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, September 30, 2013

Lk 9:46-50 Hidden And Full Of Hope

Monday Of The Twenty-Sixth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to him, "Whoever receives this child in my name receives me...For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest."

I can't think of a people more resilient than the Jewish people.  I also can't think of a people more head strong than them.  After all, they caused so many sleepless nights and countless headaches for their greatest political and spiritual leader, Moses.  Talk about an ungovernable and stiff-necked people!  Sometimes I wonder if the reason why it took them forty years to get to the Promised Land was so God could wear them down a bit. 

The rise and fall of the Jewish people looks an awful lot like the rise and fall of adults on a trampoline.  The higher they jumped, the faster they fell.  Just as soon as they achieved holiness, they fell into disgrace.  Just as soon as they arrived to the Promised Land, they were exiled by foreigners.  While one King spent his lifetime building up his Kingdom, his son quickly tore it into two. 

The history of the Jews is the true story of an exceptional people who went back and forth on their promises, and with only a few remaining faithful.  It was this small and faithful remnant that kept the Jewish people alive.  No matter how bad things got, they remained faithful to God and He remained faithful to them.  In fact, He is forever "jealous" of them.

Thus says the Lord of hosts:  "I am intensely jealous of Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her...I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem" (Zech. 8:1-2).

What comes around goes around.  What happened to the Jews is happening to us.  We are slowly but surely turning our backs on the teachings of Jesus Christ and following the destructive ways of the world.  I know.  I see and hear it every day.  Far too many of my brothers and sisters are beginning to think things are not so bad after all.  We can live with this...

Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.  He is perhaps best remembered for the quotation:

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Trade Unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew.  Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."

Are you hiding in your shell?  Are you staying silent on the issues of the day?  Are you going back and forth on your promises to the Lord? 

Are you forgetting about God while in your glory and returning to him only after hitting rock bottom?  Or are you always in open rebellion against His commandments?

Jesus took a child and placed it by his side.  Why a child?  Back then, no one listened to children.  Precisely!  Exactly!  Although no one bothered to listen to children, they still spoke up.  Although no one respected children back then, they still did all the hard labor.  They still got their hands dirty.  They still did all the lifting. 

We Christians must continue to be like children:  hidden from the world and yet the real hope of the future. 

We are not here to seek our own glory, but God's glory.  We are not trying to make a name for ourselves but to share Christ's name with others. 

Let's continue to lift up society and place it on our shoulders.  After all, if we won't, who will?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lk 16:19-31 We Are All Poor

Sunday of the Twenty-Sixth Week In Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

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 that fell from the rich man's table.  Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died,he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment..."

The Rich and The Poor.  Let's get one things straight right from the very beginning.  Contrary to popular belief, the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich.  Nor did the poor man go to heaven because he was poor.  Lazarus went to heaven because he was a good man.  The rich man went to hell because he was not. 
With that said, it would be naïve for us to think their is no correlation between condition in life and attitude towards life.  The Lord made it clear there is when he said:  "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God" (Mk 10:25).

What happened to you?  Maybe it was psychological.  Maybe it was just fallen human nature, but something horrible happened to us when we became rich or influential, beautiful or sexy, popular or famous.  We became smug, arrogant, boastful, brash, self-assured, self-confident, swaggering, conceited, self-satisfied, overconfident.

This is horrible and we know it!  At least most of us do. 

So the problem with being rich (or beautiful) is that it can quickly go to our head before it goes to our heart.  It can make us think we are better than others; more worthy than others; more entitled than others.

As soon as I read today's parable, I was reminded of an observation Victor Hugo once made"There is always more misery among the lower class than humanity among the upper class" (Les Miserables).

We must be careful with our wealth and what it can do to us.  One of my concerns is one day our government will treat people without a job the same way we once treated people with leprosy.  Thank God our government is not very efficient! 

But it can happen.  In fact, it has already happened.

Putting things above people.  Some people treat their possessions better than they treat people.  

Just yesterday I read an article regarding the latest iPhone.  It turns out that one in eight single men would prefer one of the new iPhones to a new girlfriend.  

It gets worse.  

A further 3% of respondents to the survey said they would happily ditch their current love if they got the newest iPhone in return.  One man said, "I've been going out with the same girl for three years, but if it meant getting my hands on a new iPhone, she'd be dumped in a second.  To be honest, I'm getting a bit fed up with her anyway."

As if he would never get fed up with his iPhone!

Of course this person is sick! But there are a lot of people who are sick in our society. 

Putting Myself above Other People.  It's not uncommon for guys to treat their girlfriends better than their parents.  Don't fool yourself guys!  This has more to do with selfishness than with true love, compassion, understanding and/or consideration.  This has more to do with beauty and sex than with love and sacrifice.  Parents deserve our time, attention, affection and compassion.  They have sacrificed a lot for us.  It's true, they have done much more for us than even the holiest of girlfriends.

How do you see things?    I find it interesting how Lazarus would sit near the door of the rich man.  What would the rich man say to poor Lazarus?  How would he treat him?  What would he give to him?  Apparently, it was the minimum.  It was not good enough.  When someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required (cf. Lk 12:48). 

We are all poor.  And we are all poor in the things that matter most:  faith, hope and love.  Is there any wonder why we are starving for happiness, friendship and love?

