Saturday, December 26, 2015

Obedience and Peace

Homily: The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – Cycle C
          Early this past November, not long after we had made the changes to the Communion Procession, one of our parishioners approached me after Mass to say that she was very confused about how to follow in the procession.  She sat in one of the side sections and thought that she was supposed to pass through the center pews and into the procession, but was told by the usher to proceed to the back of the church to join the procession once the center pews had emptied.  She thought that she was right and so was bothered when the usher told her to do something different.
          At first, I tried to explain that the usher was right, which she countered with evidence that it had happened her way a week or so previous.  To this I simply responded, “Okay, yes, but my instructions also said to let the usher direct you; so next time be obedient to the usher.  You can never be wrong if you’re obedient.”  That might have been a little bit of frustration coming out on my part (as evidenced by the fact that Fr. Clayton happily corrected me about the “never be wrong” part later), but I think that I touched on something important.
          Obedience can be something very challenging for us, right?  Our culture seems to idolize the individual, and even more so the freedom of the individual to follow his or her will (which typically means, “to do whatever he or she wants”).  The culture says that this is freedom.  Yet, it seems like God has set up our human nature to be dependent on a hierarchy of will.  Just look at the family: the father and mother at the head, with the children subordinate to them.  Families seem to function best when this order is maintained and there is proper obedience among its members.  Children must be obedient to their parents; spouses need to be obedient to one another, and there is even a proper obedience of parents to their children (though this seems to be grossly distorted these days).  This is how God designed it.
          In religious monasteries and convents, where the persons who live there are seeking to know and follow God’s will in a unique way, obedience is a key to harmony (and, thus, peace).  For the religious brother or sister, the will of his or her religious superior is God’s will, since God deigned that this particular man or woman would supervise that house of religious.  For diocesan clergy, like Fr. Clayton and myself, we accept the will of our bishop, Bishop Doherty, when expressed in matters regarding our priesthood and priestly life, as if it is the will of God for each us.  For example, when Bishop Doherty assigned me as Administrator of this parish, I felt anxiety at first; but through prayer I was able to conclude that, since this was coming from my bishop, this was God’s will for me at this point in my life and I tried to accept it in peace.
          So the same is true in families:  Children, the loving will of your parents is God’s will for you, because they seek what is good for you, even when you don’t like it.  Parents, the genuine needs of your children and your spouse, both material and spiritual, when they are made known to you, are God’s will for your life.  This goes both for the big things, like having your children baptized and praying for your spouse daily, and for the little things, like taking out the trash when your spouse asks you and washing your children’s laundry (perhaps for the third time this week).  Obedience to one another is God’s will for your lives.
          This brings us to the family that we celebrate today: the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.  We see that, in big things and small, they were obedient to one another and so fulfilled God’s will for their lives.  In the Gospel today, we heard how Jesus stayed behind in the Temple after the Passover celebration to listen to the teachers and to ask them questions.  Was this disobedience on his part?  Perhaps.  However, given the fact that he was 12 years old and, thus, culturally permitted to be in groups of other adult men, it may have been an innocent desire to learn all he could from the wise men who taught God’s Law in the Temple.  Nevertheless, when Mary and Joseph find him, Jesus returns to Nazareth with them and, the Gospel tells us, he “was obedient to them.” 
          Still, this incident demonstrates for us another important point:  Yes, by faithfully fulfilling the duties of our vocation—that is, by being obedient to them—we fulfill God’s will for our lives.  Nevertheless, God still wishes to speak to us directly, and we still have a duty to listen for his voice speaking to us and, thus, to be obedient to it.  Could Jesus have fulfilled the will of God by simply being obedient to his parents?  Arguably, yes.  Yet, he stayed back in Jerusalem to listen to the teachers explain God’s commandments (which were God’s holy will for his people) so that he could be directly obedient to his Father in heaven, too.  Thus, the same applies to us: it is not enough just to be obedient to our vocations (though that is a fundamental starting point); rather, it is necessary for us to listen for God to speak to us directly, which he does in our personal prayer and in each and every Mass.
          Catholic speaker and evangelist, Matthew Kelly, often asks his audiences this question: “If you knew that God himself would appear at Mass in order to give you a message, wouldn’t you bring something with you to write it down?”  He then goes on to challenge them, saying that, each and every time they come to Mass, God has a message for each of them—perhaps in the Scriptures, in the words of the hymns, or in the prayers of the Mass—and that most of us miss it because we’re too worried about whether or not we like the music or the preaching, or we’re thinking about where we were going to go out to eat after the Mass.  Yet God doesn’t fail to send us his message.  We simply fail to obey.
          As Pope, John XXIII would end his day before the Blessed Sacrament. He said that he would end his prayer for the world by saying: “Lord, I’ve done all I can. It’s your Church. I’m going to bed!”  And so, what was the secret to his peace?  His papal motto, Obedientia et Pax, perhaps gives us a clue.  “Obedience and Peace”, is how his motto reads in English.  What I think he was trying to say to us—and was probably trying to remind himself—is that when we sincerely seek to listen to God—that is, to be obedient to him—we experience a lasting peace. In other words, when we sincerely seek to follow His voice, we experience the peace that the world cannot give.  Now known as Saint Pope John XXIII, John showed us that true peace comes from obedience to God.
          And so, my brothers and sisters, perhaps today we could each ask God for a heart more open to his will for us—which, by the way, is nothing less than that we would be happy, free, and fully alive—and for the courage to be obedient to it; so that we might know the peace that the Holy Family knew; the peace that the angels promised would come upon those on whom God’s favor rests; the peace that the Christ Child brings with his appearance on Christmas night; the peace that one day we hope to experience eternally in heaven; the peace that is available to us even now, here in this Eucharist.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 26th & 27th, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dios habitó entre nosotros

Para todos los que leen este blog:

Oraciones para una Navidad muy bendecida y feliz a cada uno de ustedes. El Señor me ha bendecido en innumerables formas, pero la más grande es ser capaz de servirle en su Iglesia. Estoy agradecido por cada uno de ustedes y espero que mis homilías continúan siendo dirigida por el Espíritu Santo y así continuar fortaleciendo ustedes, los fieles, en nuestra peregrinación hacia el cielo.

