Monday, August 29, 2016

A Mature Faith

Thanks to all who prayed for and with me this weekend as I was formally installed as Pastor of All Saints Parish.  It was a beautiful day!  Now that it's done, though, it's definitely time to get to work :)

Bishop Doherty "presents" me to the parish.

I sign the Profession of Faith.

My Dad, Bill, and my Mom, Josie, were in attendance.

Homily: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C*
          Our second reading today from the letter to the Hebrews puts into contrast one of the major differences between what I might call “Old Testament” Faith and “New Testament” Faith.  It does this by painting two different pictures: one of Mount Sinai and one of Mount Zion, which themselves are symbolic representations of the Old and New Testaments.  And so, what do these pictures tell us?
          The first picture is of Mount Sinai, which is the mountain where God gave his Law to the People of Israel through Moses during their Exodus from slavery in Egypt and as they were making their way to the Promised Land.  Thus the Law became the foundation and the measure of Old Testament Faith and Mount Sinai its enduring image.
          The other picture is of Mount Zion, which is the mountain on which the city of Jerusalem was built.  Ever since King David established his throne there, and especially after his son Solomon built the first temple there, Mount Zion became a symbol of heaven, of the city of believers that have entered into communion with God: not through fearful obedience to God's strict laws, but through loving obedience to the Messiah, the one whom God promised to send to save all people (and whom we now know is Jesus Christ).  Thus loving obedience to a person, not just a Law, became the foundation and the measure of New Testament Faith and Mount Zion its enduring image.
          Now the Old and New Testaments are both covenants—that is, solemn, committed relationships freely entered into.   The relationship in both cases is between God and his chosen people, between God and those who believe in him.  This relationship gradually matured as God revealed himself more and more, from the beginning of the Old Testament until the establishment of the New.  These two pictures, therefore, can give us a good idea of the difference between an immature and a mature relationship with God.  And so, let’s take a closer look.
          In the Old Covenant, people had an incomplete notion of who God is and, as a result, their relationship with him was immature—not wrong, mind you, just immature.  This is evidenced by the fact that the predominant characteristic of the relationship was fear.  In those times, people were much more aware of the severity and seriousness of sin (and the punishment that sin truly deserved) than we are today.  They were also more aware of their own sinfulness.  This double awareness inspired fear: because God hates sin and they knew that they were sinners.
          This is the attitude that the Letter to the Hebrews calls to mind when it describes the experience that the ancient Israelites had of receiving God's Law on Mount Sinai.  They were so intimidated by God's holiness that they "begged that no message be further addressed to them."  The book of Exodus even tells us that, if an animal (like a cow or a sheep) touched the mountainside while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments, it had to be stoned.  Moses himself described his experience of being in God's presence by saying that he was "utterly terrified and trembling."  God was holy. Mankind was sinful.  And that created tension—to say the least.
          But fear was not the only characteristic of the Chosen People's relationship with God in the Old Testament.  In those times, people were also keenly aware of God's majesty; again, much more than we tend to be today.  They still saw wonder and magnificence in the world around them.  And they knew clearly that the Creator of such a world had to be even more wonderful and magnificent.  This is evident from the description of Mount Sinai as cloaked in "blazing fire and gloomy darkness and storm and a trumpet blast".  Here is a God who is not only holy, but mysterious and transcendent and immensely powerful.  And so, they were full of awe when they thought of God and when they entered into his presence through prayer and worship.
