Reflections - November 19, 2017

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities.  Come, share your master’s joy.”  Mt. 25:23.
 
The Gospel this week presents us with the parable of the owner who had many goods and gives each of his employees an amount of money to invest while he was absent.  I would like to highlight the attitude of the owner and of the employees.
 
Who is the owner?  The owner in this parable is Jesus who resurrects and goes to the Father’s house and as it says in the Creed, “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”.
 
What is the meaning of the good or “money” that He leaves for His employees?  The goods are the gifts we receive at Confirmation, the fruits of the Holy Spirit:  charity, spiritual joy, peace, patience, magnanimity, kindness, gentleness, meekness, faith, modesty, and chastity.
 
“After a long time the master came back and settled accounts with them”.  Many think of the final judgment, but I would also add the end of our lives, the particular judgment, when we will be asked an account of the gifts we received.  Where was your charity when you saw me poor, sick, and alone and “did not contribute to the humanization of humans”.
 
We are called to transform society.  We are the hands and lips of Christ, “the pocket of Christ” and “the heart of Christ” when we practice the gift of kindness and also when we practice the gift of patience “with those that make life impossible”.
 
There is also another attitude in this parable of those that “passed through this world without committing themselves to build a fairer society”.  It is sometimes better to get your hands dirty by practicing justice than not committing yourself out of fear.  The Lord will say to you:  “Lazy and fearful servant, why did you not ask me in prayer for help with your laziness and fears so that you could be faithful to My will to serve those most in need.
 
The Parable of the Talents is a reflection on our conscience to be grateful for the gifts we have received and an alert as to how we are practicing them doing the will of God in the service of the community in which we live.
 
I invite you on Thanksgiving Day surrounded by family to thank the Lord for so many spiritual gifts and goods received “from the good owner”, Christ the Lord, and above all for the joy of living in our great nation in peace and freedom.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Reflections - November 12, 2017

“Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”  Mt. 25:13
 
In the Gospel this week the Lord speaks to us about “being prepared”, but in the world in which we live sometimes things come up unexpectantly and we are not prepared.  Modern technological advances make people become “owners of their destiny” living asleep without questioning the consequences of their decisions.
Today in the Gospel of the wise and foolish virgins we find the later to have little foresight when making important decisions in their lives.
 
The foolish virgins were not “wise” as the Gospel says and “brought no oil with them for the delay of the bridegroom”. 
 
What does it mean to be wise?  To be wise in the ways of God means to give Him the first place in my thoughts (that is the oil), as the Book of Wisdom 6:14 says:  “to help that my impulses be governed by a righteous conscience” where the Lord must be the priority in my life as I await His visit.  Remember:  “you know neither the day nor the hour”.  The Lord has many way of visiting us.  Sometimes it could be through a vocational decision to the religious or matrimonial life.  Other times it could be through pain, simple work decisions or an existential crisis when it is not clear the visit of the Lord and “the waiting lengthens”.  This was lived by many saints in their spiritual life, “the dark night”, and at that moment the great temptation is to fill our lives with “empty projects” which cannot fill the waiting of the Lord.
 
We need to learn from the wise virgins.  They teach us that the virtue of wisdom is obtained through prayer to the Holy Spirit (Spirit of strength) so that when the great spiritual tribulations arrive the Spirit will give us discernment to be “awake”, prepared, and alert to act with wisdom according to the will of God.  If my decision is God’s will then my conscience will be calm and I will have peace for the short or long wait of my Lord.  As Pope Francis says:  “aided with prayer and the Sacraments be vigilant and not asleep.  A sleeping Christian is a sad Christian.  He is not happy.  Be happy with the joy of Jesus” to enter into the wedding banquet.
 
Let us also pray to the Queen of Virgins, our Blessed Mother Mary, through the Holy Rosary and let us ask for the grace of wisdom to always live “with the lamps lit filled with good works of love and of Christian hope.

Reflections - November 5, 2017

“The greatest among you must be your servant”.  Mt. 23:11
 
In the Gospel today Jesus speaks to us about the inconsistency between what is said and what is done. 
 
To whom did the Lord direct such strong words?  They were directed towards the scribes and Pharisees.  These men directed the people of God spiritually and they had a great influence in society in the legal aspect of the law.  They also marked standards of conduct and judged and applied the weight of the law towards others even though they, themselves, were a little scrupulous in complying with them.  The Pharisees had removed from the law the human part doing without compassion towards ones neighbor and putting “an unbearable yoke”.  That is why Jesus called them “hypocrites” because many of them lived a double standard and did not fulfill what they imposed.  “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them”.
 
