Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Rejoice always! The third week of Advent is a reminder to look forward with great joy to the promise of the Lord coming into our lives. Take a moment this week to truly rejoice in where the Lord has brought you in your life - whether there have been baby steps, leaps and bounds, or gradual movements to the Lord and His will for you, rejoice today in His love and purpose in our lives. He came to save, born of a Woman, to set us free from sin and lead us to turn to Him in this life to live with Him fully in the next. Rejoice always!
Two weeks ago we reflected upon being like children, who are humble and trusting. Last week we talked about being ready like Mary to receive the Lord in our lives. This week we talk about letting go.
Thinking about this topic brings a smile to my face because I know how hard it is to do for most of us young people. We live day to day holding onto certain things and desires that we never want to give up. We compromise with ourselves, making us feel better about the sin in our lives or certain weaknesses that we have. We negotiate with God, our parents, and anyone we feel cheated or slighted by. We embrace half truths in our lives when we are scared by the real truth or when the full truth might put a cramp in our style. We wear masks that protect us from revealing our true selves and keep us from loving or being loved as we truly are. If you find yourself in one of these boats, don’t feel alone because all of us are there at one point or another.
The great news about Advent, is that if we humble ourselves like children striving to be ready to meet our Lord, then we let go of all the compromises, negotiating, half truths and masks in our lives. When we encounter our Lord Jesus as a child in the manger, we can’t help but encounter our authentic selves at the same time. What a time this is! We encounter the living God who became man, and in that very instant the veil is lifted and all the things shatter that keep us from our true authentic selves.
My friends, for this to happen we must let go. If we truly desire to meet Jesus in a new way this Christmas and if we truly desire to respond to the promises he made four our lives and future, we must no longer settle for the cheap imitations that we all have become accustomed to. I don’t know about you, but I am tired of living inauthentically at times. I am tired for settling or negotiating with myself about my desires for my life or what my future my hold. And it has been my experience that when we meet the Lord and are able to let go, then our Lord reveals to us our true selves. It is in those moments that we feel most complete and whole. The Lord in His great mercy and love has given us permission to be our authentic selves, exactly as he made us.
This week, get rid of anything in your life that is inauthentic. Look at your words and actions and see the places where you are not being the true self that Jesus wants you to be. Let go of everything that keeps you from the baby in the manger.
It feels good to be authentic! You know what I mean? Let it all go…
God Bless You,
Thursday, December 11, 2008
In a world that was dark and suffering, an angel spoke words that forever changed history. A lowly handmaid who was younger than most of us, said yes to God who wanted to become man. God prepared her and at the perfect moment sent his messenger to reveal her destiny. How was it that she was able to say yes so willingly? How was it that she didn’t ask tons of questions, or even take time to think about it? A simple “let it be done” was all she had and in an instant she became the Mother of God.
This might be a good time to wish you all a happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception. This is truly a joyous day and one of my favorites of the Church year. What we celebrate today is why Mary was so willing and trusting when the angel appeared to her. God formed her in her mother’s womb free from all sin. How perfect and beautiful was Mary in the womb of St. Anne! It only makes sense that if she was going to be the Mother of God, that she be spared the stain of sin and death. God prepared her to say yes to Him, and her heart was so overwhelmed with grace and beauty that she responded with her whole self.
I don’t think this is breaking news to anyone, but we are not perfect. Even though some of our moms think we are, it is not the case. So if we are not perfect and were not immaculately conceived they how do we play this game? I thought you would never ask. Believe it or not, God has also prepared us to say yes to Him as well. Through grace and the sacraments, the Lord’s works to convert our hearts and open us to respond in our own lives as Mary did. But the other important notion we must all remember is how Mary was READY.
“Those who wait for you will not be disappointed” -Psalm 25:3
My friends, Advent is about waiting, and this is not a waiting because we are bored and have nothing else to do. This is a waiting that prepares and becomes ready for the Lord who is coming to meet us. Mary was found ready because she was hungering and longing for her God to come. She was very aware of the Old Testament prophecies that foretold the Messiah coming to save the Jewish people. Believing with her whole heart, purifying herself from sin, and living rightly among her family and community, Mary was ready to receive Him. Little did she know she would be His mother and bear Him in her womb, but she was ready when becoming the Savior’s mother was God’s plan for her.
If God came today would you be found ready? A true waiting is a true longing, and a true longing is doing everything necessary to be ready when the time comes. For us, let us start this Advent by not only putting down the weapons that separate ourselves from Jesus and others, but challenging ourselves to get ready for the Lord. This begins with realizing that at every moment the Lord wants to come into our lives.
This Advent we must also make a good examination of conscience and look at the areas of our lives where we need to purify ourselves from sin, removing that darkness that keeps us from being prepared to receive the Lord. Lastly, let us reflect upon our family relationships and other friendships and ask ourselves if the people close to us are helping us become truly ready for the coming of Jesus.
What an amazing day to reflect about Mary’s life. She was conceived to bear Jesus and help give life to the world. All this because she was found ready. Imagine what the Lord wants to do in your life if you are found ready when he comes to reveal himself once again.
Surely we will not be disappointed.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
-Father Alfred Delp, Priest & Martyr
Happy Advent! It is the time a year when the pace of life picks up: the shoppers are out, the men of the house plot to “one up” their neighbors with Christmas lights, lists are being made, trips are being planned and most students are preparing for the end of the semester. What a crazy time!
It is interesting to reflect on what this time of year brings out in us. For most, life really does get busier. It is a race against the clock to complete last minute school work, to make plans for break and to spend time with family and friends. In addition, no one can argue that shopping consumes the holidays. The evidence we have of that is that a man was actually killed over the weekend while shopping at a New York Wal Mart. That point probably stands on its own. More so, the decorations are going up, Santa is the star of the show, and everyone is looking forward to the season’s culmination with a quick trip to church, the opening of presents and more excessively large meals to share. That perhaps sums up the time before Christmas for most people. So here is the striking question. How will Advent be different for you this year than last year? Or will it just be more of the same?
Each column over the next four weeks will be a part of an Advent series titled, “Life’s Greatest Hour.” I will prayerfully propose how this year, Advent can be different for all of us. With open hearts, let us gaze upon the Lord in the manager and learn about ourselves and the journey we are on.
Someone I know told me a story that truly opened my eyes. She is a Catholic psychologist and on one of her first assignments, she went with a priest to the home of a family who needed assistance. She arrived, met with the family and calmed everyone down. Before she left, she jokingly said under her breath, “now no one is going to kill anyone are they?” The wife immediately answered, “the minute you leave I am going to go up stairs and get my gun and shoot him,” referring to her husband. The psychologist then asked the wife to give her the gun. As she handed it to the psychologist, the wife demanded that if she had to give away her gun, her husband should have to hand over his gun. The husband then announced that if he had to give away his gun, the son and daughter each had to give up their guns. All of them had guns! The counselor took all the guns and left. She later reflected how they all were protecting themselves and keeping themselves from truly being close to one another.
Advent is a time to put down our weapons. It is a time to humble ourselves and take away all that keeps us from others and the Lord.
How true is Father Delp’s quote when he says that we stand before one another with so much baggage. We stand before people with great judgment, great pride, while demanding respect. We position ourselves to be dominant, to be popular, to be liked, and to be wanted. Oh the weapons that keep us from others! For example, in those times when it’s easier to make fun of someone than actually get to know him or her. It is those times when we have to win the argument or have the last word. It is those times when we must have our own way at all costs. Even more, this way of living leads us to not accept compliments very well or believe anything noble or good about ourselves.
We have all been there.
Maybe the first step in moving forward this Advent is to put down the weapons that have kept us away from our families, entering into fruitful friendships or relationships, and lead us to be lonely and unfulfilled.
