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!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mt 13.1-9 The Sower in the Modern World

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“A sower went out to sow.
And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path,
and birds came and ate it up.
Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.
It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep,
and when the sun rose it was scorched,
and it withered for lack of roots.
Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.
But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

The parable of sower discourages three qualities in the Christian disciple: pride, vanity, and sensuality.(Fr. Alfonse wrote a great post on these three qualities a few months ago.) The proud person cannot accept anything outside himself; he refuses to accept others’ words because he feels better than others and their words. Nothing can reach his heart; hence, Holy Scripture describes him as “hard hearted.” The vain person accepts all things indiscriminately without the intention of commitment or understanding more deeply. The vain person cares about others’ opinions more than the truth, so he will agree with everything at least superficially to receive others’ praise. The sensual person accepts certain ideas, but these ideas will never grow since vices and addictions will easily crowd them out.

Common sense should easily discourage these qualities in anyone, let alone a Christian. Pride, vanity, and sensuality would hamper any human being fromreaching his or her potential. However, only the outsider can observe this. The person enslaved to their own opinion, others’ opinion, or their own appetites truly believes that fulfillment will come through satisfying their master. The proud person really thinks his stubbornness and ignorance are noble and brave since he has truly asserted hisindividuality and rejected the deluded masses. The vain person earnestly thinks that his popularityreflects a rich and rewarding inner life. The sensual person never doubts that he can refill his happiness with another meal, another fling, or another episode,much like a driver refilling his car with fuel. Help for these poor souls has to come from outside from people who can see the harm. Unfortunately, most people on the outside struggle with the same problems, and they feel unqualified to judge. Furthermore, informing a person of their pride or sensuality only invites and conflict, so most people will not bother.

In this way, common sense degenerates into common senselessness. Modern convention has in fact formalized this senselessness into a program recommended for all modern people. Starting from a young age, children quickly learn to be proud, vain, and sensual. Schools teach it; media endorses it; and governments and businesses thrive off of it. Even churches compromise and adopt the same strategies to “enhance” their message. Obviously, due to their negative connotations no one will support these three qualities as pride, vanity, and sensuality; they simply give these things vaguer less recognizable names: skepticism (for pride), relativism (for vanity), and materialism (for sensuality).

The proud souls of today can rebuff any unfamiliar or unwelcome idea with a hefty sense of doubt. As conventional wisdom dictates: “Science teaches one to doubt”; “Experience teaches one to doubt”; “The only thing in life that is certain is uncertainly, “etc.Originally, adopting this kind of doubt meant questioning things in life in order to better understand them. Socrates doubted, but that did not stop him from seeking answers. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas always used the doubtful position to better develop their philosophical and theological arguments. Descartes doubted, but he used this as the thrust for modern experimentation and inquiry. Recently, doubt has led to the reverse of seeking the answer; doubt now means questioning things in life in order to avoid answers. Stubborn atheists like Bertrand Russell or Stephen Hawking use doubt as a way to mask their pride. Brilliant men like them struggle the most with accepting a truth that renders them human like the rest of the world. They, and many other atheists, think they lose themselves when they admit their status as God’s creation. Sadly, this makes them easy prey for forces of despair, delusion, and cruelty.

Skepticism, of this kind can often morph into relativism, an acceptance of all truths and falsehoods. While intellectuals like David Hume or Christopher Hitchens participate in debates and write books justifying themselves, most normal people would rather take the path of least resistance. They take utterly nondescript phrases and pattern their life around it: “It’s all good”; “There’s no black and white, just shades of grey”; “Everything is relative, or subjective” etc. They use Jesus’ command to “Judge not” and take that as a free pass to accept everything. Unfortunately, in accepting everything, they ironically reject everything.  They see both sides of an issue, so they have no answer. They see the merits of both politicians, so they don’t vote. They believe all religions are true, so they never practice. Underneath this veneer of tolerance, most relativists see onlythemselves as the paragon of goodness and ignore the rest. In not judging anyone, they often judge everyone for being judgmental in some way. As they wallow in indecision and self-admiration, they allow their souls, and whatever truth their souls contained,to stagnate and wither away.

