Monday, June 19, 2017

La Paternidad y la Eucharistia

Homilía: Solemnidad del Cuerpo y Sangre de Cristo – Ciclo A
          El Día del Padre, como el Día de la Madre, es un día fantástico porque es un día de recordar: de recordar para honrar. Si nos paremos por un momento y pensamos en ello, veremos que esto realmente es una cosa maravillosamente humana: que nos paramos a reconocer que hay algo honorable en ser un padre. Que la celebración de los padres de este año coincida con nuestra celebración del Santísimo Cuerpo y Sangre de Cristo nos brinda una oportunidad excelente para reflexionar sobre la paternidad y la Eucaristía.
          Cuando nos fijamos en las Sagradas Escrituras y la vida de Jesús detectamos muchos aspectos de lo que significa ser un padre. Un padre tiene un verdadero amor por sus hijos, no importa cómo pueden responder a él. El deseo más profundo de un padre es que sus hijos conozcan y experimenten su amor. Desea el bienestar de sus hijos y les enseña a amar a otros con su ejemplo. Un padre debe a veces corregir, amonestar y advertir a sus hijos por protección. Un padre siempre habla la verdad con amor, incluso cuando es difícil. Los padres cristianos, en particular, deben saber enseñar a sus hijos a recibir el amor de Dios en la oración y a gustar y ver a Dios en el trabajo en la vida cotidiana. En última instancia, reconocemos que la plenitud del amor paternal es la entrega total que un hombre hace de sí mismo por sus hijos.
          Reconocemos estas cualidades en la vida de Jesús en su predicación, en su enseñanza, en su ministerio de sanación y liberación, y especialmente en su amorosa relación con sus discípulos más cercanos, los apóstoles. Habla de su amor por sus apóstoles cuando dice: "Como el Padre me ha amado, así también yo les he amado, permanecen en mi amor". Los llama amigos. Los corrige cuando los escucha discutiendo sobre quién es el más grande. Con el fin de permanecer fieles a los caminos del Padre, Jesús refuta fuertemente a Pedro con las palabras: "Vuelve detrás de mí Satanás". Él ora por Pedro personalmente, así como por el bienestar de todos los apóstoles y los que creerán en él en el futuro. Jesús enseña a sus discípulos a orar, llamando a Dios "Padre", y les enseña, con su ejemplo, a orar en silencio. Jesús promete al Espíritu que instruirá a los apóstoles en todos los asuntos y los mantendrá en la verdad.
          Puesto que Cristo es la "imagen del Dios invisible", podemos ver en él y por su ejemplo, la plenitud del amor del Padre por nosotros. Verdaderamente, la entrega de su Hijo es la entrega más completa de sí mismo que Dios Padre podría hacer por nosotros. El hecho de que esta rendición siga ocurriendo cada día, cada hora, en innumerables altares en todo el mundo, es una prueba del amor incomprensible del Padre por nosotros. Así, al celebrar la presencia real y duradera de Jesús en el Santísimo Sacramento, lo que estamos celebrando es el amor verdadero y duradero del Padre derramado por nosotros.
          La paternidad, por lo tanto, se realiza plenamente cuando un padre se rinde completamente y continuamente por sus hijos. En otras palabras, así como el derramamiento del amor de Dios Padre por nosotros es real y duradero, de modo que el derramamiento del amor de un padre por sus hijos debe ser real y duradero. Mientras que podría nombrar para ustedes un número de santos que demostraron con heroísmo esta virtud paternal, quisiera presentarle a un gran ejemplo que todavía no ha sido nominado para ser santo. Es Karol Josef Wojtila, mayor: padre de San Juan Pablo II.
          Karol mayor era un soldado retirado del ejército polaco y un sastre. Estaba viudo cuando el joven Karol, su hijo, tenía nueve años de edad. Ya había perdido a una hija en la infancia y más tarde sufriría la pérdida de su hijo mayor, Edmund. Era un hombre recto y un hombre de profunda piedad. Como ejemplo, San Juan Pablo II recordaría que después de la muerte de su madre, su padre lo llevó a su iglesia parroquial y lo llevó a la imagen de María, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socoro, y le dijo: “Ahora, Ella es tu Madre.”.
          Mientras que otros hombres pudieron haber perdido en su dolor y distanciarse de su familia, Karol mayor permaneció en las vidas de sus hijos. Hizo la ropa de sus hijos, hizo la cocina y la limpieza, y alentó a sus hijos en sus amistades, sus estudios y sus deportes. Sobre todo, y especialmente para Karol menor, Karol mayor formó la fe primara de su hijo. El Papa describe esto mejor. Él escribió: "Mi padre era un hombre profundamente religioso. Día tras día pude observar el modo austero en que vivía. Por profesión fue soldado y, después de la muerte de mi madre, su vida se convirtió en una oración constante. A veces me despertaba durante la noche y encontraba a mi padre de rodillas, como siempre lo vería arrodillado en la iglesia parroquial”. Esta efusión real y duradera de amor por sus hijos tuvo un impacto profundo y duradero en un hombre cuya efusión real y duradera del amor tendría un impacto profundo y duradero en el mundo.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, el ejemplo de Karol Wojtyla mayor nos muestra que ser padre es generar la vida. Esta generación de vida no termina, sin embargo, después de la concepción de un niño. Más bien, debe continuar durante toda la vida del niño. En otras palabras, cada padre debe hacer una efusión real y duradera de su vida para que sus hijos puedan crecer en vida. La lógica nos dice, por supuesto, que uno no puede dar algo que uno no tiene y así surge la pregunta: "¿Cómo puede un padre estar continuamente lleno de vida para que pueda derramar continuamente su vida por sus hijos?" La respuesta está en nuestra lectura del Evangelio hoy. Aquí Jesús dice: "Como el Padre, que me ha enviado, posee la vida y yo vivo por él, así también el que me come vivirá por mí.” La respuesta, en otras palabras, es la Eucaristía. Por lo tanto, padres, conviene que se acerquen a este altar con frecuencia, incluso diariamente, si es posible, porque al recibir el Santísimo Cuerpo y la Sangre de Jesús en la Eucaristía reciben la Vida, y así están llenos de vida para que puedan derramar usted mismo para sus hijos.
          Y así, amigos míos, al celebrar este maravilloso don que nos ha sido dado, la presencia real y duradera de Jesús: Cuerpo, Sangre, Alma y Divinidad en la Eucaristía, y al reconocer y honrar a los padres entre nosotros, demos gracias a Dios Padre en el cielo por este asombroso don de su amor y rezamos por los padres entre nosotros que, fortalecidos por este Santo Sacramento, puedan generar continuamente la vida de sus hijos, como hizo Karol Wojtyla, y así producen una abundante cosecha de vida para el mundo. ¡San José, patrón de los padres, ruega por nosotros!
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