My friends, the great news is that if we put down our weapons that have shielded us from the love of Jesus, we will come to truly be like a child. A child that gives love and is able to receive it. A child that is taken care of, and wants everyone else to be taken care of as well. A child that can meet others without comparing or judging, that allows everyone to be loved and accepted. To be childlike is not permission to be childish, but a freedom to live simply, trust and love without limits or questions.
What are the weapons you need to put down? What are the barriers or walls that keep you from letting yourself be loved by our Lord or others? This week let us strive to be childlike in opening our hearts to the child in the manger - the child who loves us and came to save us.
Make the choice this moment to make this Advent different. Putting down our weapons and walls will be a good start…Happy surrendering
God Bless You,
Monday, November 24, 2008
God Bless You,
I give you my heart in prayer at this moment and ask the Holy Spirit, your spouse, to come down upon me and all the young people of the Church. At this moment, may they not remain far from you. You are the surest and fastest way to your Son, take away all that keeps us from Him, and lead us to be who He wants us to be.
I pray with a grateful heart to you for the love that you show us, the comfort you give us, and the presence you are in our lives. May your Son be praised for the gift He has given us in you.
I offer this prayer up in thanksgiving to your Son through your most Immaculate Heart. We don’t stop nearly enough to be thankful as we take so much for granted. May Jesus accept these prayers from your heart as sincere and worthy. We know Jesus came through you Mother, and we know when our prayers go back to Him through you, they will be answered.
Today we are thankful for our lives…
In a world where some are not allowed to live and where the dignity of our lives falls somewhere between an opinion and a law, please shower down your graces for the conversion of our culture. May the conversion start with our hearts and lead us to inspire others to respect and defend life by the way we live our own lives.
Today we are thankful for our families…
No matter what happens, God gave us our families. As much as we wish they were perfect, they are not. But in the imperfection the Spirit give us opportunities to love and be loved. May we always act in charity towards our parents and brothers and sisters, and not let the love we have in our hearts for them be overshadowed by selfishness, pride, or other priorities.
Today we thank you for our friends…
Our friends are a gift to us. They share our joys, pick is up when we are down, and make us laugh when we are struggling. Surround us with friends who build us up, challenge us to be who your Son wants us to be, and who are faithful in good times and bad. May all in this time have a friend, someone who is there to show them the love of your Son.
Today we are thankful for the many joys in our lives…
It is those things that make us smile just thinking about them. Or those experiences or opportunities that bring butterflies to our stomachs or a spark of excitement to our lives. It is the joy of Elizabeth as John the Baptist leapt in her womb! It is your joy you had when you held your son in your arms. It is those things that make us want to jump for joy, tell a good friend, or shout intimately that He gives us those things we need to live our lives inspired to be who He created us to be.
Today we are even thankful for the struggles…
The struggles are a gift too as you know Mother. They show us what we are made of. They make us look deep down in our hearts and souls, and force us to look to Heaven and surrender all we have to the one who died for us as you did. You could have said no, but you didn’t. You inspire us to face our struggles with greatn faith and courage. Give us the strength of your heart and the comfort in times of need.
Today we are thankful for the little things…
It is the surprises that amaze us. The presence of you and Sprit in our lives when we least expect it. The smile for a neighbor or friend, the success that was never meant to be, the good night sleep, the hot shower, a fun soccer game, music notes played in harmony, a letter from an old friend, and even the smell of mom’s home cooking. You shower us with graces when we least expect. The little victories in life are often the most profound.
Lastly, today we are thankful for the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, the Word that inspired us, and the Church they left for us…
We are sons and daughters of God and of you, Mary. We live by the manifold grace of the Spirit and are free because of the Cross of Jesus. The Word is our guide and the Church is our Home. Protect it, inspire it, and give us all we need to one day come home to you forever.
Mary, I love you. We love you. Thank you for the gift of your Motherhood. I entrust the hearts of all young people to your blessed heart. May we come to know the love of Jesus your Son, the purpose He has for us, and receive the grace necessary to follow it through.
This day, may you offer our praise to the most Holy Trinity in thanksgiving for every gift we have been given.
With grateful hearts,
Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
In my experience, there is always something holding us back. We know deep inside our hearts that we should be living differently – there is a certain feeling inside that haunts us at times, challenging us to change, to be converted, to be transformed. Unfortunately, our younger generation always has a way to justify our misery. In fact, we are so good at it that we have convinced ourselves that this is just the way life is.
Our thoughts go like this:
We are bored at school and we make it the schools’ problem.
Mom and dad are too strict so we get annoyed and have a bad attitude towards the whole family.
Work is too hard, so we are lazy and get paid what we do not deserve.
Sports might be a place where we give our all, but our attitude in the other parts of our lives can’t help but affect what goes on in the gym or on the field.
We live our lives looking forward to the next class, activity, game etc. and we find ourselves in a never ending cycle of failed expectations, lukewarm outcomes, lame excuses and bad attitudes. Sorry to be so brash, but unfortunately the reflection is pretty right on not many young people today.
What is holding us back? What is it that keeps us in a place where we keep finding ourselves desiring more? I would like to propose that we truly don’t believe that God wants to use us. For some reason we look at ourselves not worthy of a call from God to do great things. We see our brokenness and weakness and convince ourselves that we could never give to the world and be a part of God’s work in our midst. I have been there and I was pretty darn good and coming up with excuses why God would not want to use me.
I came across this reflection by a Christian author:
Jacob was a liar. Dave was an adulterer. Abraham was too old. Timothy had ulcers. Peter was a coward. Moses was a stuttering murderer. Mark was undependable. Hosea married a prostitute. Naomi was widowed, as was Ruth. Jonah was disobedient. Miriam was a gossip. Thomas doubted. Elijah suffered from depression. Paul was a murderer too. John the Baptist dressed funny. Martha way was a worrywart. Zacchaeus was very short. Mary was only a teenager. Lazarus was dead. What is your excuse?
How does that make you feel? Everyone has an excuse! What is yours?
Here is the great news. God loves you and wants to use you. He has created you with amazing gifts and talents and when you are ready, He will set the world ablaze with all you have to offer. What a great thought! Our lives do not have to be about what we are not good at. Our lives do not have to be about the let downs of high school, work, or our everyday challenges. God wants you to experience what life is like living in Him.
However, we have to stop with the excuses. We have to stop putting off the decisions and movements in our lives that will lead us to Christ. Make today that day when you put the excuses aside and finally come to move in a direction responding to the Lord wanting to do great things in your life.
Have you talked about praying more? Today, go to the chapel and spend some time after school in prayer with our Lord.
How about helping out more around the house and being more joyful around your family? Start when you come home from school, and surprise your family with your joy!
You can also:
Work harder at work
Be an example to your teammates when it comes to how you carry yourself on and off the field.
Strive not to use the bad language you have become accustomed to.
Lend a hand to the person in the hallway who looks lost or lonely.
The Lord wants to do great things with your life! Praise Him for that!
The excuses are holding us back. Are you ready to put them aside? I am too!
God Bless You,
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Grace and peace to you my friends.
There are many people I have talked to over the past week that have expressed their disappointment, anxiety, and even sadness over the results of the presidential election. With these feelings come even more questions about what is going to happen in the future. Last Tuesday was a incredible defeat for the Church and the cause of life and values that most Christians hold dear. Why was it that more than half of the nation’s Catholics voted for and supported the most pro-abortion candidate the U.S. has ever nominated? Why was it when people were asked about why they voted the way they did, abortion and other moral issues were not even in their top five reasons for choosing a particular candidate? To know that Catholics and Christians and a majority of the country didn’t seem to really care about the most defenseless in our society reveals to me the deep poverty we are in as a country and culture.
