Dr. Gilley’s class was right after lunch. It was about fluid mechanics and try as I might, I often dozed off in the middle of the lectures. On one particularly humorous occausion, I fell asleep in the middle of the class working a problem. When I came too a few minutes later, still in a bit of a stupor, I was convinced that a mistake had been made, and I raised my hand and asked, “Dr. Gilley, don’t we need to divide by 27 to go from cubic feet to cubic yards?” The kind professor replied: “Son, we’re in the metric system. Go back to sleep.”
Now, many lessons could be drawn from that experience. The first of which is, as my friend in the class put it “be humble – don’t try and wake up and raise your hand.” But more importantly, is that because I feel asleep I wasn’t able to see the problem correctly. I missed a crucial aspect of the problem which should have informed my way of seeing it.
I remember also in engineering class, them telling us that once you take this class you will never look at a truss bridge the same way. Its true. I looked at things differently before and after my engineering classes.
This is true of all education. Education draws out a way of seeing. The best education helps us to learn to see reality as it really is. This is truth when the idea in the mind accords with the reality of the thing in the world.
We hear in the Gospel of Mark the first words from our Lord, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Christ is saying to us, “arise, O sleeper, and look differently because there is something to see.” When Christ arrives there is something happening which will allow you to see reality as it really is. Christianity is a way of seeing the world, and we Christians claim that it is the best way of seeing the world. It is the way of seeing, that is which allows the seer to see things as they really are.
At the heart of the claim for the supremacy of the Christian worldview lies the person of Christ. Christ, the one through whom all things came into being, both gives things their proper meaning, and reveals (he takes back the veil) that meaning to us. In him the longed for, “intimate union of God and humanity is accomplished.” He is the King and the Kingdom.
How do we learn how to see better? This is the question. Christ lays out a plan, repent and believe. Christ is teaching us how to concretely learn to see better.
First, he tells us to repent – true education always involves a conversion.
The word metanoia in our lectionary is translated as repentance. But it means something more than moral conversion – though moral conversion and moral living are essential to it. You will not see properly if you are not striving for virtue.
Metanoia literally means – “going beyond the mind.” It means opening oneself to the reality that God can, does, and will work in ways which astound, confound, and our normal ways of seeing. Metanoia means recognizing that sometimes the way you normally see will blind you to seeing reality as it actually is.
Even the ancients recognized this. Plato for example in his famous “Cave analogy” in the Republic recognizes that those who are enslaved in the darkness of the cave caught up in shadows and images believe those things to be reality. When they are freed, the light of the sun blinds them at first because they are not used to its brightness.
It seems to them that the shadows and images are reality, but this is not the case. The things seen in the broad light of day are reality. The former prisoner must learn to see in accord with reality rather than its pale reflection.
Repentance, metanoia, involves that kind of change, brothers, and sisters, it is a drastic change. In Christ we see differently. All things take on a true meaning. We are awakened to full life and full seeing.
But what keeps us from seeing well in the first place? What are the chains, which to use Plato’s analogy, keep us bound? What is the darkness in which we find ourselves without Christ? Bishop Robert Barron offers this simple analysis of the problem: “we see and know and perceive with a mind of fear rather than a mind of trust.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the this lack of trust as the cause of the original sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.”
Isn’t this precisely what happens over and over again in the Bible? They let trust die in their hearts and thus act from fear rather than from love. The story of Jonah is precisely this played out in miniature. They act with pusillanimous souls and nearly always meets with disasters: Cain fears he will not have enough so he offers something less than his best and it drives him to envy, Abraham fears sterility that God will not be faithful, Jacob fears the wrath of his brother, Moses fears the people, Aaron so desperately wants to be liked that he falls into idolatry, David at the end of his life fears battle and fears ill repute and becomes an adulterer and murderer. Good as they were they often forget to trust God.
But this is our story as well friends; we fear things and we sin as well. Fearing loneliness and isolation – that God is not enough for us – many resign themselves to lust with themselves or others. Many become addicted to social media and to comparisons. Fearing dishonor before others many of us hide our faith. We fear we will not have enough and so we are not generous.
Fearing rather than trusting is at the heart of much of our sin.
Christ gives us the key to breaking the bonds of fear in the second command today, “Believe in the Good News.” He may as well say, believe in me, for he is the Good News.
The opposite of the fearful pusillanimous soul is the magnanimous soul – the soul who trusting in God sets out for true greatness. A greatness only possible when man and woman recognize they are loved completely by God.
Believing, which is the act of faith, is not so much assenting to a set of propositions, but rather trusting in a person. A person moves us to trust in a way a proposition never can. Christ tells us to believe in Him, to accept the Gospel – the Good news.
Trust like this is displayed prominently and profoundly praised in the Gospels. Whenever someone comes to him with an attitude of trust, Christ heals them or the ones they love.
For Christians magnanimity and humility are intimately connected with each other. We speak with a soul which praises the Lord for what he has done in us.
Consider the boldness of the Roman centurion and the leper.
Two different statuses and the both come and ask and trust. Both are praised for their trust. Domine non sum dignus, sed tantum dic verbo. The words of a Roman are repeated every time come to Mass.
The liturgy teaches us how to do this everything we are here: Here is the greatest type of magnanimity. We do not fear, we trust. Consider: To you therefore most merciful Father. That is a magnanimous statement. Lift up your hearts! We lift them up to the Lord. What greatness! At the saviours command and formed by Divine teaching.
Six months ago, as ordination day approached, people kept asking me the same question over and over again in different words: Are you ready? Are you prepared? I must admit I was not sure how to answer such a question. I would usually respond with something like, I am as ready as I will be, and I believe completely that God has called me to this.
I think it was because magnitude of the gift I was about the receive in being ordained so far surpassed my worthiness, that I hesitated to answer. I knew and I know now in a far deeper way, that I am an unworthy participant in the one Priesthood of Christ in which I am privileged to share. No one is “completely prepared” for such a gift. Yes, seminary, readies a man for its reception, but the gift and the Cross with which it is associated remain a mystery to be lived. On the day of my ordination, I was ready, but I wasn’t completely prepared.
I am struck by how similar the situation is for the couples whose marriages’ I have been privileged to witness. All of them are “ready” but none of them are completely prepared. The mystery into which those who marry enter far surpasses any of our understandings. As many of you can attest, on the day of your marriage you may have thought you were equal to the promise you made, but chances are you soon recognized how unworthy you were. The same is true when people have kids; the same is true when people are baptized.
Why is it that we cannot be completely prepared for all these things?
Essentially, when we say we are prepared, we are saying that we are equal to the challenge which will come. But the thing is that we often do not know what the challenges will be before we face them. We do our best to consider them and predict them – that is prudent. But still we remain uncertain about exactly what challenges will come and we cannot know whether we of ourselves will be equal to all which comes before us.
But despite this fundamental uncertainty, we can continue to move forward.
Brothers and sisters, though we may not be able to be completely prepared, I do believe we can say yes. This is what Mary teaches us today in the Gospel. Mary was ready, but she, like us, does not seem to have felt completely prepared.
What gives us the capacity to say yes, as Mary did even if, perhaps like her we feel uncertain of how the task will be accomplished? What makes us ready? How can we be ready for the future we don’t know?
There are two ways for us to have the confidence we need to say yes something: first, to know ourselves and know we are equal to the coming challenge; second, to know that there is one whom we can trust who is capable of supplying that which we need to be equal to the challenge if we find ourselves lacking.
You see this second way clearly played out on a human level in the interactions between toddlers and parents. The 2-year-old needs to know that his mom or dad is watching (just-in-case) as he explores something new. He is uncertain of his capacity, but the security of knowing that his mom or dad is there if he was to get in over his head, makes it possible for him to surpass himself.
Our Blessed Mother teaches us in the story of the Annunciation that the second way, is the way which we ought to relate to God: as a child trusts that his parents are there for him and will provide what he needs, so also, we must recognize that God is always working for the good of those who love him – even when we do not know how. This is called faith and it is an essential aspect, perhaps the most fundamental aspect of our waiting as Christians.
We do not get to choose whether or even how long we wait, but we do get to choose how we wait. We wait because we are human; but how we wait determines whether we flourish or fail as human persons. How we wait matters as Christians because it determines whether we will be able to receive him with joy when he comes. So how do we Christians wait?
We always wait with our eyes fixed upon heaven. We wait with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior.
We wait together because together we are and will be saved.
We wait with joy because the Lord is near.
We also wait with faith like our blessed Mother and that makes us ready to say, “yes,” to loving as Christ loves.
We trust that God really does love you and me. And, because we trust that God loves us, we can move forward even in the waiting. Like a good parent, God provides the grounding necessary for us to embark, even as we wait for his return, on the adventure of life which is found in participating and demonstrating his love to others.
This love makes us free. The one who has mature faith is not pollyannish or naïve; rather, he recognizes that trusting God and loving like him, will mean becoming vulnerable to heartbreak, disappointment, and failure. But “he does not pass judgement on these things before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and disclose the purposes of the heart,” because it is only when the Lord comes that the loving plan of providence will be completely evident.
Like Paul says, we are stewards of a great mystery. A mystery of love. A love which does not disappoint, a love who can be trusted even in the dark moments.
We can live; we can take a risk, a chance, with the knowledge that His love is completely ours. For example, we can make a promise –in our baptism, on the day of marriage, on the day of ordination – that we could never hope to keep of our own accord.
But even in the more “ordinary” moments of life, by exercising our faith in God, we become more capable of loving others as he loves. Because God proves himself completely trustworthy albeit mysteriously, in short, you and I can choose to love with our whole self in every moment just as he does for us.
Brothers and Sisters, together moved by our faith we joyfully wait together with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior. Come quickly Lord Jesus!
 The mystery can and should be examined and analyzed but instead of completely explaining it this only shows how unfathomable its depths are. As St. John Vianney remarked at one point, “how great is the priest! … If he realized what he is, he would die…”
 On the day of ordination, a man places his hands in the hands of the Bishop and promises respect and obedience to him and his successors. Without the grace of God, I could never hope to keep that promise or any of the others I have made. On the day of your marriage, you unconditionally promised each other your entire self, in good times and in bad. You could never hope to keep that promise without grace.
“Don’t let anyone rob you of your joy, Will.” These were my mom’s words almost every day when I got out of the car to go to school. They were words that I did not understand well when I was thirteen years old.
At that age, I couldn’t think of many places with less joy for me as my public “middle school”. That is why my mother’s words remained mysterious for many days. Joy came and evaporated in a way difficult to understand. I had friends and a few joys, but the joys soon vanished after they came.
