Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Knowing Jesus in the Eucharist

Homily: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus
Cycle C
          As most of you know, I grew up near Chicago, in Joliet, Illinois.  This was (and still is) close enough that “Chicago” culture permeates Joliet, too.  I’m always a little surprised when I go home to visit at some of the stark contrasts between “Chicago” culture and our more rural “Indiana” culture.  One of those aspects that usually sticks out is the “I know a guy…” syndrome.  You see, in Chicago culture, one establishes his or her authority on a subject by proclaiming to “know a guy” that says something authoritative about it or who can do something in regards to it.  For example: “I know a guy who says that the bishop keeps forty or fifty gold bars buried under the Cathedral in case of emergency.”  Or (and this is more common), in the case that you need something done: “That storm ripped some siding off?  I know a guy who can fix that up for you.  He’ll do a great job and it won’t cost that much.  Let me call him right now for you…”
          This could be a great asset, if you were looking for someone and were hoping to find a good reference.  It could also be very annoying.  Perhaps you already had your own “guy” for the job, but now you have to talk to this other “guy”.  Nevertheless, in its own weird way, this aspect of the “Chicago” culture is very “priestly”.  In other words, the guy who knows a guy that can get you what you need and is willing to get it from him for you is actually acting—again in a weird analogical sense—like a priest.  Let me try to explain, taking a look at today’s Scriptures.
          You see, the role of the priest is to mediate between God and man.  The primary way that he does this is by offering sacrifices to God on behalf of man.  This is evidenced throughout history: one brings his or her offering to God and hands it to the priest who then offers it to God according to the ritual ascribed for it.   The other way that the priest mediates between God and man is to bring God’s blessings down to man.  That could be in sharing the physical offerings from the altar of sacrifice (such as when a portion of the sacrifice was returned to the one who offered it as a sign that his offering was received positively by God) or simply by imparting the blessings of God on the people.  Case in point: the priest Melchizedek.
          In our first reading today, we hear the short episode of when Abram returned victorious from a battle against an enemy attacker.  On his return he is met by the priest-king Melchizedek who brings out bread and wine for a thanksgiving offering to “God Most High”.  Melchizedek makes the offering and also imparts a blessing from “God Most High” onto Abram.  Then Abram gives a tenth of everything to Melchizedek in thanksgiving for the many spoils he brought back from his victory.  As a mediator for God, Melchizedek will make the appropriate offering on Abram’s behalf.  Through these actions, we see that the priest is a mediator between God and man: a mediation that goes in both directions.
          In the Gospel, we also see a model of priesthood.  After Jesus had been teaching the crowds all day, his disciples approach him on behalf of the people to ask that they be dismissed so they can go find food and lodging for the night.  After instructing them to “give them some food yourselves”, to which they object since they have so little food, Jesus works a miracle so that they can provide them all with food.  In other words, Jesus, who is God, pours out blessings upon the people (the multiplication of loaves and fish) through the hands of his disciples, which makes them “priests”.  Thus we see that, in a sense, the priest is a “guy who knows a guy” who can take care of what we need.
          Jesus, however, is the Eternal High Priest—that is, the priest above all other priests—who eternally intercedes on our behalf before God our Father, offering all of our prayers and praises to him while sending down to us grace for every need in our lives.  We know that this is true because of two things that Jesus did before he ascended into heaven: 1) he instituted the ministerial priesthood and 2) he instituted the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, he made sure that his Body and Blood—which he told us is the very substance of life when he said: “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you do not have life within you”—would be available to all.  And in the ministerial priesthood, he made sure that his Body and Blood would always be available to all, down through the generations, until he returned on the day of judgment.
          To make present his Body and Blood was a task that was given to a select few—not because of their exceptional worthiness, but simply because they were chosen.  It continues to this day to be given to those whom God has chosen for this task so that his divine life may continually be poured out for his faithful people to consume.  This is the role of the priest today, to offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God on your behalf and to be generous distributors of God’s many blessings through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist: in which the Body and Blood of Jesus is made really present to us in the form of bread and wine.  In other words, the priest is to be the “guy who knows a guy” who can bring God’s divine life to us.
          In a special way today we honor the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus as a way of honoring Jesus, the Eternal High Priest, who made of himself a sacrifice to God on our behalf and who continually pours out God’s blessings to us through this most holy sacrament; and as a reminder to honor him always in his real presence that remains with us in the tabernacle.  This truly is both the source and the summit of our faith.