I am deeply motivated by the words of Pope John Paul II at the beginning of the column. In a very timeless and prophetic way he is inspiring us young people to realize and understand where we find ourselves at this time in history. We often feel helpless and like we do not have a part to play in our cultural battle. We make excuses and pass on the responsibility to someone else. However, this attitude could not be farther from what we are called to do. We need to be “called out” now more than ever. It is time my friends for all of us to grow up, step up, and start living lives that that proclaim Jesus and the Gospel! We can no longer afford to think that a life lived for Christ is something to put off to the future or something that can be done in a mediocre or average way. It is pretty safe to look around and see where living a mediocre faith has gotten us today. Is where we find ourselves really where we want to be? I am guessing that it is not.
Though there are big issues that we deal with as a nation, abortion, war, poverty, the redefining of marriage, unethical research, etc. are all areas in which the battle for our culture is being fought. I would like to propose what I think is the best way we can make a difference in this battle. It all comes down to the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva: “Why don’t you try converting your whole life into the service of God- your work and your rest, your tears and your smiles.” Our battle does not have to be fought in some far off land because the front line of the battle is fought in our families, schools, sports teams, groups of friends, and work places. If we can reorient our lives and convert everything we do for the cause of Jesus Christ and the Gospel, think about how things would change!
Our own personal conversions would have a deep impact on the major issues in our nation.
Our relationships with our parents would be better because we would listen to them, respect them, and love them in the name of Jesus
Our friendships would thrive because they would be centered around things that would build us up, spark deep conversation, and lead to genuine love and fellowship (away from shallow friendship found at the local party near you).
Our effort at school and work would be productive because everything we do would be in the name of the Lord and giving Him glory (how many of us really go to work and school each day to give Jesus glory as we use our gifts and talents?) It would change the way we volunteer, help other students, and be at the service of others.
Our sports teams would be different and the team would be looked as a community united in a single purpose: to be virtuous men and woman striving to serve God in their athletic gifts.
If we want to change our culture and we want to be a part of the renewal that must happen in our Church and country it starts with our everyday lives. Moment by moment we can change hearts, including our own, to win that battle that is before us. I believe that this is a winning strategy, one that could truly heal a culture and change it for the better.
Contribute now to the battle, don’t just let another day go by.
God Bless You,
P.S. Pray for our new president. May his heart be converted to govern and lead to respect life and work for peace and justice for all people, especially the unborn.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
November is the month that we in the Church pray for our beloved dead. May the souls of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace! When I was in Mass this morning, while praying for the election in addition to those who have died, all the seminarians we encouraged to realize that we are all on our way to meet the Lord. I was overwhelmed with this notion! My friends, we are on our way to meet the Lord! Take a moment to reflect upon all those in your life who have gone before us. Maybe the thoughts bring up sadness, which is the common feeling for us as we think about those who we miss. This month we pray and remember those who we miss; it is a wonderful time to remember that in God’s great mercy our friends and family are on their way to meet the Lord or have met Him already. What great joy this should bring to your heart! What great longing should well up in our hearts and overflow in anticipation for what is to come. We are on our way to meet the Lord!
Let this be the context in which we live our lives - and let this be the context in which we vote or participate in our society. All of us are on way to meet the one who made us, loves us, and calls us to live according to His way. The genius about Catholics and Christians taking part in civic society and participating in our culture is that we can make decisions and choices that lead us to this noble end. Is this person going to help me save my soul and lead me to meet my Lord? Is this job, school, or relationship going to help save my soul and lead me to meet my Lord? This is the question friends!
Everyday we all get up and whether we realize it or not, are making choices that are leading us to the salvation of our souls or are leading us astray. Everyday we get a step closer to meet our Lord who yearns for us to be with Him. Someone asked me the other day how they should vote, and my only advice was for them to vote as if their LIFE depended on it. In a greater context we should not only vote, but make certain and decisions and choices as if our very lives depended on it. Because they do! The decisions we make at school, home, at work, on Friday and Saturday nights, affect our lives and the direction we are going.
Today, tomorrow, and everyday we should take a moment to remember those who have gone before us. Then remember that we are on our way to be them and be with our Lord. Tomorrow’s election won’t change that. It will effect it, but it will never change the fact that all of us, regardless of race, economic status, or creed are on our way to meet our Lord. What great news that is.
Let that bring a smile to your face today and even tomorrow.
Make choices today as if your LIFE depended on it…
God Bless You,
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
With that said, I wanted to take some time to reflect upon the central theme of 2008 presidential election. CHANGE. Anyone that has paid the least bit of attention knows that both candidates have claimed to be real agents of change and put forth their ideas for change in our country. According to them, we have to change healthcare, we have to change the way we use energy, we have to change the way we fight wars, we have to change the way we deal with other countries, we have to change the way we do taxes, we have to change we regulate education, and we have change the government works. We apparently were supposed to even change the way elections are run - and it is pretty safe to say that goal didn’t work out very well.
Observing the process of the campaign, and all that comes with it, it is quite clear that many people are hungry for change. The concept of change has taken center stage because people want something different. At this point, they are becoming followers of two men who seem to think they have all the answers. The have packaged this whole notion of change up in some nice wrapping paper and a great big bow. But here is my only question: What is at the heart of a desire for change? Is it really about healthcare, education, government, or taxes? It could be. But I think there is something deeper going on here. I am convinced that people don’t only want things to be different, at the same time they are yearning for something MORE.
My friends, perhaps they change we need is not a change from politicians or the government. The change we need is a change of heart. In the Church we call it conversion. And to go a step further, we need a transformation.
You see, I would propose that people want change so much because they are tired of feeling they way they do. They are tired of getting up every morning and wondering if this is all there is in life. We yearn for a purpose that goes beyond our daily schedules and routines. We yearn for answers that go beyond the short term fix, and temporary happiness. We yearn for change, but little did we know that we have to allow ourselves to be changed.
The change or transformation our hearts long for is a movement away from the thing that holds us back, the thing that distracts us, and leads us away from being who God wants us to be. The transformation we need is not only to say “no” to certain things, but perhaps more importantly, what we are saying “yes” to. The whole concept of change is so popular and makes everyone feel good because there is a possibility of something new and different to come. People get excited about new solutions and new ways of doing things.
Beyond the big ideas and solutions that candidates have for change, which comes down to more money and government, here is the change or transformation that is needed for those who follow Christ: Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself. If we can allow ourselves to be transformed enough to have Jesus be the most important thing in our lives, the change or transformation we all long for will become a reality. Until Jesus becomes everything to us, a change of heart, or a change of culture for that matter, will just be a dream. Love of Jesus then becomes love of neighbor and the place in which we live begins to change. You would be amazed to see that the issues the candidates are discussing would take care of themselves if we all allowed ourselves to be transformed into the life of Christ. Abortion, poverty, war, the environment, and even tax policy would look different if the hearts of all Americans were in the right place. The change of heart is the change we need.
The crowds that show up to speeches wait in longs lines to see a man or women they think has the answer to their desire for more. The only unfortunate problem about this whole is process is that millions of Americans will wake up on November 5th and not feel any different. They put all their hope in those who could not give them what they are looking for. My friends, we do need change but not the change of this world but the change that Jesus wants to give us. Sorry senators, all do respect, but you can’t give me what I am looking for.
The change of Jesus, is change we can believe in!
God Bless You,
Monday, October 20, 2008
I sent out a press release this morning letting the news agencies and media know that I would be announcing my Boss’s economic plan today. I got no response (which is not surprising!) so I guess talking about it in my column this week will have to do. I took Economics 101 my freshman year of college so I feel somewhat prepared to reflect on the issue. Ok, not really but I promise it will make sense.
I am in no way an economic expert. I have my bank account, good credit, pay taxes (since I make so much money…that is a joke because I don’t at all!) and strive to save my money. Anyone who pays attention to the presidential race has heard about the differing economic plans that both candidates have proposed. Simply, it all comes down to cutting taxes, raising taxes, and trying to make the poor richer, and the rich poorer (or richer for that matter), depending on which plan you choose.
