Jan 18, 2016

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

“As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.” The Sacred Scriptures and the Church Fathers, following the Sacred Scriptures, find no better imagery to express the love of God towards humanity and the depth of the union which he desires with us than the imagery of Holy Matrimony. Even the Incarnation, the taking up of our flesh into union with the Divine Person, is described in nuptial imagery by St. Augustine: “When the Word was made flesh he was like a bridegroom who found himself a bridal chamber in a virgin’s womb. Once wedded to human nature he came forth from that purest of all rooms, humbler in mercy than all others, stronger than all in majesty.” Even the Cross is replete with nuptial imagery. In the book of Genesis God put Adam into a sleep so that he might fashion for him a suitable partner and so Eve was born from the side of the first man. Just so on the Cross, our Savior permitted his sacred side to be pierced and the Church was born from the heart of our Redeemer.

This is the mystery presented to us in the Gospel. The mystery of marriage given as a gift to humanity in the Garden of Eden was not lost on account of original sin. It was not washed away in the flood. And it was chosen by our Divine Savior as the setting for the first of his miracles. At the Wedding Feast of Cana, he “revealed his glory and his disciples began to believe in him.” What came before in the natural gift of marriage is now raised in dignity to a sacrament, a covenant of love, through which God gives us grace. The new blessing is even greater than the original blessing – he has kept the good wine until now. Yet somehow we have lost a sense of the beauty of the gift. We have reduced our estimation of marriage to something that we may choose to do and to undo. We think that the gift is at our disposal – to decide in what it consists, or in what manner it may be entered, or whether and when it should be fruitful. We reduce it to a mere human institution and such institutions grow decrepit, forget their purposes and change their meanings. Soon it can no longer bear the weight of the Divine Glory, and so we miss the loveliness and the faithfulness of God’s desire to be united with us.

God desires you for himself. And he promises eternal faithfulness to you. In the Song of Songs, the bride says of the bridegroom: “My beloved is mine and I am his.” And the language is stronger than the translation expresses it. “My beloved belongs to me, and I to him in such a way that I no longer know where I begin and he ends or where he begins and I end. God is, so to speak, enraptured with you. Anything that is his, he would give you to capture your heart. He would go to the ends of the earth to prove his love for you. He would come down from heaven, become your servant, even die for you: all so that you may possess his own glory – the gift of his Holy Spirit. The communion of the Holy Spirit, the word for communion is koinonia, another way to translate it is “intimacy.” It is this intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit that is expressed in the fruitfulness of the gifts, some of which St. Paul lists: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment, varieties of tongues and their interpretation.

And our sins are not stronger than his love: for his love is stronger even than death. No matter how often or how far from him we go, he will seek us out. He will call out to us from his heart with mercy, grace, faithfulness and love. Today renew your covenant with him in Holy Communion, seek new intimacy and deeper union with him. Invite him into your hearts. Receive the gift of his own heart. Listen carefully for the sounds of his love: “This is my body which will be given up for you; This is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.” And then tell him that you love him, for that is what he best likes to hear.

Jan 10, 2016

The Baptism of the Lord, 2016

In order to understand Baptism as a sacrament, and a necessary one at that, we must reflect upon the meaning of the Lord’s baptism. The ancient fathers of the Church are all in agreement. St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory Nazianzen, and St. Maximus the Confessor, just to name a few, and among the greatest of the Western and Eastern fathers, they all teach that Jesus was in no need of baptism. Rather, he underwent the baptism of John in order to sanctify the waters of baptism for us, to show us the necessity of our own baptism, and to lead us as our head so that we might follow him. Likewise, he was not without the Spirit, but always was full of the grace and truth of the Holy Spirit in his adorable divine person. The voice announced the reality that we might know the truth. The manifestation of glory which accompanied his baptism was for our sake and not at all for his.

Preachers may sometimes say foolish things. And in our modern era it is sometimes asserted that Jesus stood in need of having his identity as the Son of God revealed to him. As if he did not know who he was before he heard the Father’s voice. The preachers who say such things have forgotten the text of the finding of Jesus in the Temple, which is proclaimed on the Feast of the Holy Family. He said, in response to his Mother, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” You see, he already knows who his Father is, and, therefore, who he is as well.

Pope Pius XII taught, in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, speaking about the knowledge of Jesus: “[T]he most loving knowledge of this kind, with which the divine Redeemer pursued us from the first moment of the Incarnation, surpasses the diligent grasp of any human mind; for by that beatific vision which He enjoyed when just received in the womb of the Mother of God, He has all the members of the Mystical Body continuously and perpetually present to Himself, and embraces them with salvific love... In the manger, on the Cross, in the eternal glory of the Father, Christ has all the members of the Church before Him and joined to Him far more clearly and far more lovingly than a mother has a son on her lap, or than each one knows and loves himself.” This is the teaching of the fathers and the Magisterium. The contrary, that somehow Christ the Savior came to a gradual understanding of his identity as the Son of God or stood in need of having it revealed to him was a notion rejected by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Pope Paul VI, in 1966, following the Second Vatican Council.

Jesus underwent John’s baptism for our sake. We are born into this world under a twofold darkness: sin and ignorance. Of course, we are not born under personal sin for which we are personally accountable, but rather the condition of original sin. The human person was created to reflect the glory of God, to be radiantly filled with God’s grace. Due to the sin of our first parents, they were unable to hand on the gift of this light to their descendants. The sacrament of baptism restores this light in us, making it possible to share that light in our world and to stand one day basking in the eternal beauty of God illumined by the ray of his love. We are also born with ignorance about our Creator and about ourselves. Although, by the light of natural human reason, we can come to know with certainty the existence of a God who created us, we cannot, apart from revelation, come to know him as a Triune God. And we only partake of his own inner life when we have been justified by his grace. Through baptism God gives to us the image of his Only Begotten Son, the indwelling of his Holy Spirit, so that we may know that we are God’s own beloved children – more than just merely his creatures. Baptism is the necessary remedy for our condition. And it was personally instituted by our Savior, and given as a command to his Apostles as their mission into the world, and, therefore, it is also necessary because he wills it to be so. It is the means by which the love of his Sacred Heart devised to unite all of humanity to himself.

At that brings us to a couple practical points. Firstly, there has arisen a kind of indifference in our modern age to the baptism of children. Even among Catholics, albeit probably not faithfully practicing, there is a more frequent delay in the baptizing of their children. Some even propose the absurd notion of not baptizing their children at all, but allowing them to choose as an adult. The law of the Church (canon 867) is clear: “Parents are obliged to see that their infants are baptized within the first few weeks. As soon as possible after the birth, indeed even before it, they are to approach the parish priest to ask for the sacrament for their child, and to be themselves duly prepared for it.” In no other necessity for life would a parent delay giving to their children whatever was needed. We would not allow our children to grow up without learning to speak under the false impression that they should be able to choose their own natural language. We would not delay proper nutrition, schooling, discipline or any of the many other necessary means of providing for them a proper life. And any parent that would refuse the basic necessities to their children would be morally culpable for it, and criminally so. And yet, with this most necessary sacrament, the importance of which exceeds any other necessity, precisely because it concerns the supernatural life in the here and now, and eternal life hereafter, many parents fail in their serious moral obligation to tender to their children this most precious gift of our Savior.

