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, February 28, 2014

Mk 10:1-12 Ugly and Beautiful

Friday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus came into the district of Judea and across the Jordan.  Again crowds gathered around him and, as was his custom, he again taught them.  The Pharisees approached him and asked, "Is it lawful for a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her."

The War On Women.  It began long before last year's Presidential race, and it has branched out to include the unborn, marriage and feminine dignity.  The war on women actually began soon after the fall, when man began to look at a woman in an entirely new and selfish way.  

Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.  But Jesus told them, "Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment.  But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female...equal, yet distinct.  

Christ's words must have created a mini earthquake in the minds of his male listeners, including His disciples.  But in one sentence, the Lord just tipped the balance of power away from men.  Good for Him!

Sacrifice and love.   Selfishness and selflessness look similar from the outside.  There appears to be an imbalance of sorts.   But where selfishness is self-centered and self-serving, selflessness is self-emptying and self-giving.  Another name for selflessness is love, and what makes love possible is sacrifice. 

Love and Sacrifice go hand-in-hand, like Christ on the Cross.  They are nailed together and were meant to stay together until death do us part. 

Love is Sacrifice's skin.  It makes ugly things look beautiful and attractive. 

A few weeks ago I celebrated a funeral Mass for an elderly woman.  She was 89-years-old and was married for over 50 years.  She had six children and 20 grandchildren.  As I read her obituary I wasn't particularly impressed; that is, there was nothing that really caught my attention.  But then I meet her children and grandchildren and was deeply moved.  They were all in tears, visibly shaken and visibly sad.  They loved their mom and grandmother very much.  But why?  What did she do?

Well, for years she worked in dirty places:  fields, factories, etc...  And even though she came home filthy every night, she just shined in the eyes of her children.  From an early age they understood she was doing it all for them.  And when the grandchildren had their sports events, it was grandma who was sitting there: smiling, cheering and clapping.  And the grandchildren just loved it.

What were the Apostles thinking about when they saw Jesus nailed to that cross, or when his torn body came down from the Cross?  What did they think?  "How ugly?"  "How gross?"  "How disturbing?"  No, not at all.  I'm sure they were thinking: "How beautiful!"  "How incredible!  "How inspiring!"  Why???  Because they knew what He was saying as he died on that Cross:  "YOU'RE WORTH IT...You're worth every bit of this pain." 

They understood this because they had spent time with Him.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

MUST HEAR: Interview with Cecile Richards

Jose Ramos, a journalist for Fusion television, isn't the most courageous reporter out there.  He's pretty much another baby face news man.  So when it comes to interviewing people, he asks questions as hard as a third grader throws a ball.  That's why I was pleasantly shocked when he asked Planned Parenthood's President Cecile Richards the big question:  "For you, when does life begin?"

Here is the interview.

Did you hear that???  The beginning of life is "not relevant" in the abortion debate?  Can you believe that?  Why doesn't she want people to know her opinion on when life beings?  Is it because she's so radical it would shock people and frighten them?   Is it because she personally believes it begins at conception but there's too much money at stake?  Is it because she doesn't know and doesn't care?  What's life anyways? 

If you ever wondered why the abortion industry; that is, Planned Parenthood, is losing the battle to win hearts and minds, now you know why:  they have lost their mind!!

P.S.  Send a friendly tweet to someone who is supporting or following Cecile Richards.  Ask them to reconsider and "unfollow" her.

Mk 9:41-50 Get up. Take up. Lift up.

Thursday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward... If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off...And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off...And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  Better for your to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes..."

Cutting things off?  Recently, someone sent in a comment that is worth mentioning again, especially given today's Gospel passage: 

I remember when I was a kid, I read the bible verse: "They will pick up serpents with their hands..." (Mk 16:18).

And then I read: "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell."

Interesting, right?

But then I asked myself: Where did the mass amputations happen? When were the "Blinding Ceremonies" scheduled? What's that? They never happened? So these early Christians didn't do what 
Jesus told them to do?

[Quoting] Scripture does not make anyone a Biblical scholar. It simply makes them a well trained parrot. And like parrots, they do not know what they say.

Did you hear about the pastor who died from a snake bite? Poor fellow. He had two problems: He was an untrained pastor and, apparently, an untrained snake handler.

But that's a lot better than the well-educated medical doctors who [experiment] on human beings or who [today] operate abortion clinics. These individuals [are] highly educated and well trained. No excuses there.

Studying Scripture is not the same as reading scripture.  To seriously study Scripture means to seriously study the science of archeology, ancient languages, hermeneutics, history (ancient cultures) and, of course, the writings of the early Church fathers.  Like the Bible, the meaning of the Constitution is not up for grabs.  In the case of the Constitution, interpretation is based on legal precedent, the intentions of the Founding Fathers and the magisterial decisions of the Supreme Court.  In the case of the Bible, interpretation is based on long standing tradition, the intentions of the authors and the magisterial decisions of the Magisterium.

This commentator made a brilliant point.  Unfortunately, for one unfortunate anonymous reader, this all came as news to them.  How sad when the obvious is not so obvious.

Give up.  Take up.  Lift up.  In today's Gospel passage, the Lord employs shock language often used by the prophets of old, to shake us up; that is, to renounce sin, take up our Cross and carry our neighbors. 

Nearly all pagan religions understood the value of sacrifice.  Unfortunately for them, some of these sacrifices were twisted in the most grotesque and disturbing ways.  Is this so unfamiliar to the scientific community, where some scientists have used their knowledge to invent poison gases, biological weapons, highly efficient extermination camps and U2 rockets?   Now what drove them to make such instruments of torture is just as relevant as the materials used to construct them.  If we don't get to the bottom of our problems, we will never solve them.  And the problem with all our problems start from within; that is, with sin.  Nothing else.