Finally, when the soul has lost all its energy and has effectively emptied, materialism takes over. The only truth that matters becomes the truth that one can hold on one’s hands, not in his mind or heart. Unlike skepticism, which requires a person to actively reject something, and relativism, which requires a person to actively pretend to accept all things, materialism demands nothing but perpetual consumption. Materialists value money over meaning, feeling over thinking, and distraction over direction. Those who succeed in making money buy everything they can to make themselves happy: a big house, fancy toys, and often, an attractive lover or spouse. The vast majoritywho do not succeed in making so much money spend their lives envying those who do. In either case, pleasure soon dissipates into empty addiction, and what once brought pleasure now only brings a momentary relief from pain. Needless to say, these material concerns will easily marginalize the spiritual ones to the point where the soul lacks the sense orthe sensitivity to receive the Word and nourish it.

This leaves Christians in a strange place that exists outside what modern society can account for. Assuming they turn away from the ideologies of the day and towards Jesus, they will show humility, compassion, and piety.  They will accept the Word, share it with others, and open their hearts to God.Nourishing the Word, one can bear the fruit that contains the seeds that can give rise to more plants. Only in this way, this timeless way, can one find true happiness and bring that happiness to others who cannot even recognize it anymore.


  1. "Stubborn atheists like Bertrand Russell or Stephen Hawking use doubt as a way to mask their pride."

    I would say they genuinely doubt -- are you claiming you can read their minds?

    1. Brian/Benedict:

      I have to agree with Benedict on this one. Doubt as a destination in and of itself is borne of two things: pride and fear. Pride, because people, like Hawking, who use doubt as a destination don't doubt themselves. Why? Because they are arrogant. As Benedict opines, "they refuse to believe God can be known because they could never find God themselves; if brilliant intellectuals like them could not find Him, obviously the whole thing must be made up." They have elevated doubt to some disingenuous intellectual virtue. But, like every good math problem, there is an answer, even if we haven't discovered the answer yet or if we are too blind to admit that someone else has.

      Doubt as a destination is also borne from fear, fear of being wrong. It's easier to say you doubt than to actually put yourself out there and take a stance. Why are we so afraid? We have nothing to lose if we believe and we are wrong and everything to gain if we are correct.

  2. Brian! How good to hear from you! I mean that. I'm glad to see you still read this blog from time to time.

    Concerning your comment, allow me to explain what I claim. I claim that doubt, genuine or otherwise, serves as point of departure for human inquiry, not as a destination. If I start with doubt, I should end with certainty. I ask a question because I do not know the answer, or doubt the answer already given, and I seek a workable logical solution.

    When Russell and Hawking, both extremely talented mathematicians, arrive at doubt with the intention of staying there, I have to suspect their motives. If one were to start a math problem, they intend to finish it, not leave it unsolved. Any kind of problem demands a response, even a wrong one. It's absurd to claim that the limbo of doubt is an acceptable end. Objective truth remains to be discovered whether you doubt that or not. To me, what Russell, Hawking, and all the others who have elevated doubt into a positive virtue seem to do is confront a problem they can't solve, like the existence of God, at least not from their perspective, and declare it can't be solved by anyone, and that anyone who has solved it must be wrong, even if they can't prove that. Why would they do this? You could say they have "genuine doubt" and that they really believe God cannot be known; but if this doubt is truly genuine, they would have to doubt themselves, which they never do. They are intractably dogmatic about their skepticism, writing books about how wonderful it is. What is more likely is that they refuse to believe God can be known because they could never find God themselves; if brilliant intellectuals like them could not find Him, obviously the whole thing must be made up. Hence I make the assertion that they mask their skepticism as something virtuous to cover a very real and stubborn pride lying within.

    Can I read their minds? No, but I can read their actions and their words, and deduce a judgment on the matter.

  3. Anonymous Anonymous said...
    Talk 'bout science: Just read this:

    Catholic school students have higher graduation rates than public school kids. Looks like a Catholic education helps kids distinguish between the real world and fantasy world - that is, a world where you don't need a college degree.


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