          Let us, then, honor him worthily today by pouring ourselves out in praise and thanksgiving for this great gift; and by embracing the share in Christ’s priesthood that we all have received in baptism and go forth from here to be that “guy who knows a guy” who can intercede before God on behalf of others and bring others to the abundant blessings that God pours out for all when the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus is made present here in this Holy Eucharist.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 29th, 2016

Monday, May 23, 2016

Más de lo que parece

Homilía: Solemnidad de la Santísima Trinidad – Ciclo C
          Cuando yo era un niño, yo estaba fascinado por las cosas mecánicas. Una de mis juguetes favoritos eran los "Transformers", que era un juguete que transforma de un vehículo de algún tipo (un carro, camión o un avión) en un robot. Los quería porque podía jugar con ellos y averiguar cómo se transforman desde el vehículo a robot y viceversa. Estos juguetes siempre venían con instrucciones sobre la manera de transformarlos, pero casi nunca se miraron; Estaba tan fascinado por averiguarlo por mi cuenta.
          Hubo momentos, sin embargo, cuando tuve que consultar las instrucciones. A menudo, lo que descubrí fue que, además de descubrir cómo transformar correctamente el juguete, hubo alguna otra característica del juguete de que yo no sabía nada (un compartimiento secreto o algo así) y así se mejoró mi disfrute. Lo que descubrí fue que mi propia fascinación y capacidad averiguar las cosas sólo me podían llevar hasta cierto punto. En algún momento, necesitaba algo de fuera de mí para ayudarme a saber todo lo que hay que saber sobre el juguete.
          Todos tenemos esta capacidad inherente averiguar las cosas. Así, el universo creado está abierto para nosotros. Hemos demostrado a nosotros mismos que todo lo que se necesita para desbloquear los secretos del universo es nuestro tiempo, esfuerzo y compromiso con el descubrimiento de ellos; y nuestros increíbles avances tecnológicos están demostrando este hecho. Lo creas o no, esto también se aplica a Dios. Déjame explicar.
          Me atrevo a decir que la mayoría de nosotros aprendimos de Dios por las enseñanzas los padres, abuelos, nuestros sacerdotes y catequistas. Esto, sin embargo, no es la única manera de saber que Dios existe. El quid de la cuestión es la existencia de Dios es una conclusión a la que podemos llegar únicamente mediante nuestra razón. No es fácil, por supuesto, pero al igual que mi averiguar cómo transformar mis juguetes y al igual que estamos averiguando los profundos misterios del universo, con suficiente tiempo y esfuerzo, podemos concluir—sólo de la razón—que Dios existe.
          Santo Tomás de Aquino, de hecho, nos dio cinco maneras de probar la existencia de Dios que provienen de pensar razonablemente sobre la creación misma. Por ejemplo: todos sabemos que nada se mueve sin ser movido por un impulso: ya sea desde el interior de la misma o fuera de la misma. (Por ejemplo: la roca no gira sobre sí mismo, ¿verdad?) Bueno, la secuencia de movimiento había que empezar en alguna parte, ¿verdad? Quiero decir que tenía que haber algo que era antes de todas las cosas que se inició la primera cosa en movimiento, ¿verdad? De otra manera no podría explicar por qué hay movimiento en absoluto. Este primer "motor inmóvil", Santo Tomás ha dicho, "es lo que llamamos 'Dios'".
          Se puede ver, sin embargo, que esto sólo nos dice que existe la que llamamos "Dios", pero que no nos dice mucho acerca de quién es Dios, en sí mismo. En otras palabras, podemos saber que hay un "ser supremo" que existía antes de todas las cosas y por lo tanto es la fuente de la existencia de todas las cosas, pero no podemos saber que es tres personas en el único Dios. Para saber quién es Dios en sí mismo requiere algo más allá de lo que podemos razonar: un manual de instrucciones del creador de todo. En otras palabras, que Dios se revela a nosotros.
          Qué bendición es, entonces, que Dios se ha revelado a nosotros como una comunión de tres personas—Padre, Hijo y Espíritu Santo—que son todos de la misma sustancia—lo eterno, omnipotente, omnisciente, omnipresente Dios. Es por esta razón que se celebra esta fiesta en particular, la solemnidad de la Santísima Trinidad: honrar a Dios en quién es él en sí mismo y para dar gracias a él por haber revelado a sí mismo a nosotros y por lo que él es significa para nosotros. De hecho, las lecturas de hoy apuntan a la forma en que Dios es en sí mismo—esta pluralidad de personas—nos ha beneficiado.