          As I said, the fear and awe that characterized the Old Testament view of God was not wrong, but it was incomplete.  God still seemed so far away from man that man was suspicious of God.  But God didn't want to keep us at a distance.  When in his wisdom he saw that the time was right to do so, God built a bridge over the abyss that kept man and God so far apart.  That bridge was God becoming man in Jesus Christ.  Christ is the bridge that draws sinful man back into intimacy with God.  He shed his blood to atone for our sins, showing that God's mercy can release us from fear.  And he rose from the dead to prove that in him we don't have to keep our distance to admire God's majesty, but rather we can actually enter into it through our friendship with Christ and enjoy it from the inside.
          This is what we see in the picture of Mt Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem.  It shows us a city where God is present and surrounded by immense crowds.  His angels are at his side.  And all the men and women who have been faithful to him make up "the assembly of the firstborn".  In other words, each has been welcomed and honored by God as his very own child.  The Greek word used to describe the scene is "panegyris" (pahn-eh-GEAR-ihs).  Translated, it means "festal gathering" and it's the word the Greeks used for civic holidays and festivals, when everyone gathered to celebrate in the town square.  This is what Christ has won for us: closeness to God, joyful intimacy with the Creator of the universe, healthy fear turned into confident love, and frightening awe transformed into indescribable delight.
          This is the picture being painted for us today in the Letter to the Hebrews: the stark contrast between a mature and an immature relationship with God.  As Christians, each one of us, no matter our age, is called to live in a mature relationship with God.  We are not strangers to God, as at Mount Sinai, but rather members of his household, called to live in a relationship of closeness and confidence with God, as on Mount Zion.  And so, perhaps the question that we need to ask ourselves today is, “Is that how we are living?”  And so, let's do a check-up.  Let's measure our spiritual maturity by looking at some of our Christian vital signs.
          First, there's confession.  The immature Christian stays far away from confession; for him, confession is like the thunderous mountaintop. It only inspires fear.  For the mature Christian, however, confession is an intimate conversation with the Lord who never gets tired of forgiving; it is a joyful embrace; a coming home again, like the Prodigal Son.
          Second, there's morality.  The immature Christian sees following the moral teachings of Christ and the Church as a burden; it's like following a list of random and inconvenient rules.  For the mature Christian, however, following Christ is a meaningful, joyful mission; he or she acknowledges it can be hard, but also that there are many other things in life that are hard, but that are worthwhile, nonetheless.
          Finally, there's the virtue of mercy.  The immature Christian takes pleasure in criticizing less faithful people and in talking about their faults.  The mature Christian, however, sees every person as a brother or sister, and treats them with unconditional respect, always giving them the benefit of the doubt, whether present or absent.
          If, my brothers and sisters, this check-up has shown that there is room for improvement in our Christian maturity, then, in this Mass, let us ask for God’s help to grow in maturity by opening our minds and hearts to see him as he really is: our loving Father and our faithful Friend, who humbled himself to become one of us so that we might be exalted with him: that same exalted presence that we will soon encounter once again here on this altar.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 28th, 2016

