Sunday, April 22, 2018

UNO : Pastor/Rebano



Homilía: 4º Domingo de la Pascua – Ciclo B
          El otro día, pensé en esta mujer que conocía quien se llama Laura. Conocí a Laura hace casi ocho años cuando nos inscribimos para una pasantía de verano para futuros pastores y consejeros pastorales en uno de los hospitales en Carmel. Este era un programa no confesional, por lo que había católicos, protestantes e incluso aquellos que no afirmaban pertenecer a ninguna tradición de fe en particular. Laura estaba de esa última categoría. Ella creció en la religión católica, pero hace tiempo que se había alejado de practicar su fe en la Iglesia Católica. Debo confesar que al principio la juzgué injustamente. Como era una mujer, se había divorciado, tenía poco más de cuarenta años y había dejado la práctica de la Iglesia Católica, juzgué que era alguien que había dejado la Iglesia por razones ideológicas. Francamente, asumí que ella quería que las mujeres fuesen sacerdotes y que esa era la razón por la que ahora estaba siguiendo esta carrera pastoral desde fuera de la Iglesia Católica.
          Cuando llegué a conocer a Laura a través del trabajo conjunto en el hospital, llegué a respetarla profundamente. Ella había pasado por muchas situaciones dolorosas en su vida y pude ver que estaba tratando de darle sentido a todo mientras permanecía fiel a lo que era y a ser una discípula de Jesús. No obstante, todavía me aferré a mi prejuicio de que ella tenía una agenda contra la Iglesia Católica (a pesar de que no había dicho una sola palabra negativa en contra de ella). Un día, sin embargo, ella dijo algo que me dejó alucinado. No recuerdo de qué se trataba la conversación, pero debemos haber estado diciendo algo sobre la Iglesia o sobre las diferentes tradiciones de fe, porque en un momento dado Laura dijo: "Por eso amo a la Iglesia Católica porque es muy igualitaria. ¡Se llevan a cualquiera!" "Espera," yo pensé, "¿has abandonado a la Iglesia Católica para hacer lo tuyo, pero a ti te gusta de todos modos?" Me estaba confundiendo, pero borró por completo mis prejuicios sobre ella y me hizo pensar más en cómo veo a las personas, especialmente a las personas que no "encajan" en mi idea de un "buen discípulo".
          Hoy, en nuestra lectura del Evangelio, escuchamos a Jesús llamarse el "Buen Pastor". De hecho, en cada año, el Evangelio para el cuarto domingo de Pascua se toma del discurso del "Buen Pastor" en el Evangelio de Juan. Por lo tanto, hemos venido a llamar al cuarto domingo de Pascua el "Domingo del Buen Pastor". Este año, tenemos la bendición de escuchar la parte de este discurso en el que Jesús se llama a sí mismo el "Buen Pastor" y luego continúa describiendo cómo se comporta un buen pastor. El buen pastor "da su vida por sus ovejas", dice Jesús, y conoce sus ovejas y sus ovejas lo conocen. Sabemos que Jesús es el Buen Pastor, porque sabemos que él dio su vida por nosotros, sus ovejas. En cada iglesia guardamos un recordatorio de eso en algún lado y entonces todo lo que tenemos que hacer es mirar hacia el crucifijo que está allí para recordar que Jesús es el Buen Pastor que dio su vida por nosotros sus ovejas. Y él nos conoce y lo conocemos. Todos los domingos (y, para algunos de ustedes, con más frecuencia) venimos a la Misa y escuchamos la Palabra de Dios proclamada y abierto para nosotros. Esta palabra nos revela a Jesús para que podamos conocerlo y conocerlo profundamente. Y, por supuesto, dado que Jesús es el Hijo de Dios "por quien todas las cosas fueron hechas", él nos conoce y nos ama: no como una oveja que su Padre le contrató para pastorear, sino como su propia oveja para quien él daría su vida. Y esto es muy familiar para nosotros.
