Jan 12, 2015

Baptism of the Lord, Year B

At first glance, it may seem odd that we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus. Jesus didn’t need baptism, right? Baptism washes away original sin, restores us in relationship to God and gives us sanctifying grace. Sanctifying grace makes us holy and pleasing to God. But Jesus is already holy and pleasing to God, so why is this an important event in the Gospels? To begin to reflect on that, we need to return to the story of Israel.

When Moses led the people out of Egypt, they were heading towards the promised land. Because of their sin of idolatry at Mt. Sinai, they had to wander in the desert for forty years. In fact, it is not Moses who leads them into the promised land but he dies without ever setting foot in it. It is Joshua who leads the people into the promised land. Joshua. Because of the way that foreign names get translated we lose the connection between the name of Joshua and the name Jesus. The Hebrew names are the same Yeshua. I won’t go into the philological reasons for how Yeshua becomes Joshua in one case and Jesus in another. The important thing is to know that Jesus is the new Joshua. He is going to lead the people back into the promised land.

John the Baptist is the son of Zechariah, a priest who was serving at the altar of incense at the Temple when the angel came to tell him that he would finally have a son. We are so used to the story of John the Baptist that we don’t find it quite so odd that he is out at the river Jordan wearing camel hair and eating wild honey and locusts. Well, maybe we find it odd but we rarely think, “Wait. That’s not right. Shouldn’t John also be a priest serving in the Temple like his father?” In fact, he is at the River Jordan, which Joshua led the people across, calling people out of the promised land to repent. And Jesus goes out to John to fulfill in his own person the mission of Israel. Not because he needs to repent but because we do. Not because he needs to be sanctified, but because we do. After his baptism he goes out into the desert for forty days in exile from the promised land. He undergoes temptations and triumphs over them, so that we may know that he can triumph over our exile from friendship with God. He can triumph over our temptations. He leads us to the waters that cleanse us of sin. And he doesn’t just ask some odd ceremony from us but he undergoes it himself. In our case the waters of baptism sanctify us. In his case, he sanctifies the waters.

Yet we still have times of exile. We still experience the struggle of temptation and we discover our weaknesses in our sins. Well, he isn’t finished leading us yet. We have to keep following him. We need to follow him into the desert so he can teach us to triumph over ourselves and our enemies by relying solely on God. But where is he leading us? Heaven, of course. Paradise restored. We only have glimpses of what that looks like. But the path that Jesus walked didn’t go immediately from the Baptism to the Resurrection and Ascension. No, the path to Resurrection and living in the presence of God in eternal happiness is reached only through the Cross. From the Cross, when the soldier pierced the Sacred Heart of our Lord, there flowed out water and blood. Jesus took the waters of baptism in his heart throughout his ministry of preaching and healing. The waters he sanctified were there at the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, at his trial, mockery, scourging and finally at his crucifxion. From the Cross he gives us back these sanctifying waters so that we, too, might be sanctified. We are invited to share the waters of Baptism because we are invited to share the Lord’s Death.

Dietrich Bonheoffer, a German Lutheran pastor who eventually gave his life because of his resistance against the Nazis, says that “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” This is starkly different than the perception we sometimes have for Christianity. God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and wise some television preachers will say. Theirs is a gospel of superficial forgiveness; of love without depth; of discipleship without suffering – it is cheap grace. We like to remember that God loves us just the way we are; that we really are his beloved children. And rightly so. But we must also remember that this One, upon whom the Holy Spirit descended and about whom the voice said “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased,” is the same one whom the Father permitted to be sacrificed in a most cruel manner.

Our baptism does make us children of God and disciples of the Lord. It is given to us by him. Without it the Christian life isn’t possible. What the Lord asks of us is a difficult thing, though his assistance by grace can make even the gravest of sufferings, even death, a happy thing or at least a very lovely thing because it also makes possible the Resurrection. We humans generally do not like the idea of difficult things, we certainly do not relish the idea of dying, whether that be the real physical death we will all undergo or the daily dying to self that is required of us as disciples of the Lord. But what is it that we take part in here? When we offer this holy sacrifice to the Father for the salvation of the whole world, are we not taking part in the Death of his most beloved Son?

St Paul says in the Second letter to the Corinthinians: “We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but no abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor 4:6-11).  We proclaim the Death of the Lord at every Holy Mass. Don’t we say immediately following the double consecration: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”? Participation in his death by virtue of our baptism and this holy sacrifice requires us to repent, to confess, and follow Him who went before us to die so that we might live.

I will give the last word to Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession...Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ; living and incarnate.”

Epiphany 2015

The word "epiphany" comes from the Greek words "epi" and "phanein." Epi means upon and phanein means to show or manifest. Epiphany is, literally, to show forth or shine upon/forth. The Feast of the Epiphany is usually associated with the Magi. Historically it was utilized also for remembering the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Magi, the baptism by John in the river Jordan (and still today in the Armenian Rite the Birth of Jesus is celebrated on January 6). All these events, and others, are manifestations of the hidden God.

God desired Israel to be a people set apart for himself. God decided to show all the nations who he is through the fidelity of Israel. When Moses gave the laws to the people, he said to them: " You know that I have taught you statutes and justices, as the Lord my God has commanded me: so shall you do them in the land which you shall possess: And you shall observe, and fulfill them in practice. For this is your wisdom, and understanding in the sight of nations, that hearing all these precepts, they may say: Behold a wise and understanding people, a great nation. Neither is there any other nation so great, that has gods so near them, as our God is present to all our petitions." (Dt. 4:5-7)

God reveals himself in his commandments and teachings. Israel had good reason to praise God for having revealed these things to them. Who would have known the truth without any error unless God taught them? However, although this shows a special relationship with Israel and the greatness of God, we should not forget that an additional purpose is so that the nations might be able to hear it and to see it lived in the people that God has chosen. Isaiah the prophet reminds Israel of this truth. If Jerusalem shines with light, it is so that the nations, also, will walk by the light. In the end, it is Jesus who will fulfill the whole mission of Israel in his own person. Rejoice if you have seen the light, but remember that the light is given to you so that other might see.

Jesus, after he begins preaching in Israel, will go to a mountain and will teach the people. Like Moses, he clarifies the commandments and ordinances of the Lord. The Sermon on the Mount begins in chapter five and continues until chapter seven verse twenty nine. This whole section is the Sermon on the Mount. There is much more here than just the Beatitudes. In chapter five verse fourteen through sixteen, he says: "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Like Moses, Jesus teaches and instructs the people according to the will of the Father. Like Isaiah, he reminds them that the fidelity of the people will be a light for the nations so that the nations might glorify God.

Jesus is already doing this as a child in Bethlehem. He brings these wise men to himself so that the nations also are able to give glory to God. When King Herod hears this he calls the high priests and the scribes of the people and asks them where the Messiah must be born. Observe that the men from a far-away nation have been following the signs and come seeking the king who would be born. However, those in authority in Israel only remember when they are told by foreigners! How is it that the foreigners recognize the light which the people have ignored?

This is what the Feast of the Epiphany reminds us. The treasure and manifestation of Christ in Bethlehem comes with a obligation for our lives. In the Catholic Church the hidden God is revealed. He reveals himself in the Gospels and the Sacred Scriptures. He reveals himself in the mysteries that we celebrate in the sacraments. He reveals himself in the doctrines of faith and morals which are taught by the Catholic Church. But if we are not living in accordance with the Gospels, Sacraments and Doctrines, how will anyone be able to receive his light through us? When others hear about us and our lives, how often do they hear how we do not agree with everything that the Church teaches? When they see our lives, how often do the see a lifestyle that is contrary to the teachings of the Church? Contraception, divorce and remarriage, abortion, ordination of women, the liturgy, immigration, our obligation to the poor – these are only some of the things in which we are able to see a general denial  of the truths taught by the Catholic Church.

When we were baptized, we received a candle and it was said to us: “Receive the light of Christ.” Each Easter we light the Paschal Candle and the Deacon sings “The Light of Christ!” And we respond: “Thanks be to God!” Beware, brother and sisters. There is another star, another bearer of light, who was called Lucifer, but is now named Satan, who seeks to hide, with the darkness of sin, the light of the faith in our hearts. He dazzles the world with deceptions; blinds our intellects with false knowledge. Like Herod, we may find ourselves set against the True Light of the world and even trying to extinguish it in others. We must seek Christ and him alone. We must be faithful in all things, just as he instructed us through his Holy Church. And when we find him, we must open the treasures of our hearts to him, prostrate ourselves before him, and adore him. And we must go by another way than the one the world would have us go.

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Epifanía viene del griego koiné “epi” y “phanein”. Epi significa sobre. Phanein significa mostrar o manifestar. Epifanía es, literalmente, para manifestar o brillar sobre. La fiesta de la Epifanía, generalmente asociada a los Reyes Magos, históricamente fue utilizada también para conmemorar el nacimiento de Jesús, la llegada de los Magos y el bautismo por Juan en el río Jordán (y todavía en la Iglesia armenia se celebra la Navidad el seis de enero). Todos estos eventos, y otros, son manifestaciones del Dios escondido.

Dios quería que Israel fuera un pueblo separado para sí mismo. Dios decidió mostrar a todas las naciones quien es él a través de la fidelidad de Israel. Cuando Moisés dio las leyes a la gente, les dice: "Cumplan los mandamientos del Señor que yo les enseño, como me ordena el Señor, mi Dios. Guárdenlos y cúmplanlos porque ellos son la sabiduría y prudencia de ustedes a los ojos de los pueblos. Cuando tengan noticias de todos estos preceptos, los pueblos se dirán: En verdad esta gran nación es un pueblo sabio y prudente. Porque, ¿cuál otra nación hay tan grande que tenga dioses tan cercanos como lo está nuestro Dios, siempre lo invocamos?" En el Salmo ciento cuarenta y siete leemos: "Declara su palabra a Jacob, y sus estatutos y sus ordenanzas a Israel. No ha hecho así con ninguna otra nación; y en cuanto a sus ordenanzas, no las han conocido."

