Sunday, June 17, 2018

El plan de Dios para su reino


Homilía: 11º Domingo de Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo B
          Una de las ideologías más prevalentes de nuestro día—una, de hecho, que cubre muchas otras ideologías—es que podemos hacernos a nosotros mismos. Esta es la idea de que no hay un plan establecido para nuestras vidas, por eso nuestro trabajo es decidir qué queremos hacer con nuestras vidas y luego hacerlo. Sin embargo, nuestras escrituras de hoy nos recuerdan que hay un plan, mucho más grande que nosotros, de que Dios está trabajando a nuestro alrededor y con el que quiere que cooperemos para lograr su reino; y que nuestra plenitud no viene cuando nos hacemos a nosotros mismos, sino cuando participamos en el plan de Dios. Echemos un vistazo a lo que quiero decir.
          Como todas las buenas ideologías, la ideología que podemos hacernos a nosotros mismos está fundada en la verdad. Habiendo sido creados a la imagen y semejanza de Dios, tenemos libertad para determinar nuestras vidas. Esto es importante: porque sin esta libertad, seríamos menos que humanos. Pero donde la ideología sale mal es cuando asume que nuestra libertad comienza con una pizarra en blanco. En otras palabras, la ideología que afirma que podemos hacernos a nosotros mismos asume que podemos ser lo que queramos—es decir, que, si somos libres, estamos libres de todas las restricciones— entonces debemos determinar por nosotros mismos a qué seremos y luego salir y hacerlo por nosotros mismos.
          Este tipo de libertad ciertamente puede llevarnos lejos; y pensar más allá de todas las restricciones nos ha ayudado a lograr cosas increíbles (la exploración espacial es una de las más increíble, en mi opinión). Tiene el potencial de llevarnos a una gran satisfacción en nuestras vidas—como cuando nos proponemos alcanzar un sueño y luego lograrlo—pero también puede llevarnos a las profundidades de la desesperación cuando nos damos cuenta de que los objetivos sobre que había establecido todas nuestras esperanzas se volvieran inalcanzables (o, aún peor, cuando logramos los objetivos y descubrimos que el logro fue decepcionante). En cualquier caso, sin embargo, se pierde mucho porque esta idea de libertad no tiene en cuenta el visto total: que hay un plan, mucho más grande que nosotros, de que Dios está trabajando a nuestro alrededor y con el que quiere que cooperemos. Este es el mensaje en nuestras escrituras hoy.
          En la primera lectura y la lectura del Evangelio, escuchamos acerca de cómo los planes de Dios están trabajando misteriosamente a nuestro alrededor para construir su reino. En el pasaje bellamente poético del profeta Ezequiel, escuchamos una alegoría de cómo Dios construirá su reino. De las muchas ramas del árbol de cedro, que representan a las muchas naciones del mundo, algunas grandes y fuertes, otras menos, Dios elegirá una rama tierna y joven de la cima del árbol, es decir, una nación que no parece significativo, y él lo quitará del árbol y lo plantará en un lugar bueno donde no solo crecerá, sino que crecerá y se mantendrá por encima de todas las demás naciones. Será fructífero, es decir, próspero, y las aves del aire, es decir, los pueblos de todas las naciones, se congregarán hacia él para anidar entre sus ramas.
          Nótese en esta alegoría que la rama tierna no elige por sí misma ser removida del árbol y plantada en el lugar donde puede crecer para ser más grande que el árbol del cual fue tomada. Más bien, es Dios quien elige la rama y el lugar donde se plantará para que pueda florecer y convertirse en el lugar al que se congregarán todas las aves del cielo. En otras palabras, la "rama tierna" no podría convertirse en el reino de Dios, ni tampoco se mostró digna, sino que cooperó con Dios y su plan trabajando a través de él para alcanzar el florecimiento completo por el cual Dios lo había hecho.
          Este es el mensaje para nosotros. Ciertamente, podemos hacer mucho de nosotros mismos en este mundo por nuestra propia cuenta. Sin embargo, nunca alcanzaremos la grandeza que Dios quiere para nosotros trabajando por nuestra cuenta. Por el contrario, debemos reconocer que, si existimos, no existimos para nosotros solos, sino para un propósito mayor: que es ser parte de un plan que está trabajando a nuestro alrededor, orquestado por Dios, para producir su reino: el reino en el que todos descubrirán el pleno florecimiento de la felicidad (que es la imagen de las aves del aire que anidan en las ramas de los árboles). Nos convertimos en parte del plan cuando usamos nuestra libertad para elegir cooperar con él.
          Como la lectura del Evangelio nos muestra, esta cooperación no necesita ser muy complicada. En ella, Jesús nos da dos parábolas sobre el Reino de Dios. "¿Cómo es el Reino de Dios?", pregunta el. Bueno, es como semillas sembradas en un campo. El granjero los siembra y se convierten en parte de la tierra. Luego, a través del misterio de la naturaleza, comienzan a crecer y finalmente producen fruto. El granjero, después de haber observado todo esto, viene a recoger la cosecha.
          Para nosotros, esta imagen simple se aplica todavía. Nuestro llamado bautismal es simple: esparcir las semillas del Evangelio en los corazones de quienes nos rodean. Hacemos esto cuando hablamos sobre nuestra fe, y les decimos a otros cómo el amor de Cristo ha hecho una diferencia positiva en nuestras vidas, y con nuestras buenas obras, demostrando que el amor que recibimos es un amor incondicional que suplica ser derramada a los demás. Luego, después de esparcir estas semillas de fe, y al regarlas con nuestro constante testimonio de ello, esperamos mientras Dios trabaja misteriosamente en los corazones donde se han sembrado estas semillas. Pronto, comenzamos a ver los frutos de nuestras labores en la forma de conversiones a la fe o en el cumplimiento de las vocaciones al sagrado matrimonio, el sacerdocio y la vida religiosa: todos los cuales son los frutos cosechados del Reino de Dios.