          En la primera lectura, tomada del libro de los Proverbios, oímos cómo la sabiduría estaba con Dios antes de todas las cosas eran y cómo la sabiduría era el "artesano" en el lado de Dios, el Padre, como él creó el mundo. Esto revela no sólo que Dios, el Padre, es el autor de la vida, sino que creó toda la vida en la sabiduría, dando orden y sentido sabio al mundo para que éste podría ser un lugar de belleza y armonía.
          En la segunda lectura de la carta de San Pablo a los Romanos, oímos cómo hemos recuperado "la paz" con Dios por medio de Jesucristo, el Hijo de Dios, que es la segunda persona de la Trinidad. Por esta razón tenemos una esperanza verdadera (es decir, certeza de lo que aún no se logra), porque no es a través de nuestros esfuerzos (siempre defectuosas) que esperamos alcanzado esta paz, sino más bien a través del esfuerzo perfecta de Dios que se hizo hombre para nosotros.
          Por último, en la lectura del Evangelio, leemos que Jesús nos enviaría al Espíritu Santo como el don de su presencia perdurable que nos recordará todo lo que él nos enseñó y nos revelan la plenitud de la verdad como llegamos a ser capaz de recibirlo. Es esta revelación del Espíritu Santo—y la revelación de Jesús que él, el Padre, y el Espíritu son uno—que completa la revelación de quién es Dios, por lo que es posible que no tenga miedo de su poder, sino más bien que podríamos acercarse a él, porque lo conocemos.
          No obstante, el problema de "cómo" Dios puede ser tres personas pero sólo un ser sigue sin resolverse. De hecho, no "desmontándola" por nuestros propios esfuerzos se revelará jamás lo suficiente sobre la Santa Trinidad para nosotros para llegar a entenderlo completamente. Eso está bien, sin embargo, porque esta verdad no es como las verdades de la física o la química: no son verdades que, una vez entendido, son para nosotros usar y manipular. Más bien, es una verdad para ser admirado; una verdad que nos debe llevar a la adoración debido a su belleza sublime.
          Sabiendo, sin embargo, que estamos destinados a vivir en comunión con la Trinidad divina, podemos vivir en este mundo de sufrimiento y nunca perder la esperanza; porque, como dice San Pablo en la segunda lectura de hoy "el sufrimiento engendra la paciencia, la paciencia engendra la virtud sólida, la virtud sólida engendra la esperanza, y la esperanza no defrauda..." Esto, mis hermanos y hermanas, es lo que tenemos que anunciar al mundo—y lo que estamos especialmente tratando de anunciar en este Año de la Misericordia—que el sufrimiento de este mundo no es todo lo que hay, pero que la verdadera esperanza para una vida de paz existe y puede ser nuestra cuando tenemos fe en Jesús, el Hijo Divino de Dios que se hizo carne por nosotros.
          Por lo tanto, dejémonos de estar animada por esta celebración de hoy—sobre todo por la comunión con Dios que compartimos en esta mesa—para salir y proclamar esta verdad con nuestras vidas y por lo tanto dar esperanza a todos los que en la desesperación, para que todos podría conocer la alegría que la fe en Dios—el Padre, el Hijo y el Espíritu Santo—trae a los que ponen su confianza en él.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

22 de Mayo, 2016

More than meets the eye

Homily: Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – Cycle C
          When I was a kid, I was fascinated by mechanical things.  (Well, to be honest, I still am.)  One of my favorite toys were the “Transformers”, which was a toy that transformed from a vehicle of some sort (a car, truck, or an airplane) into a robot.  I loved them because I could play with them and figure out how they transformed from the vehicle to the robot and back again.  These toys always came with instructions on how to transform them, but I almost never looked at them; I was so fascinated by figuring it out on my own.
          There were times, however, when I had to consult the instructions.  Often, what I found out was that, aside from discovering how to correctly transform the toy, there was some other feature about the toy that I didn’t know about (a secret compartment or something) and so my enjoyment was enhanced.  What I discovered was that my own fascination and ability to figure things out only went so far.  At some point, I needed something from outside of me to help me know everything there was to know about the toy.
          Now, we all have this inherent ability to figure things out (although some of us have a greater interest in doing it than others).  Thus the created universe is open to us.  We have proven to ourselves that all that is needed to unlock the secrets of the universe is our time, effort, and commitment to discovering them; and our incredible technological advances are proving this very fact.  Believe it or not, this also applies to God.  Let me explain.