Secondly, some parents are upset to find out that there exist rules governing whether a child ought to be baptized or who may be the godparents. The law of the Church requires (canon 868) that the parents of the child, or at least one, give their consent to the baptism, and that there is a realistic hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. In order to be considered for the role of godparents (canon 874), the godparents must be appointed by the parents or the parish priest or minister (of the sacrament), and they must be a catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken. Both parents and godparents proffer a solemn promise to God during the ritual of baptism to guard and foster the light of faith in the soul of the child – a promise for which they will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment. This is so because of the importance and necessity of the sacrament as instituted by Christ himself. It is not merely a custom, or a cultural affair. And this gift is to be protected in the soul of the child by every means possible.

So today, I invite you during Holy Communion, to pray in thanksgiving for your parents, if they procured so precious a gift for you. And to remember the priest or deacon, or other minister, who bestowed this gift upon you. I also invite you to pray to Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament for the gift of grace for those who have not yet received baptism, that they may seek it out, and for those parents who have not completed their moral duties towards their children, that they may no longer keep their children from the loving embrace of their holy Redeemer. For our Savior also said, “Let the children come to me and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Dec 25, 2015

Christmas, 2015

Today we recall with unfeigned joy the moment of Christ’s birth. Christmas. The Mass of Christ. There are three perspectives on Christmas.

The first perspective is the one long taken by the world but in our day slowly subsiding: a certain joy, an increase in human generosity, songs of snowfalls and the ringing of bells, decorations and presents and most things merry. G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.” I hope the G.K. was right, but I have a growing uncertainty that he was. It is no longer to be presumed that people will continue on with Christmas celebrations. Today, there are, with increasing regularity, those who are offended by the mere mention of Christmas. No nativity scenes for such as these. Still, there is an humanness to the celebration of Christmas and the spirit it brings, even in its secular version. I hope that spirit does not die out. It is the beginning of wonder and joy. If it is followed, allowed to enter into the heart, it almost touches the mystery.

The second is Christmas for those who believe. It stretches from vague notions of a great wonder come in the form of a baby, to explicit professions of the God-man who will save us from our sins. The image borne in the hearts of most believers is piously idyllic. We can see it in our nativity scenes and Christmas cards, hear it in the carols: O holy night and Angels we have heard on high. This isn’t a bad thing, of course. Faith and love have led us to contemplate the splendor of the light coming into the world: we envision the mystery of the Nativity with eyes focused by love. But there is more to Christmas than this. There is something deeper and more profound. As G.K. Chesterton also said, “The fun of Christmas is founded upon the seriousness of Christmas.”

And that leads us to our third: for nine months God has been hidden in the womb of Mary. The glory cloud which Ezekiel the prophet saw depart from the temple has been present in the world, but hidden from it. And now, at last, love has revealed himself. But who would have known without being told? A child is born in a cave in Bethlehem, a name which means “House of Bread.” Our Lord did not come in thunder and excitement. Yes, there were signs for those who had faith but the explicit presence of God was found only implicitly, invisible love lay hidden in the visible form of that baby. And the picture is anything but idyllic. At the time of his birth, the world just continued on as it had been doing: working, sleeping, building, planning, fighting, and even sinning. This was the welcome he received. “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.”

The heavens were filled with amazement and joy, and certainly he was received with tenderness into the arms of his mother. But there was also the loneliness of it all. The quietness of the arrival, the sorrow that Love feels when it is ignored by those for who it longs. There is the unpleasantness of the accommodations. The King of kings put up for the night with the animals, laid to rest in the manger – a feeding trough. Divinity is revealed and made present in a child, and yet hidden in the messiness and imperfection of human existence. Already, even on a joyful day such as this, the glorious and fearful purpose of this life is made felt. The Cross lies hidden in the midst of Christmas.

The world is still going on without paying attention to the love poured out for it in the life of this child. Love came and died and rose for the sake of its beloved, and world seems not to care. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by man’s decision but of God.” He makes his presence known to those who will receive him. Here at this altar we will lift him up on high, for adoration, revealed in truth, hidden in mystery, under the form of bread.

This Christmas is just like that Christmas. Love is willing to come down in the midst of our weariness, our loneliness, our sorrows, our preoccupations and, yes, our imperfections. He longs to find a place in every heart that will receive him, and he does not care if the accommodations are perfectly suited for his majesty and splendor. And the knowledge of, the encounter with, such a serious love as His, gives warmth, joy, mirth and merriment to hearts such as ours. So rejoice in carols and presents, trees and decorations; Gaze upon the loveliness of the Nativity with the eyes of faith; and peer in wonder before the hiddenness of the mystery of God-with-us.

Dec 13, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent, 2015

“Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart!” “Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!” “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!”

The ancient name for this Sunday is “Gaudete Sunday”, literally “Rejoice! Sunday.” It is taken from the first word of the entrance chant for the Mass: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” Our readings remind us over and over again of the command to be joyful. It seems appropriate, then, to reflect upon Christian joy.

Joy, St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, is caused by love. Love delights or takes pleasure in the goodness of its object. The movement or attraction towards the good is called desire, while resting in or possession of the good is joy or pleasure. Joy exceeds happiness. The biblical command to rejoice is not reducible to a command to be cheerful all the time. First, it is impossible that we should always be cheerful, but it is possible, even in difficult times, to rejoice on account of God’s love for us and, even more so, on account of God’s own goodness and beauty. However, in worship there is always the danger of mistaking frivolity, a lack of seriousness, and flippancy, a lack of respect, for rejoicing. This kind of fake cheerfulness is an indifference to the solemnity of the moment and an offense to realities of sorrow, pain, and suffering in our neighbor. This superficial nod to joy, however well intentioned, is related to irreverence.

Our modern society has mistakenly, and perhaps unwittingly, put the notions of joy and solemnity in opposition to one another. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that solemnity in our worship is ordered to arouse devotion and reverence in the recipients of the sacraments. Our opening prayer asked God to grant to us to always celebrate the joys of so great a salvation with solemn worship and glad rejoicing. Liturgical solemnity and glad rejoicing are not opposites. A solemn attitude, spiritually speaking, is formal and dignified and characterized by a deep sincerity. It is not the same as being somber or mirthless. When our solemnity becomes grim, dour, or humorless, we have lost the sense of what Christian solemnity is. It is perhaps true that as modern Christians we have lost touch with the true meaning of both solemnity and joy, and how they should be expressed in worship.

C.S. Lewis wrote that “The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for everyone else the proper pleasure of ritual.” Which one of us would not be offended by a frivolous and flippant rendition of our National Anthem? Who among us would not be saddened to witness informality or irreverence in the burial ceremonies of military honors? There is a pleasure, a joy, which is only experienced when solemn ceremonies are carried out with dignity and seriousness. And what could be more worthy of joyful solemnity and majestic ritual than the making present of the Eternal Victim upon our altars, as we offer Him to our Heavenly Father for our benefit and the benefit of the whole world?

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote “Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment. Such attraction fades quickly - it cannot compete in the market of leisure pursuits, incorporating as it increasingly does various forms of religious titillation. ...

This action of God, which takes place through human speech, is the real "action" for which all creation is in expectation. The elements of the earth are transubstantiated, pulled, so to speak, from their creaturely anchorage, grasped at the deepest ground of their being, and changed into the Body and Blood of the Lord. The New Heaven and the New Earth are anticipated. The real "action" in the liturgy in which we are all supposed to participate is the action of God himself. This is what is new and distinctive about the Christian liturgy: God himself acts and does what is essential.