          En la segunda parábola, Jesús nuevamente describe el Reino en términos simples. Él dice que el Reino de Dios es como un grano de mostaza y señala que, aunque es una de las semillas más pequeñas, no obstante produce un gran arbusto en el que las aves pueden anidar. Lo que él enfatiza es que algo pequeño y aparentemente insignificante puede, a través del trabajo misterioso de Dios, convertirse en algo significativo que puede beneficiar a muchos. Al hacerlo, nos recuerda que incluso nuestras más pequeñas obras buenas—un simple gesto o una sonrisa o una palabra amable en una situación tensa—cosas que no parecen dignas de decir o hacer—pueden ser y son usadas por Dios para producir grandes frutos en las vidas de otros.
          Este es un gran ejemplo para nuestros padres aquí hoy. Aunque rara vez es fácil, la tarea de ser padre es simple. No existe una fórmula mágica, excepto amar a sus hijos y a su cónyuge, orar por y con su familia, enseñarle a su familia la fe y dar ejemplo de vivirla en su propia vida, y defender valientemente la verdad, tanto en su casa y en la plaza pública. Estas son las semillas de la fe que ustedes, como padres, están llamados a sembrar. Estas son las semillas que Dios usará para producir una gran cosecha para su Reino.
          Hermanos, somos libres de hacer de nosotros mismos casi todo lo que deseamos. Pero si un Dios todopoderoso, omnisciente e infinitamente amoroso ya tiene un plan para nuestra felicidad eterna, ¿por qué querríamos seguir nuestros propios planes? ¿Por qué no, en cambio, entregarnos a cooperar con su plan, en el que se nos promete encontrar un gran plenitud y paz? Démonos, pues, a esta buena obra de plantar las semillas del reino de Dios: porque cuando lo hagamos, descubriremos que la felicidad que estábamos persiguiendo, en realidad nos ha perseguido a nosotros, y al reino de Dios, el tierno ramo que había sido plantado aquí entre nosotros, florecerá para atraer a todos los hijos de Dios a sí mismo.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
17 de junio, 2018

God's plan for the kingdom


Homily: 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          One of the most prevalent ideologies of our day—one, in fact, that covers many other ideologies—is that we make can make ourselves.  This is the idea that there is no set plan for our lives and so our job is simply to decide what we want to make of it and then to go and do it.  Our scriptures today remind us, however, that there is a plan, much bigger than us, that God is working around us and with which he wants us to cooperate so as to bring about his kingdom; and that our fulfillment comes not when we make ourselves, but when we participate in God’s plan.  Let’s take a look at what I mean.
          Like all good ideologies, the ideology that we can make ourselves is founded in truth.  Having been created in the image and likeness of God, we have freedom to determine our lives.  This is important: because, without this freedom, we would be less than human.  But where the ideology goes wrong is when it assumes that our freedom begins with a blank slate.  In other words, the ideology that states that we can make ourselves assumes that we can be anything we desire—that is, that, if we are free, we are free from all restrictions—and so we must determine for ourselves what we are going to be and then go out and do it ourselves.
          This type of freedom can certainly take us far; and thinking beyond all restrictions has helped us to achieve amazing things (space exploration being one of the most amazing ones, in my opinion).  It has the potential to lead us to great satisfaction in our lives—like when we set out to achieve a dream and then achieve it—but it also can lead us to the depths of despair—like when we realize that the goals upon which we had set all our hopes become unachievable (or, even worse, when we achieve the goals and find the achievement disappointing).  In either case, however, much is lost because this idea of freedom doesn’t take into account the bigger picture: that there is a plan, much bigger than us, that God is working around us and with which he wants us to cooperate.  This is the message in our scriptures today.
          In the first reading and the reading from the Gospel, we hear about how God’s plans are working mysteriously around us in order to build his kingdom.  In the beautifully poetic passage from the prophet Ezekiel, we heard an allegory for how God will build his kingdom.  From the many branches of the cedar tree, which represent the many nations of the world, some big and strong, others less so, God will choose a tender, young branch from the top of the tree, that is, a nation that doesn’t seem significant, and he will remove it from the tree and plant it in a choice place where not only will it grow, but it will grow and stand tall above all of the other nations.  It will be fruitful, meaning prosperous, and the birds of the air, meaning the peoples of all nations, will flock towards it to nest among its branches.
          Notice in this allegory that the tender branch doesn’t choose on its own to be removed from the tree and planted on the place where it can grow to be greater than the tree from which it was taken.  Rather, it is God who chooses the branch and the place where it would be planted so that it can flourish and become the place to which all the birds of the air will flock.  In other words, the “tender branch” couldn’t make itself into God’s kingdom, nor did it prove itself worthy, but rather cooperated with God and his plan working through it in order to achieve the full flourishing for which God had made it.
          This is the message for us.  Certainly, we can make a lot of ourselves in this world by our own doing.  We will never achieve the greatness that God wants for us by working on our own, however.  Rather, we must recognize that, if we exist, we do not exist for ourselves alone, but for a greater purpose: which is to be part of a plan that is working around us, orchestrated by God, to bring about his kingdom: the kingdom in which everyone will discover the full flourishing of happiness (which is the image of the birds of the air that nest in the tree’s branches).  We become part of the plan when we use our freedom to choose to cooperate with it.