          I dare to say that most of us learned about God by what has been handed down to us from parents, grandparents, our priests and religious education catechists.  This, however, is not the only way to know that God exists.  The fact of the matter is the existence of God is a conclusion to which we can come solely using our reason alone.  It’s not easy, of course, but much like my figuring out how to transform my toys and much like we are figuring out the deep mysteries of the universe, with enough time and effort, we can conclude—from reason alone—that God exists.
          Saint Thomas Aquinas, in fact, gave us five ways to prove God’s existence that come from reasonably thinking about creation itself.  For example: we all know that nothing moves without being moved by some impulse: either from inside of itself or outside of itself.  (The rock doesn’t turn over on its own, right?)  Well, the sequence of motion had to start somewhere, right?  I mean there had to be something that was before all things that started the first thing in motion, right?  Otherwise we couldn’t explain why there is motion at all.  This first “unmoved mover”, Saint Thomas has said, “is what we call ‘God’”. 
          You can see, of course, that this only tells us that the one that we call “God” exists, but that it doesn’t tell us much about who God is, in himself.  In other words, we can know that there is a “supreme being” who existed before all things and thus is the source of the existence of all things, but we cannot know that he is three persons in the one Godhead.  To know who God is in himself requires something beyond what we can reason: an instruction manual from the creator of it all.  In other words, that God reveal himself to us.
          What a blessing it is, then, that God has revealed himself to us as a communion of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who are all of the same substance—the eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God.  It is for this reason that we celebrate this particular feast, the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity: to honor God in who he is in himself and to give thanks to him for revealing himself to us and for what who he is means for us.  In fact, our readings today point to how who God is in himself—this plurality of persons—has benefitted us.
          In the first reading from the book of Proverbs, we hear how wisdom was with God before all things were and how wisdom was the “craftsman” at the side of God, the Father, as he created the world.  This reveals not only that God, the Father, is the author of life, but that he created all life in wisdom, giving order and wise sense to the world so that it could be a place of beauty and harmony.
          In the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear how we have regained “peace” with God through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the Second Person of the Trinity.  For this reason we have true hope (that is assurance of things not yet achieved), because it is not through our (always faulty) efforts that we hope to achieved this peace, but rather through the perfect effort of God who become man for us.
          Finally, in the Gospel reading, we read that Jesus would send us the Holy Spirit as the gift of his enduring presence that will remind us of all that he taught us and reveal to us the fullness of truth as we become capable of receiving it.  It is this revelation of the Holy Spirit—and Jesus’ revelation that he, the Father, and the Spirit are one—that completes the revelation of who God is, so that we may not be afraid of his power, but rather that we might approach him, because we know him.
          Nonetheless, the problem of “how” God can be three persons yet only one being remains unresolved.  In fact, no “taking it apart” by our own efforts will ever reveal enough about the Holy Trinity for us to ever understand it fully.  That’s okay, however, because this truth is not like the truths of physics or chemistry: they aren’t truths that, once understood, are then for us to use and manipulate.  Rather, it is a truth to be admired; a truth that should lead us to adoration because of its sublime beauty.
          Knowing, however, that we are destined to live in communion with the Divine Trinity, we can live in this world of suffering and never despair; because, as Saint Paul said in today’s second reading “affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint…”  This, my brothers and sisters, is what we must proclaim to the world—and what we are especially trying to proclaim in this Year of Mercy—that the suffering of this world is not all there is, but that real hope for a life of peace exists and can be ours when we have faith in Jesus, the Divine Son of God who became incarnate for us.
          Let us, then, allow ourselves to be animated by this celebration today—especially by the communion with God that we share at this table—to go forth and proclaim this truth with our lives and thus give hope to all those in despair, so that all might know the joy that faith in God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brings to those who put their trust in him.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 21st & 22nd, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Pentecost and the Church's unifying mission

Homily: Pentecost – Cycle C
          Many of us, I dare say, remember the events surrounding the death of Saint John Paul II in 2005.  It was really extraordinary how, from the moment that news broke that he was approaching death, up to and through his death and his funeral, the world became fixated on the life of this man.  Those extraordinary few weeks also gave us a brief glimpse of mankind somewhat united as men and women throughout the world watched with and prayed for this man who had had such an impact on the world.
          It was counted that more than three thousand foreign journalists descended upon Rome as John Paul II was dying; and, almost overnight, hundreds of media broadcast tents sprang up on the outskirts of Vatican City.  This worldwide media gave around-the-clock coverage to viewers across the globe, to people of every age and ethnic group.  Then, during the week before the funeral, it was estimated that 2 million pilgrims paid their last respects in person to the pope as he lay in state: some of them waiting in line up to 24 hours to do so.
