Saturday, October 31, 2015

Living Right with Dr. Ray

Want To Grow In Your Prayer Life,
But Don't Know How?

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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

If You Could Ask One Thing of the Father, What Would It Be?

A couple of construction workers and a contractor were working on a house. The workers were digging the foundation. As they dug, they noticed something shiny in the ground, so they began to dig around it, and soon unearthed what appeared to be a golden lantern. Mystified,  the workers looked at it and thought, "Could it really be a gold lantern with a genie?" There was only one way to find out for sure, so one of the workers began to rub the lantern and sure enough, a genie emerged. He said, "I will grant you three wishes. Normally I give all the wishes to one person. Since there are three of you, I will give one wish to each of you." The workers were really excited!

One of the workers said, "If I could wish for anything, I wish right now to be in a pub in Ireland with a pint in my hand." Poof, he was gone to a pub in Ireland drinking a pint of Guinness.

Next, the second worker piped up, saying, "That sounds really good, except I like the sun. I would rather be in Hawaii on the beach." So poof, he was gone, reclined in a beach chair in Hawaii. 

Now the genie turned to the contractor, saying, "And what is your wish?" and without hesitation the contractor said to the genie, "I can never get these guys to do any work and they are always taking a break. So I wish they would be back here by noon." Poof, they were back by noon!

If wishes were dishes, they would all be broken.

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

This past Sunday, we heard in the Gospel of the bling man Bartimaeus. Jesus says to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" Bartimaeus is given the opportunity to express any desire that he has and Jesus will grant it. "What do you want me to do for you?"

The reality for us today is that we don't have a magical genie in a lantern, but we do have Jesus in the Tabernacle. Some of the Saints and mystics talk about Jesus' willingness to allow Himself to remain "imprisoned" in the Tabernacle for us. There He is, always present to us. Anytime we want, during the day, we can find Jesus in the Tabernacle, and He will always be there waiting for us. 

It is during Mass when we celebrate the mysteries that Jesus is released from the Tabernacle. At that moment, He is actually present and made manifest for us. We hear Him in the Word. We receive Him in the Sacrament of Communion. In that moment, Jesus comes to you and He asks you the same question, "What do you want Me to do for you?" We have this opportunity to ask Him for anything. The reality is, hopefully, it is our deepest desire.

There is so much symbolism in the Gospel story of the blind man Bartimaeus. First of all, he throws off his cloak and runs to Jesus. Bartimaeus is willing to sacrifice anything of surface level and really present his most vulnerable need to Jesus.

Also very symbolic in the Gospel is this whole notion of darkness and light. Darkness has always been for us an understanding of sin. Light has always been an understanding of Christ in creation and redemption from sin.

When Bartimaeus asks that he be able to see, he is asking to be freed from the darkness of his life. He really wants to be able to experience God. Jesus asks him, "What do you want me to do for you?" And he says, "Master, I want to see." His deepest desire. He wants to see. And Jesus says, "Go your way. Your faith has saved you."

There are two things that happen here. One is Jesus asking the question, and the second is a response of faith. "I want to see." And Jesus says, "Your faith has saved you." Then Bartimaeus immediately receives sight, and instead of going his own way, he follows Jesus.  

Ultimately our deepest desire is to see Christ and to follow Him within each of our lives. The reality is that God has given us free-will.  He never forces us to do anything in life. Which includes never forcing us away from sin. However He does ask each of us "What do you want Me to do for you?" And we have the opportunity to ask Him for anything. 

We begin every Mass with that opportunity. When the priest says, "Let us pray," there is a moment of silence. That moment of silence is for all of us to express our desire to God. What do we want from Him? To see Him? To follow Him?  If we could ask Him for anything, what would it be?

Now before you go on with the rest of your day, you have an opportunity now - at this very moment, to meditate in prayer. If Jesus were here right now, today, and He asked you, "What do you want Me to do for you?” and you could ask Him anything, what would it be? Hopefully, it will be beyond the surface area of the genie in the bottle. Hopefully, it will be beyond a trip to Ireland or Hawaii. What is your deepest desire? What do you need most of God? That you will ultimately see Him? Let go of any sin in your life and follow Him? He wants nothing more than to grant you your heart's desire. He offers you, now, the opportunity. He asks you, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dr. Bryan Thatcher

In 1998, Dr. Bryan Thatcher of Tampa, Fla., left his medical practice to devote his life to spreading the message of Divine Mercy and adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Earth is Full of Kindness

Growing up, I always hated watching the news. It seemed that whenever I watched the news, it would be nothing but bad story, after bad story of humanity at its worst. I would get to the end of the broadcast and I would feel horrible and think, "What kind of world are we living in?" 