*I am grateful to for "filling in the gaps" for this week's homily.

Monday, August 22, 2016

La disciplina para ganar al nivel más alto

Homilía: 21º Domingo en el Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo C
          El padre David y yo hablamos de hacer una apuesta sobre quién predicaría acerca de los Juegos Olímpicos por primera vez. En realidad no nos hacemos una apuesta, pero me siento muy bien que llegamos al último día de los Juegos Olímpicos sin predicar acerca de ello! Eso, por supuesto, va a terminar en este momento...
          Tengo que admitir que soy poco más que un observador ocasional de los Juegos Olímpicos. No tengo ningún deporte olímpico en particular que sigo, ni soy muy rabioso de ver el EE.UU. ganar tantos eventos como sea posible. Me gusta lo que veo; pero, en general, no me siento una gran necesidad de ver.
          Una de las razones por las que veo, sin embargo, es para maravillar con el nivel de atletismo que estos atletas olímpicos han logrado. Algunos de ellos (como muchos de las gimnastas) son estudiantes de primer año de high school; pero, aquí están realizando hazañas atléticas increíbles, ¡aparentemente con facilidad! Sólo de pensar en lo que sería como para hacer 1% de lo que hacen me hace comprender cuanto trabajo duro es necesario para desempeñar en el nivel que sea necesaria para competir en los Juegos Olímpicos.
          Debido a la cobertura en vivo y porque a menudo hay largas pausas entre los eventos, las redes estarán grabar previamente los segmentos que documentan la historia de fondo de algunos de los atletas más populares (o, tal vez, los atletas que tienen una historia única que contar). Estos son buenos porque ves cuántos sacrificios tanto de los atletas y sus familias y comunidades hacen para que esta persona pueda competir en el escenario mundial. Una de las cosas que encuentro más interesante es que la palabra que los atletas utilizarán más frecuentemente para describir su entrenamiento y preparación es la "disciplina".
          La palabra "disciplina", para la mayoría de nosotros, probablemente connota algo negativo: es decir, ser castigado por algo que has hecho mal. La disciplina, por lo tanto, es un correctivo: sufrimiento impuesto a una persona con el fin de corregir un comportamiento inapropiado. Por ejemplo, ustedes disciplinan a un niño para pintar en las paredes de la casa. En otras palabras, que lo hacen sentir mal con el fin de enseñarle que es malo para pintar en las paredes.
          En esto, yo he tocado en algo que, espero, nos ayudará a ver que "la disciplina" es algo más que un castigo. "Disciplina" comparte la misma raíz que la palabra "discípulo"; y lo que es un "discípulo" pero alguien que aprende de un maestro y trata de seguir los caminos del maestro. En otras palabras, un "discípulo" es aquel que aprende y luego se aplica el aprendizaje de su vida. "Disciplina", por lo tanto, miraba de esta manera, es más que un "castigo"; más bien es la "enseñanza". Y así, "disciplina" para los atletas olímpicos no es sólo un castigo que se debe soportar, sino una forma de enseñar a sí mismos cómo alcanzar el nivel de competencia que necesitarán para poder competir en el nivel de los Juegos Olímpicos. Por lo tanto, casi cada uno de ellos dirá que "se necesita mucha disciplina para competir a este nivel"; y todos oímos y decimos que, "Si, tiene razón."
          En la lectura del Evangelio, Jesús pasa a través de ciudades y pueblos en su camino a Jerusalén, y en algún lugar en el camino un hombre se le acerca y le pide a esta pregunta muy sincera: "Señor, ¿es verdad que son pocos los que se salvan?" Jesús, siendo quien él es, es capaz de escuchar la "pregunta detrás de la pregunta" que el hombre está pidiendo y su respuesta revela lo que esta pregunta podría haber sido: "Señor, ¿es posible que yo puedo ser salvo?" ¿Y cómo responde Jesús a esta pregunta? Él dice: " Esfuércense en entrar por la puerta, que es angosta." Ahora no necesitamos saber qué "puerta angosta" Jesús está hablando: más bien, es suficiente para imaginar una puerta angosta a través del cual es difícil de pasar y, por lo tanto, lo que se necesitaría para apretar por él.