          Entonces Jesús dice algo interesante. Él dice: "Tengo además otras ovejas que no son de este redil y es necesario que las traiga también a ellas; escucharán mi voz y habrá un solo rebaño y un solo pastor". Sabes, si echas un vistazo a tu alrededor, te darás cuenta de que somos un grupo bastante homogéneo de personas. Ciertamente, hay una gran diversidad en nuestros antecedentes, pero si alguien que no conocía a ninguno de nosotros se quedaba afuera y observaba a todo el mundo después de la misa, apostaría a que llegaría a la conclusión de que, en su mayor parte, éramos todos prácticamente lo mismo. Y si miramos a su alrededor en nuestra comunidad, podemos ver que hay una gran parte de ella que no pertenece a esta Iglesia: personas de diferentes razas y etnias, personas de diferentes niveles socioeconómicos y personas de diferentes tradiciones religiosas. Y así cuando escuchaste las palabras de Jesús hoy: "Tengo además otras ovejas que no son de este redil... que las traiga también a ellas", espero que algunas de estas personas se te ocurran.
          En la primera lectura, escuchamos a Pedro proclamar en su discurso al Sanedrín que solo hay un nombre por el cual debemos ser salvos (es decir, el nombre de Jesús). Nótese que no dijo "los elegidos" serían salvados, sino más bien que nosotros, queriendo decir todos, debemos ser salvados. Junto con las palabras de Jesús de que habría "un rebaño [y] un pastor", vemos que no tenemos ningún derecho a la exclusividad en la Iglesia Católica. En otras palabras, nadie tiene derecho a reclamar "esta es mi iglesia y espero que solo gente como yo asista aquí". De hecho, ninguno de nosotros tiene derecho a reclamar que ninguna iglesia sea "su iglesia". Solo hay una persona en todo el universo que puede decir con razón "esta es mi iglesia", y ese es Jesús. Para el resto de nosotros, solo existe la Iglesia y nosotros, en el mejor de los casos, pertenecemos a ella.
          Y entonces, mis hermanos y hermanas, vemos que mi amiga Laura tenía razón. La Iglesia Católica, es decir, la Iglesia universal, es la Iglesia para todos, porque es la Iglesia de Jesús. De hecho, tiene que ser para todos; porque si se convierte en "mi iglesia", pierde su razón de ser: para ser el único rebaño del único pastor, Jesucristo. En nuestra segunda lectura de la carta de San Juan, leemos: "Hermanos míos, ahora somos hijos de Dios". Mis hermanos y hermanas, no hay mayor dignidad que esto: ser hijos de Dios. Por lo tanto, cualquier distinción entre nosotros y los que nos rodean, ya sea aquí en las bancas o en la comunidad, son distinciones en este mundo solamente. A los ojos de Dios, somos sus hijos o aquellos que potencialmente se convertirán en sus hijos a través del bautismo. Nuestra tarea es borrar cualquier otra división y trabajar únicamente para que haya un solo rebaño para nuestro único pastor, Jesucristo.
          Bueno, sería negligente si no aprovechara la oportunidad, en este Domingo del Buen Pastor, también conocido como "Día Mundial de las Vocaciones", para hablar sobre las vocaciones: especialmente las vocaciones al sacerdocio y la vida religiosa consagrada. El sacerdocio es la presencia visible de Cristo en nuestra comunidad: las muchas manifestaciones del "único pastor" para el "único rebaño". Por lo tanto, debemos ser valientes al animar a los jóvenes a preguntarle a Dios si los llama al sacerdocio para que la presencia del Buen Pastor siempre sea visible para nosotros. Las personas religiosas consagradas son brillantes chispas de luz en la Iglesia, de las cuales actualmente son muy pocas. Por lo tanto, también debemos ser valientes al animar a todos nuestros jóvenes a preguntarle a Dios si los está llamando a consagrarse de una manera especial para ser un brillante destello de luz del amor de Dios en el mundo, que está envuelto hoy en tanta oscuridad. En ambos, debemos hacerlo sin prejuicio, sabiendo que Dios "no llama al calificado, sino que califica al llamado".
          Amigos, mientras seguimos deleitándonos en nuestro gozo pascual, demostrémosle a Dios cuán agradecidos estamos por ser llamados Sus hijos al renovar nuestros esfuerzos diariamente para edificar Su Iglesia en el rebaño por el cual Jesús el Buen Pastor entregó su vida; y por quien un día volverá a pastorear del gozo eterno del cielo.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
22 de abril, 2018