So, I rejected the idea that I was going to have joy at all times. I rejected that this was a possibility.
Maybe you also have stories of times in your life that were difficult. Maybe you’re in the middle of one of these times right now. Although we are fortunate to live here in a place with many resources, the pandemic has caused much suffering. Many have lost loved ones. More have lost jobs. We have all lost parts of our lifestyles. We use a mask. We constantly have to ask ourselves if we are going to give COVID to someone else.
All of this can cause us to also reject that it is possible for us to rejoice at all times. But as Christians this attitude comes with a problem. Saint Paul commanded us in the second reading to “Live always joyful, pray without ceasing, give thanks on every occasion.” And today in the church calendar is called “Gaudete” Sunday from the first word in the antiphon at the entrance “Gaudete.” Gaudete means “Always be joyful,” or “rejoice.” It is in the imperative. It is not a suggestion but a command. It is a word of command for us as Christians.
How can we explain or how can we solve this problem?
We must remember that Saint Paul was in prison when he wrote these words. Paul was not in an ideal world, but like us he lived in a world with suffering and many problems.
All of this gives his words more power. He wrote to his loved ones from jail, knowing that he would probably never see them again. And their message is, rejoice. The letter to the Philippians is full of admonitions to rejoice.
Brothers and sisters, how can we rejoice like Saint Paul? The first step, I believe is to admit that we are prisoners. Our prisons can be sins, addictions, bad habits, weakness. But also, we frequently suffer the effects of original sin such as physical illness and mental anxieties. So, we also suffer the effects of the sins of others in our society; sins cause a lot of trouble. They imprison us. We need as savior.
But still with Saint Paul we have to rejoice. Why? Because, although the situation is so difficult, the Lord is already very close. He’s already with us, he’s come. At the same time, it will come. Rose (in which I am dressed today) is the color of the dawn that comes after a long cold winter night.
Dawn promises noon with its fullness of light and warmth, although these are not yet obvious at this time.
The light dawns from the horizon and gives us hope.
For a Christian still on his journey in the world, joy and happiness come from hope. The Christian does not wait on a particular thing in the world, but the Dawn who has already dawned.
Hope is the firm determination to go back and face the east to greet the son of man who is coming. Therefore, hope changes us now while at the same time directing us to the future that is not yet fulfilled.
The Holy Eucharist is the sign and sacrament of this most excellent hope. In the holy Eucharist we already have heaven. In fact, the Lord is near – He is present here. He did not abandon us. He is already here. He was, is and is still going to come in glory. And then, even though we are in our prisons, we can have joy because the Lord is here.
In these days of Advent, we have asked the question, how do we wait?
We do not get to choose whether or even how long we wait, but we do get to choose how we wait. We wait because we are human; but how we wait determines whether we flourish or fail as human persons. How we wait matters as Christians because it determines whether we will be able to receive him with joy when he comes.
So how do we Christians wait?
We always wait with our eyes fixed upon heaven. We wait with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior.
We wait together because together we are and will be saved.
We wait with joy because the Lord is near.
We know that what my mom told me is true. No one can rob you of the joy that is yours in the hope that is yours in Christ our Lord. The dawn has broken upon us.
We can reject it with sins. But no one can steal it from us.
If we have turned our backs at dawn for sinning, if we have chosen to look into the darkness instead of the dawning light, God still gives us grace to convert to him.
The joy is yours. For God really loves you and I.
We joyfully wait together with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior and he will save us together. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Often, we are not generous because we fear the effects it will have on us. Put another way, a lack of generosity often derives from a fear of poverty. I want to be clear; I’m not only speaking about the fear of material poverty: We can refuse to be generous for fear of poverty in many different ways. For example, we are afraid of what people will think of us or how they might interpret our actions. We are scared of losing honor. We can refuse to be generous because we are afraid of making a mistake and being misinterpreted. We can refuse to be generous in giving someone the benefit of the doubt because we fear the poverty of being taken advantage of.
We fear that we will not have enough if we give. We fear our generosity may be our ruin. We fear not having enough for ourselves because we believe it will inevitably lead to unhappiness for ourselves or those we love.
Now, this sort of calculus has its place among the material goods of the world. Let’s be clear we do “need” things to maintain our lives. If I give or spend this money here and then I will not have it in the future to do something else with. Likewise, we only have a finite amount of time to give. We have obligations in justice to do certain things that take up much of our time each day. We have to decide to do things or not, give our time or not to something.
How do we decide which goods we will choose among the many different ones that present themselves to us?
We need prudence to be able to make decisions about the best way to be generous. Prudence is the virtue directed towards choosing the means towards happiness. Its principal acts are to seek counsel, to judge, and then to command us to act. When many means present themselves, the prudent person judges according to the standard of reason what he should or should not do in this situation right now according to what he believes will bring him happiness. This is the natural way we act.
But here’s the thing: for us as Christians, prudence must consider an eternal perspective. We are not made for merely natural flourishing, but eternity with heaven. Our goal is not merely a good life fear from poverty – which is not to be despised – but communion with God.
Thus, another sort of calculus has to come into play for us as Christians when we think about generosity. . It’s what St. John Paul the Great called the “law of the gift.” The truth that the more I give myself, the more I find my real purpose and meaning in life.
This is what the parable today teaches. The wise the prudent virgins stored up the treasure worth something in keeping vigil for the bridegroom.
Christian prudence considers a different measure: growth in charity becomes its end rather than merely living well according to human estimation.
In the end, all the material things will fall away. The material has a place, but it is not everything. In the end, the material things, even honor, prestige, and all the things we fear losing in this world will evaporate. The things will not matter in themselves but only how we used them or failed to use them in service to their more excellent end – charity towards God and our neighbor. In the twilight of our life, says St. John of the Cross, we will be judged by our love.
The parable today invites us to take a long hard look at our lives in light of the long game. The oil in the lamps of the wise ones is charity. Charity, which gives human prudence a new measure and mean, must be received individually from the Lord. We cooperate with the Lord’s gift of charity by exercising it.
We want to have lamps full of oil at the end of our lives – but what is the investment that will reap such a large dividend in the future? How can we use the goods of the earth, the gifts we have been given in order to grow in charity? No one is excepted from asking this question. This is what it means to go and keep watch in the blessed delay between his ascension and his coming in judgment.
Unlike normal oil, the more the oil of charity burns to enlighten our heart the greater the supply one we will encounter. The more we exercise charity – the more we burn the lamp, the more we trim the wick – the greater our capacity will become for God. Young, old, poor, rich, single, married, priest, religious – we all will need to render the Lord an account of our stewardship in the end.
In the context of a life of stewardship generosity, this week on behalf of Bishop Joe, and Fr. Daniel, I am asking you to make a prudential decision informed by Charity: how much will you give to the Catholic Services Appeal?
I could explain the many things that the CSA does to help people in the Diocese, among the more important being that it plays a significant role in forming your future priests.
But fundamentally, though it is noble and worthy to give because these things are essential, I am asking you to consider the spiritual implications of giving. The stewardship generosity to which God calls us is not a quid pro quo arrangement. You don’t give because you will get something out of it – that is called a business, and we are not a business here, we are a church. You are called to give because you recognize that you have already received everything from Christ.
You might say to me, “but I have nothing to spare.” This is patently false. The proof is that God doesn’t need you, but you exist. If that is the case, the only possible explanation for your existence is love. Your existence – whoever you are – is God’s gift to you. You can give yourself. God thus doesn’t need anything from you – he wants to provide you with everything. Indeed, if you are disposed to receive, you will receive all you need.
Let me be clear: Does this mean that you will have money, riches, wealth, fame, honor? No! But the example of the saints suffices to show that none of these is absolutely necessary for you. Perhaps God will grant you some of these goods but maybe not. There are saints of great wealth and saints who have nothing. We see God’s providence through these things sometimes, but it is much bigger and broader than these things. Our hope is in God alone, we hope, we long to see his face, our souls thirst for his presence. He wishes to give if we will receive it, nothing other than himself. He gives us everything. From gratitude for that abundance, it naturally follows that we are called to give.
There are pledge cards available for you to fill out and drop in the basket today. Please take a moment and prayerfully discern what you can give. Even if you cannot give monetarily, please take a pledge card, fill in your information, and make some other offering of prayer. Thank you for your generosity. If you have already filled out a card or made a pledge or donation another way, thank you.
In case you had not noticed, it is presidential election season here in our fair land. There is great tension. The unrest is palpable. We Christians are not indifferent to the political realm – far from it we care deeply about working to protect human life, promote peace, and provide for the general welfare. Because of this, we also like many people of good will may have experienced a sense of anxiety or a lack of peace.
Now, put simply, caring about others is not optional for us as Christians. You and I are meant to be leaven in the world. As lay people you exercise your kingly role in the world through care and service to your brothers and sisters. The love of Christ, which has been poured into our hearts and which he proves in his Sacrifice continued at this Mass,
“lets us see our human dignity in full clarity and compels us to love our neighbors as he has loved us. Christ, the Teacher, shows us what is true and good, that is, what is in accord with our human nature as free, intelligent beings created in God’s image and likeness and endowed by the Creator with dignity and rights as well as duties.”
USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 9
Because of this, our redemption as human beings has an inescapable social dimension. We cannot accept Christ’s love while despising or being indifferent to our fellow human beings. In Christ, we are “members of one another” as St. Paul says. There is an “inseparable bond between our acceptance of the message of salvation and genuine fraternal love”
Participation in the political process, is, therefore a duty of every Christian. This participation takes many different forms, but “is rooted in our baptismal commitment to follow Jesus Christ and to bear Christian witness in all we do.” This means that for us as Christians, fulfilling the duties we have as citizens and inhabitants of this nation, state, county, city, and community, can and should be done out of charity. Of course, different people will participate in political life in different ways according to their vocation and state in life. Yet in all our political decisions, we must love as Christ loved. We must love by willing the good of the other, as other.
This type of Charity leads us as Catholics, to care about many different things. Yet, as the Bishops of the United States articulate, though we Catholics care about many different issues not all issues are equally important. As Catholics, who believe that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, it is not optional for us to oppose laws and policies which permit, promote, or support abortion and/or euthanasia (mercy killing). Nor can we support policies which foster racism, denigrate the immigrant, or attack the intrinsic nature of marriage as between one man and one woman.