          La palabra "esforzarse", en sí, se pesa mucho con significado, porque la palabra griega que Lucas, el escritor del Evangelio, utilizo es la misma palabra de la cual obtenemos el verbo "agonizar". Por lo tanto, en cierto sentido, Jesús está diciendo este hombre "agonícense para entrar por la puerta estrecha". "Agonía" es otra palabra que tiene connotaciones negativas. "Para agonizan por" algo es sufrir algo desagradable: por ejemplo, la indecisión de no saber la elección correcta para hacer el fin de lograr algo importante. Sin embargo, este "agónica" frecuentemente conduce a una decisión; y por lo tanto el sufrimiento producido por la agonía se convierte en una "disciplina" que ayuda a uno a lograr su meta. Por lo tanto de esforzarse—de agonizar—para entrar por la puerta angosta es también disciplinarse a entrar por la puerta angosta; por lo tanto, vemos que Jesús no estaba hablando sólo de ejercer la energía en bruto en su esfuerzo, sino que también estaba hablando de disciplinar a si mismo para que pueda entrar por la puerta angosta: "porque muchos tratarán de entrar" Jesús dijo "y no podrán." /// "Señor, ¿es verdad que son pocos los que se salvan?", pregunta el hombre... "Eso depende" Jesús parece decir "de cuántas personas esforzarse verdaderamente por ella."
          Por lo tanto, podemos ver que a llegar a competir en los Juegos Olímpicos y a llegar en el cielo no son cosas diferentes: ambos requieren disciplina y esfuerzo. Hay una diferencia muy importante, sin embargo—una diferencia que hace que el uno casi imposible para cualquiera de nosotros para lograr y el otro muy posible para todos nosotros para lograr—y que es la siguiente: en los Juegos Olímpicos uno es juzgado por su desempeño, mientras que en la salvación, uno es juzgado por su esfuerzo. Ninguno de nosotros podría cuestionar que cada atleta en los Juegos Olímpicos está poniendo adelante su máximo esfuerzo hacia la "entrar en la puerta angosta" y ganar una medalla de oro. Sin embargo, sólo un atleta gana una medalla de oro, porque su desempeño era mejor que todos los demás. La salvación no depende de la perfección de nuestro desempeño, sin embargo; más bien depende de si o no nos hemos dado nuestro máximo esfuerzo.
          Así, Jesús dice: "Esfuércense en entrar por la puerta, que es angosta, pues yo les aseguro que muchos tratarán de entrar y no podrán." "Esfuércense"—disciplinarse—hacerte fuerte para que pueda dar el máximo esfuerzo, porque eso es lo que se necesita para entrar por la puerta angosta. Esto, mis hermanos y hermanas, es lo que hacemos cuando oramos todos los días, cuando estudiamos las Escrituras y las enseñanzas de la Iglesia, cuando vivimos la vida sacramental (es decir, principalmente: la confesión regular y participación semanal en la Eucaristía), y cuando servimos a los demás a través de las obras de misericordia. Estas disciplinas son las que preparamos nosotros para entrar por la puerta angosta.
          Los que no son lo suficientemente fuertes son los que faltan una o más de estas disciplinas, creyendo que debido a que "conocen a Jesús" que todavía se salvarán. Jesús, sin embargo, no está de acuerdo. Los que han renunciado a esas disciplinas, a pesar de que conocen a Jesús, será como los que estaban cerrados afuera de la casa del maestro después de haber cerrado con llave la puerta y que claman a la maestra que luego responde: "No sé quiénes son ustedes". Debemos conocer el maestro, sí, pero también hay que esforzarse por entrar; porque una vez que la puerta se bloquea, no se volverá a abrir.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, es una hermosa misericordia de Dios que él no espera perfección de nosotros para que podamos ser salvados. A pesar de su justicia exige la perfección, su merced tiene en cuenta el esfuerzo que ponemos adelante hacia el logro de ella y, por lo tanto, que nos da la bienvenida, a pesar de nuestras desempeños malos. Por lo tanto, tomando los logros de nuestros atletas olímpicos como inspiración, volvamos a dedicarnos a aquellas disciplinas de la oración, el estudio, la celebración de los sacramentos, y haciendo las obras de misericordia para que la gloria logramos será el tipo que no se marchita, la gloria de entrar por la puerta angosta que se sienten en bodas eternas de nuestro maestro: el anticipo de lo que nos gusta, incluso ahora, aquí, en esta Eucaristía.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

