Sunday, November 26, 2017

Your chance to meet the King

Homily: 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
          Saint Theresa of Calcutta, as most of us know, spent over 50 years serving the dying poor in the slums of Calcutta, India.  She had felt a special “call within her call” to religious life, as she would call it, to attend to those who were dying and poor that she (and the sisters that she eventually gathered around her) would find on the streets of Calcutta.  For the most part, the people for whom she and her sisters cared had no chance of recovery and survival.  That wasn’t Mother Theresa’s purpose, though.  Her call was to acknowledge their human dignity and to make them feel loved and cared for in their dying days.
          Over the years that she completed this service, many asked Mother Theresa, “How do you do it?”  In other words, “How is it possible for you to spend all of your days ministering to people who are physically filthy (because they haven’t bathed in a long time), while breathing intense body odor, dressing open sores and wounds, cleaning fecal matter and throw up, while living in a place with relatively poor sanitation and even poorer ventilation?”  Mother’s answer was always five simple words (which she would count off using the fingers of her hand): “You. Did. It. To. Me.”
          For Mother Theresa, it was her love of Jesus, and Jesus’ promise that he made to his disciples in the judgment parable that we heard in our Gospel reading today, that impelled her on.  For her, Jesus’ judgment warning wasn’t so much of a threat (that is, “look at how you will be punished if fail to do this!”), but rather an amazing opportunity promised to her.  When she read, “whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me”, she saw her chance to meet Jesus, for whom she had fostered and intense love, in the flesh of the poor ones whom she met in the streets of the slums of Calcutta.  In other words, in this phrase, Mother Theresa found the way to order her life rightly so as to demonstrate her love for Jesus in the most intense way.
          Friends, it is true that this passage of Matthew’s Gospel is a depiction of the final judgment.  If we view it only as a fearful thing, however—that is, as something over which we have no control—then we fail to see the beautiful instruction that Jesus gives to us within it.  You see, in telling us how we are going to be judged, Jesus is giving us a clue as to how we are to order our lives rightly.  In effect, Jesus is saying: “If you love me and you wish to serve me, here’s how you do it.”  And what is that way?  To do works of mercy to all those around you.  In doing this, that is, in instructing us in this way, Jesus is demonstrating that he is shepherding his people, just as he promised to do through the prophet Ezekiel centuries before.
          In our first reading, we heard this prophesy from the prophet Ezekiel in which God says that he, himself, will come to tend his sheep.  He is saying this because the shepherds whom he had appointed for his people—that is, the rulers who had followed in the line of King David, the original “shepherd king”—had failed to shepherd his people rightly, which led God to remove his protection from them, which then led to their being conquered by the Babylonians and forced into exile from their land.  This prophesy, then, is a promise that God himself will come and shepherd his people once again and lead them back into their land.  More importantly, however, he promises to lead them into rightly ordered lives, by which they will enjoy God’s friendship for all eternity.
          Today, therefore, as we celebrate this feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, we see that what we celebrate is Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd King—not just of one people at one place in time, but of the whole universe—whom God sent to save us from our exile in sin and to shepherd us into rightly ordered living so that we might enter into God’s friendship for eternity.  As King—especially as a King who has shown us such great benevolence by taking on our human nature so that he might suffer all of the effects of our sinfulness (including, and especially, death!) in order to save us from sin and death—he expects that we will serve him and offer to him works that demonstrate our gratefulness for this grace that we have been given.  Even more so, however, our King expects that our works would not be done out of duty alone, but also out of our love for him who has already demonstrated his love so generously for us.  This latter expectation is what Mother Theresa clung to so strongly in her life and in her work: She loved Jesus so much that she delighted in demonstrating her love for him by performing these extraordinary acts of mercy for those “least brothers” of his.
