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!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Lk 16:19-31 Lazarus and Peggy

Jesus said to the Pharisees:  “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps…When the poor man died, he was carried away…to the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side…”
When someone starts to concentrate on just their body, they typically end up being a jerk.  It’s as if the protein enzymes responsible for muscle growth are the same that makes one’s head explode!
A looong time ago, back in the 1970’s, there was a little girl in 6th grade named Peggy (that’s not her real name).  She was a sweet little girl that happened to be a bit overweight.  Many boys in my class would call her names, like "Piggy".  I’m sure I was one of them.  Like all immature boys often do, we focused our attention on one thing only:  her body.  We never paid much attention to the fact that Peggy was extremely intelligent, extremely funny and always seemed to be very happy.  Now, I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that those who are slightly plump tend to have the characteristic of being able to laugh at themselves and with others, and to do it all with ease!  (What a gift to one’s character!)
Anyways, this all changed in 7th grade. 
When we came back to school after summer recess, our jaws fell to the ground and we could hardly believe our eyes.  Peggy was four inches taller and slim!  I have to say, she was stunningly beautiful.  She had grown in height and that’s all she needed to do.  Her weight was now perfect for her body.  Her height was perfect.  Her body was perfect, at least in the eyes of all the boys in 7th grade.   
But unfortunately, her body affected her brain! 

Teens:  Do you allow your body to affect your attitude?  Do you allow your body to affect your brains?  Do you change when your body begins to change?  Have you noticed your morals, your values and your ideas changing as you get more and more stares?
Unfortunately, Peggy was no longer a straight A student.  Looking back at it, I am convinced she faked being so stupid so as to stand side by side with the rest of the girls (and most of us boys).  She was no longer funny.  She was very serious.  She was very serious on getting a reputation for herself and casting aside her past to create a dark new future.  She had more boyfriends in one year than I could count on my hands and feet.  She went through boys like she went through the corridors.  And of course, the boys enjoyed every minute of it.  Now, instead of calling her Piggy, they just called her a "pig".
By the time we all entered High School, Peggy was already one lost soul. 
As there is a strange correlataion between one’s body and one’s attitude, there's also a strange relationship between wealth and sight.  It seems as though the wealthier we are the blinder we get.  And I don’t mean “blind” with regards to others miseries.  I mean blind to one’s own misery!  Wealthy people tend to be miserable people, and yet we never think of them as being miserable because we never talk about anything other than their wealth!  And if we don't measure anything other than their wealth, then wealthy people must be successful people, right?   How convenient!  How wrong! 
We talk a lot about how much longer we - Americans - are living.  But we never talk about how miserable we are!  And I don’t think we want to, because if we did, then we would need to talk about the collapse of the family, and most of us don’t really want to go there.  We don’t want to examine how the “Modern Family” typically abandons (or does not even know) their elderly parents and grandparents; or how broken marriages, multiple wives and a bunch of half-brothers and sisters weaken family bonds.  We do not want to talk about how our elderly and children feel alone, abandoned and betrayed; and we definitely don’t want to talk about how the rate of STD’s has nearly doubled in recent years among them (Yes, among the elderly as well!).
Yes, we enjoy pounding our chests and reminding the world of our average income.  But what we don’t want to do is talk about how millions of us are getting sick by spending our young lives sitting down; or even how our pets, let alone our children, are getting more and more obese.  (I'm afraid height will not change this serious problem!) 

We prefer to look in the direction of Africa, give a big sigh of anguish, and roll up our sleves to help them.  But what we don't want to do is see how maybe they can help us…before it's too late for us!  Let's start looking in their direction, not just for food, music and athletes, but for so much more (like honoring and respecting the elderly and family).
The rich man said to Abraham, “I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.  But Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets.  Let them listen to them.”  He said, “Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”  Then Abraham said, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.”
We read a lot of newspapers.  We watch a lot of news.  We enjoy a lot of TV programs.  We collect a lot of data and listen to what so-called experts have to say.  But have our families gotten better?  Have our children become mentally stronger?  Have people become wiser and more honest? 