As a nation, we rely too heavily on money, the military (technology) and government to solve our most serious problems.  BIG MISTAKE.  The military makes us strong, but it also makes us a very big target.  The government can protect us, but it can also eavesdrop on us.   

For every action there is a reaction. 

This isn't just true in physics.  It is true in every thought, word and action that comes forth from man. 

"Come now, you rich, weep and wail...Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.  You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter.  You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance" (Jas 5:1-6).

Here is the heartfelt lamentation of a prophet who cries out to the rich to stop their sinful behavior.  Get up, help thy neighbor and carry him to safety.  But again, what should be obvious is not always so obvious. 

In a nation like Israel, full of kings and judges, it was left up to the prophets to see and confront what the elite, the wealthy and the intelligent did not care to see and did not dare to confront. 

Pagans sacrificed others to save themselves.  Christians sacrifice themselves to save others.  What we possess is very important, but it is not as important as the life of another.

Get up.  Take up.  Lift up.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mk 9:30-37 Who Is The Greatest?

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.  He was teaching his disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise."  They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, "What were you arguing about on the way?"

Who is the greatest?  That's what the Apostles were arguing about among themselves on the way to Capernaum.  Apparently, they didn't read the writing on the wall:  If you wish to be great, then start sacrificing.

The writing on the wall still hasn't been read by many, even today.  How can anyone blame them.  I don't blame them.  After all, who would believe it?  

The Son of Man will be handed over to men.  He did it.  For the first time ever the Lord revealed His passion and His Father's Will.  But He did it in a way so only those who followed Him so nearly would know about it.  He planted this "thought capsule" into their ear, allowing it to gradually work its way to the back of their mind and eventually open up, but only at the right time, right place and in the right way.  As for now, they would remain unconscious to its powerful meaning and significance. 

This is the only possible explanation as to how the Twelve could have journeyed so far with the Lord and argued behind his back as to who was the greatest. 

And they will kill him. This King is not like any other king.  He will be arrested like a enemy of the state, scourged like a thief and crucified like a criminal.  He will be vilified by His people and used for political gain by His enemies.  This is no typical King.  He cries at the death of his friend.  He forgives His enemies.  He forgives His friends.  He speaks a language we can all understand, especially when he cried out:  My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?! 

Did the Lord die because He lacked faith?  Did John the Baptist die because He lacked faith?  Did Peter and Paul die because they lacked faith?  "I'm sure the only problem was they didn't have enough faith." 

How funny!  How silly!  How very typical.  Those who enjoy pointing fingers at others usually end up pointing them at the wrong people!  Instead of blaming the perpetrators, they end up blaming the innocent. 

If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.  Sacrifice plays a significant role in Christ's calling.  His dying for our sins was His fundamental reason for living with us.  And the Lord died a thousand deaths.  Christ spent his entire ministry teaching people how to love.  He ended it by setting an enduring example for years to come, and for all those who would come after him.      

"You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.…" (Jn 13:13-15).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Mk 9:14-29 Faith and Prayer

Monday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Someone from the crowd answered Jesus, "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."  He said to them in reply, "O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?"

I asked your disciples, but they were unable to help.   Leave it to the Lord to help.  In fact, as soon as He saw the poor fellow, He showed pity on him and immediately healed him.  The scene must have been awesome. The disciples must have been a little dumbstruck.  But just like the disciples, I too am curious why they were unable to help.  Weren't they Christ's closest followers?  Didn't they have his blessing?  I think the Lord's answer must have surprised them.  It is what I least expected.  I thought He would have said:  "Well, you're not God.  I am." or "This was just too big for you."  or "You aren't holy enough.  Keep working on it."  No.  Instead, the Lord said to his disciples:  "This kind can only come out through prayer."

Only through prayer.   There are those who claim that "Nothing fails like prayer."  The Lord had a different opinion: This kind [of unclean spirit] can only come out through prayer.  Obviously, not all prayers and prayer-ers are alike.  If so, then it would have been foolish of the Lord to attribute any type of power to prayer, especially physical healing!  Not only that, but it would have been foolhardy of Him to say "Ask and you shall receive.  Seek and you shall find.  Knock and the door shall be opened," especially if prayer led to a dead end.  As for me, I have no doubts what-so-ever:  prayer works.  I just need to have faith in it.  

Faith and prayer.   There is a tight relationship between faith and prayer.  The more faith I have, the more likely I will pray.  The less faith I have, the less likely I will pray.  This is a sort of Catch-22.  I need faith to pray and I need to pray to have faith.

Contrary to secular notions, prayer is not magic:  Hey, just say the words and voilà!  No!  Not at all!  "Prayer is an aspiration of the heart.  It is a simple glance directed to Heaven.  It is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy.  Finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus" (St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul).

Words do not make a prayer, even the words of the Our Father taught to us by our Lord himself.  What constitutes a prayer is the presence of God

Prayer is essential.  No man became a saint without praying.  We all need to pray; that is, to grow in our relationship with the Lord.  "He must increase; I must decrease" must be the model and center of all our prayers.  Did the Lord hear John the Baptist's prayers?  You bet!  Even when he was thrown in jail?  You bet.  Even when he was about to be beheaded? You bet.  Did the Father hear the prayers of His Son?  Yes.  Even when he was about to be betrayed?  Yes.  Even when he was arrested, tortured and crucified?  Yes.

St. Teresa of Avila:  Let noting disturb you.  Let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing away:  God never changes.  Patience obtains all things.  Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mt 5:38-48 Changing the World To Good

Sunday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well...You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good..."

