Monday, August 31, 2015

Virtuosos in the art of human living

Homily: 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          For many years I’ve had a desire to learn how to play the piano.  Over the years, I’ve made multiple attempts to learn.  Each time I’d sit down with a lot of hope that this will be the time that I begin to become proficient.  Now, anyone who’s tried to learn how to play an instrument knows that it’s a lot of work!  You have to learn how to read sheet music, first and foremost; and then you have to learn what keys correspond to the notes on the page and how to move your hands and fingers in the proper ways in order to strike those keys in sequence and thus play the song.  At first, it can be very frustrating as it seems like all of this work is very limiting.  I mean, I just want to play a few songs!  Why does it have to be so complicated?  Perhaps needless to say, but every attempt that I’ve made to learn how to play the piano has ended in frustration and abandonment, not proficiency and success.
          In our first reading today from the book of Deuteronomy Moses is preparing to instruct the Israelites in the Law that he received from God on Mount Sinai.  The Israelites are getting ready to enter into the Promised Land, but Moses won’t be going with them.  Thus, he’s going to remind them of the Law that God had revealed to him so that they’ll be prepared to follow it when they cross over into the Promised Land.  First, however, he gives them the “why” behind the “what”.  Basically he says, “Follow these statutes and decrees of the Lord and you will live well in the land.”  In other words, he’s prefacing his recounting of the Law by saying that these are your guidelines to living a long and abundant life in the Land that God is promising to you.  “You’ll see,” he says, “that following these statutes and decrees of the Lord will make your lives so rich that other nations will be jealous!”
          Initially, of course, the Israelites were on-board.  Who wouldn’t want to live an abundant life after so many years of wandering in the desert?  History has shown, however, that, once they settled in the land, following the statutes and decrees of the Lord was easier said than done.  Faced with the reality of living the Law, the Israelites more often than not abandoned it out of frustration.  At times, God would send them a prophet to call them back to right living according to his Law (and, thus, the abundant life he promised them), but the Israelites continued to abandon it.  The ultimate realization of this is when God allowed them to be conquered by the Assyrians and exiled into Babylon: the promise of a long life in the land now completely unfulfilled.
          When God relented of his punishment and allowed them to return to the Land, there rose up a cult of persons dedicated to ensuring that the people observed the law to the letter.  In Jesus’ time, there were multiple groups of these persons: the scribes, who were Scripture scholars, and the Pharisees, who were scholars in the Law, specifically.  For these groups, the Law was an end in itself and therefore it must be followed to the letter for fear of offending God again.  The idea that the Law was a means for achieving the abundant life was lost on them.
          When we think about learning to play the piano, however, we see that all of those lessons in learning how to read sheet music and how to move your hands and fingers to play the notes in sequence are all intended to ensure that the notes are played harmoniously.  For the astute learner, these lessons begin to sink in a little deeper and he or she begins to learn what sounds go together (for example, the chords) and how to intermingle those sounds to make new sounds.  Thus, having become proficient, the astute learner comes to know how to improvise in the middle of a song; and how to do so in such a way that it seems to fit perfectly with the notes on the page.  True experts—the virtuoso pianists—can improvise whole songs, so deeply have they assimilated the laws governing the extraction of music from the piano.  Thus, they are truly free to play as their heart moves them: because their heart has learned to desire only the most beautiful sounds that the piano can provide.
          As I mentioned, Moses presented the Law as a “guidebook” for living the abundant life that God wanted for his chosen people.  This is why he said to them, “Hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live…”  God did not give this Law to his people in order to restrict them; but rather to focus them towards the ways of living that would truly fulfill them, both as individuals and as a people.  Over the centuries, as I mentioned, this notion was lost as the people abandoned God’s lessons for living the abundant life.  The Pharisees and Scribes of Jesus’ times strove to restore God’s Law, but only as an end itself: that is, a protection against the wrath of God.
          In today’s Gospel Jesus is reminding them that the Law was meant to free us, not restrict us: much in the same way as the laws governing the playing of a piano are meant to free the musician to do more, not less with it.  Therefore Jesus instructs them that observance of the Law for the sole purpose of observance is empty.  This, he implies, is no better than no observance at all: for both are breeding grounds for sin.  Observance as training for right living sanctifies, however, because through it we purge those things from within us that cause us to sin (things like those Jesus listed for us): “evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, and folly.  All these come from within,” Jesus says, “and they defile.”
          And so, my brothers and sisters, we come back to a question that perhaps we need to ask ourselves periodically: “Why do we have the Law?”  The answer is simple: “In order to train ourselves to be virtuosos in the art of human living: that is, to give us true freedom by teaching our hearts to desire that which truly satisfies it.”  And what truly satisfies it?  The Bread of Life, of course!  Jesus, the living bread come down from heaven, is the only thing that can satisfy our hearts in this world.