It is time propose a new economic plan today. It is a traditional plan, very comprehensive, and well done. Many advisors have been working on it for years and years. The Boss likes to call it the “Eternal Rewards Plan” and the great news is that He truly desires everyone to be rich! Maybe His plan will inspire your vote and your life.
Here is the plan:
Be Rich in Dignity
Promote and defend the dignity of every human person. From the baby conceived in the womb to the poor jobless person on the street, to the homeless immigrant, to the mentally handicapped, to the aged and the dying. If we start from the very beginning of life and remain committed to the end, then our work will not be in vain. The priority is the defenseless and those whose dignity is not respected. Recognizes and love the dignity in every person that you meet.
Be Rich in Peace
War with other counties or peoples is not the best answer even thought it is necessary at times. Do not get used to it and see it always as the best answer. Peace is not only the absences of war but also the harmony of people living together with one mind and heart. Peace must be worked for in our families, friendships, schools, work, and society. Peace among the popular and the unpopular, the athletes and the non athletes, the young and the old, and those who think or look differently than me or you. Our ability to work for and establish a lasting peace will determine the fate of our culture and world.
Be Rich in Service
Is your life about you? It is time to make it about someone else. Take the time and effort to reach out to others. With a generous heart give when no one is asking, help when no one is watching. Have others around you be your first priority. Be the first one to offer your place in line, be the first one to perform an act of kindness to the guy or girl in the hall who seems lonely, be the first one to offer a ride home to the younger student who usually walks, be the first one to offer a hand to those struggling with their school work, or be the first one to offer advice and a kind heart to the one who is lost or afraid. Reach out beyond yourself, and help someone else.
Be Rich in Love
It is time to put the pride and selfishness aside and put on love. There is no time to only love those who love us, but to love without limits those who might not love us. Love your family, friends, and those close to you, but also love in a bolder way those who bug you, get on your nerves, or even those who hurt you and make fun of you. Love those who disagree with you, who hate what you stand for, and will do anything to make you feel like you don’t matter. Love solves everything.
In the end my friends, be rich in what matters to God. And if your voting is rich in what matters to God, cast your vote. However, it is quite clear that being rich in what matters to the world doesn’t lead us anywhere. It leads us to MTV,
In fact, they are yearning to be RICH. Not only in money, but in their whole and complete selves. They want to feel rich. Rich in dignity. Rich in Peace. Rich in Service. Rich in Love.
The Boss sends His Love. Also, he would like to remind you that you will be paid very soon. Some of the money you will get now…but you will be paid-in-full in eternity.
Sounds like a good plan to me!
God Bless You,
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
We have all lost in our lives at one point or another and I think we can agree that it is not a good feeling. After we lose a game or experience some kind of defeat in our lives, it is always good to ask some follow up questions to see what the exact problem was in the game or situation and why it didn’t work out the way it was suppose to. It could be the equivalent of watching game film and trying to figure out what went wrong.
My older brother is an assistant college football coach. He is a very gifted and talented guy, not to mention a wonderful son, brother, and husband. I visited him this weekend and got to seem him in action, and unfortunately his team was one of the losses of the weekend. (If you are reading this coach, you’ll get them next time!) When I was talking to him after the game and asking his reflections about his coaching experience, his philosophy inspired me. It basically came down to a few simple determinations. Number one, he said you play to win. And number two, you have to set your team up to make the plays necessary to win. Of course a lot of other things go into the preparation and execution in order to win a game, but the strategy made sense to me. The strategy did not only make sense in football, but in life. Here me out..
PLAY TO WIN. In my conversations with many people, I often get the feeling that many are not playing this game of life to win. I am sometimes amazed when I hear outlooks on life where people limit themselves, make excuses, and put thing off. Perhaps one of the biggest road blocks from playing to win is an attitude of minimalism that has captured many hearts. Why overwork myself to get an A when I can just get a C? I am tired, why put in the extra reps in the weight room? Why do the assignment when I can just copy off my best friend who already has it done? Why exercise today? I have heard them all and more!
My friends, my bold assessment of many lives today is that most young people are playing to LOSE. We know our victory is found in striving for greatness and living for the Lord who calls us to one day be with Him forever. If that is the goal, why do we choose a path that is leading to mediocrity or failure? Why are we choosing a path that will lead us to fall short and at the end of the game leading us to wonder what went wrong? If we want to play to win, we have to adjust our focus and perspective on the whole game. To live for our Lord and follow Him at all costs is the recipe for winning. To make Him our end and respond to His call to love and transform the world will lead us to victory. Let’s put first things first. Let’s play to win. You in?
SET YOURSELF UP TO MAKE THE PLAYS. Once we are in the game, the moment of the big play is not the most important moment. The preparation is perhaps more important. To set our self up to make the big decisions, to choose the Lord at school, practice, work, or at home, we have to set ourselves up to be successful. Tools such as prayer, the sacraments, virtuous friendships, and healthy lifestyle, all point to a radical commitment to Jesus and can aid us in the big plays of life. If we are not committed to pray and a personal relationships with the Lord and we do not base our lives in the sacraments, we will not be ready to make the plays to win.
My friends, playing to win and be prepared to make the plays is a great recipe for our spiritual lives. This week, do some reflecting and look at your outlook on life and see if you are playing to win and practicing things in your life to give yourself the tools necessary to be successful in the game.
According to my favorite coach these things can lead a team to victory.
God Bless You,
Monday, September 29, 2008
I don’t know anything about physical posture, so I will spare you the lecture. But I want to propose the concept of spiritual posture. Have you ever thought about your spiritual posture? Maybe now’s the time.
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” Philippians 2:6-8
Maybe it is because it is the year of St. Paul and I have never truly embraced his words before, but Paul is truly on to something. In the above passage he gives us an image of Jesus as emptying Himself. As the opposite of emptying is grasping, we are given an image to instantly challenge us. Jesus’ spiritual posture is that of the cross. His arms are wide open emptying himself to the world and those he came to save. His act on the cross was the climax of His whole life, moment by moment emptying his grace and love on His people. The alternative for Jesus was to grasp the Father and not be willing or open to be the savior of the world. Thankfully, for our salvation, Jesus chose to come as a man, but still God to redeem the world.
My friends, is your spiritual posture at this moment that of emptying yourself or grasping for something? My opinion is that we all have become pretty darn good graspers. We will grasp for anything these days if it makes us feel good, feel loved, or a part of things. I talk to people all the time who seem to be grasping at attention from other guys or girls. They seem to be grasping at popularity at parties or bars. They seem to be grasping at alcohol or drugs to take away the pain in their hearts. They seem to be grasping at hope, while burying themselves in despair and sin. Some people even grasp to busy schedules or hobbies just to drown out something or someone they want to avoid. We grasp and we grasp, clinging to things and people that lead us away from our true selves. It seems that we grasp in fear and that there is a lack of trust and faith in the One who loves us and longs for us to be free.
Grasping means we let go of the things that lead us away from Jesus and the life He wants us to live. It means opening our arms like Him, and allowing ourselves to be emptied. Another way to put it is, that when we allow ourselves to be emptied and we open our arms to the Lord, we allow ourselves to RECEIVE every gift and grace from the Lord. My friends our spiritual posture must be that of receiving from the Lord. Be someone who receives instead of grasps or takes. Receive the Lord’s mercy and healing for the places in you heart that need to be healed. Receive the Lord’s affection and affirmation and know you are special to Him. Receive your identity and vocation, giving you mission and purpose in your life. Receive everything from Him!
The reality of our spiritual posture is, if we constantly grasp, we are not open to receive. Take a moment today and ask yourself what you are grasping to. Today might be a good day to let it go and open your arms like Christ to receive.
God Bless You,
Monday, September 22, 2008
In short, there was a very severe financial crisis in which big investment companies (i.e…companies into which people invest their money to eventually try and make more money in the long term) filed for bankruptcy. They simply ran out of money and lost other people’s money as well. How would you feel if you entrusted your money into an investment company and you realized they did not spend it wisely and now the money is no longer there? Needless to say, it is going to take an estimated 700 billion dollars to make up for the money that was irresponsibly lost.
