Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Holy Trinity: It's what we're here for

Homily: The Most Holy Trinity – Cycle B
          One of the fundamental questions of life is one with which both young and old struggle.  Normally the question comes up during some sort of life crisis or during some “liminal” moment in a person’s life: in other words, moments when the future of one’s life isn’t clear and that person is faced with making a decision that will determine the course of the next stage of his/her life.  That question?  “What is the purpose of life?”  Or, put more simply, “What am I here for?”
          For the young, this is a vocational question, right?  As we grow into adulthood, we all gain a sense that we were put on this earth to do something and that our task is to discover what it is that we have been called to do.  Modern culture has made this difficult for young people because it tells them that there are no guiding principles on which to base your decision.  “The sky is the limit” we tell them.  “Follow your dreams” …even though we know that dreams are fickle and that not everyone has the capacity to reach the sky.  It’s sad to see someone who has made it into their thirties, who has pursued their “dreams”, but yet finds him/herself adrift, still feeling like he/she doesn’t know what the purpose of his/her life is.
          For the elderly, the struggle can be just as real.  I’ve made it an effort during my time here to visit with our homebound parishioners and many of them express a feeling of purposelessness, too.  They’ll say to me: “Father, I just don’t know why I’m still here.”  They’ve worked, raised a family, and tried to be active in retirement, but now their health is limiting their ability to tangibly contribute to their community and so they start to question: “What am I here for?”
          This latter case is a bit surprising as many of our older Catholics grew up in the Church that taught the “Baltimore Catechism” almost exclusively.  This catechism provided the fundamental truths about life, about God, and about our relationship to him and the world in a straight-forward, question and answer format.  One of those questions was “Why did God make you?”  (In other words, “What are you here for?”)  And the answer… does anybody here remember the answer?  The answer is this: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”  There it is, friends.  This is our guiding principle.  Simple, right?
          Yes, it is.  But we all know that when an unknown future or adversity squares its face against us that we can often forget this: the purpose for which we were made.  In a sense, we “can’t see the forest for the trees”.  Therefore, as we’ve returned to Ordinary Time after our long and joy-filled Easter celebration, the Church gives us this Sunday, Trinity Sunday, in order to bring us back to our roots and to help us step out on mission once again.  In celebrating who God is, in Himself—three Divine Persons in one unified Godhead—we are reminded of that fundamental relationship that directs our lives: that our lives come from God and are directed towards God.  Today’s scriptures reinforce this fact.
          In our first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, the Israelites have been wandering through the desert for 40 years and are on the cusp of entering the land into which God had promised to bring them, and Moses exhorts them to remember who God is when they enter the land.  He recounts how God had made himself known to them, his chosen people, by powerful signs and by leading them forth from slavery and he says, “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.”  In other words, Moses is exhorting them to know God; and to know him through the gracious way that he has cared for them throughout their 40-year exodus.
          This, too, is how we come to know God: by remembering how he has worked: both in our own lives, those unique ways that his graciousness has touched each of us, and throughout history, starting with the Bible and the history of the Church, especially in the lives of the saints.  This Trinity Sunday, we can commit ourselves to know God better by committing ourselves to studying the Bible and some of the great spiritual works of saints, both old and new.  The spiritual biographies/autobiographies of holy men and women like Saint Augustine, Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Terese of Lisieux, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Saint Theresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II are just a few worth considering.  Knowing God is the basis for loving God.  Thus, this is an indispensable step to fulfilling our purpose in life.
          In the second reading, we hear Saint Paul speaking about the “Spirit of adoption” that we have all received.  He goes on to say that it is the Spirit himself that witnesses to the fact that we are now children of God.  As adopted sons and daughters of God (and, therefore, brothers and sisters of Christ), we are endowed with the grace of being loved by God as his beloved children.  In fact, as brothers and sisters of Christ himself—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—we are caught up in the eternal outpouring of love that the Father makes to the Son and the Son returns to the Father, and which eternally explodes forth and pours out into the universe in the form of the Holy Spirit.
          Therefore, we love God as Christ loves the Father: by receiving the love that is poured out to us and by returning that love with an outpouring of our lives.  This love is expressed in adoration: which we can do privately, in our personal prayer time at home, lifting our minds and hearts to him, praising him for who he is and his glory that shines forth in the universe, and also publicly, like when we gather for the Eucharist or Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  These are acts of devotion, sprung forth from our knowledge of who he is and of his great love for us as his adopted sons and daughters.  It is this love for God that, then, impels us into service.