          On the night before the funeral, more than 800,000 pilgrims spent the night praying and waiting in the streets and plazas of Rome.  Most of these were young people who had come to the Vatican from all five of the continents.  All night long you could see them waiting in line for confession at makeshift, outdoor confessionals that Rome's priests had set up on doorsteps and under lamp posts.
          The funeral itself was followed closely by millions via television and radio and the amount of world leaders who were present was extraordinary.  It included four queens, five kings, seventy prime ministers or heads of government, and more than 100 other recognized dignitaries.  Dozens of Orthodox, Protestant, and Jewish leaders joined them, as well.  Yes, one wouldn’t have been exaggerating if they would have said that the funeral of Saint John Paul II looked and sounded like Pentecost.
          Many of us might be surprised to discover however, that Pentecost is not a Christian festival in origin.  Rather, it was a Jewish festival (which is why it is named as if it already existed in the Acts of the Apostles).  For the ancient Jews, Pentecost was one of the top three religious holidays (known as “pilgrimage feasts”, because believers were expected to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to celebrate it).  Pentecost was known also as the feast of “weeks” because it falls seven weeks (or 50 days) after Passover.  (The word “Pentecost”, in fact, comes from the Greek word for “50”.)  For the Jewish people, this feast celebrates two important things: things that make it fitting to be the day on which the Holy Spirit descended from heaven to give birth to the Church.
          First, on Pentecost, the first fruits of the spring grain harvest were offered to God in a special sacrifice at the Temple.  Now, that may sound strange to us, because we live in a climate that has only one harvest each year.  In Palestine, however, they have two yearly harvests: one in spring and one in fall.  In this sense, it is appropriate that God sent the Holy Spirit to his Church in a public way on Pentecost.  This is because the Holy Spirit is the first fruit of the harvest of the New Covenant; and the New Covenant is Christ giving us a new, redeemed life of grace; and this life begins here on earth under the action of the Holy Spirit; and, just like the first sweet corn to come off of the stalks does not make the harvest, but is enjoyed and offered to those we wish to honor the most, so, too, the action of the Holy Spirit, which came as first fruits nearly 2000 years ago, will only reach its fulfillment—i.e. the full harvest—in heaven.
          The second thing that the Jewish festival of Pentecost celebrates is the commemoration of when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.  Soon after the Israelites had miraculously escaped from Egypt, God sent them the Law, which would be a guide for them on how they should live now that they were freed from slavery to Pharaoh.  And so, in this sense, too, it was appropriate that God sent his Church the Holy Spirit during Pentecost.  This is because the Holy Spirit is the bond of unity between the Father and the Son; and the Law of the New Covenant, that is, the Law of the Church, is unity.  Thus, the unifying power of the Spirit is the new “Law of the Covenant”, which descended upon the Church at Pentecost.  In a way, the descent of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the old covenant Law by making it universal.  For this reason, Saint Paul could write to the Corinthians and say that the Church is a body that has many parts yet remains one, united body.  Bringing unity, in Christ, to the divided human family; this is the work of the Church, which began on Pentecost and won't stop till history ends.
          If we think back now to the funeral of Saint John Paul II, we see a further illustration that this effort of the Church to reunite the human family continues today, symbolized by the architecture of the Church's most famous plaza, the place where Saint John Paul II’s funeral was celebrated: that is, Saint Peter's square, in Rome.  Almost a hundred thousand people can fit inside that plaza, which is as wide as three football fields and located in front of Saint Peter's Basilica.  It is constructed in the shape of a rectangle connecting the basilica's entrance with a huge oval space surrounded by almost 350 massive columns and pilasters.  If you look down at the plaza from above, those curved lines of columns surrounding the oval look like huge arms spread in welcome.  The artist who designed the plaza, Gianlorenzo Bernini, described this as a symbol of "the maternal arms of Mother Church".
          As we know, the arms of a mother are always ready to welcome all her children, both the ones who are already full members of the family, and those still looking for their spiritual home.  And these arms of Mother Church have indeed welcomed pilgrims from every continent, age group, and walk of life for the last 500 years—ever since this expanded plaza was first constructed.  And the crowds are still coming. Every Wednesday the Pope welcomes pilgrims to the plaza, and in the last two years the number of pilgrims in those audiences has averaged 20,000 per week.  The unity symbolized by this space even goes beyond the limits of time; because lining the columns and walls around the plaza are 140 taller-than-life-sized statues of saints: men and women, peasants and kings, hermits and housewives, who come from every period of history and every corner of the globe.   Again, this is the Church's work—reuniting the divided human family with God and with each other—a work that began on Pentecost.