18 de junio, 2017

Fatherhood and the Eucharist

Homily: the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Cycle A
          Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is a great day because it is a day of remembering: remembering so as to honor.  If we stop for just a moment and think about it, we’ll see that this truly is a beautifully human thing: that we pause to recognize that there is something honorable in parenting (and, specifically, this weekend, in fatherhood).  That this year’s celebration of fathers coincides with our celebration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on fatherhood and the Eucharist.
          When we look at the Sacred Scriptures and the life of Jesus we detect many aspects of what it means to be a father.  A father has a real love for his children no matter how they may respond to him.  A father’s deepest desire is for his children to know and experience his love.  He desires the well-being of his children and teaches them how to love others by his example.  A father must at times correct, admonish and warn his children for protection’s sake.  A father always speaks the truth with love, even when it is difficult.  Christian fathers, in particular, must know how to teach their children to receive God’s love in prayer and to taste and see God at work in everyday life. Ultimately, when examined closely, we acknowledge that the fullness of fatherly love is the complete surrender that a man makes of himself for his children.
          We recognize these qualities in the life of Jesus in his preaching, in his teaching, in his healing and deliverance ministry, and especially in his loving relationship with his closest disciples, the apostles.  He speaks of his love for his apostles when he says "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love."  He calls them friends.  He corrects them when he overhears them arguing over who is the greatest.  In order to remain faithful to the Father’s ways, Jesus strongly rebukes Peter with the words, "Get behind me Satan."  He prays for Peter personally as well as for the well-being of all the apostles and those who will believe in him in the future.  Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, calling God “Father”, and teaches them by his example to go off in quiet prayer.  Jesus promises the Advocate who will instruct the apostles in all matters and keep them in the truth.
          Since Christ is the “image of the invisible God”, we can see in him and by his example, the fullness of the Father’s love for us.  Truly, the giving of his Son is the fullest surrender of himself that God the Father could make for us.  The fact that this surrender continues to happen each and every day—each and every hour—on countless altars throughout the world, is evidence of the Father's unfathomable love for us.  Thus, in celebrating the real and enduring presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, what we are celebrating is the real and enduring Love of the Father poured out for us.
          Fatherhood, therefore, is fully realized when a father surrenders himself fully and continually for his children.  In other words, just as the outpouring of God the Father’s love for us is real and enduring, so the outpouring of a father’s love for his children must be both real and enduring.  While I could name for you a number of saints who demonstrated this fatherly virtue heroically, I’d like to introduce you to a great example who has not yet been nominated for sainthood, instead.  He is Karol Josef Wojtila, senior: Saint John Paul II’s father.
          The elder Karol was a retired soldier from the Polish army and a tailor.  He was widowed when young Karol, his son, was the age of nine.  He had already lost one daughter in infancy and later would suffer the loss of his eldest son, Edmund.  He was an upright man and a man of deep piety.  As an example, Saint John Paul II would recall that, after the death of his mother, his father took him into his parish church and led him to the image of Mary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and said to him: “She is your mother now.”
          While other men may have gotten lost in their grief and become distant from their family, Karol senior remained engaged in the lives of his sons.  He made his young son’s clothes himself, he did the cooking and cleaning, and he encouraged his sons in their friendships, their studies and their sports.  Above all, and especially for Karol junior, Karol senior formed his son’s early faith.  The Pope, himself, describes this best.  He wrote: “My father [was] a deeply religious man.  Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived.  By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother's death, his life became one of constant prayer.  Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church.”  This real and enduring outpouring of love for his children had a deep and enduring impact on a man whose real and enduring outpouring of love would have a deep and enduring impact on the world.
          My brothers and sisters, the example of Karol Wojtyla senior shows us that being a father is about generating life.  This generation of life doesn’t end, however, after the conception of a child.  Rather, it must continue throughout the child’s life.  In other words, every father must make a real and enduring outpouring of his life so that his children may grow into life.  Logic tells us, of course, that one cannot give something that one does not have and so the question arises: “How can a father be continually filled with life so that he can continually pour out his life for his children?”  The answer is in our Gospel reading today.  There Jesus says: “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”  The answer, in other words, is the Eucharist.  Therefore, fathers, it behooves you to approach this altar frequently—even daily, if possible—because by receiving the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist you receive Life, himself, and thus are filled with life so that you can pour yourself out for your children.
          And so, my friends, as we celebrate this wonderful gift that has been given to us—the real and enduring presence of Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist—and as we recognize and honor the fathers among us, let us give thanks to God the Father in heaven for this amazing gift of his love and let us pray for the fathers among us that, strengthened by this Holy Sacrament, they might continually generate life in their children, like Karol Wojtyla senior did, and thus produce an abundant harvest of life for the world.  Saint Joseph, patron of fathers, pray for us!

