Reflections - April 22, 2018

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me…..I will lay down my life for the sheep.” Jn. 10:14-15.
 
In this Gospel Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd, a very known image in the peasant culture of the people of Israel.  It was also a lesson for those who had power to control and direct spiritually the people of God.  Jesus teaches them what was the true image of a spiritual guide to the people of God.
 
Jesus, first of all, uses the image of the shepherd of sheep by assuming in His life that image for simple people.  There are in the life of Jesus other images.  He also assumes the image of the one who “was hungry and you gave me no food, thirsty and you gave me no drink…..”.  Mt. 25:42.
 
In this image of the Good Shepherd He tells us, “that He is our guide and that He wants to have a personal relationship with each one of us”.  “I know mine and mine know me”.  What a tremendous pastoral lesson for a good evangelization!  The Lord wants to say to you that your problems, your history, your existential and spiritual crises are not alien to Him.
 
We trust in our Good Shepherd because He is willing to give His life for His sheep.  How much confidence and peace it gives us to know that our Good Shepherd does not abandoned us in the difficult moments of life. Jesus never says, as some in our society and culture say:  “That is your problem”.  He also does not say to us based on human wisdom:  “Do not cast on the shoulders of others your troubles, assume them yourself for everyone has their burden to carry”.  That seems a very human expression, but as Pope Francis says:  “It is human, but it is not Christian….”
 
The Lord as the Good Shepherd knows the dangers that lurk.  The Apostle Peter says:  “Evil, like a roaring lion, looks for whom to devour, resist him firmly in faith”.  1 Pet 5:8.  Do not be afraid, the Lord accompanies you and with his “staff” sends away the enemies of the faith, the world, the flesh, and evil.  He is our Good Shepherd.  How well the Psalm expresses this:  “Better to take refuge in the Lord than to put one’s trust in mortals.”  Ps 118:8.
 
I do not wish to end without inviting you to pray for priestly and religious vocations on this Sunday of the Good Shepherd.  Pray that the Lord gives us the discernment to connect our pastoral care to the realities of our families and young people who sometime feel “as sheep eager to be welcomed and heard”.  Amen.

Reflections - April 15, 2018

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.”  Lk. 24:38-39
 
Upon reading this Gospel it seems that the Lord is speaking to our society when He says:  “why do questions arise in your hearts?”
 
We live in a global social environment where the culture of technologies can be very good if they can help you in the plan to know and serve God, but it can also be an obstacle if we lose all ability to reflect on the meaning of our lives and our spiritual values by making these technologies an “idol” that offers false happiness through gratification of the senses and of the here and now.  In these environments it is sometimes difficult to reflect on the faith in the living and resurrected Jesus, Christian values, and spiritual life.  All of these technological realities do not fill “the absence of God” because the Lord can only fill the absence of God.  It is very easy that in this “culture of the death of God” for the mind to be dulled and to seek “false gods”, new age booklets of self-help…., “recipes that do not give inner peace” and that only the risen Christ can give you.  Remember that sometimes group profligacy gives one no time to think.
 
The apostles also lived a crisis of faith.  On the one hand there was what they expected from Jesus as the liberator of their Roman enemies and their lust for power, and on the other hand there was Jesus’ Plan of Salvation, a change of life, a repentance of our sins, and faith in Him as our Savior.
 
Today Jesus asks us the same question that he asked the Apostles.  “Why are you troubled?  Why do questions arise in your hearts?”  The Lord is asking you why you are asking questions about the meaning of life. Jesus calls you to discover His resurrected face through prayer, the bread of the Eucharist, Scriptures, and forgiveness through the sacrament of Confession.  Jesus, living and resurrected, sends you as a baptized Christian to be a witness to His resurrection to the worldly limits of your family, social, and community life bearing witness to His love and the hope of Christian life.

Reflections - April 8, 2018

“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”.  Jn. 20:30.
 
On this Second Sunday of Easter the Gospel of John tells us about two events of faith.  In the first event, Jesus appears to the apostles and “breathed on them the Holy Spirit” with the sacramental mandate to forgive sins to all those who repent and believe in the Lord alive and risen.  The second event of faith is the encounter with Thomas, one of the Twelve also known as “doubting Thomas – the doubter of faith”.  The Lord shows him His sores and His side and says to him:  “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed”.
 
What was the meaning of faith that the Lord wished to manifest in the Apostles and in each one of us after the resurrection?  It was to increase our faith in Him and in His divinity and to give witness of life.
 
