Sunday, May 31, 2015

Transitions are hard, God is harder.

          I'm looking forward to being down in Brown County, Indiana with my brother priests from the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana this week.  It will be a time of rest and fraternity that we don't often get as priests, especially since our parishes are so spread out across rural Indiana.  Please pray for us this week.  We will certainly remember you all in prayer.  Thanks!


Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B
          Transitions are hard.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a big transition or a small one, if it’s something that we’ve anticipated or not, or even if it’s something that we’ve wanted versus something that we didn’t want, transitions are hard.  This is because every transition involves some kind of loss.  In other words, in order for us to move into the next thing there’s always something that we need to leave behind.  For example, say that I get that new job that I had wanted.  In order for me to move into that job, I have to leave my current job (which, perhaps, is something that I’m happy to do).  It also means, however, that I have to leave all of those people that I’ve been working with; and perhaps some of them have become good friends.  Thus, in order to make this transition, I have to leave behind some of these relationships.
          One of my professors in the seminary—the one who introduced us into counseling those who have suffered a loss—would often remind us that grief counseling has a place during marriage preparation.  “Regardless of whether or not the man or the woman recognizes it,” he would say, “each is getting ready to lose something when they marry.”  Their independence is the biggest thing, of course, but there are also smaller things, like that couch that he loves that she won’t allow in the house or the tiffany lamp collection that she’s been working on that he knows won’t survive the kids when they come along.  This professor had a great line that he would use with folks who would tell him that they just got married; he’d say: “Oh, I’m sorry for your loss,” because marriage is a transition and transitions are hard.
          Our scriptures even give us an example of this today.  In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, we hear Moses giving what appears to be a “pep talk” to the Israelite people.  They had been wandering in the desert for forty years after having been freed from slavery in Egypt, waiting to enter the land promised to them by God.  Now they were just across the Jordan River from that land and they would soon enter into it.  They were weary from being nomads for so many years, but kept wandering in the hope of reaching this land that they were now so close to entering.  And so, why did they need a pep talk?
          You see, for the people that Moses was speaking to, wandering in the desert is all that they had ever known.  Their parents were the generation that participated in the exodus from Egypt.  Not long after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea did they arrive near the land that God had promised to them.  After a group of scouts reported that the land they were about to enter was populated by “veritable giants”, however, the people rebelled against God and refused to enter.  So, they were punished by being led out into the desert to wander until that generation died off.  Thus their children, whom Moses was speaking to in today’s reading, had known only wandering.  And while they all desired deeply to enter into the Promised Land, once they were face to face with making that transition they began to become anxious because they would have to leave off what they knew for something unknown.
          As I thought about it for a little bit, I began to realize that during this time of year many of us are experiencing transitions.  Some of them are things that we’ve anticipated and looked forward to: many colleges have already celebrated graduations and our high schools are celebrating them now; June is a month of weddings and we have a list of them happening here; and today/yesterday we celebrated the ordination of a priest and two men to the transitional diaconate.  Some, however, are transitions that have been forced upon us: like Fr. Mike’s reassignment to Rochester and my new role here; the closing of our parish school; and the transitions that happen surrounding deaths: the person who transitions from this life to the next and his or her loved ones who have to transition into a life without his or her physical presence.  And I’m sure there are many other transitions that are happening right now that you all could think of.
          This is why I find it very providential that we are celebrating the feast of the Most Holy Trinity this weekend: that is, in the midst of this “time of transitions”.  If we go back to our reading from Deuteronomy—that is, to Moses’ speech—we see that his “pep talk” is a bit of history lesson.  Moses is recounting for the Israelites the “signs and wonders” that God had worked for their parents in Egypt, which led to their exodus from slavery, as well as the signs and wonders that God had worked for them as he led them in their desert wanderings.  Moses is reminding them of these things so as to give them courage: in a sense, he’s saying to them, “Look at how incredibly God has treated us since before the exodus and up until this time.  He will not, therefore, abandon us as we enter into this land that he has promised us.  And so we must go forward with courage, holding fast to our faith in God, who is with us, and honoring him by keeping all of his commandments.”
          The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is, arguably, the most important doctrine of our faith, because it pertains to the very nature of God.  It states that there is only one God, but that this one God has revealed himself to us as eternally existing as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This means so much for us.  Most important for us today, however, is that God eternally exists as this perfect communion of persons.
          Now, this doctrine is something that God has revealed to us: we didn’t make it up.  Therefore, it is unchanging: unchangeable, in fact.  Thus the same God who led the Israelites out of Egypt by great signs and wonders and led them into the Promised Land, the same God who took on human flesh so that he might die to redeem us from our sins and then rise again so that we might enjoy eternal life, the same God who descended on the Apostles at Pentecost, is the God who is with us today and into the future: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, we see that God is “solid”: a rock on which we can anchor our hope, even in the face of transition.
          My brothers and sisters, Saint Paul reminds us today that “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” and that “[We] did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but [we] received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry ‘Abba, Father!’”  In this time of transitions, let us not fall into fear about what we must lose, but rather let us go forward, led by the Spirit of God, to face each transition bravely, trusting that God is with us: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be in that world that will not end, amen.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 30th & 31st, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ama y haz lo que quieras

          Bueno, yo tuve algunas problemas para publicar mi homilía de la semana pasada (y es casi la hora de publicar la de esta semana!). Hemos tenido un número extraordinario de los funerales esta semana, por lo que la publicación de esta homilía fue empujado a la parte inferior de la lista de prioridades en múltiples ocasiones esta semana. Sin embargo, aquí está!