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 18th, 2017

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The reality of God is bigger than our perceptions

Homily: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle A
          I love science!  As a former engineer, my brain is wired for science.  What I mean by that is that it is wired in such a way that, when I see something that I don’t understand, I automatically begin to wonder about it and try to figure it out.  Quite frankly, most of us are wired for science in some way: usually in a very practical way.
          Here’s what I mean.  Say that you enter a room with which you are unfamiliar.  It’s a little bit warm in the room and you observe that there is a ceiling fan.  You know a thing or two about ceiling fans, but you’ve never turned on this particular fan, so you set yourself to figuring out how to turn it on.  You think, “Maybe the wall switch will turn it on”, and so you flip the wall switches.  If that doesn’t work you think, “Maybe I need to pull the chain on the fan to turn it on”, and so you reach up and pull the chain.  If that doesn’t work you think, “Maybe there’s a combination of the wall switches and the chain that need to be aligned to turn it on”, and so you begin to turn switches on and off, pulling the chain at each setting.  If that still doesn’t work, we think… what?  That it’s broken… of course!  We’ve observed, hypothesized, tested each hypothesis and observed some more, and when we’ve run out of hypotheses we draw a conclusion.  That, my friends, is science; and we do it almost every day.
          As much as I love science, because I love figuring out how to make things work, I have one big problem with it.  You see, the problem with science is that it equates perception with reality.  In other words, science makes conclusions about reality based solely on what it can perceive.  In my example above, we concluded that the fan was broken because no switches or combination of switches would start it spinning.  We made a conclusion about reality based solely on what we observed.  The reality, however, could be that the fan functions perfectly well, but that the switch may be broken or maybe electricity wasn’t flowing at all to the system.  In other words, there could be factors beyond our perception that could contribute to the reality.  Science does not admit these factors and so sometimes draws incorrect conclusions about reality.
          For people of faith there is no other proof of the limitations of science than when we think about God.  Imagine for a moment that you didn’t know much about God (and let’s assume that you at least give credence to the fact that there is a God: that is, an all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe).  What would you do to figure out more about him?  Well, you’d observe, I suppose: you’d listen to what people said or wrote about him.  Then you might hypothesize about what he’d be like, followed by observing to see if you’re hypothesis was correct.
          Doing that you’d find out that people say that God is loving, kind, and merciful; that he has the power to control everything that happens in the universe; that nothing happens without his knowing about it and either making it happen or, at least, permitting it to happen.  Then you’d say, “Well, if that’s the case, then things should be pretty good around me.  People ought to be living in harmony with one another and there should be peace, because a God of love and kindness, who can control what happens in the world, would surely desire there to be love and kindness throughout the world.”  Having formed your hypothesis, you then observe the world and what would you see?  Love and kindness in many places, for sure; but also hatred, violence, and discord in as many, if not more places.  Having observed this, your conclusion might be: “God is not who people say he is, because what I perceive does not conform to that proposed reality.”  This is the error that many people in our society make today: they perceive a world broken by sin and they conclude that if God was who people say that he is, he wouldn’t allow the world to be like this.  Since the world is this way, God must not be who people say that he is; rather, he might be nothing more than a mythical creature meant to make people feel better about living in this broken world.
          The problem with this, of course, is that there are factors outside of one’s perception that contribute to the reality.  In other words, reality is greater than our perception.  Thinking theoretically, we can somewhat easily come to the conclusion that there must be a God: an all-powerful being—the uncreated creator—who created all things.  In order to know that God is benevolent, however, we would have to do a lot more work.  To see that all creation works towards the propagation of life, instead of against it, and that this propagation is a good thing, could lead us to conclude that God is good and has the good of creation in mind.  But to know God as we know him, as loving, kind, and merciful—or, as we celebrate him today, as a communion of persons—is something that we can know only if he, himself, has revealed it to us.
          Thankfully, this is something that he has revealed to us; and it is not something that he has revealed by some sort of divine declaration (even though he has done that).  Rather, he has revealed this to us by his actions.  In the book of Exodus, we read that God declared himself before Moses to be “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” and he proved this as time and again he spared the Israelite people from destruction, even though they had repeatedly offended him.  So gracious and merciful is he—and so deeply in love of his creation—that, as we read in the Gospel, he “gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  In doing so, he not only proved, once again, that what he said about himself is true, but he also revealed that he is a communion of persons within himself.  And how do we know that Jesus truly is the Son of God and, thus, God himself?  Because of the works that he did: most prominently his resurrection from the dead.
          Thus, the celebration that we come to today: the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  Today we celebrate who God is in himself: not because we somehow perceive this with our senses, but rather because of the gift of Faith that has been placed in our hearts and because of the works that he has worked in the past (and continues to work today) that go beyond our ability to test scientifically.  In celebrating God as Trinity, we not only celebrate who he is, but also what that means for us.  We know that God is Love and so is a community of persons.  Because of this we know that, when God creates, he creates in love.  We know that, having created human beings to be persons, like himself, he created us solely so that we might share in his divine life, which is love.  Finally, we know that, when we turned away from him in sin, he did not shun us, but rather came close to us, becoming one of us in his Son who would make atonement for our sins and, thus, make it possible for us to share in the divine life once again.
          And so, my brothers and sisters, as we celebrate today who God is in himself, let us rejoice also in who we are in him: beloved sons and daughters destined to spend eternity with him; and let us commit ourselves, therefore, to follow the admonition of Saint Paul to the Corinthians and “mend our ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, and live in peace” so that “the God of love and peace will be with us” and all those scientific skeptics might begin to see the truth that we proclaim: that the reality of God is much bigger than their perceptions, but that he nonetheless cares about each and every one; and that he desires that each and every one dwell with him in eternal light, happiness, and peace: the very same light, happiness, and peace that we experience, under sacramental signs, here at this altar.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 10th & 11th, 2017