          Our hearts, however, are attuned to desiring worldly bread and so this work of training our hearts to desire only that which truly satisfies it is hard work: work that can leave us frustrated so that we want to abandon it.  Thus God’s grace comes to us through the Sacraments and prayer.  In the Sacraments, we receive specific grace from God to strengthen us in this work; and in our prayer, God gives us grace to refresh us and to renew our hope daily.  For those of us who know this grace, we can only be grateful.  Thus we come here each week to give God thanks even as we receive more grace from him.  For those of us who don’t know this grace, however, the law seems only to be an end in itself or as a means for appeasing a wrathful God.  These don’t have thankfulness in their hearts and often their religious observance is empty.
          Nevertheless, the truth revealed to us by God through the Sacred Scriptures reminds us that if God has given us a law, it is so that we can live the abundant life for which he made us.  And if he has given us freedom, it wasn’t so that we could do whatever we want; rather it was so that we would have the right to choose to do what we ought.  Let us, therefore, set our hearts on achieving the abundant life that the Lord desires for us: a life lived in accordance with his Law after the model of Jesus, the Bread of Life, whom we now turn to meet at this altar.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 29th & 30th, 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

El puente necesario de confianza

Homilía: 21º Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo B
          La semana pasada hablé de la peregrinación de acción de gracias que tomé a la Tierra Santa en abril. Mencioné que ahora, unos cuatro meses alejados de viaje, estoy recibiendo cierta claridad sobre lo que me impactó más durante el viaje. Uno de los aspectos más destacados, me di cuenta, era mi visita a la Basílica de la Anunciación en Nazaret, que fue construido sobre el sitio de la casa de la infancia de la Santísima Virgen María y fue el lugar en el que recibió el mensaje del arcángel Gabriel, anunciando que iba a ser la madre del Hijo de Dios. "En ese lugar," reflexioné "el Dios que creó todo, y cuya existencia no puede ser contenida, incluso en el vasto universo, de alguna manera encapsulada sí mismo en carne humana." Fue un momento impresionante.
          Reflexioné sobre lo absurdo de todo esto: que Dios, que no tiene límites, habría someterse a los límites de su creación simplemente por amor a lo que él había creado. Luego continué reflejar como este Hijo de Dios tomó entonces el absurdo más allá al afirmar que, para que cualquier persona tiene la vida dentro de ellos, tenían que comer su carne y beber su sangre. En la superficie, es una declaración loca; y yo desafié a los que escuchó mi homilía para darse cuenta de que esta afirmación de Jesús era de polarización: bien, él es quien dice que es y, por lo tanto, tenemos que dar crédito a lo que dice, o él es un loco y debemos huir de inmediato. Los invité a decidir de qué lado estaban y los criterios que utilicé eran éstos: si él está loco por una cosa entonces él está loco por todo; pero si él no está loco por todo, entonces él no está loco por nada. Dado que no pensamos que él está loco por todo, entonces él no debe estar loco por una cosa, y por eso tenemos que darle crédito, no importa lo loco que parece.
          Por lo tanto, cuando Jesús dice: "Yo soy el pan vivo" y "el pan que yo les voy a dar es mi carne, para que el mundo tenga vida" tenemos que esforzarnos para creer que él está hablando de la Eucaristía: para el pan que nos presente no es "pan vivo" hasta que se da la vida cuando, a través de las palabras de la consagración en el altar, su sustancia cambia y se convierte en el Cuerpo y la Sangre de Jesús. A pesar de que todavía parece ser pan sin vida, que es en realidad la carne de Jesús, que vive, por lo que se convierte en "el pan que vive", y hace que sea posible comer su carne sin convertirnos en caníbales.
          En la superficie, sin embargo, esto sigue siendo increíble y, francamente, no se puede aceptar de plano. Si alguna persona de otra manera racional vino a ti y dijo, "y si realmente quieres vivir tienes que comer mi carne y beber mi sangre" que le inmediatamente duda todo lo que sabía acerca de la persona. La aceptación de algo como esto, algo que te empuja más allá de los límites de la comprensión sólo viene después de un puente de confianza se ha construido con la persona que está haciendo esta afirmación. Basta con mirar a nuestra lectura del Evangelio de hoy: Dice: "muchos discípulos de Jesús dijeron: ‘Este modo de hablar es intolerable, ¿quién puede admitir eso?’” Y después se va a decir "Desde entonces, muchos de sus discípulos se echaron para atrás y ya no querían andar con él." Estos discípulos habían sido conectados solamente libremente con Jesús y no tenía construido un "puente de confianza" con él todavía. Por lo tanto, cuando hizo esta afirmación aparentemente absurdo, su frágil fe en él se agitó y se derrumbó. Llegaron a la conclusión de que debía estar loco y así se apartaron de él.