21 de agosto, 2016

Discipline to win at the highest level

Homily: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
          You know, Fr. Clayton and I talked about making a bet about who would preach about the Olympics first.  We didn’t actually make a bet, but I feel pretty good that we both made it to the last day of the Olympics without preaching about it!  That, of course, is all going to end right now…
          I will admit that I am little more than a casual watcher of the Olympics.  I don’t have any particular Olympic sport that I follow, nor am I really rabid about seeing the USA win as many events as possible.  I enjoy what I watch; but, in general, I don’t feel a great need to watch.
          One of the reasons why I watch, however, is to marvel at the level of athleticism that these Olympic athletes have achieved.  Some of them (like many of the female gymnasts) are barely freshmen in high school, yet here they are performing incredible athletic feats, seemingly with ease!  Just thinking about what it would be like to do even 1% of what they do makes me realize just how much hard work must go into performing at the level that is necessary to compete at the Olympic Games.
          Because of the live coverage and because there are often long breaks in between events, the networks will pre-record segments documenting the backstory for some of the more popular athletes (or, perhaps, the athletes who have a unique story to tell).  These are great because you see just how many sacrifices both the athletes and their families and communities make so that this one person can compete on the world stage.  One of the things that I find most interesting is that the word that the athletes will most often use when describing their training and preparation is “discipline”.
          The word “discipline”, for most of us, probably connotes something negative: that is, being punished for something that you did wrong.  Discipline, therefore, is a corrective: suffering imposed on someone in order to correct an improper behavior.  For example, you discipline a child for coloring on the living room walls.  In other words, you make them feel bad in order to teach them that it is bad to color on the walls.
          Now, I’ve just touched on something that, I hope, will help us see that “discipline” is something more than just punishment.  You see, “discipline” shares the same root word as the word “disciple”; and what is a “disciple” but someone who learns from a master and tries to follow the master’s ways.  In other words, a “disciple” is one who learns and then applies that learning to his or her life.  “Discipline”, therefore, looked at in this way, is more than “punishment”; rather it is “teaching”.  And so “discipline” for Olympic athletes is not just a punishment that must be endured, but a way of teaching themselves how to achieve the level of skill that they will need in order to compete at the level of the Olympics.  Thus, almost every one of them will say that “you need a lot of discipline to compete at this level”; and we all hear that and say, “You’re right” (which is probably followed by a thought “and I don’t have it!”).
          In the Gospel reading today, Jesus is passing through towns and villages on his way to Jerusalem and somewhere along the way a man approaches him and asks this very sincere question: “Lord, will only a few people be saved?”  Jesus, being who he is, is able to hear the “question behind the question” that the man is asking and his response reveals what that question might have been: “Lord, is it possible that I can be saved?”  And how does Jesus answer this question?  He says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”  Now we don’t need to know what “narrow gate” Jesus is talking about: rather, it is enough to imagine a narrow gate that is difficult to get through and, thus, what it would take to squeeze through it.
          The word “strive”, itself, is heavy with meaning, because the Greek word that Luke, the Gospel writer, used is the same word from which we get the verb “to agonize”.  So, in a sense, Jesus is telling this man “to agonize to enter through the narrow gate”.  “Agony” is another word that has negative connotations.  “To agonize over” something is to suffer something unpleasant: for example, indecision at not knowing the correct choice to make in order to achieve something important.  Nevertheless, that “agonizing” often leads to a decision; and thus the suffering produced by the agony turns into a “discipline” that helps one achieve his or her goal.  Thus to strive—to agonize—to enter through the narrow gate is also to discipline yourself to enter through the narrow gate; thus, we see that Jesus was not talking only about exerting raw energy in your effort, but that he was also talking about disciplining yourself so that you can enter through the narrow gate: “for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter” Jesus said “but will not be strong enough.” /// “Lord, will only a few be saved?” the man asks…  “That depends” Jesus seems to say “on how many people truly strive for it.”
          Thus, we can see that making it to the Olympics and making it to heaven are not dissimilar things: both require discipline and effort.  There is one extremely important difference, however—a difference that makes the one nearly impossible for any of us to achieve and the other very possible for all of us to achieve—and that is this: in the Olympics you’re judged by your performance, whereas in salvation, you’re judged by your effort.  None of us would question that each athlete in the Olympics is putting forth his or her maximum effort towards “entering the narrow gate” and winning a gold medal.  Yet, only one athlete wins a gold medal, because his or her performance was better than all of the others.  Salvation does not depend on the perfection of our performance, however; rather it depends on whether or not we’ve given our maximum effort.
          Thus Jesus says “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  “Strive”—discipline yourself—make yourself strong so that you can give the maximum effort, because that is what it will take to enter through the narrow gate.  This, my brothers and sisters, is what we do when we pray daily, when we study the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church, when we live the sacramental life (meaning primarily: regular confession and weekly participation in the Eucharist), and when we serve others through the works of mercy.  These disciplines are what prepare us to enter through the narrow gate.
          Those who are not strong enough are those who give up on one or more of these disciplines, believing that because they “know Jesus” that they will still be saved.  Jesus, however, disagrees.  Those who have given up on these disciplines, even though they know Jesus, will be like those locked out of the master’s house after he has locked the door and who cry out to the master who then replies “I do not know where you are from”.  We must know the master, yes, but we must also strive to enter; because once the door is locked it won’t be reopened.
          My brothers and sisters, it is a beautiful mercy of God that he does not expect perfection of us so that we can be saved.  Although his justice requires perfection, his mercy takes into account the effort that we put forth towards achieving it and, thus, he welcomes us, in spite of our flawed performances.  Therefore, taking the achievements of our Olympic athletes as our inspiration, let us rededicate ourselves to those disciplines of prayer, study, celebrating the sacraments, and doing the works of mercy so that the glory we achieve will be the kind that never fades, the glory of entering through the narrow gate to be seated at our master’s eternal wedding feast: the foretaste of which we enjoy even now, here in this Eucharist.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – August 21st, 2016