Homilía: Pentecostés (Día) – Ciclo B
          "Ama y haz lo que quieras." Los años sesenta fueron una época turbulenta aquí en los Estados Unidos. Estábamos inmersos en guerra en Vietnam y muchos jóvenes aquí protestaban el uso de la violencia para promover fines políticos. Muchos de estos jóvenes manifestantes llegaron a ser conocidos como "hippies". Esta frase que he citado, "Ama y haz lo que quieras", fácilmente podría ser una cita del movimiento "hippie" de los años sesenta. ¿Le sorprenderá saber, sin embargo, que esto es en realidad una cita de un obispo del siglo quinto? San Agustín, para ser exactos. Bueno, podría parecer que San Agustín no tendría mucho en común con un hippie de los años sesenta, pero si nos fijamos en lo que cada uno estaría implicando por esta declaración que usted podría encontrar que son más similares de lo que piensa.
          En cuanto a la primera parte—de amar—me imagino que San Agustín e hippies podrían significar lo mismo. El amor, en su definición más simple, significa hacer cosas buenas y positivas con los demás y, por lo tanto, no hacer daño. Los hippies de los años sesenta estaban molestos de que nuestras diferencias políticas y agendas estaban causando revueltas y violencia en todo el mundo. Al predicar el "amor", que esperaban para llevarnos de vuelta a la comprensión de que todos somos una sola familia humana y por lo tanto debe cuidarse unos a otros. San Agustín—que era el obispo de Hipona... coincidencia? No lo creo!—gustaría también proclamar que el amor nos demanda que ponemos a un lado nuestras diferencias y agendas y cuidamos unos a otros como hermanos y hermanas. Ambos han tocado la esencia misma del amor, por lo tanto, estas dos personas muy diferentes, parecen estar de acuerdo.
          En cuanto a la segunda parte, sin embargo, sus significados parecen divergir. Para el hippie, el amor era una licencia para el libertinaje. "Haz lo que quieras", por lo tanto, habría sido un grito de libertad para participar en lo que él o ella tenía ganas de hacer, siempre y cuando no parece hacer daño a nadie. Para San Agustín, sin embargo, lo que "quiere" se deben pedir al amor. En otras palabras, el amor, en su entendimiento, da forma a lo que es que quiero y lo pone ciertos límites en él. Así, San Agustín no estaba llamando a una libertad de restricciones, sino más bien una libertad para el cumplimiento de las exigencias del amor. Su conclusión: si estamos totalmente centrados en el amor—es decir, la verdadera auto-sacrificio por los demás—entonces todos nuestros deseos se ordenará al amor. Por lo tanto, ya que no hay ley que limita el amor, entonces yo soy libre de "hacer lo que quiero", porque "lo que quiero" será bueno para mí y para todos los que me rodean.
          San Pablo aclara esto para nosotros en su carta a los Gálatas, que leemos en nuestra segunda lectura. A lo largo de su predicación, Pablo afirmó una y otra vez que los que ponen su fe en Cristo encontramos la libertad: la verdadera libertad para el cumplimiento de las exigencias del amor. El Gálatas, sin embargo, debió de pensar lo contrario: que la libertad que tenemos en Cristo es realmente una libertad para "lo que sea" (es decir, el libertinaje que los hippies de los años sesenta querían reclamar por su cuenta). Pablo, por lo tanto, explica la diferencia entre la verdadera libertad del Espíritu y de la falsa libertad de libertinaje. Dice que "así no se dejarán arrastrar por el desorden egoísta del hombre. Este desorden está en contra del Espíritu de Dios, y el Espíritu está en contra de ese desorden” y que “esta oposición es tan radical, que les impide a ustedes hacer lo que querrían hacer.” En otras palabras, vivir en este desorden lleva a haciendo lo que es que ustedes realmente no quieren hacer; y ¿qué otra cosa es la esclavitud si no es "siendo obligado a hacer lo que no quiere hacer"? Sin embargo, "si los guía el Espíritu,” Pablo añade, “ya no están ustedes bajo el dominio de la ley." En otras palabras, la vida guiada por el Espíritu es la verdadera libertad, porque no hay ley para restringirlo.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, a causa del pecado de nuestros primeros padres nuestra naturaleza humana ha sido heridos y los deseos de la carne han superado el poder del Espíritu. Este efecto sobre nuestra naturaleza humana era un castigo por nuestro pecado. Cristo, con su muerte y resurrección, redimió nuestro pecado para que podamos ser salvos de la muerte eterna. Sin embargo, nuestra naturaleza sigue siendo la misma: todavía impulsa naturalmente por los deseos de la carne. Dios nos ha dado el don del Espíritu Santo, sin embargo, que nos guíe para que podamos superar los deseos de la carne y disfrutar de la verdadera libertad del Espíritu.
          ¿Quién de nosotros no ha luchado contra al menos una de “las obras que proceden del desorden egoísta" que San Pablo enumera en la lectura de hoy: "la lujuria, la impureza, el libertinaje, la idolatría, la brujería, las enemistades, los pleitos, las rivalidades, la ira, las rencillas, las divisiones, las discordias, las envidias, las borracheras, las orgías y otras cosas semejantes."? ¿Y quién de nosotros en algún momento de nuestra vida no ha estado viviendo en una o más de estos pecados—y el sufrimiento a causa de ellos—aún clamado a Dios diciendo: "Yo creo en ti, ¿por qué estoy sufriendo de esta manera?" Nosotros están viviendo fuera de la gracia de Dios—es decir, fuera de la vida del Espíritu de Dios—y sin embargo, esperar experimentar sus frutos: el amor, la alegría, la paz, y el resto! Mis hermanos y hermanas, si nuestras vidas no están produciendo estos frutos, entonces nuestra primera pregunta debe ser dirigida no hacia Dios—"¿Por qué estás permitiendo esto?"—Sino más bien hacia nosotros mismos—"¿Qué obras del desorden egoísta" se controla mi vida?" En otras palabras, “¿Cuál es mi pecado favorito y por qué no puedo soltar de la misma?”
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, si queremos saber la verdadera libertad del Espíritu, es decir, si queremos amar y hacer lo que queremos realmente, entonces debemos crucificar el egoísmo con sus pasiones y malos deseos a fin de ser guiado por el Espíritu. Sólo en ese momento vamos a empezar a descubrir la libertad que produce los frutos del amor, gozo y paz en nuestras vidas. Sólo en ese momento vamos a vivir libres de la ley, porque nuestros corazones estarán tan en sintonía con el amor que no puede haber ninguna restricción a hacer lo que sea nuestros corazones desean.
          Este fin de semana se celebra el Día de los Caídos: un día en que honramos a aquellos hombres y mujeres que han perdido la vida sirviendo en las fuerzas armadas de nuestra nación. Es un día en el que se nos recuerda que la libertad que disfrutamos en este país no es gratis: llegó al precio. Y así, como honramos a aquellos que lucharon y murieron por nuestra libertad en este país, debemos también honramos el que murió por nuestra verdadera libertad—Jesucristo—al seguir su Espíritu, cuyo regalo para nosotros celebramos este día.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

el 24º de mayo, 2015

Love and do what you want.

