Feb 27, 2016

Third Sunday of Lent

Lk 13:1-9

Into this Third Week of Lent, by presenting us this Gospel, the Church reminds, lest we find ourselves drifting back into our routines, that we cannot take for granted our own personal need to get closer to God. The graphic nature of the Gospel might serve to waken us up a little, provoke us a bit, to sit up and take notice that God cannot be ignored and nor can the events around us be taken for granted.

Jesus shows us in the Gospel today that when we see disaster, misfortune or unnecessary trials placed before us, it is so easy for us to assign blame, provide excuses or in some way to figure it all out. We can sometimes find ourselves asking why good people sometimes are the ones to suffer most and because, from our own perspective of justice, this might cause of concern, even anger at God.

In the portion of Scripture we have heard, Jesus is quick to assure us that God is not the author of human misery and suffering. And even though events unfold around us and often we wonder why, God is indeed ultimately and always on our side. And regardless of the evil that exists in the world, we are asked to place our faith in God, even though we do not understand his ways.

Yet at the same time, consider the patience of God with us. Even though we can easily stray from his commandments, providing in our lives and even in our world a hostile environment of sin and error, this does not prevent our Heavenly Father from sending us his Son (when God has more reasons not to come to our rescue than he has to do so.) This not only shows God as patient and slow to anger, but also a God of mercy and gentleness, even in the mists of catastrophes and suffering. It is this God that Jesus teaches us to call Father. The patience of God always wins whereas our impatience can often lead us to do what we might often regret.

The Good News of our salvation is that our heavenly Father guides history and is always faithful to his promises. Yet, our frustration at times is that we cannot see the world, its direction from, not just a big picture, but from the perspective of God. But that is not our place. Nor should we ever want it. Like Moses before the burning bush, finding himself in God’s mysterious presence, found himself quickly out of his depth. This is not the reason to fear. Before God we must likewise be humble, believing that our mysterious God is, at the same time, trustworthy. And we are grateful too that he is patient. Let us pray that, through this Holy Mass, the God we encounter though sacramental signs, one day, if we are patient and have the humility to allow Him to unravel His plan in His own time - one day, we will see face to face. And on that day, all will be revealed, though Jesus Christ our Lord. And may our response simply be, "Amen"

Feb 20, 2016

Second Sunday of Lent


For Our Blessed Lord, hills and mountains are not obstacles. They are stepping stones. I can identify at least four of special significance in the New Testament.

When the parishioners of his hometown Nazareth, with rage and anger dragged Him up a hill to throw him to the dogs, He stepped to the side and moved on. He would not allow Himself to pushed off the edge.

In today's Gospel we find Him on Mount Tabor. And from there, on top of it, something extraordinary takes place. He reveals the most beautiful glory of God shining through Him. His disciples are filled with joy and praise. But He told them afterwards, to wake up!

Soon, He would allow Himself to be taken to the top of the hill of Calvary, to be brutally crucified to death, His sacrifice of His own Body and Blood to His heavenly Father in atonement for the sins of the world, while those who consented, badmouthed and ridiculed Him. He asked His Father, to forgive them.

And after His resurrection from the dead, He would climb the Mount of Olives. And from its summit, to step into the realm of heaven where He presently continues to offer Himself to His Father on our behalf. Those who remained at the top of the hill, were admonished by angels to stop gawking into the sky, but get themselves back to work, God's work!

Even though we are tempted to separate all these events - a kind of selective memory which we are all prone - to focus only on one episode of Christ's life as the be all and end all, the disciple is always in danger of doing the same with their own lives - dwelling only on events (good or bad) we want to remember and avoiding others we sometimes try to forget. We have a tendency to pick our own hilltop to build a fortress or at times to target one for demolition.  Rather, hills and mountains, be they large or small, beautiful or treacherous, in plain sight or far off in the distance - they are for the disciple stepping stones through all the mysteries of the life of Christ to our own journey's end, heaven.