The primacy of opposing these intrinsically evil acts, in no way diminishes the importance of opposing other serious affronts to justice in our society but provides for its foundation. As St. John Paul II wrote,
“the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights—for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture—is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.”
Christifideles Laici, no. 38
In considering how we fulfill our Christian duty of Charity in the political realm we need to take these principles into account and prudently seek the means which will bring about a society more in harmony with the Gospel. We must oppose laws and policies which promote or defend intrinsically evil acts including abortion and the destruction of marriage.
These non-negotiable principles also inform our voting choices when it comes to elections. We should examine seriously what the candidates say, endorse, and promote. We must think with the Church. With a conscience informed by the Gospel we must prudently decide who we should vote for. Our Christianity informs our actions in everything we do and that includes our choices in the voting booth. This is a serious obligation. Compelled by charity we render to Cesar what is Cesar’s.
In all of this, nevertheless, there is a danger of becoming too consumed with the things of the world. The danger here, and the reason so many of us are so anxious all the time is that we forget that no matter what the result of the election God still reigns. Cesar has his place in the providence of God, and our political action matters, but whatever happens we know God loves us.
The Lord tells us, repeatedly, to be not afraid. Time and again he proves himself to us – showing that he “makes all things work for good for those who love him.” The Bible is replete with stories of God intervening in love for his people. We hear about one of those in the first reading today. Cyrus is a pagan and through him God works to show his love for his people.
Despite this evidence, we often we let ourselves become so afraid and anxious, and this leads to a whole host of personal sins which impact our salvation much more directly than the outcome of a political race. No matter who wins the election, we can be sure that God will provide everything we need to be with him forever.
In addition to the words that our Lord himself says to us, I commend these words of St. Teresa of Avila to you as we approach the upcoming election:
Nada te turbe,
Nada te espante
Todo se pasa
Dios no se muda,
Todo lo alcanza;
Quien a Dios tiene
Nada le falta:
Sólo Dios basta.
-St. Teresa de Avila
We must never, forget that Christ tells us to give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and to God what is God’s. Cesar has no right over our peace. Cesar may determine circumstances, but he can never determine how we react and respond to such circumstances. People have become saints in good times and bad.
God is sovereign. We render to him everything…including our actions in the voting booth, and in politics. Render what is Cesar’s to Cesar – be an outstanding citizen. But recognize you are God’s beloved first. Do not sacrifice the joy and peace which is yours in Christ at the altar of politics.
There is a saying from psychology which has come into common speech, “hurt people hurt people.” The point is that people who are wounded or stressed psychologically speaking are more prone to hurt others psychologically. In psychological terms, this is called defensiveness. We see this in play in our everyday interactions, and it can take many different forms.
For example, the kid who is bullied at school becomes more prone to mistreat another child. Or the dad who, after having a challenging day at work, comes home to a mess and yells at his family in a manner totally out of proportion to the disorder. Or the priest who is in the middle of doing many things and becomes less than kind to one of his parishioners. He displaces his frustration from not being able to get everything done the way he would like
In part, psychology tells us this sad cycle of hurting people hurting others because the first person feels powerless and desires to feel some sense of control and power. However, they don’t feel that they can do anything to solve the actual problem. The bully is bigger than them, the workplace circumstances seem out of their control, or the demands of the parish are too great.
So, to protect ourselves, we sometimes resort to more-or-less unconsciously becoming that which we dislike in relation to another person. This gives the person a sense of control and power, albeit circumscribed and limited. Led by our desire to feel secure and in control, too often, like the unmerciful servant we demand that others, “Pay [us] back what they owe.” (Matthew 18:28)
But it does not have to be so. We are not slaves to our passions. We are not slaves to our wounds. In fact, Christ comes to make us free. The desire for control is not about desiring too much but rather it desires too little. We are made to be free – we are made to be able to do great things. Defensiveness expressing the desire for power and control is a twisting of the yearning for freedom. We want to be free to able to choose what is good, to know what is true, and to behold what is beautiful.
The type of freedom we are made for is the freedom which allowed St. Paul to say: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” What holy indifference! Here is a man who is free from all defensiveness. He makes perfectly clear how he is capable of such freedom – he “is the Lord’s.” It is his relationship with the Lord, which allows St. Paul to be so free. Living out of this relationship all grants him the sense of security he needs to know who he is and what he is about.
Regardless of the circumstances, Paul can relate everything to the fact that he is the Lord’s. Lest we think that this is a stoic ideal, let us be clear that Paul was a man who felt deeply. If you need proof of this, read Galatians, where he is clearly angry, or 2 Corinthians 12, where he speaks of the anguish of the “thorn in his flesh.” But he ordered his passions, seeing the circumstances of his life in light of his relationship with the Lord. Paul’s secret was to know that no circumstance, no matter how grave, can take one away from the love of the Lord.
Nothing but freely choosing to turn away from the Lord, through sin can take us away from him. Even then, he loves us and calls us back to himself. This kind of love allows us to breathe freely. It will enable us to act without trying to grasp after things which are meant to be seen as gifts. To have joy.
We profess and celebrate the proof of this love each time we celebrate the Mass, remembering that he came for us men and our salvation.
But I fear that too often you and I don’t allow the proof that Christ is merciful to sink in and change the way that we live.
That is the same mistake that the unforgiving servant in the parable made today. He asked and pleaded for forgiveness, and his Master, moved to the very depths of his being, forgave him the debt. The servant did the right thing here. He asked for forgiveness and mercy when he knew he couldn’t pay.
But afterward, the servant didn’t act like he had had his debt forgiven. He didn’t have joy – the fruit of our cooperation with God’s grace working in us.
Why? Probably because he didn’t believe, or had forgotten, or failed to trust the mercy of God. Why? Because he forgot who the Lord was and what he had done.
Have you ever heard anyone say that God doesn’t matter? That it doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you are a “good” person? That is not true. Period. As Carolyn Houselander writes, “Nothing matters more than having a true knowledge of Christ. We become what our conception of Christ is: God made us in His own likeness, but we have an extraordinary power of changing ourselves into the likeness of the idols we make.”
The servant’s idol was a mean demanding God.
The servant, fearing he would yet have to pay back his debt, was unwilling to extend compassion to his fellow servants. Because of this, he became the image of the Master he thought he served – a cruel, demanding taskmaster who is unforgiving and harsh.
If we want to be free, truly free, to be the people we are meant to be, we have to start with our conception of God. Healing our beliefs about who God is and what he has done for us is the first step in loving our neighbor well. It is the fundamental aspect of being free!
If it is true that hurting people hurt people, it is even more true spiritually speaking that healed people heal people. When we discover the truth of both our own wretchedness as sinners and, much more importantly, God’s love for us, which is healing, we can be free to love. Recognizing that the mercies of the Lord are not spent, but renewed each morning and that all is a gift, we will not demand that other “pay back what they owe” but in imitation of Him, offer all we are for their good.
Questions for us to ponder:
When am I most defensive? When defensiveness occurs what need am I seeking to fulfill? How can I relate it to God?
How do I view God? In what areas of my life to forget that he is our Father and treat him more like a tyrant? What lies do I believe about myself and about him? What is the truth opposed to these lies? Have I allowed any false images to influence my behavior?
Do I go to God, Our Father, each day in prayer? How do I approach him in prayer? Do I ask him for holy indifference flowing from my trust in him?
Our culture greatly values tolerance and niceness. Consider, “you do you,” “if you don’t have something nice to say don’t say anything at all,” are so widespread that we have to admit that they have become jokes among many young people.
We want people to be kind to one another. We want people to be tolerant of one another. But I fear, brothers and sisters, that sometimes we mistakenly think that kindness towards a person, means tolerating, without judgement their actions. Our culture teaches us, that to be a be a friend, to be loving to another person means that we must unquestioningly accept everything they do as good.
In the face of this, Jesus presents us with a challenging command, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” Such a command means that Christ assumes several things which are at odds with our way of thinking:
First, there is such a thing as sin, objectively speaking. Second, this command means that we have to judge that our brother has sinned against us. But elsewhere, Christ tells us to judge not lest you be judged. Is Christ contradicting himself? No. Here Christ commands us to judge the action of our brother – not to judge his intention, nor the state of his soul, nor whether he is worthy of mercy, nor what punishment he should receive. Third, it assumes that telling someone that they did something wrong, far from being sinful, could actually be a praiseworthy act. This implies that it is an act of Charity.
Christ commands us to rebuke our brother when he sins against us, just as he himself rebuked those who sinned against God. Our Lord Jesus was not, strictly speaking, nice to those folks. But he was charitable.
A man’s sin always carries with it a multitude of evils. But principally we can divide them into two areas: sin hurts the community and it hurts the sinner. The latter is more significant than the former. The one or the community who is sinned against loses something temporary and passing – perhaps of great worth – but not of ultimate worth. However, the one who sins grievously risks losing eternal life.
Because it has two principle effects, there are two different remedies for sin.
Regarding the harm done to the community, we pursue justice. Justice seeks the common good in community. This is related to but not identical with the good of every individual. Strictly speaking, justice is not concerned with the rehabilitation of the sinner, but rather that the common good be preserved. The one who has care of a community is called to work towards the common good – which is the aim of justice. We ought to punish those who harm the common good of society, and reward those that support it.
Far surpassing, though not opposed to justice, is the charity which motivates the action of fraternal correction that Christ describes today. Christ proposes that Charity must be the basis for our actions when we correct another. Charity or love always seeks the good of the other person as other. This becomes the basis for admonishing a brother.
Note the difference here between these two types of corrections: When we fraternally correct – we do not correct in order to punish or to take vengeance or gain satisfaction from another, rather we do so because we know that it is the right thing to do for the other person. Justice in community is important, but fraternal correction is not justice seeking; rather, it seeks the good of the individual who has sinned as a person.
We want him or her to change, not for our sake but for their own sake – the way that Jesus wants Peter to change not for his sake but for Peter’s sake. The way that Jesus wants you and I to change, not for his sake but for our own good.
This is what it means to “win your brother over.” The goal of fraternal correction is to win the brother – to bring him back into communion with Christ. Remember the prodigal son – the older brother should have been looking for the younger, to bring him back to the Father.
Therefore it is a serious duty for us admonish the sinner. In fact, St. Augustine, reminds us, “If thou shalt neglect this, thou art worse than he. He hath done an injury, and by doing an injury, hath stricken himself with a grievous wound; wilt thou disregard thy brother’s wound? Wilt thou see him perishing, or already lost, and disregard his case? Thou art worse in keeping silence, than he in his reviling. Therefore when any one sins against us, let us take great care, not for ourselves, for it is a glorious thing to forget injuries; only forget thine own injury, not thy brother’s wound. Therefore “rebuke him between thee and him alone,” intent upon his amendment, but sparing his shame.”