          Okay, so I had a little trouble getting my homily from last week posted (and it's almost time to post this week's!).  We've had an extraordinary number of funerals this past week, so posting this homily was pushed to the bottom of the priority list multiple times this week.  Nevertheless, here it is!


Homily: Pentecost (Day) – Cycle B
          “Love, and do what you want.”  Perhaps for some of you who grew up in that era (or, perhaps, if you are like me and you’ve watched too many movies or TV shows about that era) these words might sound like a “hippie mantra” from the late 1960’s.  “Hey man, why can’t we all just love each other and do what we want?”  (And yes, I know that I am caricaturing this era, which isn’t fair, so I hope that nobody is offended by it.)  Would you be surprised to know, however, that this is actually a quote from a fifth century bishop?  Saint Augustine, to be exact.  Now, it might seem that Saint Augustine wouldn’t have much in common with a 1960’s hippie, but if you look at what each would be implying by this statement you might find that they are more similar than you think.
          Regarding the first part—to love—I would guess that Saint Augustine and hippies might mean the same thing.  Love, in its simplest definition, means to do good, positive things to others and, thus, to do no harm.  Hippies from the 60’s were upset that our political differences and agendas were causing uprisings and violence throughout the world.  By preaching “love”, they were hoping to bring us back to the realization that we are all one human family and thus should care for one another.  Saint Augustine—who was the bishop of Hippo, by the way… (coincidence?  I think not!)—would also proclaim that love demands that we put aside our differences and agendas and care for one another as brothers and sisters.  Both have touched on the very essence of love, thus, these two very different people, seem to agree.
          Regarding the second part, however, their meanings seem to diverge.  For the hippie, love was a license for licentiousness.  “Do whatever you want”, therefore, would have been a cry for freedom to engage in whatever he or she felt like doing, as long as it didn’t seem to hurt anyone else.  For Saint Augustine, however, what you “want” must be ordered to love.  In other words, love, in his understanding, shapes what it is that I want and so puts certain limits on it.  Thus, Saint Augustine wasn’t calling for a freedom from restraints, but rather a freedom for fulfilling the demands of love.  His conclusion: if we are totally focused on love—that is, true self-sacrifice for others—then all of our desires will be ordered to love.  Thus, since there is no law limiting love, then I am free to “do whatever I want”, because “whatever I want” will be good for me and for all those around me.
          Saint Paul clarifies this for us in his letter to the Galatians, which we read in our second reading.  Throughout his preaching, Paul claimed over and over again that those who put their faith in Christ find freedom: true freedom for fulfilling the demands of love.  The Galatians, however, must have thought otherwise: that the freedom we have in Christ is really a freedom for “whatever” (that is, the licentiousness that the ‘60’s hippies wanted to claim for their own).  Paul, therefore, explains the difference between the true freedom of the Spirit and the false freedom of licentiousness.  He says that “the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” and that “these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want.”  In other words, living in the flesh leads to doing what it is that you don’t really want to do; and what else is slavery if it isn’t “being forced to do what you do not want to do”?  However, “if you are guided by the Spirit,” Paul continues, “you are not under the law.”  In other words, life guided by the Spirit is true freedom, for there is no law to restrict it.
          My brothers and sisters, because of the sin of our first parents our human nature has been wounded and the desires of the flesh have overcome the power of the Spirit.  This effect on our human nature was a punishment for our sin.  Christ, by his death and resurrection, has redeemed our sin so that we might be saved from eternal death.  Nevertheless, our nature remains the same: we are still naturally driven by the desires of the flesh.  God has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit, however, to guide us so that we might overcome the desires of the flesh and enjoy the true freedom of the Spirit.
          Who of us hasn’t struggled against at least one of the “works of the flesh” that Saint Paul lists in today’s reading: “immorality, impurity, lust, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like”?  And who of us hasn’t at one time in our lives been living in one or more of these sins—and suffering because of it—yet cried out to God saying “I believe in you, why am I suffering like this?”  We are living outside of God’s grace—that is, outside of the life of God’s Spirit—and yet we expect to experience its fruits: love, joy, peace, and the rest!  My brothers and sisters, if our lives are not producing these fruits then our first question ought to be directed not towards God—“Why are you permitting this?”—but rather towards ourselves—“What ‘works of the flesh’ are controlling my life?”  In other words, “What’s my favorite sin and why can’t I let go of it?
          My brothers and sisters, if we want to know the true freedom of the Spirit, that is, if we want to love and to do what we truly want, then we must crucify our flesh with its passions and desires so as to be guided by the Spirit.  Only then will we begin to discover the freedom that produces the fruits of love, joy, and peace in our lives.  Only then will we live free from the law, because our hearts will be so attuned to love that there could be no restrictions on doing whatever it is our hearts desire.
          This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day: a day in which we honor those men and women who have lost their lives serving in our nation’s armed forces.  It is a day in which we are reminded that the freedom that we enjoy in this country isn’t free: it came at price.  And so, as we honor those who fought and died for our freedom in this country, let us also honor the one who died for our true freedom—Jesus Christ—by following his Spirit, whose gift to us we celebrate this day.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 24th, 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Summer blockbusters

          Although we don't have explosions, we do have a pretty dramatic story to tell.  Every drama needs actors, however, and so each of us needs to step up to play our part.  The Easter-Ascension-Pentecost drama is a story of blockbuster proportions, but no one will see it if we don't live it.  Jesus has promised power to those who follow him.  May the power of the Spirit move us to proclaim him in word and in deed to all around us.


