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, May 31, 2013

Luke 1:39-56 Joy to the World

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Click here for readings)
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 greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and 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…”
Just today, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, said something remarkably simple yet profound.  He said that Christians must bring joy to the world, not sorrow.  Sounds simple, right?  Yep.  Then what’s so profound about it?  Well, do you see it in your parish community?  Do you see it among the “holy rollers” of God?  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder why some of the “holiest” people (that is, daily Mass attendees) are some of the “meanest” people I know… and don’t really care to know.  And not only are they mean, they are also sourpusses.
Was Mary like that?  Was her life like that?  No!  And it wasn’t because her life was immune to struggles and fears.  Sure, maybe before the Annunciation Mary’s life had been like that of a cloistered nun, hidden and simple; but after? Based on Scripture, it was anything but hidden or quiet or simple. 
Then how did Mary get through it all?  How did she do it, and do it with a smile on her face?  What was her secret?  Again, the answer is remarkably simple yet profound:  she had God, physically and spiritually.
Mary brought God wherever she went - literally and spiritually.  In other words, she brought joy to the world.  How?  By bringing Christ into the world. 
Joy and Christ go together like milk and honey; or better yet, like peanut butter and jelly.
Fruit of your heart.  God has a personal invitation for all of us; and like Mary, He’s hoping it will be warmly received.   But unlike Mary, it isn’t directed towards our womb but towards our heart.
Will you say yes to the Son of God?   Will you open your heart, your mind and your soul to Him? 
The fruit of Christ’s presence in our lives is joy.  It isn’t naivety.  It isn’t foolishness.  It isn’t drunkenness.  It isn’t blindness or wishful thinking.  It is joyfulness.  It is the joy that comes to us from seeing things like never before…like God sees them!
Soul of Christ, sanctify me/ Body of Christ, save me/ Blood of Christ, inebriate me/ Water from the side of Christ, wash me/ Passion of Christ, strengthen me…
Very often I get put down as a reference.  A few weeks ago, a representative from a charitable organization called me with regards to an applicant.  I was surprised yet delighted to give them my perspective and impressions.  The person they were inquiring is young, talented and highly motivated.  I was more than happy to give them my highest recommendation. It turns out the representative agreed with everything I said.  However, they doubted the candidate.  I asked them why?  They told me it was because this person never smiled. 
The world is falling apart.  Morals among our youth are crumbling.  Families are a mess.  What should we do?  What St. Paul did.  "Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, perservere in prayer" (Romans 12:9-16). 
If you think about it, the last thing in the world this world needs is for Christians to be sad. 
Let’s give joy to the world!   You know what I mean.  It’s never out of season.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Mark 10:46-52 The Blind Man Who Could See

Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging.  On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
Instead of blaming God, seek God.  Yesterday, I had breakfast with a mom of four wonderful young kids.  Her life has been nothing but amazing.  She’s been battling (and winning) cancer now for four years.  I can’t begin to tell you what a powerful witness she’s become to faith, hope and love.  She is a living saint! 
While we sat and ate, our conversation was very casual, shifting from raising kids to oatmeal types!  But at a certain moment, it went from casual to spiritual to highly personal.  She surprised me when she told me how God had inspired her prior to her cancer diagnosis. “For some strange reason, I was reflecting one morning as to how great my life was.  It was then that I told God, ‘Lord, if you want me to suffer for others, then I’m okay with me.’”  In effect, she was giving God permission to do whatever He wanted with her.  Not too long after that, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She did not blame God.  Instead, she sought God in a more intimate way.  She has united herself to The Son in every possible way:  in His suffering, in His compassion, in His mission.  She sees her life as a blessing, a gift to be given to others.  She’s definitely not perfect.  But she gets it.  She knows what life is all about:  witnessing to Jesus Christ.  Her faith, hope and love have brought about the conversion of many in and around our parish.
She told me the story of a crossing guard who’s been at our school for years.  One day, she asked him to pray for her.  He agreed.  That was four years ago.   A few days ago she asked him if he was still praying for her.  He said to her the following: “I will never forget the day you asked me to pray for you.  I said I would.  But what you didn’t know is that I hadn’t prayed in years.  I don’t know.  I just never did it.  But I figured that I would pray for you since you were always so nice to me and because you had so many young kids.  I began to pray that day and I haven’t stopped praying ever since.  You changed my life.  You changed it for good.”
This story nearly brought tears to my eyes.  Ah, what I could do if I would only stop blaming God for things and start seeking Him in all things!
Bartimaeus, the blind man, could not see; and yet, he was still able to believe.  Is 20/20 vision a must in order to believe in God?  Apparently not.  If you think about it, no one can “see” God, and as incredible as this miracle was, its meaning goes deeper than mere sight.  The healing of the blind man is a proper response to all those people in the world who use their perfect vision as an excuse for unbelief.  Where is God?  I can’t see Him!  Again, perfect vision has nothing to do with belief in God.
Today’s Gospel passage makes obvious certain things:  (1) the problem with unbelievers isn’t that they cannot “literally” see God.  That’s not the problem, for it wasn’t a problem for the blind man; (2) their problem has nothing to do with human suffering.  That’s not it either, for even the blind man was a beggar, and begging all day long is like suffering all day; (3) the problem with unbelievers isn’t that they see so much evil in the world today.  Again, the beggar might not have “seen” evil around him, but he definitely experienced it, especially in the way he was treated by strangers and neighbors.  So then what is it?  Well, maybe the “Atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.”  Maybe it’s because they don’t want to. 
The blind man’s story is being retold in the countless number of people who suffer from illness, loneliness, and tragedy.  It is being retold in the life of this mother of four kids.  It is being retold in the lives of those who suffered in Newtown, in New Jersey, in Oklahoma, in Boston and in Texas. 
Belief in God has a lot to do with seeing, but not with one’s eyes; rather, with one’s heart.

 Check out these fascinating news articles here.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mark 10:32-45 Lording Like Christ

Wednesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples:  “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt.  But it shall not be so among you.  Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
We all believe in love.  But do we really believe in “its” power?  And how love works best through humility?
The gods of old were known to wield power over their subjects.  They wrecked havoc in each other’s lives and in the lives of their subjects (or slaves).  Their acts were random.  Their will unknown.  Their purpose remained unclear.  Though they were giants they acted just like men, treating people like insects.  They were the protagonists; the people, mere spectators, seated and not very amused.  They became all too familiar and all too boring, for they behaved just like their masters, like men.
On the other hand, Jesus revealed who God is and He is shocking.  God is love.  God is humble.  He is small, like us.  He even became one of us!  This is shocking.  This is important.  It means we are important to Him. 
For African-Americans to win their freedom from slavery, white people had to get involved.  They had to become one with them.  Men had to get involved for women suffrage to take root in America.  They had to vote for them.  For prostitutes to get off the streets at night nuns had to walk the streets at night.  Like customers, they had to go out to meet them face-to-face. 
For sinners to become saints, God had to get involved.  He had to become one of us.  He had to get down and dirty like all of us.  We, Christians, cannot forget where we came from and where our place is.  Our place is among sinners.  Our hearts go out to sinners.  Christians will only exist as long as sin exists.  The devil isn’t a fool.  He’s not trying to eliminate Christians.  He’s trying to eliminate sin; the very idea of sin.  The devil is the anti-Christ.  He made killing God look good, just like he makes killing babies look like it is a good.
We, Christians, must get our hands dirty and get involved in people’s lives.  The devil’s greatest accomplishment (thus far) has been to make it a sin to “share your faith with others.”  His greatest triumph (thus far) has been to keep “your opinions to yourself” and to keep “your rosaries out of her ovaries.” 
Far too many of us have fallen victim to his deceit and to his comforts.   It’s time we march, with the strength of The Light, into the darkness.  It’s time we come face-to-face with our evil past and with sinners.  It’s time we walk, hand-in-hand, with our brothers and sisters and march for God, for life, for truth, for others.
Living like Christ doesn't mean making ourselves out to be better than others.  It means making others feel like they are worth it.  This is how Christ lorded over us. 
Today, our 76-year-old pontiff, Pope Francis, who lost part of a lung during his youth to an infection, braved a brief spring shower to kiss babies and greet thousands of people standing in the rain.  The Holy Father had no umbrella to cover him.  The picture above says it all.  A reporter brilliantly wrote:  "Many, too, will likely see [The Holy Father's] willingness to get soaked as an intriguing act - one that shows the importance of reaching the masses over his own comfort."

