If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

With a Kiss?

Are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? (Luke 22:48).

For thirty pieces of silver, the Great Pretender promised to lead the soldiers to Jesus. “The one whom I kiss,” he told them, “He is the one. Seize him, and take him away.”

Judas entered the garden and immediately approached the one he’d so often called his friend and lord. He brought his lips to Jesus' cheek. Meanwhile, soldiers in the periphery watched for the signal.

For three years, Judas had fooled the other eleven. For three years he’d hidden his thoughts behind pious words and good deeds. No one knew his heart. No one, of course, but Jesus.

I think of that some days when I approach my Lord in the most holy Eucharist. I bring His body to my lips, His blood to my mouth. And sometimes I worry that, as St. Paul warned Timothy, I turn, by degrees, from the appearance of godliness to denying Him. I worry that, as the apostle wrote to Titus, I profess God to others, but by my actions betray Him. I worry that I pray with my mouth, but not with my heart, the words of the psalmist, “Let those who wait for you, Lord of hosts, not be shamed through me. Let those who seek you, God of Israel, not be disgraced through me (Psalm 69:7).

Jesus asked Judas, “Are you betraying the Son of Man with a Kiss?”

Yes, from time to time I worry about my motives, my hidden sins – hidden even from myself – as I approach my Lord in the bread and wine. Which is why, now that I think about it, which is why I take the time – I make the time – to pray, study the Scriptures, and be scrupulous about my confession of sins. I never want to be found by Him having pious words and good deeds – but my heart is far from Him. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Good Place to Start this Lenten Season

I wrote this years ago and then promptly forgot about it, until tonight, while I was waiting to receive my ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass.

And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us of all sin (1 John 1:7)

As soon as I opened the door I knew something was wrong.  Rotten, actually. But I was already late for work, so I grabbed my lunch sack from the top shelf of the refrigerator and darted out the front door. My wife was out of town visiting her parents, so I planned to take care of the rotted whatever-it-was when I returned home later that night.

That was my first mistake.

My inbox at work grew inches with each passing hour. I didn’t leave work until after dark and the thought of starting dinner when I arrived home left me weak-kneed. I decided to grab dinner at a nearby restaurant.

By the time I arrived home, cleaning the refrigerator was the last thing on my mind. I plopped in front of the television to unwind a bit from the day. An hour later I headed for the shower and the bed. I’d take care of the fridge in the morning.

That was my second mistake.

The next day, my mistakes overwhelmed me when I opened the refrigerator door. The pungent stench of rotted cabbage filled every corner of the house. I slammed the door shut and glanced at my watch. I’d be late for work if I didn’t leave soon. I grabbed an apple and rushed out of the house. The fridge would have to wait.

When I returned from work ten hours later, the odor that had settled over the house left me no choice. I tossed the cabbage --- and the lettuce, tomatoes and celery laying nearby. Then I scrubbed the fruit and vegetable bin with bleach.

That’s when the spiritual truth dropped into my mind.

Like slowly rotting cabbage, sin is never a private matter. If left unchecked, its stench will seep into and ruin every corner of my life, my home, my community . . . my nation.

No one needs look further than the morning newspaper, whose pages drip with stories of greed, lust for power, and sexual immorality run amuck. And behind the headlines lie broken families, crushed dreams, ruined lives.

Of course, as one might expect, there is a better way. A much better way. God’s way. He has proven it true in my life. He's proven it true in the lives of millions of others. Give Him a chance and He will prove it true in yours.

Perhaps especially during this season of Lent, the Act of Contrition is a good place to start:

O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee; And I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, But most of all, because I have offended Thee, my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy Grace, to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Opaque Made Clear

And [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).

Although my mom taught me about God as we celebrated the Jewish holidays, we never owned or read the Jewish Scriptures. My concept of God was based more on hearsay than personal knowledge.

Years later all that changed when a friend gave me a Bible and showed me numerous Old Testament passages, such as the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, Daniel chapter 7, Zechariah 12:10, and Psalm 22. Although written centuries before Jesus’ birth, the various prophecies spoke so clearly to my heart about Messiah Jesus' life, death, and resurrection that, at first, I thought I was reading the New Testament, instead of the Old.

Through the years, I’ve shown similar passages to friends, family and co-workers, Yet, most of the time they’ve merely looked at me and asked, “So? What’s your point?”

