Monday, August 5, 2013

Daily Readings 03/05/2013: Well Thanks for the Manna God, but Could we have some butter and jam to go with it? Maybe a little caviar?

"I cannot carry all this people by myself,
for they are too heavy for me.
If this is the way you will deal with me,
then please do me the favor of killing me at once,
so that I need no longer face this distress.” Nm. 11: 14-15

"When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,his heart was moved with pity for them,
and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.” Mt. 14: 14-15

Moses, chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, out of slavery, is doing so, and they are complaining about the food. The manna that is miraculously falling from the sky for them every night, is not up to their discriminating palates. Moses, in turn, goes to God and talks to Him about it, ending up with what we see here. Basically asking why would you do this to me? Please, just kill me now! In essence, he is doing what the rest of the Israelites are doing.... "Thanks a lot God for leading us out of our slavery in Egypt, but as long as you're going through the trouble, would it be too much to ask for maybe, a pizza day? An ice cream social perhaps?" Moses' focus is on himself and the hardship he has to endure.

In today's Gospel reading, we find Jesus, sent by God to save His people from slavery of a different kind, slavery from sin. He is trying to withdraw alone and take some time to himself to mourn the death of John the Baptist. Well, word gets out and the next thing we know, when Jesus gets off the boat, there's a huge crowd there. But Jesus has a much different reaction. His first reflex is to compassion. Jesus feels pity for them. He then proceeds to carry on with his mission. He cures their sick, he teaches them and then he feeds them, with miraculous bread. And all of these things, he does while knowing that he will be dying for all of their sins when the time comes. 

Jesus' first reaction is to look outside of himself and see what he can do to help the others, Moses focuses on himself and his own hardship. And as Christians, we know which example we are supposed to follow here. Jesus came to teach love and to save us by his suffering and passion. In this gospel reading, we see how Jesus put other's needs before his own and continued doing what he was sent to do. Moses goes to God and tries to 'bargain' with Him, complaining to God about how difficult his own life is.

It is hard to live up to Jesus' example and none of us will ever get there perfectly, but I know I have reacted like Moses and the Israelites far too many times by not seeing what God has given to me, and by complaining about how everything is not exactly the way I would like it. I'm getting better. Not good enough yet, but I'm getting better. And how about you?

God bless,


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Daily Readings 08/04/2013: Poverty Cannot Buy Happiness

"But God said to him,‘You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you;
and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?’
Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves
but are not rich in what matters to God.” Lk. 12: 20-21

In the beginning of today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells the crowd to "guard against all greed, for though one might be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions." 
It makes me think of the old joke:

If you think money can't buy happiness, then you don't know where to shop!

But the joke is just that, a joke. For as Jesus points out, money cannot buy true happiness, the everlasting joy of the Kingdom of God. There is no cover charge, no advanced ticket sales, no price at the door. This is not good news for those that focus only on earthly treasures and pleasures. However, that also means that there is no velvet rope to keep anyone out. This IS good news for everyone! And everyone includes those who are wealthy.

I think we all have this image of the wealthy as people who are obsessed with money and nothing else. But at the end of this passage (quoted above) Jesus says something interesting, he says "but". He does not say "that is how it will be for all of those who store up treasures for themselves", and stop there. He adds the 'but' "are not rich in what matters to God". He is telling us that although you cannot buy your way into the kingdom and that earthly wealth is not a prerequisite or even an advantage, neither is wealth a deal-breaker.

Jesus was put in a tomb after his crucifixion. The tomb was provided by Joseph of Arimathea. For Joseph to have a tomb carved in rock for himself that he could then offer to Jesus we have to consider two things. First, Joseph must have had a lot of faith and knew that Jesus would only need it for a few days. But second, Joseph of Arimathea was most likely a wealthy man as it must have been an expensive undertaking (pardon the pun) to have one's tomb carved in rock. As a matter of fact, Matthew's gospel describes Joseph as a rich man. And even though he was a rich man, even possibly a member of the Sanhedrin, Joseph's heart was oriented toward Christ.

When we think of God as seeing everyone with equal dignity, we need to remember that this is the ultimate level playing field. When it is time for us to be judged, God will search the depths of our heart, the richness He finds there, the investment we made in His love for us and the dividends of that love that we paid out to others. This is the wealth upon which God hands us the Kingdom, this is where we shop for true happiness, for everlasting joy. Good news, there is no velvet rope, there is no VIP seating (complete with parking pass) and it does not cost a penny.

God bless,


Friday, August 2, 2013

Daily Readings 08/03/2013: Herod, Herodias and her daughter, Honey Boo-Boo?

"But at a birthday celebration for Herod,the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests
and delighted Herod so much
that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for.
Prompted by her mother, she said,
“Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” Mt. 14:6-8

Can you imagine a mother exploiting her daughter like this? I always kind of assumed that the daughter was a teenager dancing seductively and moving Herod by lascivious pleasure to make his promise. However, I recently read an article that suggests that Herodias' daughter could quite possibly have been an innocent young girl dancing to entertain the guests at a party the way that you might have a six year old perform the latest choreography from dance school or the newest kata they're learning at karate. Even if this were the case, Herodias betrays this innocence by prompting the girl to ask for an evil act to satisfy her own vengeance.

As I try to raise my daughters with an eye toward their future and developing an understanding of chastity and appreciation of the dignity of every person, I worry about the Herodiases in our world. They are not all out to exact any sort of revenge, but they definitely are trying to subvert our children's innocence for their own purposes.

For example, my wife used to work in a popular discount store and was amazed at how 'grown-up' the clothes that they sold for little girls were. Low-cut tops, belly shirts, skin tight skinny jeans, all for children. Just the other day I was shopping with my mother in Wal-Mart and putting aside all of the t-shirts with sayings dripping with attitude, they were selling 'low-rise' shorts for girls ages 3-6. Right there in good old, wholesome, all-American Wal-Mart! (tongue placed firmly in cheek, of course)

My question is, who profits from this? Who's interest does it serve to sell string bikinis for girls aged two or three (or younger)? Who profits from teaching these girls to be sassy, 'divas' with smart-aleck attitudes? Do they want all of our daughters to be like Honey Boo-Boo? 

