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!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Jn 1:1-18 Happy New Year!

Jn 1:1-18  Happy New Year!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Thank God we measure time.  Thank God we invented “years”.  Thank God they come to an end.  Of course we all know that time and years are based on God’s creation.  But the fact that we celebrate the end of one year and the start of another is of our doing, and so it is a great excuse to reflect and meditate on life, our life, and what we have done (or failed to do) with it over the past “year”. 
How did it go?  I know I have a lot of reflecting to do.
Who am I?  This is a good question.  It is open to discussion.  Yet, the only person, other than God, that can give the most honest answer is the one that asks it.  Only I know myself from the inside out.  No one else does.
In Victor Hugo’s classic, Les Miserables, Jean Valjean asks this very question.    He could easily (and correctly) have answered it by stating the obvious; that he was a poor convict, a thief and a felon.  But one day, a holy man, a bishop, changed everything.  In exchange for silver and freedom, he purchased Jean Valjean’s soul and gave it to God.  He commanded Valjean to live an honest life, and from that moment on, the thief and felon ceased to be, and a new man, born from above, came to be.
God, and only God, can create and recreate man.  How? 
“To those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  And the Word became flesh…”    
Have you sold your soul to the Lord?  Have you given it to Him?  Although his own people did not accept him, you can!  I DID.  I accepted Him into my life, and He gave me a new identity, a new birth, a new family and a new beginning. 
Have you accepted the Lord into your life?  Have you vowed yourself to the Lord? 
When a couple gets married they take vows.  When a priest gets ordained he takes vows.  But my vows, like yours, were not made to a bishop, nor are they made to another human being.  They are made to God.  Those who vow themselves before God take their vow to God.  And in exchange for their vow, the Lord converts the sinner into a saint.
Jean Valjean made a vow, and that vow directed his entire life.  He was limited because of it.  He was restricted because of it.  He was forced to do things he never would have done all because of it.  He became the man he did because of it.  He became a saint. 
At the end of this year, let us renew our commitment to our God.  Let us vow our lives once again to the Lord.  Let’s live our vows faithfully at the start of a brand new year, a year dedicated to faith.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Luke 2:41-52 The Holy Family

Luke 2:41-52   The Holy Family
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.  After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it…His mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
When you’re a kid, you can’t wait to grow up.  I was the youngest in my family and I had to serve just about everyone.  I couldn’t wait to grew up and have some time for me, myself and I (that’s another type of “holy” trinity). 
Yes, when you’re young, you can’t wait to get your license and own a car.  You can’t wait to go off to college.  You can’t wait to get a job and get married.  You can’t wait to live your life for yourself!
But when the day comes and you get your driver’s license, you almost wish you never had it.  Everyone begins to ask you for a ride or a favor!  It turns out you’re not going anywhere you want to go but rather where everyone needs to go.  And when you go off to college, you'll still have to serve others, mostly your teachers and coaches.
Then, when you finally graduate from college, chances are you’ll have to work the very next day.  Gee Whiz!  From there it only gets worse!  You get married, and before you know it, you have kids.  One, then two, then three. 
And right when you think you’ve finally earned some quiet time for yourself, it’s actually time to take care of your parents.       
There’s a lot of wisdom in Peter Pan.  But like in so many messages in fairy-tales, most kids don’t get them.
Looking back, what I regret most is that I never took the time to take a good look to see what exactly adults do, and how often they do it.  If I had, I don’t think I would have wished so hard to grow up so soon.  It’s true.  We all wanted to be adults by the time we reached the age of twelve.  But did we know what we were asking for?  Did we realize at the time what that would mean; that it would mean more serving, and serving nearly all the time???
I don’t know about you, but it caught me by surprise! 
What is it about the Holy Family that makes them so unique and so appealing in our world today?  Is it their love for each other?  Maybe.  But what I think it is is how they remained committed to each other.  The family is only as strong as the weakest member.  Joseph was a faithful man and husband.  Mary was a faithful woman and wife.  They served God and one another.  They lived for each other.  They lived for their family.  How did they get like that?  Well, to do that requires faith, hope and love.  To be able to get there requires prayer and God’s grace.
A year ago, I spoke to two young husbands and fathers.  Both men were struggling with their marriage.  I encouraged both of them to attend Mass on a weekly basis.  One listened and has remained committed to his wife and family.  The other didn’t and just recently left his wife and family for another woman. 
Prayer and Mass are not for the weak.  Prayer and Mass are for those who wish to commit themselves to something greater than themselves.  We all need to pray and attend Mass.  We all need to hear the word of God and heed his message.  If not, then all hell breaks loose, and not just for ourselves, but for our family as well.
People grow up just itching to get out.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph grew up just itching to serve God.  In the end, that may be the only difference between holiness and wastefulness; between growing up and remaining an eternal infant.  Maybe that’s the secret to happiness as well:  that is, when what I must do corresponds to what I want to do.   
Now if we can learn to do that, then our family will be happy and holy as well!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Luke 2:22-35 The Thoughts Of Many Hearts