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus is our great Shepherd King and he longs to shepherd us into his kingdom of eternal life and peace.  And so, how do we allow him to shepherd us?  Well, it would be easy for me to say “by doing the works of mercy”.  Perhaps, however, I can offer an even more practical method: what if we simply tried to be less selfish every day?  You know, if we all tried to be a little less selfish every day (and, therefore, more giving to others), then, before we know it, we’d look a lot more like Mother Theresa.  All it takes is a choice—and it is a choice that we’ll have to make every day—but when we do, we begin to let Jesus shepherd us.  And when Jesus shepherds us, then our lives begin to become rightly re-ordered.  And when our lives begin to be rightly re-ordered, then our world will begin to be rightly re-ordered.  And when our world becomes rightly re-ordered, then what else is that but the kingdom of God among us.  And what more could we want than to have the kingdom of God among us?  Once we experience that, then we have nothing else to wait for than the coming of our Shepherd King, Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, so that death, the final enemy will be destroyed and we will be given back to God to live in the eternal joy of heaven.
          You probably didn’t think that being a little less selfish today could bring about heaven did you?  But it’s true!  Choose heaven today, therefore, by choosing to be less-selfish and you will be choosing eternal life: the shepherding of our King, Jesus Christ—the very same King who we meet here at this altar.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – November 25th & 26th, 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Siendo la esposa hacendosa de Cristo

Homilía: 33º Domingo en el Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo A
          Tal vez algunos de nosotros hemos leído los libros o visto las películas de Las Crónicas de Narnia, de C. S. Lewis. Muchos lectores han llegado a la conclusión de que sus historias pertenecen a la categoría de "alegoría cristiana". Una alegoría es un recurso literario, una herramienta de comunicación, en la que se utilizan metáforas para explicar una idea abstracta a través de la narración. En el caso de los libros de Lewis, el mundo de fantasía de Narnia se usa para ilustrar algunas de las verdades fundamentales de la fe cristiana: más notablemente, la batalla entre el bien y el mal que brama dentro y alrededor de cada uno de nosotros, y la presencia de un rey poderoso, Aslan, que nos guía e inspira en nosotros la fe para perseverar en la batalla. Las parábolas son muy similares a las alegorías ya que usan imágenes metafóricas en la narración de historias como una forma de impartir ciertas ideas. La diferencia es que las parábolas suelen ser mucho más cortas y centradas, tal vez, en una lección moral particular que el autor intenta impartir. En cierto sentido, las parábolas son "Alegoría Lite".
          En la lectura del Evangelio de hoy (y, para el caso, en las últimas semanas), Jesús les dice a sus discípulos una parábola. La mayoría de nosotros, supongo, estamos bastante familiarizados con esta parábola, por lo que el significado de las metáforas que la parábola utiliza probablemente brille. El Maestro, qiuen es Jesús, emprende un viaje para sentarse a la diestra del Padre y necesita confiar sus posesiones, que es el Evangelio, a sus siervos, también conocidos como sus discípulos, para que los cuide hasta que regrese. Después de un largo tiempo—tal vez 2000 años o más—el maestro regresará y llamará a sus sirvientes para ver si han sido rentables con lo que se les encomendó. Aquellos que regresan con un beneficio proporcional a lo que les fue dado, tal vez un número de conversos a la fe o una familia fiel u obras que han ayudado a los pobres, ellos serán bendecidos por su fidelidad. Aquellos que no pudieron ser rentables con lo que se les dio, tal vez por temor, indiferencia o incluso pesar, serán castigados por su infidelidad.
          Para los discípulos a los que se dirigió esta parábola por primera vez, sospecho que la alegoría era obvia y el significado claro: "Será mejor que salgamos y difundamos el Evangelio para que no seamos sorprendidos sin haber hecho nada cuando Jesús regrese". Y supongo que no es demasiado difícil para nosotros interpretar la alegoría de la misma manera: "Jesús, al parecer, se demoró mucho, pero el hecho es que todavía podría regresar en cualquier momento, así que mejor 'hacemos heno mientras el sol brilla'"; y eso es bastante fácil. Bueno, quizás es demasiado fácil.
