Jan 26, 2015

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jesus quiere que todos los hombres se salvan. Todos tenemos la mision de predicar la Buena Nueva. En todas las circumstancias de nuestra vida, podemos predicar, sobre todo con las buenas obras. Para ir en contra de la corriente.

Jesus begins to preach and says “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. If you lived in a land of darkness and light was coming towards you, if you longed for freedom you would have cause to rejoice and run towards to meet the light and embrace it grateful for this gift.

But, on the other hand, if you are used to living in darkness, where selfishness can brood, and where the devil hides as do those who work with him and often time unknowingly, when light approaches, they run into darker hiding places.  Why? Because the light of truth is often too painful, fear is stronger than their faith.  

Maybe this is the reason that Christ chose fishermen as his first disciples. Not the fishermen of sharks and whales. But fishermen of the slippery fish that often get away and therefore have to be patient and gentle if they are to bring their catch into the light of day.

Peter, Andrew, James and John, understood the world of the sea and ocean. In a way, the creatures that live in the depths of the sea can reflect humanity living in darkness. The depths of the ocean, as beautiful as it may be to the underwater diver with snorkel and mask -  it is a place where creatures live in constant fear, fear of everything.  Fish are good at disguise. They can armor themselves with beauty or with poison. They can hide themselves in cracks and rocks, nervous and afraid, even of other fish that do not look like them. They sometimes instinctively group together to appear to be larger than life.  Do we not do a lot of hiding, living in fear, living lives of isolation and suspicion. Sometimes we try to make ourselves bigger than what we really are or disguise ourselves so as not to be noticed, even by God. Maybe we could say that God sent his Son because when he looked at humanity he thought to himself, "There's something fishy going on down there!!!"

Christ would instructs his fishermen-apostles to rescue men and women from such a life, and bring them to dry land where they would finally find their feet and stand upright in the light of day and be able to see the big and beautiful world from a heavenly perspective.  Light can heal.  But Christ’s light is not a blast of blinding light. Christ’s light, like himself and those whom he asks to help him reach out to the lost and the wounded, his light is gentle, patient.

With the Season of Lent fast approaching, and so that it doesnt arrive at our doorstep without warning with a big splash, it would be wise to begin getting ourselves ready.  Use the Parish Companion Prayer Book in the pew to help you get ready for the Healing Sacrament of Confession. Use the availability of confessions before every Sunday Mass to allow Christ to guide your way out of the labyrinth of darkness we often find ourselves constantly living in. Respond to this Good News :“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Psalm 95)

(CCC 1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”7 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.”)

Jan 23, 2015

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Señor Jesus, que vienes a nuestro encuentro cada día, ayúdanos a descubrirte lucidez, a seguirte con generosidad y a anunciar tu misterio y tu mensaje a nuestros hermanos.

St. John the Baptist had attracted many people by his message of repentance and the need for conversion in preparation for their encounter with Christ. Now as the Lord has entered into the scene, John points his own followers in the direction of Christ. John, having attracted thousands of people now retreats back into obscurity. He has fulfilled his mission, to prepare the way for the Lord. He could have joined Christ, and the two of them could have been a powerful force together, but no. Because John was a man of prayer, a man who was not afraid of self-denial, a man who would not allow himself to be distracted by the false comforts the world offered, John was graced to authentically know himself, and was therefore happy to accept the God-given purpose of his life.  

There are times, when we are asked by God to take the "back seat", to sit something out, to change gear.  None of us likes to be told we are dispensable. Indeed the graveyard is full of indispensable people!  Our roles and responsibilities can often change, even when we least expect. Parents are often faced with this when, for example, their children grow up and leave home and become independent. Roles change.  Or when, for example, if you have a particular expertize in something or maybe you might be expecting something like a promotion, and you are passed over.

Or it could be that having reached a point on your life, you are forced to realise that we are not as young and strong as you thought you were!  St. John the Baptist can encourage us to see that God's grace and peace in our lives does not depend on the great things that we do ourselves. Inner peace and grace from God comes from not allowing our ego to get in the way of God's plan - that God does not need to ask my permission for the unfolding his plan.  He doesn't need my advice, even though I am often quick to give it!  "Here I am Lord, you come to do my will!!!!"  