As I said in the beginning they was an inconsistency in their moral behavior between what they said and what they did.  They liked to pretend to occupy the first places.
 
Jesus tries to teach us in the Gospel that some leaders of the people of Israel had lost their sense of being servants of the people of God living blindly in their vainglory and forgetting that the power received from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to serve.  “The greatest among you must be your servant.”
 
What lesson can we, the baptized sons and daughters of God, learn.  First that we must live a consistency of life between what we say and what we do.  As St. Ignatius said:  “Love should be places more in works than in words”.
 
As Baptized Christians we must make an examination of conscience and ask the Lord, through prayer, for the virtue of humility “to discover what is clogging up the veins in our spiritual lives” that does not allow us to detach from the many worries in our lives in order to go in search of the spiritual consistency that Jesus proposes for us:  “deny yourself and follow the cross” to put the best of you at the service of the Kingdom of God.  Remember:  “whoever humbles himself will be exalted”.  Mt. 23:12.

Reflections - October 29, 2017

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…..The second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
Mt. 22:37-38.
 
The first reading in Exodus tells us of a God who loves unconditionally and defends the poor, the orphan, and the widow.  Of course, this is in the context of the Old Testament before the love of God made flesh, Jesus, our Savior, came.
 
We also find in the book of Exodus a phrase that can make us all reflect:  “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”.  The Lord speaks to our conscience about the serious problems of those displaced by tyrannies, wars, hunger, human trafficking because of the prevailing corruption in many countries.  In these situations, unfortunately, those who most suffer are the poor, however, “the God rich in mercy is our lawyer” and asks us for compassion and mercy.
 
There is a second group, “the orphan and the widow”.  For the people of Israel, the Law of Moses protected them because they were the most vulnerable.  The widow was seen helpless to remain alone in a patriarchal culture.  In the Gospel we find a compassionate Jesus towards the suffering of the widow, ex. The widow of Naim….This text from Exodus presents to us a God who defends the homeless, as someone said to me:  “the invisible amongst us who are not counted on in society”.
Yet, everybody counts to our Lord and He invites us to respect the dignity of every person, images of God.
 
In the Gospel we find a group of Pharisees who come to test Jesus and say to him:  “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Jesus answers:  “to love God and your neighbor as yourself”.  To love God for Jesus “is to have God as the most absolute value in our lives”, this means, with the grace of God, to free ourselves from our selfishness.
 
The authentically Christian love is one and it is not divided.  This example is given to us in the lives of the Saints, the feast we celebrate this week.   Saints were men and women who were able to see the face of Jesus “in those marginalized in society like the elderly, widows, etc….”.  Where others said:  “We cannot”, they carried the cross and loved unconditionally “with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind and loved their neighbor as they loved themselves”, with heroic humility.  Their faith in God reflected an unconditional justice to not only help those less fortunate, but to identify with them.
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist and to his mother, Mary to “desire and choose everything that most helps me to love God and to serve my neighbor in need”.  Amen.

Reflections - October 22, 2017

“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. 
Mt. 22:21.
 
This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the religious and political authorities’ rejection to the plan of salvation that Jesus taught.
 
The authorities set a trap for Jesus.  Is it lawful to pay a tax to Caesar or not?  The Lord asks them for a coin because he knew that no law-abiding Israeli would walk around with coins coined by Caesar.  He says to them:  Whose face is this?  They responded that it was of the Caesar.  Then He says:  “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”.  What is it that belongs to God?  Everything belongs to the Lord as the First Reading says:  “Toward the rising and the setting of the sun people may know that there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, there is no other”.
 
Nothing escapes God’s power.  Sometimes seeing the atrocities that are committed, as in the case of the city of Las Vegas, we think that the darkness has a chance to face God and overcome Him, however, darkness cannot escape the plan of salvation manifested in Jesus Christ, who was chosen as a sacrificial victim to purify, sanctify all who believe in Him.
 
We are redeemed creatures of God, His image and likeness.  “We live, move and exist in God”.  That is what gives us the strength to live in the world, without being of the world, as Rom. 13:7 says:  “Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due……”.  To each one his own!  This love is “enduring” as Paul says, we receive it from Jesus Christ, “who makes us leave the prison of our selfishness from the Caesar that controls us”.
 