          In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples the “Great Commission”.  On this Trinity Sunday, we should certainly hear this command to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” as a revelation of who God is, in himself.  But in the context of this homily, it should also be heard as the commission to service.  Having spent three years with Christ as he preached and worked miracles, then having been witnesses to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ’s disciples knew and loved him.  Now, they were being shown how they would serve him: “Go and make disciples of all nations…”  And that they did.  With great love and devotion, they poured out their lives in service of the Gospel so that all peoples would come to know, love, and serve God in this world, and be happy with him forever in the next.
          We serve God when we seek out the particular way that God has called each of us to fulfill this great commission and then strive to live it.  When we know and, therefore, love him, we offer ourselves generously and seek a way of life that allows us to serve the building of his kingdom here on earth by working towards the good of others.  For some that means clerical state (that is, priesthood or the diaconate) or the religious life.  For most that will mean a career in some kind of trade or business and then, perhaps, raising a family.  In all, the question is not “what do I want to do?” (because if you know and love God, you want to serve him!), but rather, “what is God calling me to do?”  You will already know your purpose, but the answer to the latter question will show you how you are going to fulfill that purpose.
          And if you’re elderly and you’ve completed your career and your children are all grown and off on their own and if your health doesn’t allow for you to participate much in the life of your family, parish, or community… what is your purpose then?  It is still to know, love, and serve God in this world, and to be happy with him forever in the next.  Living out the last years of your life still striving to know God and love him more deeply, and still striving to serve him by praying and offering your sufferings for the conversion of sinners and the release of souls from purgatory, you will be fulfilling your purpose in life and you will become a saint.
          Friends, as we celebrate this great feast honoring God for who he is, in himself, may we commit ourselves to know him more completely, to love him more profoundly, and to serve him with our whole lives, regardless of the state in which we find ourselves; so that we, too, may one day share in the fullness of Divine Love that God is in himself: a foretaste of which we experience here in this Holy Eucharist.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 26th & 27th, 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Pentecostés: la explosión del almacén gratuito de la vida cristiana

          Para aquellos de ustedes que no saben, anuncié este pasado fin de semana que el Obispo Doherty ha decidido transferir mi asignación de All Saints Parish a la Parroquia Catedral de Santa María, la Inmaculada Concepción en Lafayette, a partir del 27 de junio. P. Jeff Martin ocupará mi lugar como pastor de Todos los Santos, a partir del mismo día. Me refiero a este anuncio en la homilía.

Homilía: Domingo de Pentecostés – Ciclo B
          Con la película de acción y aventuras The Avengers: Infinity War que ya está ganando más dinero que cualquier otra película en el mundo, parece que la temporada de taquillazos de verano ya está sobre nosotros. Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ocean's 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom ... estos son algunos de los otros taquillazos que se abrirán en las próximas semanas y, le puedo decir, la lista sigue y sigue. Como sabemos, un "taquillazo" es una película con mucha acción, generalmente una especie de amenaza del "fin del mundo" y, por supuesto, muchas explosiones gratuitas. Uno de los clichés clásicos de este tipo de películas es lo que llamo la "explosión del almacén alimentado por gasolina". Aquí es donde el personaje empapa un almacén con gasolina (o, algún otro líquido inflamable que, convenientemente, se almacena en el almacén) con la intención de incendiarla y destruir toda la estructura. Luego, justo cuando él o ella se va, el personaje deja caer un encendedor sobre el combustible y se aleja, mientras las llamas se propagan rápidamente. Luego, la "toma de dinero": una toma de gran angular en la que el personaje camina hacia la cámara, lejos del almacén, cuando de repente el almacén explota en el fondo, sin siquiera un parpadeo del personaje. Han visto esto, ¿verdad? ¿Cuántos de ustedes han visto alguna versión de esta escena en una película anteriormente?
          En cierto modo, la Fiesta de la Ascensión del Señor, que celebramos la semana pasada, es algo así como eso. Desde Pascua, el día de su Resurrección, Jesús, en su cuerpo glorificado, caminó entre sus discípulos, enseñando cómo su muerte en la cruz y la resurrección de entre los muertos habían cumplido todo lo que se había escrito sobre el Mesías y los había preparado para ese momento cuando él subiría al cielo para regresar a la diestra de su Padre. Luego, ascendió: dejándolos la promesa de algo dramático que sucederá pronto. Este "algo dramático" fue el descenso del Espíritu Santo en Pentecostés. En otras palabras, durante 40 días, Jesús "preparó el escenario" al derramar el combustible de sus enseñanzas en todo el almacén, que fueron sus discípulos; y cuando se fue, dejó caer el encendedor, que era la promesa de la venida del Espíritu Santo; y en Pentecostés, el almacén explotó cuando el Espíritu Santo descendió y dio poder a los Apóstoles para testificar a Jesús hasta los confines de la tierra.