Will we ever listen to what God has to say?
Resolution:  I will trust in God's Word, God's Commandments and God's love more than in human beings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mt 20:17-28 Pray For Another Holy Pope

As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the Twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 
We are going up to Jerusalem.  In today’s first reading, Jeremiah fears for his life and seeks God’s deliverance.  In today’s Gospel passage, the Lord embraces his death and seeks our acceptance and understanding.
Jerusalem is the city of God.  Judah is the land of His chosen people.  And while the Holy Land is holy indeed, it is also the place in which God’s prophets are constantly put to death by His chosen people! 
I have no problem understanding why an atheist ridicules and insults the Holy Father and our beloved Church.  I don’t have a problem with it because I don’t expect anything good from them.  On the other hand, I don’t understand how so many Christians, including a great number of Catholics, can be so ridiculous and insulting in their comments towards the Church and the Holy Father.
The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem said, “Come, let us contrive a plot against him.  It will not mean the loss of instruction from the priests, nor of counsel from the wise, nor of messages from the prophets.  And so, let us destroy him by his own tongue; let us carefully note his every word.”
Why?  Why would they do this?  It can’t be for a good reason!  Hence, it must be for a bad reason.  It must be because they want poor Jeremiah to be more like...them.   Yes, that’s it!  They don’t want someone too holy.  They want someone like…them.
Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a friend who sent me a copy of a Catholic pastor’s message to his congregation.   I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I will not reveal the priest’s identity because I do not want to embarrass the man, but his message was, to put it kindly, “parochial”:  that is, very narrow-minded.  In fact, it was so narrow-minded that it could have been written by a politician!  And then I read that this pastor is a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.  Surprise!  Surprise!  Surprise!
The pastor wrote to his community that he “hoped” that the next pope “would not be too holy, too healthy and too wise. In other words, they should select a regular guy.  That’s what I hope for:  a regular guy.”    
Maybe, what he should have written was what he was really thinking.  I hope they select a regular guy…someone like…me!  Hmmm…someone not too wise, not too holy and not too healthy (Now I wonder if he means physically or psychologically.  Oh, it makes no difference as long as he’s on meds).
In his timely message, this pastor expressed a lot of “hopes” he had for the next pope.  I’ll only mention a few of the more the unique ones:  “I hope we get someone who puts on his pants one leg at a time.  I hope we get a man with a sense of humor…who can tell a joke once in a while and laugh at himself.”  I don’t know about you, but when I read this, I asked myself if this individual had a camera in the Holy Father’s apartment!  How does he know such things about our pope?  Well, I think by now it’s awfully clear:  he doesn’t.  I think it is clear that this soul doesn’t know the Pope well at all.   
But I think I know what he is trying to say, and I wouldn’t doubt his congregation does too, for they have had the same pastor for nearly thirty years.  I’m sure by now they have become experts in interpreting and extrapolating as much as they can from his weekly parochial messages and jokes from the pulpit.
How sad.  How very sad indeed.
Resolution:  Let us pray the rosary for our next Pope.  That he may be very healthy, very wise and very holy!  (Someone not like me!)  That he be a man of his word and a man of The Word.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mt 23:1-12 Reflecting God

Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Do not be called ‘Rabbi’ and call no one on earth your father.  At times we take the Lord’s words literally when we shouldn’t and not literally enough when we should.  We do this time and time again when we want God’s Word to reflect our life, not His Son’s life.  For this reason, the Lord established a Church; to correctly interpret and reflect the living Word of God and His Will for us. 
When Christ spoke, he taught.  When Christ touched, he healed.  In everything He said and did, the Son beautifully reflected His Father’s love for us.  In everything Jesus said and did, He set things straight. 
We have a strong tendency to want to imitate God and all His works with people and all our things.  This desire isn’t bad, but we typically fall short, very short, and instead, we end up replacing God and all His works with selfish people and all our selfish things. 
We should be able to have a king that imitates The King.  Unfortunately, history has shown that our kings typically end up replacing The King.   We should be able to create a kingdom to imitate The Kingdom.  But once again, we end up replacing The Kingdom with a self-serving kingdom.  Our law makers should be able to create laws that reflect natural law.  Unfortunately, our law makers have a tendency to reflect man's impulses.  We've had this problem for a long time now and in just about everything we do. 