Christ's words must have shocked his audience; an audience very much accustomed to abuse, injustice and neglect by the rich, the powerful and the intelligentsia.  Hatred was their only escape from their miserable condition, and now the Lord was closing this door to them: You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  The crowd was confused.

Of course this flies smack in the face of the wise of this world.  As St. Paul tells the small community of believers in Corinth:  "Let no one deceive himself.  If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God" (1Cor 3:16-23).  Now the crowd was really confused!  I'm suppose to become a fool?

I know of no human community that has implemented Christ's teachings in a more successful manner than the Christian community.  In days gone by, the Church sent hundreds of fearless unarmed missionaries to barbarian lands (today known as Norway, Denmark, Ireland, England, Germany, etc..) only to have them return to Rome in small packages, one body part at a time.  How did the Church respond?  By sending more and more missionaries until finally the rulers of these lands succumbed to the wisdom, beauty, innocence and love of Jesus Christ.

Of course there were times when our missionaries failed to turn the other cheek; that is, when they lived just like those around them.  But I know of no religious group that conquered a warrior people by willingly laying down their lives for them.  O, the power of love!  "Love does not conquer the same way power conquers, but wins precisely because it does not resort to power." - Fr. Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

"Love your enemies", the Lord said with a straight face, "and pray for those who persecute you."  Easier said than done, right?

But here lies the true beauty and essence of our God, of Christ and of the Christian faith.  Love is all about the giving of oneself to another, even an undeserving other.  The Lord said, "Be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?" 

As His message got more confusing to our sensibilities, the Lord's audience kept growing larger and larger.  Yes, humanly speaking, we would prefer not to be given such unimaginable, even unreasonable, requests; and yet, we all love a good challenge.  The Lord's message has caught our imagination and ear.  "Whoever has ears ought to hear."  

It is precisely this unique challenge, what we so easily call 'Christian love,' that has conquered nearly a third of the world's hearts and imagination.  And only for a lack of trying has it not conquered the entire world.

Love your enemies.  The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them:  ...You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart" (Lev. 19:1,17).  Interesting.

Who are your enemies? 

I think there are three types of enemies:  imaginary, convenient and real. 

Imaginary enemies:  Teens often see their parents as enemies.  This is pure nonsense.  Parents are people who love their children immensely.  Unfortunately, selfishness can skew our perception of  people, especially the people who love us the most.  So kids tend to whine and cry for the silliest of reasons.  For example.

Mom/Dad:  "Do your homework?"  Teen:  "Why are you bothering me so much!  Why do you hate me!  Why are you sending me to this private Catholic School that costs $15,000 a year and takes away my evenings for Xbox?  Why are you treating me so badly!" 

Mom/Dad:  "Eat your vegetables."  Child:  "Why are you torturing me!!!"

Convenient enemies.  Convenient enemies are individuals who are soft or easy targets, like little brothers and sisters.  My friends can do no wrong, but my little brother or sister can do nothing right!  If a friend breaks my toy then it is okay.  If my little brother or sister breaks it then it is the end of the world, and I let them know it!

St. John wrote in his first letter:  "Whoever claims to love God yet hates his brother is a liar.  For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen" (1Jn 4:20).

Real enemies.   Most of our enemies are not real enemies, but to think we have none would make us a little naïve.  Real enemies are individuals who hold grudges against us, wish to do us harm or look for opportunities to take revenge upon us.  As you can tell, most enemies believe they are victims and these are the people the Lord speaks of when he speaks of enemies. 

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  This is easy to say.  It's another thing to do it.  The Lord did both.  

Christ is inviting His followers to follow Him and to pick up their cross (their enemy) and carry it (them).  This is confusing.  It's shocking!  But what makes it most shocking is how well it works, and how it changes the good.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mt 16:13-19 Pope-to-Pope

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples, "But who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church..."

There's been a lot of good things said about Pope Francis.  There's been a lot of bad things said about Benedict XVI.  But, as Victor Hugo once wrote in his famous novel, Les Miserables: "Little by little in the lapse of time all opposition ceases.  At first there had been, as always happens with those who rise by their own efforts, slanders and calumnies.  Soon it was reduced to satire.  Then only to wit.  Then it vanished entirely.  Respect becomes complete, unanimous, and cordial."  

Hell is freezing over with regards to His Holiness Benedict XVI.  Yes, the fires of hell have been raging uncontrollably for the last eight years with regards to Benedict's papacy.  Although his harshest critics will continue to be unjust to him, today most fair and balanced reporters will acknowledge that Pope Benedict is truly a man of his word.  No longer are there any doubts of him remaining "hidden to the world."  The concerns regarding Benedict's residence at the Vatican and the hysterical voices predicting fractions, frictions or divisions among members of the Roman Curia have nearly all disappeared. 

In fact, on the one year anniversary of Benedict's resignation, Pope Francis tweeted a beautiful message of solidarity with his predecessor:  Today I ask you to join me in prayer for His Holiness Benedict XVI, a man of great courage and humility.” 

Wow!  Now if only a President of the United States could be so gracious to his predecessor, or maybe they have to wait until they're dead.

It takes a lot of humility to resign, especially when you're at the very top and no one is really urging you to do it, except God.  Let's not forget, Benedict resigned after much time in reflection and prayer. 

As reported in many newspapers this morning, Pope Francis invited Benedict to come out of his cloistered monastery and witness the induction of nineteen new Cardinals.  Out of obedience, His Holiness agreed.  

Benedict, 86, who was using a cane, came in through a side entrance and sat quietly wearing a long white overcoat in the front row with cardinals. When he reached the front of the basilica to start the ceremony, Pope Francis greeted Benedict, who took off his white skull cap in a sign of respect and obedience.

Even though the crowd had been asked to refrain from applause during the ceremony, they clapped when Benedict walked in and again when his name was mentioned in an address by one of the new cardinals.