Homily: The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B
          With this weekend’s opening of the movie Mad Max, among others, it seems like the summer blockbuster season is already upon us.  Terminator, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible, The Avengers… the list goes on and on.  As we know, a “blockbuster” is a movie with a lot of action, violence, usually some sort of “end of the world” threat, and, of course, plenty of gratuitous explosions.  One of the classic clichés of these types of movies is what I call the “gasoline fueled warehouse explosion”.  This is where the character douses a warehouse with gasoline (or, at least, allows flammable liquid already in the warehouse to flow—and these days, it seems, the warehouses are almost always full of some sort of explosive material) with the intent of setting it ablaze and destroying the whole structure.  Then, just as he or she leaves, the character drops a lighter onto the fuel and walks away, while the flames quickly spread.  Then, the “money shot”: a wide angle shot where the character is walking towards the camera, away from the warehouse, when suddenly the warehouse explodes in the background, without so much as a flinch from the character.  You’ve seen this, right?  How many of you have seen some version of this scene in a movie before?
          In a way, this feast, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, is kind of like that.  Since Easter, the day of his Resurrection, Jesus, in his glorified body, has walked among us, teaching about how his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead has fulfilled all that had been written about the Messiah and preparing us for this moment when he would ascend into heaven to return to the right hand of his Father.  Then, he ascends: leaving us the promise of something dramatic that will happen soon.  This “something dramatic” is the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  In other words, for 40 days, Jesus “set the stage” by pouring the fuel of his teaching all over the warehouse, which was his disciples; and as he left he dropped the lighter, which was the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit; and on Pentecost, the warehouse exploded as the Holy Spirit descended and gave the Apostles power to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth.
          In a way, this is exactly how it had to be.  The blockbuster “money shot” isn’t when the character spreads the fuel.  If the movie ended there, we’d all be disappointed.  Instead, the character has to set the blaze and get away for us to feel satisfied by the explosion.  Jesus knew that God’s plan for the human race was bigger than his band of followers from Galilee, that it was bigger than the Jewish people, that, in fact, it was so big that it would encompass the entire world; thus, it had to be that, after Jesus had accomplished man’s redemption, he would then return to the Father so that the Holy Spirit—the power by which God’s plan for the whole world would be accomplished—could explode forth into the human scene.
          To use another example:  Many of us have seen what it’s like when 5 year olds play soccer.  Even though their coaches try hard to teach them to play different positions, as soon as that ball is loose, it’s a free-for-all scrum surrounding it.  This is kind of like the disciples while Jesus was with them.  Even though, on occasion, Jesus sent them out to preach, they always came back around him and followed him wherever he went.  After Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit, however, the disciples looked much more like a professional team: spread out across the field, using their different talents towards one purpose, making them much more effective.  Jesus ascends so that his disciples could spread out and be more effective.
          I actually think that we can sum this up by referring to a statement Jesus made elsewhere in the Gospel.  One day, one of the Pharisees asked him “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples do?”  Jesus replied and said, “While the bridegroom is with them, they cannot fast, but when the bridegroom is taken away from them, they will fast.”  I don’t mean to change this into a homily about fasting, but rather to focus on how Jesus acknowledges that there will be different circumstances while he is here with us versus after he has been taken up from us.  Adapting this idea to today’s feast, I might re-write it that Jesus says “While the bridegroom is with them, they will be limited, but when the bridegroom is taken away they will succeed freely.”  Jesus ascends not to abandon us, but so that we can be “launched”, if you will, to fulfill the Father’s plan for all humanity.
          Thus, the Ascension, particularly in connection with Pentecost (and it’s always in connection with Pentecost!), has something to say to us today.  Some of us are upset that Fr. Mike has been reassigned and, thus, is leaving us after 13 years of serving this parish.  But what if this is part of the Father’s plan to “launch” us—the members of this parish—to the next level?  Fr. Mike has done a good job “setting the scene”, so to speak; but now, perhaps, he must go so that the flame that he has ignited can explode into new life for this parish.  My brothers and sisters, this is the hopefulness with which we need to step into this transition: that if Fr. Mike is going forth from us, it is so that we can continue to grow “to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ” as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians.
          Thus, today we celebrate and we look forward.  We celebrate that Jesus, Our Redeemer, has gone before us to prepare a place for us in heaven and to advocate for us eternally before the Father.  We look forward to Pentecost: praying that God will fill us more generously with his gifts—that is, the power of the Holy Spirit to explode into the world in order to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth for the building up of Christ’s Body “to the extent of the full stature of Christ”.  Therefore, my brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid to worship with our whole hearts the Lord Jesus who, having risen from the dead so as to destroy death forever, has ascended into heaven and now stands eternally at the Father’s right hand; and let us not be afraid to pray fervently for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us with his power: the power to witness to Jesus and his saving love to those suffering in mind, body, and spirit—the power of Jesus which has overcome the finality of death—the power that we encounter when we receive his Body and Blood from this altar.
          My brothers and sisters, the summer blockbuster season is upon us.  May our blockbuster—the feasts of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost—be the live action film that tops the Box Office here in our community.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 16th & 17th, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