          As the Gospel reading shows us, this cooperation doesn’t need to be very complicated.  In it, Jesus gives us two parables about the Kingdom of God.  “What is the Kingdom of God like?”, he asks.  Well, it’s like seeds sown in a field.  The farmer sows them and they become part of the earth.  Then, through the mystery of nature, they begin to grow and eventually produce fruit.  The farmer, having watched all of this, then comes to reap the harvest. 
          For us, this simple image still applies.  Our baptismal call is a simple one of spreading the seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of those around us.  We do this when we speak about our faith, telling others how the love of Christ has made a positive difference in our lives, and by our good works, showing that the love we receive is an unconditional love that begs to spill out to others.  Then, after spreading these seeds of faith, and by watering them by our constant witness to it, we wait as God then works mysteriously in the hearts where these seeds have been sown.  Soon, we begin to see the fruits of our labors in the form of conversions to the faith or in the fulfillment of vocations to Holy Marriage, the priesthood and the religious life: all of which are the harvested fruits of the Kingdom of God.
          In the second parable, Jesus again describes the Kingdom in simple terms.  He says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed and notes that, though one of the smallest seeds, it nonetheless produces a large bush in which birds can make their nest.  What he is emphasizing is that something small and seemingly insignificant can—through God’s mysterious work—grow into something significant that can benefit many.  In doing so, he reminds us that even our smallest good works—a simple gesture, or a smile, or a kind word in a tense situation—things that don’t seem worth saying or doing—can and are used by God to produce great fruits in the lives of others.
          This is a great example for our fathers here today.  Though rarely easy, the task of being a father is simple.  There is no magic formula except to love your children and your spouse, to pray for and with your family, to teach your family the faith and to give example of living it in your own life, and to courageously stand up for the truth—both in your home and in the public square.  These are the seeds of faith that you as fathers are called to sow.  These are the seeds that God will use to produce a great harvest for his Kingdom.
          Friends, we are free to make of ourselves nearly anything that we desire.  But if an all-powerful, all-knowing, and infinitely loving God already has a plan for our eternal happiness, why would we want to follow our own plans?  Why not, instead, give ourselves over to cooperating with his plan, in which we are promised to find great fulfillment and peace?  Let us give ourselves, then, to this good work of planting the seeds of God’s kingdom: for when we do, we’ll find that the happiness that we were pursuing, has actually been pursuing us; and God’s kingdom, the tender shoot that has been planted here among us, will flourish so as to draw all of God’s children back to himself.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 17th, 2018

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Satan's most dangerous attack


Temptation and the Fall of Eve by William Blake
Homily: 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          Although we’ve been back in “Ordinary Time” for a couple of weeks now, we’ve been occupied with the celebrations of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi.  This weekend, we celebrate the first “ordinary” Sunday in Ordinary Time since February 11th.  As we know, Ordinary Time is the time for us to focus on growing as disciples of Christ.  One of the ways that we do that is to identify and remove any obstacles to our discipleship.  Interesting, therefore, that our scriptures today speak a lot about the enemies of God and their influence in the world.  Perhaps, therefore, we can take a moment to talk about the ways that Satan attacks us.  In doing so, hopefully we’ll all be a little less fearful of these ways and, thus, strengthened to resist Satan and his influence as we strive to grow and live as disciples of Christ.
          Satan attacks us in many ways: some of them quite dramatic and frightening.  The rarest, yet most dramatic of these of is demonic possession.  This is where an evil spirit gains access to control a person’s body.  Almost always this occurs when someone gets involved with the occult, spiritsm, or witchcraft (Ouija boards included!).  There’s the old legend that a “vampire can’t enter your house unless you invite him.”  The invitation that one gives to an evil spirt isn’t always explicit, but when participating in these “dark arts” activities, the door is opened and a “Welcome” mat is laid out.
          One who has been possessed by an evil spirit will then begin to experience “crises”, in which the evil spirit temporarily takes control of the person’s body and can manifest certain phenomena, such as: extraordinary physical strength and speaking and understanding languages that the person never studied.  To free the person of this evil spirit, the Church offers exorcism.  Exorcism consists of a series of prayers and sacramentals performed by a priest who has been specially trained and designated by the bishop.  This ritual makes the demon suffer so much that, eventually (and if the person is cooperative) the demon will just give up and leave.  Although Hollywood tends to overdramatize the acting out of these rituals, they are, nonetheless, dramatic.  Thankfully, however, the need for such exorcisms is much rarer than Hollywood would like you to believe.
          Besides possession, there are also some other extra-ordinary ways that Satan attacks us.  Sometimes, Satan and his fallen angels cause frightening physical disturbances in certain places or even to our own bodies.  These can take the forms of loud or strange noises, slamming doors or windows, being moved around physically by an invisible force, or even more alarming effects.  When these physical disturbances are concentrated in certain places (a home or a room), they are called demonic infestation.  When they directly affect someone's body (not from within, as in possession, but from the outside) they are called demonic oppression.  When they bother someone's mind (filling it constantly with blasphemous thoughts), they are called demonic obsession.  Blessings, holy water, and other prayers and sacramentals are strong defenses against these kinds attacks.
          These extra-ordinary kinds of attacks are, of course, dramatic and frightening.  But they are much, much less frequent, and much, much less dangerous than the Satan’s favorite tactic for attacking us.  What is it?  Temptation.  While possession, infestation, oppression, and obsession can frighten us (and potentially cause us to lose faith in God), they usually lead us to exercise our faith in order to be rid of them.  Temptation, on the other hand, tries to lead us into sin; and sin is the only thing that separate us from God.  Thus, while much less frightening (in fact, it’s often quite the opposite!), temptation is much more dangerous.