En los dos corazones de Jesús y María,

Padre Dominic


Homilía: Solemnidad de la Navidad del Señor: Misa del Día – Ciclo C
          Pedro era un agricultor que no creían en Jesús. Él no podía aceptar la enseñanza de que Jesús era el Hijo de Dios que se hizo un ser humano al igual que cada uno de nosotros. Simplemente no tenía sentido para él y por lo que no creía. Aunque en los últimos años se iba a misa en la Nochebuena con su familia, él nunca era bastante convencido de que lo que la Iglesia enseña acerca de Jesús era verdad. Un año decidió que no iba a ir a misa el día de Nochebuena. Se sentía demasiado como un hipócrita, ya que en realidad no creen que Jesús era el Hijo de Dios.
          Esa Nochebuena una terrible tormenta de nieve golpeó su pueblo. Pedro, mirando por la ventana de su sala de estar, se sintió aliviado en su decisión, ya que habría sido terrible para estar fuera en la iglesia, en un clima tan horrible. En ese momento se dio cuenta de una manada de gansos salvajes en su patio delantero, acurrucados juntos en la confusión, tratando de mantener el calor. Pedro rápidamente salió corriendo a la tormenta de nieve y abrió la puerta de su granero. Luego se acercó a los gansos—apenas capaz de verles a través de la nieve de la tormenta—y trató de espantarles en el granero. Los gansos no responderían. Pedro luego trató de asustarlos en el granero, pero seguía saltando lejos de él, graznando y batiendo sus alas en defensa propia. Finalmente, después de 20 minutos de tratar sin éxito, Pedro dio por vencido y volvió a la casa.
          De vuelta en su sala de estar cálida Pedro daba a los gansos, todavía acurrucados juntos en la confusión, tratando de mantener el calor, y tenía este pensamiento: "Si sólo pudiera llegar a ser un ganso mí mismo, entonces yo podría llevarlos al granero y salvarlos." En ese momento, el corazón de Pedro se despertó y él cayó al suelo de rodillas y comenzó a llorar. Se dio cuenta de que eso era exactamente lo que Dios había hecho en la primera noche de Navidad—se convirtió en uno de nosotros para que pudiéramos confiar en él y él podría llevarnos a la seguridad—y que había estado gastando su vida graznido y aleteo, tratando de evitar Dios por miedo. El regresó a la iglesia y nunca más dudó de que Jesús es verdaderamente Dios.
          Hoy en nuestro Evangelio, escuchamos San Juan proclama que la Palabra de Dios, que es eterno con Dios y quién es Dios, y por quien fueron hechas todas las cosas en el universo, "se hizo hombre y habitó entre nosotros." Cuando escribió esas palabras, él estaba hablando principalmente a la gente de la cultura griega, que eran paganos. La palabra "Palabra" traducido al griego es "Logos", que para ellos significaba la una, unificadora fuerza que une todos entre sí y pone en orden todo el cosmos. Al proclamar que a través de la Palabra "fueron hechas todas las cosas," Juan revela que el concepto griego del Logos como una fuerza cósmica era inadecuado. La unidad del cosmos—su orden, belleza y gloria—no se extrae de una fuerza impersonal dentro de sí mismo, sino de un Dios: trascendente, personal, y creativo.
          Juan también estaba hablando con sus compañeros Judíos, para quien la frase "Palabra de Dios" hubiera significado la "sabiduría de Dios", que informa y dirige todas las obras de Dios, incluyendo la creación y sustento del universo. Al afirmar que "la Palabra [de Dios] se hizo carne", Juan desafía a sus compañeros Judíos de ampliar su idea de quien el Mesías sería, a partir de la idea de que no sería más que un rey humano a la idea de que Dios mismo asumiría la naturaleza humana para salvarlos. Para ambos judíos y griegos era una forma de pensar sobre Dios y sobre la forma en que interactúa con nosotros radicalmente diferente.
          Por esta razón, los cristianos de todas las épocas han tenido que proclamar una y otra vez esta buena noticia: que Dios, al vernos en nuestra miseria, no nos dejan a sufrir para siempre; pero dignado a convertirse en uno de nosotros para que podamos confiar en él y seguirle con la seguridad y la paz. Este es el mensaje que proclamamos una vez más hoy en día.
          Recientemente me encontré con un homilía dado por el Papa San León Magno, en la fiesta de la Navidad del Señor, y, aunque es un poco largo, me gustaría compartirlo con ustedes porque creo que expresa bien la verdad que proclamamos y celebramos hoy y lo que significa esta verdad para cada uno de nosotros. Él comienza diciendo...
          "Amados, hoy nuestro Salvador ha nacido; alegrémonos. La tristeza no debería tener lugar en el cumpleaños de la vida. El miedo a la muerte ha sido devorado; la vida nos trae alegría con la promesa de la felicidad eterna.
          "Nadie está excluido de esta alegría; todos comparten el mismo motivo de regocijo. Nuestro Señor, vencedor sobre el pecado y la muerte, al no encontrar al hombre libre del pecado, vino a liberar a todos. Deje que el santo se alegra cuando ve la palma de la victoria en la mano. Deje que el pecador se alegre cuando recibe la oferta de perdón. Deje que el pagano tomar coraje cuando es convocado a la vida.
          "En la plenitud de los tiempos, elegido en las profundidades insondables de la sabiduría de Dios, el Hijo de Dios tomó para sí nuestra humanidad común con el fin de reconciliarla con su creador. Él vino para derrocar al diablo, el origen de la muerte, en esa misma naturaleza por la que había derrocado a la humanidad.
          "Y así, en el nacimiento de nuestro Señor los ángeles cantan con alegría: ¡Gloria a Dios en las alturas!, y se proclaman la paz a los hombres de buena voluntad como ellos ven la Jerusalén celestial que se construye a partir de todas las naciones del mundo. Cuando los ángeles en alta son tan exultante en esta obra maravillosa de la bondad de Dios, ¿qué alegría en caso de que no trae a los corazones humildes de los hombres?
          "Amados, demos gracias a Dios Padre, a través de su Hijo, en el Espíritu Santo, porque en su gran amor por nosotros que se apiadó de nosotros, y cuando estábamos muertos en nuestros pecados, nos dio vida con Cristo, para que en él nos podría haber una nueva creación. Vamos a despojémonos de nuestra vieja naturaleza y todas sus maneras y, como hemos llegado a nacer en Cristo, vamos a renunciar a las obras de la carne.
          "Cristiano, recuerde su dignidad, y que ahora participas en la propia naturaleza de Dios, no vuelven por el pecado a su antigua condición base. Tenga en cuenta quien es su cabeza y de qué Cuerpo eres miembro. No olvide que usted ha sido rescatado del poder de las tinieblas, y trasladado a la luz del reino de Dios.
          "A través del sacramento del bautismo se han convertido en un templo del Espíritu Santo. No espanta a un huésped tan bueno por la conducta mal y vuelve a ser un esclavo del diablo, porque su libertad fue comprada por la sangre de Cristo."
          A medida que nos acercamos a este altar hoy para dar gracias a Dios por un regalo tan tremendo, vamos a desterrar la tristeza de nuestros corazones a fin de recibirle en su totalidad; para que podamos salir de aquí, al igual que las huestes de ángeles en la primera noche de Navidad, para proclamar: "¡Gloria a Dios en el cielo, y en la tierra paz a los hombres de buena voluntad!"
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
25 de diciembre, 2015