Yet, we are certainly not obliged to correct every person in the world – that would be impossible. There is a certain prudence to the statement that we should mind our own business. We are not called to be the watchdog of other’s behaviors that do not concern us. St. Thomas, summarizing the thought of St. Augustine writes of the danger of becoming too concerned with the negative behavior of others, “else we should become spies on the lives of others, which is against the saying of Prov. 24:15: Lie not in wait, nor seek after wickedness in the house of the just, nor spoil his rest.”
Who then does Christ call us to correct in their sins? St. Augustine tells us, to care for our brothers and sisters, “by correcting what we see,” that is what we know with moral certainty to be harmful to another person’s salvation. Practically speaking this means that we should not go looking for people to correct. Moreover, the wisdom of the saints is that in others we ought to assume their good intentions until we are proven otherwise.
We should also only correct those whom we sincerely believe it will have a positive impact upon. Even if a person has harmed us, it does no good to correct someone if they are unable to hear our correction. If we are likely to be misunderstood, or the person is not in a state of mind to receive the correction we are better off delaying it.
If it is truly the case, that we wish to correct out of charity, and we believe it is possible that it would be well received, how should we correct? This is one place where the Lord gives us a practical plan right in the scriptures. Go to the brother or sister who has offended you to speak to them one-on-one if possible. We too easily turn to gossip which solves nothing. The Lord knows the psychology of the human person. We get defensive if we feel threatened – no one likes to hear they did something wrong much less be publicly accused of it. Remember in fraternal correction you desire the good of the person.
If they persist in sin, seek counsel and help from witnesses – namely people the person you are trying to help, trusts and respects.If they still refuse to listen, “Reckon him no more amongst the number of thy brethren. But yet neither is his salvation on that account to be neglected. For the very heathen, that is, the Gentiles and Pagans, we do not reckon among the number of brethren; but yet are we ever seeking their salvation.”
Remember the point of this whole thing is to win your brother or sister back to the faith. To help them come to salvation. Is this difficult, yes? Is it worth it, yes! To guide a brother or sister back to the Father’s house. This is a great act of charity, an act of charity which mirrors Christ’s own charity toward us.
Questions for us to ponder:
Have I given into the relativism of our cultural situation?
When it is necessary to correct another how well does my approach align with Jesus’s call to charitable fraternal correction?
Do I shy away too much from conflict when I should speak to a brother or sister? Or do I, on the other hand, concern myself with things that are not my business to correct? What am I doing to work to foster charity?
Do I engage in gossip, either in person or online? If so what am I doing to overcome this sin in my life?
(23th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite)
 Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. R. G. MacMullen, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 359.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.). STh., II-II q.33 a.2 ad 4
 Augustine of Hippo, “Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament,” in Saint Augustin: Sermon on the Mount, Harmony of the Gospels, Homilies on the Gospels, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. R. G. MacMullen, vol. 6, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1888), 359.
I was blessed to grow up with the experience of having some terrific friends right down the street from us until about 6th grade. When we are young, we have an incredible ability to get to know others. Though we were different in many ways, my friends and I shared much in common. This made it possible for our friendship to continue even beyond the time we moved away from that street. In fact, the friendships I developed on Sunflower Trail continue to this day. I was at their wedding, and they were at my ordination. We have a lot in common – as the saying goes, you cannot make old friends. But you can make new ones.
Friendship and the consequent feelings and choices are always based on some common good. This common good unites the will of true friends in a way that they repeatedly choose the good of one another. Our natural inclination, proximity, and many other factors dispose us to natural friendship with other people.
It is through repeated acts of friendship then that people become friends. These are the friendships of our youth, which are primarily based on usefulness and utility. This was certainly true growing up on Sunflower Trail; we spent time together and found fun and mutual help from one another. A friendship develops because one person acts as a friend to another, and this action is reciprocated.
The excellence of the friendship thus depends on the good pursued by friends. Aristotle would say that friendship is best when it has as its object the best good, the highest things. For him, this means virtue and the flourishing of the friends in common.
But Christians, unlike Aristotle, have (or ought to have) a higher purpose in mind in friendship. Natural friendship should not be despised but is not sufficient for us. Our desire is for God; our hope, in fact, is to be friends with God. Thomas Aquinas says that charity is nothing other than friendship with God.
But how is such a thing possible? What common ground is the basis for our friendship with God? What unites the creature with his Creator?
Indeed, we could not do this ourselves. Instead, God takes the initiative in the Incarnation.When the Second person of the Holy Trinity takes our nature to himself without a change in himself, he heals us, and He raises humanity to himself to be his neighbors – to be his friends.
This is the highest meaning of the parable beyond any ethical or moral imperatives – that Christ himself is the Good Samaritan who finds you and me wounded and naked on the side of the road. Our nakedness was the result of having lost the original justice – that free gift of grace in which humanity was constituted. The wounds represent the harm done to our nature as a result.
Finding us in such a miserable condition, Christ cleanses our wounds with the saving bulb of the oil of gladness and with the wine which is symbolic of his own blood. He binds the wounds healing us through the sacraments and relationship with him. He, himself, picks us up and places us upon the beast of his humanity, which is the instrument of our Salvation. Then he takes us to the end of the church and pays the cost of our continued healing, our continued divinization.
In other words, brothers and sisters, God makes us his neighbors, and he does so by being a friend to us despite our rejection of his pleas. Again, and again he offers himself to us, making the first movement of friendship.
For concrete proof of this, we need to look no further than the Sacraments. All the sacraments point us to friendship with Christ. In baptism, he first regenerated our nature that we might be his friends. By Confirmation, we were strengthened by the spirit to be able to act as his friends – to bear him witness in the world. In reconciliation, our friendship with him is restored if we have lost it. In the anointing of the sick, he comes as a friend to visit us when we are weary tired, ill, or dying. In marriage, our friendship with him is expanded as he gives new life to his church. In holy orders, he chooses men to be sharers in his very priesthood. And above all, the sacrament of the Eucharist is the sacrament of friendship. Aristotle said that it is the quality of friends that they live a common life. In the Eucharist we do just that with God. In the Eucharist, we have a foretaste of that union which we will have in heaven one day.
In every way, Christ is the Good Samaritan who makes us his neighbors. Then he tells us to go and do likewise. This highest perspective in no way diminishes the importance of the imperative, which also follows from it. Christ says, “you are my friends if you do what I command you.” Christ commands us to imitate him by extending God’s friendship to others.
By being like the Samaritan, we also can bring relief to those in need physically, perhaps, and this is a good thing. But all the more, we can bring them to Christ, who is the one that every soul desires. Our supernatural friendship with Christ, compels us to want to bring others into that friendship so they can share that joy.
A friend of mine’s young son asked me a couple of years ago, “who is your best friend?” I said to him, Jesus. He then asked his dad the same question, and his dad replied the same way. I told the child, “that’s why your dad and I are such good friends. Because we have the same best friend.” My friendship with his father finds its basis in the Lord. My friend helped me be friends with his best friend, Jesus, and it did not take anything away from our human friendship, but rather elevated it. Our friendship is more excellent, more beautiful, and truer than any merely natural friendship because we are both turned towards the Lord.
We are called to invite others to become our neighbors by being their neighbors as Christ did for us. Then we must invite them to meet our best friend, the Good Samaritan, the one who raises us up, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.
Questions for us to ponder:
Do I recognize Christ as the Good Samaritan who comes to me? What wounds do I need to let him heal and bind? Have I left the inn of the Church – if not physically, spiritually – by willfully commiting grave sin?
Do I recognize that Jesus is both my Lord and my friend? (How) Am I spending time with my Friend through prayer and regular reception of the sacraments? How can I actively work to grow in the virtues so I can be a better friend?
When am I most tempted to act like the priest and the Levite and refuse to treat someone as my neighbor? How can I act differently in the future?
The words of our blessed Lord seem unusually harsh to our modern ears today. Even perhaps racist. He insults the woman with the truth that she is not part of the chosen people. He calls her a dog – an unclean animal for the Jews.
Is the Lord simply a product of the xenophobia of his historical time? Or of the human tendency toward xenophobia that we’d like to think is gone today, but unfortunately, is often still present in our culture? Is he perhaps unconsciously expressing the sentiment of his people?
No!We must recognize whom we speak here. Jesus of Nazareth is no mere man He is the second person of the blessed Trinity: God from God, light from light, the very one in whose image this woman was created in.
Have you ever misinterpreted a friend’s silence? What about his words? I found myself in that position many times. With painful irony, we often find ourselves understanding and seeing the wisdom of our parents and teachers and other authorities only after many years.
What is happening here in the gospel is something similar. The Lord’s words and his silence are easily misinterpreted in both their intention and their object. But to understand them well, we must remember who he is and what he does consider the whole gospel.
If the Lord, if the Word, speaks harshly, we must strive to understand his meaning. There is a hidden purpose both in the silence and in the harsh words. Because always the Word is working.
So what is the Lord doing? If we give God the benefit of the doubt – which ironically, in this case, reflects a deep faith in him – what do we see?
First, look at the context. Jesus goes to Tyre and Sidon. After having preached many parables about the Kingdom of heaven to his countrymen in Galilee, He comes from Genesseret. If we think his words to the Canaanite woman are harsh, we should read what he has to say to the Jews. He calls them hypocrites and broods of Vipers, honoring him with the lips but in their hearts far away from him.
Jesus’s movement from Jewish cities to gentile ones shows that his preaching, which is sufficient for salvation if believed, is intended for the salvation of all people. What else? He comes to a gentile city – imagine that, a Jewish rabbi traveling to a gentile city. What is he doing? He has to expect, even to desire, interaction with gentiles.
Why then does he stay silent when the miserable woman calls out to him?
The woman’s intention and her character are clearly apparent; she desires mercy because she has taken upon herself the burden of her tormented daughter. How many parents and priests, brothers and sisters, have done the same? This woman, through the mysterious working of God, already loves in the manner of a Christian. She loves in imitation of Christ, who took compassion upon us.
But this impassioned plea appears to yield no results. It is met with silence. Perhaps though, in the quiet, we find the response of the Lord. A quiet reply which serves its purposes in the Providence of God.