          If we need an example of this, just look at Adam and Eve.  Satan did not possess them, he did not make the trees dance around inexplicably, he didn’t bully them (pushing them around or disturbing their sleep), and he didn’t assail them constantly with thoughts of cursing God.  Rather, he tempted them.  He tempted them to doubt God’s truthfulness and they took the bait.  Having no other reason to keep from eating the fruit of that tree than that God had said not to, Eve perceived no harm could come from it and so took the fruit and ate it; and Adam after her.  Their blindness then removed, however, they could see the truth of what had happened and so felt ashamed.  When God came looking for them, they hid not because they were naked (although that is the excuse Adam used), but because they didn’t want to face God, whose trust they had betrayed.
          What happens next in the reading, however, leaves me feeling a bit jealous of Adam and Eve.  God’s punishment against the serpent was that there would be “enmity” between him and Eve: meaning that Eve would now be frightened to see the serpent, so that she would never trust him or his temptations ever again.  In other words, Adam and Eve would know their tempter and so be better equipped to resist the temptations.
          We are not so lucky.  When we are tempted, quite rarely is our tempter visible to us.  If he is, it is usually someone who seems rather friendly or trustworthy.  It would be so much easier if all our tempters were repulsive to us, right?, like the serpent was made repulsive to Eve.  Still more, because of our fallen nature, we suffer from a disordered desire for the things of this world (which our tradition calls “concupiscence”).  In this case, all we have is the forbidden fruit before our eyes, which looks “pleasing to the eyes”, and which, perhaps, has never been explicitly declared to be “forbidden”, and an urge to take it.  Adam and Eve had a lot more going for them and they still fell into sin.  Given our situation, then, our efforts to resist temptation might seem hopeless.
          For the Christian, however, it is not hopeless; and Jesus’ parables in the Gospel reading show us why.  In today’s reading, Jesus was accused of being possessed by the devil or being in “cahoots” with the devil himself.  Jesus condemns those calling him possessed: for in calling him “possessed by an evil spirit”, they were accusing the Holy Spirit of being evil (which is the unforgivable “sin against the Holy Spirit” about which he spoke).  Then he gives two parables to prove that he is not on Satan’s “team”, but rather stands against him.  The first using logic to say that a kingdom divided cannot stand; and so, if he is on Satan’s “team”, then don’t worry because Satan will soon fall.  The second to illustrate what he is actually doing:  Jesus is the one who has come to tie up the “strong man” (that is, Satan) so that he could “plunder his property” (that is, take back the souls of God’s children).
          This, then, is the reason for our hope: that when we can’t see the tempter working his wiles on us (either because he takes the form of someone seemingly trustworthy or because he introduces sinful thoughts), we nonetheless have the power of Christ available to us and his example of self-sacrifice to guide us to choose God’s will over our own, sinful inclinations.  Christ will bind the “strong man” once again when we call on him in temptation so that we might be liberated from his grasp.
          Still, we have to do our own work: that is, we must pray, frequent the sacraments (especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation), and we must practice virtue in our daily actions.  In doing these things, temptations will become increasingly repulsive to us, because we will be seeing the one who is tempting us, the serpent from the Garden, and we will be strengthened to overcome them.  This, my friends, is our “Ordinary Time” work: to make temptations repulsive so that we can stay focused on Jesus.  Let us take up this good work, then, trusting that God, who has begun this good work in us, will bring it to completion.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 9th & 10th, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

La Sangre que nos hace Familia



Homilía: El Santísimo Cuerpo y Sangre de Cristo – Ciclo B
          Solía ser, parece (al menos, es decir, si las películas y los programas de televisión representaban correctamente los estereotipos), que los padres de las recién contraídas hijas harían declaraciones temerarias a sus futuros yernos sobre las "reglas" de ser parte de su familia. Estos generalmente se centraban en la idea de que el yerno debía respetar a la hija del padre y tratarla como a una dama, así como algunas de las formas en que se esperaría que se integrara a la cultura familiar. Y, si se trata de un padre particularmente "sobreprotector", estas reglas generalmente vienen con algún tipo de amenaza de castigo si alguna de estas reglas se rompe alguna vez. ¿Alguien ha visto alguna vez esta escena antes? ¿Alguien ha vivido esta escena antes?
          Lo que me sorprende de estas escenas, sin embargo, son los paralelismos rudimentarios entre ellos y las alianzas formados en la antigua Palestina: donde Jesús caminó sobre la tierra. Una alianza, en la antigüedad, era básicamente un pacto entre dos pueblos que de otro modo no estarían atados el uno al otro por sangre o por matrimonio. Una alianza es como un contrato en el que los términos se detallan entre los dos grupos que entran en él: hay ciertas reglas que debe cumplir cada grupo y castigos para quienes violan esas reglas. Diferente, sin embargo, es que el vínculo que la alianza forma es un vínculo familiar. En otras palabras, después de ingresar a la alianza, los grupos que entran en ella se tratan como si fueran de la familia. Por lo tanto, la correlación entre el padre y su futuro yerno: "Si vas a ser parte de esta familia, hay ciertas reglas que debes seguir". El padre, tal vez sin saberlo, está estableciendo los términos de una alianza.
          En la primera lectura de la misa de hoy, escuchamos cómo los antiguos israelitas entraron en una alianza con Dios. Moisés, hablando en nombre de Dios, lee los "términos" de la alianza propuesto por Dios con el pueblo; y la gente responde que cumplirán estos términos. La alianza se sella con un sacrificio: la sangre se derrama sobre el altar (representando a Dios) y luego se rocía sobre la gente. Al hacer esto, Dios y el pueblo se convirtieron en "familia" (como lo demuestra la frase frecuentemente repetida en las Escrituras: "Ustedes serán mi pueblo, y yo seré su Dios").