          En cierto modo, así es como debía ser. La "toma de dinero" del taquillazo no es cuando el personaje propaga el combustible. Si la película terminara allí, todos estaríamos decepcionados, ¿verdad? En cambio, el personaje tiene que encender el fuego y alejarse para que podamos sentirnos satisfechos por la explosión. Jesús sabía que el plan de Dios para la raza humana era más grande que su banda de seguidores de Galilea, que era más grande que el pueblo judío, que, de hecho, era tan grande que abarcaría todo el mundo; por lo tanto, tenía que ser que, después de que Jesús hubiera realizado la redención del hombre, él regresaría al Padre para que el Espíritu Santo—el poder por el cual el plan de Dios para el mundo entero sería cumplido—pudiera explotar en la escena humana.
          Para usar otro ejemplo: muchos de nosotros hemos visto cómo es cuando los niños de 5 años juegan fútbol. A pesar de que sus entrenadores se esfuerzan por enseñarles a jugar diferentes posiciones, tan pronto como esa pelota se suelta, es una melé para todos los que la rodean. Esto es algo así como los discípulos mientras Jesús estaba con ellos. Aunque, en ocasiones, Jesús los envió a predicar, siempre regresaban a su alrededor y lo seguían a donde quiera que fuera. Sin embargo, después de la ascensión de Jesús al cielo y el descenso del Espíritu Santo, los discípulos se parecían mucho más a un equipo profesional: diseminados por el campo, usando sus diferentes talentos para un propósito, haciéndolos mucho más efectivos. Jesús asciende para que sus discípulos puedan dispersarse y ser más efectivos.
          Creo que podemos resumir esto al referirnos a una declaración que Jesús hizo en otras partes del Evangelio. Un día, uno de los fariseos le preguntó: "¿Por qué no ayunan tus discípulos como lo hacen los discípulos de Juan?" Respondió Jesús y dijo: "Mientras el novio está con ellos, no pueden ayunar, pero cuando el novio se los quita, ellos ayunarán." No pretendo cambiar esto en una homilía sobre el ayuno, sino más bien enfocarme en cómo Jesús reconoce que habrá circunstancias diferentes mientras él está aquí con nosotros versus después de que nos lo quiten. Adaptando esta idea a la fiesta de hoy, podría volver a escribir que Jesús dice: "Mientras el novio esté con ellos, serán limitados, pero cuando el novio sea quitado, tendrán éxito libremente". Jesús asciende no para abandonarnos, pero para que podamos ser "lanzados", si se quiere, para cumplir el plan del Padre para toda la humanidad.
          Por lo tanto, la Ascensión, particularmente en conexión con Pentecostés (y siempre está en conexión con Pentecostés), tiene algo que decirnos hoy. Muchos de nosotros estamos molestos de que me hayan reasignado y, por lo tanto, dejaré a Todos los Santos después de 6 años de servir a esta parroquia. Pero, ¿Qué pasa si esto es parte del plan del Padre para "lanzar" a todos ustedes, los miembros de esta parroquia, al siguiente nivel? Mi trabajo siempre ha sido "preparar la escena", por así decirlo, y espero haberlo hecho; pero ahora, tal vez, debo "encender la llama y alejarme" para que pueda explotar en una nueva vida para esta parroquia. Mis hermanos y hermanas, esta es la esperanza con la que debemos avanzar en esta transición: si salgo de esta parroquia, es para que puedan seguir creciendo "a estar unidos en la fe y en el conocimiento del Hijo de Dios, y lleguemos a ser hombres perfectos, que alcancemos en todas sus dimensiones la plenitud de Cristo", como nos dice San Pablo en su carta a los Efesios.
          Por lo tanto, hoy celebramos y esperamos. Celebramos que Jesús, nuestro Redentor, se haya presentado ante nosotros para prepararnos un lugar en el cielo y abogar por nosotros eternamente ante el Padre. Celebramos que él nos ha enviado el Espíritu Santo. Y esperamos más allá de Pentecostés: regocijándonos de que Dios nos ha llenado más generosamente con sus dones: es decir, el poder del Espíritu Santo para explotar en el mundo a fin de ser sus testigos hasta los confines de la tierra para la construcción del Cuerpo de Cristo "en la medida de la plena estatura de Cristo".
          Por lo tanto, mis hermanos y hermanas, no temamos adorar con todo nuestro corazón al Señor Jesús que, habiendo resucitado de entre los muertos para destruir la muerte para siempre, ha ascendido al cielo y ahora está eternamente a la diestra del Padre; y no tengamos miedo de orar fervientemente para que el Espíritu Santo de Dios nos llene más abundantemente con su poder: el poder de dar testimonio de Jesús y su amor salvador a los que sufren en mente, cuerpo y espíritu: el poder de Jesús que ha vencido la finalidad de la muerte: el poder con el que nos encontramos cuando recibimos su Cuerpo y su Sangre de este altar.