Elijo la alegría

Homilía: 6º Domingo de la Pascua – Ciclo B
          A veces temo que sufro de una falta fundamental de la imaginación. A pesar de que he estudiado mucho acerca de la Biblia, a menudo lo encuentro difícil imaginar vívidamente las escenas dramáticas que se presentan en las Escrituras. Mi conjetura es que he visto demasiada televisión en mi vida en lugar de la lectura de libros, como debería haberlo hecho. Televisión, sin embargo, ha venido en mi ayuda en la forma de la miniserie titulada "AD". Esta serie fue producida por las mismas personas que producen "La Biblia" miniserie y la película "El Hijo de Dios", y es tan bueno como estas dos producciones anteriores. Lo que el "AD" miniserie hace por mí es que me ayuda a poner caras y personalidades con los nombres y las palabras grabadas para nosotros en las Escrituras; ayuda que mi débil imaginación necesita tan desesperadamente.
          Pedro, obviamente, es un personaje muy central en la miniserie y me he vuelto enamorada de él. Ha demostrado en toda su cruda humanidad: una mezcla de emociones y convicciones que es a la vez audaz y vacilante al mismo tiempo y se ha animado realmente mi lectura de las Escrituras, incluyendo pasajes como el que hemos leído hoy.
          En él, Pedro entra en la casa del centurión romano llamado Cornelio y, impulsada por una visión que tuvo en un sueño, comienza a describir cómo Dios no distingue una nación de otra, sino que quiere que todos los hombres en todas las naciones temieran él y así hacerse aceptable delante de sus ojos. Como lo está haciendo, el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre Cornelio y todos los que estaban de su casa y comenzaron a hablar en lenguas desconocidas—una escena que nos debe recordar a todos el primer Pentecostés—lo que demuestra la verdad de las palabras de Pedro: que Dios, de hecho, no hace distinción.
          Los discípulos que estaban allí—Pedro incluido—estaban asombrados de lo que vieron y gozosos por ello: tanto es así que Pedro les ordenó ser bautizados inmediatamente. Teniendo en cuenta lo que he visto de la representación de Pedro en "AD", puedo tener un sentido de cuán emocionalmente cargada esta escena debió de ser como los discípulos trasladaron de aprehensión sobre la aceptación de los gentiles a la alegría que los gentiles, también, podría recibir el don del Espíritu Santo.
          Una de las cosas que es muy cierto acerca de la naturaleza humana es que el miedo nos roba de alegría. Piensen por un momento de alguien que se preocupa mucho y luego pregúntese "¿cómo alegre es él o ella?" Yo creo que ninguno de ustedes se imaginaban a alguien que es a la vez un angustiado pero alegre al mismo tiempo, porque estas dos características parecen ser mutuamente excluyentes: la cantidad de alegría que una persona tiene suele ser directamente proporcional a la cantidad de miedo—o preocupación—sobre el que se sostienen. Los que están llenos de alegría, por el contrario, puede estar en lo que parece ser las situaciones más temerosas sin ser molestado.
          Jesús nos ha dicho—y hemos escuchado hoy—que "Si cumplimos sus mandamientos, permanecemos en su amor" y que "Éste es su mandamiento: que nos amemos los unos a los otros como él nos ha amado", que significa "dar la vida por sus amigos"; y que "nos ha dicho esto para que su alegría esté en nosotros y nuestra alegría sea plena." En otras partes de las Escrituras leemos que "En el amor no hay temor, sino que el perfecto amor echa fuera el temor." (1 Juan 4:18) Por lo tanto, si guardamos el mandamiento de Jesús de amar—es decir, para dar la vida por dejar ir nuestros apegos y preferencias—permaneceremos en su amor, lo cual es perfecto porque "Dios es amor" (1 Juan 4: 8). Por lo tanto, será echado fuera de nosotros todo temor y hacernos abierto a ser llenado por completo de alegría.
          Uno de los miedos que habitualmente me encuentro aquí en esta parroquia es un miedo al cambio. Sin duda el cambio puede ser una cosa temerosa y hay muchos cambios que enfrenta nuestra parroquia en el próximo par de meses. Si nos cedemos ante el miedo de qué más podríamos perder, sin embargo, y comenzamos a tener más fuertemente las cosas que quedan, entonces nosotros arriesgamos cerrarnos a la alegría desconocida que está por venir. Si nos desprendemos de nuestras seguridades y nos cedemos a ser incómodo, sin embargo, nos abrimos a la acción del Espíritu Santo y nos arriesgamos a ser llenados con una aún mayor gozo que nos podríamos haber imaginado.
          Sólo piensen: si Pedro había negado a dejar de lado sus prejuicios que Jesús era el Mesías por los Judíos solo, ninguno de nosotros "gentiles" podría estar aquí. Pero él se abrió a la acción del Espíritu Santo y por lo tanto se llenó de una alegría aún mayor de lo que podía haber imaginado al principio: que Jesús es el Mesías para ambos Judíos y gentiles por igual—es decir, para todo el género humano.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, la pregunta para nosotros hoy es: "¿qué tememos?" Jesús quiere seguidores llenos de alegría. Sin embargo, los cristianos caminando, con miedo de que el mundo se esté derrumbando por encima de ellos, son particularmente sin alegría. Por el contrario, los cristianos que viven independientes de las cosas de este mundo, y de sus preferencias personales y prejuicios, son típicamente los más llenos de alegría. Éstas se centran en dar, en lugar de recibir; en dar su vida por los demás, en lugar de preservar sus vidas en detrimento de los demás; en suma, se centran en el amor.
          Mis amigos, esta alegría que Jesús promete es una alegría que yo quiero en mi vida y por eso lo voy a dejar ir de mi aprehensión y cederé a ser incómodo con el fin de ver lo que este movimiento del Espíritu Santo tiene reservado para mí y por esta parroquia; e invito a todos ustedes a venir conmigo a seguir el mandato de Jesús de amar sin reservas: porque es por esto que vamos a permanecer en su amor y es por esto que nuestra alegría, perfeccionado por la suya, será completa.

Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN – 10º de mayo, 2015

I'm choosing joy

Homily: 6th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
          Sometimes I fear that I suffer from a critical lack of imagination.  Even though I’ve studied a lot about the Bible, I often find it difficult to imagine vividly the dramatic scenes presented in the Scriptures.  My guess is that I’ve watched too much TV in my lifetime instead of reading books, like I should have.  TV, though, has come to my rescue in the form of the NBC mini-series titled “A.D.”  This series was produced by the same people who produced “The Bible” mini-series and the movie “The Son of God” and it is just as good as these two previous productions.  What the “A.D” mini-series does for me is it “puts flesh” on the Scriptures and it helps me to put faces and personalities with the names and the words recorded for us in the Scriptures; help that my weakling imagination so desperately needs.
          Peter, obviously, is a very central character in the mini-series and I’ve become absolutely enamored with him.  He’s shown in all of his raw humanity: a mix of emotions and convictions that is both bold yet hesitant at the same time and it has really enlivened my reading of the Scriptures, including passages like we’ve read today.
          In it, Peter enters the house of the Roman Centurion named Cornelius and, prompted by a vision he had in a dream, he begins to describe how God does not distinguish one nation from another, but rather wills that all men in every nation would fear him and thus be made acceptable in his sight.  As he is doing so, the Holy Spirit descended upon Cornelius and all who were of his household and they began to speak in tongues—a scene that should remind us all of the first Pentecost—thus proving the truth of Peter’s words: that God, indeed, shows no partiality.
          The disciples who were there—Peter included—were astounded at what they saw and joyful because of it: so much so that Peter ordered them to be baptized immediately.  Given what I’ve seen of Peter’s portrayal in “A.D.” I can have a sense of just how emotionally charged this scene must have been as the disciples moved from apprehension over the acceptance of Gentiles to joy that the Gentiles, too, could receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
          One of the things that is very true about human nature is that fear robs us of joy.  Just think for a moment of someone you know who is a “worry wart” and then ask yourself “how joyful is he or she?”  My guess is that not one of you imagined somebody who is both a worrier yet joyful at the same time, because these two characteristics seem to be mutually exclusive: the amount of joy a person has is usually directly proportional to the amount of fear—or worry—that they hold on to.  Those who are full of joy, on the contrary, can stand in what seems to be the most fearful situations without being fazed.
          Jesus has told us—and we heard it today—that “if we keep his commandments we will remain in his love” and that “his commandment is this: to love one another as he loves us”, which means “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”; and that “he has told us this so that his joy may be in us and our joy may be complete.”  Elsewhere in the Scriptures we read that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)  Thus, if we keep Jesus’ commandment to love—that is, to lay down our lives by letting go of our attachments and preferences—we will remain in his love, which is perfect because “God is love” (1 John 4:8).  Therefore it will cast out from us every fear and make us open to being filled completely with joy.
          One of the fears that I commonly encounter here in this parish is a fear of change.  No doubt change can be a fearful thing and there are many changes facing our parish in the next couple of months.  If we give in to fear of what else we might lose, however, and begin to grasp more tightly the things that remain, then we risk closing ourselves off to the unknown joy that lies ahead.  If we let go of our securities and give in to being uncomfortable, however, we open ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit and risk being filled with an even greater joy than we could have imagined.  Just think: if Peter had refused to let go of his prejudice that Jesus was the Messiah for the Jews alone, none of us “gentiles” might be here.  But he opened himself to the movement of the Holy Spirit and thus was filled with an even greater joy than he could have imagined at first: that Jesus is the Messiah for both Jews and Gentiles alike—that is, the whole human race.
          My brothers and sisters, the question for us today is: “what are we afraid of?”  Jesus wants joy-filled followers.  Yet, Christians walking around afraid that the world is collapsing down over them are particular joy-less.  On the contrary, Christians who live detached from the things of this world, and from their personal preferences and prejudices, are typically the most joy-filled.  These focus on giving, instead of receiving; on laying down their lives for others, instead of preserving their lives at the expense of others; in short, they focus on love.
          My friends, this joy that Jesus promises is a joy that I want in my life and so I am going to let go of my apprehension and give in to being uncomfortable so as to see what this movement of the Holy Spirit has in store for me and for this parish; and I invite all of you to come along with me to follow Jesus’ command to love unreservedly: because it is by this that we will remain in his love and it is by this that our joy, made perfect by his, will be complete.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 10th, 2015

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ser un sarmiento activo

          Lo siento por la tarde puesto. Había muchos de cosas que suceden en este fin de semana! Mi sobrina (y ahijada), Rachel, recibieron su primera comunión este fin de semana (de mí!). Asimismo, anunciamos que el P. Mike ha recibido una nueva asignación como pastor y será el administrador de la parroquia, eficaz el 1 de julio. Eso es una gran noticia y no era realmente lo que esperaba! Más sobre esto como pasen las semanas. Por último, tuvimos la Kermes para recaudar fondos para el viaje misionario de los jóvenes que pasará en junio. He estado tratando de ponerse al día desde entonces!

          Con los anuncios sobre el liderazgo de la parroquia, me parece importante reafirmar que la parroquia es el sarmiento de la vid, quien es Jesús, en cada lugar en particular. Nuestras parroquias deben ser lugares activos; lugares de comunión que dan fruto para la edificación del reino de Dios. Tanto más diversa sea la mejor!