Dios se revela en sus mandamientos y enseñanzas. Israel tenía razón para alabar a Dios por haber revelado estas cosas a ellos. Quién hubiera sabido la verdad sin ningún error a menos que Dios les enseña? Sin embargo, a pesar de que se muestra la relación especial de Israel y la grandeza de Dios, no debe olvidarse que un propósito adicional es para que las naciones puedan oírlo y ver que vivía en el pueblo que Dios habia escogido. Isaías el profeta recuerda a Israel de esa verdad. Si Jerusalén brilla con luz, es para que las naciones, también, caminarán por la luz. Alégrate si has visto la luz, pero recuerda que la luz se te da para que otros puedan ver. Jesús cumple toda la misión de Israel en su persona.

Jesús, después que comienza a predicar en Israel, irá a una montaña y le enseñará a la gente. Como Moisés, deja en claro los mandamientos y órdenes del Señor. El Sermón de la Montaña comienza en el capítulo cinco y continúa hasta el capítulo siete versículo veintinueve. Toda esta sección es el Sermón de la Montaña. Hay mucho más que sólo las Bienaventuranzas. En el capítulo cinco verso catorce al dieciséis, él dice: "Ustedes son la luz del mundo. No se puede ocultar una ciudad construida en lo alto de un monte; y cuando se enciende una vela, no se esconde debajo de una olla, sino que se pone sobre un candelero, para que alumbre a todos los de la casa. Que de igual manera brille la luz de ustedes ante los hombres, para que viendo las buenas obras que ustedes hacen, den gloria a su Padre, que está en los cielos.” Al igual que Moisés, Jesús enseña e instruye al pueblo de acuerdo a la voluntad del Padre. Como Isaías, les recuerda que la fidelidad del pueblo será una luz para las naciones, para que las naciones glorifiquen a Dios.

Jesús ya estaba haciendo esto como un niño en Belén. Él llevó a estos hombres sabios a sí mismo para que las naciones también pudieran dar gloria a Dios. Al enterarse de esto, el rey Herodes ... convocó a los sumos sacerdotes y a los escribas del pueblo y les preguntó dónde tenía que nacer el Mesías. Observen que son los hombres de una nación lejana que han estado siguiendo los signos y vienen buscando al rey que había de nacer. Sin embargo, los que tienen autoridad en Israel sólo recuerdan cuando se les dice por los extranjeros! ¿Cómo es que los extranjeros reconocen la luz que la gente ha ignorado?

Esto es lo que la fiesta de la Epifanía nos recuerda. El tesoro y la manifestación de Cristo en Belén que viene con una obligación para nuestras vidas. En la Iglesia Católica el Dios escondido se revela. Él se revela en los Evangelios y en las Sagradas Escrituras. Él se revela en los Misterios que celebramos en los sacramentos. Él se revela en las doctrinas de la fe y morales que se enseñan por la Iglesia Católica. Pero si no estamos viviendo de acuerdo con los Evangelios, los Sacramentos y doctrinas, ¿cómo puede alguien más recibir su luz a través de nosotros? Cuando escuchan de nosotros y de nuestras vidas, ¿con qué frecuencia oyen cómo no estamos de acuerdo con todo lo que la Iglesia enseña? Cuando ven a nuestras vidas, ¿con qué frecuencia ven a un estilo de vida que es contrario a las enseñanzas de la Iglesia? Contracepción, el divorcio y el nuevo matrimonio, el aborto, la ordenación de las mujeres, la liturgia, la inmigración, la ayuda a los pobres - estos sólo son algunos de los temas en los que vemos la negación generalizada de las verdades enseñadas por la Iglesia Católica.

Cuando fuimos bautizados recibimos una vela y nos dijeron: "Recibe la luz de Cristo." Cada Pascua encendemos el cirio pascual y el diácono canta "La luz de Cristo!" Y nosotros respondemos: "Demos gracias a Dios. "Cuidado, hermanos y hermanas. Hay otra estrella, otro portador de la luz, que se llamaba Lucifer, pero que ahora se llama Satanás, que busca ocultar con la oscuridad del pecado a la luz de la fe en nuestros corazones. Él deslumbra al mundo con enganas, ciega nuestros intelectos con conocimiento falso. Al igual que Herodes, podemos encontrarnos contra la verdadera luz del mundo y tratando de extinguirla en otros. Debemos buscar a Cristo y solo él. Debemos ser fieles en todas las cosas, como él nos instruyó a través de su Santa Iglesia. Y cuando lo encontremos, debemos abrir los tesoros de nuestro corazón a él, postrarnos ante él y adorarlo. Y tenemos que ir por un camino diferente al que el mundo quisiera que fuéramos.


Jan 1, 2015

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God.

Today is the octave of Christmas. The liturgical calendar of the Church views these days as an extension of the Feast of Christmas. Each day we have recited the Gloria and today we also will recite the Creed. What began with an emphasis on the Nativity of our Lord ends by calling our attention to the Maternity of Mary. The first and the greatest of the titles of Mary is "Mother of God." Yes, the Immaculate Conception comes chronologically before her Maternity but it happens because of and due to her Maternity.

And yet, we need to ask ourselves what it is that we mean when we call the Blessed Virgin "Mother of God." Is Mary the source of the divinity of Jesus? No. No more than our own mothers are the source of our immortal and spiritual souls. But I do not say about my mother that she is only the mother of my body. "Hello, mother of my body," would sound ridiculous. She is the mother of me, even though is was God who made my soul from nothing. In a similar way, Mary is the Mother of Jesus, although she is neither the source of his divinity nor of his human soul. We do not simply call Mary the Mother of his Body. Although, by this alone, she still would be the most magnificent mother in the whole world.

Mothers give birth to persons. And Jesus is a person. This Child to whom Mary gives birth is a Divine Person with a Divine Nature and a human nature. Mary is the Mother of a Divine Person, even though he existed in his Divinity before her, in fact, has always existed. Again, we do not say "Mother of the Human Nature." Natures do not need a mother, but persons do. Jesus is God. Mary is the Mother of Jesus. Therefore, she is appropriately called "the Mother of God."

When we call Mary "Mother of God," we are not only recalling the greatness of her vocation, but we are also proclaiming the Gospel. This Child, to whom Mary gives birth, es at the same time God and man. In the womb of Mary, God fashioned for himself human flesh, in order that, united in his Most Adorable Divine Person, he might make possible for us participation in his Divine Life. All this we say when we call Mary "Mother of God."

Mary gave birth to the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary gave birth to God, who became man. Mary gave birth to the Light of the World. And when the darkness came in the form of death on the Cross, the Light of the World, knowing that he was going to crush the darkness of death by the light of the glory of his resurrection, he gave to us his Mother. He did this so that the faith might be born in us. From the womb of Mary was born the Light of the World, in the heart of Mary, we are born in faith. From Him we have received a Mother, from her we have received the Son.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.

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Solemnidad de Santa Maria, Madre de Dios

Hoy es la octava de Navidad. El calendario litúrgico de la Iglesia ve en estos días una extensión de la fiesta de Navidad. Cada día hemos recitado el Gloria, y hoy también recitamos el Credo. Lo que comenzó con un énfasis en la Natividad de nuestro Señor termina llamando nuestra atención sobre la maternidad de María. El primero y el más grande de todos los títulos de María es "Madre de Dios". Sí, la Inmaculada Concepción viene cronológicamente antes de su Maternidad pero sucede a causa de y debido a su maternidad.

Sin embargo, tenemos que preguntarnos qué queremos decir cuando llamamos a la Santísima Virgen "Madre de Dios". ¿Es María la fuente de la divinidad de Jesús? No. No más que nuestras propias madres son la fuente de nuestras almas inmortales y espirituales. Pero no lo digo acerca de mi propia madre que ella es sólo la madre de mi cuerpo. "Hola, madre de mi cuerpo", sonaría ridículo. Ella es mí madre, a pesar de que fue Dios quien hizo mi alma de la nada. De manera similar, María es la Madre de Jesús, aunque ella ni es la fuente de su divinidad ni de su alma humana. No llamamos a María simplemente la Madre de su cuerpo. Aunque esto por sí solo la haría la más magnífica madre en todo el mundo.

Las madres dan a luz a las personas. Y Jesús es una persona. Porque el Niño, a quien María dio a luz, es una persona divina con una naturaleza divina y una naturaleza humana, María es la Madre de la persona divina, a pesar de que en su divinidad existía antes que ella, de hecho, ha existido siempre. Una vez más, no decimos Madre de la Naturaleza Humana. Las naturalezas no necesitan de una madre, sino más bien personas. Jesús es Dios. María es la Madre de Jesús. Por lo tanto, ella se llama apropiadamente "La Madre de Dios."

Cuando llamamos a María "Madre de Dios" estamos recordando no sólo la grandeza de su vocación, pero también estamos proclamando el Evangelio. Este niño, a quien María dio a luz, es al mismo tiempo Dios y hombre. En el vientre de María, Dios formó carne humana para sí mismo para que, unidos en su Adorablissima Persona Divina, pudiera hacer para nosotros la participación en su vida divina. Todo esto lo decimos cuando llamamos a María "Madre de Dios".