Someone once wrote that the Vatican was built upon the ashes of the Roman Empire.  They do not know their history.  It was built on the bones of St. Peter.  "I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.  Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

Let us keep in our prayers this day His Holiness Benedict XVI and our Holy Father Pope Francis.  Viva il Papa!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Mk 8:34-9:1 Is Anyone Beeping?

Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it.

A little story.  At first I thought some highway construction workers had started a bonfire.  But as I approached the exit ramp, I saw that it was a car going up in flames.  The sight of it shocked me.  I was concerned that someone may have been in the car.  The car in front of me slowed down and stopped.  As I slowed down, the driver behind me began to beep at me.  I ignored them.  Cautiously, I tried to get to the side of the road, but there was no shoulder I could hug.  The driver behind me kept beeping at me.  I knew they wanted to get past me but how could I leave this scene?  I looked in my rearview mirror and noticed the young driver pointing at me to get out of their way.  I tried, but there just wasn't enough room on the road.  When I saw the driver in front of me take out their cell phone and call, I assumed they were calling the police.  At that moment, I decided to leave the scene.  But I left mad.  I couldn't believe the driver behind me. 

So once we got on the open road, I slowed down and allowed the other driver to pass by me.  As they approached, I looked over to my left and the driver gave me the middle finger.  I turned on the light inside my car and let them see I was wearing a collar.  The driver's jaw dropped.

Who Is My Cross?  Well lo and behold, this morning I read the headline to an amazing story in the NY Daily News: "Miracle in Miami." 

Traffic on busy Dolphin Expressway (Miami, Florida) came to a complete standstill around 2:30 p.m. when Pamela Rauseo got out of her car and began screaming for help.  Her 5-month-old nephew, Sebastian, had stopped breathing.  Lucila Godoy, of Miami, left her 3-year-old son in her car to help Rauseo perform CPR.  Miami Herald photographer Al Diaz stopped right behind Rauseo and jumped out of his car.  He jogged through traffic lanes to summon more help and found Sweetwater police Officer Amauris Bastidas, who ran to the scene and took over CPR from Godoy.  Capt. Anthony Trim and Lt. Alvaro Tonanez with the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's hazardous materials unit - also stuck in traffic - jumped out of their separate cars and ran to help.  By the time they got to the scene the baby was breathing - but barely.  Miami Fire Rescue arrived moments later and rushed the child to Jackson Memorial Hospital's pediatric unit.  The baby is in stable condition.

Jesus said, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the Gospel will save it."

The cross is not so much a question of "what" but of "who:"  Who is my cross?  Who am I to carry?  According to Christ's life, it is our neighbors and our enemies.  

The Lord has called all Christians to carry the burden of their neighbor's pains and worries; to forget for a moment themselves and their things, and focus on someone else and their needs. 

I'm so glad Pamela Rauseo stopped her car in the middle of traffic.  I'm so glad people were listening.  But I do wonder:  Was anyone beeping?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Mk 8:22-26 Seeing Things Properly

Sixth Wednesday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

When Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.  Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, "Do you see anything?"  Looking up the man replied, "I see people looking like trees and walking."

How do you see things?  The blind man could finally see, but not very clearly. 

I know a lot of people like that.  They can see physical things, but have a hard time interpreting them well. 

Today, I present a few things that we all see, but not necessarily understand.

Small does not mean insignificant.  A few days ago I spoke to a group of high school students from Garland, Texas.  It wasn't a big group, less than one hundred students, but they do represent many of the Christian denominations across the county.

I mentioned to them something I saw on the Internet:  a picture of earth from Mars.  Yep.  That's right.  Pretty cool.

On January 31, 2014 the unmanned rover Curiosity took a picture of earth from Mars.  It was a first; the first time a picture had been taken of earth from another planet.  Nearly 99 million miles away, the earth appears like a little star.  The moon, directly below the earth, is barely noticeable on the high resolution digital image.  Yet it is still a beautiful picture, and it is an amazing accomplishment.  I consider it the most beautiful picture ever taken of earth.  Why?  Because our planet appears tiny and insignificant from a distance, and yet, we know how significant it truly is. 

I thought a lot about this.  It's so easy to think of earth as being insignificant.  But it isn't.  Life is significant, regardless of how brief or tiny it may appear to be.  And as far as we know, it remains the only planet with any form of life on it.

This got me thinking.  I asked the student if they knew how many kids attended their high school.  "Over three thousand!" they replied.  "If that is the case," I said, "then it means you represent less than 3% of your school. Well, don't let your hearts be troubled.  Regardless of the math, you are the soul of your school. You may be tiny in numbers, but you are not at all insignificant.  Make your presence felt.  Be a force for good.  Help others to get to know Jesus Christ."

When Heaven Freezes Over.  A few weeks ago, I went to see the movie Frozen.  I loved it.  Probably Disney's most "Christian" movie in decades.  Love is presented in its finest and purest form:  There is no greater love than to lay down your life for another - even if the "other" is not very nice to you. 

Spoiler Alert!  Do not read on if you have not seen the movie.
Sacrifice and love go hand-in-hand, just like siblings.  They may not always appreciate the other, but they definitely need one another. 

This movie isn't your typical fairy-tale.  The ending comes as a huge surprise to all.  After all, it wasn't "Prince Charming" that came to Elsa's rescue (that's a shocker!), nor was it the handsome helper, Kristoff, (that's a stunner!).  Instead, it was the love between two sisters that melted the ice surrounding their lives and kingdom.  I have never seen a movie that portrayed sibling love as well as this movie.  Have you?    

Only pure love can bring someone back to life.  Only pure love can resurrect the dead. 