In the end, I fear, they are just selling to those who buy. As much as I'd like to blame it on them all, it's not some vast Wal-Mart-DisneyChannel-Hollister-Abercrombie&Fitch-PlannedParenthood conspiracy. They are just selling to a generation of mothers who want their daughters to be sassy, exploited divas because they think that's the only way to get (as in Mark's version  of the story) half the kingdom.

I don't want my girls to settle for half of the kingdom. For as St. Paul tells us, there is a more excellent way, and that one leads to the inheritance of the whole Kingdom!

God bless,


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Writing History Before it Happens: Pope Paul VI, me, my wife and our journey toward NFP

Recently I was considering what my primary responsibility to my wife is as her husband. Is it helping out with the dishes? Folding the laundry? Taking out the trash?

The nearest thing I could come up with is that, although all of those things are helpful and contribute to running the household, in the end, the prime responsibility of any husband is to get his wife to Heaven, just like the prime responsibility of any father is to do the same for his children. As husbands, we can do this by supporting our wives in efforts to grow in holiness. We can help keep our wives oriented toward God. And we can do this by pouring ourselves out for them; making a total gift of ourselves in the model of Christ's sacrifice for his bride, the church, so that our family life is an image of the Holy Trinity.

As much as I would love to say that my wife and I were dedicated and fully understood chastity while we courted and in the early days of our marriage, I must admit we were not as saintly as we could have been. We were lucky that we didn't live together before the wedding day because we were under the impression that chastity equaled abstinence and not living together definitely helped us in our pursuit of that which we misunderstood.

We started to really understand what chastity meant after we went to a presentation at our parish about the Theology of the Body. I learned, much to my surprise, that even as a married man, I was expected to be chaste. Chastity is about having a 'pure vision' of others, including your spouse, and not about struggling with some mechanical battle of the wills with your libido. Chastity is about seeing the whole person and wanting to give your all in self-donation to them. This is in opposition to lust, which sees the other person, possibly including your spouse, as simply a body from which you take your satisfaction.

My wife and I were married in 2005 however, before we understood chastity. And like most newly married (or not married) couples our age, we were using artificial contraception.....the PILL!!! Once we had an understanding of chastity, and of God's plan for marriage, we were then entrusted with more responsibility to appreciate it and I started to feel a tiny thorn begin poking into my side. I knew the Catholic Church teaching on contraception, it was a big, fat, N-O!

But we all know why they teach that, right? They just want more Catholics, more butts in the pews means more money in the collection plate, right?

Well, that was easy to believe until I read 'Humanae Vitae', a 1968 encyclical from Pope Paul VI which basically reads like the history of the ills of artificial contraception and the damage it would do to society, except that it was written before it all happened. Pope Paul VI predicted an increase in marital infidelity, a loosening of morals, a decrease in men's reverence of women, reducing them to “mere instruments for the satisfaction of their own desires” and had warnings about the use of contraceptives by government authorities and giving them “the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife”.

Beyond these predictions, is the fact that the church's teaching is not leading to butts in the pews, it is doing the opposite. Yet the teaching authorities of the church, still stand by it. This is either an organization bent on colossal failure, or faithful enough to believe it is guided by the Holy Spirit.

So I was feeling a desire to follow God's plan for our marriage and ditch the 'pill', but I didn't talk to my wife about it because I knew that although she felt the same way, she was scared. Well, I thought, it's her body after all, who am I to say? This argument is just as lame as when they say men shouldn't have an opinion on abortion because they don't have uteri. In the end, I realized it was just a cop out because I was scared too. But it was a moot point, because by then, my wife was ready.

It happened when our Pastor at the time, Father Gary, said a homily about the rich young man from the gospel. He talked about how the rich young man went away from Jesus sad because he knew there was that one thing he could not let go of to follow Christ. “What is your 'one thing?” was the general message and my wife decided, for her, it was the pill.

The Catholic hospital in our area had a class to learn the Creighton method of Natural Family Planning (NFP) and so we signed up to learn. If you've never had an experience like this, I recommend it, sort of. Go out with your spouse, and tell family and friends that you are going to learn about NFP. You will hear a lot of baby stories! “Oh, natural family planning, that's how we had Geoffrey!” “Oh, the rhythm method, that's what we were using when our second daughter was born. That's why we named her Surprise!”

Well, the science behind NFP has definitely improved since the 'rhythm method' days. And as I learned in our class, when properly used, NFP is as effective as artificial birth control. I learned a lot more in that class too. I learned way more than I ever thought I would about a woman's cycle. Though I must admit, some of it was kind of, well, eeeeeewwww, I am amazed at what a woman's body does. I put it this way, a woman's fertility, her hormones, chemicals, fluids and their timing, are like a Beethoven symphony while a man's fertility process is like an AC/DC song. If you ever want to be truly amazed and certain that love, sex and conception are all gifts from God, tied together with a special purpose, learn about Natural Family Planning.

That was in the Fall of 2006 and since then we have used NFP, along with prayerful consideration, to space our children and conceive our children. A great benefit of NFP is that it tracks fertility instead of suppressing it. This means that it can be used both to avoid and to achieve pregnancy. As a matter of fact, one of the things that amazed me most about our NFP journey is when we were trying to conceive our second child and we were not successful. My wife called a doctor who was trained in the Creighton method and sent our tracking charts to him. They had an hour long conversation on the phone and by looking at our tracking and observations, he made some suggestions for my wife to change her diet. One month later, our second daughter was on the way. There were no chemicals involved, no harmful side-effects, no government entity fighting about co-pays. He recommended some changes to her diet and some natural supplements and that was it. (I need to express here, that it doesn't always work out that easily. I have known other couples for whom NFP has not been so effective. I feel I need to honor them here a bit too, because their journey has been difficult and it illustrates that nothing is 100%. They are in our prayers always.)