What can we do?  Let's stop using people like things and placing ourselves above others.  Let's start doing what we were told do so long ago:  to love God above all things and to love one another as the Lord has loved us.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

Lk 9:18-22 From Atheist To Fraud

Friday of the Twenty-Fifth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Once when Jesus was praying in solitude, and the disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"  They said in reply, "John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, 'One of the ancient prophets has arisen.'"  Then he said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

Who do you say that I am?  If you want to know what people think of you, should you just ask them?  I don't know.  I am not convinced people will give you a very honest assessment, especially if you are their boss!

So what are we to do?  Should we just come out and say it?  Again, I am not so sure that would be very helpful.

Not too long ago, Samuel Friedman of the New York Times wrote an article about a Methodist minister who became an atheist.  

He wrote the Rev. Teresa MacBain would "preach the Gospel every Sunday, only to slip each Monday into tormented doubt."

How horrible! 

The Rev. MacBain:  “For me, the lesson was that doubting is sinful and wrong.  If you have these things come up, you suppress them, you ignore them, you pray them away. This natural inquisitiveness and questioning is just wrong. And if I did them, I was displeasing God. For me, life was about being the person who loved God and wanted to be everything God wanted me to be. That just carried me on through decades.” 

How painful!

Samuel Friedman:  "Growing into adulthood, however, Ms. MacBain ran aground on what seemed like irreconcilable messages in Scripture. In First Corinthians alone, for example, Verse 14:34 instructed women to be silent in church, while Verse 11:5 referred to women praying and prophesying. If text is divinely inerrant, as Ms. MacBain had been taught, how could both statements be true?"

Now when I first came across this, I was shocked.  I thought to myself: How could a minister, who had a Master of Divinity from Duke University, not understand these simple verses?  How could she be so ignorant of Scripture and of the meaning of inerrancy?

My questions were finally answered.

In their hurry to get their new found heroine published and put in the lime light, the secular, liberal and often anti-Christian New York Times failed to verify Ms. MacBain's credentials.

Apparently MacBain "overstated her credentials" in her interview and résumé.  

Leaving this understatement aside, MacBain not only fooled the New York Times and many atheist bloggers, but also her most recent employer, the Humanist Community at Harvard (H.C.H).

In an e-mail to the New York Times, Greg M. Epstein, the humanist chaplain at Harvard, wrote: Clearly we should have verified Teresa’s M.Div. degree rather than relying upon her résumé and the frequent, public references to it as she worked for and with several Freethought organizations.”

Apparently, Mr. Epstein had no problem believing an atheist by faith alone.

His e-mail went on to say, “All of us at H.C.H. are disturbed and perplexed by this situation.” 
Now I wonder, does free thought allow for some bending of the truth?
A popular blogger, who refers to himself as the friendly and skeptical atheist, wrote in his blog:
"The hard truth appears to be that MacBain has no theological degree. The softer truth, however, may be that it doesn’t really matter."

Really???  It doesn't really matter?  Now isn't that convenient. 

I think it matters a lot.  Actually, I think it might very well explain why Ms. MacBain was tormented with doubt.  Think about it, every Sunday she had to preach from Scripture passages she never fully grasped (at least, at the University level).  MacBain may very well have "overstated her credentials" well before her conversion to atheism, which would have made her ill-equipped to properly direct and shepherd souls.  Finally, she may actually have rejected a faith that was never really the Christian faith.  Enough!
Who am I?  I know who I am.  There is only one honest - correct - answer to that question:  I am a sinner. And I know I am not alone.  In many ways we are all frauds; that is, we are not who we claim to be.  But as profound and important as this is, the real purpose of faith - and of God's plan for us - is to help us achieve who we were meant to be.  Who can I be?  With the help of Almighty God, I can be a Saint; that is, another Christ. 

It also helps to not take oneself too seriously.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Lk 9:7-9 Perplexed And Fascinated

Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Herod the Tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, "John has been raised from the dead"...But Herod said, "John I beheaded.  Who then is this about whom I hear such things?"

Even to this day, like Herod, far too many people remain perplexed at the person of Jesus Christ.

On September 11th, 2013, the Italian left-wing newspaper La Repubblica published a letter by Pope Francis.  His letter was a response to an open letter by the newspaper's founder and editor, Dr. Eugenio Scalfari, who describes himself as "a non-believer for many years interested and fascinated by the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth.”  Scalfari had not expected the pope to respond "so extensively and so affectionately, with such fraternal spirit".

Wow.  What a great response from an agnostic.  It's so unlike their distant relatives, the atheists.  Unfortunately, like militant fundamentalists, we see many highly influential atheists infected by harshness and hardness that makes affectionate or even fraternal dialogue next to impossible to have, and common ground nearly impossible to find. 

People don't rise from the dead.  Exactly.  Men, women and children just don't rise from the dead.  But Jesus was not just a man.  At least He did not claim to be just a man.  He actually claimed to be the Son of Man and God.  So, could the Son of God have risen from the dead?  As reasonable and rational beings, we believe He most definitely could have.  

Herod, the Intelligent.  Herod was no dummy.  He knew how to handle people.  In fact, he knew how to strike fear into people.  He had not climbed up the political ladder by being friendly.  No, no.   He knew how to chop off heads, and he was not about to risk losing his own.  So he had the Baptist put to death.  But something happened.  Something he never thought would happen.  He kept hearing the Baptist's voice.  And it baffled him. 

