Sep 29, 2015

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Jesus is the New Moses. Joshua came to Moses and asked him to stop Edad and Medad from prophesying. But Moses replies, “Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets!” Likewise, John says to Jesus, “We saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.” He extends it even further than Moses: “Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ, amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.” And the opposite is also true, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

Our deeds have consequences. Our good deeds, charity, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy bring peace and open hearts to receive the Lord. If you no longer remember what the works of mercy are here is the list: The Seven Works of Corporal Mercy 1. Visit and care for the sick. 2. Feed the hungry. 3. Give drink to the thirsty. 4. Shelter the homeless. 5. Clothe the naked. 6. Redeem the captive. 7. Bury the dead. The Seven Works of Spiritual Mercy 1. Instruct the ignorant. 2. Counsel the doubtful 3. Admonish the sinner. 4. Console the sorrowful. 5. Bear wrongs patiently. 6. Forgive all injuries. 7. Pray to God for the living and the dead. All these lead to our own holiness when they are done for the sake of Jesus and they lead to the salvation of others. When we do these things out of love, we become prophets in the world of the love of God for each person.

The opposite is true. Our sins deprive us of the power to proclaim Jesus with authority. They affect our families, our friends, and our society. They become obstacles to faith and they lead to unhappiness for all both now and in the next life. That’s why Jesus is so adamant that it is better to lose a hand, a foot, or an eye than to sin and lose your soul. It’s why James tells the rich to weep. The pleasures of this world do not last: riches, power, fame all turn to nothing. But Jesus offers you a full heart, love, peace,  and a share in his own eternal life and glory. Open your hearts to him and receive his Holy Spirit. Would that all the people were prophets!

Sep 14, 2015

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Who is Jesus? The Son of God. The Messiah. The Lamb of God. Our Savior. But what do these answers mean? There is a dilemma within Christianity. We say things that we do not understand and pretend that we have given an answer to the question. There are many aspects to this problem, but there are two central problems.

In the first place, we do not know the scriptures. The prophets give us an insight into who Jesus is. Jesus fulfills the prophecies that are found in the Old Testament. In order to understand the Gospel more clearly, we must be familiar with the prophecies which the Gospels fulfill. And yet in order to understand the prophecies, we must first receive the Gospels. It is not as clear as we sometimes presume. In our Gospel today we have the confession of Peter that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. And in the same passage, Peter has difficulty accepting the teaching of Jesus that the Son of Man had to suffer, be rejected, killed and rise after three days. Only after Jesus appears after the resurrection do these things begin to become clear to Peter. And only after the coming of the Holy Spirit do we find Peter preaching with power and authority and demonstrating how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies. Unless, we, too, have an encounter with the crucified and resurrected Lord and receive his Spirit we will not receive the Gospel fully nor be able to proclaim it with power and authority. That encounter takes place in prayer, in meditation upon divine revelation and in reception of the sacraments.

Secondly, what do we mean when we say, “Our Savior.” What precisely has Jesus saved us from? And how does he do it? Jesus saves us from sin, from separation from God, from eternal death. And he saves us by his death and resurrection. All the saving acts of God throughout salvation history culminate in and radiate from the glory of the Cross and the triumph of the Resurrection. This mystery of our salvation, that we call the Paschal Mystery, also includes the Nativity, Life, Preaching, the Ascension, and Pentecost. But we point to the Cross and Resurrection as the central points around which all other saving events gather, like the prophets, the martyrs and the saints.

The notion of a Savior implies, indeed requires, something from which we need to be saved. “But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed.” Insofar as we refuse to admit that our sins are sins, we also diminish the meaning of a Savior. And as long as we think that we need not confess our sins, we build a wall between him and us. Although he is desperate to forgive us, we simply won’t allow him to heal us. Calling him Savior or Son of God or the Messiah or Christ becomes meaningless words which have no power to effect a conversion of heart or a change of life. But James tells us that it is not enough to say it if it does not become concrete in action: “So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

Jesus in the Gospel is very clear. He said that he must suffer, that it was necessary. And then he tells us that to be his disciple we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. To where? For what purpose? In order to be crucified. Yes, so that we might be raised in glory with him on the last day. But Jesus did not ascend into the heavens from the Cross. He died. And was buried. It is necessary that we, too, learn to die to ourselves in order to live forever with him. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it, says our Lord.”