The Force is born among us

To all who read this blog: 

Prayers for a very blessed and happy Christmas to each of you.  The Lord has blessed me in innumerable ways, but the greatest is being able to serve him in his Church.  I am thankful for each of you and hope that my homilies continue to be directed by the Holy Spirit and so continue to strengthen you, the faithful, on our pilgrimage towards heaven.

In the two hearts of Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Dominic


Homily: Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord: Mass at Night
          Most of you already know this, but before I studied for the priesthood I was an engineer.  And one of my favorite things that I learned in college was the laws of thermodynamics.  The second law of thermodynamics is also known as the law of entropy and, although it is significantly more nuanced than what I’m about to share with you, it basically says that ordered systems, when left by themselves, always tend towards disorder, instead of greater order.  In other words, things naturally tend to come apart, rather than come together.  This is something that is easily observed at both a microscopic and a macroscopic level.  Perhaps the simplest example would be to observe a cup of water.  Leave a cup of water alone on the counter top in your kitchen and what happens?  It eventually evaporates, right?  That’s because the water molecules, left by themselves, tend towards disorder; and water vapor is a more disordered state than liquid water.
          An outside force can counteract the effects that this law of thermodynamics has on a system.  Living systems are an example of this.  Why is it that the body of a dead animal decays while the body of a living one doesn’t?  This is because there are a lot of internal forces counteracting the effects of entropy: cells that decay and die are replaced by new ones, the supply of which comes from the breaking down of cells from other plants or animals which this particular animal has eaten and converting them into cells useful for maintaining that animal’s body.  The animating life force inside the animal, which was placed there by God, is the unifying force that keeps these processes running.  When that life force leaves the animal (in other words, when it dies), all of the processes break down and entropy continues unabated and the body decays.
          This kind of thing applies beyond the worlds of biology, chemistry, or physics.  We can also see this happen in other, even man-made organizations: for example, a business or society.  How often does a business, which was founded by someone with a strong personality and a vibrant vision for what that business would accomplish, fold after the founder dies and is no longer able to direct the business according to that vision?  Once the animating force leaves, the body begins to fall apart: that is, unless another force (in this case, a successor to the founder) takes its place.
          It shouldn’t be too hard to look around and see that entropy, at a cultural and societal level, is starting to take hold.  Terrorism is rampant in many parts of the world and, like a vicious cancer, it is starting to infect many of the other parts of the world where it has yet to establish a stronghold.  Meanwhile, our communities are disintegrating because rapid cultural changes are causing us to abandon traditionally held values, which have been the animating forces that would renew and regenerate our communities as members would die or be lost.  Perhaps this year even in our own lives entropy has begun to take over as relationships or career aspirations disintegrated around us.  All of us, therefore, both as individuals and as a whole, are constantly searching for the force that can unify us and make us whole.
          There are plenty of false ideas out there of what that force looks like.  One of the most popular ones is on display right now in our local movie theater.  The nexus of each of the Star Wars films is the idea of the Force—an invisible cosmic power that holds the universe together—and that the Force can be harnessed and manipulated according to the will of the one who harnesses it.  In many ways, either consciously or subconsciously, this is the motivation behind our great technological advancements: to harness the power of the universe and manipulate it to serve us, both to protect us from perceived evil and to bring wholeness to our lives by using it to reintegrate somehow what we seem to be losing.  My opinion is that it is failing miserably, but it has created a “reasonable facsimile” and so many of us are none the wiser.
          Still many of us, however, are aware that, for all our advances in technology, we are still suffering from increasing levels of disintegration in our lives.  And so we come here, perhaps still in search of that unifying force that has the power to reintegrate our lives and hold them together and we hear that an angel, at the birth of a child of a poor peasant couple from a poor town in a heretofore  unknown region of the world, declared to a group of similarly poor shepherds tending their sheep in a field: “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people … a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”  Good news, they say.  This was not news about how the Berries basketball team has gone 8-0 and so has a real chance at making sectionals.  This is a different kind of good news.  The good news that the angel brings is that of a definitive military victory.  Think about what it was like to see the headline indicating that Germany surrendered to end World War II and you’ll get the idea.  This was news that the long-awaited one—the one who would reintegrate not only the dispersed people of the ancient nation of Israel, but rather all peoples of the world—had come to bring peace—that is wholeness, integrity—to all on whom God’s favor would rest.  And so, in many ways, this message continues to be good news to us, who are gathered here tonight.
          My brothers and sisters, the natural forces at work in the world that move us constantly towards chaos and disintegration have been overcome, not by an impersonal cosmic force harnessed by the will of special “chosen ones”, but rather by a person whose power comes to us when we enter into relationship with him.  Saint Paul, writing to his disciple Titus, said that “the grace of God has appeared to us, saving all…”  And Pope Francis, in his letter inaugurating the Year of Mercy, wrote that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy…”  In other words, my brothers and sisters, it is in Jesus—God, born in human flesh, whose birth we celebrate this night—that we find the unifying and animating force that can reintegrate our lives, our communities, and our world and hold them together.  This truly is good news of great joy.
          Yet, perhaps the even greater news is that tonight Jesus will come to us again here in this Eucharist.  Just as he came into the world on the first Christmas—quietly, gently, helplessly, entrusting himself to Mary's care—so he comes to us in Holy Communion—quietly, gently, helplessly, entrusting himself to our care.  God wants to reintegrate our lives, but he won't force his way in.  Instead, he invites us, he reaches out to us, he trusts us, he makes himself weak so as to become our strength.  He wants to give forgiveness, hope, and meaning to us and to everyone around us who is suffering and searching, but he refuses to do it alone.  Instead, today, just like 2000 years ago, he helps us and then puts himself into our care and entrusts us with the task of bringing him into the world; to proclaim, like the angel proclaimed to the shepherds, good news of great joy.
          Let us, then, open our hearts fully to him tonight that he might become the force within us to bring reconciliation and healing to a world so desperately in need of peace.  And let us give glory to God in our thanksgiving for having sent to us his Son, a savior who makes us whole: Christ the Lord.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 25th, 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

