Archive for the ‘Feast Day Homilies’ Category

Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant

September 4, 2017

Did you ever see Indiana Jones and The Raiders of the Lost Ark? You may recall seeing the movie’s replica of the Ark of the Covenant featured as the McGuffin artifact everyone was seeking out. This movie has been very helpful to preachers in providing a visual aid to everyone of what the Ark of the Covenant looked like.

Like Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant was a box constructed according to God’s design and command. It served as a portable throne bearing the presence of God on earth. The Ark held inside of it three important things: the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the wooden staff of Moses’ brother Aaron the High Priest, and a gold jar containing some of the Manna God provided his people to eat in the desert. The reason I mention these things today is because the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament foreshadows the Blessed Virgin Mary in the New Testament.

The old Ark held the Ten Commandments, the word of God in stone; the Virgin Mary bears the Word of God in flesh. The old Ark held the priestly staff which on one occasion miraculously blossomed despite being dead; Mary conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit despite her perfect virginity. The old Ark contained Manna bread in a golden vessel; Mary’s holy womb contains the true Bread from Heaven, provided to us for our journey to Promised Land — Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King.

At God’s command, the old Ark was made of natural wood overlaid with pure gold inside and out. Mary is a human woman who is made “full of grace.” King David once joyfully leaped and danced before the Ark of the Lord. At the Visitation, when Mary visits Elizabeth her relative, John the Baptist likewise leaps with joy within his mother’s womb. David once asked, “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth likewise asks, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” On one occasion, the old covenant ark was kept for three months in the house of a man named Obed-edom outside Jerusalem, and Scripture records that God blessed his whole household. Mary likewise dwelt three months in the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth near Jerusalem and was surely a blessing to them.

No man was to touch the Old Covenant Ark, lest they be struck down dead. (God instructed his ministers to move that holy Ark only by means of two gilded poles which slid through rings on the sides of the Ark.) Joseph of Nazareth held a similar reverence towards Mary, his ever-virgin wife. In the Old Testament, the Lord was to be found wherever the old Ark dwelt, from the Sinai wilderness to the Temple in Jerusalem. In the New Testament, “on entering the house, [the Magi] saw the child with Mary his mother,” and, “standing by the cross of Jesus [was] his mother.”

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Nazis were looking for the “lost” Ark because Scripture reports that the Old Covenant Ark was hidden soon before the Jewish Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. Jeremiah the Prophet took the Ark and placed it in a secret cave. Unlike in the 1981 movie, the Lost Ark has never been recovered. Yet, in his revelations recorded at the end of the New Testament, John the Apostle sees the new Ark revealed. John writes: “God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” The next thing John describes is a glorious woman pregnant with the Christ child, “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” This is Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, whom at the end of her time on earth God lifted up body and soul into Heaven.

The old Ark was of central, though secondary, importance in the Old Covenant. Drawing physically nearer to it brought one closer to the presence of God on earth. Likewise, God gives the Blessed Virgin Mary, the new Ark, a central role in his New Covenant. If you draw closer in your relationship with her, you will surely draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Transfiguring Our Perception of Others

August 6, 2017

Today, Jesus hikes with his three closest apostles, Peter, James, and John, to the top of Mount Tabor in Israel. And there, Jesus is transfigured before them. His face shines and his clothes become intensely white. Then they hear God the Father speaking from a bright cloud that envelops them, declaring: “This is my beloved Son.”

In the Incarnation, some two thousand and seventeen years ago, the Eternal Word became Flesh, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became Man, and the divinity of the Son of God became veiled within a human nature. It has long been my sense that Jesus is not changed or transformed at the Transfiguration so much as his apostles are allowed to glimpse him more deeply as he really, truly is: God from God, Light from Light. This light shines from his face as radiantly as the sun and from his body such that the fabric of his clothing is brightly illuminated like a thin lampshade.

When the disciples become frightened after hearing the Father’s voice and fall prostrate on the ground, burying their faces, Jesus comes over and touches them: “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raise their eyes, they see Jesus once more the same way as they had always seen him, and yet they see him differently now.

If we saw Jesus tomorrow while buying bread and milk at the store, or if Jesus visited our place of work, or came to our front door, do you think we would recognize him? I tend to doubt it. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day noticed nothing extra special about him. “Is he not the carpenter’s son?” The Prophet Isaiah foretold of the Messiah that ‘there would be in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.’ Even Jesus’ close friends sometimes had a hard time recognizing him after his Resurrection. The most famous example of this was on the Road to Emmaus. But by the gift of God’s grace, with the Breaking of the Bread, the eyes of Jesus’ disciples were opened and they recognized him in their midst. The reason I doubt that many would recognize Jesus amid their everyday lives tomorrow is because so few of us recognize him among us today.

In the very early Church, a man named Saul had a murderous hatred for the first Christians. One day, was traveling to Damascus, Syria to arrest any Christians he might find there and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. As he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul asked, “Who are you, sir?” And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” This man went on to be converted to a Christian. We know him today as St. Paul.

Note how Jesus does not say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my Church,” nor “Why are you persecuting my people.” He says, “Why are you persecuting me?” Jesus identifies himself with his people and his Church because he is personally present within them. At the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me… You will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” Jesus speaks of his mystical presence within us our and neighbors at other times in the Gospels as well.

At the Last Judgment, Jesus tells us he will say to his saved sheep: ‘Whatever you did for one of the hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or imprisoned little brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’ And then Jesus will turn and declare to the condemned goats: “Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” These goats, Jesus tells us, will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous sheep to eternal life.

And so you see, recognizing, loving, and serving Jesus in other people must be a top and serious priority for us. Yet how many people do we interact with each day with so much thoughtless indifference? We speed past other people like so many unnoticed trees and cars as we drive along our way of life. Sometimes we even take the people living in our own home for granted, treating our family members worse than our mere acquaintances. Many failed to recognize Jesus’ importance in his day; while we overlook the importance of people in our midst today. As C.S. Lewis wrote:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

So how can we begin to behold and relate to other people in the manner we ought, as Christ would have us do? Jesus himself was open and loving towards everyone. I would suggest two steps: First, ask for the gift of God’s grace at this Breaking of the Bread on the Feast of the Transfiguration, that your eyes may be opened to truly see others. And second, begin a habit of praying for, say, five or ten people every day whom you’ve never thought to pray for before. For example, the cashier who gave you change yesterday, that politician whom you dislike, the suffering people of North Korea, your child’s best friend, your quiet co-worker, and the person whom you heard just died. And then, the next day, chose another new collection of people to pray for. This practice will reveal to you your inter-personal, spiritual blinders, and help you to begin tearing them down. Let us ask Jesus to transfigure our perception of others so that we may see them more in the way that he beholds them, with love.