“Come to our aid, O God of the universe, look upon us, show us the light of your mercies, and put all the nations in dread of you!  Thus they will know, as we know, that there is no God but you, O Lord” (Sirach 36:1,4).

Check out some interesting articles that helped me in today's meditation.  Click here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mark 10:28-31 Giving Everything and Nothing

Tuesday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Peter began to say to Jesus, “We have given up everything and followed you.”
This is what I love about the Scriptures:  they are fully human and divine.  Do you sense a little bit of frustration in Peter’s comment?  I think so.  And I think it is perfectly legitimate.  After all, it is never easy to be an Apostle of the Lord.  There are so many “rules of engagement.”  Take it from me, sometimes “fighting” for the Lord can feel like you’re fighting in the style of a Vietnam War: with one hand tied behind your back!  I’m certain in the back of Peter’s mind he must have been asking himself things like: “Why aren’t we blasting our way out of this and using the full force of God?  Why do we have to be the ones who sacrifice so much while others don’t?  Why do we have to be so patient with sinners and so loving to our enemies?  That’s not going to stop them!  They take us for being fools!”     
Why do we fight like this?  Because unlike our enemies, we take prisoners, for we were once prisoners ourselves!
“To keep the law is a great oblation” (Sir 35:1).  The Commandments to love God above all things, to love one another “as I have loved you” and to love one’s enemies are excellent “burnt” offerings to God.  They are a wonder drug to all personal ambitions, the perfect anti-rejection meds to God’s heart and mind, and a marvelous antidote to the poison of selfishness.    
Peter’s harsh reaction to the Lord are not side effects associated with too much God but more like withdrawal “pains” associated with withdrawal to this world; from his very own life – his goals, his plans and his ideas; and from his sinfulness.   
But hadn’t he given everything away to follow the Lord?  No, at least not the most important things.  I found this out while in the seminary.  I thought I too had given up everything to follow Christ.  I thought giving up career, girlfriend, money, and family was “everything”.  But soon enough I realized that I was holding on to so many invisible things; more important things, such as my will. 
We have given up everything!  It’s one thing to give to the Lord physical things like your bed, your car and your money.  It’s another thing to give up spiritual things such as your heart, your mind and your innermost being. 
Peter wasn’t struggling so much with giving up his house, brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for Christ’s sake.  He was struggling with giving up his life to the Lord.  And our will constitutes a big part of our life!
“Give to the Most High as He has given to you” (Sir 35:10).  The Lord isn’t asking Peter to give up anymore than what He has given to them.  What He is asking is that they love as He has loved them. 
We believe in a God that gave Himself (His all) to His Father and to all His creation.  Wow!  What a difference!  
This “all” constitutes far more than just Christ’s spiritual home (heaven), His spiritual “family” and His spiritual possessions (his title and authority).  It includes, above all things, His heart, mind and innermost being.  “As the Father has sent me, I send you.” 
The Father sent His Son in His entirety.  And His entirety is His Love. 
Though His hands were restrained, His love could not be retrained.  Though His body was crushed, His love could not be crushed.  Though His life was extinguished, His love became distinguished.  Yes!  In the way that Christ loved, the Lord rose high above all other gods and made a name for himself; a name that sits high above all other God’s and names:  the name of Jesus: “God saves” with His Love.      
It’s time to give Him our all.