Whereas St. John the Baptist was graced early on in his life to know what is God-given role and purpose in life was, for most of us, God does not tell us what he needs of us in such a direct manner.  Neither does the Almighty God bully us to submission or intimidate us with this all-powerfulness so that he can have us accomplish his will.

Instead, he plants deep in our hearts a holy longing to seek him out, a restlessness of the soul.  Getting to know Him, takes time - often a whole life time, and so it is never on our own terms or according to our own agenda. The portion of the Gospel we have listened to spells this out: just when we get used to following Christ, he will turn around and ask us what we are looking for?  He does not allow us to follow him on cruise control.  He asks us to examine our conscience and our intentions.

How do we do this practically? Regular preparation for the Sacrament of Confession allows us to respond to Christ's question, "What are you looking for?".  It allows us to examine our conscience, to discern if we have unwittingly or on purpose put another savior before Him. The grace of Confession allows us to ask Christ, with genuine interest and childlike curiosity, "Where are you staying - where do you live?"  and to then hear His voice - "Come and See". This is Christ's invitation - to spend time with Him.  (In preparing couples for marriage, I will often tell them to spend time, waste time with each other, be curious, never be content that you think you know everything about them, and that you have nothing more to offer, no more sacrifices you can make).  

Don't be afraid of wasting time in prayer, getting to know Christ deeper and deeper. During the coming months, we will talk more about prayer, about finding the right words to talk to God with, and at times, using no words at all - simply spending time in His presence, allowing him to reveal more and more of himself - relationships are always two way.  And of course, our Blessed Mother will help us. If we come across her, she will always point us to where Christ is staying and give us good directions how to get to His house. She knows Christ intimately. And she is happy to share him.

Jan 4, 2015

Epiphany of the Lord

In the gospel today, which presents to us again the baby Jesus (who, outside of Mary and Joseph, is only known locally to some nearby shepherds), with the arrival of these mysterious visitors from the east, we are given a hint of something bigger brewing on the horizon. We could talk much about what the message their gifts communicate. Instead, I want to highlight a battle brewing between two kings and two kingdoms.  And the question, which kingdom do you do you find yourself in, or which kingdom do you wish to journey into, or escape from?

It's almost like a game of chess. On one side is Christ, the newborn king of the Jews, an infant king, a defenseless baby born in the little village of Bethlehem. The other is the king of the known world- the emperor of the great Roman Empire, who styles himself divine, calls himself a son of a god and who has at his beck and call, an army of hundreds of thousands. The differences could not be any greater.

Will these two kingdoms ever meet head on?  Yes. We have listened to the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew. It would not be cheating to go to the end of his gospel to reflect on how he concludes it - the end game, in a manner of speaking.

When Christ was born, Rome's puppet king in the Middle East, Herod, would seek the child's death. As a man, Christ will stand before Herod's father and before the Emperor's representative, Pontius Pilate.

The magi from the east enquire in Jerusalem the whereabouts of the newborn King of the Jews. They were the first set of foreigners to do homage to the King of Kings. The second set of foreigners to do so would be thirty years later, when the roman soldiers of Jerusalem would lay hands on Jesus and mockingly hail him, "King of the Jews".

In his infancy these wise men bring the newborn king gifts  - gold for a king, incense for a deity, myrrh - a bitter herb to anoint his body . The emperor's soldiers will later present him with their own gifts- a crown of thorns, a scarlet cloak and a reed branch as a pretend scepter.

In the beginning a star appeared announcing his birth to world with much excitement. At his death, the sun is blackened out, the world is thrown in darkness and confusion.

Whereas the ancient Roman Empire existed for only a few hundred years in one corner of the world, this little child of Bethlehem was born to make the ultimate sacrifice - to save all of humanity throughout all of time and throughout all ages. So much so that a Roman centurion standing on the hill of Calvary would switch his allegiance from the emperor to Christ the King and make a bold public proclamation to all the world,” truly, this was the Son of God".