The Cross is the approbation of our existence, not in words, but in an act so completely radical that it caused God to become flesh and pierced this flesh to the quick; that, to God, it was worth the death of his incarnate Son. One who is so loved that the other identifies his life with this love and no longer desires to live if he is deprived of it; one who is loved even unto death – such a one knows that he is truly loved. But if God so loves us, then we are loved in truth. Then love is truth, and truth is love. Then life is worth living. This is the evangelium. [The Gospel]. This is why, even as the message of the Cross, it is glad tidings for one who believes; the only glad tidings that destroy the ambiguity of all other joys and make them worthy to be joy.  Christianity is, by its very nature, joy – the ability to be joyful.”

Being solemn does not absolve us from having joy, and the two are actually related to one another. That has consequences: not only for how we comport ourselves in the house of God or how we carry out the liturgical service, but it also should carry over into our relationships with one another. How will anyone see our joy if our greeting of one another is not characterized by the pleasure of being together for this solemn moment? And what if we do not greet one another at all? We are a family, and there is a pleasure in being together in celebration on the Lord’s day. Our solemnity is the work of many more people than you think, most of which you do not see. There is the training of our altar servers, the arranging of flowers, choir practice, the care of the altar linens, the setting up for Holy Mass, and many more such things. These are done out of love for God and for you. Yet, we all share responsibility for the logistics of our worship. Everyone loves to greet the priest after Holy Mass and shake his hand. Do you greet one another? Look around in the pews next to you. Are we truly a family, do we truly love one another, if we are just individuals sitting in our normal spaces – strangers to one another? We will not have joy in one another, if we do not have love for one another. And how can we love one another if we do not know each other? If we come and talk to no one, greet no one, just simply receive the sacrament, fulfill our obligation of Sunday worship and leave, have we not also fallen into the trap of a form of religious entertainment? Solemnity requires that we each do our part logistically and interiorly to enter into the sacred space of liturgy with devotion and reverence. Christian joy requires that we remember to rest in one another as Christian brothers and sisters rejoicing for, indeed, the Lord is near.

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!

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Oct 19, 2015

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Jesus is the suffering servant. Through his suffering he justifies us. That means he takes away our sins and makes us holy. It is an odd thing to think that suffering can repay for sin. The latin word sufferre means to undergo, to bear, to endure. What is it that Jesus suffered? Not just the punishment for our sins on the cross. But he endured our human condition. He bore our weaknesses. “But he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and in habit found as a man.” (Philippians  2:7) The Lord of all creation, through whom and in whom and for whom all things were made, the image of the invisible God became man and a servant to all mankind. He gave us his life so that we can have life. What response does that require?

Jesus tells us that he wants us to be servants of all. He tells us to love one another as he loved us. Thinking nice religious thoughts about God is good but it doesn’t go far enough. Who then should we love? The world that did not accept the Son, when he came into the world to save it from sin, is the same world that God loved so much that he gave his Son so that everyone who believed in him might not perish. The testimony of the only Son of God concerning the Father’s love was made manifest on the Cross. It shone forth in the glory of the Resurrection. It was proved in the filling of hearts by the Holy Spirit.

First we must receive mercy from the throne of grace. Then we must live it as a witness for others. The most intimate of moments in the life of the Christian is here in the hearing of God’s holy word and in the eating of the sacrifice of the altar. This is meant to nourish us in our journey towards heaven. Heaven is unity and communion forever with the God who is love. And heaven begins now. It is not enough to love God with pretty thoughts or sentiments. He proved his love by loving us while we were still sinners. Let us prove our love of him by loving and serving those whom he loves: the whole world, each person without exception, regardless of their sins.

* * *

Jesús es el siervo sufriente. A través de su sufrimiento nos justificó. Eso significa que quita nuestros pecados y nos hace santos. Es algo extraño pensar que el sufrimiento puede pagar por el pecado. La palabra sufferre latin significa que sufrir, soportar, aguantar. ¿Qué es lo que Jesús sufrió? No sólo el castigo por nuestros pecados en la cruz. Pero él aguantó nuestra condición humana. Él llevó nuestros débilidades. "Sino que se despojó a sí mismo, tomando forma de siervo, hecho semejante a los hombres, y en su porte como hombre." (Filipenses 2: 7) El Señor de toda la creación, a través de quién y de quién y para quién fueron hechas todas las cosas, la imagen del Dios invisible se hizo hombre y siervo a toda la humanidad. Él nos dio su vida para que podamos tener vida.

Jesús nos dice que él quiere que seamos siervos de todos. Él nos dice que debemos amarnos los unos a los otros como él nos amó. Pensando agradables pensamientos religiosos de Dios es buena, pero no es suficiente. Entonces, ¿quién debemos amar? El mundo que no aceptaron el Hijo, cuando él vino al mundo para salvarlo del pecado, es el mismo mundo que Dios amó tanto que dio a su Hijo para que todo el que cree en él no perezca. El testimonio del Hijo único de Dios sobre el amor del Padre fue manifestado en la Cruz. Su amor brilló en la gloria de la Resurrección. Se demostró en el llenado de los corazones por el Espíritu Santo.

Primero tenemos que recibir la misericordia del trono de la gracia. Entonces tenemos que vivirla como un testimonio para los demás. El más íntimo de los momentos de la vida cristiana es aquí en la audiencia de la santa palabra de Dios y en el comer del sacrificio del altar. Esto es para alimentarnos en nuestro viaje hacia el cielo. El cielo es la unidad y la comunión para siempre con el Dios que es amor. Y el cielo comienza ahora. No basta amar a Dios con pensamientos bonitos o sentimientos. Él demostró su amor por amarnos cuando todavía éramos pecadores. Demostremos nuestro amor por él, a través de amar y servir a aquellos a quienes Dios ama – todo el mundo, cada persona sin excepción, independientemente de sus pecados.

Oct 12, 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” asked the rich young man. And Jesus replied, “You know the commandments: You shall not kill; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and your mother.” These commandments are knowable by the light of natural human reasoning. Do we really need anyone to tell us that murder, adultery, robbery, lying, and fraud ought not to be done? Even those who commit these acts must know that they are wrong. Yet, we become so corrupted by our sins that, little by little, we can convince ourselves that our case is different; that this particular rule does not apply to me or my circumstances. In our society we rightly condemn murder. Yet, we call abortion, choice and women’s healthcare, instead of murder. And those who oppose abortion are looked at as backwards, simple minded, and foolish. This is the false wisdom of the world. But what is the wisdom that is to be sought?

The word of God is living and effective ... no creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. It is only a part of wisdom to know things about Jesus. St. Jerome says that ignorance of scriptures is ignorance of Christ. Yet, it is possible to know many things in the scriptures and remain ignorant of Christ. Atheists search the scriptures for things with which to mock God. They know many things but they do not know Him. St. Peter says, that many twist the scriptures to their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:16) But St. Paul tells us what is the true wisdom of God: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Jesus is the wisdom we must seek, follow, know and love. It is only in this relationship that we are able to overcome our own foolishness and weakness.

The rich young man, although a keeper of the commandments, a good man by most any standard, was unable to accept the call which our Lord gave to him. “He went away sad.” True happiness is not found in riches or in living however you please. Even decent people, good people, will go away sad at the end. Christianity is not about being a basically good person. It is about following Christ. Giving up everything else to learn from his wisdom and depend on his strength. The saddest part of all is the preceding verse. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” The desire of every human heart is to be seen, known and loved. Yet, the young man was unable to receive it.

