Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Hole in the Brain

“A fool’s mind is like a broken jar—no knowledge at all can it hold.” Sirach 21: 14

What is the biggest issue facing any government?

A thriving economy? Taxes? Care for the poor or disadvantaged? Having a powerful military to protect the nation or secure its interests abroad? Healthcare? Education?

What do you think the biggest issue is?

Are all issues equal, or is there a “hierarchy” of issues? Are some more important than others? Do any issues build upon other issues? Is there any one issue that takes priority over all of the others?

Well, let’s put it out there: there is no more important issue than the sanctity of life; especially for the most weak and vulnerable in our society—the unborn. In our current secular culture they have no voice, they have no rights. This is THE fundamental issue upon which all other issues and rights are built. If you and I do not have a right to be born, then what else matters? You don’t have to feed the dead, clothe the dead, protect the dead, listen to the dead, support the dead, heal the dead, or educate the dead. Interestingly enough we can and do tax the dead, but that’s another discussion.

Everyone should have a birthday. And so many don’t because in our culture unwanted children are a burden, pregnancy is a disease, and people want to live their lives and do what they want without consequences or obligations.

So if this is the most important, primary and foundational issue upon which all others are built, they why do so many good, well-intentioned Catholics vote for people who support and expand abortion in our world? I was speaking to a priest I know recently that said he has encountered several Catholics that go to Mass every week, live seemingly moral lives, are faithful to the Church in many ways, but at the same time, when it comes to the issue of abortion, they not only do not recognize the primacy of the right to life, but they do not even want to discuss it when it comes to politics or the “issues” that should be important to the government. His only way to explain this disconnect in the thinking of these people is that they must have “a hole in their brains” that simply keeps them from seeing how flawed their logic is in this regard. Rather than trying to be mean, this holy priest was trying to be charitable. He just could not comprehend how intelligent, Mass-going people could so easily disregard the issue of abortion as unimportant.

The reality is that if you are reading this and were born after 1973, you are only here because your mother allowed you to have a birthday. She could very easily have decided that you were an inconvenience, nuisance or burden and had you aborted. If we were blessed to have mothers who chose life for us, we have a moral obligation to speak for the voiceless today. Babies in the womb are more in danger from being “legally” killed than bald eagles, dolphins or certain kinds of turtles. It may not be politically correct, it may not be popular and it certainly won’t get good coverage in the media, but we need to understand and publicly promote that life is precious, that everyone conceived has the right to life, and that the other issues only matter if we protect this most fundamental right of all.

Dear Jesus, please give me the courage and conviction to stand up for the sanctity of life. Give me words of wisdom and a heart of charity to promote life at every opportunity. Thank you for the gift of my life. Amen.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

If We Are the Body…

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is in vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1: 26-27

There’s a lot of people who say that you can have Jesus without the Church. They say that Jesus did not come to start a religion, but to bring us salvation by offering us a chance to have a personal relationship with Him and as long as we have that, everything else is extra, man-invented and often negative. But is this true? This is an important question.

Is it possible to believe in Jesus without the need for anyone else—either organized or unorganized? Is it possible to learn about Christ and come to know Him all by ourselves? Is it possible to know how to imitate Him and live our lives according to His teachings more than 2,000 years after He left the earth without anyone or anything to tell us everything He actually taught?

I don’t think so.

Even people who don’t believe in the Church or who see religion as extemporaneous will cling to the Bible as the Word of God—and as ALL they need. And yet the Church came before the Bible and in fact the Bible came out of the Church. Jesus never wrote ANYTHING. His followers did. And they were organized and preaching and doing missionary work and spreading the Good News LONG before the books of the Bible were fixed into place by the Church. The Apostles were even convening and praying and deciding things (like choosing a successor to Judas the Betrayer) before they starting going all over the world telling people about Jesus. Before most books of the Bible were written, leaders were being chosen and ordained (presbyters or priests) and deacons were being assigned to the tasks of the community. A structure, a Church, dare I say, a religion was in full force from Pentecost onward. Jesus even promised us in the Gospel of John that He would send the Holy Spirit to the Church in order to teach and remind us of all that He told us (John 14: 26).

