Spiritual Growth

Chaos seems to reign

Life nothing but pain

Existence without meaning

Happiness always fleeting

No hope or point at all

Eat and drink today, then wait for death to call.


Order created by gift

A universe He did uplift 

Made man in His image and likeness

So that all might return to His highness 

Reason and intellect instilled

But the greatest gift was free will.


Pride, anger, lust and envy

All the evil deep within me

Demons call with tempting lies:

"He doesn't love you, why even try?"

"Don't let Him rule you with an iron rod

Give into your passions; be your own god."


But from a land called Galilee

Came the Son born to hang on a tree

To repair the rupture caused by sin

Reconciling the Father to all men

Gave His body and blood to pay an infinite debt

The victory is won; the table set.


Still the darkness remains deep within our hearts

Since the Garden of Eden, the devil plays his part

A sickness in the soul; gains met with loss

Symptoms always worsen when eyes are off the Cross

The cares of this world blot out the rays of light

Many turn their backs; lose the will to fight.


So "come to me" He says, "and I will give you rest"

"Pick up your cross and follow me towards that rocky crest"

"I cannot promise you leisure, or a life absent pain"

"But the suffering I endured merits your eternal gain"

"Have no fear my child, I'm present here and now"

"Upon the altar; a tiny Host; My love cannot be bound."



God love you.




We all experience darkness at some point in our lives.  But what comes after that darkness--how we choose to respond to it--usually determines the course of our earthly lives and beyond.  Just as God gives us small foretastes of heaven from time to time in order to remind us that this world is not our true home, so He allows us to suffer desolation when we separate ourselves from him through sin: the darkness of Hell.

I've been reading the book of Exodus as part of my Lenten journey this year.  As is often the case with Sacred Scripture, the typology, symbolism and foreshadowing of Christ and the New Covenant contained within the Exodus story has been truly eye-opening.  Christ as the new Moses, the slavery of the Israelites v. the slavery of sin, and the parting of the Red Sea as a type of Baptism are just a few examples that come to mind.  Yet one short passage in Chapter 10 has spoken to me more than any other so far: the plague of darkness.  Recall that God--working through Moses and Aaron--had sent eight plagues upon Pharaoh and the Egyptians--none of which had yet convinced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery.  Pharaoh's heart remained hardened.  For the ninth plague, "the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch our your hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.'"  (Exodus 10:21)  Then "there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days; they did not see one another, nor did any rise from his place for three days."  (10:22-23)

A darkness to be felt - the words literally jumped off the page at me the first time I read them.  As I prayed and meditated on the passage, it struck me how well these words described all those times in my life when I've been away from God.  I can vividly recall occasions where this "thick darkness" consumed me; a darkness felt in the very depths of the soul.  Even more, this darkness can be so pervasive that it causes us to lose sight of God and prevents us from seeing the needs of others in our life.  It can be so all-consuming that we lose the desire and ability to "rise from [our] place," pick up our cross, and follow Christ once more.

Yet even in the darkness, God never abandons us.  Because His light--the light of Christ--"shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  (John 1:5) No matter how thick the darkness may be or how deeply it is felt, the Light will always break through if we but open our eyes a little to see it.  The Light may seem distant; the rays may be tiny at first.  But inevitably, at some point, God opens the curtains to the darkened intellect of our minds, calling us to Himself,  reminding us of His love, mercy and forgiveness.

Of course, how we choose to respond to the darkness--and the eventual cracks of Light--remains totally up to us.  Although the plague of darkness initially caused Pharaoh to relent and let the Israelites go, he quickly changed his mind; his heart hardening when he learned that the Lord also demanded that he let the Israelites take their "flocks and herds" with them.  (Exodus 10:24-28)  "Get away from me," he said to Moses (10:28), but really he was saying this to God.  For as miserable as the darkness was, Pharaoh preferred it over the will of God.  "[T]he light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light."  (John 3:19-20)  And so it is with  us sometimes.  Perhaps we've lived in darkness so long that our eyes have become used to it, fooling us into to believing that we can actually see reality.  In that condition, the Light is a shock to the senses, and--like coming out of a darkened theater into the sunlight--we cover our eyes and curse the illumination.  Or, sometimes, as appealing as the Light may be initially, there is something we are unwilling to give up--the "flocks and herds" representing the pet sins in our lives that the Evil One has convinced us we cannot live without.  So we retreat back into the familiarity and false comfort of the darkness.