My brothers and sisters, Jesus sees you. His gaze pierces to the depths of your hearts. He knows all of your folly and brokenness. And still he loves you. He calls you to follow him. The life of virtue can appear to be a difficult one, and indeed it often is because of our weakness. But the gaze and love of our Savior can strengthen us and enlighten us in the midst of our struggles. Do not go away sad. Follow him. Open your hearts to receive his love. Do not fear to go where he leads you. “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

* * *

"¿Qué debo hacer para alcanzar la vida eterna?", Preguntó el joven rico. Y Jesús le dijo: "Ya sabes los mandamientos: No matarás; No cometerás adulterio; No robarás; No levantarás falso testimonio; no cometerás fraudes; Honrarás a tu padre ya tu madre." Estos mandamientos son cognoscibles por la luz de la razón humana natural. ¿Realmente necesitamos que nadie nos diga que el homocidio, el adulterio, el robo, la mentira y el fraude no debe hacerse? Incluso los que cometen estos actos deben saber que están equivocados. Sin embargo, llegamos a estar tan corrompida por nuestros pecados que, poco a poco, podamos convencernos de que nuestro caso es diferente; que esta regla no se aplica en particular a mí o a mis circunstancias. En nuestra sociedad tenemos razón condenamos el homocidio. Sin embargo, lo llamamos aborto, la elección y la cuidado de la salud de las mujeres, en lugar de homocidio. Y aquellos que se oponen al aborto son vistos como hacia atrás, de mente simple, y tonto. Esta es la falsa sabiduría del mundo. Pero, ¿qué es la sabiduría verdadera?

La palabra de Dios es viva y eficaz ... Toda creatura es transparente para ella. Todo queda al desnudo y al descubierto ante los ojos de aquel a quien debemos rendir cuentas. Es sólo una parte de la sabiduría de saber cosas sobre Jesús. San Jerónimo dice que la ignorancia de las Escrituras es la ignorancia de Cristo. Sin embargo, es posible conocer muchas cosas en las Escrituras y permanecer en la ignorancia de Cristo. Los ateos escudriñan las Escrituras por las cosas con las que burlarse de Dios. Ellos saben muchas cosas, pero ellos no lo conocen a Dios. San Pedro dice, que muchos tuercen las Escrituras para su propia perdición. (2 Pedro 3:16) Pero San Pablo nos dice lo que es la verdadera sabiduría de Dios: "Nosotros predicamos a Cristo crucificado, para los judíos ciertamente tropezadero, y para los gentiles locura; mas para los llamados, así judíos como griegos, Cristo poder de Dios, y sabiduría de Dios. Porque lo insensato de Dios es más sabio que los hombres, y lo débil de Dios es más fuerte que los hombres." (1 cor 1:23-15) Jesús es la sabiduría que necesitamos buscar, seguir, conocer y amar. Sólo en esta relación que somos capaces de superar nuestra propia tontería y debilidad.

El joven rico, a pesar de un guardián de los mandamientos, un buen hombre por la mayoría de cualquier norma, no podía aceptar la llamada que el Señor le dio a él. "Él se fue triste." La verdadera felicidad no se encuentra en la riqueza o en vivir como quieras. Incluso las personas decentes, buena gente, se irán triste al final. El cristianismo no consiste en ser una buena persona esencialmente. El cristianismo es sobre el seguimiento de Cristo. El cristianismo es acerca de renunciar a todo con el fin de aprender de su sabiduría y de depender de su fuerza. Lo más triste de todo es el versículo anterior. "Jesús, lo miró con amor." El deseo de todo corazón humano es ser visto, conocido y amado. Sin embargo, el joven no pudo recibirlo.

Mis hermanos y hermanas, Jesús te ve. Su mirada penetra hasta lo más profundo de tu corazon. Él conoce todos tu locura y quebrantamiento. Y todavía te ama. Él te llama a seguirlo. La vida de virtud puede parecer difícil, y de hecho a menudo es a causa de nuestra debilidad. Pero la mirada y el amor de nuestro Salvador pueden fortalecernos y iluminarnos en medio de nuestras luchas. ¡No te vayas triste. Síguelo. Abre tu corazón para recibir su amor. No tengas miedo de ir a donde te lleva. "Es imposible para los hombres, man no para Dios. Para Dios todo es posible."

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.

Aug 31, 2015

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Our Gospel is often used by those who quote it in order to make the point that Jesus was focused on the interior, the heart, rather than the commandments. It’s not the rules that count. What matters is whether I am a good person or not on the inside. This line of thinking is used to justify ignoring the commandments of God and of the Church. But is that what Jesus was really saying?  In many places, Jesus reiterates the teaching of the commandments. And in that famous Sermon on the Mount he actually intensifies them rather than loosens them. Following the commandments is precisely a matter of the heart and you can’t fool God through external compliance with them. Left to our own devices, following the dictates of our hearts, if they are not formed by the Gospel, will produce exactly what Jesus tells us: “from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, [and] folly.”

Just look at the continual moral decline of our society. We have freed ourselves from the moral rigors of times past. But has it brought us peace? Are we better off as a society for having ignored the moral laws? Why is it that so few couples that prepare for marriage aren't already cohabitating? For that matter, often there is a previous marriage or the couple has been married apart from the sacramental rites of the Church. Why is it that only 24% of Catholics attend Holy Mass weekly? Why are our communion lines so long but our confessional lines so short? Because we try to live Christianity by halves, when it is in reality a whole endeavor. It is an "all-in" kind of thing.

Christianity is not a matter of being a generally good person. That will not save you. Christianity is what the name implies. Christian means follower of Christ. It means living as he lived. Honestly, lovingly, devoutly, in justice and truth, loving one’s neighbor, caring for the outcast, being in the world but not of it. Yet, so many of us trust what the world thinks and ignore the saving truth of Christ and his Church.

St. James tells us that it is not enough to hear the word, or know about it, we must do it, we must live it. But he gives a rather odd definition of religion. How many of us if asked what Catholicism is about would say “caring for orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping unstained by the world?” He doesn’t exclude from this any other group of those in need, but selects them as representative because they are most in need and unable to repay any help that they receive. All of us come here orphaned from the Garden of Eden, widowed from the first relationship that humanity enjoyed with God. We are by fallen nature lost yet by grace we have been found.

So how do we begin again in the context of our modern society? We must be converted in our hearts. We must die to ourselves and live for him who died and rose again for us. The more completely we turn our lives over to him, the more easily will the world be able to see the God who loves each human person. We prayed at the beginning of Holy Mass for God to put in our hearts the love of his name and deepen our reverence so that he may nurture in us what is good. Love of God and reverence is the source, love of our neighbor is the proof. So long as we reduce our Christianity to noble ideas, a little Church attendance, a bit of help for the poor, from time to time, no one will see a reason to accept a religion which makes us no different than those who have it not at all. You see, being good just isn’t good enough. We must become Christians. On the one hand, perhaps we can fool most people with external piety, perhaps even ourselves, for a time, but God judges the heart. And on the other hand, how will our hearts ever be converted to Christ if we think the truths and rituals of Catholicism are really rather unimportant things. After all, the last thing Jesus gave his disciples before he went to his death, was the sacrificial ritual by which we come into intimate union with him. As St. Augustine reminds us, when we consume ordinary bread, we transform the elements into ourselves but when we consume the holy bread of eternal life, he transforms us into himself. That should leave us asking ourselves whether we have been transformed, in our hearts and in our lives.