          Now, there are many people, many of whom are non-Christians, who would agree that uniting mankind is a worthy goal.  In fact, there are many international lobbying groups who are dedicated full time to noble causes like achieving world peace, eradicating poverty, and reducing the sale of military weapons.  Indeed, the modern world is full of creative initiatives for unity.
          As Christians, though, our efforts are different.  This is because we aim not only at the symptoms of disunity, but at its cause.  The Church has taught us throughout its history that the fundamental cause of disunity in the human family is sin, the rebellion of the human heart against God.  “How can we all be united in one family,” she argues, “unless we all love and obey one Father?”  Now, we know that it wasn't the Apostles' human brilliance that enabled them to speak in foreign tongues on that first Pentecost, but rather that it was God's grace—the Holy Spirit—working in and through the Church.  And so, if we are to fulfill our role as members of this Church whose mission is building unity—that is, if we are to be active, efficient, and effective builders of unity in our families, schools, communities, and workplaces—then we must, first and foremost, be men and women of prayer.
          Prayer, my brothers and sisters, binds us firmly to God, so that through us his strength can bring together the scattered pieces of fallen humanity; and a mature prayer life makes us partners in the work of the Holy Spirit in the world.  Today, therefore, when the Holy Spirit renews his presence in us and in the world during this Mass, let's renew our commitment to becoming mature men and women of prayer, so that we can then become mature men and women of action and boldly advance the Church's beautiful and urgent mission to bring true unity to the human race: the unity in God’s Spirit that we hope one day to know fully in heaven.

Given at All Saints Parish, Logansport, IN – May 14th & 15th, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

El potencial ilimitado de la humanidad

Homilía: La Ascensión del Señor – Ciclo C
          La nueva película de "Capitán América" abrió este fin de semana y me dio que pensar en lo mucho que parecemos amar superhéroes. De Superman y Batman, al Hombre Araña, la Mujer Maravilla, los X-Men, Iron Man, Capitán América, y sigue y sigue y sigue, parecemos estar fascinado con estos personajes que tienen capacidades superhumanos. Esto no se limita a personajes de fantasía, sin embargo. De hecho hay una industria completa llamada "el deporte profesional" que se basa en el hecho de que nos gusta ver hombres y mujeres que parecen tener capacidades superhumanos demuestran sus capacidades.
          Hay una buena razón para todo esto (como ya he aludido). Debido a que somos criaturas corporales, estamos bastante limitados en lo que podemos hacer. Sin embargo, debido a que también somos seres espirituales y racionales, podemos saber que podía existir una vida ilimitada; y puesto que ser ilimitado siempre es mejor que ser limitada, lamentamos el hecho de que estamos limitados y deseamos trascender los límites de cualquier manera posible. Superhéroes y atletas profesionales nos dan una visión de una vida más ilimitada—una vida en la que trascendemos las limitaciones naturales de nuestro cuerpo—y, por lo que, tendemos a idolatrar a ellos.
          Lo raro de esto es que, en la práctica, parecemos amar nuestras limitaciones... incluso si es en secreto. Por ejemplo, muchos de nosotros podríamos pensar que es una heroica hazaña de correr un maratón, e incluso podemos aspirar a hacerlo. Pero cuando nos tratamos de renunciar a nuestras comodidades corporales y nos ponemos en el trabajo para hacerlo, nos decimos que es imposible para nosotros y por lo que nunca lo tratamos. Nuestras comodidades corporales, se ve, son un producto de nuestro carácter limitado. Por ejemplo, si nuestros cuerpos no estaban limitados en la cantidad de energía que producen, no habría necesidad de descansar; y si no habríamos necesidad de descansar, no tendríamos ningún problema para levantarnos de la cama en la mañana para hacer la preparación necesaria. Sin embargo, nuestros cuerpos necesitan descanso y el descanso se siente bien, así que nos decimos a nosotros mismos que somos "demasiado limitado" para hacer algo tan heroica como correr un maratón y así que no se intenta o nos damos por vencidos antes de pasar demasiado adelante.