It does not have to be so.  Jesus tell us: "I am the light o the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  (John 8:12) As much as we yearn for this light of life--for deliverance from the darkness--Jesus desires to give it to us even more.  And no matter how many times we turn him away, shutting our eyes to the Light and returning to the darkness, he will never stop seeking to shine His Light upon us.  The painting above illustrates this truth as well as anything I've ever seen.  It sits on my desk at work, and sometimes I feel like I could gaze upon it for hours.  Notice how Jesus appears to be in a darkened forest (or perhaps a garden) as he approaches a wooden door, carrying the Light he seeks to give all men.  The door has not been opened for some time, evidenced by the growth of brush and brambles over and about it.  Gently, he knocks on the door.  "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him . . ."  (Revelation 3:20) "Open the door or your heart to me," He says, "you have been in darkness long enough.  Don't you realize that I too suffered the darkness when I walked this earth?"  Indeed, though He was without sin, Jesus experienced the agony of the effects it, taking on the sins (past, present and future) of the entire world into his very being--a darkness felt so much that he sweated drops of blood.  (Luke 22:44) We have a Savior who knows what true darkness is; a Savior who conquered that same darkness of sin and death the Cross.

St. Augustine wrote: "[O]nce a man cries out from the depths, he rises because his very cry will not suffer him to be at the bottom for long."  So as we approach the end of Lent and the start of Holy Week, let us cry out to God and allow Him to raise us out of the depths of darkness.  For He intended from the beginning of creation for us all to be "sons of light and sons of day . . . not of the night or of darkness."  (1 Thessalonians 5:5)  And then, on that glorious Easter morning, may we all bathe anew in the Light of His Resurrection.

God love you.

Readings for Friday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalms 25; Luke 1:57-66

"Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long."  Psalms 25:4-5

This portion of today's responsorial Psalm perfectly summarizes where I hope we all are on this last full day of Advent. We know the God of our salvation becomes man tomorrow night.  While waiting for His glorious coming, we have sought to better know His ways and His paths, for they are very different from ours.  We have sought His truth and for Him to teach us.  We wait for Him only one more long day.  Let us pray this prayer of the Psalmist together with joyous anticipation.  O come, O come Emmanuel.

God love you.


Readings for Friday of the Third Week in Advent: Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; Psalm 67; John 5:33-36

"Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed."  Isaiah 56:1

The closer it gets to Christmas, the more hectic our lives seem to be.  Shopping, parties, kids getting out of school, traveling, making plans for the Christmas day meal, etc.  It's constant go, go, go and do, do, do.  This would seem to conflict with the idea of patiently waiting during Advent--a time to slow down and prayerfully reflect and prepare ourselves for His coming.  Although we certainly should seek that inner disposition of peace during Advent, the words from Isaiah in today's first reading remind us that, in fact, Advent is also an active time of waiting.  A time to "do" something.  Not merely mindless activity or what the world tells us to do, but doing righteousness--those things that lead us into a deeper, more intimate union with God.  Opportunities for righteousness are all around us.  There are nine more "shopping days" until His "salvation comes . . . and [His] deliverance revealed."  Let's turn them into righteousness days.

God love you.

Readings for Friday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalms 1; Matthew 11:16-19

"Blessed is the man who's . . . delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night."  Psalms 1:1-2

I love the Psalms.  As the Catechism explains, "prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of prayer of the Church.  They are suitable for men of every condition and time."  (CCC 2597)  Today's responsorial Psalm tell us that the person who meditates on the "law of the Lord" "day and night" is blessed.  For us as Christians, the "law of the Lord" is not simply the Ten Commandments handed down by God through Moses, though it certainly includes that.  Instead, in the fullest sense, it is the Word made flesh--Jesus Christ--and everything he handed down to us through the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

So how do we fulfill Psalm 1's call to meditate on the Lord night and day?  Through prayerful reading of Scripture.  "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ," as St. Jerome famously wrote.  In other words, we can never truly know Jesus if we do not know God's word in Scripture.  When we read Scripture, we are not simply reading stories of past events.  No.  God's word is living and active, and He speaks directly to us in ways that have practical application to our lives.