God Raises Up the Lowly

June 1, 2017

She was a teenage virgin when she received a word from Heaven — she was to be God’s instrument in an incredible way. She asked how this could be, since she was merely an uneducated peasant girl. The messenger answered that God would deliver his people through her and she consented to her part in God’s plan. Despite her utter lack of military training, St. Joan of Arc (1412—1431 AD) would go on to lead French troops to swift victories against the English armies occupying her  homeland, paving the way for her people’s liberation.

Every year, St. Joan’s of Arc’s feast (May 30th) comes the day before the Feast of the Visitation, which celebrates the meeting of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth when they were pregnant with St. John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. I think it is fitting and providential that these two celebrations are paired together on the liturgical calendar. These three, wondrous women display God’s preferred means of intervening and triumphing throughout human history: by manifesting his mighty power through the weak and the lowly.

Of course, God can work through the high-ranking and the powerful to accomplish his purposes as well. For example, in 312 AD the pagan emperor Constantine, on the eve of a great battle in a civil war for control of the Western Roman Empire, reportedly had a vision of the Chi-Rho (☧), a Greek symbol for “Christ.” He then heard these words:  “In this sign you will conquer.” Constantine had this symbol painted on his soldiers’ shields and  prevailed in that decisive Battle of the Milvian Bridge. Constantine became the first Christian emperor and promptly legalized the previously persecuted Christian religion throughout the empire in 313 AD.

And yet, the Virgin Mother Mary rejoices that God prefers to show the strength of his arm by lifting up the lowly and casting down the mighty from their thrones. St. Paul once redirected the attention of self-inflated Christians in Corinth, Greece to this truth:

Consider your own calling, brothers. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God. … “Whoever boasts, should boast in the Lord.”

In the Old Testament, God chose sheepherders, like Moses the Prophet and later King David, to lead and deliver his oppressed people. He chose working-class fishermen as some of the Church’s first bishops. At the Visitation, the four most important people in the entire world met together in one place: two women and their unborn babies. And through one condemned man, whose three-year rabbinical career seemed to end in failure and death, God redeemed the world. Such is the divine approach, lest we look to merely our own human plans and efforts as the source for our salvation.

Aphantasia — A Corpus Christi Homily

June 5, 2016

Aphantasia (Greek for “without fantasy”) has been written about since 1880 but it has recently gained increased attention. To understand what I am talking about, picture a red triangle, a horse running, or the house where you grew up. With a moment’s attention you can see them in your mind. However, people with  Aphantasia are incapable of voluntarily forming images in their mind’s-eye.

Blake, a successful 30-year-old software engineer only recently learned he experienced the world differently from others. He relates a conversation similar to this with a Facebook friend:

—If I ask you to imagine a beach, how would you describe what happens in your mind?
    —Uhh, I imagine a beach. What?
—Like, the idea of a beach. Right?
    —Well, there are waves, sand. Umbrellas. It’s a relaxing picture. Are you okay?
— But it’s not actually a picture? There’s no visual component, right?
    —Yes, there is, in my mind. What are you talking about?
—Is it in color?
    —Yes…
—How often do your thoughts have a visual element?
    —A thousand times a day?
—Oh, my goodness…

An African BeachIf someone were to ask Blake to “imagine a beach,” he could ruminate on the concept of a beach: it has sand, waves, heat, sun. He could recognize a beach when he saw one, but even if he were standing on a beach he could not recreate or remember the image with his eyes closed.

Philip is a 42-year old photographer from Toronto. He is happily married, but he cannot conjure up his wife’s face (or any other image) in his mind’s eye. He was recently listening to a podcast presenter describing aphantasia. He says it came as a complete surprise, “I was like ‘what do you mean? People do that?’” He thought it was a joke so he checked with his four-year old daughter. “I asked her whether she could picture an apple in her mind, she said ‘yeah, it’s green’. I was shocked.

A 2009 survey of 2,500 people suggests that aphantasia is the experience of about 2% of people. So far, I have found it in two of my friends, including  a fellow priest. He tells me that when our spiritual director in seminary would tells us to prayerfully picture ourselves, say, at the table of the Last Supper he thought it was just a metaphor. He was surprised to learn that when people “counted sheep” to fall asleep that was more than just a figure of speech.

Disbelief is a common response when people on either side of this phenomena hear that other people do no experience the world like themselves. (“That’s impossible. You’re lying. You’re pulling my leg.”) However, unless we happen to carry around an MRI machine, we have to take our friend at his or her word in order to know the truth. And here we come to the connection with this Feast of Corpus Christi.

An extraordinary experience at the center of our Faith is founded upon a trust in our friend Jesus Christ’s testimony. At the Last Supper, Jesus does not say, “This is like my body,” or “This symbolizes or represents my body.” He says, “This is my body.” Around the year 150 AD, St. Justin Martyr described what early Christians everywhere believed about these words:

“The apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “Do this in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood” … “This food is called among us the Eucharist… For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.”

Princess Grace (Kelly) Receives The Holy EucharistThe Church has always proclaimed and worshiped Jesus Christ as truly present, body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Eucharist. This belief has been confirmed for us throughout the centuries. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised would lead us to all truth and remind us of all that he told us, has reaffirmed this teaching in Councils of the Church. Jesus has also allowed Eucharistic miracles to unveil this mystery we cannot normally perceive. For instance, at the Miracle of Lanciano in eighth century AD, a priest who was doubting Jesus’ Real Presence witnessed the bread become flesh and the wine become blood (which coagulated and broke into five globules in the chalice) as he said the words of consecration. In 1971, scientific analysis indicated that, as at similar miracles, the Host was human cardiac muscle. Who would go through such trouble when a fraudster’s more convenient use of pig’s flesh would have been undetectable? The truth is that Jesus gives us his heart in the Eucharist, along with his whole self. You can go to Lanciano, Italy and behold this Host today.

For many Christians, the Lord’s Supper is merely a symbolic commemoration, a ritual that remembers him. But if Jesus is everywhere, then he is nowhere. It then impossible to physically draw near to him any place on earth. Unless you are blessed with a vision of Jesus, you can never see him with your eyes or touch him in your flesh until after your death and resurrection. But with the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, “Behold, I am with you always…

If you have always enjoyed mental images, or if you have received the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion since you were a child, then you may not appreciate the gift you have. If you experience aphantasia, or if you have never believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then you may not even know what you are missing. So for our non-Catholic family and friends, tell them about this treasure—Jesus wants them to receive him, too. And for ourselves, let us truly appreciate the incredible gift that we are blessed to receive.