          Los doce apóstoles, por otro lado, se quedaron con Jesús. Habían experimentado mucho más de él y, por lo tanto, había construido un puente de confianza que apoyó su fe. Y así, incluso si ellos no entendieron qué era lo que estaba hablando, que no dieron por perdido como un loco, sino que volvió a comprometieron a él: “Señor, ¿a quién iremos? Tú tienes palabras de vida eterna; y nosotros creemos y sabemos que tú eres el Santo de Dios”.
          Jesús sabía que algunos de los que habían seguido a Jesús no lo creería. Y sabía que su falta de creencia habría deberse a una falta de apertura a la gracia. Así él pudo decir: "Por eso les he dicho que nadie puede venir a mí, si el Padre no se lo concede" En otras palabras, no llegamos a esto por nuestra cuenta. Si el puente de confianza con Jesús se ha construido en cualquiera de nosotros para que le podamos tomar su palabra, es a causa de la iniciativa de gracia del Padre. De este modo Jesús puede decir a Pedro en otro lugar: "Feliz eres, Simón Barjona, porque esto no te lo ha revelado la carne ni la sangre, sino mi Padre que está en los Cielos." Sin embargo, todavía tenemos que abrirnos a recibirlo. Esta gracia está abierto a todos, pero no todos lo reciben; como nuestro Evangelio, y el estado de nuestra Iglesia, nos revela hoy.
          ¿Entonces, dónde vamos desde aquí? Pues, yo estoy convencido de que los que dejan la Iglesia no debe haber personas que creen en la presencia real de Jesús en la Eucaristía. De lo contrario, ¿cómo iban a alejarse de ella? Pedro y los demás Apóstoles creían que Jesús era el Santo de Dios y por lo tanto no podía ser influido a abandonarlo, incluso cuando enseñó esas cosas increíbles. De la misma manera, no parece posible que alguien podría reconocer la presencia real de Jesús en la Eucaristía y todavía se siente como si él o ella podrían ir a algún lugar donde no lo es.
          Esto no quiere decir que todos los que se quedan creen, por supuesto; encuestas recientes indican que alrededor del 33% de ustedes no creen. Más bien, es decir que los que dejan la Iglesia bien nunca han creído en la presencia real de Jesús o, si han creído, han dado la espalda a él por completo. Por lo tanto nuestra tarea es ya sea para ayudar a los incrédulos a venir a la creencia, es decir, para abrir sus corazones a la iniciativa de gracia de Dios en torno a este, o para ayudarles a volver a la creencia y por lo tanto a una relación correcta con Dios. Mi hermano y hermanas, esta es una tarea urgente. El Papa San Pío X, cuya fiesta celebramos la semana pasada, dijo una vez que "la Santa Comunión es el camino más corto y más seguro al cielo." Si nuestros hermanos y hermanas han alejado de esto y no creen en la presencia real de Jesús en la Eucaristía, entonces no hay mayor misericordia y amor que podemos demostrarles que para conducirlos hacia atrás suavemente a este camino corto y seguro para el cielo.
          Hagamos, por lo tanto, nuestra tarea de buscar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas que necesitan esta gracia del Padre para creer que Jesús está realmente presente en la Eucaristía y para ayudarles, con nuestras oraciones y compañerismo, para abrir sus corazones a esta gracia, para que todos nosotros podría unir juntos en esta Santa Mesa para banquetear en el Pan de Vida: Nuestro Señor Jesucristo.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

23º de agosto, 2015

The necessary bridge of trust

Homily: 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          Last week I spoke about the pilgrimage of thanksgiving that I took to the Holy Land in April.  I mentioned that now, some four months removed from the trip, I was getting some clarity on what impacted me the most during the trip.  One of the highlights, I noted, was my visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, which was built over the site of Mary’s childhood home and was the place in which she received the message from the archangel Gabriel, announcing that she would become the mother of God’s Son.  “In that place,” I reflected, “the God who created everything, and whose existence cannot be contained even in the vast universe, somehow encapsulated himself in human flesh.”  It was an awe-inspiring moment.
          I reflected on the absurdity of it all: that God, who is limitless, would subject himself to the limits of his creation simply out of love for what he had created.  I then went on to reflect how this Son of God then took the absurdity even further by claiming that for anyone to have life within them they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood.  On the surface, it’s a crazy statement and I challenged those who heard my homily to realize that this statement from Jesus was polarizing: either he is who he says he is and, thus, we have to give credence to what he says, or he’s a madman and we should run away immediately.  I invited them to decide which side they were on and the criteria that I used were these: if he’s crazy about one thing then he’s crazy about everything; but if he’s not crazy about everything, then he’s not crazy about anything.  Since we don’t think that he’s crazy about everything, then he must not be crazy about this one thing, and so we have to give it credence, no matter how crazy it sounds.