          Bueno, si escucharon mi homilía la semana pasada para el Domingo de la Trinidad (o, tal vez, si la leen en la red), sabrán que lo que celebramos el Domingo de la Trinidad es que Dios se ha dado a conocer para que podamos entrar en relación con él y, por lo tanto, cumplir con nuestro propósito de ser hecho: que es conocerle, amarle, y servirle en este mundo, y ser feliz con él para siempre en el próximo. También recordarán que dije que lo conocemos al recordar las maneras bondadosas en que Dios ha trabajado en nuestras vidas y en las vidas de otros a lo largo de la historia, tal como se registra para nosotros en la Biblia, en la Historia de la Iglesia y en las Vidas de los Santos.
          Dije que, como hijos e hijas adoptados de Dios (y, por lo tanto, hermanos y hermanas de Cristo), estamos dotados con la gracia de ser amados por Dios como sus amados hijos y que, como hermanos y hermanas de Cristo mismo, se ven atrapados en la efusión eterna de amor que el Padre le hace al Hijo y el Hijo regresa al Padre, y que explota y se vierte en la creación como el Espíritu Santo. Por lo tanto, amamos a Dios al amarlo como Cristo lo ama: al recibir el amor que se nos derrama y al devolver ese amor con la efusión de nuestras vidas. Finalmente, dije que servimos a Dios cumpliendo la "Gran Comisión" que Jesús dio a sus discípulos: "Vayan y ensenen a todas las naciones" de la manera particular a la cual Dios nos ha llamado a cada uno de nosotros.
          Es al segundo punto de esto que quiero llamar nuestra atención hoy: es decir, que amamos a Dios como hijos e hijas porque hemos sido adoptados por él. Hermanos, si somos hijos e hijas adoptivos de Dios, entonces nosotros, como los antiguos israelitas, hemos establecido una alianza con él. Sin embargo, este no es la alianza que Moisés medió entre Dios y el pueblo y que fue sellado por la sangre de toros y cabras. Es una alianza nueva, mediado por Cristo y sellado por el sacrificio de su propio Cuerpo y Sangre, como relata el autor de la Carta a los Hebreos: “[Cristo] no llevó consigo sangre de animales, sino su propia sangre, con la cual nos obtuvo una redención eterna".
          Es por eso que celebramos esta gran fiesta del Santísimo Cuerpo y Sangre de Cristo—y por qué la celebramos inmediatamente después de la fiesta de la Santísima Trinidad—porque sin ella nos alejamos de Dios, pero con ella ahora somos hijos e hijas de Dios—hermanos y hermanas de Cristo—y así recibimos la plenitud de los beneficios que provienen de estar en esta alianza con él: es decir, conocerle, amarle, y servirle en este mundo, y ser feliz con él para siempre en el próximo.
          Hermanos, es una gran gracia estar en alianza con Dios. Y si entendemos esto, entonces nuestra respuesta siempre debe ser acción de gracias. Esta es la razón por la cual nuestra forma primaria de adoración es la Eucaristía: un sacrificio de acción de gracias en el cual le ofrecemos a Dios lo mismo que nos une a él, el Cuerpo y la Sangre de su Hijo Jesús. Nuestra acción de gracias no termina aquí, sin embargo. Más bien, nuestras vidas deben ser un acto continuo de acción de gracias; que son cuando vivimos de acuerdo con la forma de vida que Dios nos ha ordenado vivir de acuerdo con las enseñanzas morales de la Iglesia. Por lo tanto, al dar gracias a Dios hoy por esta alianza al que nos ha invitado—sellado como es por la Sangre de Cristo—volvamos a comprometernos a vivir como él nos ordenó. Al hacerlo, le daremos gloria y nos prepararemos para ser felices con él para siempre en el cielo.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
3 de junio, 2018

The Blood that makes us Family



Homily: The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle B
          It used to be, it seems (at least, that is, if movies and TV shows depicted the stereotypes correctly), that fathers of newly engaged daughters would make brash declarations to their soon-to-be son-in-laws about the “rules” of being part of their family.  These usually centered on the idea that the son-in-law to be must respect the father’s daughter and treat her like a lady, as well as some of the ways that he would be expected to integrate into the family culture.  And, if it is a particularly “over-protective” father, these rules usually come with some sort of threat of punishment if any of these rules are ever broken.  Has anyone ever seen this scene before?  Has anyone ever lived this scene before?
          What strikes me about these scenes, however, is the rudimentary parallels between them and the covenants formed in the Ancient Near East (that is, ancient Palestine: where Jesus walked the earth).  You see, a covenant, in ancient times, was basically a pact between two peoples who weren’t otherwise bound to each other by blood or by marriage.  A covenant is like a contract in which terms are spelled out between the two groups entering into it: there are certain rules that each group must abide by and punishments for those who break those rules.  Different, however, is that the bond that the covenant forms is a familial bond.  In other words, after entering the covenant, the groups that enter into it treat each other as if they were family.  Thus, the correlation between the father and his future son-in-law: “If you’re going to be a part of this family, there are certain rules you have to follow.”  The father, perhaps unknowingly, is laying down the terms of a covenant.
          In the first reading of today’s Mass, we heard described how the ancient Israelites entered into a covenant with God.  Moses, speaking on behalf of God, reads the “terms” of God’s proposed covenant with the people; and the people respond that they will indeed fulfill these terms.  The covenant is then sealed by a sacrifice: the blood of which is splashed on the altar (representing God) and then sprinkled on the people.  In doing this, God and the people became “family” (as evidenced by the oft-repeated phrase in the scriptures: “You will be my people, and I will be your God.”)
