Nov 22, 2015

Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Now we come to the last Sunday of the liturgical year: the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. This is not merely a metaphorical title. The Lord Jesus is King; he is robed in majesty. Christians have long used this title in reference to him. In the Te Deum, the last hymn of the Office of Readings and composed by St. Ambrose in the fourth century, the Church sings: You are the King of glory, O Christ. The prophet Daniel sees the Son of man in a vision receiving dominion, glory and kingship – a kingship that is forever. The Book of Revelation calls him ruler of the kings of the earth. He is not one king among many but the ruler of all, the King of kings.

Jesus tells Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world: it does not belong to it and it does not come from it. It was not won through the victory of armies. It was not purchased by wealth. It is his natural inheritance founded upon the dignity of his person and the condescension of the incarnation, that is, his taking of human flesh and being born of a Virgin. He also acquired additional rights to his title through the victory of the Cross. He purchased that which was already his due with the precious price of his Sacred Blood. Thus we apply to him the title of King not only in the sense of recognizing the Divine Majesty which is his as God, but also the kingship and governance which is his forever as Man and as our Savior and Redeemer.

His kingdom is not simply spiritual but extends also to temporal affairs. It is not simply private or a devotional title, it extends to the public domain. His empire “embraces all of [humanity].” It embraces not just individuals but also families and nations, not only Catholics or baptized persons but the whole human race is subject to the power of Jesus Christ. But his reign begins in our hearts and souls. If he does not reign in us, his power and authority, his mercy and love, his grace and his truth cannot be made manifest in the world. On the Day of Judgment, when he comes to take possession of his kingdom, his kingship will be undeniable but until then it is left to us to make manifest his kingship in the world. To the extent that all the nations and peoples of the world subject themselves to the law and sovereignty of Christ the King, to that extent will they know peace. This is our prayer: that every person proclaims Jesus Christ to be Lord and King forever. When he reigns supreme over all the earth, there will no longer be war and persecution, injustice and corruption. Christ has conquered! Christ reigns! Christ governs! Regnum Christi veniat! May the reign of Christ soon come!

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Ahora llegamos al último domingo del año litúrgico: la Solemnidad de Nuestro Señor Jesucristo, Rey del Universo. Esto no es un título metafórico. El Señor Jesús es el Rey; él está vestido de majestad. Los cristianos han utilizado durante mucho tiempo este título en referencia a él. En el Te Deum, el último himno del Oficio de Lecturas compuesto por San Ambrosio en el siglo IV, la Iglesia canta: Tú eres el Rey de la gloria, oh Cristo. El profeta Daniel ve al Hijo del hombre en una visión recibiendo el dominio, gloria y reino - un reino que es para siempre. El libro de Apocalipsis lo llama soberano de los reyes de la tierra, el Rey de reyes.

Jesús le dice a Pilato que su reino no es de este mundo: no pertenece a la misma y que no viene de él. No fue ganada a través de la victoria de los ejércitos. No fue comprado por la riqueza. Es su herencia natural basada en la dignidad de su persona y la condescendencia de la encarnación, es decir, él tomó carne humana y nació de la Virgen María. También adquirió los derechos adicionales a su título a través de la victoria de la Cruz. Compró lo que ya era lo suyo con el precio precioso de su propia sangre. Así que aplicamos a él el título de rey, no sólo en el sentido de reconocer la Divina Majestad, que es la suya como Dios, sino también la realeza y la gobernanza, que es suya para siempre como hombre y como nuestro Salvador y Redentor.

Su reino no es simplemente espiritual sino que se extiende también a los asuntos temporales. No es simplemente privado o un título devocional, sino que también se extiende al dominio público. Su imperio "abarca todos los hombres." Abarca no sólo a los individuos, sino también a todas las familias y todas las naciones, no sólo los católicos o personas bautizadas pero toda la raza humana está sujeta al poder de Jesucristo. Pero su reinado comienza en nuestros corazones y almas. Si él no reina en nosotros, su poder y autoridad, su misericordia y amor, su gracia y su verdad no pueden ser manifestadas en el mundo.

En el Día del Juicio, cuando venga a tomar posesión de su reino, su reino será innegable pero hasta entonces tenemos que manifestar su reinado en el mundo. En la medida en que todas las naciones y pueblos del mundo someten sí mismos a la ley y la soberanía de Cristo Rey, en esa medida habrá paz. Esta es nuestra oración: que cada persona proclama a Jesucristo como Señor y Rey para siempre. Cuando él reina sobre toda la tierra, ya no va a haber guerra y la persecución, la injusticia y la corrupción. Cristo vence! Cristo reina! Cristo impera! Regnum Christi veniat! Venga el reino de Cristo! ¡Viva Cristo Rey!