Aug 17, 2015

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

When we say to the rest of the world that our God became man we seem foolish. When we say that he became man in order to die for our sake we seem even more foolish. But when we say that, on the day before his suffering, he instituted the Eucharist Sacrifice, gave us his Body and Blood under the forms of bread and wine, and commanded us to eat so that we might have life, we seem the greatest fools who have ever lived.

And yet we are even bigger fools than the world thinks. We profess faith in this Sacrament. We honor it with our lips but we are often unfaithful in administering the sacrament, we are unfaithful in celebrating the sacrament and we are unfaithful in receiving the sacrament. How do we know that this is true? Because our lives reveal it. We listen neither to the Proverb nor to St. Paul.

This is the reason that we do not advance in the way of understanding: we have yet to forsake the foolishness of our sins. The fruit of Holy Communion is a greater unity in the mystical body and an increase of charity. Where the fruit is lacking, we know how we ought to judge.

Jesus says that whoever eat his flesh and drinks his blood remains in him and he in them. This precious gift, when received not merely externally but fruitfully and sacramentally, converts the recipient into a living victim in Christ for the praise of God’s glory.

What does that look like? It looks like the Cross. For our sake he became poor so that we might become rich in grace. He cried out with loud cries and tears in prayer and supplication and he was heard because of his reverence. Does the Lord hear our cries for the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted? Does he see our tears? Have we any?  What of our prayers and supplications? Do we sing and play to the Lord in our hearts, giving thanks always and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? These are the fruits of participation at the Lord’s banquet. We do well to check our lives for evidence that our participation is true.

* * *

Cuando decimos al mundo que nuestro Dios se hizo hombre, parecemos tontos. Cuando decimos que se hizo hombre para morir por amor a nosotros, parecemos aún más tontos. Pero cuando decimos que, el día antes de su sufrimiento, instituyó el Sacrificio Eucaristíco, nos dio su Cuerpo y su Sangre bajo las formas del pan y del vino, y nos mandó comer para que tengamos vida, parecemos los más grandes tontos que jamás han vivido. 

Y sin embargo somos aun mas tontos de lo que el mundo piensa. Nosotros profesamos la fe en este Sacramento. Honramos con nuestros labios pero somos a menudo infieles en la administración del sacramento, somos infieles en la celebración del sacramento y somos infieles en la recepción del sacramento. ¿Cómo sabemos que esto es cierto? Porque nuestras vidas revelan la verdad. No escuchamos ni al Proverbios ni a San Pablo.

Esta es la razón de que no avanzamos en el camino de la prudencia: todavía no hemos dejado la ignorancia de nuestros pecados. El fruto de la Sagrada Comunión es una mayor unidad en el cuerpo místico y un aumento de la caridad. Cuando falta la fruta, sabemos cómo debemos juzgar.

Jesús dice que todo el que come su carne y bebe su sangre, permanece en él y él en ellos. Este precioso regalo, cuando se reciben no sólo externamente, sino verdadera y sacramentalmente, nos convierte en Cristo, víctimas vivas para la alabanza de la gloria de Dios.

¿Cómo se ve? Parece la Cruz. Y por nuestra causa se hizo pobre, para que podamos llegar a ser ricos en gracia. Gritó con gran clamor y lágrimas en deprecación y súplica y fue escuchado por su reverencia. ¿Puede el Señor oír nuestros clamores para los pobres, los oprimidos, los afligidos? ¿Ve nuestras lágrimas? ¿Tenemos alguna? ¿Cuál de nuestras oraciones y súplicas? ¿Cantamos y tocamos al Señor sus alabanzas en nuestros corazones?  ¿Damos continuamente gracias a Dios Padre por todas las cosas, en el nombre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo? Estos son los frutos que crecen por la participación en banquete del Señor. Hacemos bien en consultar nuestras vidas por la evidencia de que nuestra participación es cierto.

Jul 12, 2015

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.”

How are we to understand this saying? If someone will not receive the truth are we therefore free to leave them in their sins? Can we just forget about them? Israel is holy ground. It is the land which God gave to the Israelites in covenant. For this reason, Jews would shake off the dust of foreign lands before entering into the Holy Land. Jesus sends the disciples as prophets preaching repentance and doing works as a testimony: curing the sick and casting out demons. The instruction he gives to shake off the dust is a prophetic gesture.  It is a witness that they are missing the point of the Holy Land. They are strangers even while residing in the land of their fathers. But it does not mean that Jesus does not care about these places or the people in them.

He is preparing his disciples for the rejection that will surely come. “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his master, and the servant become like his lord.” (Mt. 10:24-25) So how does Jesus conduct himself in his ministry of preaching and healing? The Gospels often record that Jesus went back and forth across the Sea of Galilee. He returned often to the places he had been before. “He was teaching daily in the Temple.” (Luke 19:47) Once when preparing to go to Jerusalem, a Samaritan city refused to receive him. James and John asked our Lord if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the town. Our Lord rebuked them saying, “You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:55-56)

While preaching at Antioch, St. Paul and St. Barnabas were rejected and “they shook off the dust of their feet against them and went on to Iconium.” (Acts 13:51). Antioch went on, by the way, to be converted and become a prominent center of Christianity. Another time after rejection and blasphemy in Macedonia, St. Paul shakes out his garments at them. (Acts 18:6). But this is the same St. Paul who writes to the Corinthians “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.” (1 Cor 9:23) And he writes to his beloved Timothy that God our Savior “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4)

And this is what we consistently see throughout salvation history. God returns again and again to save his people. He saves his people, by the way, to be a light to the nations so that all may come to know and love him. He sent Amos the prophet from Judah into the Northern Kingdom which had rejected him. And he sent countless other prophets over the centuries – even to pagans, like Jonah to Nineveh.

Jesus, on the last night he spent with his disciples, also taught something more concerning dust and feet. “When he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:12-17) “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Yes, it is necessary to preach repentance of sins. Yes, it is necessary to proclaim the truths of salvation. But we must also live in the truth of the faith as a prophetic sign for “we exist for the praise of his glory.” Love one another. Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you. Become a light set upon a hill for the world to see. As author Madeleine L’Engle once wrote: “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

When they will not receive you or listen to you, do not linger in argument. Do not give into angry condemnations. Do not try to force what can only be freely received as the free gift that it is, just as you yourself have received it. So shake the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. But never shake the love of them from your heart as a testimony to them.

* * *

"Si en algún lugar no los reciben ni los escuchan, no se alejen de allí sin haber sacudido el polvo de sus pies: con esto darán testimonio contra ellos."

Cómo hemos de entender estas palabras? Si alguien no va a recibir la verdad,  somos entonces libres de dejarlos con sus pecados? ¿Podemos simplemente olvidarnos de ellos? Israel es tierra santa. Es la tierra que Dios dio a los israelitas en La Alianza. Por esta razón los judíos se sacudían el polvo de tierras extranjeras antes de entrar en la Tierra Santa. Jesús envía a los discípulos como profetas predicando el arrepentimiento y haciendo obras como testimonio: curando a los enfermos y expulsando demonios. La instrucción que da de sacudir el polvo es un gesto profético. Es un testimonio de que se están perdiendo el punto de la Tierra Santa. Son extraños, incluso mientras residían en la tierra de sus padres. Pero eso no quiere decir que Jesús no se preocupa por estos lugares o los habitantes de esas tierras.