          Now, if you heard my homily last week for Trinity Sunday (or, perhaps, if you read it online), you’ll know that what we celebrate on Trinity Sunday is that God has made himself known to us so that we can enter into relationship with him and, thus, fulfill our purpose for being made: which is to know, love, and serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.  You’ll also remember that I said that we know him by remembering the gracious ways that he has worked in our lives and in the lives of others throughout history, as recorded for us in the Bible, in Church History, and in the Lives of the Saints.  I said that, as adopted sons and daughters of God (and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Christ), we are endowed with the grace of being loved by God as his beloved children and that, as brothers and sisters of Christ himself, we are caught up into the eternal outpouring of love that the Father makes to the Son and the Son returns to the Father, and which explodes forth and pours out into creation as the Holy Spirit.  Thus, we love God by loving him as Christ loves him: by receiving the love that is poured out to us and by returning that love with an outpouring of our lives.  Finally, I said that we serve God by fulfilling the “Great Commission” that Jesus gave to his disciples: to “go and make disciples of all nations” in the particular manner to which God has called each of us.
          It is to the second point of these that I want to draw our attention today: that is, that we love God like sons and daughters because we have been adopted by him.  Friends, if we are adopted sons and daughters of God, then we, like the ancient Israelites, have entered into a covenant with him.  This is not the covenant that Moses mediated between God and the people and sealed by the blood of bulls and goats, however.  It is a new covenant, mediated by Christ and sealed by the sacrifice of his own Body and Blood, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews relates: “[Christ] entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”  This is why we celebrate this great feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ—and why we celebrate it immediately following the feast of the Most Holy Trinity—because without it we were estranged from God, but with it we are now sons and daughters of God—brothers and sisters of Christ—and, thus, can receive the fullness of the benefits that come from being in this covenant with him: that is, to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.
          Friends, it is a great grace to be in covenant with God.  And if we understand this, then our response must always be thanksgiving.  This is why our primary form of worship is the Eucharist: a sacrifice of thanksgiving in which we offer back to God the very thing that unites us to him, the Body and Blood of his Son Jesus.  Our thanksgiving doesn’t end here, however.  Rather, our lives must be a continuous act of thanksgiving; which they are when we live according to the way of life God has commanded us to live as safeguarded by the moral teachings of the Church.  Therefore, as we give God thanks today for this covenant into which he has invited us—sealed as it is by the Blood of Christ—let us recommit ourselves to living as he commanded us.  In doing so, we will give him glory and prepare ourselves to be happy with him forever in heaven.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 3rd, 2018

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Holy Trinity: It's what we're here for



Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B
          One of the fundamental questions of life is one with which both young and old struggle.  Normally the question comes up during some sort of life crisis or during some “liminal” moment in a person’s life: in other words, moments when the future of one’s life isn’t clear and that person is faced with making a decision that will determine the course of the next stage of his/her life.  That question?  “What is the purpose of life?”  Or, put more simply, “What am I here for?”
          For the young, this is a vocational question, right?  As we grow into adulthood, we all gain a sense that we were put on this earth to do something and that our task is to discover what it is that we have been called to do.  Modern culture has made this difficult for young people because it tells them that there are no guiding principles on which to base your decision.  “The sky is the limit” we tell them.  “Follow your dreams” …even though we know that dreams are fickle and that not everyone has the capacity to reach the sky.  It’s sad to see someone who has made it into their thirties, who has pursued their “dreams”, but yet finds him/herself adrift, still feeling like he/she doesn’t know what the purpose of his/her life is.
          For the elderly, the struggle can be just as real.  I’ve made it an effort during my time here to visit with our homebound parishioners and many of them express a feeling of purposelessness, too.  They’ll say to me: “Father, I just don’t know why I’m still here.”  They’ve worked, raised a family, and tried to be active in retirement, but now their health is limiting their ability to tangibly contribute to their community and so they start to question: “What am I here for?”
          This latter case is a bit surprising as many of our older Catholics grew up in the Church that taught the “Baltimore Catechism” almost exclusively.  This catechism provided the fundamental truths about life, about God, and about our relationship to him and the world in a straight-forward, question and answer format.  One of those questions was “Why did God make you?”  (In other words, “What are you here for?”)  And the answer… does anybody here remember the answer?  The answer is this: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  There it is, friends.  This is our guiding principle.  Simple, right?
          Yes, it is.  But we all know that when an unknown future or adversity squares its face against us that we can often forget this: the purpose for which we were made.  In a sense, we “can’t see the forest for the trees”.  Therefore, as we’ve returned to Ordinary Time after our long and joy-filled Easter celebration, the Church gives us this Sunday, Trinity Sunday, in order to bring us back to our roots and to help us step out on mission once again.  In celebrating who God is, in Himself—three Divine Persons in one unified Godhead—we are reminded of that fundamental relationship that directs our lives: that our lives come from God and are directed towards God.  Today’s scriptures reinforce this fact.
          In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites have been wandering through the desert for 40 years and are on the cusp of entering the land into which God had promised to bring them, and Moses exhorts them to remember who God is when they enter the land.  He recounts how God had made himself known to them, his chosen people, by powerful signs and by leading them forth from slavery and he says, “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”  In other words, Moses is exhorting them to know God; and to know him through the gracious way that he has cared for them throughout their 40-year exodus.