The media is constantly bombarding young girls that friends are very, very, VERY important.  We should include boyfriends as well.  Finally, we have an honest-to-God message of just how important siblings are; that is, how important a family really is.

It's about time they saw things properly.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mk 8:14-21 Boasting In The Cross

Tuesday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.  Jesus enjoined them, "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."  They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread.  When he became aware of this he said to them, "...Do you not yet understand or comprehend?  Are your hearts hardened?"

Do you not yet understand?  I hate to say this, but I'm not sure I would have understood the Lord either.  What exactly was He trying to tell His Apostles when He said: "Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."?  Leaven...  Hmmm.  I think I got it.  We must be careful of all those things that make our heads swell up, like power and money, but more specifically: pride, vanity and sensuality. 

Pride does to the body what leaven does to bread.  It swells things up, like our minds.  It releases an sweet odor of superiority.  It makes it all sound so believable.  Isn't this what happened to the Pharisees and scribes?  

Vanity makes us worry far too much about what others think of us.  This is what happened to Herod.  This is why He took John the Baptist's life.  This is why we took Christ's life.

Sensuality takes human comforts and turns them into gods.  The Pharisees and Herod lived comfortable lives.  They were not about to let anyone take it away.

We must be on our guard against the leaven of pride, vanity and sensuality.  It can consume us before we even notice it.

Temptations.  "Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that [the Lord] promised to those who love him." 

Although temptations can be God awful things, they can actually serve a useful purpose in God's ultimate plan.  

Look on the bright side.  Temptations are not all bad, really!  They allow us to get a good glimpse of what we truly desire.  After all, temptations are only temptations if they have a place in our hearts and minds; that is, if we secretly desire them. Shhh.   

So temptations not only allow us to know ourselves better, but they can also act like early warning signs.  They can give us a heads up on dangers that are off to a distance or are fast approaching. 

Watch out, guard yourselves!

Finally, temptations tend to force us to grow up faster; that is, help us to grow a little stronger, wiser and less prideful.  We shouldn't be boasting about anything just yet.  Like St. Paul writes, "May I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14).  Amen to that, brother!  Amen to that!

"Be my protector, O God, a mighty stronghold to save me.  For you are my rock, my stronghold!  Lead me, guide me, for the sake of your name" (Entrance Antiphon, Sixth Tuesday in Ordinary Time).

Related Article:  Here is the amazing story of another Planned Parenthood nurse walking away from evil.  [warning:  graphic descriptions]

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mk 8:11-13 For Heaven's Sake

Monday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign?..."

They came forward and began to argue.  What a day!  It started off with a couple I met this morning.  After Mass, they told me they loved my homilies because they were not as "spiritual" or "holy" as Fr. Paul's, but much more down to earth.  I don't know how long it took for my smile to turn into a frown, but I'm sure it didn't take long.  Oh, well.  I took it as a compliment.

Then in the afternoon I saw a young man I had counseled a while back, he ran up to me and told me, "Father, do you remember me?  We spoke a while ago.  I had lots of doubts about God and Catholicism and I just wanted to let you know I'm doing much better now.  I've come back to the Church."   

"That's great!", I said.  "I can't remember what I told you but I'm glad it all worked out." 

"Well, it wasn't necessarily anything you said.  The points you made weren't the greatest, but it got me thinking and praying again."

Oh well, I don't know how long it took for my smile to turn into a frown.  I just took it as another compliment.

Now there is something important I failed to mention in the above cases:  all the individuals that came up to me wanted to argue with me, at least at the very beginning.  They came up to me all defensive, angry or nervous.  Thankfully, everything turned out just great.  But we know this isn't always the case. 

Some people love to argue just for the sake of arguing.  They simply want to be right and are not interested at all in getting to the bottom (truth) of the matter. Therefore, they have a hard time admitting their mistakes, even the most innocent of mistakes, and what would be obvious to all is never obvious for them.  Take for example, the parable of the two debtors (Lk 7:40-43):

A 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. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred days’ wages and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?” Simon said in reply, “The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.” He said to him, “You have judged rightly.”   

Did you catch the moment when Simon's pride kicked in?  It was when he said to the Lord, "I suppose." 

This tiny interjection is just pure and simple full-blown, overflowing, over-the-top PRIDE.  If Christ didn't roll his eyes at that very moment, then He truly is the Son of God! 

Now if you sometimes feel snubbed or slighted by others, then imagine what the Lord must feel all the time?  He deserves all our respect, all our attention, all our affection.  "Be kind to me, Lord, and I shall live" (Ps. 119:77a).

But just like a good parent, the Lord could care less if He doesn't get any credit from His children. What's most important to Him is their success, not fame. 

Today, I realized something important. I don't need to get credit for anything.  If people can get something out of my homilies or conversations, then great!  If they want to take credit for them, great!  All the better.  Their success if my success, which, in reality, is always God's success.  

God is like our sun.  We may not think about Him often, but we sure would notice if He suddenly went missing. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mt 5:17-37 Plan A and Plan B

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

Jesus said to his disciples:  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.  Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.  Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven."

Kristina Carlota, a senior at the University of the Philippines, has written an article for the Huffington Post entitled:  "Pope Francis Restored My Faith In The Catholic Church."

Why?  Because in her estimation, Pope Francis does not judge anyone or anything.  She writes:  "We are fortunate to now have a leader in the open-minded Pope Francis, who has said, "Who am I to judge?" And yes, who are we to judge?"

Of course she goes on to judge the Catholic Church, especially in her teachings and in her most prominent members. 

Although Kristina went to Catholic School for most of her young life, she apparently failed to comprehend the most rudimentary teachings of the Catholic faith:  sin, sinners, forgiveness of sins and the Lord's Commandments. 

