Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Sunday per annum (OF) - The First Sign of Charity

Today we hear what is one of the most well-known parables of Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan from the Gospel of Luke. And we’ve probably all heard someone preach ad nauseam about this passage and how we are to show charity to all those around us. That is very true, and I will not deny that some of my homily today will reflect that. However, I would like us to look deeper and see how we begin to live out that charity because we have first received it.
Our Gospel passage opens with a lawyer or a scholar of the Jewish law testing Jesus due to His strange teachings. This scholar of the law tests Jesus to see how well Jesus knows the law, though the man is unaware that he speaks with the one who spoke to Moses and handed that law on to the Israelites. When asked what it takes for one to inherit eternal life, our Lord presents the two central commandments of the law: love of God and love of neighbor. It is the lawyer’s question of who is one’s neighbor that Jesus presents this story of the half-dead traveller, the priest and Levite who avoid him, and the Samaritan who comes to his aid.
The Church Fathers, the great theologians and biblical scholars of the early centuries, see more going on in this story than the most obvious connection. They see this parable as representing the story of the salvation of humanity. The traveller is man who loses paradise and is nearly left dead by his sins. The priest represents the old Mosaic law which, though it was given by God, was not capable of healing humanity’s wounds of sin, and so he passes along, unable to help. The Levite, who represents the prophets, is also incapable of assisting, and so passes on.
If the law and the prophets are not able to aid us in themselves, then who or what can do this? It is the one who is described magnificently in our second reading: Christ Jesus, the image of the invisible God. Jesus is the good Samaritan who comes and heals the traveller - fallen humanity - from his abundance. Jesus calls Himself a Samaritan because He is different from the Jews, though He is born among them. He is different because of His divinity, so wonderfully described by Saint Paul: the creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; the one who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead through His resurrection; the one who is the head of His mystical body, which is the Church; the one through whom all are reconciled via the blood of the cross, so that by His wounds we are healed.
The parable of the Good Samaritan is more than just a nice morality tale to make us love our neighbor, as if Mr. Rogers were the Messiah. This parable is a reminder to us of that charity which we have received from God Almighty, who came among us so as to be our reconciliation with the Father, so as to be the Lamb by whose blood our sins are taken away. Yet the action of reconciliation that is the Cross is not something that merely happened in the past and is something we reflect on in loving memory; it is the way by which Jesus offers the complete observance of the Two Commandments: loving God by being obedient even unto death, death by a cross, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self, by offering Himself as the spotless Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
And where do we find all of this presented to us not like a photograph, but as the real event offered once more for our benefit? We find this in the Mass, the re-presentation of the Sacrifice of the Cross for our adoration, our praise, our glory, and our benefit. As the saying goes, charity begins at home. Every time we come before the altar, we are present at that most seminal act of love God has given us. Every time we enter into the Mass, we are joined with the whole Church - past, present, and to come - to worship at the one true altar and to offer the one perfect sacrifice for our salvation. The Mass is our reminder of the charity we have received from God, the charity that we should, in turn, give to our neighbors, no matter who they are.
My hope as I begin to come into my own here is to make the liturgy echo this far more for each one of us every time we gather at the altar. If we do not get the Mass right, how will we do with the rest of our faith? An old phrase that has passed down through theologians is that the law of prayer animates the law of belief which in turn animates the law of living: as we pray, so we believe, so we do. My vision is to make our celebration of the liturgy as prayerful and conducive to our exercise of the faith as possible. That will involve some changes or differences, some of which you have probably already noticed, some of which will be discussed and presented so as to offer an opportunity for us to learn and appreciate better that which has been given to us by Christ Himself and maintained by the Church up to our own days.
Let us seek, first of all, to make the Mass more a prayer than an act of attendance. To be engaged in the liturgy is not merely to make eternal motions or sounds but to pour forth the desires and needs of the heart and soul towards the only one who can truly satisfy them. The Mass is not a television show which does all the work for us; it is a sacred action in which we have our part just as God has His own part, and we can only be fruitful in our participation at the Mass if we take up our part with joy. Let us also desire to glorify God as best as we can, mindful that it is our first duty as Christians. Only in showing God the glory, the honor, and the love that is due Him can we more clearly realize the glory, the honor, and the love He has for each one of us, so much so that He desires us to share eternal life with Him. Then, once we have a deeper appreciation of the divine love can we go forth and share that same love with all whom we meet, so that others may be drawn to this font of grace and salvation and be as satisfied as we are meant to be. Let us pray that this may be accomplished by us, so that we may each be made worthy to inherit eternal life.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

14th Sunday per annum (OF) - Fourth of July Weekend

While most of this country is celebrating the Fourth of July today or tomorrow, we have a reminder from our Gospel today that Jesus did not establish the United States of America, even though some people may think otherwise. Jesus does establish a nation, but not one of this earth. Saint Paul calls it the true Israel or the Israel of God. It is that nation of which we are all citizens, whether or not we are Americans.
Jesus is shown by Saint Luke in today’s Gospel to be the new Moses establishing the New Israel.  Just as Moses had 70 elders to assist in administering Israel in the desert, so does Jesus have His 70 disciples to help in administering the new Israel. This new Israel is the Church established by Jesus and which is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of which we are all members. The 12 Apostles and the 70 disciples are the bishops and the priests of our Church today, guiding us towards continuing the mission of Jesus in this world.
The past two weeks have shown us in the Gospel readings the need to follow Jesus and some of the first steps to do this. To follow Jesus is to be a witness to Him, what the ancient Greeks called martyros. Sometimes the fullness of that witness came in dying rather than renouncing or cursing Christ, yet that is a part of the struggle the Church has had with the world since her founding. Saint Paul says that “the world is crucified to me and I to the world.” Jesus never says it will be easy; He says that He will be with us until the end of the world.
Let us pray that we may have the grace and the strength to bear witness to Jesus no matter the cost. Persecution seems to increase in our day, whether it is the hard persecution which sees Muslims kill numerous Christians in the Middle East, or the soft persecution which sees the Gospel condemned as hate speech or intolerant. If we are going to remain Christian, we will have to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to remain faithful in spite of pressure or even torture (God forbid). Let us pray for this nation, that it may return to God so that He may indeed bless it. Let us pray for the Church, that She will be faithful to the Gospel despite any and all persecution. And finally, let us pray that we may imitate the zeal of the 70 disciples, proclaiming the new Israel to all whom we meet, so that we may be worthy to find our names written in heaven.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Mi primera boda: Baltazar y Veronica