María dio a luz a la Segunda Persona de la Santísima Trinidad. María dio a luz a Dios, que es también hombre. María dio a luz a la Luz del mundo. Y cuando la oscuridad llegó en la forma de la muerte en la Cruz, la Luz del Mundo, sabiendo que iba a aplastar a la oscuridad de la muerte con la luz de la gloria de su Resurrección, nos dio a su madre. Lo hizo para que así en nosotros naciera la fe. Desde el vientre de María nació la luz del mundo, en el corazón de María, nacemos en la fe. Ella dio a luz a nuestro Salvador en Belén, ella dio a luz a nosotros en el Calvario. De Jesucristo hemos recibido una madre, de ella hemos recibido al Hijo.

Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros.

Dec 29, 2014

Holy Family, Year B

This past week we celebrated Christmas, today we celebrate the Holy Family. At Christmas the attention is placed upon the birth of Jesus. And Jesus was born into a family. By this fact, we are able to see the value that God places upon the family and his desire to sanctify it. The Holy Family is the example of what families should be. The Holy Family is also the exemplar. In philosophy, there is a distinction made between an example and an exemplar. An example is a template with which we can measure other things. An exemplar is the formal cause in which particular examples participate. As an example, the Holy Family shows us what the family should look like. And if we measure our families by this example, we learn not only what our family lacks, but also we see the greatness of what a family is. As an exemplar, the mystery of the Holy Family becomes the source from which all families draw the graces necessary to be sanctified. And so, the Holy Family is, at the same time, an example of what the family ought to be and the fount of graces which are necessary for its sanctification.

Our first reading gives us an understanding of the graces which flow from familial relations when they are properly ordered. God places the father in honor over his children, and the mother has authority over them. God did this also with Jesus. The one who honors his father cleanses himself from sins and preserves himself from them. His prayers are heard, he brings comfort to his mother, he is blessed with joy in his own children - and the Lord will not forget him. Now, in the Holy Family we have St. Joseph, the just man, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, who was immaculately conceived, and Jesus, who is God. How can our families even begin to measure up to this example? St. Paul gives us a description of what it looks like to live according to this example. "Heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness." "And above all these virtues, have love, which is the bond of perfection." The first list is brought to completion in this last element: love. The family needs love more than anything else.

Perhaps the Holy Family knows nothing about our problems. All the graces, and special graces, make the Holy Family different than the normal family. This is true, for our families are stained with sin in each member - parents and children alike. But the Holy Family does know our difficulties. The Holy Family had to flee from their own country. They became strangers in a foreign land. Tradition tells us the St. Joseph was a carpenter. He taught his trade to Jesus. And so they know what it is like to work hard with their hands. The Holy Family understands poverty, also. Tradition also tells us the St. Joseph died very early, at least before the public ministry of Jesus. And so Jesus understands what it is like to lose a parent. Mary understands what it is like to be a widow. Jesus knows how it feels to see his mother suffer, when she was standing at the foot of his Cross. Mary knows how it feels to lose a son, including watching him die at the hands of cruel soldiers. The members of the Holy Family were not the cause of sins, but the were not exempt from the effect of sin in their lives. Because of the grace and holiness of this family, they feel the corruption and ugliness of sin more profoundly than we do.

The Holy Family was not excluded from the difficulties of life. The understand our problems. But they had above all, love, the bond of perfection, which triumphs over every difficulty. And God wants us to participate in the Mystery of the Holy Family so that our own families may be sanctified. "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us, who were under the law, in order that we might receive the adoption of sons." "And, therefore, you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, as many as have been incorporated to Christ by baptism, you have put on Christ ... And if you belong to Christ, you also are descendants of Abraham and the inheritance that God promised him, belongs to you." If we are sons in the only-begotten Son, then we belong also to the Holy Family. May we draw forth from the Mystery of the life of Jesus with the Holy Family, all the graces necessary to heal and sanctify our own family.

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La semana pasada hemos celebrado la Navidad, hoy celebramos la Sagrada Familia. La atención en la Navidad es el nacimiento de Jesús. Jesús nació en una familia. Por este hecho, vemos el valor que Dios pone sobre la familia y su deseo para santificarla. La Sagrada Familia es el ejemplo de lo que las familias están destinados a ser. La Sagrada Familia es también el ejemplar. In philosophia hay diferencia entre el ejemplo y el ejemplar. Un ejemplo es una plantilla con el que medir otra cosas. Un ejemplar es la causa formal en el que ejemplos particulares participan. A modo de ejemplo, la Sagrada Familia nos muestra la que la familia está destinado a ser. Y si medimos nuestras propias familias por este ejemplo, aprendemos no sólo que falta a nuestra familia, pero también la grandeza de la familia. Como un ejemplar, el misterio de la Sagrada Familia se convierte en la fuente de la que todas las familias dibujan las gracias necesarias para ser santificadas. Así que la Sagrada Familia es al mismo tiempo un ejemplo de lo que debe ser una familia y la fuente de las gracias necesarias para ser santificada.

Nuestra primera lectura nos da una comprensión de las gracias que fluyen de las relaciones familiares adecuadamente ordenadas. Dios pone el padre en honor sobre sus hijos y la madre tienen autoridad sobre sus hijos. Él hizo esto con Jesús, también. El que honra a su padre se limpia de pecados y preserva a sí mismo de ellos. Sus oraciones son escuchadas, trae consuelo a su madre, él es bendecido con alegría en sus propios hijos - y el Señor no lo olvidará. Aún así, en la Sagrada Familia que tenemos a José, el hombre justo, la Santísima Virgen María, la Madre inmaculadamente concebido de Dios, y Jesús, que es Dios. ¿Cómo pueden nuestras familias comienzan a medir hasta este ejemplo? San Pablo nos da una descripción de cómo se ve a vivir según este ejemplo. "Sean compasivos, magnánimos, humildes, afables y pacientes. Sopórtense mutuamente y perdónense cuando tengan quejas contra otro, como el Señor los ha perdonado a ustedes". "Y sobre todas estas virtudes, tengan amor , que es el vínculo de la perfecta unión." La lista anterior se llevó a término en este último elemento: el amor. La familia necesita el amor sobre todas las cosas.

Tal vez la Sagrada Familia no sabe nada de nuestros problemas. Todas las gracias, y también gracias especiales, hacen la Sagrada Familia diferente de la familia normal. Esto es cierto, en la medida en que nuestras familias están manchadas con el pecado en cada miembro de la familia - padres y niños por igual. Pero la Sagrada Familia conoce nuestras dificultades. La Sagrada Familia tuvo que huir de su país. Ellos se convirtió en extraños en una tierra extranjera.. La tradición nos dice que San José era carpintero. San José enseñó a Jesús. Ellos sabían cómo trabajar duro con sus manos. La Sagrada Familia conoció la pobreza, también. La tradición nos dice que José murió bastante temprano, al menos antes de que el ministerio público de Jesús. Así que Jesús sabe lo que es perder a un padre. María entiende lo que significa ser una viuda. Jesús sabe lo que se siente al ver a su madre sufre, ya que ella estaba al pie de la Cruz. María sabe lo que se siente al perder a su hijo, incluso a verlo morir a manos de soldados crueles. Los miembros de la Sagrada Familia no fueron la causa de los pecados, pero no estaban exentos de los efectos del pecado en sus vidas. A causa de la gracia y de la santidad de la esta familia, sentían la corrupción y la fealdad del pecado más profundamente que nosotros.

La sagrada familia no está excluida de las dificultades de la vida. Ellos comprenden nuestros problemas. Pero ellos tienen sobre todo, el amor, el vínculo de la perfección, que triunfa sobre todas las dificultades. Y Dios nos quiere participar en el misterio de la Sagrada Familia a fin de que nuestras familias puedan ser santificados. "Al llegar la plenitud de los tiempos, envió Dios a su Hijo, nacido de una mujer, nacido bajo la ley, para rescatar a los que estábamos bajo la ley, a fin de hacernos hijos suyos." (Gal 4 : 4-5) "Así pues, todos ustedes son hijos de Dios por la fe in Cristo Jesús, pues, cuantos han sido incorporados a Cristo por medio del bautismo, se han revistido de Cristo. ... Y si ustedes son de Cristo, son también descendientes de Abraham y la herencia que Dios le prometió les corresponde a ustedes." Y si somos hijos en el Hijo unigénito nosotros pertenecemos también a su Sagrada Familia. Dibujemos desde el misterio de la vida de Jesús con la Sagrada Familia todas las gracias necesarias para sanar y santificar nuestra propria familia.

Dec 25, 2014

The Nativity of the Lord MMXIV

Merry Christmas! A Child is born for us! There are many reasons to rejoice today. Most of us will spend time with family. Most of us will have presents to give and presents to open. Christmas is finally here. To rejoice in Christmas we should look at two things that we find in the name of this solemnity: Christ and Mass. Christmas is the Mass of Christ. We hear the slogan today to keep Christ in Christmas. The world has turned Christmas into something else than the celebration of the birth of our Savior. It is has forgotten that Christ is the reason we have this celebration at all. But it has equally forgotten to keep the Mass in Christmas.

Why is it important to keep Christ in Christmas? Christmas is about a Person and not just an event or a season. The invisible God is made manifest in visible flesh. Divinity is united to creation, not by intention, or will or power or from afar, but by the Person of the Eternal Word, in reality and nearness. God becomes one of us. Our society has forgotten this truth. Even when it is said, the world does not understand the meaning of it. This Child of Mary is God in the flesh. God is revealed to us in him. The world passes by this reality without a second thought. But this makes this Christmas much like the very first Christmas. How many were there in that time that would have recognized the Creator of the world when they looked upon this babe in a manger? The angels proclaimed him, shepherds adored him. But most of the world, on that night, just like tonight, will go about doing whatever it is that they normally do. For untold millions, this night is no different than any other. God has come into their midst, and hardly anyone knows. It is by the gift of faith that we share in the grace of so great a mystery.