It is a good meditation for us to reflect on. Which side are we on? How do we show our allegiance? What gifts do we bring to demonstrate our loyalty and our service? Do we at times try to serve two masters?  God cannot be fooled. He knows what side we take, which king we pay tribute to.

Finally, if the rules of chess are anything to go by, let us not forget the role of the most powerful piece on the board- the queen. If we lose her, we risk losing the battle. She is, of course, Mary, our queen. We protect her as St Joseph did, as she is so crucial to the plan of salvation. 

And from her son's wooden throne, the cross, where Christ the king initiated his kingdom, the King of Kings entrusted his own mother into our homes. May she continue to remind us of where our own true loyalties must be.  Her loyalty should inspire us not to be afraid of the cost of discipleship, to be confident that, despite appearances, even if our castle crumbles, our pawns are captured, our knights fall off their horse - and even if we are missing our bishop - it’s not the end game.  In fact, God does not play games with us.  Even though the wise are surprised by a little helpless child in a manger or of a body of a crucified man on a cross, victory over the powers of this world have been secured by Christ’s life, his death and his resurrection.  

For the Kingdom, the power and the glory is his, now and forever.

Dec 28, 2014

The Holy Family

Having celebrated the birth of Christ, the Church now reflects that his birth was not “out of the blue”. Christ was born into a family – a family with true and real felt relationships. Christ experienced the relationship between Joseph and Mary as a husband and wife. As a child he grew up experiencing the sacred and natural bond one would expect between a mother and a child. And let’s not forget St. Joseph his legal father, his foster father. St. Joseph’s influence on the child helped Jesus to grow into an appreciation of the duties of manhood, the responsibilities needed to protect, provide and serve the family.
And let’s not forget the extended family of Joseph and Mary. Too often we only picture them as a threesome. This is hardly the experience of family life in the Middle East. Much like life family life in Hispanic or Mediterranean cultures, and indeed many cultures throughout the world, it is worth meditating that Christ had aunts and uncles, and cousins, first, second and third cousins who were all like brothers and sisters to him growing up. Let’s not forget his grandparents – Joachim and Anne, Mary’s parents. And from Joseph’s genealogy as recorded in St. Matthew’s gospel, Jesus also had a grandfather called Jacob.
A Christian “writes” the account of the family life of Jesus by the environment of their very own family life and home.  You can have Christ himself part of all your family joys, sorrows, tensions and celebrations. That is what family that prays together accomplishes.
But I understand too the great challenges the modern family faces every day. The fragmentation of time and the greater efforts demanded of parents because of long work hours, the intrusion of electronic media, the inability or reluctance to incorporate family prayer into daily life, and weekly attendance at Mass – this all takes constant encouragement and the dedication of time. But the sacrifice is worth it.
God could have simply appeared among us in the form of Jesus Christ. But he didn’t. Out of his love and concern for us, he was born into a human family; he grew up within true and genuine relationships with all their joys and tensions.  It was from Mary and Joseph, that God first experienced in his humanity, the tenderness of human love and the necessity of family life – so much so that even from the cross, He has asked us to take His mother into our safekeeping – Mary becomes our spiritual mother!
As children of God, let us pray for the strengthening of our family bonds, for the healing of relationships and the renewal of our identity as sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. May St. Joseph be always watchful over us and the angels and saints, the family of heaven, encourage and guide us.

Dec 25, 2014

Christmas and Santa

I would like to begin the sermon by making an important statement regarding the existence of Santa!  I want to speak to the adults, and in particular to the parents - especially because it is your responsibility not only to tell the truth, but to live the truth. Yes, I know there are children listening in - but I have to be frank. Let’s tell the truth.  

Does Santa Exist? [Father is looking around - everyone seems nervous - parents with small children are holding their breath!!] Santa does exist. [Exhale everyone!!] Of course Santa exists, he always did, he always does and he will always exist- and how dare anyone say he doesn't! Whoever does not believe, might as well say that you don’t exist!!