 Él los está preparando para el rechazo que seguramente vendrá. "El discípulo no está por encima de su maestro, ni el sirviente por encima de su patrón. "(Mateo 10: 24-25). Entonces, ¿cómo lleva a cabo Jesús su ministerio de la predicación y la sanación? Los Evangelios registran a menudo que Jesús iba y venía por el Mar de Galilea. Regresó a menudo a los lugares donde había estado antes. "Jesús enseñaba todos los días en el templo." (Lucas 19:47) Una vez cuando se preparaba para ir a Jerusalén, una ciudad samaritana se negó a recibirlo. Santiago y Juan le preguntaron a nuestro Señor si debía hacer bajar fuego del cielo para consumir la ciudad. Nuestro Señor los reprendió diciendo: "No saben de qué espíritu son ustedes; el Hijo del hombre no ha venido para perder las almas de los hombres, sino para salvarlas "(Lucas 9: 55-56).

Mientras predicaban en Antioquía, San Pablo y San Bernabé fueron rechazados y "se sacudieron el polvo de sus pies contra ellos y se fueron a Iconio." (Hechos 13:51). Antioquía pasó, por cierto, a ser convertida y convertirse en un centro importante del cristianismo. En otra ocasión, después del rechazo y la blasfemia en Macedonia, San Pablo se sacudió el polvo de sus vestiduras. (Hechos 18: 6). Pero este es el mismo San Pablo que escribe a los Corintios "Me he hecho todo para todos con el fin de salvar, por todos los medios a algunos.  Y todo lo hago por el Evangelio, porque quiero tener también mi parte de el. "(1 Corintios 9:23) y escribe al amado Timoteo que Dios nuestro Salvador "quiere que todos los hombres se salven y vengan al conocimiento de la verdad. "(1 Timoteo 2: 4)

Y esto es lo que vemos constantemente en toda la historia de la salvación. Dios vuelve una y otra vez para salvar a su pueblo. Él salva a su pueblo, por cierto, para que sean una luz para las naciones, para que todos puedan venir a conocerlo y amarlo. Él envió a Amós el profeta de Judá a los Reinos del Norte que lo habían rechazado. Y envió un sinnúmero de otros profetas durante siglos - incluso a los paganos, como Jonás a Nínive.

Jesús, en la última noche que pasó con sus discípulos, también enseñó algo más en relación con el polvo y los pies. "Cuando acabó de lavarles los pies, tomó su manto, volvió a la mesa, y les dijo:" ¿Comprenden lo que he hecho con ustedes? Ustedes me llaman Señor y Maestro; y ustedes tienen razón porque lo soy. Pues si yo, el Señor y el Maestro, les he lavado los pies a ustedes, también ustedes deben lavarse los pies unos a otros. Yo les he dado el ejemplo, y ustedes deben hacer como he hecho yo.   En verdad les digo: El servidor no es más que su patrón y el enviado no es más que el que lo envía.  Pues bien, ustedes ya saben estas cosas: felices si las ponen en práctica.  "(Juan 13: 12-17)." Les doy un mandamiento nuevo: que se amen los unos a los otros.  Ustedes deben amarse unos a otros como yo los he amado.  En esto reconocerán todos que son mis discípulos: en que se aman unos a otros. "(Juan 13: 34-35).

 Sí, es necesario predicar el arrepentimiento de los pecados. Sí, es necesario proclamar las verdades de la salvación. Pero tambien tenemos que vivir en la verdad de la fe como un signo profético de "existimos para la alabanza de su gloria." Ámense unos a otros. Ama a tu enemigo. Oren por los que los persiguen. Conviértanse en una luz sobre un cerro para que el mundo la vea. Como escribió Madeleine L'Engle una vez: "No acercamos a la gente a Cristo desacreditando fuertemento lo que ellos creen, o diciéndoles lo equivocados que están, y cuánta razón tenemos nosotros, sino mostrándoles una luz que es tan encantadora que ellos desean con todo su corazón conocer la fuente de la misma. "

 Cuando ellos no los reciban o los escuchen  a ustedes no insistan en el debate. No cedan a la condena ni a la ira. No traten de forzar lo que sólo puede ser recibido libremente como el don gratuito que es, así como ustedes lo han recibido. Sacudan el polvo de sus pies como testimonio contra ellos. Sin embargo, nunca sacudan el amor de ellos de su corazón, como testimonio para ellos.

Jul 6, 2015

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

God sent the Israelites a prophet. In fact, he sent many prophets. Sometimes they listened, sometimes they did not listen. The story of salvation history is not a story of a people earnestly seeking out God and struggling mightily against the culture of their times. It is a story of a people that kept acquiescing to the culture around them and forgetting their God. They rebelled against Moses. They insisted upon being like other nations. “We want a king,” they said. God, it seems, was not kingly enough for them. Nevertheless, God was earnestly seeking out his people. Even though they often rejected him, often refused to receive his prophets, God would not let his love for his people fade. In testimony of his unending love, finally, God sent his Son.

What was it like to see and hear Jesus? Very often we are told in the Gospels of his wisdom, the authority of his teaching and the mighty deeds he performed. The people of his city were awestruck by him. “Where did he get his learning? From where come his wisdom and his power to do miracles?” And yet they are not satisfied with the witness of their eyes and ears but must push on to their own judgments. “We know him. We know his mother and father. We know his relatives.” They pass judgment on the basis of their own knowing. They stood in the presence of eternal truth and they could not understand him. They could not accept him. They would not receive him. Everyone who encounters Jesus is forced to make a choice. Is he the Lord? Or is he not?

The Catholic Church should expect to be received no better than her Lord was and is. The Church is not greater that her Lord. She will be treated in the same manner. The world judges the Church by its own standards. It cannot understand her. It will not accept her. It refuses to receive her, unless she makes herself like the world. The world is only able to love itself. And any person that desires to be loved by the world, must become like the world. Worse than the judgment of the world is the judgment of her own children. For even her own children refuse to receive her teachings.
My brothers and sisters, we are not like the prophets who were rejected, insulted and murdered. We are like the Israelites who thus treated the prophets. The world does not need to persecute us. We are unfaithful to our own Church and to her teachings. We are silent when we should speak. We talk when we should listen. We are anything but saints. We are not like St. Paul.

It is too easy to paint the picture of ourselves as poor persecuted Christians. First we must first become Christians. If we wish others to receive Christ, first we have to receive him. If we wish others to know the truths of the Christian life, first we have to live them. If we wish others to love God, first we have to love him. This is Paul’s secret: he loves God and therefore he is able to say: “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” He encountered Jesus and confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord.

And you, who do you say that Jesus is?

* * *

Dios envió a los hijos de Israel un profeta. De hecho, envió muchos profetas. A veces se escucharon y a veces ellos no escucharon. La historia de la salvación no es una historia de un pueblo seriamente en busca de Dios y luchando fuertemente contra la cultura de su tiempo. Es una historia de un pueblo que mantienen la cultura que les rodea y olvidando su Dios. Se rebelaron contra Moisés. Ellos insistieron en ser como las otras naciones. "Queremos un rey", dijeron. Dios, al parecer, no era lo suficientemente real para ellos. La historia también nos da el ejemplo de las almas fieles que se aferraban a Dios en medio de la rebelión generalizada, la maldad y el pecado. Dios estaba seriamente buscando su pueblo. A pesar de que su gente a menudo lo rechazaron, a menudo se negó a recibir a sus profetas, Dios no dejaría que su amor por su pueblo se desvaneciera. En testimonio de su amor infinito, finalmente que Dios les envió a su Hijo.