God has taken up our frailty to himself. A dignity beyond anything else in the whole of creation is bestowed upon our frail humanity. God did not come as an angel but as a human. The gift he give to us is to know that what we are he became – out of his ineffable love for us, he lowers himself to share in our state. He gives to humanity his own Divinity. The prayers of the Church call this a holy exchange. What is it that we give to him? He takes from us mortal flesh. The God who is impassible becomes passible, that is, he fashions for himself the means by which the Crucifixion becomes a possibility. In return for the grace of sharing in his divinity, he asks only to share in our frailty and mortality. O holy exchange! A birth destined for a death – and resurrection. Keeping Christ in Christmas means remembering the reason for which Jesus was born. Christmas is something more than sentimentality, though there should be affection and tenderness when we put before our minds and hearts the scene of our Savior being born into the world. In Christmas the beginning of our redemption is made manifest. Jesus was born for the Cross, for his burial in the tomb, his resurrection from the dead and his glorious ascension into heaven. His flesh is our salvation. His human flesh and human soul are at the right hand of God in glory. Since he has a human nature like ours and his sacred humanity is in heaven, heaven becomes a possibility for each of us. We are invited to be born again in Christ and so to share eternal blessedness with him in heaven. Such a gift merits more than just this day. It deserves more than just sentiment.

How do we partake of the mystery of Christmas which is placed before us today through faith? By keeping the Mass in Christmas. When the deacon prepares the chalice at the altar he says, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” In this liturgical rite the Mystery of the Nativity is referenced in signs. The wine symbolizes the fullness of the gift of his divinity to us. The water, just a drop, symbolizes our humanity. At the consecration the host becomes his Sacred Body and the wine becomes his Precious Blood. These separate consecrations sacramentally, that is, mystically make really present the death of our Lord. During the sign of peace, the priest will take a small part of the host and place it in the chalice saying, “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” This liturgical ritual symbolizes the resurrection and ascension. How do we celebrate Christmas? By offering the Paschal Mystery: the death, resurrection and ascension in worship of our heavenly Father. We stand in awe of the love of God for us and offer back to him as our thanksgiving the Body and Blood of his Son. O wondrous exchange! We are given divinity in exchange for our humanity. In this Child is already present the mysteries of our redemption. His mysteries are ours. If we wish to profit from this marvelous exchange, nothing less than our life for his life is sufficient. Not on just one day, but every day of our lives. Not just Christmas but every day of the year. We must partake of his life with our life. To keep Christmas, it is necessary to keep it with the whole person: heart, mind, soul and body.

The Eternal Son of the Father gave himself completely to us. He didn’t leave aside some portion of his life for himself but gave us the whole of himself. In order to receive this gift in full, it is necessary to return a gift in kind: the whole of ourselves. Christianity is not something that we can do only on Christmas, or Easter, or even just on Sundays. Either our whole existence is grounded in this mystery of God in the flesh, or we are just fooling ourselves with our occasional religiosity. Christianity is not something that is merely thought. “I believe” is not properly translated as “I think.” Nor is Christianity something that is merely felt. The religious experience of feeling good is not the goal. Nor is Christianity something to be done. Christianity is not exhausted by being nice, or tolerant, or by charity and generosity. Christianity is received. Christianity is something done in us and for us, for when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son made of a woman, made under the law, that he might redeem those under the law, so that we might receive the adoption of sons. Christmas is kept by holding fast to Christ and to his Mass. All that is left is for us to accept it, or at least not to refuse it. Let us receive the Christ-child in our hearts, contemplating him with Mary, and allow his mysteries to be made manifest in our own life by his grace so that we are finally able to keep Christmas. Only then will the birth of our Savior have effect in our lives and the celebration of this mystery be kept in full.

Dec 22, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent

To help us understand the connections between our first reading and our Gospel, we will need to know a little about the Ark of the Covenant. During the Exodus from Egypt, Moses received the 10 Commandments and other laws at Mount Sinai. Among these other laws were the directions for the construction of the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was the special presence of God among his people Israel. From the Letter to the Hebrews, we find out that inside the Ark were several items: the tablets containing the ten commandments (the decalogue or ten words), a golden container of manna from the desert, and rod of Aaron, the high priest, which had budded. The Ark was carried before the army of Israel when Jericho fell and many other times into battle. It was later placed into the inner sanctuary of the Temple which Solomon, the son of David built, called the Holy of Holies, which the high priest entered only once a year.

David’s impulse is a good one. “Here I am living in luxury. And the Ark is kept in ordinary surroundings.” He goes to the prophet Nathan to get a blessing for his plan to build a house for God. God’s reply isn’t no, at first, but rather a question: “Should you build me a house to dwell in?” Remember, where you came from and all the things I have done for you. You’re going to build me a house? I will build you a house.

We should not rest on what we think we can do for God. The works of the Lord are great and, yes, he even does his works through us. The impulse to do something for the Lord is a good one, when it arises from sincere love and does not forget that what we do is a return, a giving back, a response for what the Lord has done for us. It is not we who do favors for the Lord, but the Lord who does favors for us. It is not we who will build a better world for God, but God who, coming into the world, saves the world and makes it new. We receive from him. We see this most clearly in our Gospel today. Mary is the model of how we Christians are meant to stand before God and receive from him. “May it be done to me according to your word.” It is the Lord who does these great things. We can dispose ourselves by faith and obedience – but do not forget that this is his grace working in us, too. There is nothing that we can do apart from him.

The Israelites built an Ark according to God’s instructions. David planned to build a Temple and his son completed it. But God built Mary. From the first moment of her existence, he kept her free from any stain of sin. The Lord builds perfectly. The precision of God’s instructions to the Israelites for the building of the Ark demonstrate the importance and holiness of his dwelling place. Likewise, the Temple is built as a sign of God’s magnificence. Everything about the arrangements speaks of the glory and holiness of God and how that is to be reflected in what is dedicated for his service and worship. In Mary’s womb we have not just the ten words, but the Eternal Word; not just a symbol of the Eucharist like manna but the Bread of Life himself; not just the high priest’s staff, but the Eternal High Priest the shoot which blossoms from the stump of Jesse. Indeed, all of God’s works are perfect. But our works are flawed, they are riddled with our incompetency and sinfulness. Eventually, through sin, the Israelites will lose the privilege of maintaining the place of the Ark, and it becomes lost to them. Also because of their sins, the Temple will be destroyed, rebuilt and again destroyed.

On the contrary, the works of the Lord are perfect in every way. They are often difficult for us to understand and we do not know the reasons for all the preparations. In the end, we discover the grandeur of God’s plans, how much better his designs are than ours. In Jesus, we have not only a place where the power and presence of God are shown to us. Jesus is God himself: True God and True Man. And although he allows his body to be ravaged by our sins, he is raised again in glory. He is never lost to us, never to be destroyed. Only our refusal to allow God to work in us keeps us from him.

We are just a few days from the solemnity of Christmas. Have we prepared to receive him during this Advent? Perhaps we have not done such a great job of joyful preparation for this feast. Perhaps we have not allowed God to work in us by his grace so that he can move us towards his perfection. All is not lost. We have these next few days to open ourselves to God’s work in us. He desires to adorn us with his graces and make his dwelling in our hearts. We become as it were, miniature arks of his covenant. Open your hearts to him. Pray a little extra. Ask for forgiveness from anyone you have harmed. Give forgiveness to anyone who has harmed you, ask God for help in letting it go. Be a bit more generous with the poor, make a gift to St. Vincent de Paul’s. Join Bishop Olmstead outside Planned Parenthood on Christmas Eve praying for the unborn, the mothers and all involved. Let God’s grace direct you these next few days. Be a little more aware of God’s presence in your life and let him prepare you, in whatever way, according to his will, to receive his Son with joy this coming Christmas.

Dec 14, 2014

Gaudete Sunday, Year B

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” Why on this day should we rejoice? This is the Third Sunday of Advent, also called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means rejoice. It is the plural imperative, that is, it is a command and it is addressed to all of us. So what do we have to rejoice about?

The reading from Isaiah is fulfilled in the person of Jesus. God knows our difficulties. We are poor, brokenhearted and captive, especially because of our sins and often even because of the memory of our sins and mistakes. Just the knowledge that God sees our need is enough to lighten our hearts – we are not alone in our distress. And to hear this promise that God will save us gives us great hope because we can trust his word. And we know that not only did he keep his promise but he gave us his only begotten Son. Rejoice, again I say, rejoice! In a mere 11 days we will be keeping the Solemnity of the Birth of our Lord. He who is the source of all riches came into our poverty. The font of life gives his life to cure us of our infirmities. He heals the brokenhearted and free us from captivity. He was not satisfied to know us from afar, nor to work his wonderful deeds through others. No, he drew near to us on account of his great love.

John the Baptist was the greatest prophet ever known. Jesus says that among those born of a woman, there has arisen no one greater the John the Baptist. (Mt. 11:11; Lk 7:28) And what does John say? That he is unworthy to untie the strap of the sandal of the one who is coming after him. Jesus, the Christ, is more than a prophet. He is God in our midst. John also says to the priests and Levites of Jerusalem: “there is one among you whom you do not recognize.” And he could say the same thing today.

Advent is a time of preparation, with devout and expectant delight, to celebrate the birth of Jesus and to await his coming into the world again. But there are two other advents which are important.