          Pienso, quizás, que es demasiado fácil ver a Dios como "maestro" y a nosotros mismos como "sirvientes". Cuando lo vemos de esta manera, es fácil caer en una mentalidad de "simplemente haz lo mínimo" ejemplificado por dichos como: "Ya Jesús viene, sea ocupado". Tal "sabiduría" juega en nuestra inclinación muy natural—que, de hecho, es una inclinación desordenada—para hacer solo lo que es mínimamente necesario para que, cuando nuestro "maestro" regrese, parece que hemos hecho algo cuando realmente no hemos hecho nada en absoluto. Es la forma de pensar que piensa que podemos de alguna manera engañar a Jesús para hacerle creer que fuimos fieles incluso cuando no hemos sido.
          Esta mentalidad de "solo seguir las reglas", por supuesto, no es a lo que Dios nos ha llamado. San Pablo es inflexible al respecto, afirmando repetidamente en sus cartas que si ser un seguidor de Cristo se trata solo de las reglas, entonces olvídate de eso, es inútil. San Pablo sabía que cuando Jesús dijo: "Ya no los llamo siervos, sino amigos", nos invitaba a una relación más allá de la de un maestro y su siervo: una relación mucho más profunda que conlleva mayores responsabilidades.
          En nuestra primera lectura de hoy, escuchamos una descripción del libro de Proverbios de una mujer descrita como una "esposa hacendosa". Supongo que sería fácil ver esta lectura y descartarla como una descripción obsoleta de una "ama de casa del Medio Oriente anciano" que hoy no tiene relevancia para nosotros. Nuestra fe católica, sin embargo, nos dice que la Sagrada Escritura es la Palabra viviente de Dios, el Jesucristo mismo, que nos habla y se revela a nosotros, así que quizás si nos sentimos inclinados a pensar que una parte de las Escrituras no tiene relevancia para nosotros, necesitamos pensar de nuevo, y tal vez tener un poco de curiosidad acerca de por qué estas palabras fueron preservadas para que las leamos y reflexionemos aquí hoy. Lo que me gustaría desafiar a todos ustedes aquí para ver en esta lectura es otra alegoría: una menos obvia, tal vez, pero no menos profunda.
          La lectura nos dice que cuando un hombre encuentra una mujer hacendosa, él le confía en ella, y que la esposa responde a esta confianza trabajando con manos amorosas para traerlo bienes y no males. Con cual frecuencia olvidamos que Jesús no es solo nuestro maestro y nosotros sus siervos, sino que Jesús también es el novio y nosotros, su Iglesia, somos su esposa. Esta es una imagen mucho más íntima. Por lo tanto, esta lectura se vuelve muy relevante para nuestras vidas hoy y nos muestra cómo nosotros, confiados con Jesús, debemos responder para ser una esposa hacendosa de un esposo tan grande. De hecho, nos muestra la única manera, realmente, de que podemos responder, dadas nuestras limitaciones humanas: es decir, al traerlo bienes y no males en nuestras acciones diarias y al trabajar con manos amorosas para servirlo a él y a los demás.
          Mis hermanos y hermanas, Jesús ha encontrado una esposa hacendosa—su Iglesia, es decir, todos nosotros—y le ha confiado su mismo Ser a ella aquí en la Eucaristía. Sin duda, es algo temeroso que se le confíe un regalo tan grande. Sin embargo, no debemos temer, como si nuestro Maestro solo buscara sorprendernos para castigarnos. Más bien, podemos estar esperanzados, confiando en que quien nos ha confiado en nosotros busca solo nuestro propio bien y que nos encuentra fieles. Es esta esperanza de confianza, entonces, la que nos lleva a una vida fiel, fructífera y llena de gozo del misterio que Dios nos ha dado: una vida que puede comenzar aquí hoy. Que este amor misterioso desborde en nuestros corazones y toque las vidas de todos los que nos rodean.