I used to complain anytime the news was on because it was always depressing for me to watch, and not the way I wanted to start or end my day. Which is why one thing I love about modern media is the ability to flip through and read what you want to read, while skipping past what you don't. I love my Flipboard App where I can read the news. I also love Facebook for this reason; I can scroll right past the things I do not want to see, and go to the things that are joyful.

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

I was home the other day, and my sister and I both being millennials, had a conversation about how people are staying informed more from what they read on the internet and from their friends on social media sites such as Facebook, than what they see on TV.

So I had an idea, for 24 hours I would routinely scan through Facebook to get a sense of what our world was really like. And you know what? I realized it is full of a lot of good. For every hundred good things, there might be one negative thing. I saw kindness being "shared" everywhere.  And there are three stories that came up in my news feed, of God's kindness present in our world, which I would like to share with you today.

One of the photos that I came across (and you may have seen as well) is of a young man who is on a subway train. Sitting next to him is a disabled man that had gotten onto the bus. The man was confused, anxious and worried. He was an elderly man who was kind of disheveled, to say the least. He did not know what to do. He sat down next to this young adult and he said, "I am scared." Then he went over and he took the young man’s hand. The young adult was shocked at first and shook his hand like he just wanted to shake hands. But the man did not want that. He wanted to hold hands. The young adult actually held his hand and put his arm around him. People are so moved by the kindness and gentleness that this young man showed to a stranger, and for that reason, the photo has gone viral on Facebook.

We all know that God is kind and merciful. The Psalmist says of the kindness of the Lord, "The Earth is full." We can discover God's mercy and kindness throughout the people on the Earth.

The next story happened at a wedding reception. You may have already seen the video taken during the mother-son dance. However, if you haven't seen the video, you may not realize it from the photo just to the left, but the mother is wheelchair bound from Multiple Sclerosis and could not dance. So the son brought his mother out onto the dance floor in the wheelchair. Mariah Carey's song, Hero, begins playing over the sound system. The son says, "I remember feeling uncomfortable standing over her. For the first few moments of the dance, it just did not feel normal. That is when I got down on my knees and danced with her. I had no idea of the impact it had until later when everybody told me. I wanted her to feel so special at that very moment. I tried to make the best of it and spun her around and continued with a smile at her. I do not recall at any point in the wedding thinking that this might be my last few moments with my mother. What I felt was right at the time. I am really glad I did because it is a memory that will last forever." You could see it in the eyes of all the people watching this son so devoted to his mother. I could not help but think of that bride. I always say, "If you want to know what kind of man you are going to marry, watch how he treats his mother." I could not help but think of the kindness and gentleness that was displayed before his mother. When people see that, they want to share it. That video has gone viral. 

Again, we hear in the Psalms, "Of the kindness and gentleness of the Lord, the Earth is full."

The last story I came across is of an elderly man who was crossing some train tracks. He was on an automatic scooter, and as he was crossing the tracks, his scooter got stuck. A number of cars would pass by him, then the bells started to sound and the lights began to flash. As the bars started to come down, the man was still stuck on the tracks.

Fortunately, a 19-year-old mother of two in a house not so far away happened to see the man and realize what was happening. She left her children and ran outside to the 75-year-old, 200 pound man. She forced him out of his scooter and walked him aside. Just as they got over the railroad tracks, the train came.

The girl says, "I just remember looking out the kitchen window seeing this happening and watching as cars continued to drive by to beat the train." She said, "I could not even think of anything else to do but to run out there." She ran out onto the train tracks to help the man. Fortunately, she did and she spared his life. She recounted, "I was freaking out, but I think my adrenaline kept me going. I tilted the wheelchair back and pulled him out. That is when the train hit the wheelchair. At first I thought the train had hit him because it was so close. After the shock of it, the man said, "Oh, my gosh. You are my Guardian Angel."