Captain America, St. Thomas More, & the Spirit of Truth

May 14, 2016

In the new blockbuster movie Captain America: Civil War the titular hero is discerning an important decision when he hears this message in a church:

“Compromise where you can. And where you can’t, don’t. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right, even if the whole world is telling you to move. It is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, no. You move.”

Captain America - No, You MoveAs I watched in the movie theater, that bit about the tree struck me as odd. Trees bend and can be cut down, but pillars of iron or stone mountains don’t budge. I later discovered that these movie lines were adapted from a famous comic book speech Captain America once addressed to Spider-Man:

“When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — ‘No, you move.’”

Did you spot the difference? “Plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth.” That’s not only more beautiful, it’s also an allusion to Old Testament imagery. Psalm 1:3 says:

“[The Just Man] is like a tree planted near streams of water that yields its fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither, and whatever he does prospers.”

And Jeremiah 17:8 says:

“[Those who trust in the Lord] are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.”

These verses teach that the just man who is rooted in the Law (or the Truth) of God prospers, and that those who trust in the Lord prevail against adversity.

I wish that Hollywood had included the fuller quote in the new Captain America movie—not only because it’s better writing, not only because it echoes Sacred Scripture, but because it better reflects the truth about where Truth comes from. My all-time favorite film disappoints me in a similar way.

A Man for All Seasons - St. Thomas More at TrialA Man for All Season won the 1966 Academy Award for Best Picture, but its depiction of its hero, St. Thomas More, falls short of perfection. In the movie, as in real life, Thomas More suffers unjust imprisonment for refusing to swear an oath recognizing King Henry VIII as the supreme head of the Catholic Church in England. The movie’s screenwriter, the agnostic Robert Bolt, drew on More’s own writings to craft some fantastic dialogues, but Bolt somewhat misrepresents the saint’s true motivations.

In one scene, Thomas More’s friend, the Duke of Norfolk, asks why he won’t just “give in.” Thomas answers, “I will not give in because I oppose it — I do — not my pride, not my spleen, nor any of my appetites, but I do — I!” The real St. Thomas More’s motivations are portrayed more accurately in the scene at his trial. He tells the court:

“The indictment [against me] is grounded in an act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the law of God, and his Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may by any law presume to take upon [himself.] This was granted by the mouth of our Savior, Christ himself, to Saint Peter and the Bishops of Rome whilst He lived and was personally present here on earth. It is, therefore, insufficient in law to charge any Christian to obey it.”

The real St. Thomas More refused to sign the King’s oath because he saw in it a denial of Christ. He preferred to die rather than lose Heaven; and he did go on to die, thereby gaining Heaven. But Robert Bolt has his Thomas More conclude his courtroom speech like this:

“Nevertheless, it is not for [refusing the King’s] Supremacy that you have sought my blood, but because I would not bend to the [King’s re-marriage]!” (In other words, “No one is going to make me act contrary to my own self-will!”)

The real St. Thomas More was not standing up against the world for individually-chosen truth. (More opposed heretics when he served as King Henry’s High Chancellor.) He knew that Truth and right and wrong are not things we create for ourselves. We receive them, as water from a river. They do not flow from us as their source. The real St. Thomas More was a champion for the Truth which comes from God.

So how can we be faithful to the Truth which comes from God? How can we be planted like trees beside the River of Truth that flows from God? By prayerfully welcoming the Holy Spirit.

At his interrogation before the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, Jesus says: “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” (In the Holy Trinity, the Father is the Speaker, Jesus is the Word, and the Holy Spirit is the Voice) But Pilate refuses to listen. He retorts to Jesus, “What is truth?” He rejects the Spirit of Truth and walks away.

Later, at his Ascension, Jesus instructs his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they are clothed with power from on high with the Spirit of Truth who will teach them everything and remind them of all he has told them. Unlike Pilate, the disciples listen to Jesus and obey him. Some 120 persons (including the apostles, the Virgin Mary, some women, and some male relatives of Jesus) gather together and all devote themselves to prayer. They pray for nine days—the Church’s first novena, and on the tenth day, on the Jewish feast of first fruits called Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, comes and fills them.

St. Peter PreachingOnce the Spirit’s fire touches their heads, the disciples know what to say and they are unafraid to say it. Previously they had been hiding behind locked doors, but now they go out into Jerusalem’s crowded streets praising and preaching Jesus. This new-found wisdom and courage are gifts from the Holy Spirit, who empowers them to begin reaping the Church’s first fruits from the world. Observe well what the disciples do, for we are called to do the same: they listen to Jesus and obey him, they gather together and pray, they receive the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and gifts, and then they go forth to speak and act powerfully in the world.

In the Gospel of John, on the last and greatest day of one of the Jewish feasts, Jesus stands up in the temple area and exclaims, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” Here the Gospel writer adds: “He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive.”

The Holy Spirit is our River of Living Water. As trees planted beside him we will prosper, and by being rooted in him we will prevail against adversity. In Holy Mass let us pray to receive the Spirit wholeheartedly and to be clothed with his power. And then, filled with the Spirit of Truth, even if the whole world tells us to move, we will have the words and courage to stand our ground. By the Holy Spirit, we can be heroes for this world in desperate need of heroes, in the likeness of Captain America, St. Thomas More, and the apostles after Pentecost.

An Ascension & Mother’s Day Homily

May 8, 2016

The Belly of a Woman with Child

Today, two great celebrations providentially align: the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven and Mother’s Day. After his resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days teaching, instructing, and preparing his disciples for their new life ahead. The number 40 often appears in the Bible in relation to times of preparation.  Noah spent 40 days and nights on the ark as the waters of the flood were renewing the world. Moses and the Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the desert before God’s people entered the Promised Land. Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting in the desert. And after his death on the cross, Jesus’ body spent (by tradition) 40 hours in the tomb awaiting the resurrection. The number 40 also has a place in your life story as well. Each of you remained 40 weeks, more or less, within your mother’s womb being prepared for a new life. I ask you to reflect on that time.

Attached to your mother’s vine you grew into the mature fruit of her womb. You were nourished and grew within her. You were never far from her heart or mind. You existed within her, connected to her at the center of your being.  (Your belly button marks the spot where you were once attached to her.) She fed you with her very self. She provided for all your needs. Apart from her you could do nothing. You remained in her and you found your rest within her.

In the womb, at those earliest stages of life, our minds did not comprehend very much, but what if you could have understood then everything that your mother was doing for you? Surely you would have directed your thoughts to her often.  And, from time to time, you would have turned to her with the eyes of your heart to bask in her love for you.