Advent is the perfect time to pick up a Bible and start reading God's word.  Even a short time of reading each day, followed by prayerful reflection, will help bring us closer to Christ as we prepare for his coming at Christmas.  There is no better time to delight in His law.

God love you.

Readings for Monday of the First Week of Advent: Isaiah 4:2-6; Psalms 122:1-9; Matthew 8:5-11

I tell you, many will come from east and west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 8:11

Today's Gospel reading reminds us that, more than anything else, what Jesus asks of us is to humbly trust in His will.  Indeed, what caused Jesus to "marvel" at the Roman centurion was his humility -- "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof"-- and his simple faith that Jesus could heal his servant with only a word.  By recognizing his unworthiness, the centurion was made worthy.  Thus from this humble expression of faith Jesus proclaims that "many" will come and "sit at table . . . in the kingdom of heaven"; the New Jerusalem where, as Isaiah prophesies in the first reading, those who remain "will be called holy, every one who has been recorded for life."  (Isaiah 4:3)

Of course, it is the same spirit of humility shown by the centurion that allows us to sit at the Eucharistic table of the Lord at Mass.  For each time we consume the body and blood of Jesus, we get a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us in the New Jerusalem.  Moreover, this heavenly food transforms us and prepares us for that day.  As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once explained:

In receiving the Eucharist, "[t]he living Lord gives himself to me, enters into me, and invites me to surrender myself to him, so that the Apostle's words come true: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me' (Galatians 2:20)."

And as the manna sustained and strengthened the Israelites on their journey to the Promised Land, so the Eucharist sustains us on our journey toward the kingdom of heaven.  As we continue that journey this Advent, let us partake of it as often as we can.

God love you.

First Sunday of Advent Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44

"For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed."  Romans 13:11

Those words from St. Paul in today's first reading hit home particularly hard with me.  In all the years of attending Sunday school at the fundamentalist Protestant church in which I grew up, there really is only one lesson I remember.  I was probably fifteen or sixteen years old, and felt like I had this whole Christianity thing figured out by that point.  I vividly remember the teacher (who was the father of another kid in the class) tell the story of an old man who, throughout the various stages of his life, had put off fully committing himself to Christ.  "Let me finish high school, then I will give my life to Jesus," he said.  A few years later, "let me finish college," then I'm His."  College came and went, but the man kept finding reasons to kick the can down the road as the years passed by.  Marriage, career, raising children - "I'm much too busy to follow Him right now.  Maybe when I retire."  The one thing I don't remember about the story from that Sunday morning long ago was how it ended.  Did the man keep putting off his salvation until it was too late, or did he finally, at some point, pick up his cross and follow Jesus?  Either way, the story made a profound impact.  Little did I know then that the man would be me.  I think there's probably a little of each of us in that story.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus warns his disciples "Watch therefore, for you do not know what day your Lord is coming."  (Matthew 24:42)  Taken as a whole, the readings for the first Sunday in Advent remind us that it is a season not only for anticipating the Incarnation--God becoming man and entering our world, but also Christ's glorious Second Coming at the end of time.  Of course, most of us will no longer be walking the earth whenever that takes place.  But that fact does not lessen the gravity of Jesus's warning.  For none of us are promised tomorrow, and "at an hour you do not expect," each one of us will be standing before the judgment seat of God.

As He does each and every day, God offers us the opportunity to rededicate ourselves and follow Him anew this Advent.  Consider, for a moment, all of the different people who must have come into contact with Mary and Joseph on the (roughly) 90 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  If they had known that this ordinary, teenage Jewish girl carried the Savior of the world--the very God that created the heavens and the earth--in her womb, how many would have dropped everything, followed the Holy Family on their journey, and in so doing, prepared themselves for the birth of the King of Kings?  We have that same choice once again today.    So let us "wake from sleep," "put on the armor of light," and prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord and His return.  And in accompanying Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, may we go beyond "up to the mountain of the Lord . . . that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths."  (Isaiah 2:3)

God love you.