And each time, I was incredulous. How could they read Scripture that, to my eyes, clearly demonstrated Jesus' role in our redemption, and not see the point? How could they not see Him on every page? How could they not see Him in every sacrifice, prophecy and promise? 

The longer I walk with Christ, the better I understand the reason for their inability to see. The Bible is a not simply a book of ancient stories and moral lessons, as I've heard so many people -- even in the Church -- speak of the Bible. Its words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, and only He can make the opaque clear. Only He can make the invisible visible.

Which is why it’s not such an odd suggestion that we pray with the psalmist, “Open my eyes, Lord, that I might behold wonderful things out of Thy law” (Psalm 119:18). The Psalmist knew something about spiritual truth that we all can learn.

That we all must learn.

Monday, February 6, 2012


But because thou art lukewarm,
and neither cold, not hot,
I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.
(Revelation 3:16,
Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible)

I have
for years
held an intellectual understanding
of the Lord’s rebuke
of the lukewarm Laodecian church.

But my understanding
of late
has undergone
a transformation.

The intellectual has become visceral.

It happened as I suddenly awoke
to the speed at which
moral decay is sweeping our land,
putrefication so noxious
it surely stinks
to the highest heaven.

While all the while
the hand-wringing,
speeches and statements
of churchmen and women
of all labels,
but especially of leaders
appointed by God
to lead His flock . . . .

While all the while the Church,
except for rare exceptions–
remains stunningly silent,
willfully impotent,
and spinelessly unwilling
to mount an offense neither for God,
nor for His sheep.

I understand the Lord’s nausea
over a lukewarm Church.

I’m a little nauseous myself.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Graveyards and Eternal Life

From my book, Lessons Along the Journey:

Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back into the same box. – Italian proverb

Cemeteries are not my favorite recreation spots. I’d rather be elsewhere, like the beach or at a campsite nestled among wild flowers. And so, when I visit the final resting place of friends or family, I usually stay no longer than it takes to lose myself in a few memories.

I don’t know why on one visit I altered my typical practice and wandered through rows of graves, stopping every now and again to read the words etched in stone that summarize someone’s lifetime: Joseph Kurtin - Born May 15, 1850, Died July 2, 1923. Four words and a few numbers. What had he done in life? How many mourned his death? Does anyone still remember him?

A few rows to the left, two stones stood side by side: Everett Stuart and Hannah Mae Stuart. They died the same day – October 12, 1961. Probably an accident. I wondered about their lives, but the faded marble sentinels remained silent.

Before I returned to my car, several more caught my eye. Maria was 17. Staci,  22. Antonio was 78. Thomas, 12. Marcus, 41. Rachel McCarty died the same day she was born – September 4, 1985

As I slid behind the wheel, I remembered the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon had it all – money, power, prestige – things I think so important. And he used them all to satisfy every whim that tantalized his flesh. “I denied myself nothing,” he wrote in chapter two. “I refused my heart no pleasure.” For years, possibly decades, Solomon fed his lust for bigger-better-more. It was not until he neared the end of his life that he recognized the true worth of money, power, and prestige. 

"Vanity of vanities," he called them.

How will my tombstone read? Born 1950. Died . . . . There’s not much room between two dates to etch accomplishments – or service. Such things must be written on human hearts, and I can’t help but wonder what my epitaph on those hearts will say. Whom will I have touched for good – or bad?
When I stand before the King of Glory, only what I’ve done for Christ will remain. I like to think the gold, silver and precious stones will illustrate how I demonstrated Christ’s life to others (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). The wood, hay, and stubble – my wealth, position and power – all of it will burn up.

"What is your life?” St. James asked. “It is a vapor which appears for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away” (James 4:15).

To his credit, Solomon woke up to the truth about his treasures before it was too late. Before his body returned to dust, he discovered the bankruptcy of bigger and better. He understood what gives life eternal meaning and value. “Here is the conclusion of the matter,” he wrote. “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment . . . whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes. 12:13-14).  

For me, graveyards are not the most enjoyable places to visit, but nothing speaks so eloquently in their silence about life’s priorities as row after row of headstones. And nothing speaks about life beyond the grave more powerfully than the words of Jesus Christ: "Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
What epitaph are we writing?