So what does that have to do with us? I thought you would never ask.
Companies and people go bankrupt when they carelessly spend and waste their money. I think it is the same way for us young people today. We can go bankrupt, not in the money sense of course, but we can lose a lot of ourselves and what is important to us when we carelessly live life and waste it away. We see it all the time.
It starts with recognition of what we have. For starters, we have been given the gift of life, the gift of our identity, the gift of our unique selves. We have also been given the gift of family and friends, and the gift of faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. Underneath those things comes: our likes and dislikes, gifts, passions, and talents, and our hopes, dreams, desires and so much more. When we realize what we have, the next question to ask is, “where are we investing it?”
The people who lost their money this past week invested their assets in big companies they trusted. Where do you invest your assets? Today, a lot of young people invest their assets, such as their identity, in different groups of friends, sports teams, or social networks. Even more so, young people invest their hopes, dreams, and desires in Hollywood, MTV, or the popular way. I once again ask, where do you invest yourself? Where do you put the things that are important to you? Who do you trust with your heart, your emotions, goals, dreams, love, and aspirations? Like others, it might be a business, a friend or significant other, sports team, hobby, or career. Whatever it is, we all invest and give ourselves to things that seem safe, comfortable, and even valuable. But how many times, have we been failed? How many times have our assets been lost, broken, stolen, mishandled, or thrown away? How many times have people cheated us and broken our hearts? How many times have people used us, and wounded our self esteem? How many times have we been left out from a job and told we were not good enough? How many times have we been excited about an opportunity but then quickly realized that it is not exactly what we had hoped for? How many times have we been let down? How many times have we been completely bankrupt because we have put our assets and everything that we have in places they don’t belong, and ultimately fail us?
My friends, there is a place that you can invest your assets and your very selves, and there is a 100% fulfillment rate - no chance of bankruptcy. There is no chance being used, hurt, or left behind. That place is Jesus Christ. He is the place where we can come to give all that we are and everything that we do and hope for. He is the place we can find happiness, community, safety, and fulfillment in our dreams for our lives. If we come to make our investment in Him, who is all loving, powerful, and good, we will live lives like we never can imagine.
What does it mean to invest in Jesus? Get up everyday and entrust your life to Jesus. Pick friends that lead you to Him. Play your sports and offer your schooling to Jesus. Please Him in your relationships, friendships, and families. Measure your thoughts and deeds as if it would please Jesus. Hope in Jesus. Pray to Jesus. Love Jesus! Offer up all that you do to Jesus. Entrust your heart to Him, your love and all that you desire. My friends, He is full and ready to overflow our lives with His goodness and love.
It is time to make some investment changes. It is time to invest in the ONE who will not fail you and will never leave you. On the bright side too…it is not that expensive. J
God Bless You,
Monday, September 15, 2008
What a great day to have celebrated the Triumph of the Cross. This past week my Philosophy professor brought up a side note in class about superstition. It is funny and interesting to think about how superstitious our society is. Just think to yourself; do you have that piece of clothing you wear that is your lucky pair of socks, shirt, or shoes? Have you ever “knocked on wood before?” Have you claimed that a team does better when you don’t watch? I am guilty! I still have a t-shirt that I wore underneath my football pads that I wore for every single game. I didn’t feel right if I didn’t wear it.
My mom is also a great example of this – sometimes she thinks that if she covers her eyes during a sporting event, the team will do better. We are all guilty of some sort of superstition at some point in our lives, but what exactly is our reason for doing it?
We do these things because we think it will prevent bad things from happening. If we knock on wood, we won’t get sick. If we wear our lucky pair of socks we won’t lose the game. If we don’t watch, our favorite team will win. In the end, we don’t want bad things to happen so we claim certain things might help prevent the loss our outcome.
Last week, my professor related superstition to our faith, because we treat it the same way. We tell ourselves that if we have faith, then no bad things will happen to us. If we have faith, grandma won’t die. If we have faith, my girlfriend or boyfriend will be all I ever wanted. If we have faith we won’t study and still get a good grade. If we have faith the hurricane will miss our house. If we have faith, we will have more money. We can go on and on, but does faith really prevent bad things from happening?
It could. God does many mysterious things. But is that the purpose of faith? I am not quite convinced. My friends, I think faith prepares and gives us all that we need to deal with our experiences in life - the good and the bad. Faith in Jesus is not a cure for the prevention of struggles in your life, it is a gift of endurance and grace to meet life head on. We must not live our lives avoiding failure, losing games, broken friendships, tough times and all the rest. We must live our lives in hope that faith in Christ gives us a new way to see the world, a new way to experience life, and a new way to look to what is to come.
As we look upon the cross today, celebrating Christ’s sacrifice, it is a good time for self reflection in our own lives. Where is the cross in your life? Is it family troubles? Is it challenges in school or sports? Are you having trouble connecting with friends or peers? Are you making poor social decisions leading you to drink or engage in at risk behavior? Do you miss a deceased family member or friend? Are you lonely? Depressed? All these things are the crosses in our lives. And today we celebrate the victory that is ours.
My friends, the great news is that Christ has won! He is calling all of us to suffer faithfully and joyfully with the crosses in our own lives. Remember that faith in our Lord does not take the daily struggles out of our lives, but it gives us the courage and strength to embrace the cross. It also gives us a certain peace to love the crosses in our lives. Love the cross!
Today, instead of putting on the lucky t-shirt, or knocking on wood, or pretending not to watch when your team is down, put a cross in your pocket or around your neck - there is no need for superstition to prevent bad things from happening. We have faith in the cross of Jesus to prepare and inspire us to face the daily joys and struggles of life.
Amen to that! May he be praised!
God Bless You,
Thursday, September 11, 2008
In the past week I had a special conversation with two of my friends who are leaving tomorrow to join religious orders. It was kind of a “final conversation” for at least a year maybe even longer. I am very familiar with this as my brother Scott (now Brother Innocent) is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. He joined them last year and we had to go through the whole transition of him leaving for New York and us not getting to talk or seem him for an extended amount of time. I am a proud brother and friend when I see my best friends leave everything behind and follow the Lord’s dream for them. Don’t get me wrong, selfishly I get sad or discouraged at times because my relationship is different with them, as they have a new life now, but my heart is amazed by the bigger picture of the vocational call. What does it take to give up everything to be a priest, brother, or sister? What does it take to look to marriage with a heart that yearns to make your future husband or wife everything to you, to sacrifice everything for them? To be Christ to the world?
Pope Benedict XVI, in his introduction homily for the Year of St. Paul, stated the following about one of the Church’s most popular and effective saints, “Paul’s faith is being struck by the love of Jesus Christ, a love that overwhelms him to his depths and transforms him. His faith is the impact of God’s love in his heart.” - Just take that in for a second - God’s love struck him. The amazing and powerful love of God wounded Paul so much and transformed his whole life that he became one of the greatest saints of the Church. And just to get the facts straight, before Paul’s conversion, he was one of the biggest sinners. He persecuted and mocked Christians! Despite his sin and weakness Jesus saw something more in Paul and called him to Himself. This wasn’t just another job for Paul. His encounter with the risen Lord changed him. The Pope went on to say, “But what deeply motivated him was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to communicate this love to others.” He left everything behind and went in the name of Jesus Christ to convert the nations.