          Amigos, la temporada de taquillazos es, de hecho, sobre nosotros. Que nuestro taquillazo, las fiestas de Pascua, Ascensión y Pentecostés, sea la película de acción en vivo que encabeza la taquilla aquí en nuestra comunidad.
Dado en la Parroquia Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
20 de mayo, 2018

Pentecost: the gratuitous warehouse explosion of the Christian life

          For those of you who don't know, I announced this past weekend that Bishop Doherty has decided to transfer my assignment from All Saints Parish to the Cathedral Parish of Saint Mary, the Immaculate Conception in Lafayette, effective June 27th.  Fr. Jeff Martin will take my place as pastor of All Saints, effective the same day.  I refer to this announcement in the homily.

Homily: Pentecost Sunday – Cycle B
          With the action-adventure film The Avengers: Infinity War already making more money than any other film worldwide (…ever!), it seems like the summer blockbuster season is already upon us.  Deadpool 2, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ocean’s 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom… these are some of the other blockbusters opening in the coming weeks and, I can tell you, the list goes on and on.  As we know, a “blockbuster” is a movie with a lot of action, usually some sort of “end of the world” threat, and, of course, plenty of gratuitous explosions.  One of the classic clichés of these types of movies is what I call the “gasoline fueled warehouse explosion”.  This is where the character douses a warehouse with gasoline (or, some other flammable liquid that, conveniently, is being stored in the warehouse) with the intent of setting it ablaze and destroying the whole structure.  Then, just as he or she leaves, the character drops a lighter onto the fuel and walks away, while the flames quickly spread.  Then, the “money shot”: a wide angle shot where the character is walking towards the camera, away from the warehouse, when suddenly the warehouse explodes in the background, without so much as a flinch from the character.  You’ve seen this, right?  How many of you have seen some version of this scene in a movie before?
          In a way, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, which we celebrated last week, is kind of like that.  Since Easter, the day of his Resurrection, Jesus, in his glorified body, walked among his disciples, teaching about how his death on the cross and resurrection from the dead had fulfilled all that had been written about the Messiah and prepared them for that moment when he would ascend into heaven to return to the right hand of his Father.  Then, he ascended: leaving them the promise of something dramatic that will happen soon.  This “something dramatic” was the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  In other words, for 40 days, Jesus “set the stage” by pouring the fuel of his teaching all over the warehouse, which was his disciples; and as he left he dropped the lighter, which was the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit; and on Pentecost, the warehouse exploded as the Holy Spirit descended and gave the Apostles power to witness to Jesus to the ends of the earth.
          In a way, this is exactly how it had to be.  The blockbuster “money shot” isn’t when the character spreads the fuel.  If the movie ended there, we’d all be disappointed, right?  Instead, the character has to set the blaze and get away for us to feel satisfied by the explosion.  Jesus knew that God’s plan for the human race was bigger than his band of followers from Galilee, that it was bigger than the Jewish people, that, in fact, it was so big that it would encompass the entire world; thus, it had to be that, after Jesus had accomplished man’s redemption, he would then return to the Father so that the Holy Spirit—the power by which God’s plan for the whole world would be accomplished—could explode forth into the human scene.
          To use another example:  Many of us have seen what it’s like when 5 year olds play soccer.  Even though their coaches try hard to teach them to play different positions, as soon as that ball is loose, it’s a free-for-all scrum surrounding it.  This is kind of like the disciples while Jesus was with them.  Even though, on occasion, Jesus sent them out to preach, they always came back around him and followed him wherever he went.  After Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit, however, the disciples looked much more like a professional team: spread out across the field, using their different talents towards one purpose, making them much more effective.  Jesus ascends so that his disciples could spread out and be more effective.
          I actually think that we can sum this up by referring to a statement Jesus made elsewhere in the Gospel.  One day, one of the Pharisees asked him “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples do?”  Jesus replied and said, “While the bridegroom is with them, they cannot fast, but when the bridegroom is taken away from them, they will fast.”  I don’t mean to change this into a homily about fasting, but rather to focus on how Jesus acknowledges that there will be different circumstances while he is here with us versus after he has been taken up from us.  Adapting this idea to today’s feast, I might re-write it that Jesus says “While the bridegroom is with them, they will be limited, but when the bridegroom is taken away they will succeed freely.”  Jesus ascends not to abandon us, but so that we can be “launched”, if you will, to fulfill the Father’s plan for all humanity.