The physical benefits of NFP are one thing, but the emotional and spiritual benefits also surprised me. Natural Family Planning involves a husband intimately in his wife's fertility and requires a deep level of communication between spouses. If used to avoid pregnancy, the couple finds new ways to express their love for each other, making the 'little' things truly matter. The fact that we were now journeying together toward God's plan for marriage and growing together in holiness strengthened our bond with each other. But the greatest benefit was that we were drawing God closer into our life together, our marriage, our family. I heard it said once that artificial birth control is like sending God an 'un-invitation' to your wedding. If that is so, then using Natural Family Planning is like inviting God into your marriage, thanking Him for your sexuality and respecting the way He created it. It deepens a couple's love by leaving that space for God. And we all know that when we invite God in and let Him touch our lives, he gives us Bounty! Beyond! Belief!

God bless,


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hooray! Tomorrow is Men of E5 day! Hooray! or A Valiant Attempt to Start a Rosary for Women Movement!

"Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her" Ephesians 5:25

Hooray! Tomorrow is Men of E5 day! Hooray!

Many of you have read what I've written about the Men of E5 fast that I do on Wednesdays, but as a quick refresher:

On Wednesdays (with a few exceptions) I fast, eating nothing but bread and water. It's part of something I found online called E5 Men. It is based on the above passage, where St. Paul implores us men to love our wives as Christ loved the church, sacrificing for her even up to handing ourselves over. E5 Men make this small sacrifice on the first Wednesday of every month, specifically as a sacrifice for their wives. I do it every Wednesday because I have a wife and two daughters (which is three Wednesdays) and since there are usually four in each month, the last Wednesday, I offer up for all women.

A couple of weeks ago I was putting my daughters to bed. Since my oldest had some night terrors a while back, my wife or I or whoever is watching them if we are out, sits with them in their room until they go to sleep. For me, I find it is usually a good time to say the rosary. It is quiet in the room (sometimes) and the soft, quiet meditation of the rosary makes for a good atmosphere for me and my two girls. So, as I was saying, a couple of weeks ago I was putting them to bed, sitting in their room, and saying the rosary. Because it was a Tuesday, I was thinking ahead to the next day's fast and I realized that on Tuesdays, the mysteries that we pray and reflect on with the rosary, are the Sorrowful Mysteries. And as I sat there reflecting on the mysteries of Christ's passion, I found that it linked together very well with the 'vigil' ,if you will, of my sacrifice for women. As I spoke the mysteries softly, I found myself dedicating each decade to a different intention for women.

Now I know I am not the only one of my fellow husbands, fathers, etc. that have taken on the E5 fast, nor am I the only one who says the rosary. So I thought I would share those intentions here so that perhaps other men, maybe every Tuesday, might be moved to say a rosary for our amazing wives, mothers, daughters, friends, and all the women of our world who may be struggling.

The first sorrowful mystery, The agony in the garden:

During the first mystery, we reflect on Jesus' suffering in the garden at Gethsemane. He is praying fervently, such that he is actually bleeding from his pores. The weight of all our sins is pushing down on him and he asks the Heavenly Father if this cup can pass by him. After struggling with his mission, of course, Jesus gives himself over to God's plan for our salvation.

The intention I pray is for all women struggling with an unintended pregnancy and the choice of abortion. Although obviously, I ultimately hope that they choose life for their little ones, I pray for their strength in making that decision and that they may find peace somewhere in the whirlwind of conflicting emotions they must be feeling. I pray that no matter what their choice, that they seek out the peace and love of God and His mercy.

The second sorrowful mystery, The scourging at the pillar:

We reflect on Jesus being tortured at the pillar and beaten until he was nearly dead. Tied to a post while the Roman guards beat him brutally and mercilessly, Jesus suffers physical agony and the sharp sting of anger and hatred.

The intention I pray is for all women who are victims of domestic abuse. I pray that they are protected and that they have the opening they need to escape their abusers. I pray that they find freedom and the resources to help them be unchained from their 'pillar'.

The third sorrowful mystery, The crowning with thorns:

We reflect on Jesus awaiting his execution. He is there, imprisoned and brutally beaten, and the guards continue to abuse him. They mock him by dressing him in a 'royal' cloak and by forcing on his head, a crown of thorns. During this twisted coronation, as the thorns pierce into his flesh, the soldiers kneel before him, honoring him with mock adoration. Enjoying themselves at his expense.

The intention I pray is for all women who are exploited. Whether it is in strip clubs, pornography, prostitution or just letting themselves be used under the false pretense that it empowers them. I pray that they see their beauty not as an asset to be flaunted so that others can enjoy themselves at their expense, but as a beauty that is inherent in them as a child of God. I pray that they see their value is more than external and that they do not deserve to be 'honored' with what amounts to mock adoration and dollar bills.

The fourth sorrowful mystery, The carrying of the cross:

As we say this decade, we meditate on Jesus carrying his cross through the streets of the city. He is jeered at, spit upon, berated and struck as he shoulders this tree toward his ultimate mission. He stumbles along the way, but perseveres despite his suffering and what his destination is.

The intention I pray is for all mothers. Mothers are often times the 'soul' of the family. They are the first teachers and daily loving examples for our children; teaching them their value and the value of others.
I pray especially for single mothers who must shoulder the full responsibility of their family by themselves. These women are heroes who never asked to be heroes. I pray that they find their way and that God gives them the incredible amount of strength that it must take to be both the nurturer and the disciplinarian; homemaker and the breadwinner; mom, and dad. And I pray that even as they stumble along the way, perhaps somewhere along the journey, they too may cross paths with a Simon the Cyrenian to give them a hand when they need it most.

The fifth sorrowful mystery, The Crucifixion:

This final decade of the Sorrowful mysteries focuses on Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus, after suffering brutal torture and a painful journey, is laid out and nailed to a cross. It is then raised so that he can hang there until he succumbs to an agonizing death; a death he suffered because of our sins; a death he suffered because of our evil.