Whether we are talking about Paul, my friends who are becoming religious brothers or sisters, my fellow seminarians, or many of the men and women I know who are pursuing Christian marriage, there is one thing that should be at the basis of all vocational calls. LOVE. The beautiful part about all this, is that Christ does not even ask us to love Him first. He is the first one to make the move, to reach out to us, and to say, “I LOVE YOU!” Our Lord, in every moment, wants to flood your life with His love. He wants to be there when you get up, have breakfast with your family, go to school, go to practice, eat dinner, do homework, talk on the phone, check facebook, and go to bed. He wants to overwhelm you with His love, just like He did Paul. But Paul was ready to receive that love, and when he did, his live changed. Are you ready to receive the Lord’s love? Are you ready to be captivated, overwhelmed, and struck by the love your heart has been longing for? One that makes you whole, complete, and happy beyond your wildest dreams?
We are only ready to say yes to God in what he calls us to do, if we let ourselves be loved by the Lord. And when we experience that love we will have all we need to leave everything and follow the Lord wherever he may leave.
LOVE is the answer my friends. Let Him love you…
To Scott, Kris, and Dan…I love you and will meet you in the consecration everyday. In our meeting there, we will experience once again, the Love that our hearts long for.
God Bless You,
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Have you ever wished away time? I have done it before. If you have ever found yourself saying one of the following lines you have also done so.
“I wish I was done with high school!” “
"I wish it were three years down the line so we could get married”
“I can’t wait till my freshman year is over!”
“I am tired of being a teenager!”
So often I get caught up in thinking about what is going to happen in my life. We all look forward to the future and have the attitude: “oh I can’t wait till that happens,” or “I can’t wait till God gives me in my life.” Our excitement or fear of what is to come is a natural part of growing up and becoming who we fully are.
Today I start another year of seminary. I am humbled and blessed to be a seminarian studying for the priesthood. Building up to the start of the year, I found myself acting like my life is a waiting room at the doctors’ office. I am here waiting for the Lord to do His thing, to call me back to his office to show me who I am and what I am called to do and that will be it. Somehow I don’t think it works that way. All of us, whether we are in middle school, high school, college, or out of school, can have the attitude of always seeming to be waiting on something else to come. Since we are waiting, we miss the truth of our lives that is right in front of us. Oh how much we miss! How much there is to learn in the present moment!
Bishop Francis Xavier was a bishop from Vietnam who came to understand this concept in a clear way. He was put in a prison camp in Vietnam shortly after becoming bishop. He missed his people very much and was in deep distress over being taken away from his ministry. After coming to terms with what the Lord was calling him to, he embraced the grace of each moment to live for the Lord and give his love and service to others. He reflected that his whole life was different after he started to live that way. How much we can learn!
Most likely there will be no prison for us or any experience that dangerous, but we are still called to live like the humble bishop from Vietnam! How often do we think school is boring? How often do we think work or practice is boring? How often do we not enjoy being with our family? Every moment is a gift from the Lord to be embraced and lived! Every moment and experience can help us to become more fully who God made us to be only if we choose to live them with great passion and love. Just imagine if we took each moment at school as if it was an opportunity to enter into the gift of life that God has given us. To learn, meet people, be challenged, and overcome all that is before us for the greater glory of God and to become who we were created to be. Just imagine if work was a time where we looked forward to the labor of the moment, the task at hand, and the satisfaction of a job well done in order to give God glory for the ability to work and serve all people. Just imagine!
My friends, life does not have to be a series of moments that we pass over because we are constantly longing for something different or something to come. Right now at this very moment, you are who you are, where you are, and doing what you are doing, because Jesus loves you and in His great mystery you are living out His plan. Live each moment, embrace each moment and live for the Lord!
No more waiting or looking for something in the future. The perfect will of the Lord is now…Just look around and see how beautiful it is…
God Bless You,
The Olympics are in full force and - can I just say for all of us - that it is great to be an American! We haven so blessed this past week to see our American athletes rise to the occasion to win their events and see their commitment and years of work pay off in the winning of a medal. Athletes like Michael Phelps winning 8 gold medals, or Dara Torres winning 2 silver medals at the age of 41 have reminded us all that old-fashioned hard work and determination can still pay off.
Americans were glued to their TV screens at prime time every night to see a 23-year old swimmer break world records, humbly receive the gold medal, kiss his mom and sisters, only to get prepared to do it all over again. People like Michael Phelps and Dara Torres remind us all about it takes to be GREAT. In an interview I saw with Phelps they asked him about what his secret was and how he managed to be so prepared for each race. He remarked that it was the little things that he was committed to in his life and workout that led him to be successful in the big races. (Did you hear that eats 12,000 calories a day? Oh my!)
My friends, his reflection there hit home with me. So often most of us blow off the small things while desiring the bigger things. We let the small, less significant moments slip by while anticipating the more romantic moments or events that we think we will be prepared for. For example, if we are obligated to make our bed in the morning, do it with passion and love instead of skipping it because it might not seem that important. Also, I remember how class in high school could get boring at times, even so, embrace each moment of class with passion and as an opportunity instead of acting like it is a big waste of time. In sports practices, it is doing each drill with passion and intensity to get better and be prepared for the big game. In friendships, it is being devoted to your friends in good times and in bad. And in your spiritual life, it is saying your daily prayers and being faithful to God in the little moments, to then be His own in the greater moments of life.
My friends, as St. Jose Maria says, it is the little things done well that prepare us for the fulfillment of our dreams! Every time we give up, give 50%, act like we don’t care, or say we can do it another day, we lose the opportunity to receive grace and experience that will lead us to what we desire or dream about in the future. Everyday we live, we are preparing for what is to come. We are preparing for the moments and decisions that if responded to in God’s way, will make us saints and heroes.
The life to which we are called might not be on prime time TV, or might not get us any gold medals, but I can guarantee that the reward of our faithfulness will bring an even greater reward in the end. If we persevere and are committed to the small things in life, and do them with passion and love, we will be prepared to live our dreams and be saints to serve God in a world that so desperately needs them!
May God be praised for our country and Church!
God Bless You,
This past Thursday morning all those participating in the pilgrimage started at St. Peter and Paul Church in Great Meadows, NJ at 6am. It was early for those of us who are on a summer schedule. As the walking started, I was inspired by the groups of people I was with. All the groups, the Polish, the English, and the Hispanics were all committed, enthusiastic, and joyful as they started 60 miles of walking. It struck me that all of these people, or most of them anyway, could have this attitude because they were excited and determined to get where they were going. The Franciscan brother who was in charge kept yelling, “We are going to Czestochowa!” All were excited to end at the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, to honor Mary and to fulfill their pilgrimage in every way. That was our goal, that was our end, and we strived to do it with great joy.
On our pilgrimage of life, it must be the same way. If we know where we are going and are determined to get there, it should show in our attitude and personality. Heaven is our goal my friends! Our inspiration of living through the day is not going to the mall, or sports games, or school, or work for that matter, but everything we do should be started and completed with the idea and attitude that everything is leading us to our final goal and destination which is to be in Heaven with the God who made us and loves us beyond all else. Are you living as if you know where you are going? Trust me it changes everything.
As the walking started, I had a big smile on my face and great joy in my heart. I was on this journey with my two best friends - to one side was my sister and the other my brother. Experiencing this pilgrimage with them gave me great comfort, energy, and kept me going when I was tired and wanted to rest. When I looked up and down the crowd we were walking with, I was humbled by the other people with us. I was a stranger to most of them, but it was the hospitality and love that was shown to me that inspired me and encouraged me as we were walking.
On our pilgrimage of life, those who are walking beside us are the ones that will inspire us and lead us to our destination. Those family members, friends, mentors, or strangers who influence us are the ones that will give us hope when we are discouraged, peace when we are troubled, and energy when we don’t want to go on. The Lord has called us to be a people in community! What great news it is to know that we are called to journey not by ourselves but with others who are committed and inspired to the final end as we are. Who are your traveling partners to Heaven?
Lastly, it didn’t take very long for all of us who were on the pilgrimage in New Jersey to have to starting dealing with the adversity of the walk. Some got blisters, some got poison ivy, some were tired, and most of us were sore. It rained one of the days, and the hills we walked up seemed daunting at times. There were many points of adversity that we all had to preserver through with our eyes on our final end and goal. Czestochowa!