          Pero ¡mucha gente corre maratones! Y en términos generales, sus cuerpos no son diferentes a los nuestros—en otras palabras, que nacen tan limitado como nosotros. La diferencia es que los que corren maratones han optado por abandonar la comodidad de sus limitaciones y llevar a cabo ilimitación, en su lugar. Muchos de nosotros sueño de ser ilimitado: es decir, hasta que se exige algo de nosotros. Ahí es cuando tenemos la tendencia a alejarnos.
          Esto puede arrastrarse en nuestras vidas como cristianos, también. Tal vez hemos sentido la necesidad de fortalecer nuestra fe y darnos más plenamente a Dios. Soñamos con grandes sueños sobre el tiempo dedicado a la oración, el estudio de las Escrituras, o servir a los pobres. Tal vez incluso de comenzar a soñar con un proyecto específico que Dios ha puesto en nuestros corazones—para iniciar un programa de apoyo para los que se retiró de la high school o un ministerio para los divorciados. Nos sentimos movido para empezar, pero una vez que empezamos a imaginar lo que sería necesario para realizar nuestros sueños, nos encontramos cara a cara con nuestras limitaciones una vez más y empezar a poner excusas.
          A menudo, sólo queremos que se haga por nosotros, ¿verdad? Sabemos las palabras de Jesús cuando dijo: "Cualquier cosa que le pida al Padre en mi nombre, él le dará" y tal vez nuestro amor de nuestras limitaciones nos hace pensar "Bueno, voy a orar al respecto y dejarlo en las manos de Dios." Mientras que no hay nada inherentemente malo en ello (y es un importante primer paso), eso no reconoce otro paso importante que tenemos que tomar: que a menudo tendremos trabajo para hacer si queremos ver la respuesta de Dios a nuestras oraciones.
          San Ignacio de Loyola famosamente dijo una vez: "Ore como si todo dependiera de Dios y trabaje como si todo dependiera de ti." Qué gran lema para nuestro tiempo, que nos recuerda que para todas las cosas que realmente debemos depender de Dios, sino que Dios a menudo nos use como instrumentos para el cumplimiento de su voluntad, aunque sólo elegiríamos trabajar. Y cuando comenzamos a trabajar como si todo dependiera de nosotros, vamos a empezar a encontrar nuestra capacidad de trascender nuestras limitaciones y ser más ilimitada.
          Entonces ¿por qué hablar de todo esto hoy en día, en la solemnidad de la Ascensión? Bueno, es porque la Ascensión nos recuerda que los límites de nuestra naturaleza humana pueden ser superados. Cuando Jesús ascendió al cielo en su cuerpo humano, nos mostró el potencial ilimitado de nuestros cuerpos humanos. Ningún cuerpo humano puede aparecer en cuartos cerrados sin necesidad de abrir una puerta o desaparecer de la vista sin dejar rastro. Ciertamente, ningún cuerpo humano puede ascender a la eternidad: un espacio en el que no hay tiempo, sólo el presente. Sin embargo, Jesús hizo todas esas cosas y ascendió al cielo en su cuerpo humano—una naturaleza como la nuestra, sólo se glorificado—y al hacerlo, nos mostró el potencial ilimitado que nuestros cuerpos humanos poseen.
          Si deseamos aprovechar ese potencial, sin embargo, vamos a tener que tomar algunas decisiones. Vamos a tener que optar por abandonar las comodidades que vienen con nuestros límites y elegir a "trabajar como si todo dependiera de nosotros". ¿Se imagina los Apóstoles de Jesús tratando de cumplir con la misión que les había dado a "ir y hacer discípulos" solo por la oración? Sabían que tenían que trabajar, también, si querían cumplir con el mandato de Jesús. Pero, que no estaban solos en su trabajo, ¿verdad? Antes de ascender, Jesús prometió enviarles el Espíritu, que les daría poder para ser sus testigos "hasta los extremos de la tierra". El Espíritu Santo vino a los Apóstoles en Pentecostés y el resultado fue extraordinario. Ellos realmente trascendieron sus limitaciones humanas para dar testimonio de Jesús a los extremos de la tierra.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, en esta semana entre nuestra celebración de la Ascensión de Jesús al cielo y el descenso del Espíritu Santo en Pentecostés, oremos para que el Espíritu nos llene de ese mismo poder para superar nuestras limitaciones como lo hicieron los Apóstoles y, por lo tanto, para dar la mayor gloria de Dios que es posible que podemos dar: nuestras vidas vivieron sin límites en él.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

8 de mayo, 2016

Humanity's limitless potential

Homily: Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord – Cycle C
          The new “Captain America” movie opened this weekend and it gave me pause to think about how much we seem to love superheroes.  From Superman and Batman, to Spiderman, Wonder Woman, the X-men, Iron Man, Captain America, and on and on and on, we seem to be fascinated with these characters who have super-human capacities.   This is not limited to fantasy characters, however.  In fact a whole industry called “professional sports” is built on the fact that we like to watch men and women who seem to have super-human capabilities demonstrate their skills.