Dado en la parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

19 de noviembre, 2017

Being Christ's worthy spouse

Homily: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
          Perhaps many of us have read the books, or seen the films, of C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  Many readers have concluded that his stories fall into the category of “Christian allegory.”  Now, an allegory is a literary device—a tool of communication—in which metaphors are used to explain an abstract idea through storytelling.  In the case of Lewis’ books, the fantasy world of Narnia is used to illustrate some of the fundamental truths of the Christian faith: most notably, the battle between good and evil that rages within and around each one of us, and the presence of a powerful king—Aslan—who leads us and inspires in us the faith to persevere in the battle.  Parables are very similar to allegories in that they use metaphorical images in storytelling as a way of imparting certain ideas.  The difference is that parables are usually much shorter and focused, perhaps, on a particular moral lesson that the author is trying to impart.  In a sense, parables are “Allegory Lite.”
          In the Gospel reading today (and, for that matter, the last couple of weeks), Jesus tells his disciples a parable.  Most of us, I would guess, are quite familiar with this parable and so the meaning of the metaphors the parable utilizes probably shine through.  The Master—who is Jesus—is going on a journey to be seated at the Father’s right hand and so needs to entrust his possessions—which is the Gospel—to his servants—otherwise known as his disciples—to care for them until he returns. After a long time—perhaps 2000 years or more—the master will return and call in his servants to see if they’ve been profitable with what they were entrusted.  Those who return with a profit proportional to what they were given—perhaps a number of converts to the faith or a faithful family or works that have helped the poor—those will be blessed for their faithfulness.  Those who failed to be profitable with what they were given—perhaps out of fear, indifference, or even spite—they will be punished for their unfaithfulness.
          For the disciples to whom this parable was first addressed, I suspect the allegory was obvious and the meaning clear: “We better get out and spread the Gospel so we aren’t caught having done nothing when Jesus returns.”  And I suppose that it’s not much of a stretch for us to interpret the allegory in the same way: “Jesus, it seems, is long delayed, but the fact of the matter is that he could still return at anytime, so we better ‘make hay while the sun shines,’” and that’s easy enough.  Well, perhaps it’s a bit too easy.
          I think, perhaps, that it is too easy to see God as “master” and ourselves as “servants.”  When we look at it this way, it’s kind of easy to fall into a “just do the minimum” mindset exemplified by such “bumper sticker wisdom” as: “Jesus is coming, look busy.”  Such “wisdom” plays on our very natural inclination—which, in fact, is a disordered inclination—to do only what’s minimally necessary so that when our “master” returns we look like we’ve done something when really we’ve done nothing at all.  It’s the mindset that thinks that we can somehow “pull the wool” over the eyes of Jesus to make him believe that we were faithful even when we haven’t been (which, in itself, is a nice piece of irony considering that Jesus is the Lamb of God).
          This “just follow the rules” mindset, of course, is not what God has called us to.  Saint Paul is adamant about this, stating repeatedly in his letters that if being a follower of Christ is just about the rules, then forget about it, it’s useless.  Saint Paul knew that when Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants, but friends,” he was inviting us to a relationship beyond that of a master and his servant: a much deeper relationship that brings with it greater responsibilities.
          In our first reading today, we hear a description from the book of Proverbs—an Old Testament “wisdom” book—of a woman described as a “worthy wife.”  I suppose it would be easy to look at this reading and dismiss it as an outdated description of an “ancient middle-eastern housewife” that has no relevance for us today.  Our Catholic faith, however, tells us that Sacred Scripture is God’s living Word—Jesus Christ—speaking to us and revealing himself to us, and so perhaps if we feel inclined to think that a piece of the Scriptures has no relevance for us we need to think again, and maybe become a little curious about why these words were preserved for us to read and ponder here today.  What I would challenge all of us here today to see in this reading is another allegory—one a little less obvious, perhaps, but no less profound.
          The reading tells us that when a man finds a worthy wife, he entrusts his heart to her, and that the worthy wife responds to this trust by working with loving hands to bring him good and not evil.  How often we forget that Jesus is not just our master and we his servants, but that Jesus is also the bridegroom and we—his Church—are his bride.  This is a much more intimate image.  Thus this reading becomes very relevant to our lives today and shows us how we, entrusted with the heart of Jesus, ought to respond so as to be a worthy spouse of so great a husband.  In fact, it shows us the only way, really, that we can respond, given our human limitations: that is, by bringing him good and not evil in our daily actions and by working with loving hands to serve him and each other.