On our pilgrimage of life, the adversity we experience and struggle with can beat us down and hold us up. The blisters of broken relationships and friendships; the poison ivy of bad influences in our lives; the rain of tragedy or incontrollable events; and soreness of broken hearts and sickness or death - all these things can affect our journey to heaven. But the real question is how we deal with it all. Do we let it distract us and take us off the path of our final goal? Or do we take time to heal, get patched up, put on a poncho, take some Tylenol and get back in the game?
My friends, in our pilgrimage back to our Heavenly Father, we must be determined to get to where we are going, take joy in whom we are traveling with, and respond to the adversities of the journey with faith and hope. As I am sitting here recovering from the walk to the shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in New Jersey, I am inspired and now committed more than ever to push forward on my pilgrimage to Heaven.
May I see all of you on the way! We are going to Heaven! Let us be on our way…
God Bless You,
A few weeks ago I was at the Boys’ Leadership Camp held in the diocese of Lincoln. I must admit that I am not much of a camper - this camp was held at a camp ground owned by the diocese with the usual cabins, big open fields, hiking trials, and much more. Some other seminarians and I were there to be a spiritual presence and a support to the staff and campers. It was an incredible week and the focus of the camp inspired me and that is what I would like to reflect upon this week.
Going into camp week I didn’t really know what to expect. I figured it would be a very spirit filled week with Mass, adoration, confession, and time to pray, but beyond any of that, I didn’t know how the camp organizers were going to keep 50 boys interested for a whole seven days. It wasn’t until the afternoon on the first day when I was asked a pointed question while I was preparing to play dodge ball with the others kids. A young camper asked, “We can play dodge ball at a Catholic camp? I didn’t know we could do that!!” The priest who was with us exclaimed right back as he threw a dodge ball the kids way, “That is the point! We can do regular everyday things and love Jesus doing them! That is what it means to be Catholic!” It all made sense! That is what the camp was about. At that moment, I could not have been more excited to be there or to help these kids realize that their life can be full of sports, mud, water fights, and so much more, and still have Jesus at the center.
So many times people think of Catholic schools, camps, or programs and think that it is going to be times filled with intense prayer, crazy penance, and NO FUN! You are smiling right now because we all know that it is true. My friends, being Catholic is not running from the world, but living in it, and bringing Christ to it. To play sports, be on the stage, play the instruments, be in the bands, paint the paintings, write the stories, imaging the things that have not yet be imagined, and do it all for Jesus and with Jesus. That is what it means to be Catholic! This might be news to you, but the Church was not created 2000 years ago to be apart from the world, but it was created to be part of it – and to be redeemed through Jesus and the gospel.
Deep in our hearts we all want to be great, we all want to be saints, but so many of us get discouraged because it doesn’t seem possible. Here is the great news! St. Jose Maria Escriva, a Saint of our time and founder of Opus Dei, proclaimed to the whole world that we all can be saints. He used to proclaim to big crowds, “You can be a saint in this time and place!” And the way he taught that was to be in the world, and to bring Jesus into everything that you do. He made sainthood a reality to thousands of people only if we would all strive to sanctify our work, recreation, family life, and all that we do and do it all for the love of Jesus and the Church. We can be saints! Do you truly believe it?
As I have said before, that Church is not a fun hater. God and the Church do not want us to be a part from the world, but to embrace it, living for the truth of Jesus and the gospel. And that my friends is great news…
By the way, I had fun praising the Lord beating everyone at dodge ball…
Praise the Lord in your everyday life this week! God Bless You,
Do you ever come across people in your life where you just can’t figure out what is going on inside of them because they seem so happy and positive all the time? We all have people in our lives that we can look and exclaim, “I want what you have!”
I remember playing football my freshman year of college and not really feeling at home on the football team. I liked the guys, loved the coaches, but just didn’t feel I had a place in that part of the college culture. I remember one practice where a few guys, who were quite bigger, stronger, and very intimidating came up to me and stated, “You have something that we don’t have, and we want it.” I became somewhat confused and started to wonder if they wanted my helmet, shoulder pads, or the jersey I was wearing. As I was fumbling around, one of them gently clarified what he meant: “no we don’t want any of that, we want to know why there is always a smile on your face and why you are happy all the time.” I was amazed by the question and had never really thought that my desire to have a smile on my face, and respond to life with a cheerful and positive attitude had any affect on people. A few short weeks after that conversation, the season ended and I hung up my football uniform - but still remained close with some of the guys on the team who were sincere in seeking a deeper happiness and freedom when it came to life.
Numerous times in my spiritual journey I have also looked at other people and desired to have what they had. Their faith seemed so deep, their hope unbreakable, and love boundless. And in every inquiry of mine to know what it was that made these people happy it all came down to the context of their lives. You see my friends, so many of us define our lives by winning, or having the most money, or being in the position of power, or being the most popular, or doing better then everyone else. These very contexts are why we have young people today positioning themselves to be fierce competitors in the culture of Hollywood and Wall Street. And it should be no surprise that the outcome is one that leads to depression, broken relationships or families, loneliness, or even suicide. This way of thinking reveals a cheap imitation of happiness and it is responsible for what you see going on in our world today.
With that said my friends, here is the great news! If we establish a context in our lives where we know and embrace our true identity of being sons and daughters of God, and that we believe that God is ever faithful, life will look much different. Every Catholic or Christian probably does know that he or she is a son or daughter of God, but what does it mean to truly live that? It means that we understand that our lives are not our own, that everything that happens to us is a gift from God. It means that we deal with pain and struggle as if they are a part of God’s plan for us and work with Him to find healing and peace And it means that we deal with every moment of our lives as if we are doing God’s work! Our lives will not be boring if we see God’s hand and will in everything that we do. If we begin to live this way, and invite God into every aspect of our lives, we will start to become those people we all admire, those people that seem so free and happy.
Rejoice today because God is faithful! Rejoice today because God wants to be intimately involved in our lives! Rejoice also because a life of happiness is God’s plan for everyone!
Today my friends, don’t just sit around and admire someone else for being happy. Its time to change the context of our lives, and experience that life that God dreams for us! God Bless You,
This week the economic concept of dividing up your assets (money) into many different accounts, plans, or areas of interest was introduced to me. A friend of mine was reflecting on this at a high school talk and I was thinking to myself, “Where is he going with this?” His point was this. In economics dividing up your money might be good, in case one account or plan falls through, you have assets in other places to make up for it. But if you apply that same concept to the human person and the spiritual life, it might be detrimental. So many young people today do exactly this. They put their energy, passion, commitment, and work into many areas of life such as sports, school, friendship, dating relationships, money, leadership, work etc. that every one of their “personal assets” are spread thin. Once we are spread thin and find ourselves doing too many things, we feel let down and unfulfilled.
The treasures that we have been given; our gifts, abilities, talents, passions, desires, and all that we are were not made to be divided up. What would you think if I told you their was one place, one account - if you will - that you could put all your treasure in that could give you infinite rewards and benefits. This account is not in danger of busting or going under and its promises are limitless and eternal!
“Who satisfies that essential human yearning to be one, to be immersed in communion, to be built up, to be led to truth? The Holy Spirit! This is the Spirit’s role: to bring Christ’s work to fulfillment” – Pope Benedict XVI, World Youth Day 2008
I feel like your local bank representative! But here is the point, invests your whole self into Jesus Christ, the one who can give you it all. Take your assets out of the ways of the world that lead us to mediocrity and boredom! Take your assets out of the friends and relationships that are selfish and lifeless at the same time. Take your assets out of your daily routine and schedules where you find yourselves having no time for God and authentic living. Take your assets out of MTV and Hollywood where they are being wasted away and broken. My friends it is time to reclaim ourselves, pick up the pieces, and invest them where they belong… Jesus, the one who dreamed of you and calls you to the fullness of life.