Monday, June 5, 2017

El Espíritu nos guía a través de los cambios de la vida

Homilía: La Solemnidad del Pentecostés – Ciclo A
          Ayer tuve la alegría de concelebrar la misa de ordenación para cuatro hombres de nuestra Diócesis que ahora son sacerdotes: uno de los cuales es el Diacono Miguel, el seminarista (bueno, ex seminarista) que estuvo con nosotros el verano pasado aquí en Logansport. Como sacerdote (y como imagino que sería para cualquiera de ustedes), es un gran estímulo a mi ver buenos hombres siendo ordenados al sacerdocio. Frecuentemente me da una pausa para pensar y orar, sin embargo, cuando recuerdo mi propia ordenación y como era pasar de seminarista a sacerdote y rezo por los recién ordenados que están pasando por esa misma transición.
          De vuelta al seminario, uno de los sacerdotes del personal del seminario llamado Padre Ron nos habló frecuentemente de cómo sería pasar del seminario al sacerdocio y la vida en la parroquia. Él citó repetidamente un obispo en particular que describió la transición de esta manera: dijo: "Salir del seminario y entrar en el sacerdocio y en la vida parroquial es algo así como salir del hospital y tener todo tus IV’s sacado a la vez." Lo que este obispo estaba insinuando era que hay muchos sistemas de apoyo que existe en la vida del seminario (por ejemplo: el horario estructurado de la oración, la comida ya cocinada, y un montón de mentores y guías) que simplemente no son parte integrante de la vida de un párroco. Y así salir del seminario es literalmente como desenchufar muchos estos sistemas de apoyo. Y si un nuevo sacerdote no está preparado para eso, puede dañarle en una manera muy seria.
          En mi propia transición del seminario a la vida parroquial, puedo atestiguar el hecho de que hay mucha verdad en la admonición de este obispo. Mi primera (y única) asignación como sacerdote hasta ahora ha estado aquí en Todos los Santos en Logansport, que era una ciudad que, en ese momento, quizás había atravesado una vez, pero en la que no conocía a nadie y que era al menos una hora por carro de cualquiera de mi familia o amigos cercanos. Ah, ¡y no olvidemos mencionar que tuve que empezar a hablar español casi desde el momento en que llegué! A pesar de que todo el mundo aquí fue (y sigue siendo) muy de bienvenido y asegurando, no podía cambiar el hecho de que me sentía como si estuviera muy solo como he hecho esta transición.
          Casi cinco años después de la ordenación, sin embargo, siento que puedo decir que he sobrevivido bastante bien (hasta ahora, por lo menos). Ha habido un montón de desafíos y experiencias nuevas y emocionantes, y muchos momentos cuando estaba a punto de entrar en una nueva situación con la sensación de que podría hacer un lío completo de todo, pero resultó ser muy hermoso. Al reflexionar sobre todas estas situaciones, me doy cuenta de que hay un aspecto muy real de lo que describimos como la "gracia de la ordenación" que me ha ayudado a través de todo esto: y esa es la promesa del Espíritu Santo.
          En nuestra lectura del Evangelio para hoy, el Jesús resucitado respira sobre sus discípulos y dice "Reciban el Espíritu Santo". Este es Jesús potenciando a sus discípulos, quienes serán sus primeros sacerdotes, con el don del Espíritu Santo. Él les había prometido este regalo antes de su resurrección cuando les dijo que "el Abogado, el Espíritu Santo que el Padre enviará en mi nombre, les enseñará todo y les recordará todo lo que les he dicho". Es la misma promesa que el seminario hace a cada hombre cuando los envía para ser ordenados, y es la promesa que cada obispo hace a ellos como él los ordena. Es como si estuvieran diciendo: "Hemos hecho todo lo posible para enseñarle todo, pero inevitablemente habrá cosas para las que no podríamos haberle preparado completamente. Pero no se preocupe porque el Abogado, el Espíritu Santo, le enseñará todo y le recordará todo lo que le hemos dicho. Después de casi cinco años de sacerdocio, puedo decir que esta promesa es verdadera.