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Vivir de acuerdo con la realidad de la fe

Homilía: 19º Domingo en el Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo C
          Edith Stein, también conocida como Santa Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz, nació en una familia judía el 12 de octubre de 1891. Por su adolescencia, sin embargo, que había abandonado la fe de su infancia y era una atea declarada. Movido por la tragedia de la Primera Guerra Mundial, ella tomó clases para convertirse en un auxiliar de enfermería y trabajó en un hospital para la prevención de brotes de enfermedades. Un año más tarde, después de completar su tesis doctoral en la Universidad de Göttingen, obtuvo una ayudantía en la Universidad de Friburgo.
          Después de leer las obras de Santa Teresa de Ávila, el reformador de la orden carmelita, Edith se sintió atraído por la Fe Católica y fue bautizada el 1 de enero, 1922 en la Iglesia Católica Romana. En ese momento que quería ser monja carmelita descalza, pero fue disuadido por sus mentores espirituales. A continuación, enseñó en una escuela católica de la educación en Speyer. En 1933, el gobierno nazi comenzó prohibiendo cualquier persona de la herencia judía para ocupar cualquier posición de autoridad en la sociedad alemana, incluidos los maestros. Como resultado, Edith tuvo que dejar su puesto de maestro en abril de este ano.
          Sus mentores espirituales que son incapaces de disuadirla por más tiempo, Edith fue admitido en el monasterio carmelita descalzo en Colonia el siguiente octubre. Recibió el hábito religioso de la Orden como un novato en abril de 1934 y tomó el nombre religioso Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz. En 1938 ella y su hermana Rosa, para entonces también un converso y una hermana del monasterio, fueron enviados al Carmelo de Echt, Holanda para mantenerlos a salvo de la ocupación nazi. A pesar de la invasión nazi de ese estado en 1940, permanecieron no perturbado hasta que fueron detenidos por los nazis el 2 de agosto de 1942 y enviados al campo de concentración de Auschwitz, donde murieron en la cámara de gas sólo unos pocos días después, el 9 de agosto.  
          Mencioné Santa Teresa Benedicta porque ella es sólo uno de una larga lista de santos que demuestran la verdad de lo que la Carta a los Hebreos nos habla hoy: que "la fe es la forma de poseer, ya desde ahora, lo que se espera y de conocer las realidades que no se ven." A principios de los años 1920 en Alemania, Edith Stein tenía muchas cosas a su favor; pero en una noche fatídica en 1921, mientras que pasar la noche en casa de unos amigos, eligió al azar la autobiografía de Santa Teresa de Ávila para leer. Ella fue cautivada por su historia y pasó toda la noche leyéndolo. Cuando terminó, ella misma informó que cerró el libro y se dijo: "Esta es la verdad." A partir de ese momento se puso sus ojos sobre la conversión a la fe católica y de hacerse carmelita.