ONE : Shepherd/Flock



Homily: 4th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
          The other day, I got to thinking about this woman I knew named Laura.  I met Laura nearly eight years ago when we both signed up for a summer internship for future pastors and pastoral counselors at one of the hospitals in Carmel.  This was a non-denominational program, so there were Catholics, Protestants, and even those who didn’t claim to belong to any particular faith tradition.  Laura fit into that latter category.  She grew up Catholic but had long since drifted away from practicing her faith in the Catholic Church.  I must confess that at first I judged her unjustly.  Because she was a woman, divorced, in her early forties, and had left the practice of the Catholic Church I judged her to be someone who left the Church for ideological reasons.  Frankly, I assumed that she wanted women to be priests and that this was why she was now pursuing this pastoral career from outside of the Catholic Church.
          As I got to know Laura through working together in the hospital, I grew to respect her deeply.  She had been through a lot of painful situations in her life and I could see that she was trying to make sense of it all while remaining true to who she was and to being a disciple of Jesus.  Nonetheless, I still held on to my prejudice that she had an agenda against the Catholic Church (in spite of the fact that she hadn’t said one negative word against it).  One day, however, she said something that blew me away.  I don’t remember what the conversation was about, but we must have been saying something about the Church or about different faith traditions, because at one point Laura said “That’s why I love the Catholic Church, because it’s so egalitarian.  They take anybody!”  “Wait,” I thought, “you’ve abandoned the Catholic Church to do your own thing but you love it anyway?”  It was confounding to me, but it completely obliterated my prejudices of her and it made me think harder about how I look at people, especially people who don’t “fit” into my idea of a “good disciple”.
          Today, in our Gospel reading, we hear Jesus call himself the “Good Shepherd”.  In fact, in each year of the three year cycle of readings the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Easter is taken from the “Good Shepherd” discourse in John’s Gospel.  Therefore, we’ve come to call the 4th Sunday of Easter “Good Shepherd Sunday”.  This year, we are blessed to hear the part of this discourse in which Jesus calls himself the “Good Shepherd” and then continues to describe how a good shepherd behaves.  The good shepherd “lays down his life for his sheep”, Jesus says, and he knows his sheep and his sheep know him.  We know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, because we know that he laid down his life for us his sheep.  In every church we keep a reminder of that somewhere and so all we have to do is look to the crucifix over there—is everybody looking at it?—to be reminded that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for us his sheep.  And he knows us and we know him.  Every Sunday (and for some of you even more frequently) we come to Mass and we hear the Word of God proclaimed and broken open for us.  This word reveals Jesus to us so that we can know him and know him deeply.  And, of course, since Jesus is the Son of God “through whom all things were made” he knows us and he loves us: not as some sheep that his Father hired him to shepherd, but as his own sheep for whom he would lay down his life.  And this is all very familiar to us.
          Then Jesus says something interesting.  He says “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.”  You know, if you take a look around you, you’ll notice that we’re a pretty homogenous group of people.  Certainly there is great diversity in our backgrounds, but if someone who didn’t know any of us stood outside and watched as everyone left after Mass, I’d bet that he or she would conclude that, for the most part, we were all pretty much the same.  And if we look around in our community, we can see that there is a large part of it that does not belong to this Church: people of different races and ethnicities, people of different socio-economic status, and people of different religious tradition.  And so when you heard the words of Jesus today—“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold… These also I must lead”—I hope that some of these people came to your mind.
          In the first reading, we heard Peter proclaim in his speech to the Sanhedrin that there is only one name by which we are to be saved (that is, the name of Jesus).  Notice he didn’t say by which “the chosen ones” would be saved, but rather by which we—meaning all—are to be saved.  Coupled with Jesus’ words that there would be “one flock [and] one shepherd”, we see that we have no claim to exclusivity in the Catholic Church.  In other words, no one has any right to claim “this is my church and I hope that only people like me attend here.”  In fact, none of us even have the right to claim that any church is “their church”.  There is only one person in the entire universe who can rightfully say “this is my church”, and that’s Jesus.  For rest of us, there is only the Church and we, at best, belong to it.
          And so, my brothers and sisters, we see that my friend Laura was right.  The Catholic Church, that is, the universal Church, is the Church for everyone, because it is Jesus’ Church.  In fact, it has to be for everyone; because if it devolves into being “my church” then it loses its very reason for existence: to be the one flock of the one shepherd, Jesus Christ.  In our second reading from the letter of Saint John we read: “Beloved, we are God’s children now.”  My brothers and sisters, there is no greater dignity than this: to be children of God.  Therefore, any distinction between us and those around us—either here in the pews or out in the community—are distinctions in this world only.  In God’s eyes, we are either his children or those who will potentially become his children through baptism.  Our task is to erase every other division and work solely so that there would be one flock for our one shepherd, Jesus Christ.
          Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, also known as “World Day of Vocations”, to speak about vocations: especially vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life.  The priesthood is the visible presence of Christ in our community—the many manifestations of the “one shepherd” for the “one flock”.  Therefore, we must be bold in encouraging young men to ask God if he is calling them to the priesthood so that the presence of the Good Shepherd will always be visible to us.  Consecrated religious persons are bright sparks of light in the Church, of which currently there are too few.  Therefore, we must also be bold in encouraging all our young people to ask God if he is calling them to consecrate themselves in a special way to be a bright flash of light of God’s love in the world, which is shrouded today in so much darkness.  In both, we must do so without prejudice, knowing that God “does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.”
          Friends, as we continue to revel in our Easter joy, let us show God how grateful we are to be called His children by renewing our efforts daily to build up His Church into the one flock for whom Jesus the Good Shepherd laid down his life; and for whom he will one day return to shepherd into the eternal joy of heaven.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – April 22nd, 2018