St. Peter was made the leader of the Church when he confessed the Divinity of Jesus in Matthew 16 and in the same breath Jesus gave Peter the same authority that the Father had given Him. And upon this rock (Peter), Jesus said that He would build His Church. Finally, in Ephesians 1 St. Paul reminds us that Christ is the head of the Church and that the Church is His body. Jesus never wanted us to have a relationship with Him apart from the Church. He wants us to have a relationship with Him IN the Church. To become part of His BODY, a member of His body, not dismembered.

Are the people (you and me perhaps) in the Body, the Church, imperfect? Yes. Are we sinful? Yes. Are we at times the greatest hindrance for someone looking to find Jesus? Yes. Have horrible things been done throughout history in the name of religion? Yes. And should each of us in the Church seek the grace of Jesus each day and beg Him to help us be better members of His body—to be more loving, more merciful, less judgmental and more sincere and authentic? Absolutely. But Jesus knew that there would be weeds among the wheat of His people. And He promised that at the end the weeds would be separated and sent into the fire. He did not predict this to give us an excuse to be mediocre in our Faith, but to reassure us that He did come to build a Church and to establish teachings and moral commandments that would comprise a new and everlasting religion. The Church is holy because Jesus is holy and the Church is His body. It is THROUGH the Body that the Head teaches, sanctifies, forgives, nurtures, dispenses, evangelizes, admonishes and inspires us to greatness. Let us be thankful that He didn’t leave us on our own to try to figure everything out.

Dear Jesus, thank You for leaving us with the Church imbued with Your authority. Help me to be a holy member of Your Body so that I may be an authentic witness of Your love and mercy and not a stumbling block for others. Amen.

Monday, January 9, 2012


“After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Matthew 2: 9-11

So what is leading you to Jesus today? For the magi it was primarily a star. Interesting that God used what was familiar to them in order to bring them to Jesus. They were not Jews, they had no prophetic books to tell them of the coming king. They were foreigners from a distant land who trusted in the signs of nature and the night sky to point them in the right direction and when the fullness of time came, The God of the universe and the stars used a star to point them in the right direction—in the direction of Jesus. Of course part of the reason for the magi and their visit was to begin to let us know that Jesus did not just come to save the chosen people, but He came to save everyone.

What’s also interesting about the story of the magi is that when you read Matthew 2 1-12, we see that God used many things to point the magi to Jesus, not just a star. And for us reading these ancient passages, it comes alive to us here the present by showing us how many things pointed them—and us—to Jesus. How many things in these short verses pointed to Jesus and His birth? For starters, there was the star. Then Herod assembled the scribes and priests which represented the people of God. Then there was the prophetic texts they read to show us that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem. Then, even the wicked King Herod told them to “Go and search diligently for the child”. Finally, even in a dream was used by God to communicate with them. So God used five different means to show them the way. From nature, to religion, to the Bible, to a wicked person, to a dream; God used them all.

So again, how in your life is God leading you to Jesus. There is only ONE WAY to the Father, and that is through Jesus. He said that He was the “way the truth and the life”. But the Father uses many, many ways to point us and lead us to Jesus, who in turn will lead us to the Father. It is in God’s mercy and goodness that He seeks to show us in so many ways how to reach His Son. Perhaps in our own lives it will be something we read or a song we hear on the radio. Maybe a story told to us by a co-worker or classmate. More often than not our sickness and suffering may just be the means that the Father uses to show us the love of Christ in our lives—not that He causes the pain or suffering, but that through it He brings about the greater good of uniting us more closely to Jesus. Maybe, just maybe an enemy will speak Truth to us without even realizing it. Perhaps we will encounter someone in need that will be the concrete image of Christ for us today. And even from this person we will gain insight into finding a deeper place in our relationship with Christ.

If we are seeking the King, as the magi did—if our eyes and ears and hearts are open to finding Christ, then the signs will be everywhere; the signs that show us His love, His power, His mercy, His glory! But if we are looking for ourselves, or pleasure or simply our own interests, then nothing will appear as a sign for us, no matter how many of them God throws in our paths. God’s only desire is that you and I should come to know Him. And He will use any means to help us see Jesus.

Dear Jesus, help me, like the magi, to seek You this day and always. Help me to see the signs the Father puts in my life everyday that point me to You. Amen.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Poured Out

“Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be poured out for you.’” Luke 22: 19-20

If you are Catholic then you know that recently we had a new translation of the Roman Missal introduced at all of the Masses in the English-speaking world. One of the most significant changes in the translation occurs during the consecration. Instead of saying the word “shed” for what Christ will do for us with His blood, we now use the more accurately translated words “poured out”. This is significant and worthy of our reflection.