This Paschal experience of faith produced in His disciples and followers a change of life.  Now it wasn’t was they though or said, but their way of living “in a coherent manner” the faith in Jesus.  “Look how they love one another” Acts 2:47.  The disciples tried to live the faith as resurrected people with their scale of values.  They had no need to theorize about Jesus.  They just mimicked the Lord’s life and family, with the help of prayer, in the middle of the Synagogue and the Roman Empire to the point of giving their lives for Christ as many Christians still do today in the Middle East and Africa.  Did you know that this is happening at this time in some countries?
 
The testimony of faith also moves in others to make changes, repent (Confession, Baptism). Remember:  “An example is worth more than a thousand words”.
 
Another gift of faith expressed to the disciples of Christ with the help of the Holy Spirit was to recognize the signs of the times in which they had to live and to overcome with the help of the Risen Christ those forces of evil that acted against man and that today as well continue dehumanizing.  Examples being worldly values of power, prestige, corruption and violence, which often live in our social environment and have nothing in common with the living and risen Christ.
 
Let us pray to the risen Lord in the Eucharist for the grace to awaken in us the “compassion and faith” to live in our community as a testimony of life and power of goodness, truth, and justice that Jesus, living and risen, brings us.  Amen.

Reflections - April 1, 2018

“You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here.”
Mk. 16:6.
 
Yes, He has resurrected!  Psalm 118 says:  “This is the day the Lord has made”.  This is the Church’s dogma which we say every Sunday at Mass.
 
Not even forty-eight hours ago, Christ, giving a loud cry, expired.  But the Temple of Jerusalem was also destroyed and died, the place where the inner sanctum, Moses’s rod and David’s crown were found.  Upon the Lord’s death the temple is destroyed because now the new temple is Christ.  He is, as Paul says, “our Paschal Lamb, who has been slain.”  Yes, This is the day the Lord has made”.
 
The resurrection of Christ is the most important event in the Plan of Salvation.  The human soul of Christ in the resurrection came into His body and there was a movement of earth.  “When they looked up, they saw that the stone has been rolled back; it was very large”.  Mk. 16:4.  Now Christ’s new body with new properties “crosses the savannah”.  John’s Gospel says:  “Then the other disciples also went in, the one who has arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.”  Jn. 20:8.
 
Now after resurrecting where is Christ?  The Lord stayed forty days preparing His Church with Peter and His apostles.  He will also manifest Himself to the disciples of Emmaus in the Eucharist:  “And it happened that, while he as with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.  With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” Lk. 24:30-31.  “And of course, where does a son go after resurrecting?  Well, to see his mother, Mary.  What joy and how much consolation would the mother receive upon seeing her child.  A joy to be shared with the apostles.”  St. Ignatius.
 
“Yes, this is the day the Lord has made”.  Jesus is not here; His is resurrected.  That is why today we raise our heads full of hope and joy because what pertains to us Christians ended in triumph because we believe in the resurrected.  Today incredulous ones bow your heads!  We also have risen with Christ through Baptism.  As Paul says:  “Seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God”, Col. 3:1.
 
I conclude with this phrase from Paul:  “Let us celebrate the Feast of the Passover not with old yeast that is made of vice and evil, but with unleavened bread that is sincerity and truth”.  Christ is alive and risen in the Eucharist.  Alleluia!

Reflections - March 25, 2018

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord……”.
 
This Palm Sunday begins Holy Week.  Jesus climbs up to Jerusalem, where the expectations of the people who were going there to celebrate the Passover are not those of Jesus.  They expected and waited with palms for a Messiah that would be full of power, but Jesus’ power was to surrender and give His life for the redemption of humanity.  Jesus always said to His disciples “we climb” up to Jerusalem where the Son of Man is going to be incarcerated, slapped, crucified, as the four Gospels in the Liturgy of the Passion and Death of the Lord in the context of Holy Week narrates.
 
The Lord’s message is:  “If you want to be sanctified and you want to live as a Christian you have to climb up with me to the Cross.  That is the path that takes you to holiness of life”.
 
In the Last Supper on Holy Thursday Jesus gives us the Eucharist, His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, divine nourishment that strengthens us to carry the cross.  “He who eats by flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him”.  This is the day in which He also gave us the Sacrament of Holy Orders, “so that they will become one with Christ in love and service to others”.
 