The intention I pray is for women who are victims of violence. I pray for the souls of women who were killed, either by men they knew or were abducted and killed by predators they had never seen coming. I pray for women who have been raped, suffering the death of pieces of themselves because of another's evil act. I pray for women dealing with the scars of abuse when they were children, again, enduring the pain of someone else's sin. And I pray for the victims of abortion; those precious children, boys and girls, who will never have the chance to become; giving their lives because of somebody else's actions. I pray for their souls and for the peace of the women who had to battle with that choice through the fear and confusion and the possibility of lost hopes and dreams. I pray that all of these victims find peace.

So that is the rosary I pray as a vigil for my E5 fast day. I do hope that more men will sign on as Men of E5. I hope that this rosary for our women may catch on. But most importantly, I hope that my fellow men; husbands and fathers, single, old and young, will see the value of our wives, mothers, daughters, all of the women in our lives, and remember how amazing they are. I hope that we will continue to cherish them and hand ourselves over for them; sacrificing as Christ did for his bride, the church.

"Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God;
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ."

God bless,

Monday, June 3, 2013

Daily Reading 06/04/2013: 'Repay to God What is God's' or No Receipt, No Refund, No Exchange...

Daily Reading 06/04/2013

"They brought one to him and he said to them,
“Whose image and inscription is this?”
They replied to him, “Caesar’s.”
So Jesus said to them,
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
They were utterly amazed at him." Mk. 12:16-17

So here we are with the holy roller power brokers again. (as I continue learning, I am frightened by how much Jesus' admonitions to them ring true of me too, by the way). And here they are again trying to trap Jesus, which is quickly becoming one of their favorite pastimes, and get him to trip up. They begin by sweet-talking him a bit, and then ask him if they should continue to pay the census tax. Perhaps feeling him out to see if he's a political activist or some kind of rebel. Either way, of course, Jesus is on to them and we end up with the passage above. "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."

By pointing out that the coins have Caesar's image on them, and thus should be repaid to him, Jesus points us toward the 'other side of the coin' (sorry, couldn't resist). What is it that is made in the image and likeness of God?

(insert Jeopardy! theme song here)

Okay, time's up. We are!

So we should be giving ourselves back to God. We are supposed to work toward being gifts back to our creator. But we don't do it, do we? We fret about having enough money, can we buy a house that's big enough? Can we get a car as nice as theirs? Can we go on vacation? Can we live the lifestyle we've ALWAYS DREAMED OF?

Can we....? Can we......? Can we........?

But the problem is, as we accumulate all of those things and live that fabulous life, we become slaves to it. In the end, all it leads to is more and more and more 'Can we?'s.

We are taking ourselves away from God and giving ourselves to things. Material things, worldly things, addictions, lust, greed, and it never fills the hole inside. Because there are always bigger and better things to desire. The profiteers and marketers of the world makes sure of that. Look in the mirror and you look at the face of God. Tell Him why you haven't given yourself back to Him in love. Go ahead and explain to Him why you're repaying what is His to Caesar. I hope He understands when I do it.

God bless,

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Daily Readings 06/03/2013: Jesus, the chief priests, scribes and elders mixing with atheists and the Westboro Baptist Church or Heaven could be a Very Interesting Place

Daily Reading 06/03/2013

"He had one other to send, a beloved son.
He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’
So they seized him and killed him,
and threw him out of the vineyard." Mk. 12:6-8

In the parable of the tenant farmers, Jesus is foreshadowing his own death and telling the chief priests, scribes and the elders what will happen to them. They were supposed to be tending to God's vineyard, keeping His flock, but they did not. They became concerned with their own gain, those honored places at table and the esteem and notoriety that came with their positions were more important to them then the call of God in their lives to lead others to Him. And their major fear of Jesus was their loss of power and esteem.

But Jesus tells them what will happen to these bad tenants. They are put out of the vineyard and the rewards go to others. This message must have been very disturbing to men who were used to the best of everything. To think that their ultimate reward would go to someone else. The gentiles? Maybe even the Samaritans? How could he say that those heathens would get rewarded by God? Does any of this sound familiar to any of us? We all have moments when we think, "Well, THAT doesn't seem very Christian?"

We probably (read as DEFINITELY) have had these thoughts while we were in church, about our fellow parishioners!

"Our Father who art in Heaven (would you look at what she is wearing?) Hallowed be thy name. (I mean, this is church, not a night club!) Thy Kingdom come (oh, COME ON now, look at that guy...) Thy will be done, (I mean seriously, sweat pants?) On Earth as it is in Heaven, (hellllooooo people, this is the house of God..) Give us this day (and that guy cut me off in the parking lot, sheesh) our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses (yeah, I know that guy really well. God he REALLY needs you to forgive his trespasses.) as we forgive those who trespass against us (That old lady is a major close-talker, talk about trespassing!) and lead us not into temptation (Did you hear that missy over there with the low-cut dress???) but deliver us from evil. (I am the only one in this building going to Heaven, I know it!) Amen."

Now I know the Westboro Baptist Church folks are going to be unhappy to hear this, but we do not choose who goes to Hell. That is a decision made way above our pay grade by a being who can search and read every heart. And yes, that means that some people you may consider 'worse' sinners than you, might be in Heaven. To paraphrase Mother Angelica, when you get to Heaven you will see a lot of people you are surprised to see there. Well that means, there will also be a lot of people surprised to see you!

There was quite a kerfuffle a couple of weeks ago because Pope Francis said that Jesus died for everybody, even atheists. The atheists seemed really excited.... I'm still not sure why.

But the Pope is right. Jesus died to offer salvation to everyone. Anybody who seeks Him and makes a sincere effort to pursue salvation, gets it, through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. It doesn't matter if yesterday you were an atheist, it doesn't matter if you go around protesting and blaspheming by carrying signs talking about who God hates, when God doesn't hate anyone. His salvation is open, available and waiting for everyone. Our job is just to accept it, put down the things keeping us from Him, and follow.