Who then is this about whom I hear such things?

Herod kept trying to see him.    Animals are very satisfied with what they have.  A good kill silences the stomach.  A good night sleep squashes the weariness.  A good drink quenches the thirst.  And so on.

However, when it comes to human beings, well, we are not so easily satisfied.  Just today, I met with a young man who is suffering from a restless heart.  He thought being married would make him happy.  It did, but not enough.  He thought having a family would satisfy him.  It did, but not exactly the way he thought it would.  He thought running his own business and having a successful career would make him very happy.  It does, but it is not deep enough for him.  He said,"Mission statements are not deep enough for me, Father. I need more.  What is wrong with me?"

"Nothing!", I said.  "Earth is not heaven.  Welcome to the limits of the physical - material - world.  What you are experiencing is nothing new and not a bad thing.  It is actually a blessing!  So many people spend a lifetime climbing the wrong "trees", hoping to find meaning and satisfaction.  You, on the other hand, have learned this important lesson very early in life.  Satisfaction does not come from achievements or the accumulation of things.  It comes from meaning.  And I can assure you that you will never be satisfied until your heart rests in Christ."

"You are seeking meaning in your life.  Only God can give you true meaning and true life."

I had met this young man many times before, and every time we met, I would ask him if he was taking the time to do his daily meditations.  He told me that reading the readings of the day did not always inspire him.  Well, I opened up my Magnificat and read him today's first reading:

"Now thus says the Lord of hosts:  Consider your ways!  You have sown much, but have brought in little; you have eaten, but have not been satisfied; you have drunk, but have not been exhilarated; have clothed yourselves, but not been warmed; And whoever earned wages earned them for a bag with holes in it" (Hag. 1:5-6).

His mouth dropped to the floor.

I continued:  "Consider your ways!  Go up into the hill country; bring timber, and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and receive my glory, says the Lord" (Hag 1:7-8).

Herod kept trying to see Jesus.  But for what?  To put him to death?  Why did he want to see Jesus?  To measure him up? 

How silly of him!  How silly are those who try to reduce the true nature of things to simple physical measurements and/or scientific investigation.  If we measured people according to these parameters we would fail to comprehend the Napoleon Bonapartes and Mother Teresas of the world; that is, the sinners and saints of the world. 

Dr. Eugenio Scalfari is interested in the person of Jesus Christ.  He continues to be fascinated by his words and deeds. 

Why?  Who does he see in them? Who do you see?

Check out these news articles.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lk 8:19-21 To Know Or Not To Know

Tuesday of the Twenty-Fifth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd.  He was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you."  He said to them in reply, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."

When the Lord spoke, people were amazed, for they had never heard anyone speak like him before. 

And very few people speak like him today.

Nationality doesn't matter.  Just like the Romans took pride in being Roman, so Americans take pride in being, well, Americans,  

Not too much has changed.  People still take pride in their nationality, as if "nationality" really existed, and was not a man made invention. 

The same can be said of nations and borders.  They do not really exist, at least not like bodies of water and land exist.  There are no "real" borders surrounding nations.  There are only man-made borders - fences and walls - subject to rise or fall, and change at the command of others.  Is there any wonder why they must be guarded and secured at all times? 

Are they meant to keep people in or out? 

In the beginning, the story of salvation began with only one holy couple:  Adam and Eve.  With God's patience, and Noah's insight, it grew to include one holy family.  With Abraham's obedience, it became one holy tribe.  Under Moses' leadership it was united into one holy nation.  With King David, it became one holy kingdom.  And finally, through Jesus Christ, it became one holy Catholic (Universal) Church. 

The world still operate with boarders.  The Church has no borders.  It crosses all borders out. for it is Catholic through and through, not only in faith but also in invitation.  All are welcomed.  All are invited.  All are worthy. 

The Catholic Church represents the best of humanity because it makes no distinctions between men and women.  "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).

Race doesn't matter.  For Martin Luther King, Jr., race was never an issue.  His faith had allowed him to see beyond a man's color.  In fact, for him, color was simply a distraction away from the real issue, the all-important issue:  character.   Is there any wonder the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement in America was a man of God?

Well, for all he said and did, he simply reiterated what Christ had said and done centuries ago:  "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it."

Between us, race makes no difference; nationality makes no difference; borders make no difference.  Not even sin makes a difference, for we are all sinners. 

The only real difference (and distance) that lies between us is if we know it or not.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lk 16:1-13 Small Matters

Sunday of the Twenty-Fifth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples, "...The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones."

Small matters.  Most things in life begin small, even our biggest struggles and triumphs. 

For good or for bad, small matters.  

I know of many people who struggle with pornography.  I know many who struggle with drug addiction and eating disorders.  In almost all these cases, I can say their problem started off small and when they were small.  But over time, their "small" problem began to occupy more and more of their precious time and attention.  It began to consume their thoughts and take over their life.  Today, they are at the point where their problem has taken on life of its own, sucking life out of them and demanding more and more from them.  They can't keep up.  So now they resort to stealing and cheating and to doing things they never dreamed they would ever do.

"Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land!  ...Who buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; and even sell the refuse of the wheat!"

Small matters! Boy does it matter, for good or for bad.