La armonía de la obediencia

Homilía: 4º Domingo del Adviento – Ciclo C
          La iglesia del monasterio de San Meinrad en el sur de indiana fue construida a finales de los dieciocho cientos y se terminó en 1907. Se trata de una hermosa iglesia románica con torres gemelas en un extremo y torres más pequeñas en la otra que dan sus fuertes entradas arqueadas una sensación verdaderamente majestuosa. La piedra arenisca de origen local que constituye su exterior ha envejecido muy bien y da esta iglesia un aspecto único. En el interior, el techo alto y larga nave evocan imágenes de las grandes basílicas y catedrales de toda Europa. Aunque el interior se dispuso inicialmente de una manera tradicional—con sillería del coro de los monjes más cercana al santuario y las bancas dispuestas en filas frente al santuario, como son aquí en nuestra iglesia—una renovación en la década de los noventas dio lugar a un nuevo concepto de diseño.
          Voy a pedirle que usen su imaginación mientras trato de describir este nuevo diseño. En primer lugar, al igual que nuestro santuario se eleva en lo que se conoce como el ábside de la iglesia, por lo que era el santuario originalmente en la iglesia del monasterio. El primer gran cambio que hicieron fue para nivelar el suelo, de modo que todo iba a estar en el mismo nivel. Entonces les impusieron las sillería del coro—que son básicamente como "asientos del estadio" para los monjes que utilizan cuando se juntan para orar—a ambos lados de la nave central y uno frente al otro. Los monjes recitan los Salmos diario y lo hacen por la alternancia de un lado a otro para cada estrofa del Salmo. Y así que esto es una configuración muy normal para el espacio de oración de los monjes en la iglesia del monasterio. Asientos para cualquier huésped que los unen en la oración, sin embargo, sigue el mismo esquema. Aunque no está establecido como la sillería del coro, que están configurados a cada lado de la nave y se enfrentan entre sí.
          Las procesiones son una gran parte de las liturgias monásticas y así para acentuar este hecho, decidieron colocar el altar y el ambón en extremos opuestos del gran pasillo central creado por la configuración de los asientos con el fin de darles la oportunidad de hacer una procesión hacia el altar durante la misa. Así que lo que tenemos aquí es una configuración de tres pasillos: el gran pasillo central, con el ambón en un extremo y el altar en el otro, y dos pasillos laterales, cada uno detrás de los asientos en la nave. Es una configuración muy singular que (mi experiencia personal puede atestiguar) funciona mejor de lo que podría parecer lo haría en un primer momento.
          Una de las cosas que a menudo se pierden por los visitantes a la iglesia es el suelo. Es un suelo de terrazo—que está hecho de trozos de mármol, vidrio u otros agregados incrustados en el cemento tintado, y molido liso y pulido a un brillo sedoso—y el diseño fue pensado para acentuar la configuración de los asientos en la iglesia. (Mantenga a sus imaginaciones, porque vamos en un viaje más.) En los pasillos laterales (detrás de los asientos), el piso está marcada por piedras de diferentes formas y tamaños, dispuestas sin ningún patrón o secuencia. El pasillo central, sin embargo, está delimitado por una línea continua que teje de ida y vuelta desde un extremo del pasillo al otro y luego vuelve a hacer un bucle completo. Dentro de cada círculo que se crea por la línea de tejido hay una estrella de seis puntas (una "estrella de David") formado por dos triángulos de revestimiento opuestas. Dentro de cada uno de estos triángulos son triángulos más pequeños; y en el interior de esas, triángulos aún más pequeños, todos de variando, pero ordenado colores. Para el observador uniformado, el piso es una pieza interesante de ver, pero su sentido no se destaca. Para los monjes, sin embargo, el suelo está lleno de significado.
          Como mencioné antes, las procesiones son una gran parte de las liturgias monásticas. Los domingos y las fiestas más importantes del año, los monjes se reúnen para orar en procesión. Esto significa que se procesan desde el monasterio a lo largo del pasillo lateral, donde las piedras son desiguales y ordenó al azar, en el pasillo central, donde las piedras son equilibrados y muy ordenada, ya que hacen su camino a sus sillería del coro. Para ellos, esto representa pasar del caos del mundo en la armonía de la liturgia: del desorden al orden. Lo que los monjes reconocen es que cuando todo funciona en armonía, las cosas son entero; y cuando todo es entero, hay paz. Por lo tanto, para los monjes, la liturgia, bien celebrado, es su integridad y, a través de ella, se encuentra la paz. Entonces, después de haber sido reforzada por su experiencia de la integridad, regresan de nuevo al mundo, listo para enfrentar su caos una vez más.
          Lo mismo es verdad para nosotros, por supuesto: que cuando todo funciona en armonía, somos enteros; y cuando todo es entero estamos en paz. Con el fin de ser entero, sin embargo, tenemos que trabajar en armonía con nuestro creador, quien es Dios. Los monjes hacen esto por su enfoque en la liturgia. ¿Entonces cómo hacemos eso? En una palabra: la obediencia. A través de la desobediencia de nuestros primeros padres hemos perdido nuestra paz porque perdimos nuestra integridad, nuestra armonía con Dios. Sin embargo, a través de la obediencia a Dios—primero de María y después de Jesús—nuestra armonía (y, por lo tanto, nuestra integridad) con Dios ha sido restaurada.
          A través de la obediencia a Dios, María dio a luz a un salvador para nosotros. Por esta razón, como hemos escuchado en el Evangelio de hoy, su prima Isabel pudo decir "¡Bendito eres tú!" Y a través de la obediencia a Dios, Jesús trajo la salvación para todo el género humano. Porque él restauraría la integridad, y, por tanto, la armonía, a la raza humana, el profeta Miqueas, en nuestra primera lectura, profetizaría bien sobre el ungido de Dios y dijo que "él mismo será la paz". Y así vemos que Jesús, que es la humanidad perfectamente restaurado a la integridad, es la paz en sí mismo.
          Por lo tanto, si Jesús ha restaurado la integridad—y, por tanto, la armonía y la paz—a la raza humana, entonces ¿por qué hay todavía caos y el desorden en el mundo? Eso, amigos míos, es porque tú y yo aún no ha permitido plenamente la armonía de la obediencia a gobernar nuestras vidas. En otras palabras, pasamos mucho más tiempo tratando de hacer lo que queremos hacer, en lugar de hacer lo que Dios quiere que hagamos. Lo creas o no, esta es una de las principales razones de Adviento. Miran, la Navidad no es sólo una fiesta exagerada de cumpleaños por Jesús. En realidad es un recordatorio para el mundo que el Señor, el Poderoso Salvador, ha venido y que él es la armonía, que es la integridad, que es la paz. Nuestro trabajo durante el Adviento, por lo tanto, tiene la intención de restaurar nuestra obediencia al Padre en Cristo por reconciliarnos a través de él, para que el día de Navidad que seremos verdaderamente listos para experimentar la paz en medio de este mundo caótico.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, cinco días de Adviento permanecen. Usemos estos días para rezar un poco más, para pasar un poco de tiempo extra en el silencio (¡y la oscuridad!), Y para frenar un poco para permitir a nosotros mismos para ser más listos para ser obedientes a lo que sea que Dios es pidiendo de cada uno de nosotros, porque cuando hemos sido restaurado a la perfecta obediencia a Dios nuestro Padre, entonces seremos verdaderamente listos para la celebración aún por venir.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