Upon receiving the Eucharist ask the Lord also for “a thankful memory of what He has done for you through creation, particular gifts, and above all for a strength of heart and discernment of spirit to configure our mind to that of Christ to know how to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to give to God all the honor and glory forever”.  Amen.

Reflections - October 15, 2017

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.”  Mt. 22:2-3.
 
The Lord continues to present to us through parables His willingness to share with all of us His plan of salvation.  The form of presenting it is like an invitation to a great feast without exclusions.
 
Already in the First Reading the Prophet Isaiah speaks tells us that “the Lord will prepare a feast for all peoples”.
 
I would like to dwell briefly on the Lord’s invitation.
 
The Lord, in the “parable of the guests” teaches us that those guests had not merit or power, but that it was “pure gratuitousness of the Lord”.  The only thing that the Lord asked was their unconditional response to compassion and solidarity without exclusions.
 
We see through this parable that the some guests rejected the invitation and some came without being invited, which is something that happens sometimes in our society.  A while ago I attended a wedding feast and many photos and videos were made of the couple with their family, but what was my admiration when it was verified in the video that the one that danced and enjoyed the most “did not have a wedding garment” and was not even invited to the wedding by the couple nor by the couple’s family.  The young man had “slipped” into the party and enjoyed it without being invited.  When he was asked all he said was:  “If we are all Christians why can’t we share together?  Yet there were some who had been invited and said they were going and then did not go and left empty the table and the buffet.
 
In the case of the parable we have the freedom to accept or reject the Lord’s invitation because until the last day of our life God respects our free will even though our salvation is at stake.  Those that accept the invitation to the feast of the Kingdom have the garment of Baptism, God’s grace, who acts in their lives, and manifests themselves in a consistency of life.  As Paul says:  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  It is the strength of Christ who helps us to bring forth fruits of justice and holiness of life in the family and in the community.
 
Brothers and sisters, we are called to participate in the feast of the Kingdom and respond positively to the plan of salvation manifested in Jesus Christ.  Remember that the logic of the love and compassion of Christ is wiser than human thoughts.  “The Lord is more concerned in uniting us in His feast of salvation than making exceptions of people”.

Reflections - October 8, 2017

“When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce…”.  Mt. 21:43
 
Today the parable of the vineyard invites us to deeply ponder Jesus’ message on “when vintage time drew near”.  Vintage time or the harvest for Jesus is the fruit that He expects from us.
 
The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the vineyard as a symbol of Israel.  The message is simple:  the Lord expects abundant fruits.  However, throughout the history of the people of Israel the vineyard did not always bore fruit.  It was sometimes the infidelities that received messages by the Lord, the Prophets, Isaiah, John the Baptist….
 
Yet, “God so loved the world that he sent His only Son”, thinking that they would listen to Him, but He could not collect much fruit from many among the Sanhedrin and those who managed the house of God, the priest of the supreme council.  Then since the Son became a threat for them and for their security of the “Law”, they considered Him blasphemous and eliminated Him on the cross”.  But the stone which the builders rejected then became the cornerstone”.
 
This story of the vineyard is about the leaders of the chosen people, but it is also about us.  Vintage time has arrived and it is up to us to pick fruit for the Lord.  Our harvest is the Kingdom of God with its priorities and values.  But, do I have faith in the fruits of the Kingdom?  Faith is a decision.  Everything that involves hesitation or indecision points to a lack of faith and doesn’t harvest anything.  It just looks for its own selfish interests and cannot create anything.
 
Where can I find the fruits of my harvest?  Your harvest is where you find your difficulties.  You must go to prayer, with humility, and ask the Lord for a sincere compassion and an illuminated faith towards the poor, unborn, and the elderly that are sometimes abandoned and abused,  “He who has eyes to see then see”.  Look what we saw in this disaster of hurricane Irma when many elderly people died in very precarious situations in a home.  How different would it have been if the concern had been expressed in an active presence before those fateful days.  Harvest day is everyday in which our brothers and sisters are in need of food, in which the sick are visited and the poor who suffer in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, and the Caribbean receive our help and prayers.  That is the harvest that the Lord asks of us.

Reflections - October 1, 2017

“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entertaining the kingdom of God before you.”  Mt. 21:31.
 