St. Therese of Lisieux (or of the little flower) understood how small matters, and in a very good way.  Although this saint died young, she is considered a giant among the theologians of the Church.  Why?  Because she discovered that love can manifest itself in simple (little) ways.  Her "little way" is a remarkable testimony of how one little soul can unite to God's enormous plan of love and make a difference in the world.   

Small matters!

Small and significant.  When the Pope said the Church should stop obsessing over abortion, gay-marriage and sex, I believe he was indirectly asking the media to stop obsessing over abortion, gay-marriage and sex.   If you don't believe me, then just Google his name and you will know what I mean.  And from the latest media reports, you would think his recent 12,000-word interview consisted of just 3-words.  

So read this beautiful interview, available from America magazine, and you will find a treasure-trove of reality, simplicity, humility - well, Christianity.  In other words, you will find so much more than what the media drools over. 

I would even dare say you might find yourself in the Pope's words and in his shoes.

"Who are you?"  This was the very first question the Pope was asked.  This is what he said:  "I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner."

Wow!  This is deep.  This is profound.  So much in so few words.  Now, please don't think Pope Francis was the very first Pope to admit this.  No.  In fact, every Pope, starting with St. Peter (cf. Lk 5:8), has admitted this.  Maybe that is why it didn't make much news.  But calling oneself a sinner is still big news to me because it's rare news, especially in the Western world that no longer believes in a little word called sin. 

Unfortunately, we also have a bad habit of linking things small with the word insignificant, as if the two were meant to be with one another.

Think about it, some people think the Earth is insignificant simply because it is physically small.  Some still believe that one person is insignificant because they are only one.  They think small is insignificant because it is small.  Well, it is not.  Everything is significant.  Everything!  Even nothing is significant, especially if something is made from "it".

So now we know the Pope is a sinner.  This is significant!  We know that sinners still exist - at least one - and that this sinner is a Catholic, of course! 

Believe me, this is great news!  This is Good News!  For if sinners still exist, then a Savior is still needed, which is even bigger news!

But I have noticed something.  Why is it always the humble, the meek and humble of heart, who call themselves sinners?  Why not the powerful?  Why are the lambs willing to admit being wolves, while the wolves continue to dress like lambs?

I do not believe Kim Jung-un or Joseph Stalin or Karl Marx or Friedrich Nietzsche or Pol Pot or Jean-Paul Sartre or any others like them ever admitted to being a sinner.  If anything, I think they would all agree that being a sinner is irrelevant since neither God or sin exists.  After all, I am who I am.  

Interesting... In Hebrew, this means "Yahweh" and it recalls man's first temptation and sin:  "You can be just like God" (cf. Gen. 3:5).

I find it interesting how these individuals are all on the losing side of history. 

The beauty of being a sinner.  What is weird about declaring oneself a sinner is what happens next:  it immediately opens the person up to forgiveness, which opens them up to being declared a saint.  Now don't forget what the Holy Father said.  He made it very clear.  He's not trying to fool anyone.  He's not trying to act humble.  He's not trying to make a good impression.  No.  He made it very clear.  "This is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner."

Great things can begin from small acts, and this was the shot that was heard across the world.  

Let's see if other world leaders will follow. 

Now I am not a world leader, but I will admit it again:  I am a sinner.  Really!  And I am not proud of it.

When the Pope says he is a sinner, an honest-to-God sinner, he is opening himself up to God and encouraging others to enter a brave new world with him:  the world of redemption and salvation.  And by admitting he is a sinner, the Pope is also admitting he cannot serve two masters: himself and his Savior, his greed and his Creed.

But most importantly, it means that no matter what people may think of us, the truth is the truth...and the Truth shall set us free.

Check out these articles.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Luke 8:1-3 The Interview

Friday of the Twenty-Fourth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.  Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities...

A few days ago I gave a talk to a group of women entitled "Faith in a hostile world."  During the questions and answers, someone asked me if it were possible to be holy in today's world.  "Of course," I said, "all we have to do is Google 'Pope Francis' and do as he does."

I was being totally serious and I now consider my response as Holy Spirit inspired.  After all, on the front page of today's Dallas Morning News and New York Times (NYT), you will find some interesting articles regarding Pope Francis' 12,000 word interview with the Jesuit magazine, Civiltà Cattolica. [translated into English by "America", another Jesuit magazine.]

According to this most recent interview, the Pope would like Catholics to stop "obsessing" over certain issues such as abortion, gay marriage and contraceptives.  But guess what?  Guess what made headline news from the Pope's 12,000 word interview?  You got it.  The very things the Church apparently "obsesses" over!  You just can't win Holy Father! 

Now remember, the Dallas Morning News is the same newspaper that never found it newsworthy to publish a single front page article of the Pope's trip to Brazil.  Wait, I stand corrected.  They did.  But only when the Holy Father was returning back to Rome and spoke on the issue of gays in the priesthood.  That made it on their front page!

Given all the news coverage, I wonder:  Is the Holy Father saying the Church is obsessed with gay marriage or are gay marriage advocates obsessed with it?  Is the Church obsessed over abortion or are abortion rights advocates obsessed with unrestricted abortion?  Is the Church obsessed with sex or is our entertainment industry and society in general obsessed with sex?  I'm confused.