Now after this whole thing, I am not about to tell you that I know where the chief priests, scribes, and elders went when they died, nor will I offer an opinion as to where the Reverend Phelps and his Westboro Baptist congregation will end up. Even if they persecuted (or are persecuting) Christ, we need to remember some of His final words on the cross. "Father, forgive them. They know not what they do."

Jesus was praying for his murderers to be forgiven, even as he was dying. What further proof would we need that his mercy is open to everyone who is willing to accept it?

God bless,


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Daily Readings 05/18/2013: Lovers of Violence and Dr. Kermit Gosnell

Daily Readings: 05/18/2013

"The LORD searches the just and the wicked;the lover of violence he hates." Ps. 11:5

Earlier this week, Kermit Gosnell, a true monster, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for killing a baby born alive in a botched abortion in his facility in Philadelphia. Nobody knows how many times this happened in his 'clinic' over the decades that he was in business. Now I am not going into how many times this probably happens each day that we never hear about it because it's in a facility that's cleaner than Dr. Gosnell's was. And I won't mention that every day babies are injected with drugs to stop their hearts while en-utero before they are dismembered and 'properly' disposed of as 'post-abortive tissue', a process which is, apparently, perfectly acceptable.

The plain truth is, abortion is killing, bottom line, at any stage, and killing should not be tolerated. Which brings me to my point. Kermit Gosnell could have been subject to the death penalty, but through some sort of plea deal, ended up with life in prison. I saw posts on the Facebook stating that, given the chance, he chose life for himself. But what scared me more were the people I know are Christian that were calling for his death, if not his torture and painful, agonizing death. I ask, how do we prove our commitment to life, by sentencing someone to death? During Moses' time the thought was 'eye for an eye' because there was really no effective way to separate dangerous people from society, and as Jesus said, there were things Moses allowed because of the hardness of their hearts. Jesus does not preach this. He taught us to pray for our enemies, not seek vengeance. It was the same feeling I got when I saw the celebrations in the street when Osama Bin Laden was killed. We looked like the people we were angry at just a few years before for celebrating in their streets when 3000 Americans were dead. Jesus does not teach vengeance. And we do not line in a society where we cannot effectively separate these monsters from society.

It's not easy to walk the line between justice and vengeance for these monsters, but as Christians. we are called to a very high standard. So let's pray for each other that we have the strength to pray that Kermit Gosnell, during his life of incarceration, while contemplating the horrific things he has done, can turn to the Lord and seek forgiveness. As the Psalmist writes, "those who love violence, he hates"

If Dr. Gosnell does not seek and acceptance His forgiveness, he will suffer a death far worse than we could ever have given him. And if we give in to anger and vengeance, then we too become those who love violence.

God Bless,


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Daily Readings 05/17/2013: Jesus Irritates Peter or I Only Annoy You Because I Love You Sooooooo Much!

Daily Readings: 05/17/2013

"He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep." Jn. 21:17

This morning, after I ate breakfast, I slipped back into bed where my wife and two daughters were still sleeping. It was getting close to the time I was supposed to get ready for work, so my wife reminded me, "Don't fall back to sleep."
She reminded me twice.... it bugged me a little. Of course, I know I shouldn't fall back to sleep. But I got (ever so slightly) annoyed that she reminded me...... twice, that I should be careful not to fall back to sleep.

Well, we see Simon (soon to be called Peter) starting to get a bit irritated with Jesus as he is asked three times, if he loves him. I can imagine how he felt. "Okay, for the THIRD TIME, Yes Lord, I love you!"

But each time, Jesus passes on part of his plan for Peter. "Feed my lambs", "Tend my sheep", "Feed my sheep", Jesus is telling him that if he truly loves Jesus, he will be the shepherd to his people. He will feed the lambs by telling them the message of the gospel, he will tend his sheep by directing them in God's ways, he will feed his sheep by giving them the living bread from Heaven.

Each time Peter gives the same answer, "Yes, I love you.". Hmmm what other answer had Simon Peter recently answered the same way three times?

Ah yes, it was a chilly night in Jerusalem. The question was phrased three different ways, but his answer was the same each time. "I don't know him!", Simon had said, three different times, before the cock had crowed that morning of Good Friday.

Now I can really relate to Simon / Peter. You see, my wife is not the only one who has to remind me of things more than once. Sometimes it takes a bit for God to get through to me too. Yes, sometimes even He's got to throw the same message at me a few times before I really pick up on it. But eventually, most of the time, maybe, I think, I HOPE, I get it.
And maybe, just maybe, when He's smacking me upside the head with a spiritual two by four, it's not that I have a thick skull, but a hard heart. And he's just giving me the opportunity to make up for the many times I denied Him.

God Bless,


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Daily Readings 05/16/2013: There's a Call for You. Will you Stand for Something, or Fall for Anything?

Daily Readings: 05/16/2013

"The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage.For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.” Acts 23:11

So here we are with St. Paul. He is out persecuting Christians, has his conversion experience and gets dragged out in front of his old friends to be tried. Instead of saying, "Oh, haha, I was just kidding about that whole Road to Damascus thing. I'm still good ole Saul, your best buddy!" He stands up and tells him what he's learned, he shares with them the hope he has discovered. And a great debate ensues.

What we can learn from Paul's conversion is a couple of things. First, it is often those that are found after being lost, that can have the greatest impact on bringing others back to God. Paul could relate to the Pharisees, because he had been a Pharisee.

The second thing we can learn from St. Paul is that if we keep our mouths shut, we help nobody. Imagine the places Christ's message would not have reached had God not touched St. Paul and sent him out to preach and spread the gospel. If he'd just kept his conversion story to himself then sure, he would have had a great personal encounter, but as Jesus said, one does not light a lamp to put it under a bushel basket. We need to share our relationship with Him and our love for Him so that others can see the ways it can change the world. As St. Catherine of Siena said, ""Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."