For one thing, through being silent, the Lord teaches the woman (and us) to persist in prayer. Prayer does not change the mind of God, but it does bring us into a relationship with him. It draws us more deeply into conformity with his will. This shows us that in the new covenant persisting in prayer – that is in relationship with the Lord is much more essential than fulfilling the law – though the law is not disparaged.
Through this persistence, the Canaanite woman grows in devotion. This also teaches us. Often the Lord waits to give us what we desire because we do not yet desire rightly or with the ardor necessary to make proper use of the gift. He expands our heart for him in this way so that we can properly receive the gift. This is why fasting before the feast days of the Lord is important. It gives a visible sign To the desire helping us to grow in that desire for the Lord.
Third, he teaches us the importance of intercession through his silence. The Lord wishes that we would cooperate with him in seeking the salvation of others and allow others to do the same for us. The disciples, albeit imperfectly, do take the woman’s petition to the Lord. Although they only do it because they are annoyed, it still teaches us something. And we can see this because He only speaks after their intercession.
He then says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matt 7:24)
Because he is in the gentile territory, we see that those words – harsh though they may seem – express his desire that the House of Israel, gathered back together in him, would be the beacon of salvation for all the world by pointing others to him. He was sent for all but to the Israelites first that through them, all might be chosen in Him.
The woman’s response is moving. Our translation fails to do it justice – “paying homage — just does not seem to have the force to convey what she was doing. She adored. She worshipped him as God. And her profound faith in the Lord as God as one who trusts that her prayer for help will be heard is on display here. Would that we also might experience the same increasing devotion.
The next words of our Lord are probably the harshest, but they serve an outstanding purpose. She is invited by our Lord to humility by them. The Lord asks her by these words to persist even more humbly.
In her words, she expresses what is true for all of us: we have no absolute claim on the mercy of God. In fact, just the opposite by nature, we merit nothing. And because of our sins and because of original sin, we deserve even less. How remarkable her trust! She knows that God is good enough to feed us to redeem us to heal us.
For her benefit and for our benefit, the Lord draws faith out of the Canaanite woman. She becomes a remarkable example of what trusting prayer in faith looks like.
Faith which is prompted by God coming to meet us first; Faith which does not deny our own needs while at the same time being compassionate towards others; Faith that is persistent in asking for what we need and what others need; Faith that asks for intercession from others; Faith that is, above all else, humble, which recognizes with gratitude the gift God gives us. For when we desire in prayer, nothing other than the will of God, then it will be done in our lives.
Questions to Ponder
When have you experienced silence from God? How have you reacted to God’s seeming silence?
How might God be working in your life to greater faith right now?
What are areas of your life in which it is difficult to trust the Lord? What “harsh words” might the Lord use to rouse your faith?
Who can you ask to pray for your intercessions today? Who can you pray for? (go do it, now!)
Have you ever tried to help a little child do something quite simple for you? That is something quite simple for you, but perhaps not so simple for them?
When kids are tiny, they instinctively receive our help. But as they grow and gain a little autonomy, we expect them to do some things by themselves, and they want to do so. But sometimes kids (I am told by sources close to the events that I was one of them as a child) refuse to let others help them even when they can’t do it themselves. How many toddlers have emphatically let their parents know, “I can do it myself”? Thus, we see the preschooler in mismatched and wrongfooted shoes wearing his shirt inside out and backward.
Now the desire to do something oneself isn’t a bad thing. In fact, we want our kids to grow in autonomy, to be able to make decisions, and do things themselves. Part of that process is also learning to ask for help when needed. Teachers in school have to help students learn how to ask questions when they need help. Parents, you have the hard job of helping your kids learn the balance between doing what they can do themselves and asking for and receiving support when necessary.
But this balancing act does not end in childhood, we adults often have the same difficulty: One temptation for me as I learn how to be a priest is the temptation to appear completely self-sufficient. I would wager that a similar temptation to appear perfect is present in many places of business and jobs. The temptation also emerges in families who fear asking for help from others. This temptation toward self-sufficiency, towards not allowing our needs to be known by people who could help is a form of the sin of pride.
In the moments when I have chosen humility by admitting I needed help in a situation, I have grown the most. When I’m in over my head, the counsel of a friend, or a mentor often brings a sense of peace. But even more than this, I have found that when we admit and express our need in a healthy way to someone, we grow in communion with others.
Let me be clear, discerning how and when to do this is essential. We should not trust an acquaintance as much as we trust a best friend or a spouse. We should guard our hearts with those we do not know well. But at the same time, we should be willing to ask for help from others.
Above all, we should never try to hide our needs from the Lord. Sometimes we are afraid to let Jesus know our weakness or needs for fear that he will reject us because of them. We have the mistaken illusion that we need to be perfect before we go to God. But this fear and shame before the Lord, though truly felt, is not in accord with who God has shown us that he is. In fact, it is precisely in our weaknesses that he comes to find us.
Fr. Fernandez, a late 20th-century commentator on the scripture, writes, “The experience of our personal weakness will serve for us to find Jesus who puts out his hand and enters our heart, giving us great peace in the midst of every trial.” Look at the movement of Christ, who immediately helps Peter as soon as Peter turns his gaze back to him. Fr. Fernandez continues, “If at times we realize we are out of our depth, that we are sinking, we should repeat with Peter, ‘Lord save me!’ We should neither doubt his love nor his merciful hand.”
St. Paul laments in our second reading precisely because his fellow Jews refuse to receive the love which God offers them. They either believe that they are already perfect through the Law or cannot imagine that God would come to them in this way as one who was weak and needy, to raise up the weak. Paul tries to shake his countrymen into realizing the greatness of their call. He wants them to know that God will give them all that is necessary to fulfill it if they will merely receive his gift.
In the Gospel, Peter’s boldness teaches us that Christ desires us to be bold and serving him and others. Because with Christ, we can do great things; we can do works that would be altogether impossible otherwise. Peter’s humility teaches us that we can only do these things when we humbly admit our need to Christ.
In these, trying and difficult times when we are filled with fear and anxiety, when we are buffeted by the winds and waves of life, do we recognize that God is at once calling us to step out of the boat to walk on water? Do we realize that we will only be able to do so by remaining in communion with him, by looking to him?
Will we admit our need before the Lord brothers and sisters? Will we call out to him? Most importantly, will we accept the hand he offers, clenching it however weakly, so that he can raise us up?
Questions for us to ponder (with the Lord):
What are my weaknesses, vulnerabilities, wounds? Where am I about to drown and in over my head?
Have I taken those to the Lord? If not, why not, what am I afraid of? If I am burdened by sin have, I taken it to the sacrament of Confession?
Who are the people that God has putting in my life with whom I can be appropriately vulnerable and ask for help when needed?
Where is God calling me to be brave and step out of the boat? Do I ask him for courage to do so each day?
How do you approach temptation? Consider the last time you were aware of a temptation to sin. Or the general pattern of sin in your life. What did you do? How did you fight against temptation?
How we try and fight against temptation reflects our beliefs about God. Is God a policeman trying to catch us? Is God far away and acting like an accountant who tallies our credits and debts?
Or is God Our Father? A Father who so loves the world that he sends his Son to die that we might have life. The Son, who is God, became the Firstborn of all creation – our Older Brother, in whom we have our Sonship – out of love for you and me. To call fallen humanity back to himself, he became man and dwelt among us.
So, what should we do when we are faced with temptation? I want to invite you to pray using the acronym A-R-R-R. Sometimes this is called praying like a pirate (ARRR – get it, just use it to remember it). This sounds a little cheesy, but it may help you to remember the acronym. Which stands for Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond.
Acknowledge the temptation
To be able to acknowledge the temptation, we need to be aware that we might be tempted. I encourage you to grow in self-knowledge. Parents please help your kids to learn to do this as well. What are the situations and occasions that often lead you to sin?
It takes humility to admit we are being tempted or might be tempted in a particular situation. Sometimes pride enters into our hearts in the form of “I’m beyond that temptation…I overcame that…I couldn’t be tempted in that way.” In these moments especially, we have to “take heed lest we fall,” and acknowledge first to ourselves that we are tempted, “for they do not crackle in the furnace of who do not have the wind of pride” It is helpful to be specific about this, I am being tempted to … this or that, rather than being general.
Relate it to God
Once we have acknowledged that we are tempted, we have a decision to make. Do we allow ourselves to entertain it, or do we take it to God? Do we ask for grace or choose to indulge? Relating talking to God does not need to be fancy, far from it. Just speak to him like you are speaking to a friend. He wants to know your hurts and desires because he loves you.
Recieve His Love and Grace
Next comes the most challenging part, at least for most of us. Receive his love. Once I hurt my leg, and an athletic trainer friend was working with me to help it heal. As he was working on my leg, he had to repeatedly tell me to relax. And the harder I tried to relax the muscles, the more I failed to ease the muscle tension. I think the same thing is often true in the spiritual life… we don’t know how to simply relax and receive the love of God. Receiving is more fundamental to Christianity than activity.
Simply bask in the fact that God loves you. Your sin, your past temptations, your present struggles, none of them can change the fact that God loves you. He’s loved you from the beginning, and he will always love you. You are his son or daughter.
Respond to this gift of grace.
From this love, respond to the grace to live as a son or daughter. Thomas Aquinas tells us: “truly faithful is God, who gives us power so that we may not be vanquished, grace so we may merit, constancy so that we may conquer.”
You are a temple of the Holy Spirit… far more valuable than the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Christ compassionately weeps when he sees us in sin because he loves us. Christ is always present and desires to enter the temple of our hearts and cleanse it of the robbers who wish to cause us harm. Let him love you. Receive that love and live in freedom from sin.
Questions for use to ponder
Am I honest with myself about my temptations and the vices in my life? How am doing at truthfully acknowledging my thoughts, feelings, and desires (even if they are not all holy)?
Do I honestly relate my struggles and temptations to the Lord? Are there areas of temptation that I struggle to be honest about?
How do I feel loved by God? What are signs of his love for me?
What prevents me from responding to his love?
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 1st Corinthians, 535
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on 1st Corinthians, 535
When was the last time you encountered a person in poverty? How did you react? If we have lived in Austin for any length of time, we have probably been approached by someone asking for money or for food. Often like the disciples, we simply want people in need to go away. I’m not proud of it, but I know I’ve consciously desired to be able to walk past a person in need without them asking for something. Why do we shy away from encountering poverty?