What if, imagining further, that you could have spoken with your mom when you were in her womb? Wouldn’t you have taken the opportunity to speak with her every day? Wouldn’t you have thanked her with a deep gratitude and let her know how much you love her? I suppose a baby could ignore its mother in such as situation and continue to live on, at least biologically, but the child would be deprived without this first and special relationship with mom.

As you and your mother would continue to talk throughout the days and months of pregnancy she would eventually present you with a most-frightening prospect. She might put it this way, “My child, soon, in a little while, you are going to begin a new stage of your life. You will be departing from the life you know, and then you’ll experience a whole world of people and things you have never known before. Once you are born, you will meet me in a new way.

You might say, “I’m scared! I don’t want to go—not now, not ever!” But she would reassure you, “I realize this concept is scary for you, but trust me when I say that it is better that you go. In fact, someday soon you’ll look back and think it a silly thought to be back again where you are now. This transition is going to hurt a little bit… trust me, I know… but when the appointed time comes, I’ll be right here with you. So don’t be afraid, it’s going to be O.K.

Our life in our mother’s womb is like our life in Jesus Christ. You are attached to Him as to a vine. You are nourished and grow within Him. You are never far from His heart or mind. You exist within Him; you live and move and have your being in Him, connected to Him at the center of your being. He feeds you with His very self in the Eucharist. He provides for all your needs. Apart from Him, you can do nothing. You remain in Him and can find your rest in Him.

Knowing and believing this, shouldn’t we direct our thoughts to Him often? Shouldn’t we, from time to time, turn to Him with the eyes of our hearts to bask in His love for us. We have the ability to talk with Jesus Christ whenever we want in prayer. We should take the opportunity to speak with Him every day, thanking Him out of deep gratitude and telling Him how much we love Him. A person who ignores Him will still continue to live, at biologically, but they will not be fully alive without this primary and special relationship with Christ. We must to pray every day if we want to remain in Him and bear much fruit.

We don’t want to die and that’s perfectly natural. But Jesus says to us, “Soon, in a little while, you are going to begin a new stage of your life. You will be departing from the life you know, and then you’ll experience a whole world of people and things you have never known before. Once you die, you will meet me in a new way. I realize this concept is scary for you, but trust me when I say that it is better that you go. In fact, someday soon you’ll look back and think it a silly thought to be back again where you are now. This transition is going to hurt a little bit… trust me, I know… but when the appointed time comes, I’ll be right there with you. So don’t be afraid, it’s going to be O.K.

Was Jesus afraid when he ascended into heaven? In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his died Jesus was anxious and distressed at the sufferings before Him. But at the Ascension, as he rose high above the ground, I do not think He was afraid at all. He was beyond all fear and He was going home. The anecdotal evidence of near death experiences indicates that for friends of God the journey beyond this life is peaceful and joyful. A friend of mine once went into cardiac arrest and had a vision like that of going home. When they defibrillated her heart in the Emergency Room and brought her back to into this world she felt quite angry and tore off the wires they had stuck on her skin because she so much wanted to go back to where she had just been.

As our mothers would have told us before we were born from womb into world, and as Jesus tells us before our birth from this life to next, we do not need to be afraid. Instead let us live in gratitude and peace. Today, let us thank God for the life, love, and tender care we have received from our mothers and through Jesus Christ. May God bless our mothers and may Jesus Christ be praised.

The Significance of Anna’s Age and Lifestyle — Sixth Day in the Christmas Octave

December 31, 2015

Readings: 1st John 2:12-17, Luke 2:36-40

Whenever we read the Bible, it is profitable for us to remember that every detail is there for a reason. The sacred authors and the Holy Spirit chose to omit so many minor facts that “I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written” if they had described everything. (John 21:25) Instead, all that we find in Scripture has been purposely included for our benefit. (John 20:30-31) Consider the details mentioned in this encounter from the Presentation, when Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time:

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by James Tissot

There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

This is the only episode in the New Testament where the prophetess Anna appears. Why does St. Luke include Anna’s age and the length of her marriage? Let’s explore this obscure detail. The 84-year-old widow was married for seven years, and thus was unmarried for 77 years of her life. She is 7 x 12: the Jewish number symbolizing completeness and perfection times the number of the tribes of Israel. Anna personifies Old Testament Israel at her best. But of the twelve tribes, which tribe would correspond with Anna’s seven years of marriage?

After the death of Saul, all the tribes of Israel came to David (of the tribe of Judah) seeking to make him their king. They said: “Look! We are your bone and your flesh,” echoing the words of Adam towards Eve at the beginning of their marriage covenant, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” (2nd Samuel 5:1, Genesis 2:23) Old Testament Israel had been wedded for a time to David, but now she awaited the kingship of a Son of David from the tribe of Judah. While David had once conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, Anna and others in her day were “awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” by the Messiah/Christ. (1st Chronicles 11:4-5)

Living like a Christian nun veiled in anticipation of her bridegroom’s arrival, Anna “never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.” Why would Anna, or any woman, choose to live in this way? St. John’s first epistle offers this admonition:

Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.

Alexandrian World Chronicle (5th century) featuring Anna the ProphetessThough Anna understood the evil corruptions of “the world,” she was also well aware of the goodness of creation. She had known the blessings of marriage and the (at least occasional) pleasures of feasting, but Anna knew that these passing things could not fully satisfy her. Her deepest longings could only be met by the One to come, not only for her but for all Jews and Gentiles. When Jesus Christ came to the temple, Anna rejoiced, gave thanks, and “spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” Because she devoted herself to “the will of God,” Anna’s scriptural legacy and joy before the Lord ‘remain forever.’

Something God Can’t Do — March 25 — Annunciation

March 26, 2014

Despite God’s infinite power, he cannot force our free choice to love him. (It is a limitation of logic, not of power, that free-choices cannot be forced.) The Lord can invite and beckon, grant gifts of wisdom and liberation, but only we can give our “Yes.”

God accepts our sacrifices and offerings, but even more than what we have he desires the gift of what we are — that is, who we are — our very selves.

The Church is both Christian and Marian. The faithful say, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done” and “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”

God’s kingdom will come in its fullness even despite our stubborn “No” or, in part, because of our free “Yes.” However, let us answer, “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will,” so that we may personally share his glory, like Mary and Gabriel do today.