¿Qué se siente al ver y escuchar a Jesús? Muy a menudo se nos dice en el Evangelio de su sabiduría, la autoridad de su enseñanza y los milagros que realizó. La gente de su ciudad estaban impresionados por él. “¿Dónde aprendió este hombre tantas cosas? ¿De dónde le viene esa sabiduría y ese poder para hacer milagros?” Y sin embargo, no están satisfechos con el testimonio de sus ojos y los oídos, sino que debe hacer sus propios juicios. Lo conocemos. Conocemos su madre y su padre. Conocemos sus parientes. Ellos juzgaron por sí mismos. Ellos están en la presencia de la verdad eterna y no pudieron entenderlo. Ellos no pudieron aceptarlo. Ellos no lo recibieron. Cada uno, que encuentra a Jesús, está obligado a tomar una decisión. ¿Es él el Señor? ¿O no?

La Iglesia no es mayor que su Señor. Ella será tratada de la misma manera. El mundo juzga a la Iglesia por sus propias normas. No puede entenderla. No puede aceptarla. Se niega a recibirla, a menos que ella hace a sí misma como el mundo. El mundo sólo puede amar a sí mismo. Y cualquier persona que desea ser amado por el mundo, debe ser como el mundo. Pero mucho peor que el juicio del mundo, es el juicio de sus propios hijos. Incluso sus propios hijos no reciben sus enseñanzas.
Mis hermanos, no somos como los profetas que fueron rechazados, insultados y asesinados. Somos como los hijos de Israel que así trataron a los profetas. El mundo no necesita perseguirnos. Nos callamos cuando deberíamos hablar. Hablamos cuando deberíamos escuchar. Somos infieles a nuestra Iglesia y a sus enseñanzas. Somos cualquier cosa menos santos. No somos como San Pablo.

Es demasiado fácil para pintar la imagen de nosotros como pobres cristianos perseguidos. En primer lugar debemos ser cristianos. Si queremos que otros puedan recibir a Cristo, primero tenemos que recibirlo. Si queremos que otros puedan conocer las verdades de la vida cristiana, primero tenemos que vivirlas. Si queremos que otros puedan amar a Dios, primero tenemos que amarlo. Este es el secreto de Pablo: ama a Dios y por lo tanto, dice: “Así pues, de buena gana prefiero gloriarme de mis debilidades, para que se manifieste en mí el poder de Cristo. Por eso me alegro de las debilidades, los insultos, las necesidades, las persecuciones y las dificultades que sufro por Cristo, porque cuando soy más débil, soy más fuerte.” Encontró a Jesús y confesó que Jesucristo es el Señor.

Y ustedes, ¿quién dicen que es Jesus?

Jun 14, 2015

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”

The just man sins seven times a day the Sacred Scriptures tell us. Jesus says: “But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man.” In our society, we seem to have quite the difficulty in identifying our own sins. But as a society we have no problem identifying the sins of others. How easy it is for us to categorize the other! Here is the paradox of our day. We call evil, good and good, evil. We call murder, choice; sexual sins, personal fulfillment; and we call faith, bigotry. Even after we erase the notion of sin, we go on to invent new sins with which to shame and accuse one another. For we have lost our horror of sin, except when we see it in another person. We are good at judging the sins of others, and we are blind to our own sinfulness. I can’t tell you how many times I hear something like the following: “I don’t really have any big sins, I mean I’m not a murderer, I’m basically a good person. I’m sure I have faults, of course, but I couldn’t recall what they are really.” Nevertheless, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

What is this judgment seat? What does it look like? Many of us may think of God like a judge seated above us, perhaps wearing black robes, reading from a list of our actions and then proclaiming sentence upon our lives. There is some truth to this. We will be judged on every action, every thought and every word. But it will not be because heaven is an exclusive club and God only wishes to keep company with the best sort. Rather, God is Eternal Truth, Infinite Goodness, Perfect Beauty. His Truth radiates from Himself into the hearts and minds of all who contemplate Him. This is the judgment: to stand in the light of His glory and see ourselves with perfect clarity, just as God sees us, just as we really are.

Every one of us has the scars, bruises and scrapes that come from simply living life. Some of them are caused by others, some are caused by ourselves. Jesus is able to heal them all. Some are wounds that go so deep, that only time and much prayer is able to heal them. The healing begins with asking the Lord to heal us of the guilt by going to confession. But perhaps the wound will still remain. Often it is necessary to forgive ourselves and even to pardon the person who wounded us. As much as we need to receive the pardon of the Lord, we equally need to give forgiveness to ourselves and others. The truths that we tell in the confessional and in our prayers help us to focus on the mercy, goodness and beauty of our Savior. The secrets that we keep locked away from the gaze of His mercy will go on to obscure for us the splendor of His love when we see Him face to face. Then we shall see ourselves just as we are with all our wounds. Will we recognize the mercy of our Savior in the glorious wounds of His Sacred Body or will we only shudder in horror at our own deformity?

By telling the truth about ourselves, forming our consciences, showing our wounds to the Savior, indeed, putting our wounds into His Wounds in the confessional, we receive forgiveness and come to know His Mercy. Only then can we also share with others the Beauty and Mercy of our Savior, without passing over the truth about sin.

May 31, 2015

Most Holy Trinity, 2015

Jesus said to his apostles: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is a mystery which is difficult to preach upon. This mystery is not something discovered by human reason. This mystery is revealed to us by Jesus Christ. The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: "44. The central mystery of the faith and of the christian life is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 45. God has left some traces of his trinitarian being in creation and in the Old Testament but his inmost being as the Holy Trinity is a mystery which is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of the Son of God and the sending of the Holy Spirit. This mystery was revealed by Jesus Christ and it is the source of all the other mysteries. 48. The Church expresses her trinitarian faith by professing a belief in the oneness of God in whom there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three divine Persons are only one God because each of them equally possesses the fullness of the one and indivisible divine nature. They are really distinct from each other by reason of the relations which place them in correspondence to each other. The Father generates the Son; the Son is generated by the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son."

The central mystery of the faith and of the christian life. This mystery is not something principally for the intellect. It is not a puzzle. It is not reducible to the formulas which express it. Through baptism the Most Holy Trinity dwells in the human soul. Who is able to understand this? St. Augustine wrote in his book "The Confessions," about his struggle to understand how it was possible that he might contain in himself the God who all the universe, heaven and earth, cannot contain. What great mystery!

But, why does God reveal a mystery which we are unable to understand? So that we might know the depths of his love for us. Love does not hide itself. Love reveals itself. Even if it is impossible that the Beloved shoud understand fully the Lover, Love, nevertheless, opens itself to the other. We have a God who is no longer a stranger, but in his desire for intimacy with us, he has revealed his own interior life. What we are not able to know by human reason, God has given to us to known by faith.

What has God revealed? We say it in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed every Sunday. But I will read the Creed of Saint Athanasius, which has been a part of the ancient roman liturgy for many centuries.

Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Essence of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Essence of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of the God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living[17] and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.