The reality is, the Earth is full of the kindness of God. Even though it is easy to get focused on the negative. Sometimes in life, we tend to focus on just the wrong in the world (our newscasters tend to do this). That is the enemy. The enemy that tries to get us to look at what is wrong with the world, to try to look at what is wrong with ourselves, to try to bog us down in despair and hopelessness. Ultimately, despair is not of God. Shame is not of God. Anything that causes us to look down on ourselves, to look down with disdain on others, to look at despair upon the world, it is not of God. Christ does not look upon the world with despair. He looks with great delight upon what He has created. He helps us realize that there is so much good in the world. So much grace in the world. When we do realize that and begin to look at our world like that, then that kindness begins to overflow and envelope our heart. Only then, will we realize that, "Of the kindness of the Lord, the Earth is full."

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven

I did not want to push my new pastor too far just yet, so I did not actually bring a live camel into the church for my homily this past Sunday – I used a little stuffed animal that somebody got for me while we were in the Holy Land instead. However, I did do a version of the homily with the live camel outside of church before Mass, and you can watch the video here:

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

We hear this powerful message from Jesus. There is a good man that wants to inherit eternal life. He says to Jesus, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He goes on to say, "I followed all the Commandments." He has done everything right for his whole life. You would think this is a good guy, right? He is going to get into heaven. Then Jesus says something very shocking.

First of all, Jesus does not look at the man with disdain. He does not look at him with disgust or anger. He looks at him with love -great love, and says, "You are still lacking one thing. Go sell what you have and give it to the poor. Then come and follow me. Only then, will you inherit eternal life."

I imagine after hearing this the disciples begin to panic, because they too wanted to inherit eternal life in heaven, and like most of us, it is probably hard enough for them just to follow the Commandments. This sounds like an impossible teaching. They say that to Jesus. "Lord, then who can get to heaven? Nobody is going to get to heaven." And Jesus responds very clearly, "For man, it is impossible. ...We, of our own accord, cannot get ourselves to heaven. No matter how good we are. No matter what we do. We cannot, of our own accord, get ourselves to heaven. It is impossible."

Then to really get the point across, using the imagery of a camel and needle, Jesus goes on to say matter of factly, "It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." He uses this striking image of the camel and the needle just to demonstrate that it is impossible. You cannot do it. It is hard enough just to get a piece of thread through a needle, right? Now try to imagine trying to get a camel through a needle! He is saying this to show us how difficult it is. Especially for those of us that have money. For those of us that have resources. For those of us that have power, it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Just as the disciples were confused, perplexed, concerned, and kind of in disbelief, we should be that way too. We live in America, right? We live in one of the super powers of the world. Even those of us that consider ourselves to be poor middle class, compared to the rest of the world, we are rich beyond belief. We have so many resources at our fingertips. So how hard is it for us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? It is impossible. But not for God.

That is what I love, the sincerity of Jesus and good man that wants to inherit eternal life. He has done everything right his whole life, and says to Jesus, "What am I lacking?" Jesus looks at him, and I love the phrase -- 'with love' -- and He says, "You are still lacking one thing. Sell what you have. Give it to the poor and then come and follow me."

When Jesus says, "Give up everything you have and follow me," He is not saying it to put a burden on us. And He is not saying it to put restrictions on us, or to make our lives horrible. He looks with love because He knows if we give up everything, if we give it all up for Him, we will pass through the eye of the needle. Then we will actually experience and inherit, as He says at the end of the Gospel, whatever we have given up and ten times more. When? In eternal life? No. Right now! On this Earth, we will experience ten times more than anything that we give. Then eternal life is on top of it!

I think that is why Jesus can look at him with great love when he says that, because He knows what He's offering him. He is offering him eternal life. He is offering him that ability to pass through the eye of the needle. He is offering him what seems impossible for man, but is possible for God.

My brothers and sisters, today Jesus is offering the same thing to you! I can look at you with love and say just the same thing. Whatever you have, do not be afraid to give it away. Do not be afraid to give your whole life away in service to God. If you do, you will experience in this life anything that you have given up, ten times fold and the promise of eternal life to come.

We should all have that great courage. We should all have that great spiritual joy of giving things up. And in giving them up for God, it will not lead to a life of poverty, rather it will lead to a life of joy!

Maybe there is something in your life right now that you are too attached to. Or maybe it is just a realization that we do have great resources and need to share those resources more generously with the rest of the world. Whatever it is, just imagine Jesus looking at you with great love. He would never ask you to do anything that is going to hurt you. He is only asking you to give your life to Him. Then you can truly pass through the “eye of the needle” and experience a wonderful life here on this Earth, with the promise of eternal life to come in heaven.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Announcing A New Segment on My Blog: "Praying with Priests"

Audio Version Available - Click To Listen

If you've watched any of the media coverage on the Papal Visit, than you will probably recognize this face.