Sunday, April 15, 2018

El Cristo Resucitado disipa la ceguera


Homilía: 3º Domingo de la Pascua – Ciclo B
          Uno de los temas comunes que parece correr a través de nuestras lecturas de hoy es la idea de que la Resurrección de Cristo es la luz que quita la ceguera. En la primera lectura, Pedro está hablando a la multitud que se había reunido a su alrededor y al Apóstol Juan después de haber sanado al hombre lisiado cerca del Pórtico de Salomón, a las afueras del templo. Escuchamos a Pedro acusar a la multitud de haber "rechazado al Santo y al Justo" y haber dado muerte al "autor de la vida". Luego, en un acto de misericordia, él reconoce que ellos "han obrado por ignorancia" y les asegura que, si se arrepienten, sus pecados serán borrados por el mismo "Santo y Justo" a quien rechazaron. En otras palabras, cuando lo rechazaron, quedaron cegados por su ignorancia, pero ahora ven la plenitud de Cristo resucitado de entre los muertos y su poder salvador. Por lo tanto, pueden volverse a él y recibir el perdón.
          En la lectura del Evangelio, escuchamos cómo Pedro y los Apóstoles fueron los primeros (o quizás los segundos) en ser iluminados por el Cristo resucitado. Allí, los discípulos de Emaús, a quienes apareció el Cristo Resucitado y que se dieron a conocer al partir el pan, han regresado a Jerusalén y están relatando su encuentro con Cristo resucitado. "Mientras hablaban de esas cosas", el Evangelio registra para nosotros, Jesús apareció en medio de ellos, los reprendió por su incredulidad en la resurrección, y luego "[abre] el entendimiento para que comprendieran las Escrituras" acerca de cómo el Cristo tuvo que sufrir y morir y luego levantarse para cumplir lo que estaba escrito. A pesar de lo que Jesús dijo a sus discípulos antes de su Pasión, Muerte y Resurrección, ellos necesitaron su presencia resucitada para quitarles la ceguera y poder ver la verdad completa de sus enseñanzas.
          En la segunda lectura, las palabras del apóstol Juan también apuntan a abrir los ojos de sus lectores. Nuestra lectura comienza con Juan diciendo: "Les escribo esto para que no pequen". En otras palabras, "para que puedan reconocer el pecado y así evitarlo". Luego, como con Pedro en la primera lectura, lo escuchamos anunciar la misericordia de Dios: diciendo, en efecto, "Si en su ignorancia ha pecado, no le desespere; porque Jesús es nuestro intercesor ante el Padre y ha expiado nuestros pecados." En otras palabras, "si ha pecado a causa de la ceguera, no le vuelva a cegar y ve a Cristo que defenderá en su nombre delante del Padre". Para Juan, es Cristo, resucitado de los muertos, que da luz y esperanza a los que habían sido ciegos en su pecado, tal como lo fue para la multitud que escuchó a Pedro esa tarde en Jerusalén, y tal como lo fue para los discípulos reunidos en el Cenáculo en esa primera Pascua.
          Bueno, ¿por qué es importante tenerlo en cuenta hoy? Porque será importante recordar en los próximos años, ya que será necesario proponer una vez más estas grandes verdades a una generación que en gran parte se ha apartado de ella.
          Un columnista de periódicos recientemente reflexionó sobre los problemas de Europa con respecto a los jóvenes adultos y la religión. Cita específicamente al papa emérito Benedicto XVI que, mientras aún era el cardenal Joseph Ratzinger, señaló que la tendencia en Europa significaba que la Iglesia sería "reducida en sus dimensiones", lo que haría "necesario comenzar de nuevo". Aquí, casi 20 años después, ver esto pasando en Europa. Un estudio reciente mostró que, en 12 de las 22 naciones europeas encuestadas, más de la mitad de las personas de entre 16 y 29 años declaran no tener ninguna religión. En 18 de estas 22 naciones, menos del 10 por ciento de los adultos jóvenes admiten asistir a servicios religiosos semanalmente (esto incluye todas las religiones, no solo el catolicismo).
          Según el autor del informe, una clave para entender este cambio es reconocer que la fe "nominal" o "cultural" no se transfiere de una generación a la siguiente. Esto significa que, si los padres de esta generación son cristianos "solo de nombre"—tal vez creyendo en algo "vagamente benevolente" allá afuera—entonces la generación de sus hijos probablemente cortará los lazos con la religión, en lugar de continuar la farsa. De nuevo, esto parece estar pasando: de una manera extremadamente pronunciada en Europa, pero también aquí en los Estados Unidos. Si esta tendencia continúa, el columnista señala, "el futuro que Papa Benedicto predijo, que una iglesia más pequeña tendría que volver a lo básico", se convertirá en una realidad. En esta realidad, según el Papa jubilado, los creyentes nuevamente tendrán que ser misioneros y "proponer de nuevo ... las preguntas sobre Dios, la salvación, la esperanza, la vida, especialmente sobre lo que tiene un valor ético básico".
          Aquí es donde entran estas lecciones de las Escrituras de hoy. Muchos de estos jóvenes—y, por supuesto, muchos de los adultos—que se han desviado de la fe, en algún momento, "chocarán contra una pared". Habiendo vivido una vida de lo que Benedicto XVI ha llamado "ateísmo práctico"—en el que Dios no se niega explícitamente, pero la vida de uno no refleja ninguna consideración de Dios—muchos lo encontrarán vacío y comenzarán a buscar respuestas. Nuestro trabajo será estar allí y proponer nuevamente la dura pero misericordiosa verdad que Jesús propuso a sus discípulos cuando dijo: "¿Cómo podrían dudar? Mira cómo esto cumplió todo lo que las Escrituras proponían"; y que Pedro le propuso a la multitud cuando dijo: "¡Mataste al autor de la vida! Pero si le arrepiente, encontrará el perdón"; y que Juan propuso a la Iglesia primitiva cuando dijo: "¡Los que dicen 'Yo lo conozco', pero no siguen sus mandamientos son mentirosos! Pero los que pecan tienen un intercesor en Jesús". Si hemos sido testigos fieles—no solo de nombre, sino de acción—entonces estas personas, su ceguera levantada, volverán al Señor y la Iglesia comenzará a crecer otra vez.
          Esta es la razón por la cual hoy quiero alentarlos estudiar bien los Hechos de los Apóstoles durante este tiempo de Pascua. Así como la Cuaresma fue nuestro tiempo de preparación para celebrar la Resurrección, también la Pascua debería ser nuestro tiempo de preparación para volver a proponer el Evangelio a una generación que lo está abandonando; y estudiar cómo la Iglesia primitiva propuso el Evangelio la primera vez será una gran manera de prepararse.
          Hermanos, la alegría de la resurrección y la promesa de que Jesús es nuestro intercesor—dos cosas que se renuevan cada vez que celebramos esta Eucaristía—serán nuestra fortaleza para realizar este buen trabajo. Así que retomémoslo, confiando en que Cristo, cuya luz rompió la oscuridad de la muerte, puede romper la ceguera de quienes nos rodean y llevarlos a una nueva vida.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
15 de abril, 2018