P.S.  Visit my new blog that brings Catholic News (and some thoughts) from around the world.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

John 16:12-15 Holy Trinity, Undivided Unity

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
(Click here for readings)
Today is the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, a mystery of faith; that is, something that had to be revealed to us directly by God himself.  God is Three Persons:  Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And although this unity of divinity is a mystery, it doesn’t mean it is something that we cannot relate to or understand.  Of course we can.  After all, we were created in God’s image and likeness.  
We are more one by being three.  Now if we were created in God’s image and likeness, then in some way our lives are an expression of His love in our life.  As we begin to penetrate into God’s very being, let’s not forget another revelation given to us by God:  that He is love.
God is love and He is Three Persons.  Hence God (Love) is not selfish.  He is very giving.   His love is always directed towards another Person.  God’s love is a very giving love, a forgiving love, a sharing of himself to others.   This is what keeps Him together!  This is what keeps us together.  Like God, we are more ourselves when we give our love to others.
No wonder why we seek to love:  we want to be united.  No wonder why one of the greatest moments in our lives is to walk down an aisle and profess our love to another.  As a priest, I am still amazed at how some people, who have lived together for years, suddenly decide they want to get married.  Why is that?  It’s simple.  They seek to get closer.  They want to be more intimate.  They want commitment.  They want to be like God:  a Holy Trinity and undivided unity.
Love and pain.  Human love opens the door to two people becoming one.  And this oneness is much more than just something that is spiritual, psychological and even sentimental.  It is literal and physical.  So much so that nine months later you have to give it a name, and then the three become one:  one family.
Jesus said to his disciples:  “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”
Well, what isn’t Jesus telling us?  It’s probably what St. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans:  “Brothers and sisters:  Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace.”
How do we get access to God’s grace?  By faith.  What does faith mean?  It means to leave the door wide open for God; to give Him an open invitation into our lives; to allow Him to take possession of our life.  It’s open season for God!  He can do whatever he wants with us, with me.  And we know that if you wish your love to grow, then you must allow some room for growing pains.
“We boast not only in the hope of the glory of God, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint” (Rom 5:4-5). 
Again, I am amazed at how people, who live together, are willing to tighten the knot.  Marriage brings people closer together, but it also brings weightier crosses.  But we say it’s worth it, because it is.  Marriage is hard work, but the rewards are incredible. 
Children are a blessing!  But they are also the source of many sleepless nights and the cause of so much pain.  But we say they are worth it, and indeed they are.  So although raising children is hard work, the indescribable joy they bring to life is worth it.
God (Love) is not fluffy.  It is not sentimental.  God (Love) is rock solid, chewy.  He is hard work.  If anything, love is first and foremost hard work...then sentimental.
A week ago I was very sad.  Why?  Because I didn’t win the Powerball!  And like so many, I really thought I was going to win.  I even prayed to God about it.  I asked Him to direct my pencil in the right direction.  I thought He was really inspiring me to pick the right numbers.  Like you, I really thought my numbers were “special”.  But I didn’t win.  I even had all the right intentions.  I was going to leave $100.00 to my Pastor.  And still I didn’t win.  [Hopefully by now you know I’m kidding].
Well, God is real.  He is rock solid.  He is not about to be blown away by some wind.  He is not fluffy.  He is not airy or sentimental; that is, here today and gone tomorrow.
Let’s ask for it!  Let’s ask the Lord to help us grow up in communion with Him.  Let’s beg God to take us further into His possession.  Believe me, this is what we truly desire.  Does this come as a surprise to you?  Maybe, but think about for a moment.  Remember when you were a child and how happy you felt when you got what you wanted?  Today, doesn’t it make you even happier to help others get what they want or need?  Remember how important winning was to you?  What about today?  Doesn’t it feel better to share your victories with others?  And how can we forget when we were young and stupid and how we vowed never to get married or to have kids.  Today, aren’t you still amazed at how much joy and excitement a child can bring into your life?
The problem with our love today is that it is not really real.  It is fake, superficial, a spur of the moment fling.  It is like us.  Our love is a reflection of who we are, and we are not very deep and nor is our faith.  We are not willing to endure trials or hardships out of love for others.  We want to skip the middle part and go right to the happy ending.  We are not willing to put in the work and/or hours required.  We have settled on living our lives like a series of snapshots – like the silly ones that kids post of themselves today:  mouths wide open and posed in fake jubilation.
Well, an open mouth is like an open mind, eventually it wants to chomp down on something solid.  God is chewy.  God is solid food.  The difference between “fluff” and “stuff” is the difference between living “for today” and living forever.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sir 6:5-17 Faithful Friends Are Beyond Price