Lent provides "holy seasoning" which allows all flavors of the Christian journey to come to the surface, the helps us to appreciate the big picture without becoming isolated on or distracted by any one of those four hills or mountains I have mentioned: The hill of discontent, the hill of beauty beyond imagination, the hill of bloodshed and violence, the hill of things beyond our reach. But a word of warning! If you try to stay on just one, expect to be either left there alone, escorted away, or told to move on.

But in the meantime, be assured there are many more mountains, valleys and hills before us to explore. Remember, they are stepping stones that beckon us to keep going forward, until we are, not only out of breath, but instead ready, willing and able to offer to God the sweetness of our last and final breath.

May Mary, the Mother of all the mysteries of the rosary, be our guide along the way.

_________________

Los mismos que estuvieron en el monte de la transfiguración estarán con el Señor cuando su rostro estuvo en el huerto de los Olivos, pero esta vez el rostro del Señor se veía «transfigurado por el dolor».

 Más tarde los Apóstoles aprenderían la lección: lo importante es acompañar siempre al Señor. Y lo difícil es hacerlo cuando hay dificultades. Por eso, para que no nos vengamos abajo en los momentos duros, a veces nuestro Dios nos regala situaciones dulces. Si se va con el Señor, da igual dónde vayamos. Porque, aunque tengamos dificultades, somos felices siemper.

Feb 14, 2016

First Sunday of Lent


When we open the book of the gospel and hear it read from this place, in a certain sense we do not simply hear words spoken out loud. We do not simply follow along in our books, or just listen. Instead, the source of these words come from God himself. Go beneath the surface of the page, God invites us into the actual event.

On this First Sunday of Lent, God invites us to put ourselves into the very heart of a battle between good and evil.  We are not detached observers watching a fight break out at a hockey game or watching from the comfort of our home a youtube clip of a huge tsunami wrecking damage and destruction. Instead, incredibly, when the Scriptures open up a window into the Christ's one-on-one with Satan, we have been thrown into the very arena itself!

Because it is a familiar image to us, especially living on the Pacific coast, consider the similarities between, for example, that much covered tsunami, some years ago, that destroyed so many lives and livelihoods; compare that tsunami with the devil and the forces of evil that likewise destroys lives and livelihoods.  When Satan appears on the horizon, he can often be ignored.  If we ignore the signs and signals of danger, looking out to the edge of the world, Satan appears distant, non-threatening. It’s easy to dismiss him, even to conclude that he’s not real nor dangerous.

But as he gets closer, there is a certain curiosity, even a fascination with his potential power. Let’s wait and see what happens.  It’s so easy to be drawn to its power, it’s form, and you want to watch it, study it, in a way – to entertain it. Evil seduces, it excites - evil always begs our curiosity, demands our attention, entices us into its own adventure.  But notice how it does so.

It captures our attention, it literary “captures” our attention, and we become frozen. Our rational thinking becomes twisted, illogical.  You stand in front of a giant monster and you want to take a photo of it, you want open up a dialogue – you think you can outrun it, or tell it to go back where it came from.  But then, as if with one click on a keyboard, like the mighty wave that crashes on the land, evil revels itself.

When we allow sin, in all its disguises, to entertain us, in a way, we are surrounded by the force of darkness and we loose our freedom.  We surrender our mind to its madness, our body to its rage and our soul to its poison.

When we ignore the signals, when we allow ourselves to be curious, when you want to get closer for a better view, when we sense the shimmering of excitement like a wild animal tasting blood for the first time, what message do we send Satan? Consent, consent to overpower us, and upon us to heap all the junk and debris which comes with the wave of destruction. 

And if we come out of it alive, with a dumb look on our faces, we say, it just happened.  Amazing. We see it coming our way, we know the signs and signals that alert us to danger, and we say to the power of the devil, “bring it on”.  The arrogance we have, thinking that we can, with our own strength, defeat and outrun Satan.

But we can defeat him and be free from our curious attachment to evil. Only by running to Christ, standing with him on higher ground can we hope to be delivered and win back our freedom. 