          Therefore, when Jesus says, “I am the living bread” and “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” we have to strive to believe that he is talking about the Eucharist: for the bread that we present is not “living” bread until it is given life when, through the words of consecration at the altar, its very substance changes and it becomes the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Although it still appears to be lifeless bread, it is in reality the flesh of Jesus, who lives; thus, it becomes “bread that lives” and makes it possible to eat his flesh without becoming cannibals.
          On the surface, however, this is still incredible and, frankly, it cannot be accepted outright.  If any otherwise rational person came to you and said, “oh, and if you really want to live you need to eat my flesh and drink my blood” you’d immediately doubt all that you knew about the person.  Accepting something like this—something that pushes you beyond the bounds of understanding—comes only after a bridge of trust has been built with the person who is making this claim.  Just look at our Gospel reading today: “Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, ‘This saying is hard; who can accept it?’” it says.  And later it goes on to say “as a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.”  These disciples had been only loosely connected with Jesus and had not yet built a “bridge of trust” with him.  Therefore, when he made this seemingly absurd claim, their fragile faith in him was shaken and fell apart.  They concluded that he must be crazy and so they turned away from him.
          The twelve Apostles, on the other hand, stayed with Jesus.  They had experienced so much more from him and, therefore, had built a bridge of trust that supported their faith.  And so, even if they didn’t understand what it was that he was talking about, they refused to write him off as a madman, but instead recommitted themselves to him: “Master, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”
          Jesus knew that some of those who followed him would not believe.  And he knew that their lack of belief would stem from a lack of openness to grace.  Thus he could say, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father.”  In other words, we don’t come to this on our own.  If the bridge of trust with Jesus has been built in any of us so that we can take him on his word, it is because of the gracious initiative of the Father.  Thus Jesus can say to Peter in another place: “Blessed are you Simon son Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  Nevertheless, we still must open ourselves to receive it.  This grace is open to all, but not all receive it, as our Gospel—and the state of our Church—reveals to us today.
          So where do we go from here?  You know, I am convinced that those who leave the Church must not be persons who believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Otherwise, how could they walk away from it?  Peter and the other Apostles believed that Jesus was the Holy One of God and so could not be swayed to abandon him, even when he taught such incredible things.  In the same way, it does not seem possible that someone would acknowledge the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and yet still feel as if he or she could go somewhere where it is not.
          This is not to say that all who stay believe, of course; recent polls indicate that around 33% of you here don’t believe.  Rather, it is to say that those who leave the Church have either never believed in the Real Presence of Jesus or, if they have believed, have turned their backs on him completely.  Thus our task is either to help them to come to belief—that is, to open their hearts to God’s gracious initiative surrounding this—or to help them to return to belief and thus right relationship with God.  My brother and sisters, this is an urgent task.  Pope Saint Pius X, whose feast day we celebrated last week, once said that “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.”  If our brothers and sisters have walked away from this and do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then there is no greater mercy and love that we can show them than to gently lead them back to this short and safe way to heaven.
          Let us make it, therefore, our task to seek out our brothers and sisters who need this grace from the Father to believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and to help them, with our prayers and companionship, to open their hearts to this grace, so that we all might be joined together at this Holy Table to feast on the Bread of Life: Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 23, 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Living Bread of the Abundant Life

Homily: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          Perhaps many of you will remember that last April I had the happy opportunity to make a pilgrimage of thanksgiving to the Holy Land, where I gave thanks to God that I have been free from cancer for five years.  After my return many of you asked me what my favorite part was.  At the time, having experienced so many powerful things, I couldn’t name any one experience that stuck out.  A few months removed, now, however, one of the experiences has begun to stand out above the rest and that was our visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
          This Basilica is a relatively modern basilica in that ancient land as the current church was built in the 1950’s.  It is built over the place that tradition holds was the home of Joachim and Ann and thus the place where Mary grew up and received the life-changing visit from the archangel Gabriel.  It is a magnificent structure that proves that modern church architecture can be meaningful without being weird.  It wasn’t the architecture that most impacted me, however.  Rather, it was the little grotto in the lower portion of the Basilica.
          Inside this grotto there is an altar built over the exact place where, according to tradition, Mary received the message from the archangel Gabriel: thus making it the exact place where the Holy Spirit “came upon” Mary and Jesus was conceived in her womb.  In other words, in that humble little place—a peasant’s home in a town nobody knew about—the Word, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became flesh and dwelt among us.  I remember being overwhelmed by the absolute incomprehensibility of that spot: that right there, in that spot, the entire fabric of the universe was changed forever because God—the uncreated creator of all that exists—took on the flesh of a creature.