We’ve replaced the world to walk through with a stage to step on to.  We've created awards to elevate disgrace and to ignore God’s grace.  It’s all part of our childish ways to get around God.  It’s like playing an adult game of “make believe.”  We do this so as to feel like we are closer to our “god” and somewhat in “control” of our very own destiny. 
The Lord told the crowd and his disciples:  “Do not be called ‘Rabbi.’  You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers.  Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.”   
Now let’s be intelligent and graceful about all this.  The Lord was not demanding that we put an end to the terms “Rabbi” and “Father”.  He was not instructing us to no longer use these terms for those people who instructed us and raised us.  Please!  Let’s not be like the French who are currently debating whether or not to keep the terms “Mother” and “Father” on birth certificates.  Please!  Let’s not fall into their foolish hands! 
Instead, the Lord is reminding us that we were created in His image and likeness.  All that we are and do comes from God.  Therefore, when we instruct, we should instruct like our Heavenly Teacher.  And when we have children, we should be like our Father in Heaven!  For we have but one teacher and one Father, and all our teachers and fathers should reflect the one Teacher and Father of us all. 
If Christ had not made this point clear enough, then I am sure He would not have hesitated in giving a few more examples, such as:  "Do not be called Boss. You have but one boss and all of you are workers.  Call no one on earth your mother, for you have but one Mother in heaven.”  
The scribes and 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.  In a few days, all the eligible Cardinals of the Catholic Church will be going to Rome to elect a new Pope.  Recently, there’s been a lot of talk in the media regarding who should go and who they should elect.  Everyone has an opinion, but the Lord’s opinion is far more important:  “do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example.”  The people in charge of electing a new Pope are all Cardinals, they are not all without sin. 
So why all the fuss?  Why all this talk?
Because there’s a tremendous push in the world of public opinion to have a Pope (along with priests, bishops and Cardinals) that “reflects” the will of the people.  But like our Lord made clear in today’s Gospel passage, the servant of God must not necessarily reflect the will of the people, but rather the Will of the Father - especially in the truth He teaches.  Let’s not forget an unforgettable fact:  Our Lord was not popular among the people. He was crucified by the people and for the people.
A teacher is not necessarily a reflection of his/her students, but they better be a reflection of their school, especially in what they teach.  And they should always be teaching the truth, regardless of whether or not they live up to it. 
Cardinals do not need to be of the people, by the people and for the people.  They should be of God, for God and by God.  They should preach the truth, and hope to God to live up to it.

Resolution:  Pray for our priests, bishops and Cardinals.  Pray for Pope Benedict XVI and his successor.  Pray for our beloved Church. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Luke 6:36-38 Write Off The Sin, Not The Sinner!

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Stop judging...Stop condemning...Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
A basketball game is a great example of this.  Yesterday, our kids were winning, winning, winning after three quarters.  The fans were cheering.  We all thought we had the game in the bag.  And then we lost.  Tough lesson learned. 

Just when you think you have victory in your hands, it slips away.  Just when you think you've understood someone, you realize you haven't understood them at all. 

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  How is God merciful, especially when we consider the state of human affairs?  I believe God’s mercy must rely on the fact that he knows us better than we know ourselves and each other. 
The Lord is capable of seeing through our barriers - our walls - our exterior.  He even sees through our actions.  To be merciful, therefore, must mean to penetrate the exterior of a person and come in contact with their heart, mind and soul. 
To be merciful means to be able to write off the exterior postering, not the interior reality; to see every adult as a child, as a wanted and beloved child.
Stop Judging and you will not be judged.  Does this mean that we cannot know right from wrong, or that we should never offer an opinion on anything to anyone?  Does this mean we should eliminate our legal system and all our courts?  Of course not!  We must be allowed to judge an action for what it is.  But we must be careful not to label a man based solely on what he has done, for who he is is much greater than the sum of all his actions. 
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Let's not close the book on anyone.  Let’s leave the judging and condemning of men to God.  What we should be doing, therefore, is exactly what the Lord asked us to do:  “Go and make disciples throughout the world.”  
Let’s not write anyone off.   Let’s not shut the door on all the good someone can do because of all the bad they have done.  Rather, let’s seek what's good.  Let’s seek their conversion.  We should not condemn anyone, not even the "dead", for my son was dead as has come back to life.  He was lost and has been found.   
Forgive and you will be forgiven.  If forgiving people is hard for you to do, then it’s because you do not love. 
Not too long ago, I spoke to a young man who gave up a wonderful career to become a priest.  After nearly six months in the seminary, he was having a hard time with the reality of his decision.  He told me how difficult it was for him to live with the other seminarians. Often he got jealous of them.  At times, he would be frustrated with them.  This young man felt alone and abandoned.  Now, he was wondering if God had even called him to the priesthood.  I told him that his difficulties were not the signs of a lack of a vocation, but the signs of pride, vanity and sensuality.  I said to him, “Be patient and be kind.  God is teaching you many things.  But what he is really teaching you is how to love.  Remember?  Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things…Love never fails.  Through your difficulties, the Lord is teaching you how to love.”
These words did not come from me, they came from the Holy Spirit.
Resolution:  To write off the sin, not the sinner. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Luke 9:28-36 Descending From The Mountain