Anyone can shed their blood, right? I just had to put a band-aid on one of my sons this morning where he shed his blood from his toe after his younger brother pushed him down during an argument. All of us have had knicks, cuts, scrapes, etc that caused us to bleed. And while these were not necessarily voluntary, they were times of shedding blood. Some of us have even voluntarily shed out blood to donate it to the blood bank or the Red Cross to help someone else in need—most of the times a complete stranger. But have we “poured out” our blood for another?

If we imagine Jesus on the cross merely shedding His blood for us, the image seems somehow incomplete in my mind, as if somehow He were being forced against His will and His power to endure this action against Him. And yet, Jesus while fully human was and is also fully God. And in this mysterious union He willingly laid down His life for us. It was not an action forced upon Him but an act of His will, both human and divine to pro-actively pour out His entire self, all of His Body and all of His blood in order to show us how much He loves us; in order to free us from the chains of sin and eternal death. Jesus was not merely a passive victim on the cross; He was actively offering Himself for us, holding nothing back and sparing not even one single drop of His precious Blood to save us. When the soldier pierced His side, the Blood and water poured out from His Sacred Heart washing away our sins and cleansing us from our iniquities.

He shed His Blood during the scourging, but on the cross He poured it forth for our salvation. And in the Eucharist, at every Mass, He continues to empty Himself for us in an unbloody manner, but all the same completely offering Himself to the Father on our behalf just as He did at Calvary. At that moment in the Mass the veil between heaven and earth is lifted and the sacrifice of the cross is made present to us and the Blood of Christ is poured out into our bodies as we receive Him in this Blessed Sacrament. May we seek to empty ourselves for Him and for others in imitation of our Lord.

Dear Jesus, thank You for pouring out Your Blood for me. Through the grace of Your complete sacrifice, may I offer myself more completely to You and to others each day. Amen.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Not the Christ

“And this is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, ‘I am not the Christ.’” John 1: 19-20

Of all the things St. John the Baptist said as he prepared the way of the Lord, perhaps his simple declaration “I am not the Christ” was the most important. And it is a lesson for us as well because it is a declaration that each of has to admit in our own lives, perhaps many times over. To make this statement is to at the same time be filled with a sense of freedom as well as apprehension to some degree.

On the one hand, to admit that “I am not the Christ” is freeing because it allows us to let go of the control we try to hold onto in our own lives or in the lives of others. It allows us to relinquish everything to Jesus. I am not the one who saves, He is. I am not the one who will solve all of the problems in my life, He is. I am not the one who can change myself or others, but He can. In this freedom we can be more peaceful, more hopeful, knowing that everything does not ultimately depend on us, but on Him. It is much easier in life to be the “saved” than the “savior”. All we have to do is admit that we do not know everything, that we do not control everything, that we cannot do everything…and let go. This admission of His sovereignty is freeing. It allows us to be who we were created to be.

On the other hand, when we acknowledge that “I am not the Christ”, we also admit that we are not the Lord, but Jesus is. And so in this sense we are perhaps filled with a certain amount of apprehension or holy fear, knowing that when we admit that He is the Christ, we are saying that we will obey Him and follow His will. Part of the letting go of this statement is also letting go of the desire to do as we please when we want. We are saying that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, not us. We are saying that He is the one we will follow, not our desires. We are saying He is the one we will listen to, not our culture. This side of the declaration requires humility and reverence on our part. It also requires us to trust Jesus with our lives. It helps us to point others to Jesus and not to ourselves and our accomplishments. It allows us to see our place in the world and in God’s plan, without becoming overly inflated.

St. John the Baptist had a large following and he spoke Truth with conviction and he lived a radical lifestyle and people were attracted to that, as we all are, because we are attracted to greatness. But he also lived in the humble and freeing knowledge that he was not the Christ. His desire was not to gather followers, or to be known, or to become popular. His desire at all times was to point people to Jesus, the Savior and Lord of his heart, the One who would bring salvation, peace and joy to every human heart that accepts Him with the same declaration “I am not the Christ”.

Dear Jesus, grant me the grace to declare to myself and to others that “I am not the Christ”! Like St. John the Baptist, may my life and words only point to You, my Savior and my Lord. Amen.