Luke 2:22-35  The Thoughts Of Many Hearts
The parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…[They] were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
When you work in a parish and school you get to see a lot of people every day but get to know just a few very well.  What helps to get to know someone is when they take the time to come up to you and speak to you.  Only a few people in a parish ever end up doing just that.
Yesterday I did the funeral mass for a man named Robert.  He had just come back to his faith and was going through RCIA.  He passed away early in the morning on Christmas Day.  It was a freak accident and his death caught everyone by surprise.  He left behind a wonderful and loving wife.
Robert was a very loving man.  He took the time to speak to you.  He grew up in a hardworking family.  His father was a very successful architect long before degrees and certifications were necessary.  Although his father never graduated from college, education was important to him and he sent his son to study at the finest high school in Dallas and then to Georgetown University to study law.  Throughout his young adult life, Robert spent an exuberant amount of time educating his mind.  Later in life, he spent an exuberant amount of time educating his heart.  He understood that the secret to happiness was not to be found in learning more but in loving more.  He did both, and he did both very well.
Like so many young men, he had strayed far from the Church; first as an atheist, then as an agnostic.  Eventually, he came home:  Rome sweet home. 
I first met Robert after Sunday Mass.  I could see on his face that he was curious about my life and the message I had communicated in my homily.  That day, I had mentioned to the congregation that I had worked as an engineer.  That caught Robert’s attention.  But when I mentioned to my parishioners that, given the choice between living with professional scientists (or engineers) or with amateur poets and loving friends, I would prefer to live all the days of my life with the later; well, that caught his attention even more.  It turns out he felt the same exact way.
As a priest, you never know who you’re going to meet and why you’re going to meet them.  About two months ago, Robert insisted that I go meet his elderly mother.  I said I would and promptly forgot all about it.  A few weeks later, he reminded me once again; and again, I completely forgot about it.  Finally, he sent me an e-mail and offered to drive me to his mother’s house.  I felt so ashamed I replied I would go that very day to visit his mother.  We met there and he presented me to her.  I wondered that day why he felt the need for me to meet her.  I didn’t see the rush.  Robert’s mom was not sick.  He was not sick.  Why all the fuss?  God knew why.  He always does.  I told her I would be back in a few weeks.  Little did I know that I would be back on Christmas Day…and this time to console her. 
The parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.  Little did the parents of Jesus know who they were going to meet in Jerusalem and why they were going to meet them.  Little did they know what would be said about Him or about them.   But they didn’t need to.  Their life was a journey wrapped in faith.  It revolved around their faith in God.  They were not about to write their child’s story for Him.  It was faith that brought them together.  It was faith that brought them into marriage.  It was faith that took them to Bethlehem and Egypt and up to Jerusalem and to Simeon. 
Let’s learn from the Holy Family.  Let’s allow faith free reign in our hearts.  In this way, the thoughts of many hearts, including God's, will be revealed!
Our faith in God allows God to do His work through us and to share His life with us.  Our faith in God should allow God’s Will to be done.  Why fret?  Are we not destined for the rise and fall of many?  So, to whom shall we rise and for what shall we fall?  We should all rise to Christ and fall in love.  Yes, if we remain united to the Father, then we will rise and fall like the Lord. 
Do you want to live like that?  Then allow the Lord free reign in your heart.  Allow the Lord to make your life a visible sign of His presence.  Are you ready to be a sign of contradiction?
The Lord’s life is full of contradictions:  He is God and He is humble; He is demanding and He is forgiving; He is honest and He is loving; He wishes to be served and is constantly serving; He is extremely wise and extremely illogical; He is God and man; He predicts the future and will not change it one bit.
The Lord revealed who we are through himself.  Now, it is our turn to reveal who He is through us. 
Let’s do it!  You never know how the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mt 2:13-18 Massacre Of The Innocent