To do so, first we have to be honest with ourselves and with God. We have to acknowledge our stupidity, our arrogance and our weakness, and do so before God. God always shows mercy to the sinner who wakens up, who wakes up, the sinner who comes to their senses, the sinner who has the humility to confess their own sins and trust in His divine mercy.

For this reason, after He conquered the devil's power over death itself, the resurrected and victorious Christ breathed his Holy Spirit into his apostles and told them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" (John 20:23).  The power of this sacrament Christ has given to His Church, unleashes the powerful but gentle breath of God that pushes back waves of sin and darkness that too often engulfed us. 

During the Sunday mornings of Lent, here at St. Margaret's, we are offering a continuous opportunity to go to Confession (even while Mass is being offered!) If it has been a while and you know in your heart you should go, don't let the battle between good and evil, subtle as it sometimes is in your life, become a spectator sport. Know that God invites you (and me) to His side and take encouragement that Christ our savior has won the good fight to leads us, as a good shepherd does, to a place of safety and freedom from fear and all that could harm us.



Feb 11, 2016

Ashes and Lent - Las cenizas y cuaresma

Las cenizas representan el polvo de la tierra en la que, a causa del pecado de Adán, debemos todos volver. A pesar de nuestras miradas, de valores o lo que podría aferrarse a la vida, este polvo de ceniza nos recuerda que todo lo que, a causa de la infestación del pecado en nuestras vidas y su efecto en la creación, todas las cosas ultimamente se convierten en polvo. Incluso el universo, en su propio tiempo, vuelve al polvo cósmico. Con este pensamiento nos mantiene humilde.
Nos marcaan con el signo de la cruz. Hecho de cenizas, no es una hermosa cruz. Es feo. Esto nos recuerda que Jesucristo, que no tenía ninguna mancha de pecado, tomó sobre sí mismo, el la fealdad de todos los pecados y su aguijón - la muerte. No es una cosa bonita.
La cruz se traza en la frente, la parte más expuesta de nuestro cuerpo. Cristo no fue crucificado a puertas cerradas, en privado o en un lugar apartado. Su muerte fue pública. La cruz en la que colgó era para todo el mundo lo viera. Para los soberbios, la cruz es una vergüenza. Para el pecador arrepentido, la cruz inspira la humildad y la gratitud a Cristo para pagar el precio que pagó por mis pecados, cuando debería haber sido yo el castigado y no él.
Finalmente, las cenizas pronto se lavaran. La cruz no es nunca la última palabra. La resurrección de entre los muertos es. Que este tiempo santo de Cuaresma nos lleve a través de la cruz de Cristo, y no alrededor de ella, sino que permita la cruz, como una brújula, que nos apunta en la dirección de la celebración del domingo de la resurrección del Señor. Oremos para que el día de el último juicio, nosotros también participemos en su triunfo de manera que cuando el polvo se soplado lejos, nos encontramos transformados en una nueva creación y vivir para siempre con él, el nuevo y Jerusalén celestial, con todos los ángeles y santos. Hasta que llegue ese día, oremos por a nosotros mismos ya los demás, que las disciplinas y devociones de este tiempo santo se llevan juntos en esta dirección.

Ashes stand for the dust of the earth into which, because of the sin of Adam, we must all return. Regardless of our looks, securities or what we might hold onto for life, this dusty ash reminds us that everything, because of the infestation of sin in our own lives and its effect on creation, all things ultimately turn to dust. Even the universe, in her own time, returns to cosmic dust. With this thought we are kept humble.

We are marked with the sign of the cross. Made of ashes, it is not a beautiful cross. It’s ugly. It reminds us that Jesus Christ who had no stain of any sin, took upon himself, the ugliness of all sins and its sting – death. It is no pretty thing.

The cross is traced on our forehead, the most exposed part of our body. Christ was not crucified behind closed doors, in private or in a secluded place. His death was public. The cross on which he hung was for the whole world to see. For the proud, the cross is an embarrassment. For the repentant sinner, the cross inspires humility and gratitude to Christ for paying the price he paid for my sins when it should have been me punished and not Him.

