Monday, August 25, 2014

8/26/2014 – Tuesday of 21st week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 23:23-26

        The Mosaic Law levied a tithe on agricultural products.  Some rabbis and teachers of the law scrupulously applied this law to the most insignificant of plants.  So, in the Gospel, Jesus sees the Pharisees offering up sacrifices not of wholesome, substantial food, but rather of herbs and spices, of cumin and dill and mint.  Origen of Alexandria, one of the Early Church Fathers, said that we are to offer up service and love, we are to offer up our very selves to the Lord, rather than legalisms or rituals or just going through the motions.  In life, it is not that we shouldn’t pay attention to the details, especially in matters of the faith, but if we focus on the rules and regulations, losing sight of the big picture and what matters most, then we can be led astray on the road of faith.
         I was reading the commentary for today from the Sacred Space website, which contains reflections on the daily readings from the Irish Jesuits.   It noted that there are certain Christians who speak out at length about all the things that in their opinion are not being done right in the Catholic Church. Sometimes this relates to what they see in the liturgy of the Church. Sometimes they subscribe to themselves a perceived level of doctrinal and moral orthodox that they claim does not exist in others.  The Sacred Space reflection says that some of them don’t even see the Pope as measuring up to their standards. Some of these criticisms lack the love and compassion that is at the heart of our faith.  As a priest, I try to meet people in the midst of the nitty gritty of their everyday lives, of their everyday reality.  And reality can be very harsh at times, can’t it?  Let us answer the call to be focused on our Lord – to be focused on the person of Christ that is at the center of our faith.  Let us be focused on nothing else. 
        Let me be clear – I am targeting this message at no one in particular.  This is the message all of us need to hear – the message that Jesus brings us in today’s Gospel.  And if this particular Gospel or any Gospel seems to be speaking to us in the contest of our lives – well then that it what God is calling us to hear.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

8/29/2014 – Friday of 21st week of ordinary time – Passion of St John the Baptist – Mark 6:17-29

     John's prophetic voice carried God's message to his people and prepared the way for the coming of Jesus.  Even though his prophetic voice did God’s will, it is also what got him into trouble with the authorities of his day.   John charged the highest-ranking governmental official of the region, Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee, of making an unlawful marriage with Herodias, the daughter of one of Herod's brothers and the ex-wife of another brother. Speaking out against Herod landed John in prison.   Imprisonment might have been enough to silence John, but Herodias wanted him dead.  In the midst of the wine and food of a great banquet, in the midst of an oath he makes in front of his guest in order to please his wife's daughter, Herod agreed to kill John the Baptist.  It’s John’s passion and martyrdom that we celebrate today with the universal Church.
     King Herod is both puzzled by John and attracted to him.   Herod feared John, yet he listened to him, because he saw John as a holy and righteous man.  Herod was willing to sacrifice the life of John the Baptist in order to maintain his own honor, prestige, and power.   Wanting to show his subjects that he had a firm grasp of power and control, he showed us what a weak person he really was.  It seems that at one point, Herod was willing to listen to John's proclamation of God's word, but Herod cared more about the world, which silenced God's word.  Perhaps we can ask ourselves today: what are the messages of our world that silence the word of God within us?
     The martyrdom of John the Baptist has a message for all of us.  In the midst of the reality of our lives, God’s word speaks to us and tries to take root in our lives.   We can all be messengers of God's word in all that we say and do.  We can bring God's word and God's love to others, no matter what is going on in our lives.  Sometimes living out our faith boldly is not comfortable or easy for us to do.  But we are asked to stand in solidarity with Christ, to stand in solidarity with John the Baptist and all the community of saints.  They prepared the way of faith for us.  We are to help prepare the way of faith for others.    