He comes daily upon our altars in the appearances of bread and wine. The same sacred humanity which Mary bore in her womb, which she wrapped in swaddling clothes; the sacred humanity which hung upon the Cross for us, which was buried in the tomb and rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven, is made present right here in our midst. And yet many will not recognize him. They will see the host held aloft in adoration and see only the sign, know only the bread. “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world,” the priest will say, echoing St. John. But many will not believe. They will see the symbols only and will not look deeply with faith. For those with faith, however, there is rejoicing for, indeed, the Lord is near.

It is sometimes the case that we should not approach the altar for communion for a variety of reasons. Either we have not yet made our first communion, or we are unprepared to receive him, or our circumstances of life preclude it. Yet, all of us may look and see. We can behold God in our midst, the one whom we are preparing to rejoice over at Christmas. We can long for his coming with devout and expectant delight. And this also is cause for rejoicing. Before our eyes, though veiled in the Most Holy Sacrament, we look upon our Lord: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. His adorable Person is before us.

He not only comes daily upon our altars, he also comes daily to our souls. He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks and begs to enter. Our Divine Savior wishes to dwell with us. Us, with all of our poverty, and brokenheartedness, with our captivity and weakness, our mistakes and sins, all the messiness which is human lives. He longs to enrich our poverty, to console our broken hearts, to free us from captivity, strengthen our weakness, forgive and heal our mistakes and sins, to cleanse and purify the messiness of our lives. Rejoice, for the God who draws so near to us, does so because he loves us. Why do we rejoice? How can we not?

***

“Estén siempre alegres en el Señor, les repito, estén alegres. El Señor está cerca.” ¿Por qué en este día debemos alegrarnos? Este es el tercer domingo de Adviento, también llamado Domingo de Gaudete. Gaudete significa alégrense!. Es el imperativo plural, es decir, es una orden y se dirige a todos nosotros. ¿Por qué nos alegramos?

La lectura de Isaías se cumplió en la persona de Jesús. Dios conoce nuestras dificultades. Somos pobres, quebrantados de corazón y cautivos, especialmente a causa de nuestros pecados y, a menudo, incluso por la memoria de nuestros pecados y errores. el conocimiento de que Dios la ve nuestra necesidad es suficiente para alumbrar nuestros corazones - que no estamos solos en nuestra angustia. Y al oír esta promesa que Dios salvará a nosotros nos da una gran esperanza porque podemos confiar en su palabra. Y sabemos que no sólo él cumplió su promesa, pero él nos dio a su Hijo unigénito. Alégrense, otra vez digo: ¡Alégrense! En once días vamos a celebrar la Solemnidad de la Natividad de Nuestro Señor. Aquel que es la fuente de toda riqueza entró en nuestra pobreza. La fuente de la vida da su vida para curarnos de nuestras enfermedades. Él sana a los quebrantados de corazón y nos libera del cautiverio. No estaba satisfecho a conocernos desde lejos, ni para trabajar sus maravillas a través de otros. No, él se acercó a nosotros a causa de su gran amor.

Juan el Bautista fue el profeta más grande jamás conocido. Jesús dijo, “que no ha surgido entre los hijos de una mujer ninguno más grande que Juan el Bautista”. (Mt. 11:11; Lc 07:28) ¿Y qué dijo Juan? “No soy digno de desatarle las correas de sus sandalias.” Jesucristo es más que un profeta. Él es Dios en medio de nosotros. Juan también dijo a los sacerdotes y levitas de Jerusalén: "en medio de ustedes hay uno, al que ustedes no conocen." Estas últimas palabras siguen siendo ciertas tambien en nuestro tiempo.

El Adviento es un tiempo de preparación, de alegría devoto y expectante, para celebrar el nacimiento de Jesús y esperar su venida al mundo de nuevo. Pero hay otras dos venidas que son importantes.

Él viene todos los días a nuestro altar en las especies del pan y del vino. La misma humanidad sagrada que María llevaba en su seno, que se envolvió en pañales; la humanidad sagrada que pendía de la cruz por nosotros, que fue sepultado en la tumba y resucitó al tercer día y ascendió a los cielos, se hace presente aquí en medio de nosotros. Y sin embargo, muchos no lo reconocerán. Ellos verán la hostia en alto para la adoración y ven sólo el signo, sólo conocen el pan. "Este es el Cordero de Dios, que quita el pecado del mundo," el sacerdote dirá, haciéndose eco de San Juan Bautista. Pero muchos no creen. Ellos sólo ven los símbolos y no miran profundamente con la fe. Para los que tienen fe, sin embargo, hay alegría porque, en realidad, el Señor está cerca.

A veces es el caso que no debemos acercarnos al altar para la comunión. O bien todavía no hemos hecho nuestra primera comunión, o no están preparados para recibirlo, o nuestras circunstancias de vida se oponen recepción. Sin embargo, todos nosotros podemos mirar y ver. Podemos contemplar a Dios en medio de nosotros, aquel a quien nos estamos preparando para alegrarse por la Navidad. Podemos desear para su venida con alegría devoto y expectante. Delante de nuestros ojos, aunque velado en el Santísimo Sacramento, miramos a nuestro Señor: Cuerpo, Sangre, Alma y Divinidad. Su adorable persona está delante de nosotros. Y esto también es un motivo de alegría.

Él no sólo viene a diario en nuestros altares, él también viene todos los días a nuestras almas. Él está a la puerta de nuestro corazón y golpes y le ruega para entrar. Nuestro Divino Salvador desea morar con nosotros. Nosotros, con toda nuestra pobreza, y quebranto, con nuestro cautiverio y debilidad, nuestros errores y pecados, todo el desorden que es la vida humana. Él anhela para enriquecer nuestra pobreza, para consolar nuestros corazones rotos, para liberarnos del cautiverio, fortalecer nuestra debilidad, perdonar y sanar nuestros errores y pecados, para limpiar y purificar el desorden de nuestras vidas. Alégrense, por el Dios que se acerca a nosotros, lo hace porque nos ama. ¿Por qué nos alegramos? ¿Cómo no?


Nov 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent, Year B

The Catholic liturgical year begins today. The rest of our society will begin celebrating the Christmas Season. And once they have exchanged gifts, they will take down their decorations and soon forget what has passed. If they look forward to anything, it will be New Years Day that they eagerly await. Growing up, this used to mean Santa Claus and reindeer, Rudolph and claymation movies, a snowman that comes back to life and promises to return someday, Christmas carols and candy canes. Usually mixed in with it there was a nativity scene and renditions of O Holy Night, Silent Night, and other songs of a religious nature. Houses were adorned with lights and Christmas scenes. Everyone wished each other Merry Christmas, even those who did not believe. Perhaps our society missed the most essential element of the coming celebration: Christmas is really Christ’s Mass, the Mass of Christ. Still, something of the wonder of this time was marked by the joy with which we kept the season, even if we had forgotten the reason. Today, it is Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays (this last one means Happy Holy Days, but don’t tell them. Let them keep saying it, maybe it’ll sink in).

I know we are an Easter people. And I love Holy Week and the Easter Vigil. But I have always been a Christmas Catholic. I love Christmas. I love Christmas Carols and not just the religious ones. Something about Frosty and Rudolph and the North Pole still makes me smile. Hidden in these things is a longing for the real Christmas. An expression of the best things about being human: the giving of gifts and singing of joyful songs. The problem with secular Christmas is not the feeling of joy, or the increase of generosity. It’s not even the stories of elves, flying reindeer or a gentle, kind and merry man whose belly jiggles when he laughs. Remember Santa Claus is another way of saying Saint Claus, short for Saint Nicholas. These stories capture something of the spirit of man towards his fellow men during these joyous days. We could do with a bit more rather than a bit less of this spirit. Still, like all big days, such as weddings and ordinations, births and baptisms, there is the necessity of preparation and the building excitement as the day approaches. If we give ourselves over the exterior trappings of this Christmas Season, we should give ourselves with even more abandon to our interior preparations to receive the Christ-Child in our souls.

This begins with remembering like Isaiah, that our God is our Father and Redeemer forever. It takes place by acknowledging that we have strayed and are in need of renewing the love and joy that is proper to Christianity in our hearts. We must plead with him in joyful anticipation for the coming of our Lord. “Rend the heavens and come down!” “Rouse your power,” O Lord, “and come to save us.” “Give us new life, and we will call upon your name.” “Let us see your face and we shall be saved.” We can apply these pleadings to three things: historically, Isaiah calls upon God to send the Messiah. And faith tells us that God has done so. We join our voices to this plea, begging the Lord to come again. And faith gives us the hope to believe that it will be. We also sing out to God, that his Son may come into our hearts now. That he may be born again in us. “Come now and save me, Lord. Let me see your face now. Rend my heart now and come into it.”

Jesus tells us to be watchful, to be alert and watch. We do not know when he will come. As we look forward to celebrating the birth of the babe in Bethlehem, we have preparations to make. Is there room in my heart for him? Is my soul adorned with the same care that I decorate my home? Will I be awake when he knocks on the door of my heart and begs to enter? Leave room for him. In all the other things that will happen this Christmas Season, the singing and decorating, the shopping and present wrapping, the family gatherings and daily doings, don’t let any of these things stay in your mind and heart without leaving room for the One whom our joy awaits. If you prefer to wait for the celebrations, to avoid listening to Christmas songs and decorating and all such things, you do well – if you are preparing to receive him and not merely refusing to participate in the joyfulness and generosity around you. I must confess, I will be unable to contain myself. I’ve already put up my tree. It is disguised as an Advent tree, with purple lights and purple ornaments but there is already a bit of Christmas in my heart. I will be unable to resist the allure of Christmas music. Soon, I will decorate my car with reindeer antlers and a Rudolph nose. But I shall not tire of Christmas, I think there should be more Christmas and more Christmas spirit in the world. In whatever way we keep this season, let there be prayer and thanksgiving to God, so that our lives be enriched in every way and may we share the riches of grace bestowed on us by God in Christ Jesus. May we be filled with the Christmas spirit and as we long for that most holy of days, may we prepare ourselves to receive our Lord and King.