          Esta promesa, sin embargo, no se limita a la transición a la vida parroquial del recién ordenado. Recuerde que el Evangelio nos dice que Jesús dijo estas cosas "a sus discípulos..." Por lo tanto, esta promesa es para todos nosotros; algo que es especialmente cierto cuando estamos experimentando una transición en nuestras propias vidas. Esto podría ser individual, ya que la transición de la vida soltera a ser casado y luego de la vida de casada a tener hijos. También podría ser cuando nos estamos moviendo de la high school en la universidad o para trabajar, o si estamos cambiando puestos de trabajo o incluso carreras. Así también, una vez cuando todos los niños salen de la casa y volvemos a la "vida matrimonial solitaria" o cuando pasamos de trabajar a la jubilación. Pero también podría ser una experiencia comunitaria, como la que estamos a punto de abrazar aquí en la transición de la salida del Padre David y la venida del Padre Stan. En todos estos casos, la promesa de Jesús permanece con nosotros: que el Espíritu Santo esté con nosotros para enseñarnos y recordarnos lo que nos dijo.
          El peligro en cada una de nuestras vocaciones, sin embargo, es sentirse demasiado cómodo en cómo lo estamos viviendo, porque cuando nos sentimos cómodos, empezamos a enfocarnos a nosotros mismos. Pensamos: "Todo está bien conmigo y por eso puedo cruzar desde aquí". Lo que esto hace, sin embargo, es dejarnos sordo a la voz del Espíritu y empezamos a quedarnos secos. Al cabo de un tiempo, esta sequedad puede conducir a la desilusión ya la apatía. ¿Cuántas personas sabemos que han dicho "Bueno, no hay mucho que puedo hacer al respecto ahora, así que supongo que estoy atascado aquí"? Pero es precisamente en estos momentos que el Espíritu Santo está más disponible para nosotros y cuando es más probable que él esté esperando para mostrarnos una nueva vía—o un nuevo aspecto de nuestras vocaciones—que nos está llamando a abrazar: algo, tal vez, que nos llevará fuera de nuestras zonas de confort y nos mueven hacia un lugar que nunca imaginamos ir.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, los tiempos de transición pueden ser tiempos emocionantes; pero también puede ser tiempos de miedo. Más que nada, sin embargo, son oportunidades de librarse de las telarañas de nuestras vidas rutinarias y despertar para escuchar la voz del Espíritu Santo moviéndonos de nuevo: el Espíritu que Jesús prometió a sus discípulos hace casi 2000 años y que ha permanecido con la Iglesia desde entonces; guiándola a ella ya cada uno de sus miembros individuales hasta el día de hoy.
          Y así hoy damos gracias por el gran don de la presencia permanente del Espíritu Santo; y renovemos nuestra confianza en su presencia y guía en la vida de la Iglesia. Sin embargo, también renovemos nuestra confianza en su presencia y guía en cada una de nuestras vidas para abrazar con gozo todo lo que el Señor desea darnos. Mis hermanos y hermanas, el Espíritu Santo está vivito y coleando en la Iglesia y en esta parroquia. Tal vez es la hora de dejarlo suelto de nuevo.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