          This, too, is how we come to know God: by remembering how he has worked: both in our own lives, those unique ways that his graciousness has touched each of us, and throughout history, starting with the Bible and the history of the Church, especially in the lives of the saints.  This Trinity Sunday, we can commit ourselves to know God better by committing ourselves to studying the Bible and some of the great spiritual works of saints, both old and new.  The spiritual biographies/autobiographies of holy men and women like Saint Augustine, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Terese of Lisieux, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Saint Theresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II are just a few worth considering.  Knowing God is the basis for loving God.  Thus, this is an indispensable step to fulfilling our purpose in life.
          In the second reading, we hear Saint Paul speaking about the “Spirit of adoption” that we have all received.  He goes on to say that it is the Spirit himself that witnesses to the fact that we are now children of God.  As adopted sons and daughters of God (and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Christ), we are endowed with the grace of being loved by God as his beloved children.  In fact, as brothers and sisters of Christ himself—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—we are caught up in the eternal outpouring of love that the Father makes to the Son and the Son returns to the Father, and which eternally explodes forth and pours out into the universe in the form of the Holy Spirit.
          Therefore, we love God as Christ loves the Father: by receiving the love that is poured out to us and by returning that love with an outpouring of our lives.  This love is expressed in adoration: which we can do privately, in our personal prayer time at home, lifting our minds and hearts to him, praising him for who he is and his glory that shines forth in the universe, and also publicly, like when we gather for the Eucharist or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  These are acts of devotion, sprung forth from our knowledge of who he is and of his great love for us as his adopted sons and daughters.  It is this love for God that, then, impels us into service.
          In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples the “Great Commission”.  On this Trinity Sunday, we should certainly hear this command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as a revelation of who God is, in himself.  But in the context of this homily, it should also be heard as the commission to service.  Having spent three years with Christ as he preached and worked miracles, then having been witnesses to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ’s disciples knew and loved him.  Now, they were being shown how they would serve him: “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  And that they did.  With great love and devotion, they poured out their lives in service of the Gospel so that all peoples would come to know, love, and serve God in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.
          We serve God when we seek out the particular way that God has called each of us to fulfill this great commission and then strive to live it.  When we know and, therefore, love him, we offer ourselves generously and seek a way of life that allows us to serve the building of his kingdom here on earth by working towards the good of others.  For some that means clerical state (that is, priesthood or the diaconate) or the religious life.  For most that will mean a career in some kind of trade or business and then, perhaps, raising a family.  In all, the question is not “what do I want to do?” (because if you know and love God, you want to serve him!), but rather, “what is God calling me to do?”  You will already know your purpose, but the answer to the latter question will show you how you are going to fulfill that purpose.
          And if you’re elderly and you’ve completed your career and your children are all grown and off on their own and if your health doesn’t allow for you to participate much in the life of your family, parish, or community… what is your purpose then?  It is still to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.  Living out the last years of your life still striving to know God and love him more deeply, and still striving to serve him by praying and offering your sufferings for the conversion of sinners and the release of souls from purgatory, you will be fulfilling your purpose in life and you will become a saint.
          Friends, as we celebrate this great feast honoring God for who he is, in himself, may we commit ourselves to know him more completely, to love him more profoundly, and to serve him with our whole lives, regardless of the state in which we find ourselves; so that we, too, may one day share in the fullness of Divine Love that God is in himself: a foretaste of which we experience here in this Holy Eucharist.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 26th & 27th, 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pentecostés: la explosión del almacén gratuito de la vida cristiana


          Para aquellos de ustedes que no saben, anuncié este pasado fin de semana que el Obispo Doherty ha decidido transferir mi asignación de All Saints Parish a la Parroquia Catedral de Santa María, la Inmaculada Concepción en Lafayette, a partir del 27 de junio. P. Jeff Martin ocupará mi lugar como pastor de Todos los Santos, a partir del mismo día. Me refiero a este anuncio en la homilía.


Homilía: Domingo de Pentecostés – Ciclo B
          Con la película de acción y aventuras The Avengers: Infinity War que ya está ganando más dinero que cualquier otra película en el mundo, parece que la temporada de taquillazos de verano ya está sobre nosotros. Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ocean's 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ... estos son algunos de los otros taquillazos que se abrirán en las próximas semanas y, le puedo decir, la lista sigue y sigue. Como sabemos, un "taquillazo" es una película con mucha acción, generalmente una especie de amenaza del "fin del mundo" y, por supuesto, muchas explosiones gratuitas. Uno de los clichés clásicos de este tipo de películas es lo que llamo la "explosión del almacén alimentado por gasolina". Aquí es donde el personaje empapa un almacén con gasolina (o, algún otro líquido inflamable que, convenientemente, se almacena en el almacén) con la intención de incendiarla y destruir toda la estructura. Luego, justo cuando él o ella se va, el personaje deja caer un encendedor sobre el combustible y se aleja, mientras las llamas se propagan rápidamente. Luego, la "toma de dinero": una toma de gran angular en la que el personaje camina hacia la cámara, lejos del almacén, cuando de repente el almacén explota en el fondo, sin siquiera un parpadeo del personaje. Han visto esto, ¿verdad? ¿Cuántos de ustedes han visto alguna versión de esta escena en una película anteriormente?
          En cierto modo, la Fiesta de la Ascensión del Señor, que celebramos la semana pasada, es algo así como eso. Desde Pascua, el día de su Resurrección, Jesús, en su cuerpo glorificado, caminó entre sus discípulos, enseñando cómo su muerte en la cruz y la resurrección de entre los muertos habían cumplido todo lo que se había escrito sobre el Mesías y los había preparado para ese momento cuando él subiría al cielo para regresar a la diestra de su Padre. Luego, ascendió: dejándolos la promesa de algo dramático que sucederá pronto. Este "algo dramático" fue el descenso del Espíritu Santo en Pentecostés. En otras palabras, durante 40 días, Jesús "preparó el escenario" al derramar el combustible de sus enseñanzas en todo el almacén, que fueron sus discípulos; y cuando se fue, dejó caer el encendedor, que era la promesa de la venida del Espíritu Santo; y en Pentecostés, el almacén explotó cuando el Espíritu Santo descendió y dio poder a los Apóstoles para testificar a Jesús hasta los confines de la tierra.