Finally, the ashes will soon wash off. The cross is never the last word. The resurrection from the dead is. May this holy season of Lent lead us through the cross of Christ, and not around it, but instead allowing the cross, like a compass, to point us in the direction of the Sunday celebration of the Lord’s resurrection. Let us pray that on the day of final judgment, we too will share in his victory so that when the dust is blown away, we will find ourselves transformed into a new creation and live forever with him the new and heavenly Jerusalem with all the angels and saints. Until that day comes, let us pray for ourselves and each other, that the disciplines and devotions of this holy season will lead us together in this direction.

Feb 6, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lk 5:1-11

The language of fishing in the gospel is not a simple observation of particular events. In the light of our faith it is a metaphor for the work of Jesus and a picture of what God is doing through His Church. 

There is a long history of the Church being described as a large boat. We are not a museum ship, nor are we board this mighty tied up old vessel that has seen better days. Christ Himself is still gives orders to set sail. Whether he stands on the shoreline and calls out to us, at rest in one of the cabins, or at the helm, there is work to be done, places to go, battles to fight, new worlds to be discovered. Reflecting on the Gospel this Sunday, what course does Christ plot for us. We are to be "fishers of men". 

"Catching men alive". How? Christ gives us the grace to attract.  That grace of attraction is manifested in so many beautiful ways: through the preaching of the Gospel, through the beauty of the liturgy, through the gentle power of the sacraments, but especially, through the witness of men and women, of families whose lives are lived with a sense of hope, that Christ is with us every part of the journey.  Admittedly, we can find ourselves naturally afraid to what lies beyond the horizon. Sometimes, be might be afraid of storms, getting lost, even encountering pirate ships (!) Maybe we would prefer staying closer to land.  But the first prayer we made in public during the Mass was: "Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care, that relying on the hope of heavenly grace, we may be defended always by your protection" (Collect)

Christians we should not be afraid, nor dwell in fear. We are told by Christ to go out into the deep waters in the same way as Noah took his ark into uncharted territory. Each one of us has a responsibility for the salvation of each other, even of the world.  Be courageous, Christ is with us, not only in the valley of darkness, but also when we must enter into the storm. Remember, Christ can walk on the water, and so can we, as long as we keep Christ always in view, and never despair.

And this brings us to the example of St. Peter the fisherman.  Peter was reluctant to change his ways. He had a system of fishing that was, for him, predictable and well rehearsed.  But, we also discover through the reading of the New Testament Scriptures, that we was not a very good fisherman in the traditional sense. It was Christ Himself who did all the fishing for Him!  If Peter allowed his pride to get the better of him, he would have blatantly disobeyed Our Lord when He instructed him to sail out into the deep water and prepare for a catch of fish. Underneath his rough exterior, Peter allowed the voice of Christ to penetrate his heart. And although Christ was telling him to goes against his natural instincts and what the text book said, Peter obeyed the voice of the Lord, even though he did not, for him, make sense.


Did Peter and the fishermen apostles know what would be their future work and responsibilities? Could they have even dreamt of their lives beyond their little village? We get a hint when Saint Peter, overwhelmed at the thought of what would be expected of him, presumed wrongly that he must carry the burden all by himself and fears he does not have the strength. Standing in the light of God, even in His shadow, our own unworthiness, helplessness becomes so obvious. St. Peter needs, like you and me, to be assured that Christ will never abandon us.

To be a Christian, to be on board with the Church and to heed to the direction Our Lord steers us, we have to be courageous, daring, trusting. What does this mean?  Maybe it is to leave behind at times, our little well rehearsed lives and, at the Lord's command to venture our into the unknown - whatever that might be.  