The Risen Christ removes blindness


Homily: 3rd Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
          One of the common threads that seems to run through our readings today is the idea that Christ’s Resurrection is the light that takes away blindness.  In the first reading, Peter is speaking to the crowd who had gathered around him and the Apostle John after they had healed the crippled man near Solomon’s Portico just outside the temple.  We hear Peter accuse the crowd of having “denied the Holy and Righteous One” and having put to death the “author of life”.  Then, in a turn of mercy, he acknowledges that they “acted out of ignorance” and assures them that, if they repent, their sins will be wiped away by the very same “Holy and Righteous One” whom they denied.  In other words, when they denied him, they were blinded by their ignorance, but now see the fullness of Christ, risen from the dead, and his saving power.  Thus, they can turn to him and receive forgiveness.
          In the Gospel reading, we hear how Peter and the Apostles were the first (or maybe second) to be enlightened by the risen Christ.  There the disciples from Emmaus to whom the Risen Christ appeared and was made known in the breaking of bread, have returned to Jerusalem and are recounting their encounter with the Risen Christ.  “While they were still speaking about this,” the Gospel records for us, Jesus appeared in their midst, rebukes them for their unbelief in the resurrection, and then “[opens] their minds to understand the Scriptures” about how the Christ had to suffer and die and then rise to fulfill what was written.  In spite of what Jesus told his disciples before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, it took his risen presence to take away their blindness so that they might see the full truth of his teaching.
          In the second reading, the words of the Apostle John also aim at opening the eyes of its readers.  Our reading begins with John saying “I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin.”  In other words, “so that you may recognize sin and, thus, avoid it.”  Then, like with Peter in the first reading, we hear him announce God’s mercy: saying, in effect, “If, in your ignorance, you have sinned, don’t despair; because Jesus is our Advocate before the Father and he has expiated our sins.”  In other words, “If you have sinned because of blindness, be blind no longer and turn to Christ who will advocate on your behalf before the Father.”  For John, it is Christ, risen from the dead, that gives light and hope to those who had been blind in their sin, just as it was for the crowd that listened to Peter that afternoon in Jerusalem, and just as it was for the disciples gathered in the Upper Room on that first Easter.
          And so, why is this important to note today?  Because it will be important to remember in the coming years as it will become necessary to propose once again these great truths to a generation who has largely turned away from it.
          Newspaper columnist Terry Mattingly recently reflected on Europe’s woes regarding young adults and religion.  He specifically quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who, while still Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, noted that the trend in Europe meant that the Church would be “reduced in its dimensions” making it “necessary to start again.”  Here, nearly 20 years later, we see this playing out in Europe.  A recent study showed that, in 12 of 22 European nations polled, over half of 16-29 year olds claim no religious affiliation whatsoever.  In 18 of these 22 nations less than 10 percent of young adults admit to attending religious services on a weekly basis (this includes all religions, not just Catholicism).
          According to the report’s author, a key to understanding this shift is to acknowledge that “nominal” or “cultural” faith doesn’t transfer from one generation to the next.  Which means that, if this generation’s parents are Christians “in name” only—perhaps believing in a "vaguely benevolent 'Something' out there"—then their children’s generation is likely to cut ties with religion, rather than continue the charade.  Again, this seems to be playing out: in an extremely pronounced way in Europe, but also here in the United States.  If this trend continues, Mattingly notes, “the future that Pope Benedict predicted, that a smaller church would have to return to basics”, will become a reality.  In this reality, according to the retired Pope, believers will once again have to be missionaries and to “propose again … the questions on God, salvation, hope, life, especially what has a basic ethical value."
          This is where these lessons from today’s Scriptures come in.  Many of these young people—and, of course, many of the adults—who have strayed from the faith will, at some point, “hit a wall”, so to speak.  Having lived a life of what Benedict XVI has called “practical atheism”—in which God is not explicitly denied, but one’s life reflects no consideration of God—many will find it empty and will begin searching for answers.  Our job will be to be there and to propose again the hard, yet merciful truth that Jesus proposed to his disciples when he said: “How could you doubt?  Look at how this fulfilled everything that the Scriptures proposed”; and that Peter proposed to the crowd when he said: “You killed the author of life!  But if you repent you will find forgiveness”; and that John proposed to the early Church when he said: “Those who say ‘I know him’, but don’t follow his commandments are liars!  But those who sin have an Advocate in Jesus”.  If we have been faithful witnesses—not just in word, but in action—then these persons, their blindness lifted, will turn back to the Lord and the Church will begin to grow again.
          This is why today I want to encourage you to study closely the Acts of the Apostles during this Easter season.  Just as Lent was our time of preparation to celebrate the Resurrection, so should Easter be our time of preparation to re-propose the Gospel to a generation that is abandoning it; and studying how the early Church proposed the Gospel the first time will be a great way to prepare.
          Friends, the joy of the resurrection and the promise that Jesus is our advocate—two things which are renewed each time we celebrate this Eucharist—will be our strength to fulfill this good work.  So let us take it up, trusting that Christ, whose light broke through the darkness of death, can break through the blindness of those around us and bring them to new life.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – April 15th, 2018