Homilía: 5º Domingo de la Pascua – Ciclo B
          Una de las cosas que se ha hecho muy claro para mí desde el primer día que llegué a Logansport es que solía haber tres parroquias aquí. Como yo lo entiendo, las tres parroquias que solía ser un poco territorial y, al menos en los primeros tiempos, era un tabú para los miembros de una parroquia para asistir a misa en una de las otras parroquias. Me puedo imaginar la escena bastante vívidamente: un joven intenta deslizarse en la parte posterior de la primera misa en la parroquia a la que no pertenece; él se dio cuenta, sin embargo, y oye unos murmullos y recibe algunas miradas de sospecha de los feligreses sentados a su alrededor; él es un extraño y él lo sabe. Ahora bien, aunque yo no diría que este comportamiento es excusable, voy a decir que es comprensible. Los grupos étnicos que formaron cada parroquia se esfuerzan por mantener su identidad y así estaban preocupados por permitir a otros que se infiltran y posiblemente diluir su patrimonio.
          La Iglesia primitiva se enfrentó a desafíos similares. Hoy en día, en particular, recordamos el reto que enfrentó en la recepción de Saúl, también conocido como Pablo. Cuando Saúl salió de Jerusalén, era el perseguidor más ferviente de los discípulos de Jesús; pero cuando regresó—después de haber encontrado a Cristo resucitado en el camino a Damasco y de haber sido bautizado por el discípulo Ananías en Damasco—Saúl era ahora un discípulo. No teniendo oído hablar nada de esto, la comunidad en Jerusalén sospechaba de él. Afortunadamente, el discípulo Bernabé había ido a Damasco y había visto por sí mismo cómo Saúl había convertido y cómo ahora se estaba proclamando a Jesús como el Mesías. Era, por lo tanto, por el testimonio de Bernabé—un miembro de confianza de la comunidad—que Saúl fue aceptado en la comunidad de creyentes.
          Sin embargo, Saúl continuó encontrando dificultades. Entre los judíos de habla hebrea, fue escuchado y aceptado. Entre los Judíos de habla griega, sin embargo, que estaba siendo rechazada (incluso que ellos intentaron matarlo!). Es difícil decir qué fue lo que causó que los Judíos de habla griega reaccionar tan negativamente a Saúl, pero sospecho que tenía algo que ver con el hecho de que, a pesar de que era un Judío, no era un Judío de habla griega, y por lo que tuvieron dificultades para aceptarlo; y así vemos cómo la fuerza unificadora de Jesús seguía siendo limitada por la debilidad de la naturaleza humana.
          En la lectura del Evangelio de hoy, escuchamos a Jesús declara que él es la vid y nosotros los sarmientos. Esta es una imagen muy rica. Una vid, como cualquier planta, necesita tanto el tronco y los sarmientos para crecer y seguir viviendo. Cada planta tiene un solo tronco, sino una variedad de sarmientos y así en el uso de esta imagen Jesús nos está dando una imagen de la Iglesia. Él es la vid, el tronco que penetra hacia abajo en la tierra con sus raíces para extraer agua y minerales de la tierra y por lo tanto es la fuente de la vida a los sarmientos, y nosotros somos los sarmientos, que se extienden por el mundo para absorber lo que es bueno en ella, como las hojas absorben los rayos del sol, a fin de proporcionar el crecimiento de la vid y producir su fruto. La gran diversidad de forma y tamaño de los sarmientos es lo que hace la vid fuerte, lo que le permite perdurar a través de las condiciones cambiantes de modo que pueda seguir creciendo y producir frutos.
          A pesar de este ideal muy orgánico que Jesús nos da, todavía nos enfrentamos a las mismas debilidades de la debilidad humana que limitaban la Iglesia primitiva. La naturaleza humana ha sido redimida, pero no ha cambiado. A pesar de todos nuestros esfuerzos, todavía luchamos para aceptar variadas expresiones de la única fe que hemos recibido en el bautismo. A veces esto está limitado por la barrera del lenguaje; otras veces, existen barreras más estéticos: la música, la predicación, nuestras devociones particulares, etc. Nuestras debilidades humanas nos impiden ver que, como sarmientos en la vid, somos ricos y saludable debido a nuestra diversidad; en cambio, nos convencemos de que estamos limitados por ella.
          Así que, ¿cómo llegamos más allá de estas limitaciones? Sugiero que dejemos de hablar y empezar a actuar. Hace dos años, mientras nos preparábamos para salir para el viaje misionario de los jóvenes, tomé nota de cómo los jóvenes hispanos estaban apiñados en un extremo de la banqueta y los jóvenes anglos fueron apiñados en el otro lado. Les dije que yo no iba a dejar que ellos sean como este durante todo el viaje. En otras palabras, yo les esperaría a mezclar. Yo no sabía que Dios ya tenía un plan. A medida que estos jóvenes viajaron juntos, oraban juntos, trabajado juntos, y sirvieron juntos, las diferencias Hispano / Anglo parecían derretirse. El jueves por la noche (la última noche en el campamento) no había manera de distinguir un grupo de la otra: habían mezclados completamente. Es porque, cuando dejaron de preocuparse de quién estaban juntos con de pie y en su lugar se centraron en los actos de amor que se les está dando para hacer, ellos ya no prestaban atención a sus diferencias y preferencias; más bien, que permitieron a los desvanecen en el fondo.
          En la segunda lectura de hoy, escuchamos San Juan nos invita a "no amemos solamente de palabra, amemos de verdad y con las obras." En otras palabras, está diciendo que nuestro amor debe expresarse en obras, no sólo palabras, si será de la verdad. Y, por lo que vi en el viaje misionario de los jóvenes, el amor expresado en hechos nos hace ciegos a nuestras diferencias, porque estamos enfocados en cambio en la ampliación de nuestros sarmientos y la producción de fruta. Por lo tanto, si nuestra comunidad está luchando para ser verdaderamente integrado, entonces tal vez tenemos que centrarnos más en hacer el trabajo de construir el reino de Dios: es decir, el trabajo de servir a las necesidades de nuestra comunidad; porque es en ellos que vamos a mirar más allá de nuestras diferencias; y es en ellos que conoceremos que somos de la verdad.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, nosotros—la comunidad católica del condado de Cass—son el sarmiento de la vid que se extendió a cabo en este lugar con el fin de dar frutos de manera que se reforzará la vid y seguirá creciendo. Sarmientos frutales están activos, sin embargo, y así que no podemos estar ocioso; más bien, debemos realizar buenas acciones si esperamos producir frutos; y la abundancia de la diversidad en nuestra comunidad significa que el potencial de una rica cosecha es grande. Por lo tanto, involucremos con valentía en estas buenas obras para que, en lugar de ser cortado y echado en el fuego como los sarmientos que no producen frutos, podríamos ser un sarmiento fructífero que se poda para producir frutos aún más abundante: fruto con el que Dios nuestro Padre celestial será verdaderamente glorificado.

Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN – 3º de mayo, 2015

Being an active branch

          Sorry for the late post.  There were a lot of things going on this weekend!  My niece (and goddaughter), Rachel, received her First Holy Communion this weekend (from me!).  Also, we announced that Fr. Mike has received a new assignment as pastor and I will become the Parish Administrator, effective July 1st.  That's big news and it wasn't really what I expected!  More on that as the weeks go on.  Finally, we had la Kermes (spring carnival) on Sunday to raise funds for the Catholic Heart Work Camp trip in June.  I've been trying to catch up ever since!

          With the announcements about the parish leadership, I find it important to re-affirm that the parish is the branch of the vine that is Jesus in each particular place.  Our parishes must be active places; places of communion that bear fruit for the building of the kingdom of God.  The more diverse the better!


Homily: 5th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
          One of the things that has been made abundantly clear to me ever since the first day that I arrived in Logansport is that there used to be three parishes here (did you all know that?).  As I understand it, the three parishes here in the city used to be a little territorial and, at least in the early days, it was taboo for members of one parish to attend Mass at one of the other parishes.  I can imagine the scene quite vividly: a young man tries to slip in the back of the early Mass at the parish to which he doesn’t belong; he is noticed, nonetheless, and hears a few whispers and receives a few looks of suspicion from the congregants seated around him; he’s an outsider and he knows it.  Now, while I wouldn’t go so far as to say that this behavior is excusable, I will say that it is understandable.  The ethnic groups that made up each parish were trying hard to maintain their identity and so were anxious about allowing others to infiltrate and possibly dilute their heritage.
          The early Church faced similar challenges.  Today, in particular, we remember the challenge it faced in receiving Saul, also known as Paul.  When Saul left Jerusalem, he was the most fervent persecutor of the disciples of Jesus; but when he returned—having encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and having been baptized by the disciple Ananias in Damascus—Saul was now a disciple himself.  Having heard nothing of this, the community in Jerusalem was suspicious of him.  Thankfully, the disciple Barnabas had gone to Damascus and had seen for himself how Saul had converted and how he was now proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  It was, therefore, on the testimony of Barnabas—a trusted member of the community—that Saul was then accepted into the community of believers.
          Nevertheless, Saul continued to encounter difficulties.  Among the Hebrew-speaking Jews, he was heard and accepted.  Among the Greek-speaking Jews, however, he was being rejected (they even attempted to kill him!).  It’s hard to say what it was that caused the Greek speaking Jews to react so negatively to Saul, but I suspect that it had something to do with the fact that, although he was a Jew, he wasn’t a Greek-speaking Jew, and so they had a hard time accepting him; and thus we see how the unifying force of Jesus was still being limited by the weaknesses of human nature.
          In the Gospel reading today, we heard Jesus declare that he is the vine and we are the branches.  This is a very rich image.  A vine, like any plant, needs both the trunk and the branches to grow and to continue living.  Each plant has only one trunk but a variety of branches and so in using this image Jesus is giving us an image of the Church.  He is the vine, the trunk which penetrates down into the soil with its roots to extract water and minerals from the ground and thus is the source of life to the branches, and we are the branches, who extend out into the world to absorb what is good in it, like leaves absorb the rays of the sun, so as to provide growth to the vine and to produce its fruit.  The great diversity in shape and size of the branches is what makes the vine strong, allowing it to endure through changing conditions so that it may continue to grow and produce fruit.
          In spite of this very organic ideal, however, we still face the same debilities of human weakness that limited the early Church.  Human nature has been redeemed, but it hasn’t changed.  In spite of all of our best efforts, we still struggle to accept varied expressions of the one faith that we received in baptism.  Sometimes this is limited by the barrier of language; other times, there are more aesthetic barriers: the music, the preaching, our particular devotions, etc.  Our human weaknesses keep us from seeing that, as branches on the vine, we are rich and healthy because of our diversity; instead, we convince ourselves that we are limited by it.
          So, how do we get past these limitations?  I suggest that we stop talking and start acting.  Two years ago, as we prepared to leave for the youth mission trip, I took note of how the Hispanic kids were all huddled together at one end of the sidewalk and the Anglo kids were huddled together on the other side.  I told them that I wasn’t going to let them be like this throughout the whole trip.  In other words, I would expect them to mix together.  Little did I know that God already had a plan.  As these kids traveled together, prayed together, worked together, and served together, the Hispanic/Anglo differences seemed to melt away.  By Thursday night (our last night at the camp) there was no way to distinguish one group from the other: they had mixed together completely.  You see, when they stopped worrying about who they were standing next to and instead focused on the acts of love that they were being given to do, they no longer paid attention to their differences and preferences; rather, they allowed those to fade into the background. 
          In the second reading today, we heard Saint John invite us to “love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.”  In other words, he is saying that our love must be expressed in works, not just words, if it is to be true.  And, from what I saw on the youth mission trip, love expressed in deeds makes us blind to our differences because we are focused instead on extending our branches and producing fruit.  Thus, if our community is struggling to be truly integrated (and I’m not saying that it is), then perhaps we need to focus more on doing the work of building God’s kingdom: that is, the work of serving the needs of our community; because it is in them that we will look past our differences; and it is in them that we will know that we belong to the truth.
          My brothers and sisters, we—the Catholic Community of Cass County—are the branch on the vine extended out into this place in order to bear fruit so that the vine will be strengthened and will continue to grow.  Fruit bearing branches are active, however, and so we cannot be idle; rather, we must engage in good deeds if we hope to produce fruit; and the abundance of diversity in our community means that the potential for a rich harvest is great.  Let us, then, boldly engage in these good works so that, rather than being cut off and thrown into the fire like the branches that produce no fruit, we might be a fruitful branch that is pruned so as to produce fruit even more abundantly: fruit by which God our heavenly Father will be truly glorified.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 3rd, 2015