          My friends, if perhaps you are a little bit numb to this I should point out that this is, in large part, what makes Christianity unique among world religions.  The fact that we are monotheistic—that we believe in only one God—puts us in rare company already, but that we believe that God—whose existence cannot be contained even in the vast expanse of the universe—became a creature: that sets us apart from every other religion.  No other religion would ever dare to say that their god became human: they believe that that would be an insult of the highest order.  Yet we believe that God somehow made the fullness of His being dwell inside the tiny cells of a human embryo, which grew into the fullness of humanity so that He might be made a sacrifice for all humanity, restoring humanity’s original glory through His resurrection and giving it a place of honor at the Father’s right hand in heaven.  The full realization of this is what made my visit to the Basilica of the Annunciation so powerful that all I could do was kneel before that place and bow down before God, whose wisdom and mercy is so far beyond our own.
          The absurdity of the Christian claim doesn’t end with the simple fact of the Incarnation, however.  Jesus in today’s Gospel reading takes His humanity to its fullest absurdity.  The “Bread of Life” discourse that we have been listening to over the past weeks is coming to its climax and today we hear Jesus teach his followers to be cannibals.  Yes, that’s right, I said cannibals.  For those of you who may not know, a cannibal is someone who eats human flesh.  Obviously that is repulsive to any of us, yet look at the words Jesus says in the Gospel: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”  On the surface, this appears to be crazy, doesn’t it?  And it is!  Thus, we can understand the response of the Jews who were in the crowds and argued among themselves, saying “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  Of course, we have to take everything in the context of the bigger picture and so we now know that John the Evangelist is using this to make clear what the Eucharist is, but we first have to come to grips with what Jesus says; and what Jesus says makes him look crazy!
          Here’s where we have to make a decision.  Because if we hear these words of Jesus and think that he is crazy, well, then he’s crazy!  You know, we can’t have it half-way: either Jesus is who he says he is—both fully God and fully man and the savior of mankind—or he’s a madman and we should turn and run away from him right now.  In other words, if he’s crazy about something, then he’s crazy about everything; but if he’s not crazy about everything, then he’s not crazy about anything, and even these words about eating his flesh and drinking his blood are real, rational statements that we have to give credence to.
          The first clue that Jesus is talking about the Eucharist (and, thus, moving away from the disgusting idea of actually eating what appears to be human flesh) is what he says at the beginning of today’s reading.  Jesus says to the crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven…”  I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen living bread: all the bread that I’ve ever eaten has been lifeless.  So how can Jesus be living bread?  Simple.  It’s called transubstantiation, and it’s what happens at the consecration of the bread and wine at the altar.  When I repeat Jesus’ words over the bread and the wine, they truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus, in substance.  Yes, they still look like bread and wine (I mean, this isn’t a magic show), but substantially—that is in their substance—they’ve changed into the real flesh and blood of Jesus.
          Now the flesh of Jesus is still living flesh, am I right?  I mean we believe that Jesus still has a human body, am I right?  A glorified human body, of course, but a human body, nonetheless.  And we believe that Jesus lives, right?  I hope so!  Because as Paul says in one of his letters, “If Christ is still in the tomb, then your faith is worthless!”  So, if Jesus still has flesh and if he still lives, then that would make the bread that becomes his flesh, while still retaining the appearance of bread, something living, wouldn’t it?  This, therefore, is the living bread, his flesh that is true food, which we can eat so as to live forever.  And the cup that contains his Precious Blood, while remaining under the appearance of wine, is the cup of life: the true drink through which life enters into us.  And this is amazing!  A thing of true wonder and awe, no matter how familiar it has become to us.
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus came in the flesh in order to give us life through it.  Let us, therefore, not waste the opportunity that we have been given to receive it: for to receive it, but then to return to a life of debauchery is empty.  To receive it, however, and thus to go forth filled with the Spirit, giving thanks and praise to God always and in all ways, is the abundant life that God desired for us when he spread this banquet before us.
          Mary, our Blessed Mother, could not have known the fullness of this abundant life that awaited her when she said “yes” to the archangel Gabriel.  And her life was filled with many sorrows following that day—so much so that it would have been understandable if she had given up on it all—but yet she never failed in giving thanks to God and in praising Him; and thus she now enjoys the fullness of this abundant life—body and soul—in heaven.  May we follow her example in our lives so that the banquet that we approach here at this altar may lead us to that same fullness of life in heaven.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 15th & 16th, 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015

¿Dónde está nuestro deseo?

Homilía: 18º Domingo del Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo B
          A medida que nos adentramos en agosto, el verano comienza a relajarse. Este tiempo de año siempre trae recuerdos, sin embargo, de los viajes por carretera de vacaciones. Tal vez algunos de ustedes ya han hecho su propia este verano. Y estos son grandes recuerdos, ¿no? De salir a un destino de diversión con su familia, por ninguna otra razón que relajarse y pasar un buen rato, puede ser una experiencia verdaderamente sana y memorable.