"Death is certain; life is short and vanishes like smoke.  Fix your minds then on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ."  - St. Francis of Paola

A couple of weeks ago, I was on my daily morning run.  Almost every day, I run the same distance of 4 miles using the same route.  Basically, I run two miles out and two miles back to my house.  Half the route is within my subdivision, while the other half takes me out onto a two-lane FM road.  For most of that portion, there isn't much of a shoulder on either side of the road; just some gravel, dirt, and then weeds and/or grass.

On this particular morning, when I came to the two mile mark (where I always turn around), I decided to keep going.  I can't really explain why.  On occasion, I will do 5 miles instead of 4, but that wasn't my intention as I kept running on this day.  I just kept going.  I ended up running about another quarter of a mile and then turned around to head back home.  After about another mile or so, while still on the FM road, I noticed a pickup truck about 100 yards ahead coming my direction at an above average speed.  Without warning, the truck veered off the road almost completely and onto the gravel/dirt shoulder, straddling the two for several seconds.  Even though the truck was still well ahead of me, I quickly moved to the left off of the road and shoulder.  The driver eventually noticed what had happened and corrected himself before he got to me.  As he passed by, he gave me a small wave to acknowledge his error.

I continued my run and didn't think anything of the event for another minute or two.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.  If I had done my normal 4 mile run (turning around where I usually do), I  likely would have been in the exact location--or at least the proximate vicinity--where the truck ran off the road.  Given that scenario, the speed at which the truck was traveling, and the suddenness of his swerve, the chances are slim that I would have been able to avoid him.  In other words, running that additional quarter of a mile probably saved my life that morning.

Of course, this was no mere coincidence or a simple piece of good luck.  God watches over each of us as a loving Father every single day of our lives.  Without His love, His mercy, His grace . . . we would not exist, could not rise every morning, could not so much as take a breath of air into our lungs.  Yet most days we walk around this earth like little gods, demanding this, thinking we are entitled to that, grumbling about our difficulties, trying to control every single aspect or our lives.

We woud do well to remember the words of the psalmist: "Teach us to counts our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart."  (Psalms 90:12)  Because the truth is, this wasn't the first time God had protected me from danger or harm.  There have been several other times in my life that I can recall where I was keenly aware of God's intervention or protection over me--many times when I was too stupid to protect myself.  My guess is that you can recall these times in your life too.  But what about all those countless times that we haven't been aware of it?  All the times God has watched over and protected us, but we never realized it?

One of the worst aspects of the modern, secular world we live in is the loss of the sense of the supernatural; the loss of the belief in miracles.  But miracles happen everyday, we just usually don't realize it.  As G.K. Chesterton once said, "The sense of the miracle of humanity itself should be always more vivid to us than any marvels of power, intellect, art, or civilization."  (Orthodoxy)  Modern man in the twenty-first century has turned this truth on its head.

If we hold fast to the reality of the miraculous, however, it frees us to live with true joy, thankful for each and every day that God gives us.  As Jesus told us, He came so that we "might have life, and have it more abundantly."  (John 10:10)  Not merely life . . . not merely waking up day in and day out and going through the motions, but abundant life . . . life lived with a fullness and peace that surpasses all understanding.  Because in reality, Everything Is Grace--every day, every joy, every suffering, every tear, every breath, every moment.

God love you!


I'm over six feet tall.  If I wear my cowboy boots, I can add another half inch or so and get pretty close to 6'2".  I guess that makes me above average height.  Yet when it comes to following Jesus, I sometimes feel short in stature.

This reality hit home with me recently when reading the story about Zacchaeus in St. Luke's Gospel.  Scripture tell us that Zacchaeus was a rich tax collector who "sought to see" Jesus as He was passing through Jericho.  (Luke 19:1-3)  But his desire to see Jesus faced two problems: (1) as usual, there was a large crowd surrounding Jesus; and (2) Zacchaeus "was small of stature."  Quite simply, Zacchaeus was short, and there was no way he could see Jesus over the crowd. Undeterred, Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to remedy the problem.  Jesus, impressed by such determination, yelled out to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today."  (Luke 19:5)  Zacchaeus obeyed, came down from the tree, and received Jesus "joyfully."  (Luke 19:6) St. Luke then recounts that Zacchaeus told Jesus he would give half of his good to the poor and make restitution "fourfold" to anyone he had defrauded--all this while the crowd murmured in astonishment that Jesus would be the guest of a sinner.  (Luke 19:7-8)  In response, Jesus announces that salvation has come to Zacchaeus' house, and, more broadly, that "the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost."  (Luke 19:9-10)

