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.

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?