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time

A kind mouth multiplies friends and appeases enemies, and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.  Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidant.

Someone once asked me, “Father, how many friends do you have?”  I thought about it for a while and finally said:  “Friends? Real friends?  Maybe one or two.”

Now in our age of Facebook and Twitter, where people have “millions” of followers, friends or fans, it may come as a surprise that someone like me could have so few friends.  But this isn’t something new.  This is something eternally true.  Nobody has a million friends.  Nobody.  And woe to the child or adult who believes they do!  They are in for a surprise.

In these past few days, the Old Testament readings have been ideal for kids and graduating teens.  These readings couldn’t have come at a better time for them:  right before summer and right before departure. 

Look and read how wise (and cautious) our ancestors were; how true (and clear) their words of wisdom were.  They may actually be more profound, more meaningful, more relevant and applicable than ever before, especially in today’s confused world of friendships and relationships. 

Teens seek sound advice but have a hard time finding it.  Often times, they seek where they know best:  among their peers and among the “stars.”  When they do seek it from their parents, often times they find them just as confused as they are.  True, it’s not always like this, but far too often it is.

Technology may have changed, but people haven’t changed.  They still have the same needs, same temptations, same desires and same fears as they had before.    What has changed is the amount of time we spend reflecting, listening, and observing.  Our ancestors were wise because they reflected.  They were wise because they were not so much interested in being kind and blurry with their children, but loving and honest to them.

When you gain a friend, first test him.  Like all relationships, even friendships must go through fire; and believe me when I tell you; you don’t have to set any fires.  Fires are like life challenges:  a part of life.  But how else can we grow?  How else will we mature?  Challenges are a great way to go deeper into a relationship; to experience a rebirth in your marriage and in your very own life.

But beware:  “For one sort is a friend when it suits him, but he will not be with you in times of distress.  Another is a friend who becomes an enemy, and tells of the quarrel to your shame.  Another is a friend, a boon companion, who will not be with you when sorrow comes.  When things go well, he is your other self, and lords it over your servants; but if you are brought low, he turns against you and avoids meeting you” (Sir 6:5-17).

I know of a person who sought me out for assistance.  I didn’t seek them.  At first I was reluctant to get involved, but they insisted, and so I tried to help.  I spent countless hours mentoring them.  Finally, I had to tell them that I didn’t think they were cut out for the job.  Well, they took offense at that and it didn’t take long for them to go to my boss and complain about me.  I couldn’t believe it!  I had spent hours with them.  I took time out for them.  And what did I get for it:  a complaint. 

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure.  What does this tell you?  Treasures are rare.  And they are not easily found.  One must “dig” deep for them.  The same goes for friendship.  Faithful friends are beyond price.  They are hard to come by.  One must work hard at it. 

But friends are not necessarily found; they are earned.  And like I would often tell my students:  “You might not find a good friend, but you can definitely be a good friend to others.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mk 9:41-50 Fluff vs. Stuff

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”
Today I wished our graduating class all the best.  What an honor it was for me to know so many beautiful souls.  I'm truly blessed to be a part of their lives! 

