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”.

Reflections - June 25, 2017

“Do not be afraid of them.  Do not be afraid of those you kill the body but cannot kill the soul…..”.  Mt. 10:26,28.
 
When I reflect on this Gospel “Do not be afraid”, I remember that our beloved Pope John Paul II would say these words in his apostolic visits, in places where the apostolic work was very difficult, however, he would repeat:  “Do not be afraid”.
 
What does the Lord refer to in today’s Gospel when he told us:  “Do not be afraid”?
Historically we know that when you and I try to live the faith in Jesus Christ there is a price to pay whether social or religious or even with our lives.  We know that although there is not a lot of information given through social media our brothers and sisters in Syria, in the fundamentalist countries, and also in North Korea, China, and Africa, etc. suffer.  We are living in as Pope Francis says:  “the greatest religious persecution of all times with martyrs of all ages”.
 
Since the beginning Christ’s disciples were rejected and persecuted.  The disciple must suffer the same fate as the master.  “No disciple is above his teacher”. Mt. 10:24.  “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”  Mt. 5:11-12.
 
These guarantees were the reason for hope and joy for those early Christians.  However, more important than the death of the body is the death of the soul.  “The love of God must overcome the fear of men”.  We are the family of Christ, the Son of God.  We are obliged to maintain the faith in Him.  Do not be afraid, the power of Christ frees us from the fear of “those who try to take away our inner freedom through marginalizing and slandering and by ideological and social manipulations.  Recall:  “these sufferings also help us grow.  They purify us and are fertile because they partake of the mystery of salvation”.
 
We have the Lord’s promise that strengthens us:  “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father”.  Let us ask the Lord in the Eucharist for the spiritual strength to bear witness to the crucified Christ.  As Paul said:  “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God, 1 Cor. 1:18, in my social, family, community, and working life.

Reflections - June 18, 2017

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”  Jn. 6:54.
 
Today the Church celebrates the feast of “Corpus Christi” or the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  This feast proclaims the faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist with His body, blood, soul and divinity.
 
In today’s readings we reflect on the mystery of the love of Christ, who is given as food for eternal life.
 
In the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy we find that the Lord gives them the “bread from heaven”, the manna, for their walk through the desert to the “Promised Land”.  For us the Promised Land is the “heavenly Jerusalem”.
 
But the Eucharist is also a symbol of unity.  How well St. Paul puts it:  “Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.”  1 Cor. 10:17.  The message after two thousand years is:  that the Eucharist makes us become a community sharing the faith in Christ and sharing in the Christian values of respect for life and the defense of marriage and the family, united to the Pope and to the magisterium of the Church in a world with so much confusion and crisis of Christian values.  The Eucharist also invites us to be:  “bread of life to a world that lives in a deep existential emptiness”.
 
For this world in which you and I live, the Lord tells us in the Gospel:  “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever”.  Some think that only in eternal life, which, of course, is a gift from God, but there is something more here.  It is that when you live united with Christ in the Eucharist you begin to participate in His divine life “and of His spiritual strength that comes from on high” to help you transform the world and be builders of a better future.  We have this example in the saints who were collaborators in the Plan of Salvation with heroic humility and patience.
 
I invite you this week to visit the Blessed Sacrament and worship Him.  In this Sunday’s Mass enjoy the encounter of friendship and gratitude with Christ in the Eucharist.  But also ask yourself:  Do you share your friendship and joy with others?

Reflections - June 11, 2017

“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.
 
This Sunday the Church celebrates the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.
 
The First Reading gives us these beautiful words that came from the mouth of God as he passed before Moses:  “I am the Lord, your God, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity”.  Ex. 34:6.  These beautiful words were expressed to the people of Israel, the people of the revelation of the living and true God.  They were also revealed to Abraham, the father of our faith.
 
However, our Lord and God who manifested Himself to the patriarchs, the prophets and to the chosen people as our only personal and transcendent God, who does not have a beginning or and end, reveals Himself fully to us in the adorable person of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Father’s eternal Son “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made……”.  He becomes flesh in the glorious womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary for our salvation.
 
It is Jesus who speaks to us of the mystery of God.  Jesus tells us:  “The Father and I are one”.  It is Jesus who teaches us to pray to the Father saying:  “Our Father who art in heaven…….”.  It is also Jesus who manifests to the disciples who is the Father, and as we saw last Sunday at the end of His earthly life announced that He “will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate – the Holy Spirit”, Jn. 14:16, to evangelize and help bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God, baptizing “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. Mt. 28:19.
 
I invite you this week when you make the sign of the cross, not only upon waking up or going to sleep, but also during the day to take conscience of the transforming power of the love of God in our soul, that through the Holy Spirit sanctifies and configures in us the image of Christ in communion with His mind and heart.  “And the God of love and peace will be with you.”  2 Cor. 11.