Today the Gospel presents us with two attitudes to the Lord’s call and the change of life.  In Jesus’ time there were two well-defined groups of Jews.  One group was the law-abiding Jews, the “righteous” and the Jews that were not observant and “did not know the law, is accursed”. Jn. 7:49.  Jesus called these groups obedient and disobedient.  The younger obedient son said yes, but “only with words”.  Jesus says that this is not enough.  “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven”.  Mt. 7:21.  Deep inside they were afraid to make changes and did not accept the praxis of Jesus and His conception of the Kingdom of God, which now came close to all:  “it was the finger of a God who wanted to forgive everyone, unconditionally” however they did not accept Him and stayed in “their laws” that gave them “security” without having to “make changes in their lives”.
 
On the contrary the publicans, the despised sinners, “the cursed of God”, accepted His call to penance, repented, and changed their lives as it says in the first reading:  “But if a sinner turns from the wickedness he has committed, and does what is right and just, he shall preserve his live; since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die”.  Ez 18:28.  The compliers remained in their righteousness and rejected the righteous for their excellence.
 
The Lord also invites us to ask ourselves how we respond to His call of change.  Do I say yes with superficiality and without compromise because I believe I am already saved because of my seniority in the faith and because I do not kill or commit theft or do I recognize my weaknesses and allow myself to be instructed in the ways of the Lord who “guides the humble rightly, and teaches the humble the way” from the heart, Ps 25:9, “having among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who humbled himself becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross”.  Phil 2:5-8.
 
As we receive the Eucharist we could ask ourselves:  Lord, why am I afraid of You transforming my heart and my mind?

Reflections - September 24, 2017

“…..the last will be first, and the first will be last.”  Mt. 20:16
 
Today’s Gospel presents us with the Lord as the kind owner.
 
Jesus is the owner who calls us to work for His Kingdom, which is the vineyard.  The paycheck is the reward of our salvation.
 
Let me explain that Christians who came from Judaism wrote this Gospel.  Emphasis is given that “we are all God’s people” and it is there where the perspective in the Old Testament of the chosen people is changed.  Now all the converted, Israelites and pagans are converted into People of God by the grace of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
 
This Gospel can also be deemed as a catechesis for the converted Israelites to accept into their communities the new converted pagans of the Christian faith and can also be seen as an answer to the Pharisees, who did not accept that Jesus would host publicans and sinners.
 
In this sense of conversion we must also understand that in the parable “the laborers contracted at the end of the day” were the sinners, “the contaminated, according to the law”, the ones that were not among the people of Israel, but that “opened their hearts” and were converted to the message of salvation from our Lord Jesus Christ and that at the end of the day “received the same reward of salvation”.
 
What lesson can we draw from this parable of the Kingdom?
 
The lesson is:  Everything is grace and a gift from God.  “The last and the first” receive the reward of salvation when they “believe in Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation”.  Catechesis #161.  To work in His vineyard is have faith and “to fight the good fight, keeping the faith and a straight conscience….”.  Catechesis #162.  It does not matter if you started to walk in the ways of the Lord “in the morning or at dusk”.  What matter is to be “faithful to the grace of God and His generosity”.  In the salvation that the Lord gives us there is no “seniority”.  “The Lord does not exempt anyone”.  What counts is for us to be humble of heart to be able to accept His invitation to change our lives.  Amen.

Reflections - September 17, 2017

“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  Mt. 18:21.
 
We live in a world where recognizing our faults and apologizing for them is disappearing from our vocabulary.  The most we hear some people say is “I’m sorry”, but, “I’m sorry”, and what else?  We must be able to admit when we fail and ask forgiveness with a sincere apology.  There can be no reconciliation if we do not dislodge defensive attitudes, that we see at all levels, which prevent us from admitting our sins and also reinforces resentments toward our neighbor.
 
What prevents us from forgiving?  Well the Catechism of the Church #1865 tells us of the deadly sins and enumerates the sin of pride:  “It is the sin that obscures the conscience and corrupts the concrete valuation of good and evil”.
 
If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?  As many as seven times.  I believe that in some current environments not even one time would be forgiven.  But these attitudes bring much affective and spiritual pain.  This is why Jesus tells us that there is no limit to forgiveness.  Forgiveness is our spiritual healing and it is within our plan of salvation.  Also the person that forgives and admits his/her error receives peace and spiritual relief because they are associating with the redemption of Christ, whose generosity and welcome has no limits – is infinite.  A specialist in medicine, a practicing Catholic, told me “that in his professional experience a good confession ‘reconciles us affectively and spiritually’ with our brother and the Lord”.
 
I invite you to pray the Our Father slowly this week when you receive the Holy Eucharist and to pause to reflect on the phrase:  “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”.  This prayer can also help “restore many family and community wounds”.  Amen.