          Edith Stein se le dio el don de la fe. Debido a esto, ella pudo ver que existía una realidad más allá del mundo material, que era tan real como cualquier realidad que se podría medir mediante métodos científicos, y que, para ella, era la realización de un mucho mayor promesa de la felicidad que el mundo material podría proporcionar. Por lo tanto inmediatamente se desea comenzar a vivir de acuerdo a esa realidad. Y esto es lo que hacen los santos: una vez que se les ha dado el don de la fe, comienzan a vivir de otra manera: viven en este mundo, pero no de este mundo mientras esperan la plena realización de la vida futura: la vida que la fe hace presente a ellos ahora.
          En la lectura del Evangelio, cuando Jesús anima a sus discípulos a "vendan sus bienes y den limosnas" y que "estén preparados, porque a la hora en que menos lo piensen vendrá el Hijo del hombre", que es animándoles a vivir por la fe: es decir, como si la realidad prometida del reino de Dios ya estaba presente; porque, en realidad, lo que ya era. Él usa las parábolas del siervo cuyo señor tarda mucho en volver a ilustrar el peligro en la tentación de vivir una vida mundana, en lugar de acuerdo con la realidad de que la fe ha revelado: en este caso, que Jesús, en un momento inesperado, volverá y que espera encontrar a sus discípulos que viven como si nunca se hubiera ido.
          Esto es muy apropiado en este Año de la Misericordia, porque es al vivir nuestras vidas de acuerdo con las obras de misericordia—tanto las obras corporales (que son visitar a los enfermos, dar de comer al hambriento, dar de beber al sediento, dar posada al peregrino, vestir al desnudo, visitar a los presos, y enterrar a los difuntos) y las obras espirituales (que son enseñar al que no sabe, dar buen consejo al que lo necesita, corregir al que se equivoca, perdonar al que nos ofende, consolar al triste, sufrir con paciencia los defectos del prójimo, y rezar a Dios por los vivos y por los difuntos)—es al vivir nuestras vidas de acuerdo estas que realmente nos vivimos en la fe: como si la vida feliz que todos hemos esperado ya es real y así que no hay necesidad de atarnos a éste. Las obras de misericordia expresan nuestra fe que no encontramos nuestra comodidad en este mundo, sino en el mundo para los que esperan, y que la fe nos dice que ya está aquí.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, si aún no está viviendo como este—es decir, de acuerdo con la realidad de que la fe nos revela—entonces tal vez usted todavía no ha recibido el don de la fe. No se preocupe, sin embargo, porque no es algo difícil de obtener. De hecho, es suficiente para empezar a perseguirlo y muchas veces se encontrará: al igual que lo encontró Santa Teresa Benedicta de la Cruz y un sinnúmero de otros santos. Una vez que haya recibido el don de la fe, entonces es el momento de vivir de acuerdo a la realidad que revela la fe: que Jesús, de hecho, volverá; y que va a recompensar a aquellos a quienes él encuentra fieles—tanto en la oración y en las obras—por sentarlos en el gran banquete eterno, preparado para ellos en el cielo.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, ya que disfrutar de un anticipo de este banquete celestial aquí, en esta mesa eucarística, oremos para que el don de la fe crecerá dentro de nosotros y por lo tanto que vamos a tener el valor de vivir de acuerdo a la realidad que revela la fe y así edificar el reino celestial de Dios entre nosotros.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