Mt 2:13-18  Massacre Of The Innocent
(Click here for readings)
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious.  He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Bethlehem was a very small village; a village not even labeled on most Roman maps.  It’s possible that not even fifty families lived there.  And of all these families, only a few would have had multiple children under the age of two.  It is estimated that the number of children slaughtered by Herod’s forces would have been around twenty or thirty, not hundreds as depicted in some movies or paintings. 
In past years, some people (including theologians) claimed that Matthew may have “exaggerated” the number of children murdered by calling it a “massacre”. After all, massacres are supposed to be reserved for hundreds of children. 
But that was before Columbine, Colorado; Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania; and Red Lake Senior High School.  That was before twenty children were murdered in Newton.  We had no problem calling it a massacre, for indeed it was.  Yes, massacres can happen in small towns and with a small number of children.  In fact, it seems like they only happen in small and quiet towns and with only a few children. 
But let’s not fool ourselves; there are many ways to massacre children.  Physically, sexually and spiritually are just a few.  We can massacre their innocence as well, and we have been massacring children at a large scale now for years and in ways we never did centuries ago. 
Christmas list.  What’s on the Christmas list for English children age’s three to twelve?  A lot of things, according to a recent survey, but what caught everyone’s attention was what made it to the number one spot.  A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list.
A baby sibling!
In tenth place came an even more bizarre request:  a daddy. 
A “daddy” actually beat out an iPad, toy and pet.   
Of course all these kids have a daddy.   Unfortunately, most mommies didn’t think he would be important. 
What we will do for ourselves!  What we won’t do for others! 
I know there are exceptions to everything.  I know that.  But let’s get real.  We have massacred our children by desecrating the institutions of marriage and family.  We have turned them into privileges reserved for a lucky few rather than essential rights reserved for all!   
We all know that parent’s have the legal right to divorce.  They demanded it a while back and got it put into law.  It’s now their “right”. 
Yet it is the children that pay the ultimate price for divorce, not parents.  Parents can move on.  Children must be dragged along.
In today’s first reading, St. John reminds the early Christian community that there are three attitudes they can have towards their sins:  they can deny their sins; they can deny their very existence; or they can admit them and receive forgiveness. 
What do you do? 
Let’s choose carefully.  Let’s choose to be humble and wise.  Let’s admit our guilt and seek forgiveness.  Otherwise, we are more than capable of doing as Herod did!  Yes, like so many that have gone before us, when we deny sinning we deny its very existence.  When we deny sin we lie, and when we lie, we can justify just about anything. 
Herod justified his crime by accusing the Magi of lying!  How’s that from the ultimate hypocrite!
When we deny sin, we open wide the means to sin again and open ourselves up to committing the next massacre….undoubtedly, of children.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mt 10:17-22 How You Are To Speak