She thinks it is wrong to judge others harshly.  It is.  But is it wrong to judge their words and actions?  Would she turn a blind eye at a young man snatching an elderly woman's purse?  Who am I to judge?  Or a mother beating her son?  Who am I to judge?  Or an 11-year-old cussing out his mother? Who am I to judge?  Or a CEO's billion dollar paycheck?  Who am I to judge?  Or a woman who aborts her child because it is a girl?  Who am I to judge?  Or a government that legalizes euthanasia for the mentally ill?  Who am I to judge?

These may be soft cases.  But would Kristina be so open-minded as to not judge any of them?  Of course not!

There is nothing wrong with judging.  Judges do it all the time. Jurors do it all the time.  Teachers do it all the time (especially while grading exams).  And aren't we always being asked by others to judge others?  Aren't people being asked to judge Chris Christie, and whether or not he is telling the truth or lying?  Aren't Olympians being judged, right now, as we speak?  Aren't the Russian people being judged for their views on gay marriage? 

So maybe I've misunderstood.  Maybe there is nothing wrong with judging...unless you're a Catholic, of course, and are judging the hot-button issues.   

Oh, how we love to judge others!

Let's make something clear.  It isn't wrong to judge.  We do it all the time.  But what is wrong is to take our judgment and not lift a finger (unless it is the middle finger) and help - not hurt - others.  That is what is wrong with us, not with the Church.       

When we judge someone's actions, especially their sinful actions, our next step should be to reach out to them, which is precisely what Christ did.  "How can I help you?" should be the first thing out of our mouths.

This is the beauty of the Catholic Church.  It is a Church of sinners, by sinners and for sinners.  It is holy only because Christ is holy.

Kristina goes on to say:  "In the Philippines, those who engage in premarital sex or who are in same-sex relationships are labeled "immoral." Unmarried women who are no longer virgins are labeled "sluts." If you choose not to follow what the church dictates, then you become a villain who can never live happily ever after.

Really?  I would like to know in what Church document Kristina has found the word "slut?"  But I do know (and have been told) where she can find it, and find it on a regular, almost daily, basis:  at work, in secular workplace conversations, among teens, in their music, at their high schools and on college campuses, in chat rooms, in bars, at strip joints, and most of all, in a trillion dollar business commonly known as the pornographic industry.  These are the places where she will find it and find it BIG.  It won't be in churches, chapels or even in the confessionals.  BELIEVE ME!

In my twenty years as a religious, I have only used this vulgar word once:  in a homily, and I used it to describe men who use women.  I received a standing ovation from my all-female congregation.  Why did I use it?  Because a man will often be called a "stud" for the same thing a woman is called...well, you know what.  Was I wrong? "Who am I to judge???" 

When the Holy Father, Pope Francis, spoke these words ("Who am I to judge?"), he was referring to a gay priest seeking forgiveness.  When he said, "Who am I to judge?"  He was effectively saying, "Who am I to withhold God's mercy and forgiveness!" 

"Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!" (Ps. 119:1b).  There is nothing at all to fear in this, for we know a huge portion of Christ's law is comprised of forgiveness and compassion.  Love conquers all things, including sin and death.

Finally, Kristina mentions she began to doubt her Catholic faith when she entered a secular university.  What I believe happened is her faith got twisted while she was there.   "Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth; you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom."  

The Commandments are God's "Plan A" of love.  Forgiveness is His "Plan B."  Every parent would love to see their children avoid the same mistakes they made growing up.  The Lord's Commandments are a great prescription for healthy living.   But when we fail to take our medicine, then, like God the Father, every parent must resort to "Plan B" and reach out, hug their children, and let them know all can be forgiven.

P.S.  Here's a beautiful post written today by a beautiful young lady who gets Church and God, sin and love, forgiveness and compassion. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mk 8:1-10 Happy Valentine's Day!

A Day of Romance

Last night I gave a talk to over 80 married couples at Christ the King parish in Dallas, Texas. Here is my talk.

First of all, I would like to thank all the husbands this evening for dragging their wives to this talk on Valentine's Day. [laughter.]

Well, in order to prepare for this talk, I researched extensively on what others have said about love and marriage.  I found on the Internet [laughter.] an article entitled:  "Five Reasons Why People Should Get Married."   The first reason just blew me away:  "To spend the rest of your life with the person you love."  Oh, boy.  That's not a very good reason at all.  We all know what happens when we spend more time with someone.  We end up hating them!  [laughter.]  It's true!  The more you know someone, the less patient, compassionate, understanding and loving you are to them. [laughter and some nodding.]

The second reason why people should get married is supposedly for "Financial Stability." 


So the first reason to get married is to follow your heart.  The second is to follow their wallet. 

Oh my, I really don't like these reasons at all. 

I think the first and best and only reason why anyone should ever get married is to follow the Lord.  I think that sums it up much better.   

To follow the Lord means (1) never a dull moment; (2) getting the best out of life; (3) never growing old.  Three in one!, just like God.

Go with God.  Marriage, like life and love, is a paradox; that is, a truth standing on its head in order to get our attention.  Marriage was never meant to be boring.  How could it be?  It's a huge challenge.  And challenges are never boring.

What makes marriage so great is what makes it so difficult:  the vows, the commitment, the trust, the challenges. 

Nobody likes a challenge.  And we try very hard to avoid them in life.  But challenges help us to grow and mature, and they allow us to get the most, the best, out of our life.  Taking marriage vows means embracing some of life's greatest challenges:  "For better, for worse.  In sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life."  Wow!  This is a challenge worth taking.  It means never a dull moment.  Life's circumstances would never permit it.  It means constant growth, personal growth.