          My brothers and sisters, Jesus has found a worthy spouse—his Church, that is, all of us—and he has entrusted to her his heart—his very Self—here in the Eucharist.  No doubt, it is a fearful thing to be entrusted with so great a gift.  We need not be fearful, however, as if our Master seeks only to catch us off guard in order to punish us.  Rather, we can be hopeful, trusting that the one who has entrusted his heart to us seeks only our own good and to find us faithful.  It is this hopeful trust, then, that leads us to a faithful, fruitful, and joy-filled living of the mystery that God has given to us—a living that can begin here today.  May this mysterious love overflow in our hearts and touch the lives of all those around us.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – November 19, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Be Prepared"

Homily: 32nd Sunday, Ordinary Time – Cycle A
          Although I was never a Boy Scout, I nevertheless have always remembered their simple motto: “Be prepared.”  This simple motto is meant to remind young boys of the need to be ready to handle unexpected situations, when they occur.  For example, a young man hiking in the woods should be prepared with a compass and a flashlight in case he finds he has lost the trail.  Similarly, he should be prepared with extra food in case adverse weather strands him at a campsite for an extra day or two.  Still further, he should be prepared to assist in adverse situations like, for example, if he encounters a car accident and other emergency personnel have not yet arrived.  This simple, practical advice is nothing new, of course.  The Boy Scouts are simply adapting time-honored wisdom to help boys learn how to be responsible young men, which hopefully will translate into their involvement in their communities.
          For the virgins in our Gospel reading today, we see how this notion of preparedness rings true.  Five of the virgins, we are told, had taken thought of wisdom and thus acted prudently when they went out to wait for the bridegroom to return with his new bride.  Even though the reading doesn’t tell us this, I would guess that, like the foolish virgins, these wise virgins thought it was unlikely that the bridegroom, even if he was delayed, would return in the middle of the night.  Nevertheless, they didn’t presume to know for sure and so prudently brought with them extra oil for their lamps, realizing that it was better to have it and to be prepared than to be caught without it.
          The five foolish virgins, on the other hand, presumed just the opposite.  Instead of considering the possibility of a long wait or of the bridegroom returning in the middle of the night, they simply joined the vigil, lamps in hand, but without any extra oil to fuel them if the unexpected happened.  Thus, even though both the wise and the foolish virgins were surprised by the bridegroom’s return at midnight, only the wise, who were prepared to welcome him at this unlikely hour, were able to join the wedding feast.
          We, too, often find ourselves to be victims of this kind of presumption.  In our modern culture, particularly here in the United States, there is a certain cultural phenomenon occurring called “the tyranny of the urgent.”  Increasingly, people are allowing their lives to be driven by “urgent” tasks that seemingly cannot be put off until later.  For example, when business emergencies lead a parent to cancel a family vacation or to spend more time at work than at home, then it becomes apparent that the “urgency” of this person’s work is controlling his or her personal life, in some sense like a tyrant.  The result of this phenomenon is that people have begun to lose sight of long term goals and thus are failing to prepare for them.  A popular song in the nineteen-eighties pronounced that “everybody is working for the weekend.”  Such a “short term” view fails to recognize the need to be prepared for unexpected problems in the future.
          Probably the thing that is easiest for us to lose sight of—the thing that seems to be the least urgent—is the return of Christ.  For nearly two-thousand years, Christ has been “ascended into heaven” and is “seated at the right hand of the Father.”  Thus, for us it probably seems impossible that Jesus would just return without any warning—without some sort of prolonged sign—that would give us a chance to prepare ourselves to celebrate his return.  Yet, this is exactly the same presumption that the foolish virgins made, isn’t it?  We presume, exactly like they did, that, since he is long delayed in returning, he will not come at the unexpected time of midnight, but rather at a convenient time, when we can expect him, thus giving us time to put off our preparations.  As we saw in the parable of the virgins, however, this is a very dangerous presumption to make.