Monday, April 9, 2018

Honoring the Divine Mercy



Homily: 2nd Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) – Cycle B
          This weekend we celebrate the second Sunday of Easter, which is also the 8th day of Easter, otherwise known as the octave day.  “Octave” day, because for each day during the last week, we have been celebrating as if it is still Easter Sunday.  Hopefully, the joy you felt last Sunday has stayed with you throughout this week and into today, because this is what the Church truly wishes for us.
          This 8th day of Easter has, since the year 2000, been named “Divine Mercy Sunday”: primarily in response to the instruction given by Jesus in a series of visions to Divine Mercy Sister (now “Saint”) Faustina Kowalska, in which he asked that the 2nd Sunday of Easter be dedicated to honoring the Divine Mercy.  That begs the question, of course: “What does it mean when we say that we are ‘honoring the Divine Mercy’?” as well as “What does that look like for us?”  Both our celebration and our scriptures today open for us both of these answers and so let’s take a look.
          First, let’s be sure that we understand why we honor the Divine Mercy on the 2nd Sunday of Easter.  Last week, we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus.  This event, in and of itself, is worthy of solemn celebration and honor: that Jesus, the 2nd Person of the Divine Trinity of persons, took on human flesh, lived among us, suffered the full force of evil-induced pain that the world can offer, and overcame the world by rising from the dead—in the same body, yes, but a body that had been transformed to be the glorious image of humanity restored to its original splendor.
          This Sunday we celebrate an equally beautiful thing: that God’s power, as demonstrated when Christ rose from the dead, was not just for himself—that is, to demonstrate to us his power and so oblige us to worship him alone (although he would be in the right to do that)—but that his power was for us, too.  In other words, we celebrate God’s mercy: that, through baptism, we have participation in the Resurrection: participation in the splendor of Christ’s glorified humanity.  The fact that this celebration comes on the octave day of Easter reminds us that these two celebrations—the Resurrection of Jesus and our participation in it—form one complete celebration of Easter.
          Therefore, when we celebrate today, we are truly honoring the Divine Mercy in that we honor Christ, who paid the price of God’s justice so that we could receive forgiveness of our sins.  Notice that, although throughout the Gospels we hear that Jesus gave his disciples a share in his power to heal the sick and drive out demons, Jesus doesn’t give them the power to forgive sins until after his death and resurrection: indicating that, in some sense, this power couldn’t be transferred until the full debt for sin had been paid.  And so, again, in honoring Christ for his saving work we are truly honoring the Divine Mercy which brought it about.
          Now that we’ve seen what it means to honor the Divine Mercy, we can answer the question “What does honoring the Divine Mercy look like for us?”: that is, “How do I honor the Divine Mercy in my everyday life?”  Here we can look to the early Christian community.
          In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard not about Jesus’ first disciples fearful and huddling in the upper room, but rather about the post-Pentecost community proclaiming Christ openly and growing day by day.  We heard how “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  From a historical standpoint, this made sense: because the first Christians were convinced that Jesus was going to return in their lifetime and so began to dissociate themselves from the world so as to be ready for Christ when he came.  Now we today can look at this in one of two ways: we can say either “Look at how the first Christians lived!  That is how we should be living!” or we can say “That was how they were called to live at that time, but we aren’t called to live that way in this time.”  The problem with this is that neither of these two responses is completely right.  And so, I would like to propose a middle ground, one that demonstrates how we are to live today so as to honor the Divine Mercy.
          One of the things that I can see in that early Christian community is how aware they were of the Divine Mercy.  Astonished that this gift would be available to them, they quickly recognized that to have the Divine Mercy was more important than having anything in this world.  Thus, when the interpretation of Jesus’ prophecy was that he would return within their lifetime, they freely shared everything they had with the community because their possessions had become unimportant to them.  For them, what was most important was sharing this good news and living in immediate preparation for Christ’s return.
          We who have received this same astonishing gift must interpret the prophecy of Jesus’ return for our own times and respond accordingly.  First, however, we must recognize the Divine Mercy as the most valuable gift we could ever receive and, thus, prefer nothing in this world to it.  Then, like the first Christians, we must remain vigilant for Jesus’ return: for although he has not yet returned, nearly two thousand years after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, he may still choose our lifetime to return.  The way that we remain vigilant is by being detached from our worldly possessions: ready to share them with others when demanded of us; because, soon enough, we’ll take leave of them all anyway.
          Nonetheless, the Father’s plan may be for Jesus not to return for another two thousand (or more) years!  Therefore, like the first generations of Christians learned, we have to plan for our future so that, if necessary, we can continue to proclaim this good news until the day that Christ appears again in glory.  Finding the balance between the two is the work of our lives.
          To make this somewhat concrete for us, I’d like to use a very practical rule that saints throughout the centuries have used, and of which 20th century U.S. Catholic Activist Dorothy Day gave simple form.  She said “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.”
          Friends, if we acknowledge the great gift that we have in the Divine Mercy—that is, the forgiveness of sins because Jesus paid the price for us—then we must honor the Divine Mercy by living mercy in our lives.  We do this when we lived detached from this world: providing for our needs, yes, but then sharing freely so that others may receive what they need.  And so today, as we bask in this celebration of God’s mercy, may the discipline of our Lenten fast, now ended, bring about a more concrete experience of God’s mercy for all—and, thus, his kingdom: the kingdom we experience most fully in this world, here in this Eucharist.
Given at all Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – April 8th, 2018