It is common knowledge that opposites attract.  But what is not very well known is how his strengths are her weaknesses and her strengths are his weaknesses.  Once this becomes common knowledge, among the couple, then love is released to grow.  Of course, this also means accepting the challenge of acknowledging one's imperfections.  Nobody likes to do this, but once we do...WATCH OUT!  There's no stopping you now. 

You're only going to grow.

Marriage allows us to get the best out of life.  It never gets old.  It's constantly changing and challenging us. 

When you first started off, you were boyfriend and girlfriend.  Then marriage took you to the next level:  husband and wife.  Then, it brought you to father and mother.  Finally, it gave you grandchildren, and you became grandpa and grandma.  What else is there to life?  What else could be more meaningful, more lovable, more loving, amazing, exciting, enriching and rewarding then that?  Our career?   Hahahahahahaha!!!  Don't worry.  The day after you retire, resign or die, your boss will have a replacement.  Life goes on, with or without you.

But through it all; that is, marriage, you never lose anything.  You simply continue gaining more and more.  You never stop being a husband or wife, father or mother, grandpa or grandma.  

You should also never stop being a boyfriend or girlfriend.  

I can only think of one negative to getting married, and that is taking your spouse for granted.  That is a big danger, for it takes the paradox out of marriage.

The paradox of marriage.   As I mentioned before, like life and love, marriage is a paradox.  What makes marriage so great is what makes it so difficult:  the vows, the challenges and the crosses (i.e. children) we carry throughout our lives.  Relationships would be so much easier without commitments, but it would also be less exciting, enriching and rewarding.  For example, life would be so much easier without children (Think of all the cars you could buy and all the trips you could take with the money you spent on private Catholic education!), and yet children bring a lot of excitement, adventure and fulfillment to life and marriage.

We just need to remember this.  We can't take them for granted.  But what we should never take for granted are our spouses.  And far too often we do.

Marriage should never be boring.  Holiness should never be boring.  It should be all very exciting.  We should all be holy and exciting; fashionable and doctrinal; wild and moral; playful and respectful; funny and faithful; crazy and obedient.  This is what all the saints are.  This is what all spouses should be. 

Like life, marriage comes from God, and nothing from God is boring, not even a sunrise or sunset.

P.S.  Pope Francis talks language of love with couples on Valentine's Day.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mk 7:31-37 Christianity For Sinners

Friday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

People brought to Jesus a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.  He took him off by himself away from the crowd.  He put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue...

He took him off by himself.  Christ put his finger into the man's ears and, spitting, touched his tongue.  Gross!  I can see why the Lord took him off by himself away from his friends.  He may have been concerned about his safety.  I know I would not have handled the spitting part well at all.  And if I had been the deaf man, I would have been fuming!  Wait a minute!  What are you doing to me?  Why are you doing this?  Stop right now!

This man must have had tremendous faith and unconditional trust in Jesus.  That's my only explanation why he didn't sock it to Jesus in the face. 

But his case sounds awfully similar to the Syrophoenician's; and like her, and to make matters even more complicated, was not a Jew (since the Lord had entered into the district of the Decapolis).

It is obvious the Lord is exacting great faith from those who already have it.  They all acted like a "Christian" without ever having met a "Christian." How interesting.

Christianity for dummies.  I once had a professor whose name was Ronald Francis.  His name was nearly impossible to forget, especially after he told us one day: "Just remember, my first name is like the President.  My last name is like the saint."  It worked.  We never forgot.

We were around 70 students, all freshmen, studying Imaging Science.  Dr. Francis was a tough teacher.  He demanded excellence and was allergic to mediocrity.  When nearly all of us failed our first mid-term exam, he took his place at the front of the classroom and began pacing up and down, saying, "Gentlemen.  Ladies.  Let me tell you something.  Brilliant people don't need to go to college.  They can become very successful without it because they are already brilliant.  Dummies, on the other hand, need to go to college.  And let me tell you: you are all dummies."

He was right.  We were all dummies for not taking our classes more seriously but paying thousands of dollars to attend them!  How stupid could we be?

Well, the same holds true for most sinners.  We need the Sacraments.  We need to go to Church.  We need to study the teachings of Christ.  Otherwise, we would never be as kind or considerate or friendly as the Lord demands us to be.  I will admit:  I could never do it on my own.  I've tried and failed.  The Christian faith is truly for dummies; that is, for sinners. 

The Syrophoenician woman did not need to be catechized.  She didn't have to follow the Lord all day long.  She was a born "natural."  Maybe it was in her genes.  Maybe it was how she was brought up.  Regardless, she was an "anonymous Christian."  So too was the deaf man.  Maybe his illness made him more humble, more patient, more amicable and more trusting and forgiving towards God and neighbor.  Who knows, but God.  And these Scripture passages make it clear that God knew all too well.  

Over and over again, the Lord reaches out to pagans.  He must have known their natural desire for Him and their tremendous faith in Him, and how they would make great role models for His eager but often slow to learn and unremarkably surprising Apostles. 

The sacred writers leave no doubts about it: The Apostles needed to follow the Lord, closely.  They needed to be instructed by Him, directly, for Christ and Christianity didn't come natural to any of them. 

And maybe it doesn't come very natural to us as well.  I can honestly say it doesn't come natural to me at all.

Heavenly Father, open our eyes, ears and tongue to be more like your Son, who was loving at all times and to all people.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mk 7:24-30 How Low Can You Go?

Thursday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

A Syrophoenician by birth, begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.  He said to her, "Let the children be fed first.  For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."  She replied and said to him, "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps."  Then he said to her, "for saying this, you may go.  The demon has gone out of your daughter."

Wow, I am impressed.  She built up enough courage to go see Him.  She had heard marvelous things about Him.  She walked towards Him in fear and trembling and fell down at His feet.  And the Lord treated her like a dog. 