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray.  While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling while…From the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” 
While He was praying his face changed.  A long time ago, I was on a bus traveling somewhere in Italy.  I can’t remember where I was going or what I was doing, but I do remember an elderly gentleman sitting next to me itching to talk to me.  I needed to pray.  I needed to rest.  I wasn’t interested.  But eventually I succumbed to his awkward invitations and struck up a conversation with him.  He seemed like a decent man.  He was well dressed, wearing a sports jacket.   I was wearing my collar.  He wanted to talk about God and how he had received a "special charism" from the Lord.  I asked him what exactly this “special charism” was.  He told me it was his ability to transfigure his face into the face of Jesus Christ.  I asked him to do it for me.  He did, and after a few seconds of muscle movements around his lips and forehead that concluded with the widening of his eyes and a smile on his face, he looked at me and I looked back. 
I wasn’t impressed. 
Of course, I didn’t tell him that while we were sitting next to each other on the bus.  I figured it would be better to do so afterwards. 
Master, it is good that we are here.  Now Peter was very much impressed with the Lord’s transfiguration.  He, along with John and James were awestruck at how beautiful the Lord appeared to them.  Finally the Lord was in his true state of being, in his full glory, so of course Peter and the rest of them wanted to remain there with Him.  They even offered to build a tent for everyone!  But by saying this, they were basically saying:  Let’s forget about everyone.  Let’s stay here and let the world crumble below us!    By wanting to stay on the mountain, the Apostles were looking for glory the easy way:  without work, without sacrifice, without love.
To see the Lord does not necessarily mean to know Him. And to see how beautiful He is does not necessarily make us love Him. 

I think the Apostles came down from the mountain only because the Lord came down first.  He knew His work was not yet finished.  But most importantly, He knew that His Apostles were not yet fully trained. 
They all came down the mountain.  What was missing from their training?  What was it?  And why did the Lord, along with His Apostles, have to come down from the mountain? 
Only by coming down from the mountain could the Lord reach out and touch His people.  Only by coming down from there could He teach His men the meaning of love.  In essence, what was missing from their training was the ultimate purpose of His presence:  to love; to lay down His life for others.  This important lesson could only be taught and learned by personal testimony, and on a different mountain. 
The Lord showed us who He was when his appearance changed and his clothing became dazzling white.  But I think you will agree with me that the Lord showed his greatest glory when his appearance changed and his clothes became drenched in sweat and blood on the wood of the Cross.  That’s when we learned that God is Love.  That’s the moment when the Lord conquered us!  And it didn’t happen on any mountain top except Mount Calvary.

Lord Jesus, on this mountain you revealed yourself as the Son of God.  On Mt. Calvary, you revealed to the world that God is love.  May we always be a beautiful reflection of your love in our lives.  We ask this in your name.  Amen.
Resolution:  Today I accept the remarkable fact that it is when I carry my Cross, out of love for the Lord (and for others), I transform myself into a radiant image of Jesus Christ.    

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mt 5:43-48 Be Different

Jesus said to his disciples:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father…Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Be different as your heavenly Father is different.  No one will deny that these words, spoken by our Lord, are difficult to comprehend and even more so to live.  But by His words and actions, the Lord intrigues us, stirs our hearts and challenges us to get behind him and follow him, not only with just our words and understanding, but with our actions and lack of understanding as well.
Yes, faith and reason go together, but when push comes to shove, faith outweighs and outmaneuvers reason. 
Just like Him, the Lord invites us to be out of this world; that is, to be different from the rest of the world and to be born from above. 
If you love those who love you, do not the pagans do the same?  Why be a Christian?  Answer:  to be different, radically different from so many others. 
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’.    This wasn’t just said in the Old Testament.  No, these words were said centuries prior to the Old Testament!  This wasn’t a code of conduct lived only by the Jews.  This was lived by everyone!  And it still is today, even more so today. 
What do you do with your enemies?  You harm them and if necessary, you kill them.  What do you do with those who harm you?  You harm them back.  You fight back.  You don’t let them get back up.  When do you strike?  The best time is when they are at their weakest moment.  You kick the dog while it’s on the ground! This is basic, 101, military tactics!  And this is exactly what all the newspapers and media outlets and talk shows do.  This is what we do as well!   We bombard the airways, hit the printing presses and fill the internet with shocking news of those who have screwed up.  The bigger the fish, the bigger the frying pan! 
Of course we only do this to those we do not like.  To those we like, we don’t forgive them; we just simply ignore or forget what they did.  How convenient. How typical.  How pagan!
Not so with Christ.  The Lord never mocked the sinner. The Church does not mock the sinner.  The Pope does not mock those who mock him.  Examine for a moment what happens in the confessional.  In a quiet place, in a discrete place, the sinner comes and asks for forgiveness.  Only the priest hears the penitent’s sins.  Only the penitent knows their penance.  Everything is done in secret.  Everything is done to minimize the embarrassment and pain of the sinner’s folly. 
Love your enemies and pray for those who harm you.  "The Christian does not think that God will love him because he is good, but that God will make him good because He loves him" (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis).  Isn't this our experience?  Isn't this our experience with the Lord in the Confessional and with His Cross?  Hence, this should be our witness to others, for what the Lord has done for me, I must do to others. 
Of course we all struggle to live up to the Lord’s words.  And while some people have decided to solve this problem by ignoring the Lord’s words entirely (that’s one way to live “without sinning”); others have decided to strive to live up to the Lord’s commandments. How? Well, if in the military the best time to attack your enemy is at their weakest moment, then maybe it's also the best time for a Christian to strike as well, and strike hard, but in an entirely different way:  with love, a love that is utterly shocking and surprising; a love that shocks the “hell” out of the person.
Resolution:  I will shock the hell out of my enemy.  I will love them in a radical way.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Mt 16:13 Peter and Benedict XVI