4 de junio, 2017

The Spirit leads us through life's transitions

Homily: The Solemnity of Pentecost – Cycle A
          Yesterday I had the joy of concelebrating the ordination Mass for four men from our Diocese who are now priests: one of whom is Michael Bower, the seminarian (now former seminarian) who was with us last summer here at All Saints.  As a priest (just as, I imagine, it would be like for any of you), it is a great “shot in the arm” to my faith to see solid young men being ordained to the priesthood.  It often gives me pause to think and to pray, however, as I remember my own ordination and what it was like to move from seminarian to priest and I pray for the newly ordained who are making that same transition.
          Back in the seminary, one of the priests on the formation staff named Fr. Ron spoke often to us about what it would be like to transition from the seminary into priesthood and parish life.  He repeatedly quoted a certain bishop (whose name I can’t quite remember) who described the transition in this way: he said, “Leaving the seminary and entering the priesthood and parish life is kind of like leaving the hospital and having all of your IVs pulled out at once.”  What this bishop was implying was that there are many support systems built into seminary life (structured prayer schedule, ready-made food, and plenty of mentors and guides) that simply aren’t part and parcel of the life of a parish priest.  And so to leave the seminary is literally like “pulling the plug” on many of these support systems.  And if a new priest is not prepared for that, it can actually “shock” his system somewhat.
          In my own transition out of the seminary and into parish life, I can attest to the fact that there is a lot of truth in this bishop’s admonition.  My first (and only) assignment as a priest so far has been here at All Saints in Logansport, which was a town that, at the time, I had, perhaps, driven through one time, but in which I did not know anyone and which was at least an hour’s drive from any of my family or close friends.  Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that I had to start speaking Spanish almost from the moment that I arrived!  Even though everyone here was (and continues to be) very welcoming and assuring, it could not change the fact that I felt like I was very much alone as I made this transition.
          Nearly five years after ordination, however, I feel like I can say that I’ve weathered the storm pretty well (so far, at least).  There have been lots of challenges and new and exciting experiences, and many moments when I was about to enter into a new situation feeling like I might make a complete mess of it all, but turned out to be very beautiful.  As I reflect on all of these situations, I realize that there is one very real aspect of what we describe as the “grace of ordination” that has helped me through it all: and that’s the promise of the Holy Spirit.
          In our Gospel reading for today, the resurrected Jesus breathes on his disciples and says “Receive the Holy Spirit”.  This is Jesus empowering his disciples, who will be his first apostles, with the gift of the Holy Spirit.  He had promised this gift to them before his resurrection when he told them that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”  In many ways this is the same promise that the seminary makes to each man as they send them forth to be ordained, and it is the promise that every bishop makes to them as he ordains them.  It’s as if they are saying, “We’ve done our best to teach you everything, but inevitably there will be things for which we could not have fully prepared you.  But don’t worry because the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, will teach you everything and remind you of all that we have told you.  After nearly five years of priesthood, I can say that this promise certainly rings true.
          This promise, however, isn’t limited to the newly ordained transitioning into parish life.  Remember, the Gospel tells us that Jesus said these things “to his disciples…”  Therefore, this promise is for all of us; something that is especially true when we are experiencing any big transition in our lives.  This could be individually, as we transition from single life to being married and then from married life to having children.  It could also be when we are moving from high school into college or from college into the working world, or if we are changing jobs or even careers.  So, too, once all of the children leave the house and we transition back to the “solitary married life” or when we transition from working into retirement.  But it could also be a communal experience, like the one that we are about to embrace here in the transition from one associate pastor to another.  In all of these cases Jesus’ promise remains with us: that the Holy Spirit would be with us to teach us and remind us of what it was that he told us.
          The danger in each of our vocations, however, is becoming too comfortable in how we are living it out, because when we become comfortable, we start to close in on ourselves.  We think, “I have this all figured out and now I can just cruise from here.”  What this does, however, is close us off to the voice of the Spirit and we start to get stale.  After a while this staleness can lead to disillusionment and apathy.  How many people do we know who have said “Well, there’s not much I can do about it now, so I guess I’m stuck here”?  But it’s precisely in these moments that the Holy Spirit is most available to us and when it is most likely that he is waiting to show us a new avenue—or a new aspect of our vocations—that he is calling us to embrace: something, perhaps, that will take us out of our comfort zones and move us towards a place we never imagined we would go.
          My brothers and sisters, times of transition can be exciting times; but they can also be scary.  More than anything, however, they are chances to shake off the cobwebs of our routine lives and wake up to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit moving us once again: the Spirit who Jesus promised to his disciples nearly 2000 years ago and who has remained with the Church ever since; guiding her and each of her individual members even to this day.
          And so today let us give thanks for the great gift of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit; and let us renew our trust in his presence and guidance in the life of the Church.  Let us also, however, renew our trust in his presence and guidance in each of our lives so as to joyfully embrace all that the God wishes to give us.  My brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit is alive and well in the Church and in this parish.  Perhaps it’s time for us to let him loose once again.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – June 4th, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Our bodies matter