20º de diciembre, 2015

The harmony of obedience

Homily: 4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle C
          The Saint Meinrad Archabbey church was built in the late eighteen-hundreds and was finished in 1907.  It is a beautiful Romanesque church with twin spires on one end and smaller turrets on the other that give its strong arched entryways a truly majestic feel.  The locally-sourced sandstone that makes up its exterior has aged very well and gives this church a unique appearance.  Inside, its high ceiling and long nave evoke images of the great basilicas and cathedrals throughout Europe.  Although the interior was originally arranged in a traditional manner—with the monk’s choir stalls nearest to the sanctuary and the pews arranged in rows facing the sanctuary like they are here in our church—a renovation in the nineteen-nineties resulted in a new concept of layout.
          Now, I’m going to ask you to put your “imagination hats” on, so stay with me here as I try to describe this new layout.  First, much like our sanctuary is elevated in what is known as the apse of the church, so was the sanctuary in the original Archabbey church.  The first major change that they made was to level out the floor, so that everything would be on the same level.  Then they placed their choir stalls—which are basically like “stadium seating” for the monks that they use when they come together to pray—on either side of the nave and facing each other.  The monks recite the Psalms daily and they do so by alternating side to side for each stanza of the Psalm.  And so this is a very normal setup for the monks’ prayer space in the monastery church.  Seating for any guests that join them in prayer, however, follows the same pattern.  Although not set up like the stalls, they are arranged on either side of the nave and they face each other.
          Processions are a big part of monastic liturgies and so to accentuate that fact, they decided to place the altar and the ambo at opposite ends of the wide center aisle created by the seating arrangement so as to give them opportunities to make a procession to the altar during Mass.  So what you have here is a “three aisle” setup: the wide center aisle, with the ambo on one end and the altar on the other, and two side aisles, one each behind the seats in the nave.  It’s a very unique setup that (my personal experience can attest) works better than it might sound like it would at first.
          One of the things that often gets missed by visitors to the church is the floor.  It’s a terrazzo floor—which is made of chips of marble, glass or other aggregates embedded in tinted cement, and ground smooth and polished to a silky sheen—and the design was intended to accentuate the seating arrangement in the church.  (Keep your imagination hats on, because we’re going on one more journey.)  In the side aisles (behind the seats), the floor is marked by stones of various shapes and sizes, arranged without any pattern or sequence.  The center aisle, however, is marked off by a continuous line that weaves back and forth from one end of the aisle to the other and then returns to make a complete loop.  Inside each circle that is created by the weaving line there is a six-pointed star (a “star of David”) made up of two opposite facing triangles.  Inside each of these triangles are smaller triangles; and inside of those, even smaller triangles, all of varying, yet ordered colors.  To the uniformed observer, the floor is an interesting piece to look at, but its full meaning doesn’t stand out.  For the monks, however, the floor is full of meaning.
          You see, as I mentioned before, processions are a big part of monastic liturgies.  On Sundays and the more significant feasts of the year, the monks assemble to pray in procession.  This means that they process in from the monastery along the side aisle, where the stones are uneven and randomly ordered, into the center aisle, where the stones are balanced and highly ordered, as they make their way to their choir stalls.  For them, this represents moving from the chaos of the world into the harmony of the liturgy: from disorder to order.  What the monks acknowledge is that when everything works in harmony, things are whole; and when everything is whole, there is peace.  Thus, for the monks the liturgy, well celebrated, is their wholeness and through it they find peace.  Then, after being strengthened by their experience of wholeness, they return back to the world, ready to face its chaos once more.
          The same is true for us, of course: that when everything works in harmony, we are whole; and when everything is whole we are at peace.  In order to be whole, however, we have to work in harmony with our creator, who is God.  The monks do that by their focus on the liturgy.  So how do we do that?  In a word: obedience.  Through the disobedience of our first parents we lost our peace because we lost our wholeness, our harmony with God.  Yet, through obedience to God—first Mary’s and then Jesus’—our harmony (and, thus, our wholeness) with God has been restored.  Through obedience to God, Mary brought forth a savior for us.  For this reason, as we heard in the Gospel today, her cousin Elizabeth could say “Blessed are you!”  And through obedience to God Jesus brought forth salvation for the whole human race.  Because he would restore wholeness, and, thus, harmony, to the human race, the prophet Micah, in our First Reading, would prophesy well about God’s anointed one and say that “he shall be peace”.  And so we see that Jesus, who is humanity perfectly restored to wholeness, is peace in himself.
          So, if Jesus has restored wholeness—and, thus harmony and peace—to the human race, then why is there still chaos and disorder in the world?  That, my friends, is because you and I have not yet fully allowed the harmony of obedience to rule our lives.  In other words, we spend a lot more time trying to do what we want to do, rather than doing what God wants us to do.  Believe it or not, this is one of the main reasons for Advent.  You see, Christmas is not just a hyped-up birthday party for Jesus.  It’s actually a reminder to the world that the Lord, the Mighty Savior, has come and that he is harmony, he is wholeness, he is peace.  Our work during Advent, therefore, is meant to restore our obedience to the Father in Christ by reconciling us through him, so that on Christmas Day we will be truly ready to experience peace in the midst of this chaotic world.
          My brothers and sisters, five days of Advent remain.  Let us use these days to pray a little more, to spend a little extra time in silence (and darkness!), and to slow down a little so as to allow ourselves to be more ready to be obedient to what it is that God is asking of each one of us: for when we have been restored to perfect obedience to God our Father then will we be truly ready for the celebration yet to come.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 20th, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