The Pentecost Project — Pentecost—Year C

May 18, 2013

Before Pentecost was a Christian celebration, it was an ancient Jewish observance. In the Old Covenant, in the Law of Moses, God commanded his people to bring some of the first grain harvested from their fields to Jerusalem be sacrificed as a burnt offering. This is the reason why Jews from so many distant countries were gathered in Jerusalem on this fiftieth day after Passover. Each Pentecost, the world’s first fruits were gathered and consecrated to the Lord. On one unique Pentecost, the Pentecost seven weeks after Jesus’ resurrection, Jews from every land were gathered by the Holy Spirit, and consecrated to God the Father, through Jesus Christ. By the end of Old Testament era, God had scattered the seeds of his chosen people across the world. On this Pentecost, the first fruits of his harvest are brought into his barn, the Church.

Pentecost can be seen as the beginning of the end of God’s project of salvation because we are now living in the world’s final era. And yet, Pentecost can also be seen as the start of a new divine project that will perdure forever. At the Tower of Babel, mankind endeavors to build a city reaching all the way to heaven. In other words, they attempt to become as gods while rejecting God. The Lord knows that this recurring human tendency leads to self-destruction, for both individuals and societies, so he thwarts their project by confusing their language. On Pentecost, God undoes Babel by allowing all peoples to understand the Apostles’ words, uniting and ennobling them. On this day, God begins in earnest to build up the Church, a new great city in communion with God that reaches all the way to heaven. Though heaven and earth pass away, this city of God, the Church, shall continue forever.

Why did the Holy Spirit come down in the form of fire? God the Holy Spirit, like the angels, is pure spirit and has no physical body. To be seen by human beings they must assume an appearance. Why did the Holy Spirit appear in the likeness of flames? Consider a different question: How many matches does it take to burn down a forest? The fire from just one small match is enough. As the small fire spreads, while remaining itself, it transforms everything around it. The holy fire that descended on Pentecost did not harm or destroy like natural fire would. The apostles may have been alarmed to see flames sailing towards their heads, but they were not burnt. The fire of the Holy Spirit is like the fire of the burning bush that Moses beheld in Exodus. Divine fire does not consume, but glorifies its hosts. Jesus once declared, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49) On Pentecost, a fire is lit in Jerusalem that spreads and transforms the world. This fire is the Holy Spirit at work.

All of salvation history was a preparation for Jesus Christ and Pentecost. Now we live in the last age of the world, the age of the Church, the city of God which shall last forever. Each of us is called to play an active part in this project of the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost, just as important as the gift of tongues given to the apostles was the Holy Spirit’s gift of fearless joy. Even after they had seen Jesus resurrected, the apostles timidly hid behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” But the reception of the Holy Spirit gave them a happy courage that allowed them to talk about Jesus in public to anyone who would listen. We have received the Holy Spirit also. Then why are we so timid? Why are we shy to introduce others to Jesus, our friend?  Why are we hesitant to welcome others to the Church, our community?  It seems that the Holy Spirit declines to act with power within us until we give him our free consent. Like he waited upon Mary’s response at the Annunciation, so the Holy Spirit awaits our invitation. Open yourself to the Holy Spirit’s will.  Ask him to give you new, powerful gifts. Give him permission to utilize you in the great project of salvation. And then, let us watch what he does through us.

Antes de Pentecostés era una fiesta cristiana, fue una celebración judía antigua. En el Antiguo Testamento, en la Ley de Moisés, Dios ordenó a su pueblo para llevar a algunos de los primeros granos cosechados de sus campos a Jerusalén ser sacrificado como ofrenda quemada. Esta es la razón Judios de muchos países lejanos se reunieron en Jerusalén en este quincuagésimo día después de la Pascua. Cada Pentecostés, las primicias del mundo se reunieron y se consagraron al Señor. Por un Pentecostés especial, siete semanas después de la resurrección de Jesús, Judios de todos los países se reunieron por el Espíritu Santo, y se consagraron a Dios Padre por medio de Jesucristo. Para el final de la época de del Antiguo Testamento, Dios había esparcido las semillas de su pueblo elegido a través del mundo. En este Pentecostés, los primeros frutos de su mies se llevan a su granero, la Iglesia.

Pentecostés se puede considerar como el comienzo del fin del proyecto de salvación de Dios porque estamos ahora viviendo en la época final del mundo. Y, sin embargo, Pentecostés se puede también ser visto como el comienzo de un nuevo divino proyecto que va a perdurar para siempre. A la Torre de Babel, la humanidad se esfuerza por construir una ciudad llegar al cielo. En otras palabras, ellos intentan convertirse en dioses mientras que rechazando a Dios. El Señor sabe que esta tendencia humana recurrente conduce a la auto-destrucción, tanto para los individuos y las sociedades. Por lo tanto, Dios frustra su proyecto a través de confundir su idioma. En Pentecostés, Dios deshace Babel a través de permitir que todos los pueblos a comprender las palabras de los apóstoles. Dios une a las gente y les ennoblece. En este día, Dios comienza en serio la edificación de la Iglesia, una nueva gran ciudad en comunión con Dios, que llega a todo el camino al cielo. Aunque el cielo y la tierra pueden pasar, esta ciudad de Dios, la Iglesia, continuará para siempre.

¿Por qué el Espíritu Santo descendió en forma de fuego? Dios el Espíritu Santo, como los ángeles, es espíritu puro y no tiene cuerpo físico. Para ser visto por los seres humanos deben asumir una apariencia. ¿Por qué el Espíritu Santo aparece en la imagen de las llamas? Considere una pregunta diferente: ¿Cuántas fósforos se necesitan para quemar un bosque? El fuego de un solo fósforo es suficiente. Como los pequeños fuego se extiende, sin dejar de ser ella misma, se transforma todo a su alrededor. El fuego sagrado que descendió en Pentecostés no dañar o destruir como el fuego natural. Los apóstoles pueden haber sentido la ansiedad a ver las llamas que vuelan hacia sus cabezas, pero no fueron quemados. El fuego del Espíritu Santo es como el fuego de la zarza ardiente que vio Moisés en Éxodo. Fuego divino no consume, pero glorifica a su moradas. Jesús una vez declaró: “Yo he venido a traer fuego sobre la tierra y ¡cuánto desearía que ya estuviera ardiendo!” (Lucas 12:49) En el día de Pentecostés, el fuego se enciende en Jerusalén, se extiende y transforma el mundo. Este fuego es el Espíritu Santo en el trabajo.