At Mass, I gave them a brief reflection.  Today’s readings could not have been better for this occasion.
Rely not on yourself.  “Trust in yourself.”  That is what we are told to do.  But only someone who does not know ‘thyself’ would really believe this to be true.  Only someone who does not know human nature would even consider this to be a “virtue.”
“Rely not on your wealth; say not:  ‘I have the power.’  Rely not on your strength…  Say not:  ‘Who can prevail against me?’  Say not:  ‘I have sinned, yet what has befallen me?’  Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin.  Say not:  ‘Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive’” (Sir 5:1-8).
What virtue do I consider to be paramount to success?  Humility.  Those who are humble succeed.  They succeed in everything:  in friendships, in marriage, at work, in life.  Humble people avoid the many pitfalls of life:  depression, anxiety and stress.  They know how to distinguish between fluff and stuff.  They know the difference reality and fiction. 
Know the difference between reality and fiction.  God is real. Look at reality! People are not.  Don’t get fooled by fiction!  Know the difference between reality and fiction.  It’s important!  Unfortunately, many young people today don’t know the difference between reality and fiction, and so they get sucked into a world that isn’t real.  Don’t be fooled!  Even reality shows (and stars) are fictitious shows (and stars)!
Know if we cannot distinguish between the two, we will end up getting crushed by both of them.  For when fiction falls apart, reality begins to settle in.  This can be awful!  But it doesn’t have to be.  It doesn’t have to be depressing either.  It can actually be quite liberating!
When do teens get easily crushed?  When they choose to live in fiction: that is, when they give a boyfriend (or girlfriend) more than they should; when they rely on their friends more than they should; when they rely on themselves (and not on the people who love them the most) more than they should.   
When do teens fall back into reality?  Unfortunately, after the facts!  After they realize they never really had a “boyfriend” (or girlfriend) that “loved” them; after they find out that their “best” friend just stabbed them in the back; after they realize that all their fans or followers or friends have suddenly disappeared from their sight or website.
It doesn’t have to be this way!  Live life in reality.  God is real.  Stop living in fiction.
Distinguish between fluff and stuff.  So many teens think that life is full of funny faces, silly faces, funny sayings and silly things [Just look at their pictures on Facebook and Twitter if you don’t believe me].  They all look the same! I’m just waiting for the day when this is all “so five minutes ago!”
It’s all fluff.  Where’s the real stuff?  Fluff is empty.  Real stuff is chewy, meaty and filling! 
Where’s the sadness?  Where’s the bad news?  Where’s the reality of life?  Where is the death of a family member?  Where is the hard lesson learned?  Where is “my mistake?”  Where is my vulnerability?  All hidden away:  behind silly faces and stupid sayings; behind anonymous writers and fictitious names. 
We are breeding a generation of fluffy people; people who cannot look evil squarely in the eye or take ownership for something they write or say; people who cannot take what is  “negative” and see them as opportunities for learning and growth.
Personal tragedies can be made happy if a lesson is learned, for tragedies help us to grow up.  Deaths are timely (and sudden) reminders as to how amazing life is, and that we should never take anyone or anything for granted. 
Fluffy people are like chaffy people, “which the wind drives away.”  Real people are well rounded people.  They are not driven away by a little wind.  “They are like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.  Whatever he does, prospers” (cf. Ps 1:3-4).   
Fluffy people live for the day (carpe diem). 
Well rounded people life forever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mark 9:38-40 Pi and Christ

Wednesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Teacher.  Taking a wild guess, I would say there are hundreds of millions of non-Catholics that love the Lord immensely.  They may not follow all the teachings of the Catholic faith, but I have no doubt they love the Lord with all their heart, with all their mind and with all their soul. 
Again, guessing, I would say there must be millions of non-Christians that love Jesus as well, either as a prophet or as someone who was exceptionally wise and loving.  They may not follow all the teachings of Christianity, but I have no doubt they love our God the best they know how.
Not too long ago I saw the movie “The Life of Pi”.  I was curious to know why this movie received so many Oscar nominations and great reviews.  So, I rented it, and to my delight, I found it quite interesting.   To my surprise, I found it quite religious.  The protagonist, Pi, grows up to become a Hindu, Christian and Muslim.  This was not a surprise given the fact that Hinduism claims that all other religions are yogas:  ways, deeds, paths.  Hence, Christianity is a form of bhakti yoga (yoga for emotional types and lovers).  There is also jnana yoga (yoga for intellectuals), karma yoga (yoga for workers, practical people), and various others.  For Hindus, religions are human roads up the divine mountain to enlightenment.  There is no one way, no objective truth just human need. 
Pi embraces all faiths.  What is left to our imagination is how he resolved the obvious contradictions among the three faiths?   Hollywood loves Hinduism and Buddhism (Oriental religions) not because they love to worship God but because they worship “Equality”.    
Now what I found most amusing about the movie was the director’s casting.  Not in the least surprising was the fact that an Indian played the role of a believer while a white man, a Canadian, played the role of a religious skeptic.  It is the encounter of our century:  First World Man meets Third World Man!  Or better yet:  the “Modern” man (the man of textbooks and the virtual world), interviews the “Cultured” man, the man of human (living) experience.  Did you notice how lost the Modern Man looked? 
Impressive to me was how ignorant the First World man is of culture, of faith, of family and of tradition.  Again, First World Man may have studied human interactions, family and religions in museums and prestigious universities, but the simple Pi lived and experienced them all.  How sad for the West!  But thank God for First World Man.  Pi spoke to him in English.
He does not follow us.  Pi is a pious Hindu.  There are millions of gods in the Hindu faith because there are millions of things on earth.  God is in everything and everywhere, good and bad.  There is no sin and no need of a Savior.  But as philosophy professor Peter Kreeft of Boston College put it:  “Hindus are hard to have a dialogue with for the opposite reason Muslims are:  Muslims are not very tolerant, Hindus are very tolerant.  Nothing is false; everything is true in a way.  Islam is like a cold iron spike; Hinduism is like a warm fog” (Fundamentals of the Faith, pg. 92). 
Whoever is not against us is for us.  As Christians we believe in sin and grace, heaven and hell, God and creation.  We believe in one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for us because He loves us and wants to save us in spite of ourselves! 
Is it possible for non-Christians and non-Catholics to make it to heaven?  Of course!  Absolutely!  But it will always be through Him.   "No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mark 9:30-37 Commit Yourself!

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”  Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
A few days ago someone sent me a cute little story.  Once upon a time, there was a little boy who was having problems studying his addition and subtraction.  His teacher tried her best to get him to study his tables, but nothing seemed to work.  His parents promised him tons of gifts, but even that didn’t work.  So one day they decided to move him to a Catholic school.  Now, the little boy’s parents weren’t very religious at all, but they thought to themselves: “Maybe the nuns can get through to him.” 
Well, after his first day of school, the little boy’s parents were shocked to see their son go straight to his room and study.  They couldn’t believe it.  Now they were very happy with his change in attitude and resolve, but they became somewhat alarmed when right after dinner their son marched straight to his room to study.  The little boy’s mom couldn’t take it anymore and so she asked her son, “What did the nuns tell you?”  The little boy looked at his mom and responded, “Nothing” and went right back to studying.   “Well then why are you studying so hard?” she asked.  The little boy looked up and said, “I don’t want to get nailed to the plus sign like the man on the wall did.”          
Commit yourself!
Sacrifice pays off.  Hard work pays off.  Humility pays off.  Love pays off.  How does one get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice man, practice! 
If anyone wishes to be first…The Lord provides plenty of opportunities for us to be great, but it takes “practice man, practice.”  We must practice (and master) humility:  “My son, when you come to serve the Lord, stand in justice and fear, prepare yourself for trials.  Be…undisturbed in time of adversity.  Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be wise in all your ways.  Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and in crushing misfortune be patient; for in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy people in the crucible of humiliation.  Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and he will direct your ways; keep his fear and grow old therein” (Sirach 2:1-6). 
But it doesn’t just take practice.  It takes a great leader (teacher) as well.  Christ is a great teacher.  He is the greatest teacher of the greatest profession:  holiness.  He knows the right connections:  salvation through humility.  He knows how to get us a break:  judge not and you shall not be judged.   The Lord truly knows how to get us to Heaven, and it isn’t at all what we would “naturally” think; it isn’t a matter of just being “connected with ‘oneself’” or “in tune with ‘oneself’” or “in love with ‘oneself.’”  It takes more than one person, hard work and perseverance:  “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be last of all and the servant of all.” This takes work, hard work, and it also means that someone must be ahead of you!
“You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall.  You who fear the Lord, trust him, and your reward will not be lost.  You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.  You who fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts will be enlightened.  Study the generations long past and understand; has anyone hoped in the Lord and been disappointed?  Has anyone persevered in his commandments and been forsaken?  Has anyone called upon him and been rebuffed?  Compassionate and merciful is the Lord; he forgives sins, he saves in time of trouble and he is a protector to all who seek him in truth” (Sirach 2:7-11).   