          Thus, the Ascension, particularly in connection with Pentecost (and, by the way, it’s always in connection with Pentecost!), has something to say to us today.  Many of us are upset that I have been reassigned and, thus, will be leaving All Saints after 6 years of serving this parish.  But what if this is part of the Father’s plan to “launch” you all—the members of this parish—to the next level?  My job has always been to “set the scene”, so to speak, and I hope that I have done that; but now, perhaps, I must “ignite the flame and walk away” so that it can explode into new life for this parish.  My brothers and sisters, this is the hopefulness with which we need to step into this transition: that if I am going forth from this parish, it is so that you can continue to grow “to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ” as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Ephesians.
          Thus, today we celebrate and we look forward.  We celebrate that Jesus, Our Redeemer, has gone before us to prepare a place for us in heaven and to advocate for us eternally before the Father.  We celebrate that he has sent the Holy Spirit to us.  And we look forward beyond Pentecost: rejoicing that God has filled us more generously with his gifts—that is, the power of the Holy Spirit to explode into the world in order to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth for the building up of Christ’s Body “to the extent of the full stature of Christ”.
          Therefore, my brothers and sisters, let us not be afraid to worship with our whole hearts the Lord Jesus who, having risen from the dead so as to destroy death forever, has ascended into heaven and now stands eternally at the Father’s right hand; and let us not be afraid to pray fervently for God’s Holy Spirit to fill us more abundantly with his power: the power to witness to Jesus and his saving love to those suffering in mind, body, and spirit—the power of Jesus which has overcome the finality of death—the power that we encounter when we receive his Body and Blood from this altar.
          Friends, the summer blockbuster season is, indeed, upon us.  May our blockbuster—the feasts of Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost—be the live action film that tops the Box Office here in our community.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 20th, 2018

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Gospel of the Ascension

Homily: The Ascension of the Lord – Cycle B
          Friends, today we celebrate this great feast of the Ascension: the final, culminating act of our redemption.  This is not, of course, the crucial act: that was Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  Rather, it is the culminating act: the ultimate reason for which Jesus took on our human flesh; and that is, to re-unite our humanity to God.  This, of course, is a joyful thing.  I mean, just think about your humanity for a moment.  Think about what happens when you don’t take a shower or a bath for a couple of days.  Think about changing diapers on babies or when they spit up on your shoulder.  Our humanity—as we experience it in this world, at least—is a messy (and, quite frankly, often gross) thing.  Yet the Divine Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, took on our humanity, in all its grossness, suffered all of the worst things that it can experience in this world, and glorified it in his resurrection so that it could be restored to its perfect communion with the Holy Trinity: which is to say, into an existence of perfect and eternal bliss.
          Yet, in our Scriptures today, the greatness of this event does not seem to be the message.  The message, rather, seems to focus on the mission that Christ gives to his apostles.  In the first reading from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, we hear Jesus speaking about the Holy Spirit that Jesus will send to empower them to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Then, in our reading from the Gospel of Mark, we hear Jesus giving them his specific command: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  Notice at the end of that reading, after it describes Jesus’ ascension, it doesn’t say “And the disciples sat around and marveled that Jesus has taken our human nature to be re-united with the Holy Trinity.”  Rather it says that “they went forth and preached everywhere”.  So why would the Scriptures spend so few verses on the Ascension and so many on the mission?
          This is because the Easter season is not only about celebration, but about preparation.  If you heard my homily last Sunday or any number of occasions over these past 40-some days, you’ll know that I’ve been encouraging us to consider this time of Easter as a time of preparation to be re-sent out on mission.  This is what the original “Easter Season” was, as the Acts of the Apostles records for us, saying: “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”  What was this, but a preparation for being sent out to be his “witnesses … to the ends of the earth”?  Therefore, as I have said, if our celebration of Easter is going to be anything more than an excuse to eat our favorite foods that we gave up for Lent, and if our celebration of Pentecost is going to be anything more than a brief flash of red at church before going back to the green of Ordinary Time, then we, too, should have been preparing to renew our efforts to fulfill this great mission to proclaim the Gospel.
          But this begs the question… And what is the “gospel” (that is, “what is the “good news”)?  The Gospel is exactly that of which I spoke at the beginning of this homily: that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  “Wait, that’s not what you said at the beginning of the homily.”  Well, yes it is.  The Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ is what “giving his only Son” looked like; and restoring our humanity to its original glory so that it may dwell with God in eternal bliss once again (meaning that each of us with a human nature can also dwell with God in eternal bliss) is the ultimate result of this “good news”.
          Notice, for a moment, what the “gospel” isn’t: it isn’t that Jesus came to show us how to be good persons and, therefore, we are eternally grateful to him for it.  It is that our broken, messy, and often gross humanity has been perfected (that is, glorified) in Jesus Christ; and that, through him, we, too, can achieve and enjoy that perfection.