Mt 10:17-22  How You Are To Speak
Jesus said to his disciples:  “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans.  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.”
Who are the wisest Americans?  Well, according to Dr. Karl Pillemer, a gerontologist, they are the elderly. 
In my homily this past Sunday, I recommended his book:  30 Lessons for Living – Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans.   Dr. Pillemer wanted to find out what older people know about life that the rest of us don’t.  What he discovered “changed his life”.  His book is the fruit of more than a thousand interviews with Americans over the age of sixty-five. 
I personally found his book to be insightful, colorful and meaningful.  Well, after giving my homily, I heard from a few parishioners that the book sold out within hours of my recommendation.  Wow!  That was impressive! 
I hope that when I finally write my book, the response will be the same!
Why ask old folks for advice?  Because most of them have seen it, been there and done it before us.  Their ahead of us! And, practically speaking, they’re further down the road than most of us.   Some, maybe forty or fifty years ahead, right?  So they can see a little better down the road than we can.   They can give us a heads up while we are boggled down with the now.  I think it’s great that some modern scientists have rediscovered the elderly and are doing some good research on them, especially given the fact we cast them aside as useless long ago. 
One great question Dr. Pillemer asked was the following:  “Do you have any regrets?”   That’s a fair question, given their proximity towards permanent retirement.  But talk about opening up a can of wisdom!
I got to thinking about why the book sold out so quickly.  I have my theories, but what’s apparent to me is that many of us are starving for some tried and true advice these days.  So why isn’t it given?  Maybe it’s because people are scared.  Are you?  Are you scared your advice could come back to haunt you?  Are you afraid it could be used against you?  I’m not surprised that hardly anyone with a brain ever opens up their mouth anymore.  Aren’t you scared of offending someone or being blamed for having given bad advice?  Who wants to be accused of being “intolerant” or “insensitive” or labeled “politically incorrect”?  Who wants to be sued by a friend for having given some free advice to a friend?  Are you “qualified” to do so?  Are you???
Believe me!  I’m not making this stuff up.  At one of our priestly gatherings, we were told not to give any type of family or marriage “counseling” (advice), since we are not “professional” counselors.    One priest made the comment:  “But that’s what ‘Father’s do.  They give free advice!”
Not anymore!
Good advice is hard to come by these days.  “Do whatever makes you happy!” or “Hey, I’m happy if you’re happy” is what most of us have to settle with these days.   Yep!  Good advice is hard to get, especially when half the population has been written off as useless!  So many people have turned a deaf ear to the elderly and the religious.  It seems like everyone has a right to say something as long as you’re not one of them!
Today, far too many Christians are afraid to open their mouths and suffer the consequences.  But didn’t the Lord give us (his disciples) the heads up when he said:  “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you…”?  Didn’t he warn us?  So why are we afraid?  I fear the consequences.  The Lord fears that we won’t open our mouths!  What’s His advice?  Do not be afraid.  “Do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say.  You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of you Father speaking through you.”
Those who speak well have the right words to say.  Those who speak well of the Lord, know the Word.  Let’s make sure we know how to speak.  Let’s have no regrets!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Luke 2:1-14 Think Small

Luke 2:1-14  Think Small
While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  
Three days ago, the Pope tweeted the following message:  "Whoever denies God, denies human dignity.  Whoever defends God, defends the human person".  Among all the disgusting and distasteful responses, there was one that caught my eye.  It read:  “If God is almighty, then why does he need to be defended?”
And there you have it:  One poor soul who has never seen a manger in his life. 

Life needs to be defended.  Good needs to be defended.  And today, especially today, God needs to be defended.  How?  With love.
When we think of America as being “almighty”, we typically think of it as being all-powerful; that is, with lots of guns, lots of soldiers, and lots of flexing muscles.  But this is not America's strength; it is her people and her principles.  And these have been  worth defending for decades! 

Big does not necessarily mean almighty.  Even some science fiction writers have understood the value of being small. In H.G. Well’s classic fictional novel, “War of the Worlds”, it was the microscopic world that eventually annihilated a technically superior and violent alien force that was eliminating man from the face of the earth.    
Now look at the manger.  See for yourself.  When the moment arrived for God to enter the world, this is how we wanted it:  humble and loving.  What “makes” God “almighty” is how humble (small) He is.  What makes him worth defending is how loving He is. 