You can tell a lot from someone by their name - Santa.  It means “holy”, a saint.  Look around this church tonight.  We have a lot of pictures, images of many santas - santas of the first century, santas of the middle ages, santas of the 20th century! We have Santo Pio, Santa Teresa, Santo Antonio, Santa Rose, Santa Margaret, and of course - Santa Maria.

Of course santa exists! Even now. Parents, you have to do your work (wink, wink!!), you have to be holy, not just tonight, but be holy every day. You have to do the impossible, you have to be everywhere at the same time, you have to have to push your sledge through the grocery store, or navigate it through rush hour traffic. You have to be everywhere at once.  This is what santa does. But you can only do the impossible, but only insofar as you are holy, that you have been “santa-fied”.

Santa does not wear a costume.  He does not need one.  It’s his everyday clothes.  Even though it is important that we wear special clothes to mark special occasions, to be a saint, to be holy - you have to go to  “santa school”.  It is when parents pray together and with their children.  The family at prayer is the family sanctified, made holy.  

Now, a word about where santa lives and why he lives there.  There is one star in the sky that always points to where Santa lives.  It’s the North Star, the only star in the sky that does not move. It points us to the North Pole.  If you get to the North Pole, the North Star would no longer be pointing to the north -it would be at the very center of the heavens. To be santa, to be a saint, your gaze must always be in the direction of heaven - our true home, our final destination.

So how do we get there? Well, we are already there, we are here. Gathered around this altar, each of us stands underneath the very center of heaven. But is it enough to look into the heart of heaven once or twice a year? After all, we have a lot of things to do. It is said that Santa can visit every soul in the world at Christmas. Now, the cynic would say, that’s impossible.  So let me tell you the secret so that you who are called to be a saint, can likewise do the impossible.  The word Christmas, literally means, the Mass of Christ. The Mass of Christ is offered every day and in every place around the world.  Sunday after Sunday, here in this place the Mass of Christ, Christmas is celebrated. Come to the Mass of Christ every Sunday and you will touch eternity and be able to do so much good in your life and in the world in so short a time - a miracle.

So, back to the original question, does Santa exist? Yes, of course, but only because of an event that happened over two thousand years ago which made the impossible possible - an event that brings together the past, the present and the future.  

In the middle east, five miles south of Jerusalem, God was born into this world as the Santo Nino, the Holy Child of Bethlehem to share in our joys and sorrows, our triumphs and the sufferings, our hopes and our prayers - to save us from danger and to guide us home to heaven.  Jesus Christ, that newborn in the manger is no longer a baby to look at, but has become for us all a shepherd, to guide us, and for us all to hear His voice.  

By returning to this sacred place where we hear His voice most directly and where He reveals Himself most intimately through the sacrament of confession and sacrament of His divine Body and Blood, we continue to grow in holiness, to be the saints we are called to be, to do the impossible through Christ who strengthens us.

Dec 24, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent

From the very beginning of recorded history evidenced by timeless pyramids and the ruins of ancient temples and sacred shrines, the past bares testimony of humanity longing to reach out in the direction of the heavens. But before we could even point to the stars, our Heavenly Father stepped into his own design, creating, fashioning, building humanity up out of the very dirt of the earth.

And into these building blocks He breathed His Spirit forming man in the divine image. God was not distant. Our heavenly Father walked with our first parents in that garden, recognizable and distinct from the unspoiled splendor of the universe. In those days, before the foolishness of Adam and Eve, before sin contaminated creation, God was visible.

But because of the arrogance of fallen humanity, our history has seen the attempt of man to either play God or attempt to capture the divine. Although King David’s intention to build a temple for God is commendable, he is reminded through the prophet Nathan not to rely on a temple made by human hands. A temple made from bricks and cement will be destructible. God's Presence, the prophet announces, will instead be enfleshed in a future descendant of King David.

And when the fullness of time would come, as recounted in the Gospel, the creative God is seen at work again, building within the womb of the Virgin Mary, using her cells and DNA as the building blocks, the new bricks and cement forming the new body and blood of an individual that through every instance of his existence and development in her womb, a tiny developing temple of the living God, was being built to endure forever.