On Good Friday we will accompany Christ in His pain and loneliness. God’s enemy tried to triumph over human history by using our ignorance and our human sins of envy and rancor.  The salvation of humanity was at stake on the cross.  Some unbelievers passed by the foot of the cross saying:  “Come down from the cross”.  There was also a repentant thief who was able to see what others did not – The Son of God:  “Lord, remember me in your kingdom”.  “Today you will be with me in paradise”.  This is the first saint that enters with Jesus to Eternal Life.  But is it also a call to you and me, as Pope Francis says:  “…..to allow ourselves to be summoned by the one crucified and discover that there lies wisdom and the key to the interpretation of life which is hope.  The Christian life is a militia.  The supposed fight is not against men of flesh and blood, but against the rulers of this world of darkness.  To overcome in this fight and stand firm we need God’s weapon the cross.  It is there that Jesus triumphed over evil once and for all”. 
 
On Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil when the Paschal Candle is lit the Church wants us to remember that the darkness of death does not have the last word.  No!  Jesus, the light of the world, triumphed over darkness and overcame sin and death.  “Where is your sting dead?  Blessed be the Lord!

Reflections - March 18, 2018

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  Amen, Amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”
Jn. 12:23.
 
We are one week away from the Passion of Christ and the Gospel today speaks to us of Christ’s feelings before the pain, treachery, and death that will come in His redemptive Passion.
 
The Gospel tells us:  “There were some Greeks among those who had come to see Jesus”.  But who were these Greeks who went to see Jesus?  We do not know if they were pilgrims who went up every year to Jerusalem or spectators  “who listened, but did not commit”.  However, it is to this group of foreigners who perhaps “seek wisdom” that as Paul says, Jesus presents himself not as the hero of the Iliad, or the wise Greeks, but “like the grain of wheat that died on the cross to produce fruits of eternal life”.  Jesus speaks to them of the wisdom of the cross, as Paul says:  “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles”, 1 Cor 1:23.  Yes, the grain of wheat would die on the cross on Good Friday, but there is a resurrection and fullness of life.
 
There is also a call to the baptized in this Gospel.  “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life”.  As you can see it is the giving over to Jesus not selfishness, product of our sin, but the dynamics of charity that strengthens us in His following.
 
Of course, the Jesus that expresses His feelings is not a super-man, but He is a human being who feels “shaken as the hour approaches”.  Now my soul is shaken and what do I say?  Father, save me from this hour.  No, for this I have come to this hour.
 
Jesus’ words were an invitation to trust in the Father when pain and suffering approaches.  “I have glorified him and I will glorify him”.
 
May fasting, prayer, and charity help us be more sensitive in this Lenten time to the voice of the Father who strengthens us to carry with faith the cross of each day.

Reflections - March 11, 2018

“For 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.”  Jn. 3:16.
 
In John’s Gospel we find this statement that unequivocally summarizes the meaning of our faith.  The love of God manifested in Jesus Christ is unconditional and heals our wounds.  As Saint Augustine says:  God is more intimate with my being that I am myself.  And faith is the consciousness of this intimacy.
 
There are two attitudes to the love of God manifested in Christ Jesus:
The first attitude is the conviction that “because we are loved, we love freely and we become worthy of greater love”.  San Bernardo.
 
The other attitude is the faith of feeling loved and happy because we know that we are doing His will:  loving God and others.  That faith in the Son that gave himself up for us is what makes us observe the commandments of loving God and our neighbor, not to earn or preserve His love, but, as Paul says:  “we have been saved by grace through faith and this is not from you; it is the gift of God”.  Ef 2:8.  It is the true faith in God that matures through prayer where it is perfected, accepting from the Lord His plan of salvation in our family and community.  As St. Teresa would say, “You do not have to give so that I will love you, but as a son that “drinks from the source of living water” we are filled with love and faith “to be the light of the world”, cooperators of grace.  Remember that faith is not being still, nor is the result of reasoning or argumentation, on the contrary, the love and the faith in Jesus “has two hands”, the first is forgiveness, that never abandons us despite our failings.  The other hand is His resurrection, which reveals to us that God sustains us even beyond death.  Amen.

Reflections - February 25, 2018

“This is my beloved Son.  Listen to him.”  Mk. 9:7.
 
In an environment where the glory of God is manifested, the Lord transfigures at the summit of a mountain.  In the history of the people of Israel the mountain was a place of encountering the glory of God.  An example of this was Moses in Mount Horeb and also Elijah.  It was a place of prayer and manifestation of Yahweh, our God.
 