          What the wise virgins recognized but the foolish virgins failed to recognize was that everything that they needed in order to be prepared was readily available to them.  The merchants, it seemed, had no shortage of oil.  In fact, it appears that there were even “all-night” merchants, who were ready to sell the foolish virgins oil for their lamps even after midnight (the ancient equivalent to the modern convenience store).  This is to show that no one was trying to prevent any of the virgins from joining into the wedding feast, but rather that all that they needed to be prepared was readily available to them.  The grace, of course, comes when one takes advantage of the resources available to him or her.  Thus, the wise virgins who took advantage of what was available to them were rewarded for their prudence by being welcomed into the wedding feast.
          In the same way, when it comes to having the resources that we need to be prepared for the second coming of Christ, God has no less provided.  He has given us the sacraments as a way to stay connected to Christ’s Body and thus to prepare us for the day when he comes again.  Through Baptism, as well as Confirmation and Holy Communion, we are initiated into the Church as members of Christ’s body.  Through the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are healed and restored as members even after we’ve separated ourselves from it by sin.  Our weekly celebration of the Eucharist fills our flasks with oil and keeps us alert so that we are ready for the unexpected moment when Christ will come to take us, his Church, home to the eternal banquet in heaven.  Yes, these sacraments are instruments of God’s grace that connect us to him.  They make us “recognizable” to him so that when he comes again, he will invite us into the heavenly banquet.  Thus, it is the truly wise who take advantage of them.
          My brothers and sisters, as we approach the end of this liturgical year, we are being reminded to think about the promise that still awaits us—the eternal banquet in heaven—and of the need to “Be Prepared”—that is, to remain watchful and ready for when that day comes—for the Kingdom of Heaven will appear when we least expect it.  Thus, the question we might ask ourselves this week is, “How much oil is in my lamp?”  Whatever your answer may be, let us remember that, here today, we have an opportunity to fill our lamps with the grace offered to us from this altar: the Body and Blood of Christ, our Savior.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – November 12th, 2017

Monday, November 6, 2017

Un rostro verdadero: el cristianismo sincero

Homilía: 31º Domingo en el Tiempo Ordinario – Ciclo A
          Las discusiones con los fariseos no se quedan en polémica estéril, sino en una enseñanza para todos los tiempos: “Hagan lo que ellos enseñan, pero no imiten lo que ellos hacen”.  Es una invitación a tomar partido ante la incoherencia y la vanidad de los que mandan, y a comprometernos en la fraternidad y el servicio.  El Evangelio de hoy proclama la urgencia de recuperar la coherencia de la fe y del comportamiento: de lo que profesemos y lo que hacemos.
          Hermanas y hermanos, la verdadera religiosidad no consiste en cumplir las obras exteriores con perfección, sino en el espíritu y en la interioridad del propio corazón.  En otras palabras, la verdadera religiosidad consiste en sinceridad.  Hay dos grados de sinceridad.  El primero consiste en la conformidad de nuestras palabras y sentimientos con nuestros deberes.  La sinceridad es verdadera cuando lo que deseamos hacer es el mismo de lo que debemos hacer.  Pero, este grado de sinceridad es superficial: porque no se funda en principios, sino en sentimientos que van y vienen.  El segundo, en cambio, es la concordancia práctica de nuestras obras con nuestros deberes, a pesar de las dificultades o circunstancias adversas que se pueden presentar.  En otras palabras, la sinceridad es más auténtico cuando hacemos lo que debemos hacer, sin importa nuestros sentimientos.  Hay que saber prescindir de uno mismo para vivir este segundo grado de sinceridad y, por eso, para buscar a Dios con profunda convicción en una fidelidad exigente.
          Aprendamos a distinguir entre las máscaras y el rostro: entre el que es un rostro falso y un rostro verdadero.  En el lenguaje común identificamos hipocresía y farisaísmo.  En los dos, reconocemos una insinceridad en la persona: que él o ella no hace lo que profesa creer o valar. Decimos que esta persona es insincera: que se porta con una máscara que obscura su rostro verdadero.  Nos convertimos en “cristianos fariseos” cuando reducimos el Evangelio al aparecer más que al ser; al decir, más que al hacer; a la legalidad más que a la moralidad interior; a las obras de la ley, más que a la fe que vivifica las obras; a la glorificación personal más que al dar gloria a Dios.