Reflections - June 4, 2017

“”Come, God, the Holy Spirit, and send us from heaven your light to enlighten us…….without your divine inspiration man can do nothing and sin dominates us…..”.
(Pentecost Sequence).
 
Today the Holy Mother Church celebrates the feast of Pentecost and ends the liturgical season of Easter.  On Monday commences Ordinary Time.
 
I would like to dwell briefly on what this feast means.  Pentecost means “fifty” days after the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Today we Christians celebrate the promise of Jesus, the Son of God, who sends us the Holy Spirit to enrich our communities and our lives with His seven gifts.
 
What is the Holy Spirit?  It is the force that transforms everything, for example, it converted some cowardly apostles into courageous messengers of the Word of God given them dedication and self-denial.
 
That same spirit has been poured out through the centuries in the Church.  “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, and we were all given to drink of one
 Spirit”.  1Cor.12:13.
 
Let us reflect this week on what the seven gifts mean in our lives:
 
Gift of Wisdom.  Makes us savor with sympathy and conviction that God is our Savior, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.  It makes us get a taste for prayer, the Word of God, and the Eucharist.
 
Gift of Wisdom.  Is given to Christians to have certainty of what we believe and teaches the Magisterium of the Church, in the light of the Holy Spirit, and to “be consistent with what we believe”.
 
Gift of Counsel.  It is very closely related to the virtue of prudence, to discern and make decisions with upright intentions.
 
Gift of Fortitude.  It is a special force to “give hope and to bring Christ to where others say He cannot go”.  That is how the saints were.  They were able to resist and to give up their lives with the strength of the Holy Spirit.
 
Gift of Science.  This gift helps us to distinguish between the evil spirit and the good spirit, from what is truth to what is false, from “the light and the darkness”, beginning in our lives.
 
Gift of Mercy.  This gift helps us feel a profound love for the things of the Kingdom of God.  It moves us to feel love for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Rosary, the devotion to the Divine Mercy, and to the Blessed Sacrament.
 
Gift of Fear of God.  It is a gift of love, respect and adoration; which leads us to feel with this phrase:  “Die before abandoning you”.  “Because love must be put more into works than into words”.  St. Ignacio.
 
I invite you this week to reflect on the sequence of the Holy Spirit…. without your divine inspiration men and women can do nothing and sin dominates us…...Amen (Sequence)

Reflections - May 28, 2017

“…..I am with you always, until the end of the age.”  Mt. 28:20.
 
The Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Today marks the end of the historical life of Jesus together with the Apostles to be with His Father God, who “bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Phil 2:9-11.
 
In this Gospel of Matthew I find three reflections for this day.
 
In the first reflection Jesus is with the Apostles before going to His Father’s house “appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God”.
Acts 1:3.  Forty days for the people of God had a meaning of intimacy and friendship with the living and true God.  Example:  Moses, the Ten Commandments.
 
However, although the Apostles had lived this experience of faith some “worshiped, but they doubted”.  Mt. 28:17.  All human beings have this experience of doubt and worship through “light and darkness”, faith and doubt, but the Lord continues to be by our side.  The Lord does not abandon us and gives us His friendship.
 
In the second reflection we find the Mission.  “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit….”.  As Pope Francis says:  “It is an invitation by the Lord to His disciples to leave themselves and go toward the periphery, not only geographically, but also existentially:  the mystery of sin and pain, injustices, and ignorance”.  Of course, this message is also for us as the Church, “because when the Church does not come out of itself to evangelize and encloses itself in its “walls” it gets sick and could become a theological narcissism enclosed in itself without allowing it to come out….”.  We evangelize proposing Jesus’ project:  “With Christ, through Him and in Him” (Doxology of the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass).
 
In the third reflection we have the promise of Jesus:  “I am with you always, until the end of the age”.
 
Jesus is with us in the Eucharist and He is also with us in our everyday lives:  work, family, joy and pains, community.  He only is waiting for a response of unconditional love and dedication from us in the new evangelization.

Reflections - May 22, 2017

“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.” 
Jn. 14:21.
 
In today’s Gospel the Lord invites us to fulfill his mandates by making a preferential option to follow Him and to follow His style of life, which is His dedication and love.
 
We know that by our own strength is would be impossible to follow Him and do good.  The Lord tells Peter that he should follow Him in deprivation:  “When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go”, Jn. 21:18.  However the question would be:  From where do we draw spiritual strength?  The Gospel invites us to allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the “Spirit of Truth”, which dwells in us through Baptism and Confirmation.
 