Nov 16, 2015

Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.” The Church has us listen to this Gospel at the end of our liturgical year. Next Sunday we will commemorate the Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and the following Sunday begins the new liturgical year as we enter the season of Advent. The beginning of the Gospel has Jesus describing the signs of the end: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” The prophet Daniel tells us, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace.”

On the Solemnity of All  Saints we turned our attention to heaven. And the next day on the Feast of All Souls, we recalled the souls in Purgatory. And now we must consider the doctrine of Hell. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Hell “consists in eternal condemnation of those who die, by free choice, in mortal sin. The principal pain of hell consists in eternal separation from God, in whom alone man finds life and the happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. Christ himself expressed this reality with the words: ‘Depart from me, you wicked ones into the eternal fire.” The Catechism of St. Pius X describes the punishment of Hell, which consists first of all in the perpetual deprivation of the beatific vision of God and secondly in the punishment of real fire, tormenting but not consuming, darkness, pain and anguish of conscience, and the company of the demons and the other damned.

Each one of us will make an account before God of our lives. If we persist in mortal sin we so change our character and deaden our consciences that we risk the very real possibility of refusing the loving mercy of God even with our last breath. Yes, hell is and remains a part of the revealed doctrines of the Catholic Church, revealed by God, specifically taught by Jesus himself. Notice that Daniel the prophet does not say that some will be in a place of everlasting horror and disgrace. He says that they shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. No joy, no remorse, no love: not for God, not for others, not even for themselves – not real love. The famous atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens once remarked when asked what he thought when people warned him that he might go to hell, “It seems that all the people with the best sense of humor are headed there so I will at least be in good company.” But he misses the entire point. There is no humor, no laughter, and no delight – not even in the memories of joys or the craven pleasures of the flesh. There is no beauty, no goodness, and no truth. Everything and everyone is drab and dreary. There is only abandonment, boredom and suffering.

But not even Hell gets the last word. Daniel also says that some shall live forever. “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” And Jesus tells us that the Son of Man will come in the clouds “with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” Jesus is the last word. Provided that we do not refuse him, his love will conquer all things in us. His mercy is more powerful than our sins – if we open our hearts to receive it. The habits of sin are overcome by the habit of repentance, by the habit of prayer, by the habit of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession, and by the habits of faith, hope and love.

Jesus, in instituting the Eucharist gave us that great gift whereby we participate in his love even unto death, death on a Cross. Through his mercy we are absolved of our sins and washed clean in the blood of the Lamb – His blood. Whereas all the sacrifices before Jesus pointed to him and were signs of repentance and forgiveness, the true sacrifice of Jesus really is the source of mercy and grace. If we live day to day in our sins, we soon forget that they are sins and that we are in need of his mercy. But if we live through him, with him and in him we place all our troubles at the feet of his perfect love. When we partake of his sacrifice we bring him our sin and our dying, he in turn gives us from his death the promise of eternal life. He offers each of us to taste of his love in this life. When we respond with love, his love is powerful enough to overcome the eternal death. What we taste in the Eucharist is the love that can save us and make us live forever; shine like the stars; consecrate us in perfection and holiness, with joy, laughter, and eternal delights at his right hand forever.

Nov 8, 2015

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Our motives and intentions are hidden from others. But the value of our deeds depends upon them. While they may be hidden from the eyes of men, they are not hidden from God, who knows the heart. The purity of our motive lends purity to our deeds, our thoughts and our words, including our prayers. The two widows reveal models of faith and love.

The first widow trusted Elijah. She is a foreigner from the land of Sidon. She is not Jewish but a Gentile. Notice that Elijah says to her: “The Lord, the God of Israel” not “the Lord, your God.” So here is a poor widow, confronted with a man asking to share what little she has left. Perhaps he is a prophet, perhaps only a beggar, or worse. Yet, from the very little that she has, she makes him something to eat. Her kindness and charity is the embodiment of the Law, to which she was not subject, and which perhaps she did not know. In her love of neighbor, even a stranger, she shows true worship and love for God.

The second widow gives all that she has – her whole livelihood. Why? In the Temple, there were various treasuries. Some were for the paying of the Temple Tax, some for making the offerings or sacrifices of the Law, some for voluntary offerings. We are not told which treasury Jesus watched. But her offering was insufficient for the Temple Tax. Most likely it was one of the voluntary offerings. Whatever her motive was, God saw it and accepted its value on the basis of her heart. Her trust and faith in God’s ability to sustain her gave immense value to her two mites.