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Salvation through suffering



Homily: Easter Sunday – Cycle B
          Friends, if you couldn’t tell by the way the church is decorated, by the vestments that I am wearing or by the festive music that we are singing, today is a great day of rejoicing.  Christ the Lord is risen from the dead; and for this we rejoice.  Yet, there is a great truth, hidden beneath the surface of this reason for our celebration, that should add depth of joy to our celebration, and it is this: that the way to the resurrection is through suffering.
          Most of us, perhaps, live relatively comfortable lives.  We have places to live, clothes to wear, food to eat, a job that provides for us (or parents who have jobs that provide for us).  We have family and friends that support us and add joy to our lives.  Nevertheless, if we’ve lived long enough, we realize that even those comforts that we enjoy haven’t kept suffering completely out of our lives.  Rather, we have all experienced suffering in some way.  We’ve lost loved ones through death and we’ve watched loved ones suffer; we’ve been hurt by those closest to us: our spouses, our family members (perhaps even our own children), and our friends; we’ve lost jobs (or, perhaps, failed to get the job that would help us fulfill our dreams).  In these and countless other ways, suffering has touched each of our lives.
          Suffering, for many people, is a thing of despair; and if we think about it even for a little bit, we can see why.  We instinctively know that our life spans are limited; and so if suffering becomes too great a part of it, we begin to despair that there is any hope of enjoying this life that we have been given.  For those for whom daily suffering is intense, this lack of hope can be stifling: leading them to isolate themselves from the world and, in some cases, to contemplate ending their own lives (for, they believe, to end their lives would finally bring an end to their suffering).
          This is why today’s celebration—the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—is such good news: because not only has Jesus redeemed us from the punishment due to sin, but he has opened for us a life beyond suffering: one into which we enter precisely through suffering.  Yes, Jesus’ resurrection is a thing of wonder and awe; but it would be much different if he had lived a comfortable and full life and died at a ripe-old age of natural causes, wouldn’t it?  We’d certainly be overjoyed to see him again, but would it truly be the victory we’d hoped for?  No, Jesus’ resurrection holds such great power because it comes precisely after he suffered horrendously: that he, the only truly innocent man ever to live, suffered the full brunt of evil that the world could produce and defeated it by rising from the dead.  In doing so, he demonstrates for us that suffering in this world is not meaningless; but rather that, when it is accepted and endured in innocence of heart, for the love of God and our neighbor, it will speed us along the path that leads to the life beyond suffering that Jesus has opened for us.
          This is so important to say in today’s world: and why?  Well, because it wasn’t enough for Jesus to be a “good person” throughout his life—one who tries not to hurt others and otherwise doesn’t create problems—and then to die of natural causes only to be raised again.  Rather, he had to contend with this world—and the evil-inflicted suffering within it—in order to open for us the way to a life beyond suffering.  Notice, that this contention wasn’t to push suffering down and overcome it by his cunning or his power; but rather to stay pure within it, so as to show that even the worst suffering that the evil in this world can inflict is no match for the power of God.
          My friends, we do not proclaim an easy salvation.  Rather, we proclaim a salvation won for us through suffering: a salvation in which we participate through suffering.  And this, as I’ve said, is the great truth hidden beneath the surface of today’s celebration: that if we embrace the sufferings that come to us in this life—the daily sufferings that we experience because of our sins and simply because this world is broken, and most especially the sufferings that come to us precisely because we are disciples of Jesus—then we are uniting ourselves more perfectly to Christ in his suffering.  And when we are united to Christ in his suffering, then we will also be united to him in the fruits of his suffering: the new life beyond suffering that he has opened for us.
          Friends, this is why we have taken on voluntary suffering for the last forty days: to remind us that suffering in this world is not to be avoided at all costs, but rather that, when embraced for love of God and our neighbor, suffering unites us more perfectly to Christ and, thus, prepares us to experience the resurrection with him.  If you have spent these forty days well, then by all means celebrate in praise and thanksgiving for the grace of God that has worked within you.  And if you haven’t spent these days well, then you, too, should rejoice: because the fruits of the resurrection of Christ are not just for those who can claim “victory” at the end of these forty days, but rather it is for everyone who still struggles to live the life that God has called them to live.  For these I say, “God is on your side!  Continue to struggle and you will find grace to overcome.  Your faith will be evident in the struggle, and by faith the life beyond suffering which Christ has opened for us will be yours!”
          This truth couldn’t be more evident to us than here in this Mass: in which we offer back to God the perfect sacrifice of his Son in thanksgiving for the salvation that his suffering won for us.  Therefore, let us put our whole hearts into this offering: for Christ is risen and we have life in him.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – April 1st, 2018

The light and the water



Homily/Homilía: Easter Vigil/Vigilia de la Pascua – Cycle/Ciclo B
          What an amazing night that God has blessed us with to celebrate this beautiful liturgy in which we stand watch for the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus.  It is a liturgy unlike any throughout the year which truly engages all of our senses.  We started with the fire outside and walked in procession into a darkened church, which nonetheless became bright with the light of the candles and we sang the praises both of this night, which alone knew the hour that our Savior arose from the dead, and of this candle, whose light we shared and broke through the darkness of the night, just like Christ’s resurrection broke through the darkness of death.
          Then we heard the Word of God proclaimed to us: the word which reminds us of the many ways that God has worked throughout history to bring salvation to the human race; and specifically how he has used water to bring it about.  Soon we will welcome fourteen of our brothers and sisters to be washed in the waters of baptism so that they, too, might “grow into union with him through a death like his” and thus “be united with him in the resurrection.”  So prominent are these two elements—the light and the water—that it bears to speak of them with a little more detail.  First, the light.
          Darkness is a fearful thing, isn’t it?  Anyone here still afraid of the dark?  It can also be a very disorienting thing.  If you find yourself in an unfamiliar place and experience true total darkness, you’ll find yourself becoming very anxious, very quickly because you soon realize that without the aid of light, you have almost no hope to escape.  You become frozen.  Light, therefore, removes darkness and gives us confidence to move and to find our way.
          In the Gospel tonight, however, we heard of how the women went to the tomb of Jesus in the early morning and found not Jesus’ body, but rather a young man whom they did not recognize, dressed in white robe (or, as it might be similarly translated, “in a brilliantly shining robe”).  For these women, the light shining off the man sitting in the tomb of Jesus was not a comfort, but a thing of fear; and so we see that even the light can terrify us when it is misunderstood.  We have been enlightened, though, to understand that the brilliance of this light is the glory of Christ shining upon us and so we are comforted.  Tonight, this light shines especially on our elect, who will receive this light into their souls through baptism.
          And what about the water?  Water, for all of us, is a sign of life.  Not too long ago, scientists identified what they thought were signs that there was water on Mars and they rejoiced because, for them, it means that life could exist on that planet.  Water cleanses us; it refreshes us; but it can also be destructive, right?  Think back to the hurricanes and subsequent flooding last fall in Texas and the Caribbean.  Through them we are reminded that water has the power to cause massive destruction and the loss of life.
          In our reading from the book of Exodus, we heard how the Lord saved the Israelites from the Egyptians by holding the water of the Red Sea like a wall to their right and to their left while they passed through the sea to the other side.  Then, when the Egyptians tried to follow them through, the Lord allowed the water to flow back down and it covered them and destroyed them.  Christ, our Lord, calls our elect to pass through these waters—the waters of baptism—to be cleansed, to be given a new heart, and to come and drink freely of his goodness; and so with courage they enter into it.  The light and the water: earthly elements made powerful by God to bring new life to those dead in sin.