It all starts with the ordinary.

Homily: 3rd Sunday of Advent – Cycle C
          St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is arguably the most famous church in the world.  And it’s enormous.  Inside it’s 614 feet long.  In fact, when you enter the doors and stand at the end of its full length and look at the floor, you’ll see that there are markings there indicating its size in comparison to other major churches throughout the world, verifying that quite possibly it is the largest church in the world.  The ceiling of the main nave is 145 feet high, and the inside of the dome itself soars to 385 feet.  It’s built in a the form of a cross and, just to give you a better idea of its size, I would bet that our church—which is not small, by any means—would fit multiple times in one of the side naves of St. Peter’s.  Like I said, it’s enormous.
          Of course, it is adorned with everything that high Renaissance art could throw at it, which you might think would be overwhelming when you first walk in there.  On the contrary, though, there is an incredible sense of balance and proportionality to it all.  As I walked through there for the first time I just tried to take it all in.  After spending some time in there, however, I started to approach different objects—certain statues, altars, side chapels, etc.—to take a closer look; and when I did I was amazed at the size of each thing.  Not only is the Basilica itself huge, everything in it is huge, too!
          Standing in the midst of this extraordinariness, it’s easy to forget why it’s even there at all.  St. Peter’s Basilica was built over an ancient necropolis (a “city cemetery”) on Rome’s Vatican Hill.  This ancient burial ground was very close to one of the places where Romans held sporting events, gladiator fights, and where they sometimes executed criminals.  That Roman entertainment complex (which they called “circuses”) was where Saint Peter was crucified and that nearby necropolis was where Saint Peter was buried.  It’s amazing to think that such an extraordinary basilica was constructed because of someone so ordinary: a fisherman from Galilee, a remote outpost of the Roman Empire.  That’s like saying we were going to build a basilica to honor a factory worker from Logansport Stamping.
          The basilica wasn’t built because of Peter’s merit alone, however.  That would be a hard case to sell.  He often said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, and Jesus had to correct him.  He confessed that he would die with Jesus, but then fled when Jesus was arrested.  Worse yet, he denied knowing Jesus three times when he was threatened with arrest for knowing him.  No the basilica wasn’t built over his grave because of his own merits.  He was an ordinary fisherman from Galilee through and through.  The basilica was built over his grave, rather, because of the extraordinary things that God accomplished through his ordinariness.  In other words, it was built to honor the ordinary that God had made extraordinary.  And so we see that, with God, it all starts with the ordinary.
          In the Gospel reading last week we heard how people were coming to John the Baptist, responding to his call for a “baptism of repentance” in which they would renounce their sins and then be ritually washed so as to be cleansed from the ritual impurity that their sins caused.  Today, we heard how many of these people, having turned away from their sins, sought advice from John about what they should do now that they had been cleansed.  Perhaps they thought that he would invite them to join him in his ascetic way of life, abandoning their work and wealth to live in extreme conditions.  Perhaps they thought that this kind of extraordinary act would be necessary to complete their cleansing.  What they heard, however, wasn’t very extraordinary at all.  John said to them: “Whatever you’re doing, do it right. And if you have the chance to help somebody in need, do it.”  These were very ordinary things.  Nevertheless, John knew that these things would prepare them for the extraordinary transformation that Christ would soon bring.
          This transformation is much more dramatic than the words of the Gospel convey on the surface.  What John described was fantastical.  His baptism was an ordinary baptism: a cleansing with water.  Imagine having just experienced that kind of baptism and then to hear him say that the one who will come after him—the one who would be mightier than him—will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire!  It would have been shocking and incomprehensible to his hearers.   Yet what he was saying to them was, "Do these ordinary things and you'll be ready for this extraordinary experience.”
          It’s not hard, sometimes, however, when we’re not sure what the next steps are, to think that we have to do extraordinary things.  For example: last year my family decided to come here for Christmas.  I had never hosted my whole family before so I wasn’t sure how to prepare.  I stated worrying that I would have to do all of these extraordinary things to prepare for their arrival.  I soon realized, however, that I had to start with ordinary things: I had to make sure that the house was clean and that it was neatly appointed with festive things.  After that, I just had to keep doing what I had been doing and wait for them to come.  In the end having them here was a great experience! Extraordinary in every way.
          I worry that we sometimes act this way with God.  We think that we have to do extraordinary things to get his attention.  And that, if we don’t feel like we can do those things (or, perhaps, we’re just not motivated to do those things), we decide not to do anything at all.  Yet, as we see throughout the Scriptures and in the lives of the Saints, God wants to meet us in the ordinary: and then to make our ordinary extraordinary.
          My brothers and sisters, the most extraordinary event in the history of the world was the birth of Jesus, the divine person who took on our ordinary human flesh in order to save us from sin and death forever.  He has already worked an extraordinary transformation in each of us through baptism; and he is coming again to complete our transformation to be like him in glory.  Thus, we don't need to be extraordinary ourselves. Rather, we can find joy in the ordinary—the work-a-day here and now—because of the extraordinary that God has promised to make with it.
          So what should we do?  Focus on the basics: Repent.  Seek the baptism of repentance by turning away from whatever sin in which you may be caught and be cleansed by making a good confession before Christmas.  Then, do the work you were given to do in justice and truth.  In other words, pray, share your blessings with the poor, and do your daily work with integrity.  Finally, wait in joyful expectation of the one who has already come, is still with us, and will come to us again.  In these ways, my brothers and sisters—that is, in our faithful obedience to the ordinary—we will be prepared for that day when God will transform our ordinary to be unbelievably extraordinary.   Therefore, as Saint Paul exhorts us, let us “rejoice in the Lord always.  I say it again: rejoice!”  For the Lord is truly near.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 12th & 13th, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