Maybe to go out into the deep waters is a call to a more deeper prayer life, leaving superficially behind. Maybe, it is the call to not be lazy or complacent in our family duties and responsibilities to our brothers and sisters. To go out, at the Lord's command, into the depths of the ocean, might be to finally open up in confession to a sinful past that we want to leave behind. God's mercy is bigger than the vastness of the oceans. His love reaches even the darkest, murky waters of our lives. And for this reason, Christ tells us not to be afraid - to have faith in the grace He gives us and in the strength of His Church, a sacred vessel that can hold the entire world and still never be overwhelmed. 

Let us pray for courage, strength and endurance, with the assurance that God's mercy and grace will always endure.

Feb 1, 2016

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 4:21-30



Today’s gospel continues where we left off last week. Our Blessed Lord has entered into this hometown and has announced the beginning of a new era in the relationship between God and humanity, a new initiative. Jesus announces the Kingdom of God and that the very words he had spoken were being fulfilled right in front of their eyes.

However, his town folk, although impressed with the eloquence of his delivery and, no doubt, proud in a certain way that he had returned home (they had heard stories of his ministry and miracles in the surrounding towns and how crowds were following him with great hope and expectation), they started to have second thoughts. Jesus had just read from the Old Testament prophecy what the Messiah would do. Now he adds, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”.

“The Israelites used to say that the prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled, either in the persons of some of their more glorious kings [such as King David] or at least in the prophets [such as the prophet Elijah]”(St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke, Homily 12]).

His own townspeople could not fathom that the Scriptures, which spoke of the coming of the Messiah would actually be happening right before them. Regardless who they thought Jesus truly was, the evidence of something wonderful was happening all around them. They heard the reports of the miracles being worked by Jesus. This they did not doubt. But they preferred to keep the action of God’s involvement in the world tied up to past events in times remote and distant.

We must be careful not to fall into this trap also, of securing God to events in the past, failing to believe that our Lord can and does work in the here and now and is alive, active and still carrying out his mission and ministry in and through the Church, albeit in an invisible and hidden way.

The violent attitude and actions which Jesus witnessed when he stoke the truth is still very much manifested today and is typical of many reactions when the Holy Spirit speaks through the Church with conviction and without fear. The people of Nazareth, rather than listening and reflecting, quickly changed the subject by pointing to members of his family. Too often, if one does not believe in God or that God could possibly reveal his mind to humanity, the message and teachings of the Church especially with regard to family life, marriage and the protection of the unborn child, are often met with the same hostility and anger Jesus also experienced. Rather than accept the possibility that God might be speaking to us (which would mean they we would have to listen and do what He says), and even though it be announced through unworthy ministers of his Word, it seems easier to shot or attempt to embarrass the messenger, change the subject or not take it seriously, move the goal posts or walk out and slam the door.

During this early episode in his ministry an angry lynch mob surrounds Jesus and, dragging him to the top of a cliff, they were intent to throw him to his death, silencing him for good. Notice how he is saved. He doesn’t plead with them, nor does he try to rationalize. His friends do not save him nor does the law of the land protect him. Our Blessed Lord saves himself through his divine power as God and walks away from the hostility. Why? Jesus will not be forced into giving his life away. His life is his own, and he will wait for the right time to give it freely and offer his life for his people, not because he had to, but because he freely choice to. (Cf. St. Ambrose, Exposition of the Gospel of Luke)

At the end of his public ministry, when our Blessed Lord was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, he could have walked away. When he was to be brutally abused and tortured by the Roman soldiers, he had it within his power to switch off any feeling of pain or agony. When he was slowly crucified, he could have easily come down from the cross and brush off from his body in an instant, all the injuries and scars. No one can take Christ’s life away from him. He freely gives his life and does so out of the most intensive love unimaginable considering you and me worth the suffering, the pain and the sacrifice he offered.

May our Blessed Mother, who pondered all these things in her heart, help us to appreciate the Good News of our salvation and the sacrifice our Blessed Lord freely offered so that we might experience lives of true freedom and authentic love.

Exterminate or Tolerate

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017 Those who listened to Jesus talk about this image where people of the land and who depended on th...