          Friends, if you need any sign that this gospel is needed in today’s world, you don’t have to look too far.  Did anyone watch the Met Gala last week (or at least see news reports about it)?  If you did, what you saw was disfigured humanity on display.  Not in any raucous bad behavior, mind you, but in how fashion designers proved infinitely capable of desecrating beautiful things while believing that they were improving upon them.  This kind of thinking—that we can perfect ourselves by our own ingenuity and, thus, have heaven right here—is our greatest modern plague; and it usually results in things looking more distorted (and, therefore, less perfect) than they were in the first place.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer for anyone who has gone down this dead-end road.
          Unfortunately, however, many people around us do not even know that there is anything more for which to hope than this disfigured humanity and our attempts to perfect it by ourselves.  Thus, we must be re-sent out on mission.  Just like Jesus’ first apostles, we, too, are called to be his “witnesses … to the ends of the earth” to bring this good news: that life is not just about how good you can make it in this world, but that it’s destined for something so much greater, as Jesus, in his ascension, has shown us.  We are witnesses when we live as Saint Paul exhorts us to live in today’s second reading when he says: “I … urge you to live in a manner worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…”  In this way we will model authentic human community, built on love, and, thus, attract those seeking a perfect humanity so that they might find it in its fullness through union with Jesus Christ.
          Therefore, my friends, in this final week of the Easter season—that is, the final week of preparation to be re-sent out on mission—let us pray fervently for a renewal of God’s Holy Spirit in us: so that we can be Church—and, therefore, witnesses—for Christ once again.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 12th & 13th, 2018

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Preparación Pascual para la Misión

Homilía: 6º Domingo de la Pascua
          Amigos, hoy nuestra lectura del Evangelio nos presenta un contraste de contextos. El texto está tomado del hermoso discurso de Jesús de la Última Cena en el Evangelio según san Juan. Al lado del Sermón del Monte en el Evangelio según san Mateo, el discurso de la Última Cena es el sermón continuo más largo registrado en los cuatro Evangelios. En el contexto de la Última Cena, estas palabras sirven como un "discurso de despedida" a sus discípulos la noche antes de que fuera traicionado, torturado y asesinado (es decir, el día en que todos sus los discípulos "harían temblar su fe en él"). Sin embargo, estamos escuchando estas palabras en el contexto de nuestra celebración continua de la Pascua. Por lo tanto, mientras todavía nos expresan el profundo afecto de Jesús por nosotros, sus discípulos (como expresaron a sus discípulos en la Última Cena), no obstante, no tienen la misma "gravedad oscura" para nosotros que lo hicieron por los Apóstoles, dado que ya no anticipamos la Pasión de Cristo, sino que celebramos su victoria sobre la muerte.
          No obstante, en cada contexto, el mensaje que nos llega es similar: Cristo les está dando a sus discípulos las cosas más importantes que deben recordar antes de dejarlos solos. Para los discípulos en la Última Cena, estas palabras serían críticas en los días y semanas que siguieron: no solo cuando trataban los intensos eventos de la Pasión, la Muerte y la Resurrección de Cristo, sino también cuando trataban de dar sentido a la comisión para llevar el Evangelio hasta los confines del mundo. Esos fueron tiempos tumultuosos cuando las profecías que Jesús proclamó comenzaron a hacerse realidad: cuando el padre se volvería contra el hijo, y el hijo contra el padre; y madre contra hija, e hija contra madre. En otras palabras, cuando los amigos se hicieron enemigos y los enemigos se hicieron amigos. ¿De qué otra manera podrían haber sobrevivido como comunidad a menos que se aferraran al mandamiento de Jesús: “que se amen los unos a los otros como yo los he amado"?
          Para nosotros aquí hoy, estas palabras también son críticas: y por la misma razón. El Evangelio sigue siendo una cosa que crea división: tanto en nuestra sociedad (por ejemplo: pro-vida v. pro-aborto, santidad del matrimonio v. uniones del mismo sexo, etc.) como en nuestra vida personal (como cuando los niños se rebelan en contra de su educación religiosa, o eligen retomar la religión a pesar de la falta de práctica religiosa de sus padres). Para que podamos sobrevivir como comunidad, también debemos aferrarnos al mandamiento de Jesús de "amarnos los unos a los otros como él nos ha amado".
          Aún más, y me pregunto si esto no es algo que pasamos por alto cada año cuando celebramos el tiempo de Pascua, estas palabras son fundamentales para nosotros porque debemos estar preparados para ser enviados nuevamente a la misión. Como he dicho en varios contextos diferentes en esta temporada de Pascua, con demasiada frecuencia, los cristianos consideramos este tiempo de Pascua como un momento de celebración solamente. Es un tiempo de celebración, no me malinterpreten; pero también es un tiempo de preparación. "Oh, padre, ¿no estás confundido? La Cuaresma es un tiempo de preparación: no Pascua." Técnicamente hablando, tienen razón; pero me gustaría que cada uno considere la Pascua como tiempo de celebración y preparación. Y aquí está por qué.