In the Transfiguration of the Lord there are two people next to him, Moses and Elijah that represent the commandments and the prophets.  Also up the mountain climbed Peter, the Rock of the Church, and James and John, columns of the Church.  All were very important in the plan of Salvation.
 
In this spiritual encounter of the disciples with Jesus the voice of the Father manifests itself inviting the disciples to listen to the Lord in prayer and to carry His Cross in their daily life.  He invites them to not remain in this spiritual experience, but to also with their words and their liberating signs of healing release from evil and to satisfy from hunger and thirst for justice giving hope and walking with Jesus by “denying oneself and carrying one’s daily cross until death as the apostles and God’s saints did.  The server is not greater than his Lord”.
 
God the Father also tells the baptized, you and me to:  “Listen to him”.  But do we listen to the Lord or, by contrast, do we listen to the voices of those “false gods” that often conceal His voice?  My hope is that in this Lenten time, prayer can help you to know how to listen and how to discern “what the Lord wants from you”.  Perhaps it is to discover the “interferences” that do not allow you to convert and become more generous and more grateful to the love that the Lord has spilled over time through your vocational call either religious or matrimonial.
 
Ask the Lord in the Eucharist to help you to listen and follow Him and then strengthened in faith to accept your daily cross.  Let us remember what Paul said to the Romans:  “If God is with us, who is against us?

Reflections - February 18, 2018

“Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  Mk. 1:15.
 
Lent began on Ash Wednesday.  It is forty days of preparation for the mystery of our redemption – Jesus Christ crucified and risen.  The Church proposes prayer, fasting and almsgiving to us.
 
In the Gospel the Lord, after having been Baptized, goes to the desert and there He fasts, prays, and it tempted.
 
In the Hebrew mentality, the desert was a place for reflection, prayer, and fasting, but it was also a place of temptation.  Jesus, in His human condition, felt the temptation from the enemy to divert Him from the plan of salvation.  However, by fasting and prayer to His Father, God, He gave us an example on how to overcome the plan of the enemy in the desert of our own lives.
 
Here I leave you with three traditional ways to get closer to God this Lent.
 
Prayer:  Convert your “daily life” to an offering to the Lord by elevating your mind and heart by, as Paul says, “praying without ceasing”.  Some examples that occur to me would be to offer good works toward those in need of prayer.  Also, perhaps, to pray the rosary while you are walking or taking your pet out for a walk.  And also to take to prayer for the forgiveness of those you make your life a “yogurt”.
 
Fasting:  Create in ourselves an awareness of our dependence on God in an environment where we sometimes dispense with Him and put our trust in “idols” that pass.  Perhaps we can be a little more selective in choosing to watch or listen to alienating or manipulative programs.  We can also stop clacking the horn at our brothers in sisters therefore creating, first of all, awareness in ourselves and, above all, generating peace.  Maybe while driving we can listen to Radio Peace.
 
Almsgiving:  “Realize and open our eyes” doing works of charity therefore having compassion for our needy brothers or sisters as Jesus did, who gave Himself for all even for those who rejected Him.  “Forgive them for they know not what they do”.  Perhaps during this time we can cut certain expenses to assist in works of charity in the Church like buying food for the pantry of the needy in the parish.  We can also give away something that we do not use.
 
Let us pray to the Lord in this season of Lent to allow ourselves to be “lead by the Holy Spirit in order to find others in the desert of our lives” through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Reflections - February 11, 2018

“A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.”  Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”  The leprosy left him immediately.”
Mk. 1:40-42.
 
In this Sunday’s Gospel I would like to first highlight this phrase:  “Moved with pity, Jesus touched him”.
 
Let us reflect on some of the details.  Who was that man that Jesus touched?  He was a leper and a contaminated man that had to live separated from the community by several kilometers in distance.  He was like an outcast, like, as some that feel lonely and live close to us in our society and family express, “invisible”.
 
That alienated man approaches Jesus with deep humility saying:  “If you wish, you can make me clean”.  Here humility and mercy was found, and of course, the law, which prohibited anyone to approach these people much less touch them in order to not be “contaminated” was ignored. 
 
Sometimes the law can become a trap in which we can all fall in order to escape the practice of mercy.  Jesus not only heals, but also touches the contaminated man because mercy can only be done with love.
 
The leper also teaches us a lesson.  When we practice the virtue of humility, or simplicity of life, we recognize our own limitations and our smallness.  “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean”.  A gesture of humility has a merciful response from the God of love that never abandons us and who knows what are our strengths and our diseases.  Jesus, true God and true man, immensely loved the leper.  “I do will it.  Be made clean”. 
 