Again, what makes headlines in our newspapers?  Let's face it:  Gay marriage and abortion.  In fact, who is the latest darling of our local media?  A particular politician and a likely candidate for governor.  Why?  Because she became a national star - a sort of messiah - the day she - guess what? - filibustered a bill that would have made abortions rarer, safer and legal.  Uh- huh.  That's right.

Well, like most media outlets, the NYT missed the mark entirely.  It's not their fault, though. We must remember that reporters are not necessarily historians or intimate members of the institutions they report on.  That's very unfortunate, especially when you're reporting on an institution such as the Catholic Church that is so vast, so old and so unique.  Now if some the reporters from the NYT actually went to church on Sunday, then they would know that the Church is not obsessed with gay marriage, abortion or contraceptives.  After all, when was the last time you heard a pastor speak about contraception?  When was the last time you heard a priest give a homily on abortion?  When was the last time you heard a priest address homosexuality?  Do you see what I mean?

And if they actually did say something, then what you most likely heard was a call to love, to help and to understand.  And this is precisely the Holy Father's point.  Meet people were they are.  Reach out to people.  Show compassion towards others.  Invite all people. 

After reading the Pope's interview, I am convinced he was speaking on behalf of his own personal experiences, especially his experiences back in Argentina, where the clergy may not be so understanding of others.  But I am not naïve  I know this happens everywhere, especially outside the Church. 

Regardless, what this "son of the Church" keeps telling us (and showing us) is that we must bring love and understanding into our conversations, especially in our dealings with atheists, abortion rights advocates and extreme members of the LGBT community.  [As a child, I will never forget how some members dressed like nuns and priests and publicly insulted them.  They always seemed to appear at every parade.]

The Holy Father is not asking bishops and priests to ignore these particular important social issues or gloss over them.  Rather, the Pope wants a Church that is poorer and more merciful, just like another Francis wanted long ago.  And just like him, the Pope is not interested in changing the mind of the Church; he is interested in changing her heart. 

People are hurting and they need to feel the warmth of the Church.  People are struggling, and they need to feel the embrace of the Church.  In his interview, Pope Francis called the Church "a field hospital after battle."  She exists to “heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” He says: “It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds...."

Looking down the road from now, my gut tells me there will be many in the media who will say this Pope failed to deliver on his message.  He said a lot but didn't change much. 

Well, they will be wrong, very wrong, for what they were always hoping would change was never the Pope's plan to change.  And so it will happen that as the world rejected the Lord, so to the world will reject His Apostle's successor. 

It is just another piece of evidence of how the world continues to have a problem with the Church, but first and foremost, how it continues to have a big problem with Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Luke 7:36-50 To Dream A Dream

Thursday of the Twenty-Fourth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A certain Pharisee invited Jesus to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table.  Now there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee.  Bringing an alabaster flask of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears.

Have you ever seen someone physically and emotionally collapse in front of you?  I have.

The first time I experienced this I was in the middle of a homily.  I saw a man in the back of the Church fall to his knees and begin to crawl towards me.  At first I thought his face was completely covered in sweat.  I soon realized it was completely covered in tears.  Though his mouth was wide open, he produced no sound.   His demeanor resembled that of a child in excruciating pain. 

I took his hand, picked him up and hugged him.  He had lost everything:  wife, children, home.  Relatives and friends refused to speak to him.  He had not had a meal in four days.  He had hit the lowest point in his life.  Somehow he had lost control of his life.  He was desperate and afraid.

She stood behind him and bathed his feet.  This sinful woman must have been going through a similar situation.  Her "business" was no longer going well.  Family and friends wanted nothing to do with her.  How did I get to this point in my life? 

Like so many others, her dream was not what she had dreamed. 

She no longer had control of anything, not even her own life.  What can I do?  What must I do?  In desperation she stood up and with the little strength she had left in her, picked herself up and went running to the Lord. 

She took a dangerous leap of faith and found her Savior.  Her faith had saved her.

This morning I celebrated Mass for approximately two hundred Freshmen.  What a sight for sore eyes!  They are all so young, so full of life and so innocent.  Their at an age where their bodies - new bodies - are still a surprise to them, almost foreign to them.  Their minds are full of wonder and in constant flux, filled with one dream after another.  They think they are ready to conquer the world, but they must remain vigilant, careful, for dreams can easily turn into nightmares. 

There was a time when men were kind,
And their voices were soft,
And their words inviting.
There was a time when love was blind,
And the world was a song,
And the song was exciting...

 There was a time when it all went wrong...

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living,
So different now from what it seemed...
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed...
(Les Miserables, I dreamed a dream)

Young Freshmen, listen carefully to the word of the Lord:  "Beloved:  Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity" (cf. Tim 4:12).

Pain Free Salvation.  Wouldn't it be great if we could be more proactive and not so reactive; if we could trust in the Lord as our brother and not always as our Savior?  Wouldn't it be great if we went to the Lord not as a last resort but as a first choice?

I do not believe that salvation has to be painful, so personally painful, all the time.  I actually believe it can be rather delightful most of the time.  How? By allowing God to lead, rather than follow.  

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it" (Ps 111:10).   Trust in the Lord and allow Him to lead you around the deep and deadly pits of life, not pull you out of them! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Luke 7:11-17 Pressure Cooker

Wednesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to the crowds:  "To what shall I compare the people of this generation?  They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another. 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.  We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.'..."