          En un par de semanas, vamos a celebrar Pentecostés—el cumpleaños de la Iglesia—en el cual el Espíritu Santo descendió sobre los Apóstoles para capacitarlos para su misión de llevar el Evangelio hasta los confines del mundo. Los días entre la Resurrección y la Ascensión de Jesús (también conocido como el "tiempo de Pascua" original) fueron días de preparación para comenzar esta gran misión. Por lo tanto, si nuestra celebración de Pascua va a ser algo más que una excusa para comer nuestras comidas favoritas que abandonábamos durante la Cuaresma, y si nuestra celebración de Pentecostés va a ser algo más que un breve destello de rojo en la iglesia antes de volvernos al verde del Tiempo Ordinario, entonces nosotros también deberíamos estar preparando para renovar nuestros esfuerzos para cumplir esta gran misión de proclamar el Evangelio.
          Y así, volvemos a la escena de la Última Cena y escuchamos una vez más las hermosas palabras de Jesús: "Como el Padre me ama, así los amo yo. Ya no los llamo siervos… a ustedes los llamo amigos." Esto, para que podamos ser consolados en nuestros tiempos de prueba (especialmente cuando esas pruebas son el resultado de nuestra amistad con Jesús) y fortalecidos para cumplir su mandato: "Amar unos a otros como yo los he amado". Para prepararnos para cumplir este mandato, reflexionemos brevemente sobre lo que parece "amar como Cristo nos amó."
          Amarse unos a otros como Cristo nos ha amado significa que debemos darnos a nosotros mismos para el beneficio de los demás. Entonces, tenemos que preguntarnos: "¿Qué es lo mejor que puedo hacer por alguien?". Por supuesto, hay muchas cosas buenas que podemos hacer por otros: dar comida y ropa a los necesitados, educación para los ignorantes, y consuelo para los enfermos y los moribundos... Esto es lo que la Iglesia tradicionalmente llama las "obras de misericordia". ¿Pero alguno de estos es lo mejor? Realmente no. Por el contrario, lo mejor que podemos hacer por otra persona es conducirlos a la amistad con Cristo. Esto es lo que nuestra primera lectura nos muestra hoy.
          En esa lectura, escuchamos cómo San Pedro trajo las Buenas Nuevas de Jesucristo a Cornelio, un oficial de alto rango en el ejército romano, y a su familia y amigos que se habían reunido en su casa con él ese día. Esto fue, por supuesto, notable en cuanto a que Cornelius no era judío, y por lo tanto no estaba completamente familiarizado con la historia de la creación, la caída en el pecado, y el plan de salvación. Sin embargo, quedó impresionado por los Apóstoles y abierto a recibir la verdad. Pedro, viendo que Cornelio era un pagano, recordó la orden de Cristo, amó a Cornelio como Jesús lo había amado, y llevó a Cornelio a la amistad con Cristo, lo cual fue confirmado por el don del Espíritu Santo.
          Amigos, como se acerca la gran solemnidad de Pentecostés, debemos prepararnos para superar nuestros prejuicios ajenos, como lo hizo San Pedro, recordando la generosa efusión de amor que Cristo ha hecho por nosotros para que podamos encontrar el coraje de amar a todos con quienes nos encontramos con ese mismo amor: siempre esforzándonos por llevar a cada uno a la amistad con Cristo. Hacemos esto primero con nuestras acciones amorosas (es decir, con las obras de misericordia), pero también con nuestras palabras que los invitan a conocer a Cristo y permitirle amarlos como él nos ha amado. Mis amigos, este es el mayor bien que podemos hacer por los demás. Permítanos, entonces, pasar este tiempo restante en la Pascua preparándonos para emprender este buen trabajo; y, por lo tanto, experimentar, una vez más, la alegría completa que viene con ser amigos de Cristo.
Dado en la Parroquia de Todos los Santos: Logansport, IN
6 de mayo, 2018

Easter Preparation for Mission

Homily: 6th Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
          Friends, today our Gospel reading presents us with a contrast of contexts, so to speak.  The text is taken from Jesus’ beautiful Last Supper discourse in John’s Gospel.  Next to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel, the Last Supper discourse is the longest continual sermon recorded in all of the four Gospels.  In the context of the Last Supper, these words serve as a “farewell speech”, of sorts, to his disciples on the night before he was going to be betrayed, tortured, and killed (that is, the day in which all of his disciples would “have their faith in him shaken”).  We, however, are hearing these words in the context of our continuing celebration of Easter.  Therefore, while they still express for us Jesus’ deep affection for us, his disciples (as they expressed to his disciples at the Last Supper), they nonetheless don’t have the same “dark gravity” for us that they did for the Apostles, given that we are no longer anticipating Christ’s Passion, but rather celebrating his victory over death.