The Conversion of Saint Augustine by Fra Angelico
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Homily: Solemnity of the Ascension – Cycle A
          For those of you who know a thing or two about Saint Augustine, you’ll know that he wasn’t always a saint.  He grew up in the late 4th century in Thagaste, which was on the northern coast of the African continent and was, at that time, part of the Roman Empire.  He was a smart kid: a smart alec, in fact, and very precocious.  His mother, Saint Monica, had converted to Christianity and is now a saint because of her long-suffering in a family that was hostile to her faith.  She suffered much, also, because her son, Augustine, had dreams of moving to a big city to become a great orator.  Although at first his parents couldn’t afford to send him far away, Augustine’s precociousness led him to procure a benefactor who would help him fulfill his ambitious dreams.
          Carthage in North Africa was where Augustine would find his feet and begin to flourish.  As a young man without parental influence, however, Augustine began to live a dissolute life: the life of the stereotypical “frat boy”, without much concern for the moral consequences.  There he fell in love with one of his servants.  Because of the difference in their social stati, Augustine would not marry her, but she did live with him and together they had a child.
          There in Carthage, Augustine would also come into contact with the Manicheans.  The Manichees (no, not the manatees, the strange “sea cows”, the Manichees) were a group of pagan intellectuals who proposed what they believed was the great synthesis of world religions.  They were a gnostic group: meaning that they believed in the idea that “enlightenment” or “obtaining special knowledge” would help one to transcend the worldly condition and to realize a more perfect existence.  Because of this they had a very clear notion of good and evil (which they labeled as “light” and “darkness”), which was something that, at that time, along with the highly intellectual nature of their beliefs, appealed to Augustine.
          Following this path, Augustine began to turn from his dissolute life and began following the strict Manichee moral code.  He soon began to see the flaws with the Manichee’s gnostic understanding of the world, however, in which everything that had to do with the body was bad, while everything that had to do with the spirit was good.  He could definitely see how the spiritual was greater than the physical, but he couldn’t escape the feeling that the physical could not be wholly abandoned.
          Although Augustine, after his famous conversion to Christianity, would spend the rest of his life striving to follow Saint Paul’s admonition to the Romans to “leave off the works of the flesh and put on Christ”, he would never wholly swear off the body.  He would come to know that what we do in the body matters and that it is through our bodies that we achieve our salvation.  This, in fact, he had come to discover and to teach, was everything that Jesus came to confirm for us and the feast that we celebrate today—the Ascension of Jesus, body and soul, into heaven—is the crowing jewel of this work.
          Friends, in the Incarnation (when Mary said “yes” to the Angel Gabriel and the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and fertilized one of her eggs so that she might conceive a child) the Son of God—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—took on a human body.  The Son of God in human flesh was born just like everyone else, grew and matured just like everyone else, and lived and moved and breathed just like everyone else; and when the time came for him to fulfill his purpose on earth, the Son of God suffered, died, and rose again in that same human body.  Now we can say with certainty that, because of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, which the Scriptures record for us, the Son of God dwells in eternity in his human body!
          And so, while it is true that today we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant return to heaven after accomplishing his saving work here on earth, it is also true that what we celebrate is the full restoration of communion—that is, the perfect union of natures—between God and man that Jesus accomplished when he took his human nature with him as he ascended into heaven.  My friends, this latter part is something very important for us to remember today.
          This is because today we seem to be treating our bodies as if they are disposable; as if it is a tool for us to use for the time that we are here, but, once our spirit leaves, what we do with it doesn’t really matter.  Saint Augustine treated his body this way before his conversion: first in the hedonism that he practiced, but then also in his Manicheism in which he continually swore off his body as something evil and to be discarded.  One doesn’t have to look hard to see that the dominant practical religion in our country today is hedonism (that is, the constant pursuit of pleasure as the source of happiness).  Nevertheless, I also think that the Manichean influence is alive and well.  I see this in the increasing rate in which people are choosing cremation after death.
          My brothers and sisters, we cannot detach our spiritual selves from our physical selves!  Jesus did not leave his human body to return to the Father.  Rather, he ascended in his human body to show us just how important and precious his human body is!  He redeemed us in his human body so that through our human bodies we could find salvation.  My brothers and sisters, when the Son of God took on a human body, it was for ever!  Therefore, to think of a “spiritual only” second person of the Trinity is to think in error.  To speak to Jesus, in other words, as if he exists in the spiritual realm only is to speak to a false Jesus.  Taken to its fullest extent: if Jesus does not still dwell in a real human body (in its fully glorified form, of course), then what we receive from this altar is just a symbol.  But if we believe that we truly do receive the Body and Blood of Jesus from this altar (and, yes, we truly believe that), then it must be true that Jesus still dwells in a fully human body.  If Jesus dwells in heaven in a fully human body, then what we do with our human bodies matters.
          Friends, if this is news to you, I don’t blame you.  This hedonistic/Manicheistic understanding of the human body is so pervasive in our culture that it’s in the water that we’re drinking.  And so what do we do?  Well, first and foremost, we need to stop treating our bodies as tools for our own pleasure and start treating them like God wants us to treat them: like the beautiful means that God has given us to realize our salvation in this world and, therefore, our communion with him.  Treated in this way, we will only indulge our bodies in order to satisfy its daily needs (e.g. eating well and getting the right amount of sleep) or to engage in authentic recreation (e.g. exercise, shared meals, vacations, etc.).  To do more than this is to use our bodies selfishly.  Still further, treated in this way, we will only use cremation of the body after death when it is truly necessary (e.g. when financial needs or the needs to transport the body demand it) and, when necessary, we will still give the remains of our loved ones a proper burial, so that they might have a place of rest.  To treat our bodies otherwise is to disrespect Jesus, whose body became so integrally united to who he is that he ascended in his body into heaven.
          Friends, the Ascension of our Lord is not just a place holder along the way to Pentecost: rather, it expresses important truths about God and about us.  Let us live in our bodies, then, in such a way so as to truly glorify God: that is, until the day that our bodies are fully united to his in the eternal glory of heaven; a communion that we experience, even now, here in this Eucharist.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 27th & 28th, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Que nada te turbe...

Nada te turbe,
nada te espante
todo se pasa, 
Dios no se muda,
la paciencia todo lo alcanza, 
quien a Dios tiene nada le falta
sólo Dios basta.