Brothers and sisters, when we give ourselves to the task “of living according to the values of Christ in the world” let us prepare to “suffer for doing good”, 1 Pt 3:16.  However the Lord promises us that we are not alone.  The Holy Spirit will always be with us making us stronger as we carry our daily cross:  “the gallows for some, idiocy for others,….the power of God for us”.  Pope Francis.
 
The Lord’s invitation is to let the Consoling Spirit to take control of our lives, with their crosses, allowing It to act.
 
We know that life is hard, but we also know that Christ left us the Consoling Spirit to strengthen us in our spiritual life and thus overcome the wiles of the enemy without despairing, “The Lord will not leave us orphans”, Jn. 14:18.  Whoever loves Christ has guaranteed the love of the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit when it comes time to make decisions; practicing good and avoiding evil.  As the Apostle Peter says:  “For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.”  1 Pt. 3:17.
 
Let us pray to the Lord in the Eucharist for a spirit of discernment to practice the commandment of love with our neighbors in need by giving them words of encouragement and hope and to accompany them in their solitude.

Reflections - May 14, 2017

“I can assure you that whomever believes in me will do the works I do and will make them even greater…..”.  Jn. 16:12.
 
Today the readings invite us to reflect on the gifts and charismas of our Holy Mother the Church founded by Christ under the teachings of the Apostles.
 
How well the second reading from the Apostle Peter says it:  We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”.  1 Pt. 2:9.
 
Through Baptism we are all children of God and share in the priesthood of Christ who is priest, prophet and king.  We have been born to a new life from darkness to light.
 
From the beginning Our Holy Mother the Church begins to radiate light to all people by going into the world proclaiming the Good News.  “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”  Mk. 16:16.
 
However, as the Church grew together with the Apostles, certain difficulties rose from the community of pagan origin “because widows were not tended to”.  Taking care of widows was very important to the primitive Christian community along with taking care of the poor and orphans.
 
The community of the Apostles gives us a lesson on how “to be creative with the challenges of the new evangelization”.  Pope Francis says:  “Evangelizing is the proper vocation of the Church.  She exists to preach and teach and to be a channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God……..”.
 
The primitive community knew how to adapt to “the signs of the times”, to a new culture, and also to new needs.  The Apostles were “docile to the action of the Holy Spirit”, and discerned through prayer, gifts, charismas, and vocations those who were called people of God.  “They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them”.  Act. 6:6.  They left “filled with the spirit and wisdom” to serve, humbly and simply and above all “bringing” the Word of God to the culture and the needs of that people who were being evangelized.  “I can assure you that whomever believes in me will do the works I do and will make them even greater….”.
 
I do not want to end on this Mother’s Day without expressing our gratitude and prayers for all the living mothers and for all the mothers who are together with the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Kingdom of God.

Reflections - May 7, 2017

“My sheep hear my voice….and they follow me.” Jn. 10:27.
 
Today the Church presents us with the Gospel of the Good Shepherd.
 
Abraham was the first pastor presented in the history of the people of Israel.  He was a nomad who cared for sheep and the Lord called him to leave everything and follow him.
 
The figure of the pastor also appears in Moses.  He went to Median, married and attends the sheep of his father-in-law, Jethro.  Then the Lord appears to him so that he can be the shepherd that liberates Israel from slavery in Egypt.
 
In Jesus’ times the figure of the pastor was the figure of God, who gave His life for His sheep.  The Pastor is gracious and merciful and carries sickness on his shoulders.  They have discovered in Rome’s catacombs a rock with the image of the Lord carrying a weak and sick lamb.  That would be you and I.
 
We know that sometimes the road is long and that in our walk through this world we hear the voice of our Shepherd, but we also hear the voices of the world that “are the thieves of our soul” which seek to destroy us.  However, the Lord gives us, through prayer and the sacraments, the spiritual discernment to know how to distinguish between the voice of our Shepherd Jesus Christ who gave His life for us and the voice of the enemy, “that comes to steal, destroy and kill”.  It is the grace of Jesus Christ who makes us children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
 
The root of our faith and salvation is based on Jesus.  As the Apostle Peter says:  He is the one who helps us “be patient when you suffer for doing what is good.  By his wounds you have been healed.  For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls”. 
1 Pt. 2:20-21, 25.
 
Jesus the Good Shepherd looks for you and me to show His love and teach us that we can change.  Jesus sought Zacchaeus and changed him and Magdalena and changed her.  He also looks for you and me, but do we change?  Do we feel a risen change?  If so, then reflect it in your kindness and “patience” toward the weakest, your children, elderly parents, the community.  Are you the good shepherd for them?
 
Remember that we have a “gate” that we can enter.  When we feel discouraged, He encourages us for as the Lord says:  “I am the gate.  Whoever enters through me will be saved………I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”  Jn. 9-10.