Nov 29, 2014

Última Semana: Viernes / Friday 34th Week in Ordinary Time

Hay una traducción muy interesante en nuestro salmo responsorial. La respuesta dice: "Dichosos los que viven en tu casa." Pero el Latín dice: "Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus." Literalmente, significa: ¡Mira! el tabernáculo de Dios con los hombres. Tabernáculo significa morada. "Ecce" significa mira pero también aquí o allá o esta. La respuesta es del libro del Apocalipsis del apóstol san Juan: "Esta es la morada de Dios con los Hombres; vivira con ellos como su Dios y ellos seran su pueblo." La "esta" de este versiculo es la ciudad santa, la nueva Jerusalén, engalanda como una novia que va a desposarse con su prometido." Deseo señalar tres cosas que podemos aplicar este versículo.

Primero. ¿Cómo se llama el lugar en el que nos reservamos el Santísimo Sacramento? El Tabernáculo. Cuando Dios vino en carne humana, él hizo su morada con nosotros. Y para que no nos vemos privados de su presencia hasta que venga otra vez, él nos da esta misma carne para santificarnos y para mostrarnos su amor. Si Dios vino a vivir entre los hombres y nos dejó este Santísimo Sacramento, lo dejó como una promesa que iba a regresar otra vez y llevarnos a sí mismo.

Segundo. La Iglesia Católica es el lugar de su presencia. Los miembros de su Iglesia por el bautismo son el cuerpo místico de Cristo. Por eso oramos en nuestra plegaria eucarística, “para que, fortalecidos con el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Cristo y llenos de su Espíritu Santo, formemos en Cristo un solo cuerpo y un solo espíritu. Que El nos transforme en ofrenda permanente, para que gocemos de tu heredad junto con tus elegidos.” ¿Dónde? En la nueva Jerusalén que San Juan vio, que es la Iglesia Católica.

Tercero. Esto sólo sucede si contemplamos a Cristo en el Santísimo Sacramento y tratamos de imitarlo en nuestras vidas. Nuestras almas son tabernáculos del Altísimo. Y no sólo nosotros, sino también a toda alma. Necesitamos buscar a Cristo en cada lugar y en cada alma. Primero lo reconocemos en la Eucaristía, a continuación, le invitamos a entrar en nuestro corazón. Y donde quiera que no lo encontramos en el mundo, debemos llevarlo con nosotros. Sí, Dichosos los que viven en su casa. Porque ahora se regocijan en su Señor, mientras esperan su regreso.

***
There is an interesting Spanish translation in the responsorial psalm, today. The response says. "Blessed are those who live in your house." But the Latin says, "Ecce tabernaculum Dei cum hominibus." Literally it means, "Behold! The tabernacle of God with mankind." Tabernacle means dwelling place. "Ecce" means behold but also look, see, here, there, or this. The response is from the book of Revelation of the Apostle St. John: "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people." The "behold" is referenced to the holy city, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." I want to point out three things to which we can apply this verse.

First. What do we call the place in which we reserve the Most Holy Sacrament? The Tabernacle. When God came in human flesh, he made his dwelling place with us. And so that we would not be deprived of his presence until he come again, he gave to us this same flesh to sanctify us and to show us his love. If God came to live among the human race and left us this Most Holy Sacrament, he left it as a promise that we would return again and bring us to himself.

Second. The Catholic Church is the place of his presence. The members of his Church by baptism are the mystical body of Christ. For this reason we pray in our Eucharistic Prayer, "grant thate we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain and inheritance with your elect." Where? In the new Jerusalem which St. John saw, which is the Catholic Church.

Third. This only happens if we contemplate Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament and try to imitate him in our lives. Our souls are tabernacles of the Most High. And not only us, but also every soul. We need to seek Christ in every place and en every person. First, we recognize him in the Eucharist, then, we invite him to enter into our heart. And where ever we do not find him in the world, we should bring him with us. Yes, blessed are those who live in his house. Because now they rejoice in their Lord, while they await his return.

Nov 16, 2014

First Friday, October 3, 2014

We, you and I, are fearfully, wonderfully made. What is it that makes us wonderful? It is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Typically, this is taken by theologians to indicate the faculties of the intellect and will. This is not to exclude other reflections of God's image in man but rather to zero in on the way in which man is most like God: the capacity to love. One cannot choose something or some act of which one is not aware. Specifically, it is impossible to love what is unknown. So the very idea of the possibility of love requires both that something of the object is known and that we are free to choose. As we discuss freedom, it may be helpful to untangle this word and concept from modern misunderstandings.

The liberum arbitrium or free will is what we call the power of choosing or freedom of choice. This liberty consists in two things: libertas a coactione, freedom from external compulsion; and libertas a necessitate, freedom from internal necessity. Free will embraces both of these categories. Theologians, generally, make several distinctions when talking about free will: 1) libertas contradictionis, which is the liberty to act or not to act; 2) libertas specificationis, which is the liberty to specify acts of the same kind; 3) libertas contrarietatis, which is the liberty to choose between contraries: love and hate, good and evil. This third distinction is applicable only to humans in the wayfaring state. It is not applicable to God, to the Saints or to the Angels. It is actually a defect rather than a constitutive part of freedom. God and the heavenly courts are eminently free.

We must always be cautious of this distinction in our minds when we speak about freedom. Freedom must never be confused with license or licentiousness. Libertas is always marked by restraint and moderation, whereas licentia is marked by arbitrariness. The modern idea of freedom is excessively influenced by its confusion with license. Ironically, there is nothing particularly modern about this conception of freedom. Tacitus remarked on it saying, "Licentia quam stulti libertatem vocant." (License, which the foolish call liberty). And John Milton wrote, "None can love freedom heartily but good men; the rest love not freedom but license." Pope St. John Paul II adds: "Finally, true freedom is not advanced in the permissive society, which confuses freedom with license to do anything whatever and which in the name of freedom proclaims a kind of general amorality. It is a caricature of freedom to claim that people are free to organize their lives with no reference to moral values, and to say that society does no have to ensure the protection and advancement of ethical values. Such an attitude is destructive of freedom, such as the elimination of human life by legalized or generally accepted abortion."

Cicero once wrote. "legum servi sumus ut liberi esse possimus." (We are servants of the laws so that we are able to be free). There is, also, a ubiquitous motto, often attributed to St. Augustine, which reads "Cui servire est regnare." (Whom to serve is to reign.) The Anglican Book of Common Prayer makes use of a freer translation: "Whose service is perfect freedom." So, with apologies to Cicero, we Christians would say: Dei servi sumus ut liberi esse possimus. We are servants of God so that we are able to be free. The freedom for which we are searching is not merely a freedom from compulsion but a freedom for choosing what is true, good, and beautiful.

There is much that we simply do not have the power to change, but "even in the most unfavorable outward circumstances we possess within ourselves a space of freedom, that nobody can take away, because God is its source and guarantee." (Jacque Philippe, Interior Freedom) The place of freedom is interior. It is only secondarily concerned with exterior realities. This space is the core of the human heart created to be filled and fulfilled by the presence of God alone. The longing for or presence of anything which is not God or does not lead to God, creates a relationship of slavery because it cannot provide for the deepest desire of the human heart. Licentiousness and vice become their own punishment, robbing the person not only of their strength and freedom in choosing the good, but becoming a compulsion of habit, also robbing them of their relationship with God, the life of grace, and the One who truly satisfies and never passes away.

In our Alleluia verse from Psalm 95 we heard, "If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts." This psalme is the traditonal psalm of the invitatory for the breviary. The Latin is nuanced and give wonderful expression to the sentiment: "Utinam hodie vocem eius audiatis, "Nolite obdurare corda vestra." It is more a plea than a statement of what one ought to do is one happens to hear God's voice today. "Oh, if only you would listen to his voice today." What would you hear? You would hear him saying, "harden not your hearts!" In our Gospel, Jesus uses language which sounds rather strong when he chastises several villages: "Woe to you Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! And as for you Capernaum!" These, too, are pleas. If we do not respond with love for the love which God has manifested for us, we risk losing it all. We need to increase this space of interior freedom in our hearts so that, cooperating with grace, we can begin to make a response.

As Jacque Philippe puts it, "We find confinement unbearable, simply because we were created in the image of God, and we have within us an unquenchable need for the absolute and the infinite. That is our greatness and sometimes our misfortune. We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is no happiness without love, and no love without freedom. ... man cannot live without loving. The problem is that our love often goes in the wrong direction: we love ourselves, selfishly, and end up frustrated, because only genuine love can fulfill us. Only love, then can satisfy us; and there is no love without freedom. ... Love is neither taken nor bought. There is true love, and therefore happiness, only between people who freely yield possession of the self in order to give themselves to one another."

There. The Cross. This Eucharist. Jesus hands himself over for us. He yields possession in order to give himself to us. In his Sacred Heart, he has made room for our entrance because he consented in freedom that at the last, even his heart should be pierced.

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

As the liturgical year draws to a close, the Church in her wisdom reminds us about the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. The first reading gives us the example of the woman whose value is greater than pearls. Why? Because she brings good things and not evil, all the days of her life. She works with loving hands. She cares for the poor and the needy. For this reason, she will receive a reward for her labors and her works will praise her at the gates of the city.