          Si sus viajes por carretera vacaciones eran como la mía, sin embargo, entonces ustedes están probablemente muy familiarizados con la rapidez con que entusiasmo inicial se desvanece una vez que la realidad de llegar a su destino se ambienta. De tráfico, retrasos en la construcción y desvíos, e incluso la cantidad del tiempo que se tarda en llegar son todas frustraciones que cambian rápidamente la actitud de los viajeros. El sufrimiento inevitable que viene con llegar a su destino cambia ese entusiasmo inicial en murmuraciones: "¿Estamos allí todavía?" "Tengo hambre" "Tengo que ir al baño... ¡otra vez!" A veces, estas murmuraciones pueden llegar a ser tan grave que se eche a perder todo deseo de llegar a nuestro destino y comenzamos a pensar que hubiera sido mejor si simplemente nos hubiéramos quedado en casa.
          Vemos, por supuesto que esto no es nada nuevo. En nuestras Escrituras de hoy nos recuerda que, a pesar de la increíble promesa de felicidad que nos espera a nuestro destino, el proceso de llegar allí a menudo nos hace perder el ánimo y nos prefiero simplemente volver a lo que era familiar que ver la promesa cumplida. Los israelitas demostró esto muchas veces durante su éxodo de Egipto hacia la Tierra Prometida. Cuando el Señor los había sacado de Egipto—trabajando grandes milagros contra los egipcios—había una gran excitación. "¡El Señor está luchando por nosotros para que pudiéramos ser liberados de esta esclavitud!" Sin embargo, tan pronto como se encuentran con problemas en el camino, comienzan a murmurar. En primer lugar, se encontraba en el Mar Rojo. El ejército de Faraón les había perseguido y estaba a punto de superar a ellos y los israelitas murmuraron, diciendo: "¡Es mejor que hemos muerto en Egipto, donde había lugares que nos entierran, que morir aquí en el desierto!" Se habían olvidado de todo lo que el Señor había hecho y desesperado que se dieran cuenta de su promesa a ellos. El Señor entonces trabajó otro milagro separando el mar para que puedan pasar a través y luego soltarlo para que destruyera completamente el ejército de Faraón cuando trataron de seguirlos. Incluso escribieron un gran canto de alabanza al respecto que se registra para nosotros en el libro del Éxodo, pero eso no parece importar, porque no mucho tiempo después de que los israelitas se encuentran quedarse sin alimentos a medida que continúan su marcha hacia su destino y de nuevo comienzan a murmurar: "Si estábamos de regreso en Egipto, al menos moriríamos con estómagos llenos; ¡pero ahora estamos aquí en el desierto y que vamos a morir de hambre!” Su entusiasmo inicial sobre el destino desapareció una vez que las frustraciones de llegar allí se ambientan.
          En cierto modo, su deseo de volver a Egipto es algo que San Pablo castigar a los nuevos cristianos de Éfeso acerca en su carta a los mismos desde el que se lee en la segunda lectura. Allí se dice que "no deben ustedes vivir como los paganos..." y "deben abandonar su antiguo modo de vivir... y revístanse del nuevo yo..." En otras palabras, al igual que los israelitas de la antigüedad, que no puede llegar a su destino agarrándose de lo que has dejado atrás. Usted debe poner esa lejos, ¡porque es inútil! Más bien se debe pasar a través de las frustraciones con el fin de llegar a la nueva vida que Dios te ha prometido.
          Me pregunto cuántos de nosotros hemos sido víctimas de esta tentación de convertir de nuevo a lo que dejamos atrás para seguir a Cristo a causa de las frustraciones que han llegado a nosotros en el camino. Nos hicimos tan consternado con el trabajo de llegar al cielo que se ha extinguido por completo nuestro deseo de llegar: tanto es así que nos decimos a nosotros mismos "Hubiera sido mejor si nunca conocí a Jesús y yo sólo podía vivir mi vida cómo yo quiero." Quizás, sin embargo, esto no es explícito. Tal vez esto se manifiesta en la forma en que nos acercamos a la misa. "Me voy, llego tarde, apenas participo en las respuestas, y sobre todo estoy pensando en lo que podría estar haciendo si no estuviera aquí." Vemos la Misa como una de las frustraciones que tenemos que aguantar a lo largo del camino. Mientras tanto nos aferramos a nuestro "viejo yo", en realidad no dejando atrás mientras buscamos a Dios.