8/28/2014 – St Augustine – Thursday of 21st week in Ordinary Time – 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, Psalm 145

       In the beginning of his letter to the Church in Corinth, we hear Paul thank God for the grace he has bestowed on the Christian community in Corinth, with the testimony to Christ was confirmed within them.  Then, we hear the psalmist proclaim: “I will praise your name for ever, Lord.”  I mention these, because rather than coming from the lips of St Paul and our psalmist, I can hear them coming out of the mouth of St Augustine, the saint we celebrate today.   Just yesterday, we celebrated Augustine’s mother Monica, who always accompanied her son with her prayers and love as she wished for his conversion to the Christian faith.   Little did Monica know that Augustine would become one of the great theologians of our Catholic faith.   Augustine was named one of the first four Doctors of the Church as declared in 1298.  Besides Augustine, this group included St Gregory the Great, St Jerome, and St Ambrose.   In fact, it was St Ambrose who took Augustine under his wing while Augustine was a student in Milan and while he was searching for meaning in other non-Christian philosophies.  Augustine desired to devote his life to living as a monk after he returned home to North Africa, but he was persuaded to become the Bishop of Hippo, a major city of the Roman Empire in North Africa.  He held the post as bishop until his death in 430.  Augustine’s works address almost every major issue in theology.  One of his works that has had a great influence on many is the Confessions, which addressed his life as a pagan and his baptism and conversion to Christianity.   In fact, the popularity and influence of Augustine’s Confessions is said to have given birth to the autobiography in the West.  One of Augustine’s well-known quotes from the Confessions is this: “Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you…. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”  AMEN. 

8/27/2014 – Wednesday of 21st week in Ordinary Time - St Monica – Psalm 128

     The words of the psalm refrains have really been calling out to me in recent days.  Perhaps it is because I am paying more attention to them.  “Blessed are those who fear the Lord.”  I don’t think we appreciate the way the Jewish people would have perceived fear.  It was not as much being afraid of punishment or retribution from God, but rather having a healthy respect for him and standing in his presence with awe and wonder.
      St Monica certainly respected God, so much so that she prayed unceasingly that her son Augustine truly would accept the faith.  We celebrate St Monica’s feast day today.  We celebrate the feast day of her son St Augustine tomorrow. Perhaps it is through learning about Monica and her journey that we are able to appreciate St Augustine all the more.  In seminary, it seems like St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are the two philosophers and theologians that stand out amongst all the rest.  Many mothers can relate to Monica in that they pray that their children return to the faith that they hold dear.  Let our prayers join with Monica’s today in praying for all those who have strayed from the Church to hear her beckoning them back.  May Monica’s devotion and faith, both to the Church and to her children, be a witness to us all. 

8/24/2014 - This is what I wish today in place of a homily -

     There were a lot of things swirling around in my head as I thought about the Gospel today.  Indeed, who do I say Jesus is?  How do I proclaim this in my words, and more importantly, in my actions?  When confronted with adversity and strife, I want to reach out not in anger or sarcasm or passive aggressive behavior, but I want to reach out in love and peace.  And so, what I wish from all my heart today for me and my parish is this – the peace prayer of St Francis of Assisi.  This says it all for me:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

8/25/2014 – Monday of 21st week in Ordinary Time - 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

      Today, in the very beginning of Paul’s second letter to the Church at Thessalonika in northern Greece, we hear Paul admiring the way this community of faith has stood firm and steadfast in the face of persecution and affliction. This reminded me of the news I heard last week about Pope Francis announcing that the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was gunned down while saying mass and who was an outspoken critic of the governmental oppression in that country, would be sent on the path for beatification.  Romero became Archbishop of San Salvador in the midst of a very difficult period in that country’s history.  He became a voice of peace and justice, and in fact a leading European magazine named Romero one of the champions of world democracy.  Romero stood fast against the adversity and struggles that he faced, becoming an example of faith for many in the world today.  As we listen to today’s first reading from Paul, we might ask ourselves: Can we see that the trails and setbacks of life are ways in which the depth of our faith is tested, calling us to a deeper response to love and service?  It gives us a lot to think about, doesn’t it?