          There’s a good reason for all of this (as I have already alluded to).  Because we are bodily creatures, we are rather limited in what we can do.  Yet, because we are also spiritual and rational creatures, we can know that an unlimited life could exist; and since being unlimited is always better than being limited, we lament the fact that we are limited and desire to transcend those limits in any way possible.  Super-heroes and professional athletes give us a glimpse of a more limit-less life—a life in which we transcend the natural limitations of our bodies—and so we tend to idolize them (and, at least, are entertained by them).
          The weird thing about this is that, in practice, we seem to love our limitations… in secret, at least.  For example, many of us might think it to be a heroic feat to run a marathon and may even aspire to do so.  But when it comes to giving up our bodily comforts and putting in the work to do it, we tell ourselves that it’s impossible for us and so we never even try.  Our bodily comforts, you see, are a product of our limitedness.  If our bodies weren’t limited in the amount of energy they produced, we wouldn’t need to rest; and if we didn’t need to rest, we wouldn’t have any trouble getting out of bed in the morning to do the necessary training.  But, our bodies do need rest and rest feels good, so we tell ourselves that we are “too limited” to do something as heroic as run a marathon and so either never try or give up before we get too far.
          But lots of people run marathons!  Generally speaking, their bodies are no different than ours—in other words, they are born just as limited as we are.  The difference is that those who run marathons have chosen to abandon the comfort of their limitations and pursue limitlessness, instead.  Many of us dream of being limitless (or we try live it vicariously through super-heroes or athletes, at least): that is, until it demands something of us.  That’s when we tend to fall away.
          This can creep into our lives a Christians, too.  Perhaps we have felt the urge to strengthen our faith and give ourselves more fully to God.  We dream big dreams about time spent in prayer, studying Scripture, or serving the poor.  Perhaps we even begin to dream about a specific project that God has placed on our hearts—to start a support program for those who dropped out of high school or a ministry to those who are divorced.  We feel moved to begin it, but once we start to imagine what it would take to realize our dreams, we come face to face with our limitations once again and begin to make excuses.
          Often, we just want it done for us, don’t we?  We know Jesus’ words when he said “Anything that you ask of the Father in my name, he will give you” and perhaps our love of our limitations causes us to think “Well, I’ll just pray about it and leave it in God’s hands.”  While there is nothing inherently wrong with that (and it is an important first step), it fails to recognize the other important step that we need to take: that we will often have work to do if we wish to see God’s response to our prayers.  Saint Ignatius of Loyola famously once said: “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.”  What a great motto for our times: reminding us that for all things we must truly depend on God, but that God will often use us as an instrument for fulfilling his will, if only we would choose to work.  And when we begin to work as if everything depended on us, we will begin to find our capacity to transcend our limitations and become more limit-less.
          So why talk about all of this today, on the Solemnity of the Ascension?  Well, it’s because the Ascension reminds us that the limits of our human nature can be overcome.  When Jesus ascended into heaven in his human body, he showed us the limitless potential of our human bodies.  No human body can just appear in locked rooms without opening a door or vanish from sight without a trace.  Certainly, no human body can ascend into eternity: a space in which there is no time, only the present.  Yet Jesus did all of those things and ascended into heaven in his human body—a nature just like ours, only glorified—and in doing so he showed us the limitless potential our human bodies possess.
          If we wish to tap into that potential, however, we are going to have to make some choices.  We are going to have to choose to abandon the comforts that come with our limits and choose to “work as if everything depends on us”.  Could you imagine Jesus’ Apostles trying to fulfill the mission that he gave them to “go and make disciples” by prayer alone?  They knew that they had to work, too, if they wanted to fulfill Jesus’ command.  But, they weren’t alone in their work, were they?  Before he ascended, Jesus promised to send them the Spirit, who would give them power to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth”.  The Holy Spirit came to the Apostles on Pentecost and the result was extraordinary.  They truly transcended their human limitations to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth.
          My brothers and sisters, in this week between our celebration of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, let us pray that the Spirit will fill us with that same power to overcome our limitations as the Apostles did and, thus, give the greatest glory to God that we can possible give: our lives lived without limits in him.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 8th, 2016