Una Guerra de la Misericordia

Homilía: 2º Domingo del Adviento – Ciclo C
          Mira, no estoy seguro de si el Papa Francisco está loco o valiente.
          Una de las maneras de saber si alguien está loco es probarlos en su comprensión de la realidad. Por ejemplo, alguien que se queja de que llueve todo el tiempo, mientras que en medio de una sequía probablemente no sabe realmente lo que está pasando. Esto se magnifica si la situación involucra algo peligroso: como, por ejemplo, si alguien entrar en un foso de los leones llevando comida para gatos para alimentar a los "gatitos". Obviamente hay una desconexión entre la percepción del peligro y la realidad de esa persona.
          Alguien es valiente, sin embargo, cuando, conociendo plenamente el peligro en el que él o ella está entrando, él o ella entra en él de todos modos. Al igual que el bombero que corre hacia una casa en llamas para buscar cualquiera que pudiera estar atrapado. Él o ella lleva un traje de fuego y una máscara de oxígeno, porque él o ella reconoce el peligro (asegurando así que él o ella tiene una buena comprensión de la realidad), pero, sin embargo, él o ella corre hacia el fuego de todos modos por una causa noble: haciendo él o ella valiente, no loco.
          Así que, vamos a ver cómo el Papa Francisco mide. La semana pasada, hizo un viaje a varios países de África. Bueno, que decir que fue un "viaje" que indicaría que estaba de vacaciones o algo así. En realidad, se trataba de un "viaje apostólico" en la que trató de llevar un mensaje de paz a zonas de África siendo desgarradas por los conflictos entre sus pueblos. Uno de los países que visitó fue la República Centroafricana, un lugar donde un conflicto activo entre cristianos y musulmanes está en curso. Por lo tanto, se enfrentó a un peligro real en ir allí. Él reconoció este antes de ir—y muchos de sus asesores más cercanos reconocieron esto, también, estoy seguro—y sin embargo se fue de todos modos. Así ¿era loco?—es decir, ¿no reconocer el peligro en que existía el peligro?—o ¿era valiente?—es decir, ¿reconociendo plenamente el peligro, pero ir de todas formas debido a una causa noble?
          Si usted lee los informes y ver videos a partir del viaje, no se ve como el Papa tenía ninguna protección adicional para sí mismo en cualquier momento. Sin embargo, abrazó el peligro del viaje. En un informe se llegó a decir que, después de haber oído de un ataque contra los cristianos no muy lejos de donde estaba, el Papa Francisco le preguntó si podía "ir a" los atacantes (que habían sido arrestados) para que pudiera hablar con ellos. Este es el punto en que incluso sus asesores más cercanos deben haber dicho: "¿Estás loco? ¡Te matan!" Pero el Papa Francisco no es loco, es valiente. Él sabía exactamente lo que estaba pasando y, a pesar de las apariencias, entró en esta situación armado y listo para lo que iba a encontrar.
          Mira, yo creo que el Papa Francisco se está enfrentando en una "guerra de la Misericordia" (que es una "guerra de la Misericordia", no una "guerra contra la misericordia"). El Papa Francisco, como obispo, arzobispo, y ahora Papa, está haciendo todo lo posible para preparar para la venida del Señor. Como Juan el Bautista en el Evangelio de hoy, que salió a la región del río Jordán y proclamó el bautismo de arrepentimiento para que el pueblo se prepararían para la manifestación de Jesucristo como el Mesías esperado, por lo que, también, el Papa Francisco esta saliendo a los "márgenes" del mundo para proclamar la misericordia del Señor a fin de preparar a las personas para cuando Jesús venga de nuevo.
          Como puede ver, esto no es una guerra en el sentido tradicional. El Papa Francisco no está luchando en sus términos. Más bien, él les está enfrentando con las armas del amor y la misericordia. En una guerra tradicional, los combatientes luchan bajo la premisa de que "es nosotros o ellos". El Papa Francisco, sin embargo, parece reconocer que, si nuestra guerra es el amor, que nunca puede ser "nosotros o ellos", sino que debe ser siempre "nosotros para ellos". Este es el ejemplo valiente que está dando a nosotros; y esto, yo diría, es la forma en que está viviendo el Adviento.
          Cuando miramos a nuestro alrededor vemos que nuestro mundo es una zona de guerra. En muchos lugares (demasiados lugares), es una zona de guerra física, donde la gente ha tomado las armas contra otros. En muchos otros lugares, es una zona de guerra ideológica, donde las personas son atacadas por sus ideas, y presionadas a conforme a las nociones predominantes de verdad. En cualquier caso, si tratamos de pelear su guerra perderemos, porque es una guerra mundana y nuestra victoria no es de este mundo. La única guerra que vamos a ganar es una guerra de la misericordia, porque en esta guerra la victoria ya ha sido ganada por nosotros en Jesucristo.
          Vivir el Adviento, por lo tanto, significa estar constantemente trabajando para "preparar el camino del Señor", lo que hacemos, no por la tala de montes y rellenando valles, pero abriendo un camino para el Señor en los corazones de los hombres. Para aquellos que están en contra de nosotros, tanto física como ideológicamente, las únicas armas que tenemos para superarlos son el amor y la misericordia. Así, el Papa Francisco, de alguna manera, ha declarado una gran ofensiva en esta guerra en la apertura del Año Jubilar de la Misericordia. En él se pide primero que seamos vencidos por la misericordia de Dios—especialmente en el sacramento de la reconciliación—y luego a cubrir totalmente en la misericordia el mundo que nos rodea—en especial a través de las obras corporales y espirituales de misericordia. En unirse a él en esta cruzada de la misericordia, estaremos preparando el camino para el regreso de nuestro Señor a nosotros y, por lo tanto, estaremos viviendo el Adviento.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, el Adviento es nuestro llamado a vivir como si la segunda venida es inminente, haciendo los preparativos para su venida. El Año de la Misericordia es una oportunidad especial para hacer grandes avances hacia la preparación del camino. Que nuestra experiencia de la misericordia de Dios que viene a nosotros a través del sacrificio de Jesús, su Hijo, que volverá a presentar pronto aquí en este altar, hacernos cruzados valientes de misericordia; para que el reino que viene realmente puede habitar en medio de nosotros aquí y ahora.
Dando en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