Reflections - September 10, 2017

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.  If he listens to you, you have won over your brother…..”.  Mt. 18:15
 
This phrase spoken by Christ is part of what we call the fraternal correction.  It is a lesson from the primitive communities that were formed around the Disciples of Christ.  Different groups with different cultures formed these communities.  Some
came from the pagan world, so, of course, tensions and tangles were not alien to the communities’ reality, which can also be repeated in the present time.
 
In the light of the Gospel we can see that in most community and social conflicts the presence of the Lord and His compassion were absent.  We hear in the Second Reading:  “Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another…….Love does no evil to the neighbor”.  Rom. 13:8.
 
We know that in human relations there are always frictions and misunderstandings.  In this Gospel the Lord invites us to have a positive relationship and to not seek the destruction or devalue of our neighbor by lies or slander.  We must practice fraternal charity with those that wrong us, with those that we do not like, or that make our “lives a yogurt” within our family, working, and community environment.  We must remember that these brothers and sisters are our neighbors  “What do we know about what is in the heart and mind of those who offend us” – they are also children of God and are “signs of how you are living the maturity of your faith”.
 
Pope Francis tells us:  “I exhort you to care for each other by loving one another….it is a demanding path that requires “patience and mercy”  even in unchristian environments.  For this reason God sent forth His Son so that He would carry our sins.  Let us be messengers and witnesses of the infinite goodness of the Father”.
 
I leave you here with this prayer to use when you receive the Eucharist:  Lord, help me to be merciful with my neighbor as you have been with me.  Give me the spiritual strength to always forgive that brother or sister who offends me and to those who I have offended through thought, word and deed.  Help me learn, as the Pope says:  “to ask for pardon from my neighbor” and repentant go to Confession”.

Reflections - September 3, 2017

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”  Mt. 16:24.
 
Last week in the Gospel Jesus asked:  “Who do you say that I am?”  Peter inspired by the Holy Spirit answered, “You are the Christ”.  Today in the Gospel Jesus begins to announce:  “……that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly……that he would be killed and on the third day be raised.  Peter took him aside and tried to dissuade him, but Jesus turned to Peter and said:  “Get behind me, Satan!  You are an obstacle to me”.  He later tells them:  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me”.
 
This week’s question is not:  Who is Christ for me?  But should be:  What “idols” do I have to renounce to follow Him?  Because as we saw the previous week, we can know “theoretically or superficially” who is Jesus without commitment.
 
To follow Jesus is to seek in all the moments of life “the will of the Father as Jesus did”.  As Paul says:  “ To allow a new way of thinking to transform a renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”  Rom. 12:2.
 
Of course, the will of God is not to glorify abuse, injustice, and at times psychological humiliation.  What I am trying to explain is that suffering will always be around as we walk through this world and when we assume it with faith we will receive “a new way of thinking and seeing things”.  St. Teresa said:  “Strength is needed, not corporal, but strength from up above, to be able to remain silent when one is wrongly accused”.  We must ask the Lord for the virtue of humility.  Since the really humble person, when compared with Jesus who was convicted without guilt, sees clearly an opportunity for spiritual growth, a purification of the ego, and an offer to the sacrifice of Christ through prayer.
 
I do not wish to end without reminding you that this Friday, September 8th, is the feast of Our Lady of Charity, the Patroness of Cuba.  The mother, Holy Mary, gives us an example on how to follow Jesus.  St. Teresa said:  “…..that the Lord gives great jobs to His favorites, among them the Cross”.  Let us imitate the example of Mary, her perseverance of suffering with Christ and reigning with her risen Son”.  Amen.

Reflections - August 27, 2017

“But, who do you say that I am?”  Mt. 16:15.
 
In this week’s Gospel Jesus asks His disciples what they know about Him and then later, through Peter, entrusts them to build His Holy Church.
 
I would like to dwell briefly on this phrase that Jesus said:  “Who do you say that I am?”
 
I do not know why, but I imagine the Lord in one of our malls or in our churches asking this question by way of a survey.  In Peter’s case, he responded by what the people believed and were hoping for:  “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. 
 
Yet Jesus makes a personal question, “a question that compromises the life and the salvation of human beings”.  Peter that “bows to the light of the Holy Spirit” gives the response, so that the Glory of God will manifest itself:  “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God”.  If the Lord would ask you:  “Who do you say that I am”, what would you respond through your faith experience?
 