As the Vatican appointed delegate of the Holy See's Press Office to all English speaking countries, Father Rosica is the official Vatican spokesperson for North America. A position which began following the  announcement on February 11, 2013 of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation. During this critical period in Church history, Fr. Rosica was invited by the Vatican to join the staff of the Holy See Press Office and serve as one of the official spokespersons for the transition in the papacy that included the resignation, Sede Vacante, Conclave and election of the new Pope. His role has since been expanded under Pope Francis, and this very week he is at the Vatican's Synod of Bishops, where he serves in the capacity of English-speaking Media Attaché. 

Fr. Rosica is also CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, which is Canada's first national Catholic Television Network.

The network recently aired a special with Fr. Rosica interviewing Stephen Colbert on his faith, called Colbert Witness (which you should definitely check out!).

I was blessed enough to have met Father Rosica some time ago while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. We met at the foot of Mount Hermon, the Mountain of Transfiguration! I had no idea who he was at the time, but the chance encounter was providential.

Now years later, Father Rosica and I have remained close. He has become a friend and mentor to me. He was instrumental in producing The Holy Family Prayer Medal video which was featured at the World Meeting of Families.

Last we met this past summer, I asked Father Rosica if I could interview him, specifically I wanted to know about his prayer life. How does he pray and to whom (God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit). There is no right or wrong way to pray, and everyone prays differently -especially priests. So I thought it would be interesting to see how some of my brother priests pray as well as advice they've given to people over the years.   I've compiled the resulting interview into a new and regular segment that I will be posting to my blog, called "Praying with Priests". 

Here's some photos of Fr. Rosica in action! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Final Thoughts On The Papal Visit & My Pilgrimage To Philadelphia

Following the Closing Mass, we sat around and had coffee reflecting on the "Highs and Lows" of our pilgrimage to see the Pope in Philadelphia.

The "high-points" of our journey were being together in this "City of Brotherly Love." William Penn named the city Philadelphia which comes from the Greek "Phileo" Love (for a friend) and "Adelphos" Brother. As a Quaker, Penn himself had experienced religious persecution and wanted this to be a place where anyone would be free to worship.

At Philadelphia's Independence Hall, Pope Francis gave a passionate speech on religious freedom, immigration and tolerance. It's very providential that this message would be given in the city of "Brotherly Love" founded with the desire for religious freedom.

"The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love," he said. "This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit."

The Pope also said, "You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land."

It is also providential that in the "City of Brotherly Love", Pope Francis would also speak about God being Love. He went on to tell the story of a child who once asked him (“you know how kids ask difficult questions”) what God did when he existed before the creation of the world. His response, after some thought, was, “before creating the world, God loved! Because God is love.”

Francis went on to eloquently summarize Catholic teaching on creation and the family: God’s love “was so big” that he created the world “to share that love with something outside of himself.” In his view, “the most beautiful thing that God made … was the family.”

After all, he asked, “where did [God] send his son? To a palace? To a city? To a company? No, he sent him to a family!

The pope recognized that some could consider his optimism about the family groundless, since he is celibate. So he was quick to acknowledge the difficulties that can emerge in family life. “We can get in fights. Sometimes plates go flying. Children bring headaches.” He cracked a broad smile as he quipped, “and I won’t speak about mother-in-laws!"

Read more of Pope Francis' Amazing Unscripted Speech on the Gift of Family

Many have asked me what it was like to be there and if this experience has changed me. Here's what I know for sure. It has given me a renewed hope in married life. The greatest blessing for me was to be at the closing of the World Meeting of Families with a wonderful young married couple, whose wedding I witnessed last year, who are now more in love than ever. They have not only given me a renewed sense of hope but they even mentioned that their involvement in the church renewed the hope of their own parish priest.

I realized that over and over our message needs to be that of Love. Pope Francis continuously models for us the axiom "you get more bees with honey than with vinegar". I realize too that we are blessed in this time to have a good, humble Holy Father, who doesn't consider himself a "Rock Star in the USA" but the servant of servants.

What a wonderful time for our country, for our world, and for our Church.

Viva il Papa! (Long live the Pope!)