Although I'm not physically "small of stature" as was Zacchaeus, I often identify with his plight.  Like Zacchaeus, most days I sincerely seek to see Jesus; and not only to see, but to carry my cross and follow him.  Yet certain things sometimes crowd around Jesus and obstruct my sight.  As St. Cyril of Jerusalem wrote, "The crowd is the confusion . . . which we must climb above if we wish to see Christ."  This confusion--the crowd--can take many forms: money and/or material possessions, worldly pleasure, fear, anxiety, apathy, spiritual laziness, and the like.  Combine this with a small spiritual stature--the weakening of the will and intellect resulting from sin--and some days it can be almost impossible to see Jesus as He passes by.  And make no mistake, He passes by us anew each and every day.

Fortunately, Zacchaeus shows us how to overcome this problem.  It is no coincidence that he climbed a tree.  Almost certainly there were other objects or structures that Zacchaeus could have scaled in order to see Jesus.  No, it had to be a tree, because the tree represents the Cross--both that of Jesus and our own.  As Cornelius a Lapide, referencing 1 Corinthians 1:24, explains:

Mystically, the sycamore is the cross of Christ and His doctrine, which to the Gentiles and men of this world is mere folly, but to Zacchæus and the faithful is the wisdom of God, and the power of God.

Like it did for Zacchaeus, climbing a tree--the Cross of Christ--gives us the wisdom of God; the wisdom to see past the crowd in our lives and overcome our small spiritual stature.  I've found that routine, constant prayer provides a great boost to climbing.  Similarly, offering even the most mundane of daily activities for God's glory seems to keep my eyes open and alert for when Jesus passes by.  Sure, such climbing habits may cause us to suffer scorn and rebuke, for just as it was for the Gentiles of Jesus's day, the Cross is folly to many a modern man.  Remember though that climbing trees is primarily a children's activity, and that Jesus told us that only those who become like children will enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 18:3)

So find a good tree to climb next time you feel the world closing in on you.  It will allow you to see Christ, and He will see you in return.  And as He called to Zacchaeus, so He calls to us, "come down quickly, for I wish to reside in your heart today."  And upon hearing those words, we can humbly descend from our perch, receive Jesus joyfully, and go about the business of announcing that salvation awaits all those who are lost.

God love you.




Over a dozen times in the Gospels, Jesus tells the apostles and/or disciples to be not afraid.  It seems those who followed Jesus then were often fearful--both of what they did not understand and of what they could not control.  Those of us who follow Him today are not much different.  I certainly am not.  It can be easy to let fear rule or lives: fear about our past, fear about our future, fear about our family, fear about work, fear about our country and the state of the world, fear about our eternal salvation, fear, fear, fear.  If left unchecked, this fear can lead to despair, and often times, is the root of various sins.

But Jesus tells us not to fear, and for good reason.  Below is a short poem I wrote while reflecting on this truth.  It is in the form of a prayer or conversation between Jesus and us.  I pray that in some small way, it might help you to be not afraid.


It is I; be not afraid

Wipe your tears, forget your shame

Though the seas you are sailing may be stormy with strife

Fear not, I came to give you abundant life


How Lord?  I've been so lost

Pursued the pleasures of this world at every cost

Denied you too, more times than I can count

Was willing to sell you for any amount


Hush my child and walk this way

My grace awaits you every day

One foot, then the other . . . climb the ladder high

Towards the dwelling place my Father has prepared for you from the beginning of time


I will try, oh God, but I'm still so scared

The trials of this life seem more than I can bear

Evil, sickness, death and sin

I can hardly breathe . . . the walls are closing in


Have you already forgotten that I walked this earth too?

Experienced sorrows and temptations just like you

But the penalty for sin, I bore for all mankind

Gave my body and blood so that you might become divine


My Lord and My God, let me touch your side and feel your hands

You are the Bread of Life without which I cannot stand

Abide with me, and I will fear no more

Anoint my head with oil . . . all your graces upon me pour


Arise faithful servant, there is nothing left to fear

Just open your heart, and I will always draw near

And though you will stumble, it's not the end of your story

Because from the day of your creation, I destined you for eternal glory.


God love you!