          Nonetheless, in each context, the message that comes to us is similar: Christ is giving his disciples the most important things for them to remember before he leaves them on their own.  For the disciples at the Last Supper, these words would be critical in the days and weeks that followed: not just as they dealt with the intense events of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, but also as they tried to make sense of Jesus’ commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the world.  Those were tumultuous times when the prophesies that Jesus proclaimed began to become true: when father would be turned against son, and son against father; and mother against daughter, and daughter against mother.  In other words, when friends became enemies and enemies became friends.  How else could they have survived as a community unless they held fast to Jesus’ commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”?
          For us here today, these words are also critical: and for much the same reason.  The Gospel is still a thing that creates division: both in our society (for example: pro-life v. pro-choice, sanctity of marriage v. same-sex unions, etc.) and in our personal lives (like when children rebel against their religious upbringing, or choose to take up religion in spite of their parents’ lack of religious practice).  In order for us to survive as a community, we too must hold fast to Jesus’ commandment to “love one another as he has loved us”.
          Still more, and I wonder if this isn’t something that we overlook each year as we celebrate the Easter season, these words are critical for us because we ought to be preparing to be re-sent out on mission.  As I’ve said in a number of different contexts this Easter season, too often, we Christians look at this time of Easter as a time of celebration only.  It is a time of celebration, don’t get me wrong; but it is also a time of preparation.  “Oh, Father, aren’t you confused?  Lent is a time a preparation: not Easter.”  Technically speaking, you’re correct; but I’d like you each to consider Easter as time of celebration and preparation.  And here’s why.
          In a couple of weeks, we are going to celebrate Pentecost—the birthday of the Church—in which the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles to empower them for their mission to take the Gospel to the ends of the world.  The days between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension (a.k.a. the original “Easter season”) were days of preparation to begin this great mission.  Therefore, if our celebration of Easter is going to be anything more than an excuse to eat our favorite foods that we gave up for Lent, and if our celebration of Pentecost is going to be anything more than a brief flash of red at church before going back to the green of Ordinary Time, then we, too, should be preparing to renew our efforts to fulfill this great mission to proclaim the Gospel.
          And so, we return to the scene of the Last Supper and listen once again to Jesus’ beautiful words: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you.  I no longer call you slaves… I have called you friends.”  This, so that we can be comforted in our times of trial (especially when those trials are the result of our friendship with Jesus) and strengthened to fulfill his command: “Love one another as I have loved you.”  In order to prepare ourselves to fulfill this command, let us reflect briefly on what “loving as Christ has loved us” looks like.
          Loving one another as Christ has loved us means that we must give of ourselves for the benefit of others.  And so, we have to ask ourselves, “What is the very best thing that I can do for someone?”  There are, of course, many good things that we can do for others: giving food and clothing to those in need, giving education to the ignorant, and comfort to the sick and dying… These are what the Church traditionally calls the “works of mercy”.  But are any of these the best thing?  Not really.  Rather, the best thing that we can do for another person is to lead them to friendship with Christ.  This is what our first reading shows to us today.
          In that reading, we heard how Saint Peter brought the Good News of Jesus Christ to Cornelius, a high-ranking official in the Roman army, and to his family and friends who had gathered in his house with him that day.  This was, of course, remarkable in that Cornelius was not a Jew, and so was completely unfamiliar with the history of creation, the fall, and the plan for salvation.  Nonetheless, he was impressed by the Apostles and open to receiving the truth.  Peter, seeing that Cornelius was a Gentile, remembered Christ’s command, loved Cornelius as Jesus had loved him, and led Cornelius to friendship with Christ, which was confirmed through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
          Friends, as the great solemnity of Pentecost approaches, we must prepare ourselves to overcome our prejudices of others, like Saint Peter did, by remembering the generous outpouring of love that Christ has made for us so that we might find the courage to love everyone we meet with that same love: always striving to lead each one to friendship with Christ.  We do this first with our loving actions (that is, with the works of mercy), but then also with our words that invite them know Christ and to allow him to love them as he has loved us.  My friends, this is the greatest good that we can do for others.  Let us, then, spend this remaining time in Easter preparing ourselves well to take up this good work; and, therefore, to experience, once again, the complete joy that comes with being friends of Christ.
Given at All Saints Parish: Logansport, IN – May 6th, 2018