Jesus said to Simon:  “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 
You are Peter.  Today, we celebrate the Chair (the authority) of St. Peter the Apostle and all his successors.  This feast day could not have come at a better time.  In less then one week, the Church will not have a Pope; that is, the chair of St. Peter will be vacant.  St. Peter, pray for us!
We need a Pope!  We need a rock!  We need someone we can cling to who is unchanging, unmovable, and undeterred by the waves of mediocrity, vulgarity, skepticism and cynicism.  We need someone whose teachings do not reflect us but the one who created us!  We need the Church!  We need Peter!
We need a Pope!  We need Peter, the weakest link in the chain.  We need someone who understands us - is like us - but will not use that as an excuse to preach what will please us.  We need someone who will struggle like us but stand up for us, lift us up, and encourage us to move forward and ever higher towards the One who wants us.  We need Peter!
What purpose is there in redefining life?  Is it to make life come down to us?  Yes, it is!  Since it takes so much effort to climb up the mountain, why not just blow up the mountain and let it come down to us?  That’s exactly what we do when we redefine life:  we let the enormity of life, and all its possibilities and all its glory, come tumbling down to us.  Unfortunately, so many people today do not believe they could ever be better than their impulses.  So they "make believe" they are doing better by redefining just about everything in their lives.  But they are not doing better.  Far from it.  They are simpletons in a world that is anything but simple. 
Instead of wasting so much time redefining things, why not spend more time striving to live up to the definition.  We need someone who will never change, who will reflect the truth that never changes.  We need Christ.  We need His rock.  We need Peter!
You are the Son of the Living God.  We need someone like Peter who is just as human as we are and humble enough to know it, yet does not accept it as acceptable.  We need someone who will carry the burden of proclaiming the truth while trying to live it himself.  Someone who is courageous (and humble) enough to allow the Holy Spirit to direct and guide him.  We need someone who is unafraid to speak the truth while others remain comfortably silent.  We need Peter!  We need Benedict the Brave!
The gates of the netherworld will not prevail.  Today, I will be visiting a young man who was swept away by the tide of secularism, narcissism, hedonism and nihilism.  This person was given a two year prison sentence for his crime.  I know what happened.  He rejected God and his parents when he was young and got swept away by his friends.  He believed he could party ever night, drink every Friday night, and take drugs.  Now, finally, he has been swept ashore.  Today, he is holding on to something different, something much more stable; actually, someone more profound.  He rediscovered his faith when the two institutions he had rejected in his youth (his family and the Church) were the only two institutions that made time to visit him.   We need a rock that never changes.  We need a love that is unconditional.  We need God.  We need Peter!
We need someone who will pick up the broken pieces of our lives.  Someone who will teach the truth to us during shattered times.  Someone who will not scorn or mock the sinner, but will love the sinner in truth and in faith.  We need Peter!  We need a rock!  We need a Church in which the gates of the netherworld will not prevail.
Resolution:  I will offer up my prayers for the Church, for Pope Benedict, for His successor.  St. Peter, pray for us!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mt 7:7-12 Prayer