The woman is an image of the soul. The holy soul, like the good woman, receives a reward for its labors. The holy soul is praised by its works. But, as our Gospel tells us, every soul receives the fruit of its handiwork. The good soul receives praise from the Lord: "Well done, my good and faithful servant. ... Come, share your master's joy." What about the soul which is like the last servant? The Lord speaks the saddest words ever heard to this soul: "You wicked, lazy servant! ... Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth." The responsorial psalm  says: "Blessed are you who fear the Lord, who walk in his ways! For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork." But, how sad the soul who does not walk in the ways of the Lord, because this soul, too, shall eat the fruit of it's handiwork.

The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that eternal life is what begins immediately after death. This life has no end. It will be preceded for each by a particular judgment on the part of Christ, the judge of the living and the dead, and it will be ratified in the final judgment. (207) The particular judgment is a judgment of immediate retribution, which, at the moment of death, each one receives from God in their immortal soul, in relation to their faith and their works. This retribution consists in access to the happiness of heaven, either immediately or after an adequate purification, or it consists in eternal condemnation to hell. (208)

This is the meaning of the words of Jesus: "For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away." Those who walk in the way of the Lord, by his grace, are able to lay down at his feet the good fruit of their lives. And they will receive eternal blessedness and share in the joy of their Master. Those, however, who are before Jesus in the judgment and do not have good fruit, they will lose not only what was given to them but also the joy of the Master. They will share only in the darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Brother and sisters, we will have to give an account of our lives before the Lord. We will have to give an account of each moment, each thought, each word, and each action. What will be the fruit of our lives? Will it be good fruit or not? And St. Paul tells us that the day of our judgment, the day of the Lord, will come like a thief in the night. We need to be prepared each and every day because we do not know when the Lord will call us to give an account of our lives.

Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day, and every day of thy life:

God to glorify,
Jesus to imitate,
The Blessed Virgin and the Saints to venerate,
The Angels to invoke,
The soul to save,
The body to mortify,
Virtues from God to beseech,
Sins to expiate,
Heaven to gain,
Hell to avoid,
Eternity to consider,
Time well to apply,
Neighbors to edify,
The world to fear
Demons to fight,
Passions to subdue,
Death always to expect
And yourself for judgment to prepare.

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Today is the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. Most people think of St. Peter’s Basilica when they think of Rome and the Pope. However, it is the Lateran Basilica which is the Cathedral of the Pope. The full name of the Lateran Basilica is Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris et Sanctorum Ioannes Baptista et Evangelista in Laterno which translates as the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist at the Lateran. The site was first dedicated by Pope Sylvester I in 324 A.D. It was then rededicated to St. John the Baptist at the dedication of a new baptistry in the 10th century by Pope Sergius III and again dedicated to St. John the Evangelist by Pope Lucius II in the 12th century, which is how it received its full name. It may at first seem odd that we are celebrating the feast of the dedication of the Cathedral in Rome.

The prayers of the liturgy and the readings help us to understand the full meaning of this particular feast. The prayers continually reference the people of God as living stones, the temple of grace and the Holy Spirit. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians writes, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” He says that we are “God’s building” and that our foundation is Jesus Christ. While we do celebrate the dedication of a building, we do so because of the meaning of the visible building which our Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer tells us are types, images or signs of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

The scriptural images of the new heavenly Jerusalem and its temple are less about the descent of a city or building made of stones than it is about the living building of the people of God made perfect, sanctified and glorified by their participation in the death and resurrection of Christ. When Jesus became man in his incarnation, his visible human flesh became the holy place of God’s dwelling among us. His crucified and resurrected flesh communicates this holiness to his people. His humanity is the means by which, through baptism into his death, we, too, become dwelling places of the Most High God. What he is by Divine Nature, we are able to share by participation because he condescended to become a sharer in our human nature. Jesus identifies himself in the Gospel with the temple: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. ... He was speaking about the temple of his body.”

The physical and visible is not unimportant because it is a sign for us. God, in his Divine Nature, is accessible everywhere and at all times, because the Divine Nature is not material or physical but spiritual and so is not confined to being in any place at all. But the means of our salvation is the very real and physical humanity of Christ. Church buildings have a real impact on us. Their physicality is something that we can experience with the senses. Their architecture and art tell us something about the faith. The beauty and magnificence of church buildings vary. I used to visit regularly the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice when I lived in Italy. I still think it one of the most beautiful and breathtaking places of worship I have ever been in. I have also served Holy Mass for Fr. Paul Sullivan in mud huts with tin roofs in aldeas near Comayagua, Honduras. The living stones of those churches had a simplicity and beauty as well. I do think that where we have the means we should build magnificent and beautiful churches that really express the transcendent glory of God, as much as it can be expressed. I also think the people deserve to have the visible reminders and the instruction that proper church buildings can give us. And I think that the beauty of the church building is helpful in encountering God in the contemplation of his presence during prayer and in the celebration of the liturgy.

Still, we are not less than members of the Church or of our parish when we are away from this building, whether we are at work or in our homes. We are members of the body of Christ wherever we might be. But the fullest meaning of being Church has its greatest sign value and most profound reason when we are here, gathered together and participating as one in the worship and sacrifice of our head, Jesus Christ. At the Holy Mass we join our joys and sorrows, our thanksgiving and needs with the prayer of our Most High Priest. And here he makes present his humanity; he himself becomes present here under the visible signs of bread and wine. And when we participate in this prayer by our songs of worship, contemplating the Sacred Scriptures, and especially in taking part in the prayers through our responses and in communion, whether through spiritual communion or sacramental communion, we join our hearts and voices together with all the Angels and Saints.

At the heart of it, this is what this feast is about. The visible building of the Lateran Basilica reminds us that we belong to a communion of the members of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Second Vatican Council taught in Lumen Gentium 4 that the Church is “a people made one with the unity of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” This unity is not simply in intention but is a real visible and physical union, together with our bishop, a successor of the Apostles, and the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Again the Second Vatican Council in the same document (23) taught that “The Roman Pontiff, as the successor of Peter, is the perpetual and visible principle and foundation of unity of both the bishops and of the faithful. The individual bishops, however, are the visible principle and foundation of unity in their particular churches, fashioned after the model of the universal Church, in and from which churches comes into being the one and only Catholic Church. For this reason the individual bishops represent each his own church, but all of them together and with the Pope represent the entire Church in the bond of peace, love and unity.” This is a good feast for us to reflect upon our relationship with the universal church and the manner in which we keep one another, our local bishop, and the Pope in our hearts and our prayers.

Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed - All Souls

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls, was celebrated this year on Sunday. In the liturgical calendar it follows upon the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints. Holy Mother Church celebrates the saints because they are further proof of God’s love. They show us that God is capable of taking mere fallible humans from every race and nation and turning them into creatures that shine like the stars because they participate in his own divine life and love. On the very next day, Holy Mother Church presents us with the offering of the Mass for those souls in purgatory who will enjoy such participation but do not currently do so. The liturgy itself takes its readings from the funeral liturgy. The preface to the eucharistic prayer is the preface for the dead. Even when November 2nd falls on a Sunday, as it did this year, this liturgical commemoration takes precedence over the usual Sunday liturgy. And so the singing of the Gloria is omitted on this day. The liturgy celebrated is essentially a memorial Mass for the dead. It is a timely reminder for us of our obligation to pray for the dead and of the traditional doctrine of purgatory.

It is not uncommon today to hear it said that “Funerals are for the living.” After all why should the dead care, really, what music is played or how we remember them? But death does matter and so do the dead. Funerals are precisely about those who have died and the obligations that the living have towards the mortal remains and towards the immortal soul. Funerals are for the living, but only because of their connection with the dead. It is also common to immediately opine that so-and-so are in a better place now (presumably, it is meant that they are assuredly in heaven) and their long suffering is finally at an end. Funerals, we are told, are to be happy affairs where the dead are remembered only in pleasant terms, with a degree of saccharine sentimentality, and all too often in a way which makes the deceased rather unrecognizable to those who knew and loved them. If ever anyone listened to the prayers of the Church on behalf of the dead it must come as a surprise that she begs mercy for their sins. The  prayers for All Souls Day asks God to “look mercifully on your departed servants,” and to “wash away, we pray, in the Blood of Christ, the sins of your departed servants,” and “humbly implores” the Lord that they may be “cleansed by the paschal mysteries.” Holy Mother Church, it seems, has quite a different approach than that of the modern culture, especially in American society.

Our society has emptied out from its memories not only the Christian doctrine of purgatory but also, the very human, and very Christian, notion that we bear any sort of responsibility towards the dead. To quote Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman: “What is the world's religion now? It has taken the brighter side of the Gospel,—its tidings of comfort, its precepts of love; all darker, deeper views of man's condition and prospects being comparatively forgotten. This is the religion natural to a civilized age, and well has Satan dressed and completed it into an idol of the Truth. ... then disappear also, in the creed of the day, those fearful images of Divine wrath with which the Scriptures abound. They are explained away. Every thing is bright and cheerful. Religion is pleasant and easy; benevolence is the chief virtue; intolerance, bigotry, excess of zeal, are the first of sins.” Of course, Blessed Newman was writing in an age where he could still say that the world had taken something of the Gospel. Our world has moved on. In his time, they kept some inklings of the Gospel where kindness and niceties are concerned – we may still find in our churches, regardless of denomination, those who are inclined to this kind of a reduced Christianity. They refuse to make a place for Divine wrath which would be manifest if only they could bear to gaze upon the Holy Cross. In their refusal, they transform heaven into the doctors waiting room, where there is only superficial politeness and boredom. They wish to enter into Heaven without any punishment for their sins. They want to remain unchanged, exactly as they are, defects and all. Just imagine the residents of heaven with all their foibles, or at least the marring effects of their sins upon their souls, spending their time in utter boredom being pleasant and tolerant towards one another. I could hardly imagine a less heavenly image. The radiant Beauty of God, his Divine Majesty, and his transcendent Glory will not allow this to be the case.