Maybe some would answer:  “Jesus was a good man…but I will not commit myself”.  Others might say:  “He was a leader for rights…”, but can do without His style of living “to love your enemy, deny oneself and take up the cross”.  Still others will give an even sadder response answering “with indifference”, as the book of Revelations says:  “Neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either cold or hot”. Rv 3:15.  Some will respond with an infant catechism received many years ago but seems “small” at present, as Mons. Roman would say “for a body and soul of an adult”.  An adult with challenges and psychological wounds that have left very deep traces over the years and now look for answers of adult faith for spiritual healing.
 
For simple people, “He is the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  These are husbands and wives, the religious, the youth, people who attend Alcoholics Anonymous, single mothers….people who perhaps do not come out in any media outlet because “they are not news”, but who have recognized, “with deep wisdom and Christian humility”, the way of God.  They have recognized that everything comes from God…..”For from him and through him and for him are all things”.  Rom 11:36.
 
Let us say to the Lord as we receive the Eucharist:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.  And together with Peter and his apostles let us unite with the Church to evangelize and carry a message of hope and of salvation reflecting what the Lord has done in our lives.

Reflections - August 20, 2017

“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
Mt. 15:28.
 
Today the Gospel presents us with Jesus’ faith on a Canaanite mother, distressed by the illness of her daughter.
 
It is important to emphasize in this story the plea of the mother, a Canaanite, a foreigner, who hears strong words from Jesus’ lips:  “I was sent only to the lost sheep….of Israel”.  One must reflect on the context in which this Gospel was written in order to understand it.
 
In the Old Testament the name Canaanite was designated to the pagans who did not belong to the chosen people of Israel.  Also the word “dog” was used
in a derogatory way for foreigners who did not share the faith in the one true God.
 
However Jesus welcomes this woman and with this miracle teaches us His unconditional and universal love for all races and peoples.  All He asks is Faith.
 
An example that we can draw from this woman for our own Christian life is her faith in the face of obstacles that presented themselves to her.  She did not become discouraged, but insisted as Ephesians says:  “With all prayer and supplication be constant, pray at every opportunity”.  Eph 6:18.  This consistency of undaunted prayer reached Jesus’ heart and He exclaimed:  “O woman, great is your faith!”  It occurs to me to ask this question:  Can the Lord say the same about our faith?
 
Another lesson is the sensitivity of that woman towards the needs of her neighbor.  Faith sometimes makes us be detached and not open our eyes to see the needs of others.  Some would say:  It was her daughter.  Yes, but sometimes that lack of faith makes us selfish and can blind us to the needs of others – even those that are close to us.
 
I would not like to finish without inviting you this week to reflect on the attitude of spiritual poverty of this Canaanite mother, “in need of the Lord’s mercy”.  Perhaps this woman had heard these words about faith from Christ:  “Ask and receive….seek and find….knock and the door shall be opened”.  In that beautiful afternoon, which, by the way, I don’t know why it occurs to me that it was in the “afternoon”, “the poverty of a soul in need and the unconditional love of the Heart of Jesus, rich in mercy, were found.  There the Canaanite woman found not only the miracle for her daughter, but her salvation, “O woman, great is your faith!”

Reflections - August 13, 2017

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Mt. 14:27
 
 
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus responds to our human condition of  the “fear to the uncertainties of life”.
 
A few days ago this lady told me:  “Sometimes I fear life because one makes plans and has dreams and then family storms appear that change our plans, however “my antidote” against fear is daily prayer.   This is where I put my trust in Jesus and He tells me:  “Do not be afraid”.
 
Today we hear Jesus also tell his disciples and us as well “Do not be afraid”.  He knows our human conditions, our limitations, the emotional and psychological obstacles we face in life, but Jesus took on our human conditions, except sin, “to give us life in abundance”.  Jn. 10:10.
 
In the Gospel there is an invitation from the Lord to Peter to walk on troubled waters despite his “limits of faith”.  Now, where is Peter?  Today Peter is you and I called by the Lord to find Him “in the troubled waters of every day life” by putting our eyes on Him and praying with faith to “get into the storm” and make us aware of the needs and fears of others.
 
Our brothers and sisters suffer, especially the elderly, the sick, the single mothers, and the couples with marital problems.  They all suffer alone and abandoned.  They live in the troubled waters of life and hope that “someone will help them face the storms with faith and hope by giving them assistance and love”.
 