Never Satisfied.  I hope this isn't a heresy, but it seems like the Lord is getting a bit frustrated with the crowds.  His problem isn't that they can't get enough of Him.  It's that they can't get enough from Him!

Is the Lord getting frustrated with you too?  Are you constantly asking Him to perform for you, but rarely giving Him a break?  

"Lord, get me out of this mess I'm in!"  "Lord, take away this addiction of mine!"  "Help me, Lord, I've crashed and burned and I can't get back up."

While I was in Rome, I saw many motorini (or pocket bike) accidents.  I hate saying this - and if you've never been in Rome, you might not understand this - but these drivers are downright stupid and nasty.  They zip through the city as if they owned the city.  They zoom down narrow cobbled alleyways, swerve around pedestrians and dodge in and out of lanes of traffic as if they owned life and death.  They drive as if they own the roads, own the pedestrian walkways and own someone else's vehicle.  In 2006, Rome was voted the most dangerous city in the world for traffic accidents, with over 21,000 collisions resulting in nearly 28,000 injuries. 
One evening I heard the wailing of a mother whose son had been killed while driving a motorini.  The young man's girlfriend was with him and was seriously injured.  The mother kept crying out to God why He would allow such a thing to happen:  "Why?  Why Lord???  Why???  No one dared to give her an answer.  No one, not even the police and the pedestrians who saw the whole thing.

Am I expecting God to give me a blank check for life?   

Pressure to performI truly believe that we constantly under the gun to perform, outperform and outdo ourselves like never before.  What's worse is that our teens are constantly under a lot of pressure to perform academically, emotionally and even sexually.  This is a great tragedy when taking into account teen suicide rates, teen depression rates and teen abortion rates.  Whatever happened to "childhood"?  Welcome to the real Hunger Games!

All young people have it very hard today.  With the advent of social media, just about everyone is on the spotlight to perform!  It no longer matters if you are a no body that wasn't asked to the winter formal or some rich and famous teen.  Everyone must perform and outperform the other!  Look at all the drama that is going on in the music industry.  According to Sir Elton John, Lady Gaga is in a "dangerous place" and Miley Cyrus is like "a candle in the wind."  I'm beginning to like Sir Elton John more and more these days.  He knows what he is talking about, at least when it comes to meltdowns and blowouts.  He knows.  He considers himself just lucky to still be standing.  It's a miracle!

This is the reason why I love Confession! 

The Sacrament of Reconciliation remains one of the few places left in this world where someone can truly be human.  I love it!   You can request it at any time.  You can walk right in and you don't need to make a great impression.  In fact, if you really want to make a great impression then all you need to do is be totally honest.  That's impressive!  I love it!    It's not even necessary that you show your face!  The Church isn't interested in seeing your face.  She's only interested in seeing your heart. 

What I love about Jesus Christ is that He performed according to His standard.  It was His Way or no way.  It was His Truth or no truth at all.  It was His Life or death.  No one was going to stop Him.  No one was going to change Him.  No one was going to pressure Him. 

Everything in due season and when His hour had arrived. 

Let's pray.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Luke 7:11-17 Living Life The First Time Around

Tuesday of the Twenty-Fourth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.  As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. 

An unexpected encounter.  "Do you remember me?" asked the forty-something single woman to a former classmate.  A bit confused, the mother of four looked up at her and with honest hesitation said, "You look familiar.  Do I know you?"     

"Of course you do.  You beat the crap out of me when we were in middle school."

In disbelief and with her children standing next to her, it only took a few seconds for her mind to travel back to that awful day when she repeatedly struck an awkward and shy girl in the school's parking lot.   "You're...??  I'm so sorry.  I'm so sorry."

She just stood there, frozen, with her children next to her. 

The woman who came up to her slowly walked away, satisfied, thinking to herself how sweet revenge can be. 

But with the passing of the years, her wounds have not healed.  The scares still remain and resentment continues to linger. 

Unfortunately this young lady is not alone, and there are many stories similar to hers.  

Years after being bullied, these adults still have a hard time making friends and getting along with family members.  Drugs and alcohol are a significant part of their lives.  They continue to remain suspicious of others.  Trust is something that is hard to grasp.  Relationships always seem to end abruptly and badly.  They doesn't like to be alone.  They seek constant attention. Their self-esteem remains in the pits. 

But maybe, just maybe, these unexpected encounters were a lost opportunity for healing. 

In yesterday's meditation I reflected on faith, and how our faith in God allows us to get the most out of life.  From today's Gospel passage, this truth is more evident to me than ever before.  Faith in God truly allows us to get the most out of life, especially in life's unexpected encounters.  

A divine encounter.  A widow lost her only son.  She had plenty of reasons to worry; plenty of reasons to be afraid; plenty of reasons to be resentful.  Why is this happening to me?  What did I do wrong?   But these prayers of hers for divine intervention were about to be answered, and in way she never expected. 

Out of  nowhere the Lord appeared on the scene.  At least, this is what it seemed like to those gathered around the coffin of a young man and focused on the wailing of a poor window.  But people and things just don't pop into existence.  They appear for a reason.  From another dimension, one not limited to physical constraints, the Lord had seen this woman.  He knew her thoughts.  He saw her heart and heard her cries.  He told her, "Do not weep."  He stepped forward and touched the coffin and said, "Young man, I tell you arise!"