Let us ask the Lord in the Eucharist to help us recognize and go meet the needs of the alienated and the needy of our community with humility and mercy.
 
I would like to remind you that this Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time of fasting, prayer and mercy.

Reflections - February 4, 2018

“Let us go on to nearby villages that I may preach there also.  For this purpose have I come.”  Mk. 1:38.
 
The Gospel of Mark tells us how Jesus evangelized.  It is a profound teaching of his evangelizing activities like His moments of rest, His communication with the people through simple parables, and His concern for the needs of the most vulnerable, the sick and “discarded”.  In the case of this scripture we learn about Peter’s elderly mother-in-law who is sick.  As Pope Francis says:  Jesus also expressed closeness and dialogue with His disciples and He prayed because no one can give what they do not have.
 
We find Jesus evangelizing in the synagogue, today it would be the church, meeting place, where sometimes perhaps we miss the chance to evangelize to those who come looking for spiritual help or give a word of encouragement to those preparing for the Sacraments.  The Lord sends them so that we may “comfort my people”, Is. 40:1.  Do we welcome them and console them, as Pope Francis says:  “with happy faces”, as Jesus did?
 
Jesus also teaches us that there may be others moments to be evangelizers.  We can be evangelizers in our daily life with our family practicing charity, compassion and affection, especially to the most vulnerable and the young.
 
Another opportunity to evangelize can be in the working world, “the social world”.  “Let us go on to nearby villages”, Mk 1:38.  A world that sometimes because of our indifference and apathy is occupied by ideologies and thoughts that do not build the Kingdom of God.  A world where human beings “live without hope” with “proposals from false idols” that dehumanize human beings and where they lose their sense of participatory justice in business dealings and in the communities.  There is a profound teaching of evangelization for those Catholic professionals and politicians who forget to build, as Jesus did, the kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace because what is most important in these social environments is to be “politically correct”.
 
Finally I would like to concentrate on Jesus’ prayer life.
 
Jesus prayed in silence.  It was a spiritual need of His to be able to communicate with His Father, God, and to discern His will.  The question for every evangelizer is:  Do you pray?  How do you pray and how long do you pray to the Lord?
 
May the Eucharist be the center of our evangelization and in the way we welcome others so that we may build bridges of integration in the Church and in our social context.

Reflections - January 28, 2018

“He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”  Mk. 1:27.
 
Today the Gospel gives us a teaching about the goodness and mercy of God in our life and in others.
 
Jesus preached in the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath and the Word of God says, “The people were astonished at His teaching”.  For these people that listened He was someone that taught “with authority” but saw nothing else.  Only one man that was possessed by evil was able to recognize that Jesus was “the Holy One of God”.
 
There are two attitudes towards Jesus.  The first group in the synagogue saw only Jesus, a good preacher.  In the case of the “demonized and rejected” one, he was able to see his “darkness” and what others did not see with profound humility.  He saw the authority of the Son of God who liberated him from the evil that oppressed him.
 
The teaching for us as baptized sons and daughters of God is:
Do we see the living and risen Christ acting through His Words and through His works to change our lives?  What must I liberate myself from to be able to see Jesus acting in my community, my family, and in my life?
 
Am I open to the Lord’s Mercy?  Or on the contrary do I only listen to His Word without letting it touch my heart.  Do I humbly recognize my darkness, my smallness, and my poverty?
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist that listening to the Word of God will make us recognize where my blindness is.  That listening to it will allow us to see when we do not recognize our own powerlessness that does not let us recognize God’ Mercy.  Here I leave you with the antiphon of Psalm 95:  “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts”, to be able to discern His mercy in your life and be merciful towards your brothers and sisters.

Reflections - January 21, 2018

“This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel.”  Mk. 1:15.
 
I would like to reflect on two of Jesus’ attitudes during His public life:  the proclamation of the Kingdom and the call of his collaborators. 
 
In Jesus’ time there was a deep state of alert waiting for the imminent coming of the Messiah, who would restore the much-awaited kingdom.  The expectations were:  when, where, and how.  Would the Romans be defeated?  Would the Messiah-king enter Jerusalem triumphantly with soldiers or would He come in differently?
 