          En nuestras Escrituras de hoy, escuchamos cómo Dios condena a los que usan la religión superficialmente. Aún más específicamente, Dios condena a aquellos que usan la religión como una forma de ganar poder y prestigio sobre las personas. En la primera lectura, el profeta Malaquías pronuncia las palabras de condenación de Dios sobre los sacerdotes del antiguo Israel por usar la autoridad que les fue otorgada como un favor de Dios para que pudieran enseñar a la gente en sus caminos, para congraciarse con el pueblo: mostrando parcialidad a ciertos miembros de la comunidad para que puedan tener más influencia entre los líderes de las personas y (supuestamente) para disfrutar de los beneficios de tener su favor.
          En el Evangelio, Jesús (quien es Dios) condena a los fariseos por usar su experiencia en la Ley para enseñorearse de la gente: como si Dios los hubiera favorecido de una manera que no había favorecido a los demás y así se consideraban "exentos" de muchas de las cargas religiosas que obligaron a otros a soportar. No pudieron ver el don de comprensión que recibieron como una administración de Dios: un regalo destinado a ser puesto al servicio del pueblo de Dios. En cambio, lo usaron para crear vidas cómodas para ellos mismos. Peor aún, lo hicieron en nombre de la justicia religiosa. Esto es lo que Jesús (y Malaquías antes que él) condena; y es lo que debemos condenar en nuestras propias vidas.
          Hermanos y hermanas, el fariseísmo es una enfermedad del espíritu de la que pocos se salvan.  Nos consideramos católicos practicantes. Pero, ¿de qué práctica se trata?  ¿Con la misa?  Si, y está bien.  ¿Con el rosario en casa?  Si, y esta está bien, también.  Pero, si no se practica el amor, la misericordia y la justicia, no se puede decir que seamos cristianos practicantes.  Es verdad, ¿no? que a veces nos encontramos con cristianos que, por nada del mundo, pierden la misa del domingo, pero que son terriblemente duros y opresivos, o apegados al dinero y al egoísmo.  Ellos son gentes muy cumplidoras, pero con un individualismo feroz que no quieren saber nada de fraternidad, comunidad y solidaridad.
          Hermanos, Dios no se deja engañar por las apariencias.  En cambio el hombre sí, pues es lo único que alcanza a divisar.  Hay cosas que suenan a verdaderas pero que no son verdaderas; otras parecen buenas, pero no lo son.  Será importante aprender a distinguir: porque no aprovecha lo que parece, sino lo que es.  El aparecer y el ser, lo exterior y lo interior, la superficie y la profundidad, lo que el hombre hace y lo que juzga Dios: son binomios de los que el hombre no podrá desprenderse en absoluto.
          Jesús lo que busca es cambiar el corazón del hombre, y mientras no se llegue ahí, nos perdemos en lo secundario.  Mientras continuamos con esta Misa, pidamos al Espíritu Santo que nos dé dos cosas: primero, la iluminación interior para saber si estamos viviendo nuestra fe con sinceridad; y segundo, la fuerza interior para permitir que Jesús entre en nuestros corazones para cambiarlos, si es necesario, o para fortalecerlos sobre la base de la sinceridad que ya se está construyendo, para que nadie pueda ver jamás de nosotros y decir "Hay una hipócrita, que lo hace una demostración en la iglesia, pero no lo vive en su vida." Pero, mejor, imitemos a Cristo: quien mantuvo su sinceridad hasta el final: sacrificándose en la cruz por nuestros pecados. ¿Qué mejor ejemplo podríamos tener que él? Así sea en cada una de nuestras vidas.