He sat up and began to speak.

Fear seized them all, except the woman.  She was too busy thanking God and hugging and kissing her son.  She was not about to let this moment slip away.

Faith in God doesn't necessarily mean that the dead will rise before us! Second chances are not what the Lord is all about.  Rather, we must awaken from our daily slumber (coma) of indifference and strive to do the will of God, especially in those unexpected encounters the Lord so graciously provides.  That is how we will get the most out of life, and get it the first time around.   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Pope Francis' Five Finger Approach To Prayer

Here's something to share with your children and grandchildren.  Copy it.   Share it.  Print it.
Praying will never be so hard again.

Luke 7:1-10 They Lived Happily Ever After

Monday of the Twenty-Fourth Week In Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.  When he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and save the life of his slave.

Faith in God.  As was very common in those days, having a slave meant more than just having a servant; it often meant having a friend, even a son. 

Apparently, this centurion was a close friend of the Jews.  We know that he had a synagogue built for them.  What is unclear is if he himself converted to Judaism.  Regardless, the Jewish community appreciated him and were willing to go to bat for him.

When the centurion heard that Jesus was in town, he sent elders of the Jews to him to ask him to save his slave's life.  What faith!  What humble faith!  Think about it:  a Roman soldier begged a group of Jews to help him.  Actually, he asked the Jewish God to help him.

What is the purpose of faith in God?  Why is it so important?  Based on what I have experienced and seen, the purpose of faith is to live life better; that is, to get the most out of life.  It means to seek the Lord in our life:  in our thoughts, words, decisions and actions.  It means to continually strive to be more like Him.

Let's face it.  The Lord went against the current.  He was countercultural.  He was a rebel.  He loved to shock His opponents and surprise His friends.  He reached out to where no one had reached before.  He spoke to women.  He spoke to prisoners.  He touched lepers and went to the homes of sinners.  He invited tax collectors to follow Him and accepted former prostitutes as disciples.  He loved His enemies and called them his friends.  He told his Apostles to turn the other cheek and forgive seven times seventy times.  He welcomed the conversion of sinners with great fanfare and honored the poor as if they were kings.  He called the first last and the last first. 

Let's face it.  The Lord shocked the hell out of this world.

Now if we truly believe in the Lord: listen to Him, take His advice, imitate Him and constantly allow ourselves to be challenged by Him, then I am convinced that we will get the best out of life. 

Who writes your story?  Who deserves your life?  Who deserves to write it down?  You or the Lord?  If it is the Lord, then be prepared to be constantly surprised and humbled.  Be prepared for a shocking yet happy ending. 

The Roman centurion did not consider himself worthy of the Lord's presence, so he sent in his place a delegation of Jews.  When they returned to him, the Roman was shocked to hear what the Master had told them: "Not even in Israel have I found such faith."  The delegation was surprised to learn that the servant was completely healed.

Every time we sin, we take the pen and plan out of the Lord's hands and write our own story.  This story will most certainly end in fear and in tears.  In loneliness.  But when we allow the Lord to write our story, by following His commands, His example and His life, then we know it will always end in shock and wonder.  Together.

...and they lived happily ever after.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

John 3:13-17 Lift High Your Children!

Feast of the Exultation of the Cross
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to Nicodemus:  ..."For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

We do enough condemning in our lifetime.  Now imagine what we would be like if we could see the private lives of others?  What would happen to us and to them?  What would we think of our closest friends, family members and colleagues?  Would we be shocked and confused or understanding and compassionate?  I dread to think of this.

But for this reason alone, the Lord's words take on extra meaning:  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life."

Jesus knows me.  He knows everything about me.  He knows my thoughts day in and day out.  He knows my words, even the one's I say under my breath.  He knows all my actions:  alone and in the company of others.

And still, He can say with all sincerity:  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."

How can God have so much patience for us?  Isn't He sick and tired of us by now?  Apparently not.

What has always come easy to God no longer comes easy to us.  That's why we need His grace and virtues like faith, hope and love.  

In a very good way God is full of himself, he doesn't need any faith, hope or (our) love.  Unfortunately, we are full of ourselves too, and that's why we need plenty of faith, hope and (His) love.

Christ wants us to empty ourselves from ourselves, and fill our hearts and minds up with Him.  This constitutes Christ's plan for saving the world.  In other words, by saving the world for ourselves the Lord planned on saving it from ourselves!

Be patient.  The virtues allow us to be much more patient with ourselves and with others. Is there any wonder why our patience runs so thin?  This is nothing knew to God.  He is used to us by now.  Is this not the story of our lives?  In fact, is this not the story of the Chosen People: "With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses..." (Num. 21:4b)?

If you noticed, the Jews took their frustrations out on the two people who loved them the most:  God and Moses.  Children often take out their frustration on the people who love them the most:  mom and dad.  Can you see some divine comedy in all of this?

So what must we do?  Exactly what He did!  Empty yourself, pick up your cross [son and daughter], and follow Him.  The Lord has allowed all parents to undergo the same treatment He undergoes on a daily basis.   It's only fair, for all fathers and mothers receive their names from God the Father and Mother.  It is a blessing, even if it is in disguise.