The Essenes, a Jewish religious group, had gone to the desert to purify themselves and be prepared for the arrival.  John the Baptist preached the judgment of God, which is why he baptized as a sign of repentance for the coming of the Messiah:  “The ax lies at the root of the trees.  Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Lk. 3:9.  However the Kingdom of Jesus was coming through other paths.  Jesus saw the Kingdom of His Father, God, as a family that includes all of humanity including our enemies.  “Love one another as I have loved you, “to the point of giving His life for the human family for the forgiveness of sins”.  That radicalism of the Kingdom of God as a family is what makes Him “share the bread of life” at a table.  Share also in the common bag for the needs of the communities in Jerusalem.  We will later see this same gesture manifested in the early Christians who meet as a family of the Kingdom to break the bread and give each other “the kiss of peace”.  A gesture that in that time only the Hebrew families did.
 
Jesus calls His disciples to follow Him not as the winning, conquering, triumphant Messiah, but as a victim who gives His life.  Truth and Justice would be on the side of their Master, triumphant of death and sin.  He would say to His followers:  “Whoever finds his life will lost it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”.  Mt. 10:39.  In reality what Jesus wanted to say to all the Baptized is:  “When we are not willing to die for others, we are already dead.  When we are willing to die for others we are actually alive”.  Some people think that Jesus came to put the world upside down.  On the contrary, Jesus came to put the world right side up.  If someone tells you that is not realistic or practical, Paul clarifies this new wisdom to the first Christians:  “Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to gentiles. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  1 Cor. 1:23-25.  Jesus’ message to anyone who wants to follow it is:  The Kingdom of God is already with Me; “Repent and believe in the truth of my kingdom.  See the world as a large family in which I am present every day until the end of the world”.

Reflections - January 7, 2018

“We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”  Mt. 2:2.
 
Today in the Church of the East and of the West is the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord.  The symbol of the Epiphany is the light.  “Our Savior reveals himself to us as a signal for a “disoriented” world”.
 
The First Reading of Isaiah invites us to “raise your eyes” and search the light as the Kings did.  It is a light that gives joy and Christian hope.
 
Yet to find that light commits us through our Baptism to “raise up” from our superficialities and be a light to lead our brothers and sisters towards Christ, “the light of the world”.  That is our best gift.
 
However, there is a great temptation to stay, as Herod, in a relativism very typical of our time, “…..and place yourself”, as Pope Francis says, “in the center of yourself and your interests giving absolute priority to your conveniences and interests and eliminate everything that affects your “comfort zone”.
 
The Gospel of this Sunday of the Epiphany is an invitation to follow the Light of Christ, listen to His voice and get back on track, but the most curious is that when you encounter Christ you will not do the same as the wise men.  The Gospel says:  “They departed for their country by another way.”
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist to allow His light to shine in us in this New Year so that our good works in the parish, in our family and socially will “give glory to the Father in heaven”.
 
I invite you to begin this year with three good works towards the needy.
 
Be kind.  Teach those near you “not what you know, but what they mean to you”.
Give encouragement to the young, the elderly and families.  “Tell them:  Yes they can with Christ”.  Give Hope – the theological virtue that means to dream and see through the light of faith what others do not see to the merciful Lord.
 
Happy New Year in Christ.

Reflections - December 31, 2017

“The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”  Lk. 2:40.
 
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Family.  Today we will reflect on the challenges faced by the family from Nazareth and our family as well.
 
The Gospel says that the child was strengthened and grew in wisdom.  How was He strengthened and growing in wisdom?  In Jesus’ life there is a physical growth, but He received wisdom and spiritual values from Mary, his mother, and Joseph in that house in Nazareth.  He lived thirty years of family life being obedient to His parents.  He learned from His mother and He left her two virtues that she lived with her husband, Joseph.  They were the faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fulfilling God’s project even to the cross and His humility serving as the “handmaid of the Lord” to the most needy.
 
In our own experience we also form a family, a fundamental cellular unit of society and of the Church, founded on the values of the Gospel and the example of the Holy Family.
 
However, today the stability of the Christian family suffers from different attacks that are attempting to weaken the sacrifice of so many generations of families.  Why is there such a crisis in the stability of the family?  I give you here some of the difficulties.  There are some couples that enter marriage with an almost total ignorance of sacrifice and sense of permanence without having clear “to what they have committed to”.  In some cases as Pope Francis says:  “No commitments are made for a long time, everything is temporary”.  The modern world speaks of “gratification of the senses”, however, there are many families living in our community that do not come out in the newspaper and yet give examples of selflessness and sacrifice.  Their spiritual nourishment is the Word of God, the Rosary, and the Eucharist.  They defend the life of the unborn and some even give talks to couples preparing for matrimony.  These families are examples of the Holy Family in their faith and humility.
 