7 de agosto, 2016

Live according to Faith's reality

Homily: 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
          Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was born into an observant Jewish family on October 12th, 1891.  By her teenage years, however, she had abandoned the faith of her childhood and was an avowed atheist. Moved by the tragedies of World War I, she took lessons to become a nursing assistant and worked in a hospital for the prevention of disease outbreaks. A year later, after completing her doctoral thesis from the University of Göttingen, she obtained an assistantship at the University of Freiburg.
          After reading the works of St. Teresa of Avila, the reformer of the Carmelite order, Edith was drawn to the Catholic Faith and was baptized on January 1st, 1922 into the Roman Catholic Church. At that point she wanted to become a Discalced Carmelite nun, but was dissuaded by her spiritual mentors. She then taught at a Catholic school of education in Speyer. In 1933, the Nazi government began forbidding anyone of Jewish heritage from holding any position of authority in German society, including teachers.  As a result, Edith had to quit her teaching position.
          Her spiritual mentors being unable to dissuade her any longer, Edith was admitted to the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne the following October. She received the religious habit of the Order as a novice in April 1934 and took the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. In 1938 she and her sister Rosa, by then also a convert and a sister of the monastery, were sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, Netherlands to keep them safe from the Nazi occupation. Despite the Nazi invasion of that state in 1940, they remained undisturbed until they were arrested by the Nazis on August 2nd, 1942 and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they died in the gas chamber just a few days later on August 9th.
          I mention St. Teresa Benedicta because she is just one in a long line of saints who demonstrate the truth of what the Letter to the Hebrews speaks to us today: that “faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence of things unseen.”  In early 1920’s Germany Edith Stein had many things going for her; but on a fateful evening in 1921, while spending the night in the home of some friends, she randomly chose St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography to read.  She was captivated by her story and spent the whole night reading it.  When she finished it, she herself reported that she closed the book and told herself, “This is truth.”  From that point on she set her sights on conversion to the Catholic faith and on becoming a Carmelite nun.
          Edith Stein was given the gift of Faith.  Because of this she could see that there existed a reality beyond the material world which was just as real as any reality that could be measured using scientific methods, and which, for her, was the realization of a far greater promise for happiness than the material world could provide.  Thus she immediately desired to begin living according to that reality.  And this is what the saints do: once they’ve been given the gift of Faith, they begin to live differently: they live in this world, but not of this world as they await the full realization of the life to come—the life that Faith makes present to them now.
          In the Gospel reading, when Jesus encourages his disciples to “sell [their] belongings and give alms” and that they “must be prepared, for at an hour [they] do not expect, the Son of Man will come”, he is encouraging them to live by Faith: that is, as if the promised reality of the kingdom of God was already present; because, in reality, it already was.  He uses the parables of the servant whose master is long delayed in returning to illustrate the danger in the temptation to live a worldly life, instead of according to the reality that Faith has revealed: in this case that Jesus, at an unexpected time, will return and that he expects to find his disciples living as if he had never left.
          This is very appropriate during this Year of Mercy, because it is by living our lives according to the works of mercy—both the corporal works (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting prisoners, burying the dead giving alms to the poor) and the spiritual works (counseling the doubtful, instructing the innocent, admonishing the sinner, comforting the sorrowful, forgiving injuries, bearing wrongs patiently, and praying for the living and the dead)—that we truly live by Faith: as if the blissful life that we all have hoped for is already real and so there is no need to tie ourselves to this one.  The works of mercy express our faith that our comfort does not come in this world, but rather in the world for which we hope and which Faith tells us is already here.
          My brothers and sisters, if you are not yet living like this—that is, according to the reality that Faith reveals to us—then perhaps you have not yet fully received the gift of Faith.  Don’t worry, however, because it is not something hard to obtain.  In fact, you only have to begin to pursue it and oftentimes it will find you: just like it found St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and countless other saints.  Once you have received the gift of Faith, then it is time to live according to the reality that Faith reveals: that Jesus will, indeed, return; and that he will reward those whom he finds faithful—both in prayer and in works—by seating them at the great, eternal banquet prepared for them in heaven.
          My brothers and sisters, as we enjoy a foretaste of this heavenly banquet here, at this Eucharistic table, let us pray that the gift of Faith will grow within us and thus that we will have the courage to live according to the reality that Faith reveals to us and so build up God’s heavenly kingdom among us.