Today is the feast of the exultation of the Holy Cross.  May God's grace plus human virtues form a Holy alliance that helps deliver us from all evils. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lk 15:1-32 Calling All Sinners And Counting on All Saints

Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

I find it most interesting how the most religious people of the day, the Pharisees and scribes, were pushing back on the most religious figure ever.  I find it intellectually stimulating how those who followed God most closely were pushing back on, well, the Most High, Jesus Christ?

A few weeks back I wrote a meditation entitled Love and Order (August 26th, 2013).  In it, I answered some questions regarding homosexuals and homosexuality.  Someone (I believe a non-believer), was pushing me and other commentators to say that homosexuality was a sin.  I'm glad to say that no one went for it. 

Homosexuality is a disorder, one of many disorders, and those who suffer from this disorder deserve all our love, attention, understanding and compassion.

This morning I read an article from the Huffington Post.  I think it was a God sent.  It came at the perfect time.  Apparently, a priest in India allegedly called homosexuality a "grave sin" during his homily.  A parishioner, who heard the sermon and is also a member of the LGBT group Queer Azaadi Mumbai (AZM), notified the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who then wrote a moving letter to AZM. 

He wrote:  "Going by the data in the letter, some of what the priest said is alright and some part is inappropriate. The Church does not accept gay marriage because the Bible teaches us that God willed marriage to be between man and woman. On the other hand, to say that those with other sexual orientations are sinners is wrong. I do think we must be sensitive in our homilies [sermons] and how we speak in public and I will so advise our priests."

He went on to say that he would advise all his priests to be more sensitive when talking about gay issues.

The Lord reached out to all types of people:  tax collectors, sinners, lepers, Romans, Syrophoenicians, women and children. Today, the Church reaches out to even more people: atheists, agnostics, abortionists, dictators, communists, democrats and republicans.

A while back, I wrote about a miracle attributed to the prayers and intercession of Blessed John Paul II.  A friend of mine, an atheist, asked me if I believed in miracles attributed to gods other than Jesus Christ, or if I thought these miracles were simply a fraud or a hoax. 

What a great question.  Unfortunately, when Christians are faced with such a question they often feel obliged to answer it by compromising their own beliefs: "Well, we believe in our God and they have their god.  What makes us think our God is any better than theirs?"

But there exists some other possibilities that allow us to acknowledge these miracles without having to compromise our beliefs in the One True God.  Wasn't it Jesus who said:  "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful"  (Lk 6:35-36).

and again,

"To show that you are the children of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike]" (Mt. 5:45).

In other words, our God boasts that He lets his blessings rain on sinners and saints, believers and non-believers, the good and the bad.  He loves us all, even if He doesn't agree with us at all.

This makes perfect sense.  Think about it. Would you help someone who didn't believe in you?  Would you help them if they didn't have any hope in you?  Would you help them if they didn't trust in you?  Of course you would.  I hope you would!

Now if we are willing to be so magnanimous, then why wouldn't God?  After all, weren't we created in His image and likeness? 

It makes perfect sense to me that God would help even those who did not know Him, believe in Him, hope in Him or even trust Him.

The Good News of our faith is that Christ is calling on all sinners to join Him.  The Bad News is that He cannot count on all His Saints.  

The reality of sin means the Lord cannot always count on all His people to change their lives and share His life, His love and His forgiveness with others.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Luke 6:39-42 Confession Time

Friday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

(Click here for readings)

Jesus told his disciples a parable:  "Can a blind person guide a blind person?  Will not both fall into a pit?  No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?"

It's not uncommon practice for Catholic parishes to ask priests from nearby parishes to help out with their confessions and Masses.  

Confession time.  A few years back, I was asked to celebrate a weekday Mass at a parish nearby downtown Dallas.  It turns out their priest had a family emergency and he needed someone to fill in for him.  I agreed to help and immediately got into my car.  When I arrived, just in the nick of time, I was struck at how few people were in attendance.  There were only 16 people sitting in the pews.

I couldn't believe it.  I guess I'm spoiled.  I'm used to seeing at least two hundred people at daily Mass.  I kept wondering why so few people were there.  And then I understood.

When the time came for the readings, I saw an elderly man see-saw his way out of his seat, struggle to get up the stairs and, favoring one hip, as he limp his way towards the podium.  His physical appearance was even less flattering.  His clothes were old, his hair was a matted to his head and his pants were jacked up well above his waist.  I thought to myself, "Oh my goodness!  No wonder why so few people come to Mass here.  They need to get someone young, vibrant and elegant up here to read.  That's how it's done.  This is depressing!"   

Unfortunately, this poor creature reminded me of Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

After Mass, I went straight back to the sacristy to change.  To my surprise I saw this same man waiting outside for me.  He asked if he could have one minute of my time.  I was surprised.  At first I felt convicted.  Out of all the people who wanted to speak to me, why him?  For a minute there, I thought he may have heard my thoughts.  But that was impossible, right?

Well, what came out of his mouth was as sweet and sincere as could be.  He spoke to me of how he suffered and struggled, but how his faith was as strong as steel.  He communicated to me how he wished he could offer up more of his life to the Lord and how he could be more like me, a holy man of God.

I nearly broke down in tears. 

I had to guard my eyes and look away, otherwise this holy man would see what a superficial fraud I'd become.

This was a lesson from God.  It was a good lesson for me to learn.  Unfortunately, it seems to be a lesson that must be repeated often before it is finally understood.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?