St. Catherine of Siena says that the fires which torment the souls in hell is in reality the fire of God’s love, which the obstinate sinner experiences as wrath. St. Augustine says something similar: Hell is where God’s constant and unending love licks at the souls of the damned which refuse to melt. The saint has been purified from every defect, from the stain of every sin, and so becomes radiant with God’s love and shines like the stars. Those who die in God’s friendship, yet with the effects of their sins still upon their souls are as yet incapable of resting in the blazing fire of God’s love. There are parts of their souls which do not yet reflect properly the Beauty, Majesty and Glory of God. The soul when it meets its Creator after death is for the first time fully aware of the depths of their own deformity and the heights of God’s perfections. It is not as if God wishes merely to overlook their imperfections and simply engage in that superficial tolerance and polite pleasantness which the world has come to value. He desires the soul to share as fully as possible in his own gifts. If this is punishment for our faults, it is also a great mercy on God’s behalf. For how could we ever enjoy his presence and be enraptured with his Beauty, if we were at the same time only more aware of our own faults in the brilliant light of the Truth?

Just as the saints intercede for us so that we might one day enjoy the sight of God just as he is, we pray for the holy souls in purgatory – holy because they are in God’s friendship and so destined for heaven. Our prayers are like love letters for the souls of the dead, urging them on in this process of purification. We, in some manner, relieve them of their distress since they have glimpsed the radiance of God and know most intimately their own unworthiness. God has no need of our help in this matter. Our prayers do not increase his generosity or his mercy. But it is his will that we love one another just as his Son has loved us, and love does not cease with death. In our devotions for the dead, our prayers, and other pious acts, we give help to our loved ones, even the souls unknown to us. This act of love also helps our own purification here in this world. The souls in purgatory and ourselves are being made perfect so that we might praise God with the saints forever in the life of the world to come.

Oct 25, 2014

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Our first reading is from the Book of Exodus. The Lord gave to his people Israel the Ten Commandments and lists of lesser laws. In the section we read, the Lord tells them that they should not trouble or oppress foreigners because they themselves were once strangers in a foreign land. They should have mercy on and not wrong widows, orphans and the poor. Why? The Lord had mercy on the Israelites and, therefore, they are to have mercy on others. The Lord has shown them love and, therefore, they are obliged to love others. We, too, are strangers in a foreign land. Heaven is our true home. After our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden, all their descendants have been wandering through the world estranged from the Paradise which God intended for humanity.

Jesus tells us in the Gospel that all of the laws and prophets depend on two commandments: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our first debt of gratitude is to God. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10” We are all sinners. Yes, we are estranged from Paradise because of the sin of our first parents, but we are also strangers to God because of our own sins. God loves us too much to leave us in our sins. He was not obliged to tell us the way out from slavery to sin. But he did even more than this. He loved us too much to leave us to our own devices to see if we might escape. He sent his Son to deliver us by his death and resurrection.

Just as he led Israel through the Red Sea, parting the waves to provide a path to freedom and crushing the pursuing enemy by closing the waters upon them, so too, by the waters of baptism he both parts the waters so that we can pass over to the freedom and grace of the sons of God. Then, he closes the waters upon our sins which pursue us. Much like Israel, we also find ourselves grumbling against the commandments of God and falling back into our previous life, back into our sins. The heavenly Jerusalem is still off in the distance and we wander in the desert of this life. The Israelites had the Ark of the Covenant and the glory of God present in their midst while they journeyed towards Jerusalem. We, too, have the presence of God on our altars and his holy words in our sacred books. For these reasons and more, the case is not that we have loved God and therefore he has loved us back. The contrary is true: God has proved his love for us and therefore we ought to return his love by loving him with all our heart, soul and mind.

But Jesus says the second commandment is like to the first. How can our obligation to love God, which is not merely an external or legal obligation but an interior necessity of the human heart, be compared in any way to an obligation to love our neighbor? First, because if we love God then we must love what he loves. “Beloved, we love God because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 1:19-21)” Second, we who have come to know the love of God have also learned that life not lived in that same love is dreary and leads to no good place. I don’t mean to say that the Catholic life is easy. We certainly struggle in living faithfully the life of virtue. But we have the true words of God to guard to us, to shine the light upon the way so that we can at least see the path that leads to eternal happiness. We have the sacraments to strengthen us, to heal us from every weakness so that it becomes a real possibility to walk that path with the help of grace.

But what does this command to love our neighbor include? Does it mean to simply accept wherever they happen to be? Does it mean to condone the sin in their life? Does it mean that we should put to the side our own Catholic beliefs, or at least not mention them so that we don’t offend anyone? Does it mean that we cannot bring the truth revealed by God into the public sphere? No. G.K. Chesterton remarked about patriotism: “My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.” A patriot loves his country and so hopes that his compatriots and government will live up to the great ideal and all the things that are best about his country. A patriot is embarrassed when his country falls short of those ideals and works tirelessly to remove those things which are not in keeping with the good that he loves. Similarly, true love for neighbor is incompatible with the idea that while our life might be the better for our relationship with God, for our reception of the holy sacraments and our membership in his Mystical Body, the Holy Catholic Church, perhaps our neighbor is incapable of all these good things. Perhaps the life of virtue, and the undoubted struggles and difficulties that will ensue on account of weakness is too much and really won’t bring happiness to others. Nonsense. If we truly believe that, then neither does our Catholic Faith bring us happiness and freedom. It is not love to leave another in the poverty of unbelief, nor the loneliness of being widowed, nor the abandonment of the orphanage. We, all of us, need God. We desperately need the experience of his love and we just as desperately need to love him back.

I’m not suggesting that we run about beating people with revealed truth or shaking our fingers and wagging our heads as we tell them what is wrong with them or their lives. I am suggesting that we meet each person and see their transcendent dignity: they are made in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the blood of the Cross. Let us love them, because God loves them even if they don’t know it yet. He isn’t waiting for them to be perfect before he begins to love them – he already loves them just as they are. He also calls them, just as he calls us, to completion and perfection by sharing in his divine life. He wants them to be free from slavery to sin and live forever in paradise with him. We want that for ourselves, we should want it for others too. But it may take some time just loving them where they are at before they are able to receive God’s love and move to where he is calling them to be. And that should be no surprise to us: isn’t that how we are meeting God, too?

Oct 20, 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus tell the parable of the Wedding Feast. The Pharisees knew that they were those who refused the invitation or those who mistreated and killed the servants of the king. For that reason, the Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They don’t go to Jesus themselves. Instead they send their disciples together with the Herodians. These disciples and the Herodians ask Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” But listen to how they ask him: “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

They call him “Teacher,” put they are not his disciples (disciple means student). In reality, they do not care what he is going to say, since they only want to trap him. If he says, “Yes, it is lawful to pay the tribute,” they will accuse him to the people, saying that he is not the Messiah, since he does not wish for Israel to be free from foreign domination. If he says, “No, it is not lawful,” then they will accuse him to Herod and the Romans as an imperial traitor. They are trying desperately to curry favor with Jesus by flattery, hoping that he will let his guard down and take them into his confidence: “we know that you are a truthful man and teach the way of God.” But, knowing their malice, Jesus says, “Show me the coin” and “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they reply.

Roman money had an image and an inscription on it, just like our money does. Our quarter of a dollar has the face of George Washington on it. The inscriptions read: “Liberty” and “In God we trust” on the front. And on the back it says, “E pluribus unum” (Out of many people, one). The money for the tribute had the face of Tiberius Caesar on it. And the inscription read, “Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus.” which means Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus. The Pharisees and the Herodians had seen or heard of the deeds, miracles and teachings of Jesus. All of his works and miracles and even his teachings, had the image of God on them. His deeds and words bore the image of God, because He is the image of the invisible God.

St. Paul writes in his letter the Colossians (1:15-20): “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born  of all creation. For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him. And he is before all, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he may hold the primacy: Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father, that all fullness should dwell; And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven.”

We are made in the image and likeness of God. God said: Let us make man in our image and likeness ... and God created man in his image ... man and woman he created them. (Gen. 1:26-27) And in our baptism, the image of the only Son of God is sealed in us. We are so united to the Son, that we form only one body and one Spirit with him. All that the Son has, he has offered to the Father in order to redeem us from slavery to sin. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, in Christ: As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity. Who has predestined us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will: Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, in which he has graced us in his beloved son.” (Eph. 1:1-6)

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, says Jesus. We do have to pay taxes. We should be good citizens. We have to follow the laws, unless those laws are contrary to the truths of God. But now, look at your life. Look into your soul. “Whose image is it?” Is it the image of the approval of the world? Are you more conformed to the image of Caesar, that is the image of this world or is your life conformed to the image of the Only Begotten Son of God? What is the difference between your life and the lives of those who do not belong to Christ and his Church? Jesus also says, “Give to God what belongs to God.” And to God belongs not only my money, my possessions, my loyalty but also and above all: my heart, my mind, my body, my soul. Today there is no longer a Roman Empire nor a Roman Emperor. “Sic transit gloria mundi – Thus passes the glory of the world!” And one day, this world also, will vanish. But God remains forever, his glory is forever! “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”

“O God, almighty Father, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.”