I leave you here with this beautiful prayer about the family from Pope Francis.
 
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, in you, we contemplate the splendor of true love.  Entrusted in you we direct this prayer.  Holy Family of Nazareth, place of communion and cenacle of prayer, the real school of the Gospel and small authentic church.  Holy Family of Nazareth that never witnessed in family episodes of violence nor of closure or division.  That anyone ever insured or shocked would soon be consoled and cured.  Holy Family of Nazareth, make aware to all the sacred and inviolable character of the family and its beauty in the plan of God.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, listen and accept our plea.  Amen.

Reflections - December 25, 2017

“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  Jn. 1:14.
 
Today is the great day expected from all the centuries.  Today God’s project has been completed – to send His Son and for His Son to become one with us minus sin.  Jesus chooses the earth as His dwelling place to be near us.  Now no one can ask where is God.  Now no one can say that the Lord has abandoned us.  No, the Lord is in our joys and sadness.  As Pope Francis says:  “The earth is no longer just a valley of tears, but it is the shop where God dwelt among us”.  Paul says:  The Son is “the refulgence of his glory….who sustains all things by his mighty word.”  Heb. 1:3.
 
To be incarnated the Son of God runs the risk of entering a world marked by sin, pain, suffering, poverty, and wars.  Jesus assumes our history full of greatness, but also full of miseries.  However, today we are happy because God who overcame sin and death “united with us to raise the dust of our misery and lead us to the dignity of being children of God through Baptism.
 
Today in Psalm 98 we hail the Lord saying:  “Sing a new song to the Lord, who has done marvelous deeds”.  Yes, this is the great gift of the Child of Bethlehem, that in the humility of the manger, together with His Mother Mary and Joseph, invites us:  to “acclaim to the Lord, full of joy and hope because today He won with His light the darkness of our fatigue, sadness, and sins.
 
There is hope and we are glad because the birth of Christ is good news – “it is the true gift to which we all aspire in the vacuum of our hearts”.  Yet that gift and that joy have to be shared with our brothers and sisters.  Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist for the grace of making us one with those who feel alone and expect a light of hope from the lips and the hearts of those who today celebrate the birth of the Son of God, “who dwells among us”.

Reflections - December 17, 2017

“Who are you?” John said:  “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, Make straight the way of the Lord”.  Jn.1:22-23.
 
On this third Sunday of Advent the Gospel presents to us the figure of John the Baptist.  He is a dominant figure and with his simplicity of life and his straight and blunt manner of speaking, he invited all to conversion:  “Make straight the way of the Lord”.
 
What does John mean when he says:  Make straight the way of the Lord?  He meant to convert and the sign of that conversion was to recognize sins and be baptized with water.  Those who were sent to ask lost a chance for conversion.  They only served as informers and were not humble enough to “hear the voice of one crying out in the desert” and make changes in their lives purifying what was twisted and dehumanized until the arrival of the One who would baptize with water and the Holy Spirit – the Christ of Glory.
 
I would also like to highlight this Sunday the example of humility of John the Baptist, who “does not try to be accepted or say something that others would like by the powerful ones who asked him “who he was”.  John the Baptist knew that he was an unrepeatable prophetic mystery created in the image of God and that his mission was to “testify to the light” of the Anointed of God:  “He would herald the good news of salvation to the poor, heal those with broken hearts, and forgive the captives……from sin”.  John the Baptist did not attribute an identify that did not belong to him because John the Baptist revolved around “the one whose sandals strap he was not worthy to untie” – the Lord.
 
May the example of John the Baptist help us “to make straight our path” so that our hearts may be conquered by the eternal Word of God.
 
May Holy Communion also move our hearts to hear the voice of the brother who cries in the desert of his loneliness.  May we be the voice that gives consolation and the voice in this Advent that gives hope and Christian joy especially in the practice of humility and charity.

Reflections - December 10, 2017

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you…..Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”  Mk. 1:2-3.
 
On this Sunday of Advent we are invited to straighten our crooked path.  It is John the Baptist’s mission that we transform our human relations.  This time is a call to purify our intentions and also as the Prophet Isaiah said, a message of consolation for those who suffer alongside us.  “Comfort my people”, Is. 40:1.
 