For the record, here is what I am not saying. Don’t play sports, don’t go to movies, don’t have any friends, don’t have fun, just look to Jesus! No all of that is wrong. What I am saying is make your investment in Jesus and let the Holy Spirit fulfill the plan God has for you. Give Him your whole self and then let Him be the reason you play sports, do well in school, hang out with your friends etc. Draw from the wealth of the Holy Spirit in your daily life to then take Him to the rest of the world! Believe in the words of Pope Benedict that Jesus through the Holy Spirit is the only one who can satisfy and fulfill the work that our Creator has for us.
My friends, reclaim your assets and invest them where they belong. Your fulfillment is waiting…
God Bless You,
At that moment my heart was filled with immense joy. The world in that instant was so simple and true. A little six year-old girl, who could easily be the twin of ‘Dora the Explorer,’ peered into eternity, and proclaimed the beauty of Jesus, the one who left us the Eucharist as a sign of his love and faithfulness to His people. HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL. Praise God for the little girl and all the kids that believed in that moment, they were dwelling with Jesus. Oh how much we can learn from them!
When is the last time you looked at Jesus in the Eucharist and were overwhelmed with His presence? I had to ask myself that question as I experienced the simplicity and truth of the young kids desiring so much to see who was in the tabernacle. I experience Jesus in the Eucharist everyday and do my best to kindle the flame of his love and presence in my life. But at that moment, I asked Jesus and Mary once again to reveal to me the truth of the Eucharist.
I once heard a story of a young seminarian who used to visit his spiritual director often. One afternoon the spiritual director summoned the young seminarian for spiritual direction and told him to meet him at the dock so they could go out on his boat. When the seminarian arrived, the priest was marveling at his new anchor he had just finished welding together. The two spent most of the afternoon in the middle of the lake, rejoicing over great conversation and fellowship with one another. As it got into the evening the priest, upon observing the clouds, thought it was time to head towards the dock because it looked like it was going to storm.
Glancing at the clouds a second time, the priest decided that it was going to storm and there was no use in trying to get to shore. He figured they would be just fine if they dropped the anchor in the lake and waited out the storm. He motioned to the young seminarian to grab the new anchor that was stationed behind him and toss it over the side into the lake. The seminarian excitedly grabbed the anchor and tossed it overboard - only to realize that they anchor was not attached to the boat! It headed straight to the bottom of the lake!
Realizing what he had done, he looked at his spiritual director expecting the wrath of hell to come over him. But his spiritual director calmly used it as a moment to teach. Amidst the rain he proclaimed, “We can have the nicest, most well made, and most durable anchor ever made, but if it is not attached to the boat, then it makes no difference.” Then he brought the point home to the young seminarian saying, “We can have Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world present in our lives, but if we are not attached to Him, then it makes no difference.” With a smile on his face and wonder in his eye, the seminarian and his spiritual director waited out the storm with no anchor but Jesus.
My friends, it does not matter that we have an anchor, it matters if we are attached to HIM or not. Jesus in the Eucharist is the anchor of our faith and of our lives. Are you attached to Jesus in the Eucharist? Ok, you might receive Him every Sunday, but are you truly attached to Jesus, bonded with Him, as we experience the gift of Him on the cross? We so often go through life on cruise control, assuming of we just go to Mass and say a few other prayers then everything is ok. Oh how minimal this way of life is!
Let Jesus be you anchor and your refuge. Make Him a part of every moment in your life. Embrace His love and let His presence lead you to experience greater things in your life. So we all may know the true beauty of the Lord…
God Bless You,
After reflecting on my experiences this past weekend, I drove home asking myself why all weddings have not given me the feelings of hope and peace that I was experiencing. Every day I come into contact with individuals and relationships who desire to be in love and spend the rest of their life with the one who loves them in return. Some of these relationships mirror that of my friends who were married yesterday, but a majority of the relationships between young people today prohibit themselves from finding that true freedom and grace to enter into the true gift of Christian marriage. That’s right I said it, a Christian marriage.
You see, our culture has a completely different understanding of marriage than the Church does. For instance, in our culture you get married because it just seems like the next logical step. You have been dating your significant other for two years and now it’s getting boring - so you might as well get married.
Another thing that happens in our culture is that marriage is sometimes entered into with the safety net of always have the option of divorce in case it doesn’t work out. (FYI: The divorce rate in American is over 50%! You can’t tell me this way of operating is not true). Our culture has re-defined marriage as a playground of selfishness and lust, an experience that is temporary and played by your own rules.
But here is the good news! True Christian marriage is nothing like what I just described! If you have seen or experienced what true marriage is, you know exactly what I am talking about. My friends, a true marriage is CHRIST centered. The reality of marriage is that every time a husband and wife live the truth of their marriage, they mirror a greater reality to the rest of the world. They reveal Christ to us! When a husband and wife lay their lives down for one another and the children they bear, we see Christ at work in His Church. What a gift!
Marriage is for keeps. In Christian marriage the man and woman unselfishly pledge their lives to one another - mirroring what Jesus did for his Church. Marriage for all Christians is an experience with Christ. The husband and wife enter into a love that is so deep and so pure, that the love they share overflows into their family and community in which they live.
When two people decide to live the truth of Christian marriage, our culture will change. When we can all be at weddings and see two people giving themselves up for one another and Christ, and sharing that love with the world, our culture will change. If you are in a relationship now or feel that God is calling you to marriage, think about what kind of bride or groom you want to be.
What kind of relationship and marriage do you want to have? Allow the Lord to fill you and lead you to a true relationship and marriage in HIM!
God Bless You,
Within ten minutes I had heard the “f word,” the Lord’s name taken in vain five times and countless stories and choices that brought on deserving as well as tragic consequences. Before the instructor even introduced the class, I was already disturbingly fascinated of the world I was in. The room was a replica of our culture. Most people in the room didn’t care about why they were there. Some admitted drinking and drug problems, marital and relationship problems, and most people in that roomed looked like they lived their lives in quiet desperation. I wanted to yell out loud to all of them…I care about you! There is a better way! You were made for something more!
I didn’t yell those things, even though I wanted to. But I did all I could do and felt called to do in the moment, and I prayed. I clutched my rosary and prayed for all the people in that room who were crying out for a better life.
As I continue to talk to young people this summer and as I listened to mostly young men and women in STOP class today, it seems to me to be a conversation focused on identity. Why are we making the decisions that we do, when we drink, do drugs, participate in unhealthy sexual relationships, treat others like objects, do anything to be popular, and make ourselves the most important things in our lives? We do all these things and more because it simply comes down to the fact that we don’t know who we are. If we truly knew who we were, we would be tempted to worship one another. If we truly knew who we were no one would every consider taking advantage of someone else or using them for their own pleasure. If we truly knew who we were we would safeguard and protect our bodies and souls from anything that could destroy them.
My friends, most people don’t know who they are, and the path to finding our true selves is not made to be difficult. A great theologian said, “to know who we are, we must know where we came from.” All of us must stop and recognize who made us and where we came from. If every struggling young person I get to listen to or the members of my STOP class this morning stopped to recognize where they came from and who made them, their lives and our world would be a lot different.
My friends, we come from God. He created us in His own image and likeness. He created us for Himself, to love Him, know Him, and follow in His way. But it’s like we are living as if we were created by Hollywood, MTV, or even some trashy magazine. We reflect the people or things we follow. Who are you reflecting in your life? We were made to reflect Jesus! We were made to reflect Him, to experience His love, and share Him with the world. Not to reflect something we don’t truly understand.
Even though we all are surrounded by an identity crisis, I am very much encouraged. Because in many conversation and moments, I find young people stopping and looking back to where they came from, and who they came from, and their lives are truly changed. May the Lord be praised…
Stop to reclaim your true identity in the one who made you and start to live that life that you were made for…
God Bless You,