Toda la historia de la salvación fue una preparación para Cristo y Pentecostés. Ahora vivimos en la última época del mundo, la era de la Iglesia, la ciudad de Dios que durará para siempre. Cada uno de nosotros está llamado a desempeñar un papel activo en este proyecto delEspíritu Santo. En el día de Pentecostés, tan importante como el don de lenguas dadas a los apóstoles fue el don del Espíritu Santo de la alegría sin miedo. Aun después de que habían visto a Jesús resucitado, los apóstoles se escondían tímidamente detrás de puertas cerradas “por miedo de los Judios”. Sin embargo, la recepción delEspíritu Santo les dio un coraje feliz que les permitió hablar de Jesús en público a cualquier persona que escucharía. Hemos recibido el Espíritu Santo también. Entonces ¿por qué estamos tan tímido? ¿Por qué evitamos introducir a otros a Jesús, nuestro amigo? ¿Por qué estamos renuentes a dar la bienvenida a otros a nuestra Iglesia, nuestra comunidad? Parece que el Espíritu Santo se niega a actuar con el poder dentro de nosotros hasta que le demos nuestro consentimiento libre. Como él esperó a la respuesta de María en la Anunciación, del mismo modo el Espíritu Santo espera nuestra invitación. Ábrase a la voluntad delEspíritu Santo. Pídele que le dará nuevos, poderosos dones. Dará el Espíritu Santo permiso usarte más en su gran proyecto de salvación. Y luego, velemos lo que hace a través de nosotros.

Why Didn’t Jesus Stay? — The Ascension—Year C

May 11, 2013

Today, Jesus ascends with his human nature into heaven. He takes his seat at the right hand of the Father. There Jesus enjoys the greatest honor and intimacy with his Father and from heaven he reigns and intercedes for us. Yet I wonder on this Feast of the Ascension, “Why didn’t Jesus remain visibly with us, here on earth? Why not lead us as our king down here so that we could see and hear him?”

Some would argue that Jesus was limited by his humanity—that Jesus’ human nature prevented him from being at more than one place at a time. They would say that Jesus could preach today in Chicago or heal the sick in Rio de Janeiro, but he cannot do both simultaneously—reigning from heaven allows Jesus to be more present to every place and every person. However, Jesus is not limited in this way by his glorified human nature. Several saints have manifested the gift of bi-location during their lifetimes. Most recently and famously, St. Padre Pio was often at more than one place at the same time. Surely, if Jesus’ saints can possess this power then the Lord Jesus would as well. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrates that his humanity can be more than one place simultaneously through his Real Presence in the Eucharist. Though veiled under the appearances of bread and wine, the entire living person of Jesus (including his body and blood, soul and divinity) is truly present in the Eucharist.

So if Jesus can be physically present in as many places as he wishes, why is he not visibly reigning in millions of places in roles here on earth? For instance, why isn’t Jesus the pastor at every parish church and the bishop in every diocese? One major reason why Jesus rejects this approach is that he wants us to share in his work, his mission, and his glory. Jesus wants you and I to have a part in saving our family and friends and the world. Jesus prayed to his Father at the Last Supper, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world,” (John 17:18) and Jesus told his disciples after his resurrection, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). You and I are sent to do and continue the works that we have seen Jesus do. As Jesus once said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). It is not easy to live as Jesus Christ in the world, but this is our great vocation. For this reason, we must receive the force from on high. Pray for the deeper gifts that the Lord wants to give you through the Holy Spirit, whose coming in power we will celebrate next Sunday.

Hoy, Jesús asciende con su naturaleza humana al cielo. Jesús se sentó a la derecha del Padre. Allí Jesús disfruta del mayor honor y la intimidad con su Padre y él reina e intercede por nosotros desde el cielo. Sin embargo, me pregunto en esta fiesta de la Ascensión: “¿Por qué Jesús no permanecen visiblemente con nosotros, aquí en la tierra? ¿Por qué no quedarse aquí como nuestro rey para que nosotros pudiéramos verlo y escucharlo?”

Algunos podrían argumentar que Jesús estaba limitado por su humanidad-que la naturaleza humana de Jesús no poder estar en más de un lugar al mismo tiempo. Dirían que Jesús pudo predicar hoy en Chicago o curar a los enfermos en Río de Janeiro, pero lo no puede hacer ambas cosas al mismo tiempo—reinante desde el cielo permite que Jesús sea más presente a todo lugar y persona. Sin embargo, Jesús no se limita de esta manera por su naturaleza humana glorificada. Varios santos han manifestado el don de la bilocación durante sus vidas. Más recientemente y famosamente, San Padre Pio fue visto a menudo en más de un lugar al mismo tiempo. Seguramente, si los santos de Jesús pueden poseer este poder, entonces el Señor Jesús lo haría también. De hecho, Jesús demuestra que su humanidad puede haber más de un lugar al mismo tiempo a través de su presencia real en la Eucaristía. Aunque velado bajo las especies del pan y del vino, toda de la persona viva de Jesús (incluyendo su cuerpo y sangre, alma y divinidad) está realmente presente en la Eucaristía.

Si Jesús puede estar presente físicamente en tantos lugares como él desea, ¿por qué Jesús no reinando visiblemente en millones de funciones aquí en la tierra? Por ejemplo, ¿por qué Jesús no es el pastor en cada parroquia y el obispo en cada diócesis? Una gran razón Jesús rechazado este método es que él quiere que compartamos en su trabajo, su misión y su gloria. Jesús quiere que ustedes y yo tener una parte en salvando a nuestras familias, y nuestros amigos, y nuestro mundo. Jesús oró a su Padre en la Última Cena: “Como tú me enviaste al mundo, yo los envío también al mundo,” (Juan 17:18) y Jesús dijo a sus discípulos después de su resurrección: “Como el Padre me envió a mí, así yo los envío a ustedes,” (Juan 20:21). Ustedes y yo estamos envió a hacer y continuar los trabajos que hemos visto hacer a Jesús. Como Jesús dijo una vez: “Ciertamente les aseguro que el que cree en mí las obras que yo hago también él las hará, y aun las hará mayores, porque yo vuelvo al Padre,” (Juan 14:12). No es fácil vivir como Jesús Cristo en el mundo, pero este es nuestro gran vocación. Por esta razón, debemos recibir la fuerza de lo alto. Ore por los dones más profundos que el Señor Jesús quiere darte a través delEspíritu Santo, cuya venida en el poder vamos a celebrar el próximo domingo.

Baptize Him? — Baptism of the Lord—Year C

March 3, 2013

We can understand why God chose water as his sacramental instrument. Water is a rich symbol. Water cleans things. Baptism, likewise, cleanses from sin. Water is essential to life, all living creatures depend upon it. Baptism, likewise, gives us divine life. Water is ordinary but precious, like Jesus Christ incarnate. But why is Jesus baptized today? He has no sins and he already has divine life, so why does he seek baptism?