Perhaps we are afraid that we will not be able to do anything to relieve the person’s suffering. Perhaps we recognize that even if we can help someone through a corporal or spiritual work of mercy, we won’t be able to completely alleviate the suffering
Or perhaps, we want them to go to other towns and cities because we are afraid that their poverty will reveal our poverty. We don’t like admitting our own poverty – our own need. Maybe we shun the poor because we idolize the myth of the self-made man or woman, and we fear that the poor force us to see our own poverties.
Perhaps in encountering an impoverished person, we recognize our own poverty. Perhaps we notice how close we are to financial poverty – the worry about making ends meet. But perhaps other – more serious types of poverty as well: The poverty of love, a lack of friendship, loneliness. The poverty of envy and jealousy. The poverty of being a slave to lust or gluttony. The poverty of our own hidden sins, which we cover with a thin veneer of respectability. Or the poverty of worry and anxiety. The poverty of mental illness, the poverty of hidden family problems. The list could go on.
But the mythical self-made man simply does not exist. Our personal choices are formative – they matter – and we bear moral responsibility for them, but no man is an island.
From the first moment of our conception, human beings exist fundamentally in relation. No one gives birth to himself. No human being who ever lived or who will ever live has come to maturity without the intervention of another human being.
This fact is made perfectly clear in the incarnation, the enfleshment of Our Lord Jesus, who is God, needed his Mother. Think about that statement. God needed his Mother. We should tremble at the truth of it. God is perfect without need, truly without poverty. But when he became flesh and dwelt among us, he needed his Mother and St. Joseph to survive. Our Lord Jesus Christ grew to maturity because his Blessed Mother and St. Joseph chose to love him.
His ultimate poverty comes on the Cross when he empties himself, taking the form of a slave. This poverty continues in every Eucharist, when Christ, the King of King, allows himself to be held, broken and received by poor sinners that we might know his love.
This is what St. Paul speaks of today: there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Christ impoverished himself so that he could encounter us in our poverty and raise us up with him. He makes our poverties places of victory through his love. He gives us himself at the bread that satisfies us, and in our weakness, makes us strong.
Having received such a gift, should we not do the same for those we encounter each day?
We can, indeed, we must be compassionate to those around us if we wish to be Christians in reality rather than merely in word. Hear these strong words from St. John Chrysostom for those who fail to show mercy after receiving the Eucharist:
“You have tasted the Blood of the Lord, yet you do not recognize your brother, … You dishonor this table when you do not judge worthy of sharing your food someone judged worthy to take part in this meal.… God freed you from all your sins and invited you here, but you have not become more merciful.”
As we pass through our daily lives in the City of Austin, we encounter a vast multitude of people who do not know Jesus and who have never received the bread which will satisfy. The Lord’s words should resound in our ears: “there is no need for them to go away, give them some food yourselves.”
We are Christ, brothers, and sisters, and though we may not be able to give a person money or food each time they ask, we can be compassionate as he was. But there is a cost: Compassion – suffering from another – requires poverty. It requires being vulnerable as he was. Emptying ourselves as he did. To be poor in spirit as he was.
Is this difficult? Yes. But is it worth it? Yes. When we offer compassion, this offering becomes like the two fish and five loaves. It becomes an offering to the Lord and bears a rich harvest through him who lives and reigns forever and ever in the unity of the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.
 St. John Chrysostom, Hom. in 1 Cor. 27, 4: PG 61, 229–230; cf. Mt 25:40.
What would you ask of God if he told you to ask him for something? Put another way, what is the deepest desire of your heart? What is the thing that you live for?
Even though he is young, Solomon asks for something very wise. He asks for an understanding heart to be able to govern well. To be able to distinguish between what is right and wrong. He so pleases God by requesting a gift ordered to the good of others – something that will help him rule charitably and justly – that God gives him many other gifts in addition to this wisdom.
And Solomon is hailed as the greatest of all the Kings of Israel because of his great wisdom. He is just and wise for much of his life. But as he ages, Solomon slowly becomes enamored with earthly goods to the exclusion of heavenly ones. He lusts after foreign who lead him astray, even into worshipping false gods and building temples in the land of Israel to these false gods.
This raises a question, was God unfaithful to his promise to give Solomon wisdom? Did God fail to provide what he had promised?
No! God is faithful to his promises. Look at what Solomon accomplished when he followed God’s commands! He was the greatest and wisest of all the kings. When his heart desired God above all things, he was able to use the gift of wisdom. God gave Solomon everything he needed to follow him and to persevere in following him to the end. But at some point, Solomon began to compromise with what he knew was evil so he could satisfy some lesser desire. He gave into lust, perhaps thinking, “it is just this one time.” He gave into greed, compromising his integrity. And as he did so, he stopped using the gifts that God continued to provide him with.
God did not stop giving the gift. God does not stop offering Solomon wisdom. Solomon knows what is right. But Solomon chooses to reject it. He decides to do something wrong. And then he does it again. And again. And every evil choice makes it easier and easier for him to choose evil. This is vice. The gift remains. But vice destroys man’s ability to use it.
Brothers and Sisters, knowing what right is essential, but it is not enough. We must choose to do it. We must decide each day to live according to what we know is right. We must desire God above every other good thing or person. God is supremely generous with you and me.
He gives us a treasure, a pearl of high price. He gives with every gift we need. Above all, he gives us the virtue of charity. Through the scandal of the Cross – God dying for love of you and me – he provokes us to love him. He gives you the one thing your heart truly desires above all – himself. As St. Augustine says, “you have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until we rest in you.” In having him, in loving him, by his gift, he gives you the one thing necessary, the one thing that will superabundantly fulfill all of your other desires.
But will we use his gift? Or will we receive it in vain?
We know that in him is found our very life, for we who have been baptized in Christ live no longer, but rather he lives in us. But will we go and sell everything to secure this treasure? To receive this pearl? What are we willing to give up, so we can take up the one thing which is worth everything? What do we desire?
In the letter to the Romans and throughout his writings, Paul contrasts the attitude of a servant and a Son. The Son and the servant may do the same thing, but their reasons for doing so differ significantly. A servant acts from fear; he is concerned with protecting himself from harm. But a Son acts from love.
To be clear, the attitude of the servant is reasonable. In St. Paul’s time, as in today’s time, slavery was cruel, harsh, and inhumane. Acting as fear would indicate, to be clear, is not always a bad thing. If a lion is chasing you, you should run. It is not wrong for us to act motivated by fear on a natural human level as long as it is reasonable.
Yet, in recent months we have seen how powerful a force fear can be in our lives. Fear can be paralyzing. Sometimes it prevents us from doing what we would know is right in a difficult situation. On the other hand, sometimes it disposes us to do something wrong even though we know it is wrong.
St. Paul uses this contrast to invite us to consider something fundamental in our spiritual life. He says that we do not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear but a spirit of adoption by which we cry out Abba Father. You are a son or daughter of God in the image of the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do we realize the profound truth that St. Paul tells us today and its implications? I would argue that our Christian life is at the heart of the unfolding of this mystery. That God wishes to conform us to the image of his Son, to make us sons and daughters in the Son.
We are conformed to his image at Baptism. This is not merely a “covering over” of our old nature, but rather the renewal of ourselves. In Baptism, the Spirit remakes you and me into the image of the Son. This is one reason why the Our Father plays such a prominent role in Baptism.
Consider also what we do each day here at Mass. We call down the Spirit upon bread and wine, and He makes present Christ under the humble species of bread and wine that we might again unite ourselves to his Sacrifice. But this Sacrifice because it is the Sacrifice of the Son out of love for the Father always has a filial character. Consider that the first words of the Canon are “Te igitur clementissime Pater” – to you, therefore, most merciful Father! Moreover, immediately after the Canon, we unite ourselves in praying the Pater Noster – the Our Father – the model of every prayer for a Christian. The Spirit has not only made Christ present on the altar but united us as one body in union with Christ our head.
The Sacrifice of the Mass is not like the pagan sacrifices of old, which were made in servile fear. It is not the Sacrifice of a slave, or a servant to the Master but rather a Sacrifice of Love offered willingly. A sacrifice of Christ’s filial love, into which we are caught up. We participate in Christ by the Spirit. So also, our entire life is meant to be caught up into this one Sacrifice, so that it can be continually transformed. This is what Paul means when he implores us not to live according to the flesh but rather by the Spirit.
While we might begin our spiritual life motivated mostly by fear of punishment, part of our life is to grow more and more in what St. John calls perfect love – which casts out all doubt! Our only concern spiritually speaking, should be about becoming separated from the one we love. “We’ve got to be filled, to be imbued with the idea that our Father, and very much our Father, is God who is both near us and in heaven.”
As the bread and wine are made Christ, who always cries out to the Father, so also our lives must be made into Christ through the work of the Spirit so that in union with him, we too cry out Father through that same Spirit. I invite us in prayer to examine ourselves: Do we act with the freedom of sons who are brothers and friends of the Son or as if we were servants. God came to make us coheirs, not slaves. He said, I no longer call you servants…Will we receive his love?
Saint Paul’s Letters to the Romans & Galatians, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 101.
Recently, a priest friend of mine and Seminarian Phil went to get some food at the Clay Pit – it was delicious. When we walked in, we were a bit disappointed that it was not open for dine-in. But we placed our order for take-out and were told that it would take about 30 minutes for it to be ready. Resigned to hunger, we sat down and began talking. In about 12 minutes, we got out food. Elated that we received it so quickly, we proceeded to the rectory to enjoy. We expected one thing (less good) and received another (excellent).
Have you ever gone to a bakery and chosen something from the case which looked so delicious bit into it and found it less appealing than what you expected? You were probably more disappointed because you expected it to be so pleasant. What we expect can change the way we interpret an event. In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us what fruit we ought to bear and in light of this to consider what fruit we expect from others and ourselves.
We are the trees, brothers, and sisters, in the garden of the Lord. We are perhaps a variety of different trees, but we are all meant to bear good fruit. “The tree is the soul, that is, the man himself; the fruit is the man’s works.”
Let us begin with that layer of this parable. “A good tree bears good fruit,” says the Lord. How can we come to bear this good fruit? First, we need to be good, healthy fruit trees. The very basis of a tree’s ability to bear good fruit comes from its nature. But, a good healthy tree does not come about of its own accord but receives its nature from another.
In our case, we received human nature when we were conceived. But our nature was wounded. Our human nature was not as it ought to have been but rather diseased from original sin. But in Baptism, our nature was substantially healed and even elevated. At our Baptism, we received a permanent character – as a son or daughter of God. We were conformed to him – as St. Thomas Aquinas says grace makes us like God – deiform.