But there is a first part to this saying of Jesus which we must also take into account in order to understand his teaching. Jesus teaches us to beware of those who love honor and privilege, devouring the houses of widows and reciting lengthy prayers as a pretext. He warns us against an exterior religion, which is even used to fleece the flock. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27) “There is one God, and there is no other besides him. And that he should be loved with the whole heart, and with the whole understanding, and with the whole soul, and with the whole strength; and to love one's neighbour as one's self, is a greater thing than all holocausts and sacrifices.” (Mk 12:33) Beware of priests and deacons who require money or gifts for their blessings and visits. Beware when they are too eager to accept honors and privileges. This is a sign of a corrupt and false religion. Jesus was not only noting the motive and pure intent of the widow, but also the brokenness of a system that requires much from the poor and leaves them in that condition or worse than they were before.

We have an obligation to provide for the poor according to our ability. We cannot pay for God’s blessings. Certainly, we provide for the needs of the community, and even of the clergy by our support of the parish – but we are required to provide for the needs not the excess. Our parish has financial needs for which each one of us is responsible. But this should not be understood as requiring destitution on our part. When religion becomes more interested in your money and your offerings than in the pure and acceptable worship of God – beware! God grants us excess that we might care for one another, not so that we might have rich coffers. There is nothing wrong with our offerings or even beautiful appointments for our Church. But when we make offerings and suffer the poor to go without their basic wants, we have missed the whole point of offering sacrifices to God.

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Nuestros motivos e intenciones están escondidas de los demás. Pero el valor de nuestras acciones depende de ellos. A pesar de que están ocultos a los ojos de los hombres, no están ocultos a Dios, que conoce el corazón. La pureza de nuestro motivo presta la pureza de nuestros actos, nuestros pensamientos y nuestras palabras, incluso nuestras oraciones. Las dos viudas son ejemplos de fe y amor.

La primera viuda confió en Elías. Ella es una extranjera de la tierra de Sidón. Ella no es un Judio, pero un pagano. Observe que Elías le dice: “El Señor, Dios de Israel,” no “El Señor, tu Dios. Así que aquí es una viuda pobre, frente a un hombre pidiendo a compartir lo poco que le queda. Quizás él es un profeta, o tal vez sólo un mendigo, o algo peor. Sin embargo, desde el muy poco lo que ella tiene, ella le hace algo de comer. Su bondad y la caridad es la encarnación de la Ley, a la que ella no estaba sujeta, que tal vez ella no la sabía. En su amor al prójimo, incluso un extraño, ella muestra la verdadera adoración y amor por Dios.

La segunda viuda da todo lo que tiene - todo su sustento. ¿Por qué? En el templo, había varios tesoros. Algunos fueron a pagar del Impuesto para el templo, algunos para hacer las ofrendas o sacrificios de la Ley, algunas de las ofrendas voluntarias. No se nos dice que el tesoro en cuestión. Su oferta era insuficiente para el impuesto del templo. Probablemente fue una de las ofrendas voluntarias. Independientemente de lo que era su motivo, Dios lo vio y aceptó su valor en función de su corazón. Su confianza y la fe en la capacidad de Dios para sostener le dieron inmenso valor para sus dos moneditas.

Pero hay una primera parte de este dicho de Jesús, que también necesitamos tener en cuenta a fin de comprender su enseñanza. "Cuidado con los escribas!" "La religión pura y sin mácula delante de Dios el Padre es esta:. Para cuidar a los huérfanos ya las viudas en sus tribulaciones, y guardarse sin mancha del mundo" (Santiago 1:27) "Hay un solo Dios, y no hay otro fuera de él. Y que debe ser amado con todo el corazón, con todo el entendimiento, con toda el alma, y con toda la fuerza; y amar al prójimo como a uno mismo, es una cosa más grande que todos los holocaustos y sacrificios. "(Mc 12:33) Jesús nos enseña a tener cuidado de los que aman el honor y el privilegio, devorando las casas de las viudas y recitando largas rezos como pretexto. Tenga cuidado con los sacerdotes y diáconos que requieran dinero o regalos por sus bendiciones y visitas. Tenga cuidado cuando están demasiado dispuestos a aceptar honores y privilegios. Esta es un signo de una religión corrupta y falsa. Jesús no sólo estaba señalando el motivo y la intención pura de la viuda, pero también el quebrantamiento de un sistema que requiere mucho de los pobres y los deja en esa condición o peor de lo que eran antes.