          La Misa, sin embargo, es mucho más que una "interrupción" en nuestras vidas. Piense de nuevo conmigo, si se quiere, a tres domingos pasadas cuando la lectura del Evangelio describe cómo los apóstoles regresaron de su viaje misionero en el que Jesús les había enviado. Estaban emocionados por todo lo que habían logrado en el nombre de Jesús. Se reunieron alrededor de Jesús para compartir lo que habían visto y hecho y Jesús los llama lejos para descansar y tener un rato de compañerismo juntos. Después de esto, Jesús les enviaría de nuevo. Mis hermanos y hermanas, ¡esta es una imagen de la Misa! Nosotros—todos nosotros aquí que han sido bautizados—somos los apóstoles de Jesús—los que él envía con una misión—y la Misa es su invitación semanal para reunir de nuevo a su alrededor para descansar, para compartir lo que hemos vivido y lo que hemos logrado en su nombre, y recibir de él la instrucción y nuestra próxima comisión. Pero, ¿realmente vemos como este? ¿O lo vemos más bien como una interrupción para ser tolerado porque sentimos que debemos a Dios al menos esto?
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, si sentimos que la Misa es un trabajo penoso y que preferiría estar haciendo otra cosa, entonces tal vez todavía se encuentran en el "viejo yo", sobre la que San Pablo escribió: desear la esclavitud a nuestras cosas, el moderno equivalente a las ollas de carne y pan, en vez de estar en el "nuevo yo" en el que vivimos con abundantes bendiciones de la promesa de Dios, la codorniz que nos envía y el maná que llueve del cielo. Dios nos ha liberado de la esclavitud del nuestras cosas y nos llama aquí cada semana para celebrar este hecho, sin embargo, murmuramos y deseamos, en cambio, para volver a nuestras ollas de carne y nuestra esclavitud a las cosas porque son más "cómoda" para nosotros.
          Pero el "viejo yo" es inútil, dice San Pablo. Y así, si deseamos la verdadera alegría y la felicidad, debemos ser renovados en el espíritu, porque sólo hay una cosa, dice Jesús, y que es creer en él. Todo lo demás es inútil: nos dejará vacía. Por lo tanto la pregunta para nosotros hoy es, "¿dónde está nuestro deseo?" ¿Es en las "ollas de carne" de nuestra esclavitud al mundo material? ¿O es que se centró en el pan que verdaderamente satisface? Las personas que vinieron a Jesús finalmente encontraron donde su deseo tenía que ser. Cuando Jesús les recordó que fue Dios quien hizo llover pan para Moisés y los israelitas y que es sólo el pan de él que le dará vida al mundo, la gente les pide "Danos siempre de ese pan." Una vez que sabían que sólo pan de Dios satisfaría, abandonaron sus deseos para el pan terrenal y colocaron sus deseos sobre el pan que Dios proveería, y su fe en Jesús para proporcionarla. Y así, ¿qué ponemos nuestro deseo en este pan? Y ¿qué creemos que Jesús puede proporcionarla? Independientemente de si es o no lo hacemos, le ha proporcionado; y pronto será manifestado aquí en este altar.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, para recibir este pan dignamente—y fructíferamente, debo añadir—hay que poner fuera de nuestro viejo yo, con sus deseos por las cosas de este mundo que nos esclavizan, y hay que poner en el nuevo yo, creado en la justicia de Dios y listo para ser enviado como apóstol para que otros puedan también venir a comer el verdadero pan de vida: el pan de Dios que termina todo murmuración: el pan que verdaderamente satisface.

Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN – 2 de agosto, 2015

Where is our desire?

Homily: 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle B
          As we enter into August summer begins to wind down.  This time of year always brings up memories, however, of the summer vacation road trips.  Perhaps some of you have made your own already this summer.  And these are great memories, right?  Packing up the family and heading out to a fun destination for no other reason than to relax and have a good time can be a truly wholesome and memorable experience.
          If your vacation road trips were any like mine, however, then you’re probably pretty familiar with how quickly that initial excitement fades once the reality of getting to your destination sets in.  Traffic, construction delays and detours, and even just the amount of time it takes to get there are all frustrations that quickly change the attitude of travelers.  The inevitable suffering that comes with getting to your destination changes that initial excitement into grumbling: “Are we there yet?”  “I’m hungry.”  “I have to go to the bathroom… again!”  Sometimes, this grumbling can become so severe that it spoils any desire to arrive at our destination and we begin to think that it might have been better if we had just stayed home.