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
This is unprecedented!  Do I have this much power?  Can I order the Lord around?  If I ask, will I get?  If I look am I sure to find?  If I knock hard enough will the door be opened to me?  Is prayer like a “magic” trick?
The power of prayer comes from God.  In magic, it all comes from the person.  In a “magic” trick, technique is everything.  In prayer, humility is everything.  With “magic”, the words (the "spells") are everything.  With prayer, the heart is everything.  In fact, the words mean nothing to God if the heart is in the wrong place.   
A young atheist, who was on a school retreat, once asked me, “Why are so many people crying while they look at a piece of bread?”   This individual was referring to an evening of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  This, of course, was not their first retreat, not by a long shot.  We can all be great imposters!  We can all be great impersonators!  We can all appear to be interested in knowing something when in reality we have no interest at all.  We can all appear to be knocking for the truth, when in reality we are knocking (mocking) the truth.  We can easily make it sound like we are knocking on the door, when in fact we are kicking at it.  We can all appear to be seeking the truth, when in all truthfulness, we are hiding from the truth.  We can appear to be asking someone a question, when in reality we are telling them our opinion.

Where is your heart, or better yet:  how are you living your life?  We can justify just about anything, including our disgusting way of life with the elixir of intellectual reasoning.  But what we are really doing is committing an intellectual felony. 
For a small child, everything must be obvious.  “Why is mommy crying?” is a question that is often asked by a child when they have witnessed no material or physical cause for tears.  They have no clue at all.  They associate crying and falling to physical pain:  either a slap on the face or a punch in the gut.  They can’t for the life of them comprehend a correlation between crying and spiritual pain (and even better, with spiritual healing).  For the child in mind, everything must have a material and efficient cause.  There can be nothing else.  We shouldn’t blame a child for this, for they have not yet learned how to reflect, meditate and contemplate.  These things go way beyond their current mental capacity.  That mommy or daddy (or anyone for that matter) could be crying because of a letter they received, or on their knees because of a love they have found.  No, it is all a mystery – incomprehensible - for the childish mind.
Why do some people cry during adoration?  Because they are in the presence of a humble Lord who makes himself available to all who ask, knock and seek, and have been shocked (surprised) and relieved to have found Him through a very particular way (grace). 
Prayer is a miracle.  Prayer is supernatural.  As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Some would have it that only that is true which can be verified by reason and science; yet prayer is a mystery that overflows both our conscious and unconscious lives” (no. 2727).  In other words, if the Universe gave rise to the human brain so that humans could survive, it also gave rise to the human brain so that humans could think, pray and believe; that is, strive.   
Christian prayer is a dialogue with God in Christ.  One is never alone.  The other is always there.  Prayer is always the right moment, the moment to find the Lord.  If everyone in the world prayed at least fifteen minutes a day, the world would be a completely different place.  If someone prayed every day for their entire life, they would be a different person. 
Resolution:  To pray every night during Lent and to spend thirty minutes once a week in adoration. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lk 11:29-32 Making Progress

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah.  Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation…At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
Jonah was sent by God to convert the hearts and minds of the people of Nineveh.  He thought he was sent on an impossible mission.  He thought his time would be wasted.  He was wrong in every single aspect, for Jonah’s words were not his but God’s, and what followed shocked Jonah as much as it shocked the people of Nineveh:  they actually listened, believed and were saved. 
This is a lesson worth learning.
Making Progress.  Look around, do you really see any progress?  I mean real progress, not that superficial progress such as high speed computers, cell phones, electronic gadgets, etc…but real, meaningful and deep progress; that is, the way we see others and interact with them. 
Honestly, aren’t we just as superficial, violent, virulent, decadent and as disgusting as the Romans?  Don’t we treat marriage, family our unborn and our children as they did?  Aren’t we just as meaty, fleshy, perverted, physical, hypocritical and sarcastic as the ancients?  Aren’t we as much warmongers as those who came before us?  Isn’t the mainstream media like the media of recent past, dominated by party members and a loud speaker for their ruling party?  Isn’t the news just propaganda?  And do you really think those who rule us really want to educate us?  Come on!  Give me a break!   I see a revolution approaching with the collapse of a dying civilization nearing.  There’s nothing to fear.  It’s always happened.  Nations are born and die.  Civilizations rise and fall.  When does it start?  When civilizations, like people who become so plump and fat, are no longer able to touch their feet (the bottom) and slowly begin to buckle under the enormous pressure.
Nineveh, like so many others and others to come, was falling to ruin.  But when Jonah preached the word of God to them, they began to make progress.  As the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wrote in his Encyclical Populorum Progressio, “the proclamation of Christ is the first and principal contributor to development.”    
Preaching the word of God to people who idolize political leaders, movie stars and even pop stars is true progress.  Preaching the word of God to people who will stay up all night to buy an ipad or iphone or X-Box or a pair of sneakers is making significant progress!  Preaching the word of God to people who believe everything the media spits out, everything that reporters write, everything politicians promise or every word that comes forth from the mouth of swine is real, authentic and honest-to-God progress!
Now let’s get to work, for there is something greater than Jonah here, someone wiser than Solomon here, someone more beautiful than Lady Gaga or Madonna here, someone more honest than “honest Abe” here, someone holier than the politicians here, and that is:  JESUS CHRIST!  And if I am going to chase after anyone, then it will be someone who imitates Him, not insults Him.
There is something greater than Jonah here.    The Lord is greater than all these things because he is not only the Word of God, but the Love of God as well.
Resolution:  I will read the book of Jonah from the Bible today.  I will also re-read the Holy Father’s Lenten message from Ash Wednesday today.       