From ancient times, water has also been a symbol of death. Deep waters, such as the temperamental sea, can be dangerous. Going underwater is a symbol of death. Baptism, likewise, immerses us in Jesus’ death and his resurrection. Jesus was not born, baptized, nor sacrificed for his own sake, but for ours. He becomes one of us in life and death so that we may be united to him through these things.

When Jesus comes out of the water, God the Holy Spirit descends and rests upon him. God the Father speaks and declares from heaven, “You are my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” When you were baptized, you came out of the water with Jesus. The Holy Spirit came to rest upon you, and the Father has considered you his child ever since. Now, when the Father gazes on you, he sees his beloved Son. Therefore, call on the power of the Holy Spirit in your needs, and always find peaceful rest in the reality of your sonship.

Podemos entender por qué Dios escogió agua como su instrumento sacramental. El agua es un símbolo rico. El agua limpia las cosas. Bautismo, del mismo modo, limpia de pecado. El agua es esencial para la vida, todos los seres vivos dependen de ella. Bautismo, del mismo modo, nos da la vida divina. El agua es normal, pero precioso, del mismo modo Jesús Cristo encarnado. Pero ¿por qué es bautizado Jesús hoy? Él no tiene pecados y ya tiene la vida divina, así que ¿por qué busca el bautismo?

Desde la antigüedad, el agua ha sido también un símbolo de la muerte. Las aguas profundas, tales como el mar tempermental, pueden ser peligroso. El ir bajo el agua es un símbolo de la muerte. Bautismo, del mismo modo, nos sumerge en la muerte de Jesús y su resurrección. Jesús no nació, bautizado, ni sacrificado por su propio bien, sino para el nuestro. Se convierte en uno de nosotros en la vida y la muerte, para que podamos estar unidos a él a través de estas cosas.

Cuando Jesús sale del agua, Dios el Espíritu Santo desciende y se posa sobre él. Dios el Padre habla y declara desde el cielo: “Tú eres mi hijo, el predilecto; en ti me complazco.” Cuando usted fue bautizado, usted salió de la agua con Jesús. El Espíritu Santo se posó sobre ti, y el Padre ha considerado que su hijo desde entonces. Ahora, cuando el Padre mira en usted, ve a su amado Hijo en usted. Por lo tanto, llamamiento a las potencias del Espíritu Santo en sus necesidades, y siempre encontrar descanso tranquilo en la realidad de su filiación.

Great Gifts — Epiphany of the Lord

March 3, 2013

Today we celebrate the Epiphany. Today the magi from the East arrive in Bethlehem. They do not come on Christmas day, but much later, months or perhaps a year later. The Holy Family has moved from the stable into a house. The magi enter the house and find the child with his mother, Mary. (This is still true today, for we will find Jesus wherever Mary is.) The magi bow down before the little one and give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These are strange gifts for an ordinary child, but they are poetically appropriate for Jesus.

Still today, gold symbolizes wealth and power. They give Jesus gold because he is a king, the newborn king of the Jews. Since ancient times, incense has been used in temples and chapels for the worship of God. Jesus should be offered incense because he is not only our great high priest but he is also God. Myrrh is a fragrant spice which people formerly used to prepare dead bodies for burial. Jesus shall be the divine and human sacrifice who will die for us.

The gospel tells us that the magi went back home by another way. Our ways should change after encountering the Christ child. He is our king. He comes not to dominate, but to liberate, yet he demands our obedience. We need to read the gospels and adopt the habits he teaches. Imagine how the world would be different if everyone did this. At first, we can be converted ourselves, but this by itself is enough to make our lives, our families, and our community noticeably better.

The baby Jesus comes to us in the least intimidating way conceivable. Do not fear the infant Jesus, like King Herod did. Do not fear his kingship over you. Let Jesus be the Lord of your life.

Hoy celebramos la Epifanía. Hoy los magos de Oriente llegan a Belén. Los magos no vienen en el día de Navidad, pero más tarde, tal vez meses o un año más tarde. La Sagrada Familia se ha movido desde el establo en una casa. Los magos entran en la casa y encontrar al niño con su madre, María. (Esto es aún cierto hoy, vamos a encontrar a Jesús donde María está.) Los magos se postran ante del pequeño y le dan regalos de oro, incienso y mirra. Estos son regalos extraños para un niño ordinario, sino les son apropiados para Jesús.

Aún hoy, el oro simboliza la riqueza y el poder. Los magos dan a Jesús oro, porque él es un rey, el rey recién nacido.  Desde tiempos antiguos, el incienso se ha utilizado en los templos y capillas para la adoración de Dios. Jesús se debe ofrecer incienso, porque no es sólo nuestro gran sumo sacerdote, sino que también es Dios. Mirra es una especia aromática que la gente antiguamente utiliza para preparar los cadáveres para el entierro. Jesús será el sacrificio divino y humano que va a morir por nosotros.

El Evangelio nos dice que los magos regresaron a a su tierra por otro camino. Nuestros caminos se debe cambiar después de encontrarse con el niño Jesús. Él es nuestro rey. Él no viene a dominar sino para liberar, sin embargo, demanda nuestra obediencia. Debemos leer los evangelios y adoptar los hábitos de que enseña. Imagínese cómo el mundo sería diferente si todo el mundo lo hizo. Al principio, puede ser convertido a nosotros mismos, pero esto, por sí misma, es suficiente para hacer que nuestras vidas, nuestras familias y nuestra comunidad notablemente mejores.

El niño Jesús viene a nosotros en la forma menos intimidante concebible.  No temas al niño Jesús, como el rey Herodes hizo.  No tengas miedo de su reinado sobre ti.  Permita que Jesús sea el Señor de tu vida.

Into Her Hands — January 1 — Mary the Mother of God

March 3, 2013

Why do we call Mary the mother of God? Some Protestants hesitate to call Mary this because they don’t know what we mean by it. It is true that Mary did not give birth to either God the Father or the Holy Spirit. Mary is not an eternal mother-goddess. However, this human woman, whom God created, did give birth to Jesus Christ. Since Jesus is divine, Jesus is God, and therefore Mary is truly the Mother of God. We begin this new year of our Lord celebrating his mother by this awesome title.

Sometimes Protestant Christians fear that we Catholics put Mary ahead of Jesus. This is a silly fear. We celebrate Mary because we celebrate her Son. Mary is important because Jesus is so important. Mary is so wonderful because Jesus is so wonderful. He is the Sun, she is the moon. Her radiance, her beauty, her goodness, her love, they all shine bright, but her light is only a reflection of His.

On this first day of this new year of our Lord, let us entrust our lives into the soft hands of Mary. God the Father entrusted his Son into those kind hands. She will look after us too, and always lead us to her son.

