It’s My Party!

Mt 22:1-14  It’s My Party!
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and the elders of the people in parables saying, “The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feasts, but they refused to come… The king said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come.  Go out…and invite to the feast whomever you find.’  …The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good, a like.  But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment…The king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, cast him into the darkness outside’…Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
Knowing teens means knowing parties.  I don’t attend any of them, but I do end up hearing a lot about them.  Far too often the parties that end up bad are the parties whose guests go crazy.  When the owner of the house and patron of the party loses control of his/her guests, they end up feeling used.   I invited MY friends to MY party and they trashed MY place and MY party!
The meaning of this parable should be pretty obvious to all who read it:  The Jews are the first to be invited to the Lord’s wedding feast.  After all, they are the chosen people of God.  They are the rightful guests of the feast.  But the Pharisees, the scribes, the elders and the chief priests are doing their very best to (1) Ignore the invitation (and not attend); (2) to get others not to attend; (3) and to get others to trash the party and host as well.  So, the Lord does what anyone would do:  he extends the invitation to all.  The wedding feast will go on, regardless of who is and isn't there.
When I write a meditation, I do not base my reflections solely or strictly on the particular Gospel passage of the day.  I can’t!  I must always keep in the back of my mind the entire Gospels.  Otherwise, I will end up belonging to a different religion after every single meditation!  I find this to be a big problem with far too many Christians.  No wonder why we have over 40,000 different Christian denominations (including the denomination “Non-Denominational”) in our country. 
Wow, for a people who think they know the Bible; they seem to have a hard time knowing Christ.
Our problem with the Bible and Church may very well be the same as that of teens and parties:  We want to crash Christ’s party and make it our own just like teens wants to crash a friend’s party and make it their own!  Or better yet, we want to crash Christ’s Church and make it our own!   
How?  By barging in and creating mass hysteria by taking verses out of context; sliding passages out from under us; taking one word of His and running with it; picking His brain and assuming His thoughts; legitimizing the Lord by modernizing Him; and adding my thoughts to some of His words.
Let’s take, for example, the gospel verse:  “You must be born again…”  Obviously, someone took this in the late 1970’s and ran with it!  Suddenly, everyone was asking you:  “Are you born again?”  And then we have the “born-again” movement…that died an unceremonious death not too long ago.  You don’t hear that one too often, do you? 
Instead of crashing Christ’s Church, we end up defaulting on our own!
There are many more examples out there but let’s put it all to rest for now. 

What’s important to know is that when Christ invites us to his party, we should arrive spiritually and physically cleansed; with an open heart and mind; with proper attire; and open to thanksgiving more than to just complaining.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mt 20:1-16 Feeling Cheated?

Mt 20:1-16  Feeling Cheated?
Jesus told his disciples this parable:  “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wages, he sent them into his vineyard…He went out again…at five o’clock…he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard’….When it was evening the owner of the vineyard gave them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought they would receive more…”    
The Lord directed this parable to his disciples.  Interesting…  They must have been having a hard time with something…or maybe with some people. Maybe they were having a hard time dealing with those the Lord was dealing with.  Maybe they didn’t like the people the Lord was making friends with. 
Well, based on the audience the Lord addressed this parable to: his disciples, and based on the theme (envy and generosity) of this parable, I get the impression the disciples had forgotten what type of men they once were. 
Just a few days ago, we read how Peter spoke out about giving up everything to follow the Lord.  You can tell just by reading it how frustrated he must have been.  But with whom?  With what?  Was it the hard work?  Was it the long hours?  Was it the fast pace?  Was it the poverty, chastity and obedience?  Probably.  And most likely it was all of the above!  After all, it’s hard to be holy and to be surrounded by holiness!  It’s hard to put on a smile when you’re not happy!  It’s hard not to get mad when you are sad or when everybody is as happy as can be! 
The disciples passed through many towns and visited many families.  They must have seen towns that reminded them of home and families that reminded them of their own.  Every town, every family, every day was a reminder of a way of life that was gone for good.
Gone for good!  This phrase has more than one meaning.  Typically, we think of it as meaning something is lost forever.  But it can also mean that something is sacrificed for the sake of goodness (righteousness).  I have a feeling, a gut instinct from personal experience, that the Lord may have spoken this parable because His disciples had some deep seated jealousy issues.    When Peter asked the Lord what he and the others would get for following Him, I can’t believe he was not pleased with the Lord’s answer.  But then they must have gotten a little annoyed when they noticed sinners getting the same promises (and treatment) as well!  Hey, what’s going on?  We’ve slaved for you the entire day, and now you are telling sinners, who come to you - out of the blue - for a quick minute, that their sins are forgiven???  There’s way too much lovey-dovey going on here!!!   
At times, I have questioned myself with a very envious question.  “Must I always be good?  After all: if long-time sinners, who repent at the last moment of their life, will get what I will receive, then why must I always be good? 
I don’t think I am the only one who suffers from this type of envy.  Typically, you see it manifest itself in “holy” people who are kind of “mean” people.  They can’t stand the new parishioner (Who do they think they are?) being treated with just as much relevance as the longtime parishioner (We’ve been here since the parish began!).  Or the new pastor coming in and changing just about everything.
Anyways…the answer to my envy is found in my sinfulness and in my ridiculousness.  Must I always be good?”  is a ridiculous question.  It’s like asking “Must I always be blessed?”  Oh my goodness!  Take it!  Take all that you can!  Don’t ask any questions!   
Sin is not worth the time spent.  In fact, it is a waste of time and of a life.  Ignore what the media says and listen to those who have lived in sin.  They are the first to admit this truth.  And this is my personal experience as well.  We are the first to realize that neither lust nor one night stands can compare to the thrill of love and marriage.  We are the first to regret the bad habits acquired so quickly and the life-time required battling them. 
Feeling cheated?  Don’t.  When it comes to Christ’s blessings, stop comparing yourself with others.  Stop valuing yourself by asking what others received.  We are all unworthy workers.  The question will never be if the Lord cheated me; the question really is why am I so blessed? 
I don’t question a teacher who questions me.  I question a teacher who never questions me.  If the Lord does not give me what I deserve, then it’s because He has given me much more than I deserve; starting with the last reasons to give to me (my sins) and ending with the first reasons to give to me(His grace).
Being upset and cross is really just about my sins and His Cross! 
The Lord’s giving outweighs our worth across the spectrum.  May we be the first to be content with His generous heart.  Let’s give Him the benefit of our doubts.  Let’s be the first to love Him and the last to sin against Him.