It is not enough to worship on Sundays, certainly it is insufficient to attend Holy Mass on only some Sundays. We must turn over our whole hearts, the entirety of our lives, to him. He must become the central point around which the rest of our life revolves or all that we do here means nothing at all.

* * *

¿Quién es Jesús? El Hijo de Dios. El Mesías. Nuestro Salvador. Pero, ¿qué significan estas respuestas? Hay un dilema dentro del cristianismo. Decimos cosas que no entendemos y fingir que le hemos dado una respuesta a la pregunta. Hay muchos aspectos de este problema, pero hay dos problemas centrales.

En primer lugar, no conocemos las Escrituras. Los profetas nos dan una idea de quién es Jesús. Jesús cumple las profecías del Antiguo Testamento. Pero no es tan claro como a veces suponemos. En nuestro Evangelio de hoy tenemos la confesión de Pedro que Jesús es el Mesías, el Cristo. Y en el mismo pasaje, Pedro tiene dificultad en aceptar la enseñanza de Jesús que el Hijo del hombre debe sufrir, ser rechazado, matado y resucitar después de tres días. Esta enseñanza se hace evidente a Pedro solamente después de la resurrección cuando Jesús aparezca. Pero Pedro comienza a predicar con poder y autoridad después de la venida del Espíritu Santo, demostrando cómo Jesús cumple las profecías. A menos que, nosotros, también, tenemos un encuentro con el Señor crucificado y resucitado y a menos que recibimos su Espíritu no vamos a poder recibir el Evangelio plenamente ni ser capaz de proclamarlo con poder y autoridad. Esto requiere perseverancia en la oración, en la meditación sobre la revelación divina y en la recepción de los sacramentos, especialmente la confesión y la eucaristía.

En segundo lugar, ¿qué queremos decir cuando decimos: "Nuestro Salvador". Jesús nos salva del pecado, de la separación de Dios, de la muerte eterna. Y él nos salva por su muerte y resurrección. Todos los actos salvíficos de Dios en toda la historia de la salvación se culminan e irradian de la gloria de la Cruz y el triunfo de la Resurrección. Este misterio de nuestra salvación, que llamamos el Misterio Pascual, también incluye la Natividad, la vida, la predicación, la Ascensión y Pentecostés. Pero señalamos a la cruz y la resurrección como los puntos centrales en torno al cual todos los demás actos de salvación se reúnen, como los profetas, los mártires y los santos.

La noción de un Salvador implica, de hecho requiere, algo de lo que necesitamos para ser salvos. "Pero él fue herido por nuestras iniquidades, molido por nuestros pecados:. El castigo de nuestra paz fue sobre él, y por su llaga fuimos nosotros curados" En la medida en que nos negamos a admitir que nuestros pecados son pecados, también reducimos lo que es decir un Salvador. Y mientras pensamos que no tenemos que confesar nuestros pecados, nosotros construimos una barrera entre él y nosotros. A pesar de que El está desesperado para perdonarnos, simplemente no le permitimos sanarnos. Por lo tanto llamándolo Salvador o Hijo de Dios o el Mesías o Cristo se convierte en palabras sin sentido que no tienen poder para efectuar una conversión del corazón o un cambio de vida. Pero Santiago nos dice que no es suficiente decir si no se hace concreta en la acción: "Así pasa con la fe; si no se traduce en obras, está completamente muerta."

Jesús en el Evangelio es muy clara. Dijo que debe sufrir, que era necesario. Y luego nos dice que para ser su discípulo, debemos negarnos a nosotros mismos, tomar nuestra cruz y seguirle. ¿A donde? ¿Con qué propósito? Con el fin de ser crucificado. Sí, para que podamos ser levantados en gloria con él en el último día. Pero Jesús no subió a los cielos de la Cruz. Él murió. Y fue sepultado. Es necesario que nosotros también aprendamos a morir a nosotros mismos con el fin de vivir para siempre con él. "Pues el que quiera salvar su vida, la perderá, pero el que pierda su vida por mí y por el evangelio, la salvará,” dice el Señor.

No es suficiente para adorar a Dios los domingos, sin duda es insuficiente para asistir a la Santa Misa de vez en cuando. Debemos entregar nuestros corazones enteros, la totalidad de nuestras vidas a él. Él debe ser el punto central de nuestra vida o todo lo que hacemos aquí no significa nada en absoluto.