Tenemos la obligación de proveer para el pobre de acuerdo a nuestra capacidad. No podemos pagar por las bendiciones de Dios. Ciertamente debemos proveer para las necesidades de la comunidad, e incluso del clero por nuestro apoyo de la parroquia - pero estamos obligados a proveer las necesidades no el exceso. Nuestra parroquia tiene necesidades económicas para los cuales cada uno de nosotros es responsable. Pero cuando la religión se vuelve más interesado en su dinero y sus ofrendas que en la adoración pura y aceptable a Dios - ¡cuidado! Dios nos concede el exceso que podamos cuidar unos de otros, no para que podamos tener las arcas ricas. No hay nada malo con nuestra oferta o cosas hermosas para nuestra Iglesia. Pero cuando hacemos ofrendas y al mismo tiempo sufrimos los pobres a pasarse sin sus necesidades básicas, hemos perdido todo el sentido de ofrecer sacrificios a Dios.

Nov 2, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints, 2015

We celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints today. It is reminder that the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, is composed not just of the members of the Church here on earth, but also of those who have entered the eternal joys of heaven. There are also those souls who have died and are being purified, who although destined for heaven have not yet entered in, whose feast the Church celebrates tomorrow. The Saints in heaven are so many proofs of the generosity and love of God. Through his grace he has sanctified men and women in every age and united them with himself forever. The vision John has is of a great multitude. They have received the rewards that Jesus speaks of in the Gospel: they reign in the Kingdom, they have taken possession of their inheritance, they are comforted, satisfied, filled with the mercy of God, they are his children forever and they see him face to face. They are blessed and they surely rejoice and are glad for their reward is great.

If our vision of heaven is informed by cartoons, we will have a rather unbiblical idea of eternal rest. I don’t know about you, but a halo, a cloud and a harp seem rather boring to me, and at any rate hardly justify the title of a great reward. John’s vision is something quite different and yet so very similar to our own experiences. Now some of you will be perhaps justly disappointed to learn that heaven is eternal liturgy, that is, what John sees the saints doing is precisely what we are doing right now. “They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.” “They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshipped God, and exclaimed: ‘Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’”

John has his vision in the Book of Revelations on the Lord’s Day, that is, Sunday. In his vision there is an altar. There are candles and priests dressed in robes. The angels and saints cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy!” They make the sign of the cross on their foreheads. There are readings from Scripture and it all culminates in the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. “Blessed are those called to the wedding feast of the Lamb!” Sound familiar? For those of you disappointed to learn that heaven is a Mass that never ends, you will probably be even less enthusiastic to learn that there is also incense and lots and lots of singing. The good news, though, is that everyone in heaven is perfected in love. The singing is glorious, the rituals are sumptuous, the preaching angelic, and every imperfection of the participants is excluded, not only in the carrying out of the ritual worship but in their attention, devotion and worthiness. This at last is that for which we were made: to be loved and to love with all our heart, mind, soul and body. For this is what true worship is: pure love.

Which leads me to a practical concern that I have. Usually at Holy Mass, there is a specified intention for which the sacrifice is offered. It is the obligation of the celebrating priest to make the application of the fruits of the sacrifice for this specified intention, whenever there exists one. This intention is made for the living or for the dead. That is, it is made for persons not already enjoying the perfect and endless celestial worship. It is what we mean when we say that a Mass is being said for someone. It is not possible to apply the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice to those persons who are already perfect in charity and grace. It is impossible to add to their blessedness or their merits and for this reason they are in no need whatsoever of our prayers.

Yet, sometimes a person wishes to have an intention specified as “In thanksgiving to this or that Saint.” However, a priest cannot properly speaking offer the Holy Mass “In thanksgiving to St. X or Y.” For the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered to God and to Him alone for four ends: in adoration, confessing His supreme dominion over all things; in thanksgiving for the countless benefits we receive from Him, in supplication for the graces necessary for our salvation and for our other needs; and, finally, as a propitiation for our sins, that is, in atonement or satisfaction for our sins. This last end of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that of propitiation, is the end which is applied through the intention. It is possible, I suppose, to understand this intention as one of offering the Holy Mass in thanksgiving to God for the benefits received through the intercession of St. X or Y, but in this case the application of the special fruit of the Holy Mass is left unspecified as to whom it should be applied. There is another fruit of the Holy Mass which is the petition for some favor to be granted. And in this sense we can ask that God grant the favor we desire through the intercession of one of the Saints. But, we do not offer the Holy Mass to Saints or for Saints, on the contrary, we join them, albeit here and now with stammering and imperfection, in their solemn, joyful and perfect worship before the throne and before the Lamb. Therefore, we should avoid every ambiguity in our manner of speaking and in our practices which may confuse the object of our worship or the nature of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power and might be to our God forever and ever.