The third thing we can learn is that the truth is the truth, even when it is controversial. Paul's proclamation starts a battle between the two differing opinions. So much so that he is removed for his safety and brought somewhere else. But that night that the Lord comes to him he doesn't shy away from the message he is meant to deliver at all. He goes out into the world to spread the good news as he was called to do. We often shrink a bit when God's word is controversial or when people tell us it should 'get with the times'. God's word is timeless. It is not up to the sway of public opinion or current and changing social mores. And as His followers called to proclaim the truth, we should stand like St. Paul. Otherwise, who are we? Judas?

God Bless,

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Daily Readings 04/28/2013: Jesus' Fix-it Shop or What can you Bring to Him Today?

Daily Reading: 04/28/2013

The One who sat on the throne said,
“Behold, I make all things new.” Rev. 21:5a

In Revelation it talks of the One on the throne creating a New Heaven and a New Earth, a New Jerusalem, etc., but we have seen this One make things new already. From a few fish and a couple of loaves, He fed thousands, from water at a wedding feast, He made wine, for Lazarus' family, He made a time of grieving into a time of joy, bringing their loved on back from the dead. For a Samaritan woman he made a trip to the well a first step toward believing and everlasting life.

Time after time, Jesus takes the ordinary and makes it the miraculous and He lets us share in the miracle if we let him work through us. Whether it's feeding those crowds, showing compassion to an adulteress, rebuilding the life of an addict, or turning the love between a husband and wife into a new life, Jesus takes all that we bring to Him and can turn it into something miraculous. He turns the seemingly simple into something new and amazing!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Daily Reading 04/27/2013: Prove it to Me, or, Excuse me, But your God is Showing

Daily Readings 04/27/2013
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” 
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works." Jn. 14:8-10

Philip asks for something that at some point, is asked of everyone who believes in God by someone else, who does not believe. He asks for 'proof' that God exists. I see it in news story comment sections all the time; there is no proof that God exists; what proof do YOU have for God's existence; etc. It's phrased many ways, but it's all the same question.

Often, this argument is rebutted with, "Well, can you prove that God does not exist?" Not a bad question, but that's not how logic works really, is it? I think a better question would be, why do you love? Why do we, as humans, feel love and compassion for others? It serves no practical purpose really. Sometimes it even goes against our instinct for self-preservation. People will sacrifice their own lives for others. But why?

Even those who don't believe in God are capable of loving others or being compassionate. I've heard them say, "I don't need to believe in God to be a good person.", and they're right. There are plenty of people who don't believe in God but do a lot to help others. I hate to be the bearer of bad news for them, but even though they are denying Him, they are showing and sharing God's love. You see, His love transcends mere humanity and is written on our hearts.

There are two dangers in denying His existence. First, for those of us who are Christian, denying God's existence also denies His son. If Christianity is correct, then not having faith and belief in God will lead to eternal separation from Him and true torment of the spirit; i.e. Hell. Second, if one does not believe in God, then they likely do not believe in the devil. This is exactly what the devil is looking for, because if you don't believe in evil, then evil gains a very strong foothold without you even knowing it. Again, leading to eternal separation from God and a tormented spirit.

We do not need some miraculous revelation or apparition to believe in God, we need only look around at what men and women of goodwill do to help others and show care for them. We need only to look back at our own lives and see those moments when we thought everything was going totally down the tubes and how they somehow turned themselves around when we didn't even see it coming. God loves us, and in that love, He reveals Himself to us regardless of whether the person spreading that love acknowledges its source or not.

God bless,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Daily Readings 04/13/2013: Today's Boating Forecast, Stormy with a chance of Messiahs Walking on the Sea

Daily Readings: 04/13/2013

"The sea was stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.
When they had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat,
and they began to be afraid.
But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” Jn. 6:18-20

Imagine the apostles, at sea in a storm. They are probably a little bit anxious about getting across to the other shore alive. They are struggling through a difficult time and suddenly, they see Jesus, walking on the sea. This had to be a bit surprising. I mean, it's not like it was something you see every day. "Oh, it's just Jesus showing off again!" This was truly a miracle beyond belief, and they are frightened even more.

But Jesus tells them, "It is I. Do not be afraid.", and the next thing they know, they've arrived at their destination. They were carried through their worst fears.

Sometimes when our lives seem tumultuous and we are scared, an opportunity presents itself that may frighten us even more. But we can't rule out the possibility that the opportunity may be the door that God is opening for us. And if we can trust Him and take that leap, He will lead us through the storm and guide us to where we are supposed to be.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Don't be so stingy with those gifts of the Holy Spirit!

Daily Readings: 04/11/2013

"For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit." Jn. 3:34

The one whom God sent, is obviously, Jesus. I love this line that he does not ration his gift of the spirit. It means that a full measure of God's mercy is available to all of us. So is His love, and His guidance, all of it, to all of us! What a gift!

But to those who much is given, of course, much is expected. If we are followers of Jesus Christ and beneficiaries of all of his blessings and graces, then we are also responsible to share ourselves as fully as we can. We must try to love as selflessly as Jesus, forgive as often as Jesus, and try to teach what he taught.

We must try to be as generous as we can when sharing the gifts the Holy Spirit has given us. We must try to never hold back; enthusiastically taking in and developing these gifts and then sharing them as generously as we can, to benefit others and help lead them to Jesus too.

God bless,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Daily Readings 04/10/2013; 'SON' Light is the Best Disinfectant

Daily readings: 04/10/2013

"And this is the verdict,
that the light came into the world,
but people preferred darkness to light,
because their works were evil." Jn. 3:19

Have you tried recently to speak out about God's teaching on any one of a host of 'hot-button issues'?

I can guess at what you were called. A bigot? An idiot? Uninformed? Or the absolute worst thing you can be called in this non-absolute society......intolerant?!?!

Truly we are in a world where the people in the darkness do not want to be shown the light. They don't want to see the links between moral relativism, the deterioration of the family, the objectifying of women, the sex and violence soaked media, etc. etc. etc.