It is very interesting to note that in John the Baptist’s time and Jesus’ time there existed situations very similar to our own, “injustices and twisted lives product of sin”.  Only an upright heart is able to live the grace of the new nativity of water and of the Holy Spirit brought to us by Jesus Christ.  It should be left to the grace of the Lord to help us “straighten up”, to lift our moods and our discouragements all product of the failures of life.  Yes to “straighten the path” means to feel comfort when we feel poor, small, and weak.  But we must trust that the Lord who was promised to us “is stronger and more powerful than our fears” and can make from our “mud” a new creation converting injustices into justice, indifferences into solidarity, and fear into confidence.  Proclaim that her service is at an end”, Is. 40:2.  The only condition is to be sufficiently humble to welcome His presence and be men and women of hope with a radical trust in His presence that never abandons us.
 
I would not like to end without invoking the Mother of Christ, our Virgin of Guadalupe to help us “prepare a way to her Son”. That through our witness of life and with “words of joy” we may bring good news of consolation and hope to those who suffer.  I invite you to meditate on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and offer them for young people.

Reflections - December 3, 2017

“What I say to you, I say to all:  Watch!  Mk. 13:37.
 
Today begins the new liturgical year on this first Sunday of Advent.  Three figures are highlighted at this time:  Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Mary, the full of grace.  It is a time when the evangelist Mark presents us with the end of times and the manifestation of a new style of life manifested in our God who uninstalls and becomes human to give dignity to human beings through His incarnation.
 
The Evangelist tells us that there may be two attitudes to His manifestation which is why He utilizes two words:  Being asleep and being awake”.
 
I would like to reflect with you what “being asleep” means according to God’s plan.  In the plan of salvation being asleep is the human being who makes plans outside of God’s “thinking that he or she controls all the events of his or her life, among them happiness”.  Of course to think about our future and the future of our family is logical.  But we must remember that God has the last word and that we have been created to be stewards of this small point in space called Earth.  We do not know when the Lord will visit us.  Maybe He will come in the evening of our life or in the dark night when the cares of the world, greed, honor, pride, make us live in the darkness of faith. 
 
Being awake in God’s plan means to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, His humility, “to deny oneself and take up the cross of every day life”.  If Jesus had not carried His Cross we would not be Christians.  There is an antidote that does not allow us to “be asleep”.  The antidote is prayer, which makes us conquer ourselves and makes us choose Jesus and be awake for His visit so that we may love and serve Him better.
 
May the Immaculate Virgin Mary always keep us awake in anticipation of the arrival of her Son without fearing His closeness.  That she may help keep us awake watching and hoping that His blissful and protective arrival will strengthen us in faith, hope, and charity in our family and in our community.  Amen.

Reflections - November 26, 2017

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Mt. 25:40.
 
Today, the Feast of Christ the King, ends Cycle A of the liturgical year and Cycle B begins next Sunday with the first Sunday of Advent.
 
The Prophet Ezekiel presents us with the symbol of the Good Shepherd, the Lord, our God, who watches over His sheep:  “I will seek them out and bring them back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal”.  This is the image of a merciful and gracious God who cares for all His children despite our sins.
 
The Gospel tells us about the coming of the Lord for the second time with his angels:  “and all the nations will be assembled before him”.  This refers to the resurrection of all, Jews and Gentiles, and the trial will be based on the Corporal Works of Mercy towards the weakest, the hungry, the thirty for justice, and the poor.  I would to remind you as we end the liturgical year about the seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
Visit the sick.  Feed the hungry, which by the way there are plenty in our own downtown Miami.  Give drink to the thirsty that ask for justice.  Welcome a stranger.  Clothe the naked by returning to them the fabric of their dignity.  Redeem the captive from the prisons and chains of their souls.  Bury the dead by worrying about the poor who sometimes have no one to help them economically and spiritually face the death of a loved one and this happens in our city.
 
On this Sunday, at the end of the liturgical year Christ, the Supreme Judge of the Truth, invites us as a Church “to open our eyes”.  Pope Francis says in his Gospel Exhortation:  “We need to become a missionary Church who welcomes”, and given the social characteristics of our city “the wounded sheep who have strayed from the flock”.
 
Pope Francis repeats to us:  “The ministers of the Church have to smell like sheep”, but also lay people and the pastoral workers, religious men and women, “and they have to get out of the balconies of their towers, to recognize the Christ of love, in those most insignificant”.  We sometimes find young Christian families in crisis that don’t know where to turn.  More information is needed and more Catholic family counselors need to be available in our parishes to welcome and listen to the many families with difficulties. 
 
Let us pray to Christ, the Lord and King, to give us the spiritual discernment to be “radically available” to work as a missionary Church being instruments of His Kingdom of justice and mercy.  Amen.