God is almighty because He is love, and love does not come in only one size, except when it becomes flesh. 

And still, there is nothing more powerful than love.  No human empire has ever destroyed it.  No evil (or alien) force has been able to eliminate it.  Love conquers all things, even death itself.  A murderer is no match to a lover.  Yes, there is nothing more powerful and everlasting than a woman, a teacher, who wraps her arms around a child and lays down her life for him.  That is the power of love.  And that is worth defending. 
Nothing (no weapon or individual or army) is more powerful than that.
Let’s make the most out of life.  Let’s think small.  Let’s reflect on the manger and let’s reassess our priorities, our values, our way of life.
As for me, I have seen enough commercials this holiday season, but only one stood out above the rest for its absurdity and, strangely enough, its proximity to Christianity.  Let me describe the beginning of the commercial for you.  It starts with a woman looking inside her Christmas stocking.  Her face says it all.  She is in shock; amazement; in disbelief!  Whatever she received, it is understood by all that it is the greatest gift anyone could possibly have given to her.  And the man who gave it to her, well, he is one lucky guy.  He read her heart through and through.  What was it?  A dozen Five Hour Energy bottles! 
How absurd!  And yet, in a certain sense, it is as absurd as our Lord and Savior’s birth.   The King of King, Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace was born in a stable. 
How shocking:  a stable!  How surprising:  a manger!  How humbling:  a scene surrounded by sheep and Shepherds!
The Lord’s birth was so unremarkable that it had to be heralded and described by an angel!
Yes, an angel of the Lord had to go to a group of sleeping Shepherds, wake them up, and tell them that the Savior of the world had been born.  Then, the angel had to describe for them what they would see; otherwise, they wouldn’t believe it or even recognize it! 
“And this will be a sign for you:  you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” 
This very scene is much more glamorous than the Lord’s scene!  But it is not as important as the Lord’s scene.
The manger, the Lord’s nativity, should remind us of what God considers to be essential and most important in life.  What do we see inside the stable?  The simple things of life.  Let's take note of them.  What do we see?  We see the family.  We see the family together and friends off to the side.  We see mom and dad in love with each other and with God.  We see blessings in their eyes for what they possess:  hay, wood, swaddling clothes.  We see faith, hope and love just oozing out of every single mouse hole and piece of straw.   They will not allow the difficulties and dangers surrounding them to take control over them!  They will not allow anyone or anything to take their peace from them.

The Lord wants to teach us from the crib, the manger and the stable.  His message is clear:  make the most out of the simple things in life! 
The manger is a little thing with a huge (almighty) message.
Start singing a new song (cf. Ps 96:1-2), please.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Luke 1:39-45 How Can This Be? (Part II)

Luke 1:39-45  How Can This Be? (Part II)
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greetings… she cried out in a loud voice and said…“How does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
As we get closer to Christmas, it’s very important that we get closer to Christ; not further away. 
This morning, prior to the 8:00 am Mass, I overheard a gentleman ask a woman, “How is your Christmas going?”  She said to him, “Don’t even ask!” 
Christmas can be a very stressful time of year.  In fact, it can be worse than homework or work!  There’s so much to do and so little time to do it.  We have so many places to go, so many meals to prepare, so many gifts to buy!  How can we avoid the stress, the anxiety and the panic attacks?  So what was Mary’s secret?  What was Elizabeth’s secret.  How did Joseph and Zechariah handle their world turning upside down?   How did they preserve their mental health? 
The secret resides in four simple words:  “How can this be?”
They all said it.  Now it is our turn to say it. 
How can this be?  In this short statement, we find it all:  Humility; Surprise and Wonder; Faith and Obedience.  Think about it.  How can this be?...  Is this not an expression of humility?  Is it not also an expression of surprise and wonder?  Finally, within this question do we not find a profession of faith and obedience; for when Mary and Elizabeth said this, had they not already accepted it?
The more modern way of saying “How can this be?” would be “Why me?”   I think this is a great way to start off our day.  This is how we should examine our life every single day, by starting off with the words:  Why me?  Let’s ask it, not out of desperation or out of resentment, but exactly the same way Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph and Zechariah asked it:  with wonder; with amazement, with faith and obedience!
Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will (Heb 10:5-10).  I’ve always asked myself what kept our main characters from going insane.  Why didn’t Mary or Elizabeth (or Joseph and Zechariah) go nuts?  Why didn’t any of them grow worried sick?  How did they keep it all together?  The answer is simple and remarkable:  It was never about them!
No wonder why so many of us suffer from mental illness.  No wonder why we get panic attacks!  No wonder why we are stressed!  Am I busting my behind, breaking my neck, working like a dog for my will to be done? Or am I living my life that God's Will and God's Work be done? [Remember:  God's Will always includes God and neighbor.]

Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will (Heb 10:5-10).  Let's turn the tables on ourselves and make it God's Will, not our will.  Let's do God's Work, not our work.  Let's accomplish God's mission, not our mission. 

The Mother of God went out of her way to visit the mother of John the Baptist.  Elizabeth was shocked that the Mother of God would come to her.  Mary was shocked that the Son of God would be conceived in her!  Elizabeth pointed her finger at Mary and said look at you.  Mary pointed her finger at Jesus and said to Elizabeth look at him.  Little John the Baptist leaped from his womb not for himself but for the Son of God.  And the Son of God, from the manger looked up to His Heavenly Father.  It was never about them.

The best way to live life is the same way we should live Christmas.  It’s never been about looking inward or in a mirror.  It’s always been about looking outward or out of a window.  Stop looking in the mirror!  Look out the window.  There you will see a star that is humbling, amazing and shocking.  It will remind us of who we should follow and where we should go.  This star will lead us to the Son of God.
Our mission in life was not conceived by our parents or friends or even by our school.  Our mission in life was conceived the same way we were conceived:  by God. 
Now that is something worth rejoicing in!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Lk 1:39-45 Nearer To Thee

Lk 1:39-45  Nearer To Thee
Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  …Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
She pretended to be the aunt of one of the young boy’s killed in the Connecticut school massacre.  Prior to the release of the names of those killed, she tweeted that she did not know if her nephew had been one of the victims.  Later on, she confirmed that indeed he was.  She then set up an account for people to donate money to cover the family’s funeral expenses.  She was lying.
Just a few days ago, another woman created a domain using a young victim’s name.  She did it with the intent of not saving it for the grieving family but selling it to them!  How horrible!!!  How despicable!
What would you call such people?  Mentally ill?  Maybe.  But are all people who do evil mentally ill?  Will this become the new excuse for our greed, self-centeredness, and failings to love others and show compassion for them?
Are all mass murderers mentally ill?   Were the mass murderers of September 11th more mentally ill than the young man from Connecticut?  Was Adolf Hitler mentally ill because he committed genocide?  Do politics create mental illness?  Are left-wingers more (or less) mentally ill than right wingers?  Are tree huggers less mentally ill than rednecks? 
I don’t think so. 
So what’s their problem?  I would say that they are all spiritually-ill.  Yes, the murderer in Connecticut was just as spiritually ill as the murderers at Columbine, on 9/11, in Aurora, in Nazi Germany, etc...
I personally make no distinction between the evil of the massacre in Connecticut with the evil of those who perform abortions.  Both are despicable.  Both are horrible!  I make no excuses at all to this flagrant cheapening of human life.  Life is life.  A child is a child.  A child is always a beautiful and innocent, regardless of whether they are wanted or not.  There is something seriously wrong with a person who can tear a child’s body apart five days a week and call it compassion and work.
Yes, anyone who does something evil may be mentally ill, but for sure they are spiritually ill.  And we have a name for such people:  sinners.
We want to be the master of our life.  That’s our problem.  We demand ownership because we are spiritually ill.  And when we don’t get it, we take it out on God and on others. 
The spiritually ill are constantly demanding to get what they want, to do whatever they want, and to live however they want.    They demand unlimited “freedoms” or “rights” until they get into trouble.  That’s when everyone calls them crazy.  How ironic!  They’re just living what everyone is preaching!  And we call them crazy!
What steps can we take towards healing? 
As we approach the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we approach the most inconvenient child ever conceived from heaven and born on earth!  Let us follow the stars that lead to Christ.  May we possess Mary’s humility, Elizabeth’s simplicity, Joseph’s obedience and Zechariah’s shock and sense of wonder. 
O, if we could only live (and shine) like them!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Luke 1:26-38 How Can This Be?