Strangely enough, when something horrible happens, they act surprised and use it as an opportunity to ask "Where was God?" and snicker that it is proof of His disinterest. Perhaps, if we, as a society, looked to the light more often, or were not afraid to point out these connections, then we could avoid some of the heartache for ourselves or the next generation. Sometimes, however, I fear that it's all too far gone. When you are insulted or belittled for pointing out the true and obvious, it is not easy to be that voice. It is not easy to swim against the stream. But the alternative, as my previous Pastor was fond of saying is that we all "Hold hands and sing Kumbaya all the way to Hell!"

God bless,


Monday, April 8, 2013

The Annunciation: Tale of a wise and courageous young woman

Daily Reading: 04/08/2013

"Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her." Lk. 1:38

Mary's "Yes!" is a great example to all of us. Even though what the angel told her seemed impossible to her, she granted her consent to make a complete gift of herself and give her all to God's will. She had to know the possible consequences to a young girl, not yet living with her husband, who suddenly and mysteriously became pregnant. In that time, she could have been stoned to death. At the very least, it was almost a certainty that her husband would divorce her and her family would disown her. Her entire life, as far as she knew, was going to be turned upside down, or ended. But she agreed to be the ark of the new covenant despite the uncertain future it would bring.

I am amazed at what an incredibly brave young woman she was. May we all have the wisdom to hear God's will for us, and the courage to carry it out.

God bless,


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Me and St. Thomas the Apostle, or, His mercy endures forever! Which is good, because some of us can occasionally miss a meeting.

Daily Readings: 04/07/2013 (Divine Mercy Sunday)
"Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jn. 20:26-28

For a period of time, when I was young and thought I knew everything, I was an atheist. Now I could go on about how it was a dark period in my life. Not that there was a terrible amount of strife going on, but meaning I felt the lack of God's presence in my life, not that I would have admitted it at the time. But that's for some other day. What I most regret, and have apologized for over and over, is that at the time, I would argue with my mother about it. Now, arguing with one's mother when you are a know-it-all young snot is pretty standard, but while I was arguing with my mother about God not existing, she was dealing with the loss of her mother. She tells me now that I need not apologize mostly because I was just a smart-mouth kid who thought he had it all figured out and it was not the first time she had been through that. But I still wish that I'd had more compassion at the time and I'm very glad that she forgives me being young and thoughtless.
Anyway, today's readings reminded me that during these 'conversations', she would often say that she had picked the right name for me because I was a doubter. As I listened to the Gospel reading at Mass today, I realized she didn't know at the time, how right she was. Like the apostle, this Thomas too had knowledge of what Jesus had said, done and taught. But even though Jesus was there for the other believers to see, Thomas was off doing something else. And when people told me that Jesus was alive and he was real, I said, "Prove it!" 

I also, eventually, many years later actually, came to recognize Jesus as "My Lord and my God!"

Where my path veers off from its similarity to the apostle Thomas, is that he came to believe through seeing Jesus and feeling Jesus' wounds. I came back through a couple of different steps. First, when I stepped into my current parish (St. Kathryn's) after many years away from Mass, I just felt so much like it was 'home'. That was nice and all, but quite frankly, and not to diminish it, I feel pretty good when I walk into a Dairy Queen too. It's not the same feeling, but it's a pretty good feeling that could quickly have faded away. But then there was the second part. You see, as I grew in knowledge of the faith and the word, I came back heart and soul, not through feeling the wounds on Jesus' body, but by feeling His healing of the wounds inside of mine. And as I continue to grow, I find it easier to lean on His love and mercy and trust in His plan for me.

Now I realize, every day has its wounds and bumps and bruises, but if you can focus on Jesus' healing (which is admittedly, not always easy) you can feel Him working inside your heart. Like Peter, when he tried to walk on the water and began to sink; if we can take our eyes off the maelstrom, put our focus back on Jesus and reach out to Him, He will pull us out of the water and it will feel like a miracle. His mercy is waiting for us, we need only seek the healing.

Happy Divine Mercy Sunday!

God bless,


Saturday, April 6, 2013

St. Peter, St. John, Venerable Solanus Casey, and....YOU!

Daily readings 04/06/2013

"Observing the boldness of Peter and John
and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men,
the leaders, elders, and scribes were amazed,
and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.
Then when they saw the man who had been cured standing there with them,
they could say nothing in reply." Acts 4:13-14

St. Peter, St.Paul, in fact, most of the apostles are but the tip of the iceberg in a multitude of examples of the old saying that God does not always call the qualified, but He qualifies those that He calls. A poor teenage Jewish girl and her carpenter husband... a group of fishermen, a doctor and a tax collector... a down on his luck shepherd tending sheep for his father-in-law in the desert. These are all examples of people who never expected that they would change the history of the world forever, but when God called them they, sometimes begrudgingly, took their place to fit into His plan for salvation.

Fr. Solanus Casey, a Capuchin priest who served in Detroit was ordained a priest, but because of his poor performance in studies at seminary, was not allowed to hear confessions or preach doctrinal sermons. He was essentially a doorkeeper at the monastery. He is currently awaiting beatification because of his incredible compassion and the results of his pastoral consultations with visitors to the monastery. What seemed like something negative, was just a way for God to put Fr. Casey in place where he was most needed.

This lesson has two sides. First, never be too proud to learn from anyone. When I used to study martial arts, even as a black belt, I would constantly remind myself that there was no student on that floor, even a first day white belt, from whom I could learn something. Always listen to people, there is nobody on this planet who you can't learn from.

The other side of this lesson is that sometimes, you are that person. Sometimes, you are put in the right place, and the right time, because He wants you there. Never underestimate your impact on other people's lives.

God bless,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Action movie heroes are highly over-rated. Daily readings 04/05/2013

Daily readings, 04/05/2013

"He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved." Acts 4:11-12

Peter is being questioned by the power brokers of the time, and 'filled with the Holy Spirit', he boldly proclaims that Jesus is the name by which he performed a miracle, and that Jesus is the gate to salvation. He could have been executed on the spot, I imagine. Look what they had just done to Jesus. So from Peter we learn the lesson that we are to be bold and proclaim God's truth. This is sometimes very heroic and often necessary to convey Christ's message.