          We see of course that this is nothing new.  In our Scriptures today we are reminded that, in spite of the incredible promise of happiness that awaits us at our destination, the process of getting there often causes us to lose heart and we’d rather just go back to what was familiar than to see the promise fulfilled.  The Israelites proved this many times during their Exodus from Egypt towards the Promised Land.  When the Lord had led them out of Egypt—working great miracles against the Egyptians—there was a great excitement.  “The Lord is fighting for us so that we could be freed from this slavery!”  Yet as soon as they encounter trouble along the way, they begin to grumble.  First, it was at the Red Sea.  Pharaoh’s army had pursued them and was about to overtake them and the Israelites grumbled, saying: “Better that we died in Egypt, where there were places to bury us, than to die out here in the desert!”  They had forgotten all that the Lord had done and despaired that they would realize his promise to them.  The Lord then worked another miracle by parting the sea for them to pass through and then releasing it so that it completely destroyed Pharaoh’s army when they tried to follow them.  They even wrote a great song of praise about it that is recorded for us in the book of Exodus, but that didn’t seem to matter, because not much longer after that the Israelites find themselves running out of food as they continue their march towards their destination and again they begin to grumble: “If we were back in Egypt, at least we’d die with full bellies; but now we’re here in the desert and we going to die of hunger!”  Their initial excitement about the destination wore off once the frustrations of getting there set in.
          In a way, their desire to go back to Egypt is something that Saint Paul would chastise the new Christians in Ephesus about in his letter to them from which we read in the second reading.  There he says “you must no longer live as the Gentiles do…” and “you should put away the old self of your former way of life … and put on the new self…”  In other words, like the Israelites of old, you cannot get to your destination by holding onto what you’ve left behind.  You must put that away, for it is futile!  Rather you must pass through the frustrations in order to get to the new life that God has promised you.
          I wonder how many of us have fallen victim to this temptation of turning back to what we left behind to follow Christ because of the frustrations that have come to us along the way.  We became so dismayed with the work of getting to heaven that it has completely extinguished our desire to get there: so much so that we say to ourselves “It would have been better if I never knew Jesus and I could just live my life however I want.”  Perhaps, however, this isn’t explicit.  Perhaps this manifests itself in how we approach the Mass.  “I go, I read the bulletin before Mass (instead of praying), I barely participate in the responses, and I’m mostly thinking about what I could be doing if I wasn’t here.”  We see the Mass as one of the frustrations that we have to put up with along the way.  Meanwhile we cling to our “old way” of life, not really leaving it behind as we seek God.
          The Mass, however, is so much more than an “interruption” in our lives.  Think back with me, if you will, to three Sunday’s ago where the Gospel reading described how the apostles returned from their missionary journey on which Jesus had sent them.  They were excited for all that they had accomplished in Jesus’ name.  They gathered around Jesus to share what they had seen and done and Jesus calls them away to rest and to have some fellowship together.  After this, Jesus would eventually send them out again.  My brothers and sisters, this is an image of the Mass!  We—all of us here who have been baptized—are Jesus’ apostles—those whom he sends with a mission—and the Mass is his weekly invitation to gather back around him to rest, to share what we have experienced and what we have accomplished in his name, and to receive from him instruction and our next commission.  Do we really see it like this?  Or do we see it rather as an interruption to be tolerated because we feel like we owe God at least this much?
          My brothers and sisters, if we feel that the Mass is a drudgery and that we’d rather be doing something else, then perhaps we are still in the “old self” that Saint Paul talked about: desiring slavery to our stuff—the modern equivalent of the fleshpots and bread—instead of being in the “new self” in which we live with abundant blessings from God’s promise—the quail that he sends to us and the manna that he rains down from heaven.  God has freed us from our slavery to our stuff and he calls us here each week to celebrate that fact, yet we grumble and desire, instead, to return to our fleshpots and our slavery to things because they are more “comfortable” to us.
          But the “old self” is futility, Saint Paul says.  And so, if we desire true joy and happiness, we must be renewed in the spirit: for there is only one thing, Jesus says, and that is to believe in him.  Anything else is futility: it will leave us empty.  Thus the question for us today is, “where is our desire?”  Is it on the “fleshpots” of our slavery to the material world?  Or is it focused on the bread that truly satisfies?  The people who came to Jesus eventually found where their desire needed to be.  When Jesus reminded them that it was God who rained down bread for Moses and the Israelites and that it is only bread from him that will give life to the world, the people asked “Give us this bread always.”  Once they knew that only bread from God would satisfy, they abandoned their desires for earthly bread and placed their desires on the bread that God would provide, and their faith in Jesus to provide it.  And so, do we place our desire on this bread?  And do we believe that Jesus can provide it?  Regardless of whether or not we do, he has provided it: and it will soon be made manifest here on this altar.
          My brothers and sisters, to receive this bread worthily—and fruitfully, I might add—we must put off our old selves, with their desires for the things of this world that enslave us, and we must put on the new self, created in God’s righteousness and ready to be sent as an apostle so that others might, too, come and eat the true bread of life: the bread from God that ends all grumbling: the bread that truly satisfies.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 2nd, 2016