Luke 1:26-38  How Can This Be?
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.” 
Humility opens the door to shock and wonder.  Shock and wonder opens the door to trust and obedience.  Trust and obedience opens the door to love.  Love opens the door that brings us into Christ's presence.  And this scene is all at once humbling, shocking, wonderful, trustful and loving.
Humility.  Shock.  Obedience.  Love.  As their nine-year-old daughter was watching the news this morning about last night’s beauty pageant, she asked her mom why Miss USA was crying.  The child’s mother said, “Because she just won!”  Which surprised the little girl even more: “So why is she crying??”
I am sure that “Miss USA” worked very hard for the “Miss Universe” title, but I am convinced that she was more surprised at winning than she would have been at losing.  That’s what makes the crowd begin to cry.
When the homely Susan Boyle shocked the world with her beautiful voice, she brought the crowd (and some of the judges) to tears.  But if we were to say it was just her talent, then we would all be fibbing.  If we were to say that it was just her voice, then we would be blind!  It wasn’t just her talent and voice; it was the fact that no one (including Miss Susan Boyle) ever expected her to win.   Her humility, her simplicity, had shocked the world.  And when we went deeper into her life, we began to discover the source of her humility and simplicity:  her holiness.  She is a devote Roman Catholic and devoted to her mother and to Our Lady. 
Do we find people like that all the time?  No.  And when we don’t, we settle for sensation, scandal, hype and glitter.  We settle for much, much less. 
Mary was a special woman, just like all special women are.  She was hardworking, dedicated to her family, dedicated to God, loving, forgiving and generous towards family and friends.  But did she consider herself above the others?  No.  Did she consider herself more worthy than others?  No.  What is clear from all the testimonies, and what continues to distinguishes her from all the other special women, is that Mary was an extremely humble woman. 
If sin promotes decay, then “sinlessness” promotes holiness.  And we all know that holy people are humble people.  This has been my experience after going to confession.  As soon as I walk out of the confessional, I don’t hear a voice inside me say:  You got what you deserved!” (forgiveness).  Instead, I hear a voice that says:  “I love you more than you could ever love me!”
As beautiful and as remarkable as “Miss Universe” is, she still received a title she could never truly deserve (at least without the full knowledge and participation of all our friendly aliens!).
As beautiful and as humble as Mary is, she still received more graces and titles than she could ever deserved. And what makes Mary the most beautiful woman in the Universe is the fact that she never knew it, she never expected it! 
“How can this be?”  "How can I be?"  "How can all of this be?"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Luke 1:5-25 Blessed Are The Faithful