This embryonic baby of Mary will not be the earthly temple of God made by human hands, or out of human initiative. It will be the very presence of the heavenly God dwelling among His people on earth. In Jesus, God walks again among us as He did with Adam and Eve in a restored creation.

As St. Irenaeus says,"Being obedient Mary became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race." : what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.  Comparing her with Eve, we call Mary "the Mother of the living" because "Death came through Eve, life through Mary. (LG. 56) .c.f. CCC 494

And as creation having now tasted God's presence again and cries out for the fullness of salvation, bread and wine from the old order of creation, become now the substance of the new order -Jesus Christ. In Holy Communion, our own body becomes a living temple of God, a tabernacle for the Most High.

By responding with total openness to her vocation, Mary was the first disciple to receive Holy Communion from God. For this reason, she is our model for how to prepare ourselves, physically as well as spiritually to receive Holy Communion worthily, to make a room ready, to prepare a place for God to dwell in our bodily lives, so that we, like Mother Mary, can also present the savior of all humanity to a waiting world.

Dec 20, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent

"El Señor está cerca". He aquí el anuncio que nos hace hoy la Iglesia, he aquí por qué nos incita hoy a la alegría y por qué se viste Ella misma hoy de fiesta, con ornamentos rosados, con flores en los altares, con acordes del órgano. Está la Iglesia impaciente por recibir al Señor, y nos contagia a nosotros de esta santa ansiedad. ¡El Señor está cerca! Más aun: "Entre nosotros está Uno a quien muchos no conocen". Esta queja amarga del Bautista desgraciadamente es también hoy verdadera. ¡Un año más llamará a nuestras puertas el que puede remediar nuestras necesidades. Y muchos estarán dormidos!

“There is one among you whom you do not recognize”. These are the words of St. John the Baptist. He sparks curiosity, even a hint of excitement that the Lord is near, that he is actually here, but he is, for the time being, hidden. “There is one among you whom you do not recognize”. Although, St. John the Baptist, knowing that the Messiah is soon to be revealed, is delighted with this prospect, a number of those whom he shares his joy with, are not very much moved, nor very concerned.

If we were to be informed that the Lord was somewhere in our vicinity, walking among us, in disguise, and was about to stand out from the crowd and lift back his hood and reveal himself – would that generate in us a sense of excitement, joyful anticipation. Or might there be fear, that we are not ready to face our Lord. Rather than welcoming him as our savior, some of us would perhaps fear him as our judge. This would mean that we have not taken to heart the earlier call of St. John the Baptist that we prepare a place for the Lord. The Lord is near. Do you have your place ready? And place is, your soul. Is your soul a good place for the Lord to enter into?

How we answer this question might be best reflected in how we approach Holy Communion. The Lord is near. He is our salvation, he is the one who we ultimately hunger and thirst for. If we recognize him as the one who comes to save us, then we will make our soul a worthy place for our encounter with him. St. John the Baptist has reminded us to “get our household in order”. Through careful preparation, an examination of conscience, confession of grave sins and the priestly assurance of forgiveness – only then will we sense the true joy, not fear, of Christ approaching us, to heal, not to harm - to free us, not to hinder us - to reward us, not to threaten us. He comes to bring a springtime, not a dark winter (c.f. First Reading).

“There is one among you whom you do not recognize”. We know who the One is – the one and only Lord. Some are indifferent, because underneath it all, they really don’t believe that God can approach us and reach out to you and me personally. Some are afraid of God, and maybe rightly so, because of sins committed and commandments broken. But during the time of Holy Communion the Church will chant the words of the prophet Isaiah who reminds us all to liven up, not to be afraid. Yes, the Lord is coming but he does so to save his people and to give himself to them. “Say to the faint of heart: Be strong and do not fear. Behold, our God will come, and he will save us.”

This is indeed a reason to join our hearts to Our Blessed Mother Mary, who, when she found out that the God would visit and save his people, there was no indifference or panic. We have sung this Sunday as our psalm her words and must seek to make them our own, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”.