6 de diciembre, 2015

A War of Mercy

Homily: 2nd Sunday of Advent – Cycle C
          You know, I’m not sure if Pope Francis is crazy or courageous.
          One of the ways to know whether or not someone is crazy is to test them on their grasp of reality.  For example, someone who complains that it rains all the time while in the midst of a drought probably doesn’t really know what is going on.  This is magnified if the situation involves something dangerous: like, for example, should someone walk into a Lion’s den carrying cat treats to feed the “little kitties”.  There’s obviously a disconnection there between that person’s perception of danger and the reality.
          Someone is courageous, however, when, fully knowing the danger that he or she is walking into, he or she walks into it anyway.  Like the firefighter who runs into a burning house to search for anyone who might be trapped.  He or she wears a fire suit and an oxygen mask because he or she acknowledges the danger (thus assuring that he or she has a good grasp on reality), but, nonetheless, he or she runs into the fire anyway for a noble cause: making him or her courageous, not crazy.
          So, let’s see how Pope Francis measures up.  This past week, he made a trip to multiple countries in Africa.  Okay, to say it was a “trip” would indicate that he was on vacation or something.  In truth, it was an “apostolic journey” in which he sought to bring a message of peace to parts of Africa currently being torn apart by conflicts between its peoples.  One of the countries that he visited was the Central African Republic, a place where an active conflict between Christians and Muslims is ongoing.  Thus, he faced real danger in going there.  Now, he acknowledged this before he went—and many of his closest advisors acknowledged this, too, I’m sure—and yet he went anyway.  So was he crazy—that is, failing to acknowledge danger where danger existed—or was he courageous—that is, fully acknowledging the danger, but going anyway because of a noble cause?
          If you read the reports and look at the videos from the trip, it doesn’t look like the Pope had any extra protection for himself at any point.  Nonetheless, he embraced the danger of the trip.  One report even said that, after hearing of an attack on Christians not far from where he was, Pope Francis asked if he could “go to” the attackers (who had been arrested) so that he could speak to them.  This is the point when even his closest advisors must have said to him: “Are you crazy?  You’ll get killed!”  But Pope Francis isn’t crazy, he’s courageous.  He knew exactly what was going on and, in spite of appearances, he went into this situation armed and ready for what he would encounter.
          You see, I believe that Pope Francis is engaged in a “War of Mercy” (that’s a “war OF mercy” not a “war ON mercy”).  Pope Francis, as bishop, archbishop, and now pope, is doing everything he can to prepare for the coming of the Lord.  Like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, who went out into the region of the Jordan River and proclaimed a baptism of repentance so that the people would be prepared for the manifestation of Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah, so too is Pope Francis going out to the “margins” of the world to proclaim the Lord’s mercy so as to prepare people for when Jesus comes again.
          As you can see, this is not a war in the traditional sense.  Pope Francis is not fighting on their terms.  Rather, he is engaging them with the weapons of love and mercy.  In a traditional war, the combatants fight under the premise that “it’s us or them”.  Pope Francis, however, seems to acknowledge that, if our war is love, it can never be “us or them”, but rather it must always be “us for them”.  This is the courageous example that he is giving to us; and this, I would argue, is how he is living Advent.
          When we look around we see that our world is a war-zone.  In many places (too many places), it is a physical war-zone, where people have taken up arms against each other.  In many other places, it is an ideological war-zone, where people are attacked for their ideas and pressured into conforming to the prevailing notions of truth.  In either case, if we try to fight their war we will lose, because it is a worldly war and our victory is not of this world.  The only war that we will win is a war of mercy, for in this war the victory has already been won for us in Jesus Christ.
          To live Advent, therefore, means to be constantly working to “prepare the way of the Lord”, which we do, not by chopping down mountains and filling in valleys, but by opening a way for the Lord in men’s hearts.  For those who are against us both physically and ideologically, the only weapons we have to overcome them are love and mercy.  Thus, Pope Francis has, in a way, declared a great offensive in this war in opening the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  In it he is calling us first to be overcome by God’s mercy—especially in the sacrament of reconciliation—and then to blanket the world around us in mercy, especially through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  In joining him in this crusade of mercy, we will be preparing the way for our Lord to return to us and, thus, we will be living Advent.
          My brothers and sisters, Advent is our call to live as if our Lord’s second coming is imminent by making preparations for his coming.  The Year of Mercy is a special opportunity to make great inroads towards preparing the way.  May our experience of God’s mercy that comes to us through the sacrifice of Jesus, his Son, which we will re-present soon here on this altar, make us courageous crusaders of mercy so that the kingdom that is coming may truly dwell in our midst here and now.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – December 6th, 2015