But it is not enough to have this character (to be made like him). Consider, in the beginning, God formed man, and then he breaths his Spirit into him, making him come alive. Similarly, so now, God breaths new life into you and me at Baptism. And if we have lost this life, which we call sanctifying grace or charity – he revives us through repentance.
We are not empty, barren trees, brothers, and sisters, no instead, he gives us a new life with him — the life of grace. The life we live is not our own but rather His life. This life is like the sap, which fills the tree from its roots to its highest branches. Without the sap, the tree will not bear good fruit; it will wither and die. If we want to give good fruit, we must be connected to the Lord. We need to receive our life from the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit the way a tree receives from the ground, the sun, and the air. Without living in communion with the Blessed Trinity – that is – with charity, we will neither grow nor bear fruit. The basis of our bearing fruit consists primarily of receiving the gifts that God wishes to give us. Receiving is more critical than doing in the spiritual life.
Finally, if we wish to bear fruit, we must allow ourselves to be pruned and molded – once again, a type of reception. With great courage, we ask God to change our hearts and receive the grace of repentance. We must let him regularly prune us, removing the parts of our soul that will not bear fruit so that they can grow.
In summary, what makes works good – how to know if we bear fruit? In a word, charity. The charity which allows us to love God above all things and others as he loves them. Charity is our life. It gives good fruit. As St. Gregory tells us (Mor. xx. 7.) “By this sentence it is given to us to learn, that among men charity and humility, and not mighty works, are to be esteemed. Whence also now the Holy Church, if there be any miracles of heretics, despises them, because she knows that they have not the mark of holiness. And the proof of holiness is not to work miracles, but to love our neighbor as ourselves, to think truly of God, and of our neighbor better than of ourselves.”
If we are growing in charity, practically speaking, we know we will bear fruit. This brings us to the second, important part of the parable—the warning about those who come in sheep’s clothing but are really wolves. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing. Beware of how evil can come looking so comfortable. Be aware of how it appears so attractive. Be mindful of how our expectations of how holiness looks color the way we react to those around us. Our expectations color the way we judge things as good or evil, even how we judge people as good or evil or even better or worse.
We need to remember, as St. John Chrysostom says, “the discerning of a tree is done by its fruits, not the fruits by the tree. A tree is known by its fruits. For though the tree is the cause of the fruit, yet the fruit is the evidence of the tree.” We must remember that charity is the measure and nothing else. This goes for communities as well as individuals. If a community is unkind to outsiders or each other, each individual needs to discern what type of tree he or she is.
Charity, proven by love towards our neighbor and love of God, which always looks like the Cross, is the accurate measure of whether we are good trees. For ultimately, as St. John of the Cross so eloquently put it, “in the evening of our life we will be judged by our love.”
 Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 284. Augustine. (Serm. in Mont. ii. 25.)
 Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 290.
 Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels, Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew, ed. John Henry Newman, vol. 1 (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841), 461.
About 40 yards to my right, between the school and the rectory, you will find a magnificent tree shading the whole courtyard area. The little deck/balcony that is part of the rectory incorporates this tree. Because of this, and due to its continuing growth, the tree is pushing the stairs out of alignment. Alas, we will have to add that to the maintenance list for our beautiful Cathedral grounds.
The tree grew from a tiny acorn. Then it became, a seedling, then a small tree, then a medium-sized tree, and only after many years has it reached its maturity. All its power to bear heavy loads and to grow to the height of the buildings around it existed in the acorn.
This is like what our Lord speaks about using the mustard seed. The kingdom of heaven grows slowly, but it reaches to the heights. Nothing will stop it. Likewise, with the leaven – the yeast – it only takes a minuscule amount to cause the dough to rise – to double or even triple in volume. But it takes time. Note what Christ is telling us here: the kingdom grows slowly yet is fully alive from the beginning. He is the kingdom. In fact, it is his will that it grows slowly so that many more would have the chance for repentance and for the joy of knowing Christ!
With these thoughts percolating in our minds, let us turn to the first parable that Christ offers us today. The wheat and the weeds. Remember the parable of last week? In that parable, of the sower and the different types of soil, the Lord helps us recognize the obstacles to the flourishing life of grace in ourselves. Remember, we want to be good fruitful soil.
Today, to continue the analogy, Christ turns to our relationship with the other plants within the field. How do we react when another does not bear the expected fruit? In more literal terms, how do we confront evil, and why does it exist? And what purpose does it serve in our life as a disciple?
These are not sterile questions; many of the most brilliant minds of humanity, saints and sinners alike, have struggled with them. For example, when St. Thomas Aquinas summarized the objections against God’s existence in his Summa Theologica, the presence of evil in the world was objection number one. We are in good company, then if these questions arise in our hearts as well. If we believe in God, all of these questions become some form of, “why does God allow evil to continue?”
Thomas’ answer –concise as always – is that “it is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.” Such a response merits reflection and prayer; these are the only means of us coming to see what Thomas gets at in so succinct a manner, which is also what our Lord proposes to us through the parable.
What good comes from allowing the plants and the wheat to grow together?
First, before they bear fruit, the wheat and weeds are difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish. It is by their fruit you will know them. The growing time – remember the mustard seed – is necessary because God loves his people. He thus gives us time to grow so that we might have time to repent. Through the grace of repentance, God changes us from weeds to wheat.
As the Lord has been generous in giving us time to repent, so also he calls us to be generous in allowing people room to repent and grow from their mistakes. Rash judgments are not the way of the Father who gives his “children good ground for hope that [God] would permit repentance for their sins.” Giving people the benefit of the doubt, kindly admonishing people without judging their character, and looking for ways to empathize (understand the other person’s situation as they do) can all help us to extend the love we have received to others.
Augustine has this to say when we encounter evil, “let a man gently reprove whatever is in his power; what is not so let him bear with patience, and mourn over with affection, until He from above shall correct and heal, and let him defer till harvest-time to root out the weeds.” As Augustine suggests, there are some evils which we should remedy and correct as possible. These are things that fall within our power. For example, parents have authority over their children to help them grow in the virtues. Pastors and priests likewise exercise responsibility in their parishes. But this also extends to friendships. Some of the closest friends I have are the ones who have lovingly told me I needed to repent of specific sins and who walked with me through the struggle. They became the instruments of my conversion from weeds to wheat.
Nevertheless, the Christian will often confront situations in which evil comes about over which he has no power. He or she may not be able to stop some evils from happening. This is the situation portrayed in the parable; the Master forbids the servants from removing the weeds because doing so would destroy the wheat. Remember, God allows evil, and he brings good from it. Notice that this is a hidden process; the intertwining roots are under the ground. We don’t know how precisely this comes about. But we can be assured that God never permits evil without bringing some greater good from it.
The most perfect example of this is the Cross. The Cross is man’s total rejection of the Love of God Himself. Yet evil does not have the last say. Christ transforms it into the place of victory. Out of the Cross comes our salvation. Christ chooses to endure such great evil because he sees the great good: our salvation. Through the evil Christ suffered on the Cross, “man knows…how much God loves him, and is …stirred to love Him in return, and herein lies the perfection of human salvation.”
Likewise, anytime we suffer evil in union with Christ, we show the world how much God loves them. The Kingdom of Heaven already triumphs because Christ, who is its embodiment, has already triumphed through his Cross and Resurrection.
Last November, my mom, a cousin of mine, a close friend, and I ran the Shiner Half-marathon. I know I don’t look like a runner…its because I’m not! I’ve never been particularly athletic. But encouraged by others for the sake of my health, I try to work out regularly. I’ve found that having a goal helps me be able to choose to workout. Because I recognize the value of the goal, I’m willing to sacrifice something in the present, to achieve something in the future.
You have had similar experiences yourself, I am sure, in your lives. In work, school, with your family, it’s a mark of maturity to sacrifice something good in the present (or in other words to endure suffering) to permit a greater future good to come about.
Perhaps the most salient human example of this is the work of raising children. Parents know that the work of raising a child from conception to maturity is often demanding. The process has its joys to be sure; however, sorrows, heartbreaks, difficulties, and sacrifices abound in the life of a parent. But rejoicing in the child come to full maturity or seeing virtue flourish in the child after so many difficulties make it worth it. Because you have the goal in mind, you are willing to sacrifice for your children.
This fact holds true for our spiritual life as well. If we recognize the end for which we strive, we will be capable of sacrificing to achieve it. We groan for freedom even as we find ourselves in a valley of tears. This earthly existence remains a prelude – to the full symphony to be revealed in the fulfillment of the ages. Heaven remains the end for which we strive.
Nevertheless, though it is not perfect, eternal life has already begun in us brothers and sisters. Consider: At your baptism, you received this life. If the life of God has died in us through mortal sin, he draws us back to him through the Sacrament of Confession – giving us the grace of repentance! God nourishes the life within us through the Eucharist – the foretaste of heaven, bread of angels, and pledge of future glory.
St. Catherine of Sienna a 14th Century lay Dominican renowned for her holiness, remarked, “All the way to heaven, is heaven, for Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’” Her genius was to recognize that heaven means communion with the Lord.
This is the strange and beautiful paradox of Christianity: We are a people who are already with the Lord, but not yet free of suffering. Yet even as Christ always remained with his Father – even in the darkest moments – so also, we remain with him in our greatest sufferings. Our communion will be perfected on the day of the final judgment. Nevertheless, already we have died and risen with Christ, and the life we live is no longer our own but Christ’s.
As Christians, if heaven is our goal, we must remove any impediments which prevent this life of Christ from flourishing and bearing fruit in us. We want to cooperate to become good soil where the Sower’s seed can bear fruit. What does becoming good soil involve?
To make the soil suitable for planting, first, we must plow it. From the soil’s perspective, this is a somewhat violent act. Thus Christ’s first warning is against the hard indifference borne of pride. We sometimes choose to be hardened soil to refuse the plowing of the sower. Hearing we do not hear and seeing we do not see because we believe in our self-sufficiency. If your heart or mine has become hardened or indifferent to the knowledge and love of God, if we think we are self-sufficient, we need to repent. We must allow God to break into our hardened hearts. May He plow the soil of our hearts and implant within us once again the fit of his own life.