Friday, August 22, 2014

24 de agosto de 2014 - El Vigésimo primer domingo del Tiempo Ordinario — Ciclo A – Mateo 16, 13-21

       ¿Para nosotros, quién es Jesús?  Podemos contestar esta pregunta para nosotros mismos cuando escuchamos la pregunta que Jesús tiene para los discípulos en el Evangelio de San Mateo: “¿Quién dice la gente que es el Hijo del hombre?”  Había mucha gente quien rodeaba a Jesús, quien le había visto actuar muchos milagros en las aldeas de Israel.  La respuesta que las personas dieron a los discípulos fue variada:  Jesús era Juan el Bautista, o Elías o Jeremías, o alguno de los profetas antiguos de Israel que había resucitado.                                                                                                 
            En nuestro mundo hoy día, la figura de Jesucristo produce muchas opiniones también. Para algunas personas en nuestro mundo hoy, El es el liberador, el gran maestro, el profeta de Dios, un sabio, un buen psicólogo, o un líder revolucionario.  Pero, para nosotros como seguidores de Cristo, El es más, más que todo eso. 
              Jesús quiere escuchar a nuestra opinión también. Entonces, nos pregunta: “Y ustedes, ¿quién dicen que soy yo?”  No contestamos una vez.  Necesitamos contestar con nuestra vida, con nuestras palabras, y con nuestras acciones cada día en nuestro camino de fe.  En nuestra casa. En nuestro lugar de trabajo. En nuestra parroquia. En las relaciones con nuestra familia, nuestros amigos, el extranjero, y nuestros compañeros de trabajo.  Podemos mirar la respuesta de Pedro en el Evangelio. El responde con mucho entusiasmo y con una confesión de fe: “Tú eres el Mesías, el Hijo de Dios viviente”.  Inmediatamente, Jesús le llama bienaventurado y feliz, porque Pedro sabía perfectamente quién es el Señor.
          Pedro es bienaventurado porque él tenía fe en nuestro Señor.  Y esta fe sólo la da Dios.  La fe es un don de El, una bendición de Dios.  No es algo que podemos hacer solo con nuestra propia voluntad.  Y este don de fe siempre precede nuestras acciones de fe.  ¿Qué ha hecho Pedro en sus palabras? Pedro cooperaba. Estaba abierto a la presencia de Dios en su vida.
           Podemos decir también que tenemos una llamada de fe no solamente como individuales, pero como una comunidad también.  Tenemos la llamada de ser fiel a nuestra comunidad de fe.  Si una persona afuera de nuestra religión católica entra a nuestra iglesia, va a mirar la importancia del altar.  Tiene un lugar de importancia en nuestra fe.  La eucaristía que celebramos sobre el altar – alrededor de la mesa de nuestro Señor – es la fuente de nuestra fe, es la cumbre de nuestra fe.  Podemos tener dolor en nuestro corazón.  Podemos tener conflictos en nuestra vida,  conflictos con nuestra familia y nuestros amigos, conflictos con los miembros de nuestra parroquia también. Nuestra llamada como católicos es para llevar estas cosas al altar del Señor, para recibir el sacramento de la eucaristía y para escuchar la voz de Cristo cuando El habla en nuestros corazones, para tener la fuerza y la curación de Cristo en nuestra vida.  Puede requerir mucha paciencia y mucho sacrifico para venir a la mesa de nuestro Señor con el dolor que tenemos en nuestra vida, pero el murmullo de Jesucristo en la profundidad de nuestros corazones nos llama al altar de Dios.  
             Podemos reconocer que las lecturas de este domingo del Tiempo Ordinario nos da una buena ocasión para escuchar la sagrada palabra de Dios y para reflexionar sobe la importancia de nuestra fe y de nuestra vida de fe en la Iglesia.  Esta tarde, tenemos una oportunidad para agradecer los dones que nuestro Señor nos da en abundancia.