When we set our eyes on Jesus we sometimes discover “many storms in our homes, communities, society and life”, but we then must listen to the words of Jesus:  “Do not be afraid….I have conquered the world”.  This is the message that we must bring to the world, a message of encouragement, joy and Christian hope.
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist and in our prayers to feel peace and to bring peace and courage through good council and through the readings of the Word of God to the needy and above all to remind them:  “that decisions should not be made in troubled times because we could sink, like Peter.  We must keep our eyes of faith fixed on Jesus who encourages us and gives us calm.  Go ahead, it is I.  Do not be afraid!

Reflections - August 6, 2017

“This is my beloved son....listen to him.”  Mt. 17:5.
 
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.
 
This passage of the Transfiguration appears in the three Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which indicates the importance of this passage.
 
I would like to reflect on why this manifestation.  In the first place who is Jesus?  From the cloud, a symbol of the mystery of God, he reveals to us “His beloved Son”.  We know, as John says, that Jesus is the eternal Word of the Father.  Jesus also manifests this:  “My food is to do the will of the Father”.
 
Doing the will of the Father lead Jesus to the extreme of dying for obedience to the plan of salvation.  If Abraham was promised descendants“ more numerous than the stars in heaven” for doing the will of God, Jesus, because of His obedient love, was given by the Father any infinite number of descendants, who are you and I by our Baptism.
 
Now the question to ask would be:  Do we listen to God in this world of so much “spiritual soldering”?”  What was God telling me with the phrase:  “listen to Him”?  Is there something that He wants me to listen?
 
For the apostles, to “listen to Him” meant to do His will to “carry the cross”.
That is why they went to Jerusalem, so that He would be honored, appreciated, distinguished? No, to listen to Jesus is to do His will.  It is to become intimate with Him.  They say that one day Jesus appeared to St. Catherine of Sienna and offered her two crowns, one of roses and the other of thorns.  Then Jesus said:  “Pick the one you want”.  St. Catherine looked at Him and said:  “Lord, I want yours”.  He then gave her the crown of thorns.  “What do I want with a crown of roses if my Lord and God has a crown of thorns”.  What a beautiful example of spiritual finesse!
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist to listen to His invitation to come down to the Jerusalem of our everyday life accepting the cross and thorns of every day life in love and service to all our brothers and sisters.  Amen.

Reflections - July 30, 2017

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  Mt. 13:44.
 
This Sunday the Lord continues to speak to us in parables about the Kingdom of God.
 
I would on this day like to dwell on the word:  Kingdom of God.  What does Jesus mean by the Kingdom?  For Jesus the Kingdom was what was received like “a treasure” but one had to look for it with faith.
 
It also was like the “net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind……”.  These examples were taught by Jesus to awaken the faith in the Kingdom.
 
Jesus’ faith was not magical power, but a free decision of every man and woman in favor of the Kingdom.  As we see in these parables a transformation of the mind and heart was always sought.  As Jesus said:  “Seek first the kingdom of God, in it put your heart”. Mt. 6:13.  “For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”  Mt. 6:19-21.
 
This faith that Jesus asks from us in His Kingdom is a re-radicalized direction of our lives and our priorities.  The faith in the Kingdom of God is synonymous with what you and I believe and hope.  Faith cannot be “ideas”, knowledge that “sound good”, but if they do not pass the “Test” of compassion for others remains just “beautiful ideas”. True faith and hope in the Kingdom of Jesus is not possible without the praxis of compassion and Christian commitment.
 
Some good questions for this Sunday would be:  To whose service am I putting my loyalty and priority?  Is my faith in the Kingdom of Jesus the hidden treasure that I risk everything to obtain?
 
Despite all the miseries the Kingdom is here because good is more powerful than evil and truth is stronger than lies.  Christ through his life, death, and resurrection teaches us that in the end good and truth will triumph.  “Take courage and have faith for I have conquered the world”.  Jn. 16:33.
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist for sensitivity of the heart to make a “good choice” for the Kingdom of love and service among the poor and the needy.  That is our “treasure”.  We need only to “open our eyes and heart to find it”.

Reflections - July 23, 2017

He proposed another parable to them.  “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”  Mt. 13:31-32.
 
The Lord continues to speak to us in parables about the Kingdome of God and says:  “that he who has ears to hear should hear ”.
 
We live in a world of great extroversion and a lot of noise that takes away our sensitivity of knowing how to listen.  Yet God transmits 24 hours a day, sometimes very simple things like a child’s smile or the compassion of some young people who spend their vacations working to help build houses for poor families in Central America.
 