~ Santa Teresa de Avila

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Homilía: 6º Domingo de la Pascua – Ciclo A
          No sé si alguno de ustedes lo ha notado, pero la temporada de Pascua se está poniendo real. Estamos en el sexto domingo de Pascua, lo que significa que ya hemos completado cinco semanas completas de la temporada de Pascua y sólo tenemos dos semanas completas antes de la fiesta de Pentecostés. Esto significa que nuestras lecturas han comenzado a cambiar su enfoque lejos del evento de la Resurrección y hacia la venida del Espíritu Santo. Todavía no hemos celebrado la fiesta de la Ascensión, sin embargo las tres lecturas de la misa de hoy hablan del Espíritu Santo.
          En la lectura del Evangelio, Jesús está hablando de realidades místicas significativas. Él está hablando de enviar el Espíritu Santo sobre sus discípulos, el Espíritu que permanecerá en ellos y estará en ellos. Él está hablando de su muerte, resurrección y ascensión al cielo, pero que, sin embargo, volverá a ellos y permanecerá en ellos, aunque esté en el Padre y el Padre esté en él. Al escuchar estas cosas y considerarlas, necesitamos pararnos y hacernos esta pregunta: "¿Cómo reacciona mi sentido religioso a esto?"
          Si eres como yo, su primera reacción al escuchar todo esto podría ser una de confusión. "No estoy muy seguro de lo que Jesús está hablando", podría pensar a sí mismo. Si es así, está bien. El reto aquí es involucrar a la confusión y tratar de resolverlo, en lugar de hacerlo pasar y pasar a la siguiente cosa. Con el fin de involucrar nuestra confusión necesitamos reconocer lo que ya he mencionado, que estos son realidades místicas significativas, y luego hacernos esta pregunta: "¿Alguna vez paso tiempo pensando en lo que está más allá de este mundo?"
          Amigos míos, es muy importante que nos hagamos esta pregunta porque el gran peligro en el cristianismo es que lo veríamos sólo como una herramienta (tal vez una excelente herramienta) para sacar la mayor felicidad de este mundo. En otras palabras, es peligroso creer que mantener los mandamientos de Jesús no es más que un amuleto complejo que nos mantendrá fuera de peligro para evitar el sufrimiento. En primer lugar, es peligroso porque simplemente ¡no es cierto! Los cristianos siguen siendo las personas más perseguidas en todo el mundo; así que seguir los mandamientos de Jesús obviamente no es una manera infalible de mantenerse fuera de problemas en el mundo. En segundo lugar, sin embargo, es peligroso porque ignora la gran realidad mística que está destinada a abrirnos: una realidad que no parece ser posible: es decir, que podemos disfrutar de la comunión con Dios en un plano de existencia completamente diferente, que es la fuente de nuestra esperanza en un mundo de agitación. Así, ignorar esta realidad es arriesgarse a perder la esperanza.
          Cristianos que no ignoran esta gran realidad mística que el amor de Jesús nos abre viven la vida de otra manera, ¿verdad? Estos cristianos viven la vida como personas que tienen una esperanza incomprensible: un don sobrenatural que les permite permanecer firmes incluso cuando la agitación del mundo se dirige directamente a ellos. Los primeros apóstoles vivieron así y, por lo tanto, atrajeron a muchas personas a conocer y amar a Jesús. En nuestra primera lectura, oímos cómo Felipe, que había sido expulsado de Jerusalén por la primera persecución, había ido a Samaria y había proclamado a Cristo. Muchos se sintieron atraídos por él y él hizo muchos milagros en el nombre de Jesús. Cuando la agitación del mundo se dirigió a él, Felipe permaneció consciente de la realidad mística de que Jesús estaba en él y él estaba en Jesús y así podía continuar proclamando a Cristo, y así llenar a otros con esa misma esperanza sobrenatural, a pesar del peligro.
          Este es un regalo que nuestro seminarista Guillermo tiene. Después de pasar casi tres meses con él, me sorprendí de que nada parecía molestarle. Tiene una firme comprensión de esta esperanza sobrenatural que surge de la realidad mística que él es en Jesús y que Jesús está en él y que simplemente se niega a ser afectado negativamente por la agitación del mundo. Su conducta era tan auténtica, pero tan atractiva, que consideré escribir en la tarjeta que le hice para desearle bendiciones para el futuro, esa línea que escribimos en los anuarios cuando no sabemos qué escribir, pero quiero escribir algo amable: "Nunca cambie." ¡Excepto que tengo este sentido! No quiero que él cambie, porque él es un testigo a nosotros de cómo debemos estar en el mundo: comprometidos, pero firmes en la esperanza y seguros en Cristo.
          Amigos, cuando hacemos esto, la gente se atraerá a nosotros porque querrán saber: "¿Cuál es la razón de tu esperanza?" Y cuando se acercan a nosotros será una oportunidad para proclamar a Cristo; Y el mundo necesita desesperadamente hombres y mujeres que proclaman a Cristo, es decir, hombres y mujeres que dan testimonio de la realidad mística de la comunión con Dios que Jesús ha puesto a nuestra disposición, la realidad mística que somos en Jesús y que Jesús está en nosotros, una realidad que hace posible vivir inquebrantablemente en la esperanza de una vida de paz y armonía frente a un mundo lleno de agitación y conflictos.
          Amigos míos, la fiesta de Pentecostés vendrá pronto: la fiesta en la que celebramos la venida del Espíritu Santo, a quien Jesús prometió enviar. En preparación para esta fiesta, debemos prepararnos para renovar nuestro compromiso de vivir nuestras vidas "en el Espíritu". Hacemos esto manteniéndonos conscientes de las cosas más allá de este mundo: las realidades místicas en las que participamos porque nos hemos unido al Padre, a través de Jesús, en el bautismo. Al hacerlo, seremos testigos de la esperanza de que nuestro mundo y nuestra comunidad lo necesiten desesperadamente y encontraremos la gracia para permanecer en paz en medio de la agitación del mundo.
          Tomemos, pues, esta buena obra para preparar en oración estas dos semanas siguientes para celebrar esta gran fiesta; para que, con los corazones llenos del poder del Espíritu Santo, podamos atraer a todos los que nos rodean a esta gran realidad mística: la comunión con Dios que recibimos aquí en esta Eucaristía.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

21 de mayo, 2017