No quiero robar el centro de atención, pero esta es mi primera boda, en inglés o en español. Espero que estaré a la altura de ministrar a todos ustedes hoy.
A medida que nos reunimos para celebrar la boda de Baltazar y Veronica, hay algo que se destaca en las lecturas que hemos escuchado. En la segunda lectura, San Pablo nos dice que el matrimonio es un "gran misterio", que luego se compara con Cristo y la Iglesia. Ciertamente, hay cosas sobre el matrimonio que puede ser misterioso, pero ¿cómo es el matrimonio en sí mismo un misterio? ¿Es el matrimonio tan difícil de entender que debe ser llamado un misterio?
Debemos entender algo en primer lugar acerca de la palabra misterio, o mystérion como está escrito en el griego original. Esta palabra mysterion no significa necesariamente algo secreto, pero algo que no es aparente, algo que no se aprende por sí mismo sino que se revela para nosotros. El mystérion de la fe católica son esas cosas reveladas por Jesús en sus enseñanzas, pero San Pablo se expande de manera que incluya no sólo las enseñanzas y acciones de Jesús, sino también muchas de las verdades que se desconoce a los paganos, pero ahora revelada por Dios para nuestra salvación.
Entre los misterios que él identifica es el que celebramos hoy, el misterio del matrimonio. En su carta a los Efesios, San Pablo elabora sobre la unión del hombre y la mujer en el matrimonio como un símbolo de la unión de Cristo con su Iglesia. Esta enseñanza eleva el matrimonio de ser sólo sobre el hombre y la mujer a ser acerca de Jesús que está en el corazón del misterio cristiano. También eleva los deberes y responsabilidades del matrimonio para estar en el mismo nivel que las que existen entre Jesús y la Iglesia, como San Pablo enumera.
El misterio del matrimonio se ve en la unión de Jesús con la Iglesia. Muchos tratarán de darnos a Jesús sin la Iglesia, sino que es como si se presentaron un marido y se olvidó la mujer. Jesús está íntimamente unido a la Iglesia que Él estableció, mientras que personalmente presente en esta tierra y por la cual murió en la cruz. La Iglesia está íntimamente unida con Jesús como una novia se unió a su novio. Los dos de ellos no se pueden separar, porque entonces no entenderíamos ellos, ya que existen y ya que estaban destinados a ser.
Así es con el sacramento del matrimonio. El hombre está íntimamente unida a la mujer como Jesús con la Iglesia. San Pablo nos dice, incluso en el pasaje leemos que el hombre es amar a la mujer como a sí mismo, porque así es como Jesús ama a la Iglesia, como parte de su propio ser. La mujer se une al hombre como la Iglesia está unida a Jesús, pues ahora los dos se convierten en uno. El matrimonio, entonces, en la Iglesia no es una simple unión de dos personas, pero es la elevación de los dos para una unión que no tendrá fin, al igual que Jesús nunca abandonará la Iglesia ni la Iglesia separarse de Jesús.
Baltazar y Verónica, en un momento, ustedes van a entrar en este misterio de la unión. Ustedes van a comenzar una nueva vida a partir de este momento, una nueva vida en la que ya no son más que dos personas, pero dos unidos en una sola. No se equivoque habrá dificultades a medida que comienza a vivir este misterio. Puede haber momentos en que ustedes no pueden colocar el otro, e incluso puede haber ocasiones en que le resulta muy difícil amar a su cónyuge, pero el misterio del matrimonio sólo puede ser encontrado a través del amor. San Josemaria Escriva dijo: “Amar es... no albergar más que un solo pensamiento, vivir para la persona amada, no pertenecerse, estar sometido venturosa y libremente, con el alma y el corazón, a una voluntad ajena... y a la vez propia.” El amor que une a los dos de ustedes en el matrimonio debe ser de la misma clase de amor que Jesús tiene por la Iglesia, el amor que lo llevó a aceptar el Cruz. Sólo de esta manera se puede realizar el misterio del matrimonio y encontrar su verdadero significado y su verdadero papel en su salvación.
Pueden ustedes ser bendecido en este día a medida que va esta boda. Que todos días de ustedes sean tan bendito como lo fueron los días de la unión entre la Virgen María y San José, los otros grandes modelos de matrimonio. Que Dios encontrar un lugar para habitar en la casa que ustedes construirán juntos. Pero pueden que sean consciente de la persona que está en el corazón del misterio cristiano, el que ha dado el matrimonio su importancia y su significado. Que Jesús esté siempre en medio de ustedes, incluso en los malos tiempos. Y pueden estar tan unidos en matrimonio que ustedes pueden darse cuenta de la plenitud de este misterio no en esta vida, pero en la vida eterna, donde todos vamos a celebrar en las nupcias de Jesús con su novia la Iglesia.