His words also show us how counter-cultural Jesus' message is today. In a world where the hero is most often portrayed by a slightly flawed muscle man with a huge arsenal of weapons who wins the day through car chases and spectacular explosions, that is not the kind of hero that truly protects our lives. Salvation doesn't even come to us through Peter, the bold speaker, or through Paul, the former soldier. Our salvation, our share in eternal life comes to us through Jesus. He never carried a weapon, he never blew anything up. He won the ultimate battle through mercy, compassion, humility, service, and self-sacrifice.

God bless,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

When has the Holy Spirit 'called' you? or I Witnessed a Miracle and All I got was These 'Angry Birds' Pajama Bottoms!

When has the Holy Spirit ‘called’ you?

Recently I went up to bed one night, got into my Angry Bird pajama bottoms, turned out the light, climbed in next to my wife (and our two year old daughter, a now-regular fixture by the time I go to bed) and I reached to my bedpost for my rosary beads. As I held onto them and put my fingers on the cross, I started whispering the Apostle’s Creed slowly…

“I believe in God…” something doesn’t feel quite right…

“The Father, The Almighty…” this cross feels thin…

“Creator of Heaven and Earth…” and FLAT, it feels flat…

“And I believe in Jesus Christ…” Jesus! Jesus is missing!!!

Thus began the few glorious days in which I thought a miracle had occurred in my bedroom. You see, the corpus was missing from the cross. He was Risen! I leaped from bed and turned on the light. I started searching on the floor near a spot where I had remembered it hitting the bed frame a couple of nights before. It wasn't there. I searched all over the bedroom floor and could not find the body of Christ on the light colored carpet. Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that he had been resurrected and I went to bed.

A few days later (three days? I don't remember, should have counted.) I found it behind the bed, and realized then that no, a miracle did not occur in my bedroom. But in that few days it forced me to think of something.

Why not me?

I mean, let's face it, I did not really believe that a tiny resurrection had happened to the crucifix on my rosary. After all, who am I that a miracle (even a tiny one) would happen to me?
I am no great, holy man. I am certainly not a saint, nor even a great theological thinker. What made me think that I was so special that this tiny sign was brought on to me? These thoughts accentuated something I've been thinking about during Lent. I guess it was kind of my Lenten fast, although I must admit I haven't been as successful as I would like. I have been trying to believe in myself as a worthy creation of God.

You see, I have a good friend who has been helping me to look at some things lately and one of the recurring themes is that for some reason, I don't find myself very deserving. Not deserving of respect, not deserving of success, not deserving of much at all; let alone miracles.

When I first realized it, I tried to trace back to when I started to feel that way and for the life of me, I have no idea. There was no great trauma, no tribulation or disappointment or rejection that led to it. It just happened. One day I woke up and I just didn't feel like I was worth much. Now, before this comes off as some sort of pity-party (if it isn't too late already), I realize that I have had accomplishments in my life. I have a loving family, an amazing and patient wife and two of the most beautiful daughters ever, and no, I am NOT biased.

Well, as Lent began this year, I figured I was going to kick that attitude right out the door. To paraphrase Stuart Smalley of Saturday Night Live fame, “No more stinkin' thinkin'!”. No more self-deprecating humor. No more being down on myself or thinking there is anything I can't do! “I can do anything!”, I thought. I am made in the image and likeness of God. He knitted me together in my mother's womb. He has plans for me; plans to prosper me and not to harm me; plans for hope and a future.

And as I built myself up with these thoughts, I started to think of times when the Holy Spirit HAD called me. Like when I met my wife and swore that it was going to be my last date for a while. I was right! There were so many signs calling me back. Some small things, some really big.

I had an inexplicable desire to bring my kids up in the faith, even at a time when I had lost my faith, and before I even had any kids. Around that same time, I had friends who wanted to see the 'Passion of the Christ'. It was the night before my first black belt test and even though I had neglected my relationship with Jesus, I teared up at the movie. That night, I came close to realizing the power of what He had done for me.

This past fall, I went on a men's retreat. We were talking about our 'brushes' with the Holy Spirit and I recalled one of the most powerful calls I had; a call which, again, went nearly unnoticed at the time.

A long time ago, I went to a short seminar on hypnotic past life regression. I'm not sure that was exactly how it was worded, but you get the idea. The leader guided us through this meditation, taking us from a peaceful place on Earth, up into space, and then coming back to our home planet. The first thing we 'saw' was supposedly a glimpse of our past life. I remember, in my mind's eye, I saw my feet wearing sandals on a dirt road and thought I was going to be a Samurai. I was pretty stoked! But then, on the road just above me, there was a crowd and they were taunting a man who I could just 'sense' (this kinda stuff has a lot of 'sensing') was innocent. They were dragging him off to be punished. As the leader gently coaxed us out of our trance, I thought, “Wow, maybe I was at the crucifixion. Maybe I was an apostle.”

Well, I'm not really into the past life, new age, hypnotic stuff now. But as I sat at the retreat house that weekend, I realized that God could very well have planted that vision as one of many subtle calls to bring me back to Him.

There have been other, much less subtle calls. I hesitate to mention them here lest I be carried off in a jacket with the sleeves in the back, but He is there. And for some reason, He really wanted me back. So it's kind of silly to think myself not worthy of miracles. It's a miracle that I was here to turn forty last year. It's a miracle that I have been able to accomplish some of the things I've done. My marriage, my daughters, all miracles. And it's a miracle that I went through such a dark period of separating myself from God only to have him come calling me back.

So what Lent has taught me so far this year (and don't you, dear reader, think for a minute that I think this applies only to me) is that, if God thinks we are important enough to knit us together in our mothers' wombs, breathe life into us through the Holy Spirit, make us in His image and come down to walk among us, suffering and dying for our sins, then we have no right to insult His creation by putting ourselves down and considering ourselves unworthy of any good thing!

Yes, even tiny, little miracles.