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mt 6:7-15 Praying The Right Way

Jesus said to his disciples:  “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them.”
Like so many things in life, even praying is no longer a debatable issue; it has become an entirely subjective affair in which you can’t go wrong.  But the Lord said that you can go wrong.  Yes, you can actually pray the wrong way, just like you can ask someone for something the wrong way. 
Some people consider prayer to be a form of art:  a free expression of one’s inner most feelings.  Well, it is; and just like with singing, we can pray with all our heart.  But if we are not careful to follow a certain set of rules, then our praying, as with our singing, could easily be confused with screaming and yelling.  It could actually end up being distractive and disruptive.  Hence, praying can easily turn into “babbling”, just like art into “dripping”.  And there are plenty of critics who will go around spitting all over our “feelings” if we don’t express them “the proper way.”
The Lord hears our prayers, but does He understand them?  Does He like them?  Of course we should pray with all our heart, just like we sing with all our heart, but in order to be understood do I follow the Lord's rules? 
I don’t want to sound technical, but there are a couple of rules that we can learn in order to pray the way our Lord wanted us to pray.
Pray to God.   Do you pray to God or do you pray to your audience? Not too long ago I saw, on television, the awarding of the Medal of Honor to a soldier.  The ceremony began with an opening prayer.  Now the ceremony itself was moving, touching, beautiful, heartfelt and deserving of our respect, but the prayer was not.  I found it to be distracting.  It was extremely long, wordy and extremely "technical" (politically correct).  It sounded more like a speech rather than a prayer.  It sounded more like a call to “hooray” than to prayer.  Finally, it sounded more like a defense of our foreign policy than a prayer of love and sacrifice freely offered as a holocaust to God and men.  To put it bluntly, this prayer sounded government issued and government regulated.  Prayer is not a disguise for the righteous of heart but for sinners at heart.  It is an expression of humility, not an expression of triumph.
When I pray, do I pray to God or to men?
Thy Kingdom Come.  We have it good, there’s no doubt about it.  And most of us are living the “good” life.  But there is something even better - greater - to life than the American Dream.  Life should be meaningful, not necessarily comfortable.  When we pray, we should not be demanding that earth goes up to Heaven (that Heaven appears more like earth or our earthly values), but that Heaven comes down to earth (that earth appears more like heaven and heavenly values).  When we pray, we are asking that Heaven come down to earth.  We want God’s Will, God’s Love, and God’s Son over our life, not the imposition of our will in God’s life.  Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.          
When I pray, do I pray for God's Will be done or for my own?
Resolution:  I will pray to God, not to another.  I will seek to do God’s Will in my life and work towards the establishment of His Kingdom on earth.

P.S.  Today, feel free to leave a prayer request in the comments section.  I will offer them up in this week's Masses.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mt 25:31-46 The Obvious and Forgotten