¿Por qué llamamos María “la madre de Dios?” Algunos protestantes temen llamar María esta porque no saben lo que significa. Es verdad que María no hizo nacer Dios el Padre o el Espíritu Santo. María no es una eterna diosa madre. Sin embargo, esta mujer humana, que Dios creó, nació Jesucristo. Puesto que Jesús es divino, Jesús es Dios, por lo que María es verdaderamente la Madre de Dios. Comenzamos este nuevo año de nuestro Señor celebrando su madre por este gran título.

A veces los cristianos protestantes temen que ponemos María delante de Jesús. Pero celebramos a María porque celebramos su hijo. María es importante porque Jesús es tan importante. María es tan maravilloso porque Jesús es tan maravilloso. Él es el Sol, mientras que ella es la luna. Resplandor de María, su belleza, su bondad, su amor, todos brillan, pero su luz es sólo un reflejo de Jesús.

En este primer día de este nuevo año de nuestro Señor, encomendamos nuestras vidas en las manos suaves de María. Dios el Padre ha confiado a su Hijo en las manos amables. Ella cuidará de nosotros también, y siempre nos llevan a su hijo.

Independence Day Homily

July 4, 2011


What is the most important and the most famous sentence ever coined in the English language? I believe it was a declarative sentence, of thirty-five words, published two hundred and thirty-five years ago today.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Like a passage of Sacred Scripture, this sentence from the Declaration of Independence was more profound, and would effect more providential good, than its human authors ever imagined.

In their original context, these words from the Declaration of Independence were written to justify the American colonies’ separation from the English crown. At that time, many people believed in the divine right of kings, that a monarch had been invested by God with supreme authority to rule. There was precedent for this in the Old Testament, where God chose Saul, David, Solomon, and others to rule His people as anointed kings. In declaring that “all men are created equal,” the Founding Fathers were rejecting the idea that some men are born royal while others are born common. They further asserted that God Himself endows every man with certain rights, and that any government which deprives men of these rights may be justly replaced by its people. In this way, the signers justified the American Revolution.

How much did the Founding Father reflect on how their words about the equality of all men applied to men of color, such as those enduring intergenerational slavery? How much did they consider what these God-given rights required for the female segment of mankind? I would say that these words, like a passage of Sacred Scripture, carried truths more profound than their human authors knew.

These were providential words, for they have been, and continue to be, instrumental in the work of advancing and defending the rights and dignity of all people, from conception to natural death, in our country and around the world. Wherever our nation has failed to embody these words, we look back with shame; but wherever we have honored human dignity, these represent our proudest moments. Martin Luther King Jr. called these words our nation’s creed, and like him we have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….”

This Fourth of July, let us thank God for this great gift to our country. Let us praise God for endowing each one of us with dignity and rights which every person and every government must respect. And in the future, let us remember and remind our neighbors, that if our country allows government and men to become our gods, human dignity and human rights will be swiftly brushed aside. Like the Psalmist, may our country always say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,my God, in whom I trust.”

The Emmaus Travelers — 3rd Sunday in Easter—Year A

May 7, 2011

Let’s start off with a riddle… Once, a father and his son were driving along in the country together when they got into a terrible car crash. They were both seriously injured and ambulances rushed them to two different hospitals. But when the boy was brought into the Emergency Room, the surgeon on duty saw him and declared, “I can’t operate on him. He’s my son.” How can this be…? The trick of the riddle is that we tend to assume that surgeons will be male. The answer is that the surgeon is the boy’s mother.

There is a similar trick of the mind at work when we hear the story of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus; we always assume that they were two men. It’s not wonder, since virtually every painting of the encounter on the road to Emmaus will show Jesus with two men. For example, look at the relief on the front of our altar. Many people assume that this is a depiction of the Last Supper (but that there are only two apostles shown because we had to crop it down to size.) Actually, this scene is from after His Passion—you can see crosses on the hill in the distance and there are wound marks in Jesus’ hands. What we have here is to two men at the house in Emmaus, shocked to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

The artistic depictions always show two men [the picture on the right being the only possible exception I could find], however the original Greek does not call them “two men,” or even “two disciples.” It only says there were “two of them” and that one of them was a man named Cleopas. As to the name and gender of the other traveler, the gospel text is silent. Perhaps the second person’s identity is left as a mystery so as to invite any of us to imagine ourselves in their place in this story. This may be the extent of what we can know for certain, but there is an interesting clue from another Gospel that suggests more detail.

In Gospel of John, it says that “standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas….” (John 19:25) So we have a Clopas and Cleopas both associated with Jesus. Perhaps these similar names are merely a coincidence, but perhaps Clopas and Cleopas are variations of the same person’s name. If Clopas and Cleopas are one in the same person, then the other traveler on the road was probably his wife, Mary. This Mary was most likely either Jesus’ aunt and the sister of St. Joseph, or one of the cousins of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What we do know for certain is that this Mary stood with Jesus’ mother at the foot of the cross.

Admittedly, it is speculation to say the other traveler was Cleopas’ wife, but if it was, then this Resurrection episode has a much greater poetry. In the Garden of Eden, a husband and wife ate from a tree. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked.” They felt ashamed and afraid. But in the house at Emmaus, a husband and wife ate the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of the cross. “With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him.” They felt joyful and unafraid. In Eden, God moved about the garden with the man and the woman. After the resurrection, Jesus walks with us, both men and women, along our road.

But whether that second traveler on the road was a woman or not, it would be a remain mistake to think that only men were important in the early Church. That would be at least as mistaken as thinking that every surgeon is a male. Jesus Christ chose some men to be the Church’s leaders, and much is said about them in the Scriptures, but He chose to spread the good news about Himself through the witness of women as well.

Though we sing of the “Faith of Our Fathers,” the faith of our mothers has been just as important, if not more, through time. Today,  it is oftentimes mom who takes the forefront in fostering faith in the family, in leading her children to Christ and His Church; through bedtime prayers and Bible stories, by bringing them to Mass and to CCD, in seeing to it that they receive the graces of the sacraments. If you feel like you’re alone in witnessing to the faith in your family, I commend you, and Jesus is proud of you.

There is another trick of the mind when it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day. On Mother’s Day we remember our mothers, who gave us birth and nurtured us, who raised us and put up with us, but we tend to forget about the greatest gift, the gift of our faith. At the Easter vigil the Exultet asks: “What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our redeemer?” Indeed, what good would life be to us if after our births we had not also been brought to Christ through the witness of holy women. Who were these holy women in your life? At this Mother’s Day Mass, let us remember and pray not only for our mothers in the natural order, but for each of our spiritual mothers as well.