There is no way around it.  These are the facts, and the facts come from Scripture.

Faith tested.  How would you respond to such treatment?  I know a few people who, after many years, still hold a grudge against a priest for something they said or for a penance they gave. 

"Pray all five mysteries of the rosary." 
What???  You gotta be kidding me!  I'm never coming back!"

Jesus said to the woman, "Let the children be fed first.  For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."

"Are you calling me a dog??? How dare you.  You no-good-for-nothing fake!"

I know plenty who would have responded like this (and worse).  I know very few who would have responded like the woman did:  "Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children's scraps." 

She really had faith, deep faith, for she was ready to suffer whatever it took to save her daughter.  Her faith came not from feelings, but from one single fact.  He has saved others.  He can save my daughter. 

The scraps.  Do you sometimes feel like God is giving you the scraps off the floor?  If so, then think again.  He is inviting you to follow Him in a more intimate and personal way:  by example, His example. 

I will be thrashed, beaten and dragged.  I will suffer humiliation at your hands, at the hands of those I love the most.  But I am ready to do whatever it takes just to show you how much I love you. 

Faith produces great cheers among the crowd.  Deep faith produces great conversions among them.  Unfortunately, faith is not so easily spotted.  It must be colored with something in order to appear.  That something is humility, which means "grounded" or "low."   The root word found in humility is also found in another word:  humiliation.  

Like the Syrophoenician, the Lord was grounded in humility and in humiliation. 

While our Lord humbled himself out of love for us, He was also willing to undergo great humiliation out of love for us.  The same holds true for the Syrophoenician.  She was ready to suffer whatever she had to out of love for her daughter. 

To what extent you are willing to love someone?  To the point of being humiliated? This may be its only redeeming quality.

How low can you go?  How far down are you willing to be dragged? 

To be an astronaut, you have to have all the right stuff.  To be a saint is no different. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Mk 7:14-23 Both A Blessing And A Curse

Wednesday of the Fifth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)

From within the man, from his heart, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.

God gave us beautiful hearts, capable of magnifying His love to all we encounter. Through these hearts, we find passion. We create. We love. We live.
But God also gave us free will. Both a blessing and a curse, free will allows us to actualize our heart’s desires. We’re not just robots on some pre-destined, uncontrollable route to the grave. We control the route we take.
Our Father could keep us like puppets on His string, but instead, He trusts us with free will. He allows us to choose whether or not we want to live life beside Him. And when we do, when the will of our hearts is aligned with the will of God, perfect harmony ensues. We’re living the life He wants for us, a life that—although not devoid of tribulation—is rooted in Christ and can overcome any trial.
The discord comes, however, when our hearts stray, when we abuse free will and turn away.  Our paths no longer point to Christ and the evil within our hearts creeps out without Him to combat it. The devil now guides our actions. All the vices and sins this gospel passage speaks about surface. God is left chasing after us trying to pick up the pieces we savagely tear apart and throw in our wake.
It’s important for us to be aware of the evil capacities of our own hearts. It’s the reason we see war, oppression, violence, slavery to sin, death, and more. Men created with a good purpose allow the devil to win the battle for their heart. Their view of God becomes distorted and evil springs forth within them. No one forces it upon them; rather, quite ironically, it is through their very own freedom that they enslave themselves to their sins.
It’s a danger that always follows close behind the path of a Christian. Our sin and our selfishness, the devil within our own hearts, wishes to watch us abuse God’s gift of free will. The devil wants to see us crash and burn.  And the faster we run toward Christ, the harder he tries to trip us up. That’s why being a Christian is never easy.
If you set heaven as your goal, getting there won’t be a walk in the park. Each time you think you’ve finally figured God out, something will come and knock you off your high horse, something that can either cause you to turn to God for comfort or away from Him and toward false, fading comfort.
Within your heart, undoubtedly, evil will creep up. It’s a fact of humanity we can’t deny. It will be tempting to say yes, but it will harm your connection to Christ. And each subsequent denial of your purpose is like cutting another cord that links you to God. So how, then, do we combat it?
How do we keep this connection intact? How, as Christians, can we fight the good fight and resist the evil within us that will undoubtedly attempt to surface?
A relationship with God and a relationship with others are key. There are countless ways to go about this, but I’d like to share with you a method that has worked wonders for my faith community.
Prayer buddies. My youth minister (featured in the Jan. 16 post “The Leper and a Catholic Hater”) proposed this idea a few months ago as a means of making us more comfortable praying. Three people pray three days a week for three intentions. You can meet, call, or text. Since we’re on different schedules, my group texts. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, we send three intentions and all pray for each intention. That’s 9 people prayed for (by three people) in one day. 27 per week. 108 per month!!!! 108. Crazy. Just think of the effect this system could have if any of you reading this gave it a shot, too. (And this is Fr. Alfonse’s blog, so there must be a lot of people reading. Thousands of prayers each month….now THAT is powerful.)
This practice is not only an awesome way to expand the power of prayer, but also a way to stay focused on Christ. Each week since we began, I find myself looking for people in need of prayers. I’m more receptive to others’ needs. And I’m more willing to share my own struggles when sometimes I’m the one in need of prayers.
A mere group text has become, for us, a prayer community. It’s hard to let evil seep in when you’re reminded each day to spot those in need of God’s love.
Combat the evil within your own heart. Pray. Pray for your own strength and the strength of those around you. It will be hard to maintain a close relationship with Christ. It will be hard to keep the evil from surfacing. But with a Savior who never stops loving you and a faith community who recognizes the power of prayer, you’ll find all the strength you need.

Faith is a Senior at Ursuline Academy.  Please visit her website at heavens boulevard.