          Qué asombrosa esa noche con que Dios nos ha bendecido para celebrar esta hermosa liturgia en la que nos estamos en vigilia para la resurrección de Nuestro Señor Jesús. Es una liturgia como ninguna en todo el año, lo que realmente se involucra todos nuestros sentidos. Empezábamos con el fuego afuera y caminamos en procesión en una iglesia sin luz, que no obstante se iluminó con la luz de las velas y cantamos las alabanzas tanto de esta noche, la única que sabía la hora que nuestro Salvador resucito de entre los muertos, y de esta vela, cuya luz que hemos compartido y que rompió la oscuridad de la noche, al igual que la resurrección de Cristo rompió la oscuridad de la muerte.
          Entonces oímos la Palabra de Dios proclamada a nosotros: la palabra que nos recuerda de las muchas maneras en que Dios ha trabajado a lo largo de la historia para salvar a la raza humana; y, específicamente, cómo se ha utilizado el agua para llevarla a cabo. Pronto daremos la bienvenida a catorce de nuestros hermanos y hermanas para ser lavados en las aguas del bautismo para que también ellos pueden estar “íntimamente unidos a él por una muerte semejante a la suya” y así estar unidos con él “en su resurrección.” Tan prominentes son estos dos elementos, la luz y el agua, que merece hablar de ellos con un poco más de detalle. En primer lugar, la luz.
          La oscuridad es una cosa terrible, ¿verdad? También puede ser una cosa muy desorientador. La luz, por lo tanto, elimina la oscuridad y nos da confianza para seguir y encontrar nuestro camino.
          En el Evangelio de esta noche, sin embargo, hemos escuchado de cómo las mujeres fueron a la tumba de Jesús a primera hora de la mañana y no encontraron el cuerpo de Jesús, sino un joven al que no reconocieron, vestido con túnica blanca (o, como podría traducirse de manera similar, "en una túnica brillantemente brillante"). Para estas mujeres, la luz que brillaba en el hombre sentado en la tumba de Jesús no era una comodidad, sino una cosa de miedo; y así vemos que incluso la luz nos puede asustar cuando es mal interpretado. Pero, hemos sido iluminados para entender que el brillo de esta luz es la gloria de Cristo brillando sobre nosotros y por lo que estamos consolados. Esta noche, esta luz brilla sobre todo en nuestros elegidos, que recibirán esta luz en sus almas por medio del bautismo.
          Y ¿qué hay del agua? Agua, para todos nosotros, es un signo de vida. El agua nos limpia y nos refresca; pero también puede ser destructivo, ¿verdad? Piense en los huracanes y las subsiguientes inundaciones del otoño pasado en Texas y el Caribe. A través de ellos se nos recuerda que el agua tiene el poder de causar una destrucción masiva y la pérdida de la vida.
          En nuestra lectura del libro de Éxodo, escuchamos cómo el Señor salvó a los israelitas de los egipcios al sujetar las aguas del Mar Rojo como un muro a su derecha e izquierda mientras atravesaban el mar hacia el otro lado. Luego, cuando los egipcios trataron de seguirlos, el Señor permitió que el agua fluyera hacia abajo y los cubrió y los destruyó. Cristo, nuestro Señor, llama a nuestros elegidos a pasar por estas aguas—las aguas del bautismo—para ser purificados, para que se les dé un nuevo corazón, y para que vengan y beban libremente de su bondad; y así, con valentía, entran en ella. La luz y el agua: elementos terrenales hechos poderosos por Dios para dar nueva vida a los muertos en el pecado.
          Al haber limpiado e iluminados nuestras hermanos y hermanas, nos reuniremos alrededor y compartir en la fiesta de nuestra salvación, el sacrificio de Jesús, resucitado de entre los muertos, hecha presente para nosotros en este altar; y vamos a abarcar una vez más el cielo y la tierra de una manera muy real, ya que comer el pan de los ángeles y compartir nuestra comunión con todos los santos en Cristo. Mis hermanos y hermanas, esto es una cosa alegre que celebramos y damos gracias a Jesucristo nuestro Señor, que murió para que nosotros pudiéramos vivir y que ahora vive y permanece con nosotros en estos sacramentos, sobre todo el sacramento de la Eucaristía. Que nuestra alegría por la celebración de estos sacramentos derrama de nuestros corazones en todos estos próximos cincuenta días para que nunca pueda dejar de alabar la gloria de nuestro Dios que ha venido a salvarnos por medio de Jesucristo nuestro Señor.

          Having cleansed and enlightened our brothers and sisters through the water and through the light, we will then gather around and share in the feast of our salvation, the sacrifice of Jesus, risen from the dead, made present to us on this altar; and we will once again bridge heaven and earth in a very real way as we feast on the Bread of Angels and share our communion with all of the saints in Christ.  My brothers and sisters, this is a joyful thing that we celebrate and we give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who died so that we might live and who now lives and remains with us in these sacraments, most especially the sacrament of the Eucharist.  May our joy at the celebration of these sacraments pour out from our hearts throughout these next fifty days so that we may never cease to praise the glory of our God who has come to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – March 31, 2018
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN – 31 de marzo, 2018