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
What I’m about to write may sound very obvious, but as obvious as things may be, they may not be at the forefront of our minds.  For example, the sun is an obvious thing, but we usually don’t give it a thought unless we want to avoid the sun or get a suntan. 
Well, this is what I want to say:  there is a strong relationship between faith and love, and the celebration of Lent offers us a valuable opportunity to meditate on this relationship; the relationship between believing in Jesus Christ and love.
There is no doubt about it:  those who have a strong faith in Jesus Christ have a stronger tendency to show greater love, greater compassion, greater mercy and greater forgiveness towards sinners.  Now I know what you are thinking:  “Father, I know a priest that is mean spirited and is rude to others.”  Well, I do too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this comment was directed towards me.  But please understand, I’m not saying priests have a stronger tendency to show greater love.  Of course they should, but I’m not saying that.  What I am saying is that those who have a strong faith in Jesus Christ have a stronger tendency to show greater love.  There are plenty of priests, bishops and nuns who are atheists.  Some are even communists!  But what I also know is that those who have a strong faith in Christ have a very strong love for others.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.”
The Christian understands that there is a very tight relationship between faith in Jesus Christ and love of neighbor.  It’s no coincidence that those who love Christ do not believe in abortion (the taking of the life of an innocent person) nor in the death penalty for a hardened criminal.  When those of little-to-no faith visit the prisons, it’s often to do research – to collect scientific data.  For some of them may be more committed to the science of the criminal mind, than to the criminal’s conversion; and far more interested in making the death of the criminal as comfortable and humane as possible, than to any last message he wishes to offer to those he harmed.   
Now there is another relationship that is very obvious but also may have been forgotten over time and during the course of some very bitter arguments and fights, and that is:  love begets love.  The more love you give, the more others will love.  I know this is pretty obvious, but I also know it’s been very much forgotten. 
Resolution:  I will not forget the obvious.  I will share it with others through my words and actions today. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Luke 4:1-13 After Forty Days

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil.  He ate nothing during those days…
You would think that after eating nothing for forty days the Lord would be at his weakest moment.  On the contrary, he was stronger than ever, maybe not physically, but definitely spiritually.  He was ready to take on His greatest enemy, the devil, with his greatest asset, His Will.
Navy SEAL training is highly demanding, both physically and mentally.  As soon as the instructors break down a young recruit’s body, they go after his mind.  It is precisely at this moment that the trainee must decide what he will do:  Will I quit or will I keep on going.  Believe it or not, this decision has nothing to do with his body or his mind.  It has everything to do with his will.  Those who actually made the cut decided well before hand that they would either complete the training or die trying.  In his book, “Lone Survivor”, ex-Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell writes, “Quitting was never an option.”
I find it remarkable that the Lord, over two thousand years ago, accomplished what the most expensive training in the world accomplishes today.  The Lord knew that if he would be victorious over the devil, then He would have to be victorious over his mind, his heart, his body and his pains.  There could be no victory over the devil if His will was not united to His Father’s Will.      
To whom or what is your will united to?  What do you crave for, search for, desire most, and fight for?  Where there is the will, there is a way.  But is my will united to God’s Will?  Am I craving and searching and fighting for something that will eventually be dust in the wind?
The Will is to keep going.    A person’s will is his greatest asset, for experience on the battlefield has demonstrated that no matter how weak a soldier’s body may become, if their will is strong, then the mission will get accomplished. 
If, however, a person’s will is not trained, not exercised, and not tested, then it can easily become the mission’s greatest liability.  No matter how strong the body is.  No matter how intelligent the person may be.  If the will is out of shape, then all the best intentions in the world and all the best ideas in the world will come to nothing.  NOTHING! 
Training of the will.  In imitation of the Lord’s forty days in the desert, the Church recommends, every year, forty days of training.  Like I have mentioned in previous meditations, this is not necessarily the time for self-improvement.  It is the time for self-denial.  It’s not the time for exercise routines or new diet plans in order to strengthen one’s heart.  It is the time of year to change one’s heart.  Lent is that time of year to distance oneself from idols and unite oneself to the one true God:  Jesus Christ.  We have been called by God to be more forgiving, more loving, more honest, more willing to be more like His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
When the forty days were over, the devil came to him to tempt him.  If, after the forty days, I do not come out of this training seeing the uselessness of what I once craved or the depravity of what I once sought, then as soon as the forty days are over, I will be right back into the sweet and comfortable arms of the devil.  I will be like the Romans who had all the bread they desired, all the sex they craved for, all the power and titles and glory they died for, and, lest we forget, the world’s blood on their hands.  Yes, if I do not change my heart, then I will be comfortably back into the “matrix.”    The devil will have free access to run my life through his hands and will.
But if the training is done right, then I should come out of it with a new heart and a new will.  Sure, I will be exhausted - physically, not spiritually.  But it will feel great to have my life back in the Lord’s hands.  But remember.  I will not have fought with the devil just yet.  Don’t fool yourselves.  Training is not the same as battle.  The Drill Sergeants shouting at you is not the same as your buddy screaming and crying to you.  The Lord did not fight with the devil during His training.  He fought with the devil after His training, and so will we, till our death, but not after our resurrection.
Resolution:  A change of heart and will.  Lord, make my heart and Will more like yours!