          En cierto modo, así es como debía ser. La "toma de dinero" del taquillazo no es cuando el personaje propaga el combustible. Si la película terminara allí, todos estaríamos decepcionados, ¿verdad? En cambio, el personaje tiene que encender el fuego y alejarse para que podamos sentirnos satisfechos por la explosión. Jesús sabía que el plan de Dios para la raza humana era más grande que su banda de seguidores de Galilea, que era más grande que el pueblo judío, que, de hecho, era tan grande que abarcaría todo el mundo; por lo tanto, tenía que ser que, después de que Jesús hubiera realizado la redención del hombre, él regresaría al Padre para que el Espíritu Santo—el poder por el cual el plan de Dios para el mundo entero sería cumplido—pudiera explotar en la escena humana.
          Para usar otro ejemplo: muchos de nosotros hemos visto cómo es cuando los niños de 5 años juegan fútbol. A pesar de que sus entrenadores se esfuerzan por enseñarles a jugar diferentes posiciones, tan pronto como esa pelota se suelta, es una melé para todos los que la rodean. Esto es algo así como los discípulos mientras Jesús estaba con ellos. Aunque, en ocasiones, Jesús los envió a predicar, siempre regresaban a su alrededor y lo seguían a donde quiera que fuera. Sin embargo, después de la ascensión de Jesús al cielo y el descenso del Espíritu Santo, los discípulos se parecían mucho más a un equipo profesional: diseminados por el campo, usando sus diferentes talentos para un propósito, haciéndolos mucho más efectivos. Jesús asciende para que sus discípulos puedan dispersarse y ser más efectivos.
          Creo que podemos resumir esto al referirnos a una declaración que Jesús hizo en otras partes del Evangelio. Un día, uno de los fariseos le preguntó: "¿Por qué no ayunan tus discípulos como lo hacen los discípulos de Juan?" Respondió Jesús y dijo: "Mientras el novio está con ellos, no pueden ayunar, pero cuando el novio se los quita, ellos ayunarán." No pretendo cambiar esto en una homilía sobre el ayuno, sino más bien enfocarme en cómo Jesús reconoce que habrá circunstancias diferentes mientras él está aquí con nosotros versus después de que nos lo quiten. Adaptando esta idea a la fiesta de hoy, podría volver a escribir que Jesús dice: "Mientras el novio esté con ellos, serán limitados, pero cuando el novio sea quitado, tendrán éxito libremente". Jesús asciende no para abandonarnos, pero para que podamos ser "lanzados", si se quiere, para cumplir el plan del Padre para toda la humanidad.
          Por lo tanto, la Ascensión, particularmente en conexión con Pentecostés (y siempre está en conexión con Pentecostés), tiene algo que decirnos hoy. Muchos de nosotros estamos molestos de que me hayan reasignado y, por lo tanto, dejaré a Todos los Santos después de 6 años de servir a esta parroquia. Pero, ¿Qué pasa si esto es parte del plan del Padre para "lanzar" a todos ustedes, los miembros de esta parroquia, al siguiente nivel? Mi trabajo siempre ha sido "preparar la escena", por así decirlo, y espero haberlo hecho; pero ahora, tal vez, debo "encender la llama y alejarme" para que pueda explotar en una nueva vida para esta parroquia. Mis hermanos y hermanas, esta es la esperanza con la que debemos avanzar en esta transición: si salgo de esta parroquia, es para que puedan seguir creciendo "a estar unidos en la fe y en el conocimiento del Hijo de Dios, y lleguemos a ser hombres perfectos, que alcancemos en todas sus dimensiones la plenitud de Cristo", como nos dice San Pablo en su carta a los Efesios.
          Por lo tanto, hoy celebramos y esperamos. Celebramos que Jesús, nuestro Redentor, se haya presentado ante nosotros para prepararnos un lugar en el cielo y abogar por nosotros eternamente ante el Padre. Celebramos que él nos ha enviado el Espíritu Santo. Y esperamos más allá de Pentecostés: regocijándonos de que Dios nos ha llenado más generosamente con sus dones: es decir, el poder del Espíritu Santo para explotar en el mundo a fin de ser sus testigos hasta los confines de la tierra para la construcción del Cuerpo de Cristo "en la medida de la plena estatura de Cristo".
          Por lo tanto, mis hermanos y hermanas, no temamos adorar con todo nuestro corazón al Señor Jesús que, habiendo resucitado de entre los muertos para destruir la muerte para siempre, ha ascendido al cielo y ahora está eternamente a la diestra del Padre; y no tengamos miedo de orar fervientemente para que el Espíritu Santo de Dios nos llene más abundantemente con su poder: el poder de dar testimonio de Jesús y su amor salvador a los que sufren en mente, cuerpo y espíritu: el poder de Jesús que ha vencido la finalidad de la muerte: el poder con el que nos encontramos cuando recibimos su Cuerpo y su Sangre de este altar.
          Amigos, la temporada de taquillazos es, de hecho, sobre nosotros. Que nuestro taquillazo, las fiestas de Pascua, Ascensión y Pentecostés, sea la película de acción en vivo que encabeza la taquilla aquí en nuestra comunidad.
Dado en la Parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
20 de mayo, 2018