We find it difficult to accept that that small seed of faith that we receive in Baptism can bear fruit in a social environment where the grandiose is what counts.  Also in Christ’s time the people of Israel felt that when the Kingdom of God came it would introduce a new era of peace, power, and triumph and the symbol for them was “the cedars of Lebanon”, because with a height of more than ninety meters birds of all species would nest in its shadow.
 
However, Jesus in this parable proposes something very different.  He says that the Kingdom of God is similar to a “grain of mustard seed”, the smallest of all the seeds.
 
What is the Lord trying to tell us with this insignificant seed?   He is trying to tell us that the Kingdom of God is not the spectacular place that we expect, but it is the opposite.  Jesus’ parable invites us to find that small, sometimes “-insignificant” seed of faith in our daily lives.  To find it in the sacrifice of a father and the sacrifice of children for their parents, in the commitment of a religious woman, etc. because the seed of the kingdom is inside us and it grows, but not like “a cedar from Lebanon”.  It grows modestly in the simplicity of our lives.
 
This parable can also make us reflect on how we may want to evangelize trusting that is will become a “great visible organization”.  If this is how we think then perhaps we have not understood the secret of the mustard seed and the idea that Jesus had for the success of the Kingdom of God.  The Kingdom of God manifests itself in the small changes of our attitudes and the conduct of a repentant soul that perhaps no one notices.  It manifests itself in the charity and compassion toward our neighbor.  These are the mighty works of the Lord and not the great external triumphs.
 
Let us give thanks to the Lord in the Eucharist “for the grain of mustard seed of the Kingdom of God that grows quietly in our everyday life”.

Reflections - July 9, 2017

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  Mt. 11:28-30.
 
The Church presents us with Jesus who is concerned about our needs.  Our toils and human sufferings are not foreign to the Lord.
 
In moments of pain human beings sometimes do not know where to go.  Some start drinking while others feel an “existential emptiness” that makes them ask:  Why did I come into this world just to suffer?
 
However, the Lord is not a stranger to our existential tribulations, “he assumed our human condition and became like us in all except sin”.  He only asks for our submission and obedience.
 
The Jews in Jesus’ time knew very well the submission to the law.  The requirements of the Law of Moses were somewhat overwhelming, but above all the “compliance” for the marginalized of society, women, children, sinners. They were given the same dignity of respect and love. As we see in His life, Jesus did not reject the law, but relativizes the “human traditions” against the commandment to “love your neighbor”.  “It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles that person; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.”  Mt. 15:11.  The Lord’s mercy humiliates the haughty and arrogant heart of a human being, yet it is the refuge of those that have nowhere to go and that have no hope.
 
Jesus sees us as a family of brothers and sisters who have God as a loving Father.
 
Jesus does not look down on us from the top of His power, but from our misery and our sin and invites us as baptized to allow “the tired and overwhelmed”, our neighbor, find in us the rest and understanding of Jesus.  All this we ask in the Eucharist that we will receive.  Amen.

Reflections - July 2, 2017

“Whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”.  Mt. 10:42.
 
The Church continues to present in the Gospel the following of Jesus Christ.
 
Jesus asks us for absolute loyalty and fidelity to His person, which is reflected in our attitude toward our neighbor.  It could sometimes be small, “ a glass of water”, but in the context in which He spoke, Jesus had a deeper meaning of life.  Jesus wants to indicate in this Gospel that any work, effort, sacrifice for thy neighbor, no matter how small, will be rewarded, “the evangelical radicalism” means:  “carry the daily cross and follow Him”.
 
To what cross does Jesus refer?  It is to assume the every day difficulties.  From the moment we come into this world we encounter difficulties and sufferings, but I have good news.  “When you carry your cross, you are not alone.  Christ goes ahead of you and nothing will happen to you that did not happen to Him” and remember what He tells us:  “Have faith.  I have overcome the world”.
 
We sometimes forget that “heaven is won here”.  That is why what we do here for our neighbor has such importance.  God has created us, we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, we are God’s family, therefore our neighbor cannot be indifferent to us.
 
Now the serious question:  How are we going to serve Christ in our neighbor?
 
There is a virtue that helps us to follow Jesus – His humility, which is synonymous with:  to refuse oneself, carry His cross and follow Him.  That is our “Social Security” that identifies us as servants of Christ and opens the door to heaven.
 
We ask the Lord in the Eucharist for the same sentiments of simplicity and friendship that He had to “love and serve Him more” through the most needy.  In other words to discover “His presence in everything that sanctifies me – that is my reward”.