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mark 9:14-29 I Do Believe, Help My Unbelief

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Someone from the crowd came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.  Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so…But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  …Jesus said to him, “’If you can!’  Everything is possible to one who has faith.”  Then the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.”
There are two types of people in this world:  those who say, “I do believe, help my unbelief, and those who say “I don’t believe, help my belief.” 
I do believe.  Help my unbelief.   I find this statement refreshingly honest.  Here we have a father whose son has been ill for far too long and with a sickness that would easily challenge the faith of any parent.  But this father hasn’t given up.  On the contrary, he sought the help of Christ’s disciples; and although they were unable to help him, he continued to seek God’s help.  This man never gave up!  In fact, when He approaches the Lord, he doesn’t bombard Him with a billion questions as to why He is so bad!   Instead, he throws himself at the mercy of the Lord:  “Have compassion on us and help us.”
I don’t know about you, but I wonder:  Does this man have a little faith or a lot of faith?  And if he claims to lack faith, then how would my faith compare to his?  Well, I guess it is best not to compare.  But there is a lot to learn here.
Who can help?  A few days ago, a high-powered executive woman told me about a family that’s been struggling with a very sick child and tons of medical bills.  The man in the house has been unemployed for a while now and doesn’t know what to do.  He asked this woman, a dear friend, if she could help.  “Can you help me?” he asked.  “Yes, of course!” she said, even though she didn’t have a clue where to begin.  So she began to pray.    That’s a great way to begin anything that is impossible. 
Everything is possible to one who has faith.  Later that day, as she watched her son play in a soccer tournament, she spotted a man she barely knew.  His child played soccer as well.  With her promise weighing heavily down on her, she wondered if this man could help her friend.  She said a prayer.  She wondered.  She said another prayer.  She hesitated.  She barely knew him.  But for some strange reason she was convinced that he was the one to ask.  She struck up a conversation.  After a few minutes, she came right out and told him what was going on with her friend:  his son, his bills.  The man reached into his back pocket and gave her an envelope.  She thanked him.  In the car, she opened it up and there were four thousand dollars.  FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!  Who carries four thousand dollars?      
I don’t believe, help my belief.  As I mentioned before, there are some people in this world who will shut the door on belief; and not only shut it, but seal it, lock it and cement it in.  They argue that bad things prove that God does not exist.  Hardly!  And if it “proved” anything it wouldn’t be that God did not exist but that He was not good.  C.S. Lewis (1898-1963), a Cambridge professor and convert from atheism, wrote many wonderful books that disentangle all sorts of knotty issues regarding belief in God and in the Christian faith.  In his book “The Problem of Pain”, Lewis argues that Christians created “the problem of pain” by insisting that God is good.  In a New York Times book review, they wrote, “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”
I agree, except for the part about the intellect getting in the way.  It’s not our intellect; it’s our experiences and pride.  It’s the shutting of our doors:  the closing of our eyes, the plugging of our ears and the cementing of our hearts and minds.