Luke 1:5-25  Blessed Are The Faithful
There was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  Both were righteous in the eyes of God…but they had no child. …Once when he was serving as priest…the angel of the Lord appeared to him.  …The angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.
Elizabeth and Zechariah were not blessed because their prayers were answered with a “yes”.  They were blessed because they prayed faithfully, and God always hears the prayers of the faithful.
It is apparent from today’s Gospel passage that for years Elizabeth and Zechariah prayed for a child.  It is also apparent that their request was denied.  Yet, the couple remained steadfast to the Lord; faithful to God in all things, “observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord”. 
Faithfulness always leads to blessedness. We do not become “blessed” when things end our way.  We are “blessed” when things end God’s way.   This is the true meaning of blessedness.
If you want to know if you are blessed, then first ask yourself if you are faithful.
Do not be afraid.  There are three reasons why we sin:  fear, doubt and pride.  But of these three, fear is the greatest cause of our sinfulness.  Fear is the guillotine of blessedness.  It stands in the way of faithfulness.  Fear is capable of extinguishing every holy thought, every good intention, and every right decision.   Fear paralyzes the holy one, reducing him to mediocrity.  But if we can conquer our fears, then we open the gates of heaven and all heaven breaks loose!  Heaven falls to earth!  Thy Kingdom come, thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
For this reason, the angel pleaded with Zechariah, “Do not be afraid”. 
Why?  Why not be afraid?  Because faithfulness produces what we all seek:  joy and gladness, and not only for oneself but for others as well: “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” 
Fear changes nothing.  Fidelity changes everything.  Faithful people convert the hearts and minds of those around them:  “He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God…and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous”.    
The best that fear can do is to maintain the status quo. 
The angel spoke these words to Zechariah.  He could have spoken these words to all of us as well.  Why?  Because we experience the same fear today as Zechariah feared back then. 
Speechless and unable to talk.  What happens to those who are filled with doubts?  They remain speechless, unable to talk.  They contribute little to God and man.  If they manage to say a word, they say little to nothing or nothing original.  When they preach, they are not heard, for no one listens to a wishy-washy man.  No one respects a wimp. 
When the fearful see the world falling apart, they run and hide.  When they are confronted with evil, they close their eyes and pretend. 
Fear and doubt go hand-in-hand, neither take a stand.

In this final week of Advent, the angel of the Lord reminds us:  Do not be afraid to do what is right.  Do not be afraid to do what is good.  Do not be afraid to do what is holy.
And you shall bring forth a Savior!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mt 1:18-25 Into Your Home

Mt 1:18-25  Into Your Home
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”
Humility will bring us down, really down, down to depths we have never gone before; and yet, not far enough to bring us to our treasure. 
Shock and wonder; that is, repentance and forgiveness, will take us up high, very high, but not high enough to take us to the top of where we’d like to be. 
Obedience will take us far in life, but not far enough to take us all the way. 
So what will it take for us to make it all the way, over the hill and through the woods, to see what no eye has seen or ear has heard? 
Unconditional love.
Some atheist groups have been spending a lot of time and money this Christmas season on billboards and catchy slogans.  They claim their goal is to promote “reason” among the feebleminded (a.k.a. the religious).  I say it is to provoke anger among believers and free media for themselves. 
Well, I am not surprised that their “reason” and “intelligence” has taken them to such record heights in their pride and such record depths in their vanity.  Their campaign is doomed to fail and backfire because for most Christians, it was not only Christ’s wisdom that attracted them; but more importantly, Christ’s love that captured them. 
We all know that love is unreasonable, and that unconditional love is quite unfathomable, but only the humble minded and obedient have been adventurous enough to discover that love is more powerful than reason and works better (at bringing peace and solving problems) than any scientific eye has seen or academic ear has heard.
What makes Mary (Star of the sea) shine so bright?  Her humility.  What makes John the Baptist shine?  His call to repentance and forgiveness.  And now, as we get closer to Christmas (to Christ), we have another star:  Joseph.  What makes Joseph shine so bright?  It is his faith and obedience. 
Joseph!  Take this woman, found with child, and marry her.    
Who needs the wise of this world when you can have the lover of this world! 
But make no mistakes about it; the Lord is wise, intelligent and very reasonable.  But He did not let any of these things get in the way of Him being born in Bethlehem, in a stable, in poverty and in a time of recklessness and lawlessness.   
The sun shines bright because it burns hydrogen into helium.  The Son of God shines bright because He turns suffering and death into light and love. 
I will take both, every day, into my home.