Nevertheless, the mystery is more to be adored and loved than to be studied with the end of solving it. However, it ought to be studied and contemplated, not to solve it, but rather, in order to more profoundly know so that we might love it more fully. On the contrary, what do we recite every Sunday in the Creed? Empty words which we have learned by rote, but do not understand?

Let us contemplate, my brothers and sisters, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, which is the font of all the mysteries of our faith. Here is the great dignity of the christian: the Son condescended to become one of us, so that we might share in the eternal life of the Most Holy Trinity.

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Jesús les dijo a los apóstoles: Vayan, pues, enseñen a todas las naciones, bautizándolas en el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espíritu Santo, y enseñándolas a cumplir todo cuanto yo les he mandado. "

El misterio de la Santísima Trinidad es un misterio difícil de predicar. Este misterio no es algo descubierto por la razón humana. Este misterio es revelado a nosotros por Jesucristo. El Compendio del Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica dice: "44. El misterio central de la fe y de la vida cristiana es el misterio de la Santísima Trinidad. Los cristianos son bautizados en el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo. 45. Dios he dejado huellas de su ser trinitario en la creación y en el Antiquo Testamento, pero la intimidad de su ser como Trinidad Santa constituye un misterio inaccesible a la sola razón humana e incluso a la fe de Israel, antes de la Encarnación del Hijo de Dios y del envío del Espíritu Santo. Este misterio ha sido revelado por Jesucristo, y es la fuente de todos los demás misterios. 48. La Iglesia expressa su fe trinitario confesando un solo Dios en tres Personas: Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo. Las tres divinas Personas son un solo Dios porque cada una de ellas es idéntica a la plenitud de la única e indivisible naturaleza divina. Las tres son realmente distintas entre sí, por sus relaciones recíprocas: el Padre engendra al Hijo, el Hijo es engendrado por el Padre, el Espíritu Santo procede del Padre y del Hijo."

El misterio centro de la fe y de la vida cristiana. Este misterio no es algo principalmente para el intelecto. No es un rompecabezas. No es reducible a las fórmulas que expresan. A través del bautismo la Santísima Trinidad habita en el alma humana. ¿Quién puede entender esto? San Agustín escribió en su libro "Las Confesiones", su lucha para entender cómo es posible que contenga en sí mismo el Dios que todo el universo, el cielo y la tierra, no puede contener. ¡Qué gran misterio!

Pero, ¿por qué Dios nos revela un misterio que no se puede entender? Para que podamos conocer las profundidades de su amor por nosotros. El amor no se esconde a sí mismo. El amor se revela. Incluso si es imposible que el Amado de entender plenamente el amante, el amor, sin embargo, se abre a la otra. Tenemos un Dios que ya no es un desconocido, pero en su deseo de intimidad con nosotros, él ha revelado su propia vida interior. Lo que no puede ser conocido por la razón humana, Dios nos ha dado a conocer por la fe.

Qué ha revelado Dios? Nosotros decimos que en el Símbolo niceno-constantinopolitano todos los domingos. Pero voy a leer el Credo de San Atanasio, que ha sido una parte de la antigua liturgia romana durante muchos siglos.:

Quienquiera desee salvarse debe, ante todo, guardar la Fe Católica: quien no la observare íntegra e inviolada, sin duda perecerá eternamente.

Esta es la Fe Católica: que veneramos a un Dios en la Trinidad y a la Trinidad en unidad. Ni confundimos las personas, ni separamos las substancias. Porque otra es la persona del Padre, otra la del Hijo, otra la del Espíritu Santo: Pero la divinidad del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo es una, es igual su gloria, es coeterna su majestad. Como el Padre, tal el Hijo, tal el Espíritu Santo. Increado el Padre, increado el Hijo, increado el Espíritu Santo. Inmenso el Padre, inmenso el Hijo, inmenso el Espíritu Santo. Eterno el Padre, eterno el Hijo, eterno el Espíritu Santo. Y, sin embargo, no tres eternos, sino uno eterno. Como no son tres increados ni tres inmensos, sino uno increado y uno inmenso. Igualmente omnipotente el Padre, omnipotente el Hijo, omnipotente el Espíritu Santo. Y, sin embargo, no tres omnipotentes, sino uno omnipotente. Como es Dios el Padre, es Dios el Hijo, es Dios el Espíritu Santo. Y, sin embargo, no tres dioses, sino un Dios. Como es Señor el Padre, es Señor el Hijo, es Señor el Espíritu Santo. Y, sin embargo, no tres señores sino un Señor. Porque, así como la verdad cristiana nos compele a confesar que cualquiera de las personas es, singularmente, Dios y Señor, así la religión católica nos prohibe decir que son tres Dioses o Señores. Al Padre nadie lo hizo: ni lo creó, ni lo engendró. El Hijo es sólo del Padre: no hecho, ni creado, sino engendrado. El Espíritu Santo es del Padre y del Hijo: no hecho, ni creado, ni engendrado, sino procedente de ellos. Por tanto, un Padre, no tres Padres; un Hijo, no tres Hijos, un Espíritu Santo, no tres Espíritus Santos. Y en esta Trinidad nada es primero o posterior, nada mayor o menor: sino todas la tres personas son coeternas y coiguales las unas para con las otras. Así, para que la unidad en la Trinidad y la Trinidad en la unidad sea venerada por todo, como se dijo antes.

Quien quiere salvarse, por tanto, así debe sentir de la Trinidad. Pero, para la salud eterna, es necesario creer fielmente también en la encarnación de nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Es pues fe recta que creamos y confesemos que nuestro Señor Jesucristo, Hijo de Dios, es Dios y hombre. Es Dios de la substancia del Padre, engendrado antes de los siglos, y es hombre de la substancia de la madre, nacido en el tiempo. Dios perfecto, hombre perfecto: con alma racional y carne humana. Igual al Padre, según la divinidad; menor que el Padre, según la humanidad. Aunque Dios y hombre, Cristo no es dos, sino uno. Uno, no por conversión de la divinidad en carne, sino porque la humanidad fue asumida por Dios. Completamente uno, no por mezcla de las substancias, sino por unidad de la persona. Porque, como el alma racional y la carne son un hombre, así Dios y hombre son un Cristo. Que padeció por nuestra salud: descendió a los infiernos, al tercer día resucitó de entre los muertos. Ascendió a los cielos, está sentado a la derecha de Dios Padre omnipotente; de allí vendrá a juzgar a vivos y muertos. A su venida, todos los hombres tendrán que resucitar con sus propios cuerpos, y tendrán que dar cuenta de sus propios actos. Los que actuaron bien irán a la vida eterna; los que mal, al fuego eterno. Esta es la fe católica, quien no la crea fiel y firmemente, no podrá salvarse. Amén.

Pues, el misterio es más para ser adorado y amado que ser estudiado con el fin de resolverlo. Sin embargo, debe ser estudiado y contemplado, no para resolverlo, sino más bien, para conocer más profundamente para que lo amemos más plenamente. De lo contrario, ¿qué recitamos cada domingo en el Credo? ¿Palabras vacías que hemos aprendido de memoria, pero no entendemos?

Contemplemos, mis hermanos y hermanas, el misterio de la Santísima Trinidad, que es la fuente de todos los misterios de nuestra fe. Aquí está la gran dignidad del cristiano: el Hijo condescendió a ser uno de nosotros, para que podamos compartir en la vida eterna de la Santísima Trinidad.