Dado en la parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN

5 de noviembre, 2017

Stability when God is our rock foundation

Homily: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
          Friends, it is true that God himself is the source of all grace, all light, and all hope and that if we look anywhere else for stability in our lives, sooner or later, we will be deeply disappointed.  In a sense, this is the point that our Scriptures are making today.  In the First reading, the prophet Malachi is proclaiming a prophecy from God, calling out the priests of the Israelites for having failed in their stewardship—for having taken advantage of the gift of service that God had given to them and putting it to their own advantage—and he calls them back to the basics.  These priests have unsettled the stability of the Israelite people by turning away from “the way” of God.  Instead, they were striving to curry favor with the people by showing partiality in their decisions.  To this end, after proclaiming God’s condemnation of them, Malachi proposes a fix: turning back to their common Rock and adhering to his ways: "Have we all not the one father?” he says, and “Has not the one God created us?"  Yahweh, the Lord, is their firm foundation and the priests need to keep them standing on it.
          In a way, Jesus is trying to communicate the same thing in today's Gospel.  He is explaining to his followers that the scribes and the Pharisees have lost touch with the source and purpose of their service to the people of God.  They have become conceited and self-centered, thinking that their wisdom comes from themselves, instead of being a gift and a stewardship from God, who is the source of all wisdom, goodness, and grace.  Jesus is calling out the Scribes and Pharisees and reminding his disciples that God is the Father of us all; and that the rabbis and priests are simply his messengers, not his managers.  Therefore, Jesus says, “Listen to their teaching, but follow not their ways, lest you turn from God and lose your rock foundation.”
          On the flipside, Saint Paul, in today’s Second Reading, expresses his joy because the Thessalonians recognized the message that he brought to them as being from God, not from him, and so planted themselves firmly on that rock foundation.  He learned the lesson from those ancient priests and the Pharisees of the day (of which he was one!) and made sure that those who heard the Gospel placed their trust in Jesus, the Christ, not in his messenger. ///
          It's easy for us, though, isn’t it, to forget this most important truth?  It's easy for us to start expecting fulfillment, happiness, and meaning to come from our achievements, our relationships, our reputations, or any number of other transient things.  In the end however, we have to recognize that true, lasting meaning and happiness can only come from God.
          Friends, as we accept and absorb this truth, we will begin to experience a spiritual stability in our lives: an interior peace that nothing can disturb, just like that peace described by today's Psalm: "In you Lord…" the Psalmist writes as he describes his soul as being like a little child in his mother's arms, "In you, Lord, I have found my peace."  This is the kind of interior peace and stability that God wants to give us.
          God wants us to have a sure anchor in our storms, and he wants us to be able to help others weather their storms too.  And so we have to ask ourselves, “How deep does my spiritual foundation go?”  In other words, “Can I really repeat the words of the Psalm with all my heart: ‘In you, Lord, I have found my peace’?”  If not, perhaps a little bit of self-reflection may be in order.
          Friends, if we are not building our lives on the foundation of God's love for us, of his passionate interest in us, then we must be building on some other foundation.  And so, what is it?  It could be the false foundation of our own achievements.  We may be thinking that interior peace and satisfaction will come once we reach a particular career milestone (even retirement!), or get into a particular college and earn a particular degree, or when we make a certain amount of money.  It could also be the false foundation of pleasure.  Here we are vulnerable to all sorts of over-indulgences, each of which lead to unbalanced lives.  It could also be the false foundation of popularity.  If we find ourselves disobeying our conscience and renouncing our friendship with Christ out of fear of what other people will say or think about us, then we will never experience the peace that only the Lord can give.
          Whatever it is, I hope that you will begin to find the way out of these unstable foundations and the way towards the peace that only God can give by taking part in our Parish Mission.  To that end, I’d like to invite Mr. John Leonetti forward to tell you a little more about this great opportunity.  (John comes forward to introduce the mission)
          As we continue with this Mass, let's ask the Holy Spirit to give us two things.  First, the interior enlightenment to identify where our spiritual foundations really are.  And second, the interior strength to start laying a new foundation, if we need to, or to strengthen the foundation that we have: a true one, one built on God’s wisdom, love, and grace.

Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – November 4th & 5th, 2017