Once we have plowed, we then must remove the stones, fertilize the soil, and water it even as the seeds are planted. This is necessary because the soil supports the seed’s life only through having nutrients within it to give. Christ’s second warning is thus against sloth – which is sorrow at spiritual good, which God wishes to give us. Sloth occurs when we know we should do something about loving God, we know we ought to love, that we ought to want to be virtuous, but we refuse to complete what love demands. We become lax about prayer and virtuous living – refusing to fertilize and water the soil of our soul. Or perhaps we refuse to remove the stones in our lives, preferring to ignore them. These stones are the things that often lead us to sin. When this happens, our hearts become “gross” and “rocky” weighed down by all the million and one other things that appear to us more important than the love of God. Eventually, we lose our love for God entirely because we have been a gross rocky ground where the word cannot grow to maturity.
Once the seed germinates, we still must work against the weeds which spring up around the seedlings if we wish to bear fruit. These weeds and thorns are vices, which, if not removed from the garden of our soul, will choke the life of grace from our souls. Vices of lust, greed, wrath, and gluttony all represent habitually disordered dispositions towards things which of themselves are good. For example, gluttony is a disordered desire for food and drink. Food and drink are necessary to live. But if we love them more than the people around us or the God who created all, they become idols and can choke the life from us.
All of this is hard work, but let us keep the end in mind, and recognize that it is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit in us. As Christ himself bore fruit through his sacrifice, so also as mature Christians, the Spirit bears fruit in and through us. In us, grace will multiply. If we offer our suffering with the Lord (even if we have brought it upon ourselves) with God’s help, we will continue to grow in all the virtues and especially in charity – “to him that has, more will be given, and he will grow rich.” Through us, even more magnificently, our actions can and will bear fruit in others as well. We will become conduits of grace through which others may come into a deeper relationship with God.
God calls us to bear great fruit in as Christ himself did! To the extent that we repent, run to the Lord, and offer him the sacrifice of our lives, the soil of our soul will bear fruit. May we imitate his example and bear much fruit. 30x, 60x, 100x.
When I was in high school, I returned to my elementary school to help teach the grade school kids about engineering using a robot we built. I remember thinking, as I walked in the door, “this place has become smaller.” But the truth, of course, was not that building had changed in size but that I had changed. We don’t notice it because, within ourselves, we change slowly, but as the years go by, we look up and ask ourselves, “when did that change?” Of course, as we change, the world also changes around us. The world sometimes dramatically changes because of events we have no little to no control over. For example, pandemics.
We change over time, and the world changes over time. The effects of those changes change the way that we see the world. They give us a new perspective, sometimes quite literally, on life. Think of how your life has changed in the past two months…what’s different now? What’s different in you? What’s different in your world? Have your priorities shifted? How have they changed?
Here’s another thing we don’t control but changes the world: the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s resurrection is the dawning of a new world – a new heaven and new earth in the language of St. John’s Revelation. Christ died for our sins, destroying death by his death, and Christ rose to give us hope. This change in the world should inspire in us a change in the way we look at the world. This a gift of the Holy Spirit, whom Christ promises in the Gospel. The Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, will change the way that we live – “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” What is the fundamental truth that the Spirit makes us realize? That Christ is in His Father, and we are in Christ, and Christ is in us! Jesus does not leave us orphans. The Spirit continues to make Christ present in us at every moment of every day. The Spirit of Truth makes it clear to us that the Risen Christ comes to us but by grace.
So, just as we asked ourselves questions about how has this pandemic changed our lives, I suggest that we ask questions like, “how has the Resurrection of Christ changed my life?”
It is a wonderful characteristic of human beings we can adapt to a new and difficult situation when we encounter it. But the thing is if we don’t recognize what’s new in the world or what’s new in ourselves, we will not change the way we see the world, much less the way we interact in the world. Because we fail to recognize that the Spirit makes Christ present, it comes about that all too often, you and I walk around as if we had no hope.
St. Peter writes to newly formed Christian communities who are on the brink of despair and on the brink of losing faith because of this same experience. The people who made up these communities had professed their faith in Christ received baptism. Now, they experienced great challenges in their lives because of that faith. Most of them had been gentiles or pagans before their conversion to the faith. They had to adopt an entirely new way of living. St. Peter makes clear their baptism calls for a transformation in every area of their life. He mentions many of the important areas of life – marriage, and family, children, economic concerns, relationship with the state, to name but a few. St. Peter recognizes that this new way of living comes at a cost to these new Christians. He recognizes that they may, indeed, they probably will suffer as a result of the new life they live in Christ. Living differently – that is, living according to the love of Christ, which allows us to keep the commandments may mean – probably will mean suffering.
But St. Peter doesn’t just say, good luck with that suffering! No, he goes even further, he claims that suffering “for doing good, if that be the will of God, is better than suffering for doing evil.” Then he goes still further, saying, “rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed, you may also rejoice exultantly.” St. Peter’s response to Christians suffering is neither to deny that suffering exists, nor to deny that it is evil, but rather to point Christians to its true meaning in light of the passion, death, and resurrection of the Lord. This is why he tells his readers, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” 
The act of “sanctifying Christ in our hearts” transforms suffering into a reason for our hope. But what does it mean to sanctify Christ? Notice that the Spirit makes us capable of cooperating to sanctify Christ in our hearts. The Spirit works in us to “sanctify Christ” by making us participate in Christ’s own life, making us aware of that participation, and helping us live accordingly – that is, to live with hope!
Our hope, brothers and sisters, flows from Christ’s promise, which is being fulfilled in our midst, that he will “not leave us orphans.” Indeed, we are not orphans, because we have “received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” in union with the Son.
On biological level, a cry always implies a breath; we cannot cry out, if we lack breath. Spiritually, the same is true, we cannot cry out to Father without the “breath” of the Spirit. Our crying out then shows our ability to love the Father by participating in the Son’s own Love for the Father. At the moment of his death on the Cross, St. Luke tells us that Christ “crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last.” These words are not a cry of despair, but a cry of love, borne from Christ’s knowledge that the Father loves him, and he loves the Father.
Especially when we suffer, the dying words of Christ on the Cross also become our cry. On that day, on the day in which we suffer while recognizing that we have the gift of the Spirit, we will realize that Christ is in his Father and that we are in him and he in us.This participation makes us capable of offering our suffering as a sacrifice in union with Christ. Suffering in us reveals God’s love to the world because through it we can offer sacrifice in union with the Son. When we offer sacrifice in union with Christ, we sanctify Him in our hearts. This is the truth, which changes our lives. He is the Truth that changes our lives. The Spirit of Truth makes us participants in Jesus Christ’s own life. We see with new eyes, and thus can give a reason for our hope centered on the fact that Christ rose from the dead to the glory of the Father.
A little over 22 months ago, my life changed when my nephew Liam was born. Our family rejoiced because of the birth of a new generation of Rooneys. We all knew Liam was coming for the nine months before that, but there was something about finally being able to hold him. We might know a lot about a person, but before we interact with them, we don’t know them. But, when I was holding Liam for the first time, I knew him. I knew my nephew and I loved him. Encountering Liam for the first time changed life for my family and me.
We know a human person through a human body. The person reveals themselves through their body, and the body reveals the person. Without even choosing it, Liam revealed himself to me and that revelation significantly changed my life – I knew I was an uncle. A new relationship was created.
Twenty-two months ago, my life changed because a baby was born. Babies always change lives. Two thousand years ago, every person’s life changed because another baby was born: A Baby who is God and who reveals God. During this great feast of Christmas, we celebrate that God humbly reveals himself to us by becoming a man. In that revelation, a relationship is created. God binds humanity to himself.
The radical claim of Christianity is that the Word who spoke creation into being became a Baby who could not speak a word. God becomes incarnate. He takes on flesh and blood. He takes on a human mind and a human will. He assumes humanity to himself. He became like us in all things but sin.
He is born of a woman, and through his humanity, we get to meet divinity. When we look at the little baby in the manger, we see the face of God. The infant Jesus lying in the manger reveals God. When he smiles, God smiles. When he cries, God cries. When he grasps the finger of Mary or Joseph or a shepherd, it is God grasping the human hand.
This is fundamental to Christianity, and if we recognize it will change our lives. On this night of the nativity, “the defenseless love of God, his humility, and his kindness came into view: he exposes himself to us in the heart of this world” God comes to us in a way that we can receive Him – as a tiny infant.
When I pray and think about the fact that Jesus became a tiny baby, three ideas come to mind.
The first is that babies are delightful. They bring us great joy. What a joy it has been to see my brothers and their wives rejoice in my niece and nephew! They rejoice in each new ability – even the smallest hint of a smile from my three-month-old niece is enough to bring joy to our hearts. Every new day is a new adventure with a child. Children invite us to have a new delight in the world, but more importantly, they invite us to delight in them. Christ becomes a delightful child, that we may learn to delight in God as he delights in us as his children.
The second thought I have is that babies are defenseless. They are vulnerable. Harmed by sin, our hearts are defensive. All too often in our attempts to love, we have been hurt. Because of this, we place walls up around our hearts for protection. A baby can melt those walls completely because a baby is so very vulnerable. He or she cannot protect themselves. Babies do not threaten us. They simply invite us to love. The child Jesus offers no threat. As an infant, he was not a threat to anybody. Jesus Christ depended on his parents just like every other child born into the world. He needed their help to live. He was small and helpless. He needed to be protected. Out of supreme love, the Word makes himself vulnerable in this way. The wood of the manger foreshadows the wood of the Cross. God opens himself to being harmed to show us that he does not threaten us but wishes to love us. From the Crib to the Cross, his entire life shows us this love. Christ becomes defenseless to melt our defensive hearts, so we can love him.
Yes, meeting the Baby of Bethlehem, we see that God chooses to become an infant who draws us out of ourselves and toward God. He opens the door for us to meet him as a person and awaits our response. This brings me to the third idea: Babies are demanding. Babies have many needs that the ones who love them must fulfill. Being a parent is demanding. When they arrive, babies demand from us that we change many things if we care for them. Parents and families have to mold to the needs of the infant in their midst. Think of all the things that parents sacrifice for their children: sleep, food, money, opportunities, time, their own expectations. Parenthood means living for the other in a radical way.
So also, the infant Jesus gently demands something from us.
The child of Bethlehem gently invites us to love him…and responding to that invitation love means changing our lives. He comes in love, inviting us to love him, making himself defenseless and delightful. If we respond in love, it will demand everything, and we will receive everything. If we choose to love him, meeting this child will change our lives. It will mean a radical reorientation of our hearts to the love of God and love of neighbor. Love demands everything of us not because God needs our love but because in loving Him, we will be completely fulfilled.
Brothers and Sisters, if you have been far from the Lord, do not be afraid to let him love you today. Do not be afraid to receive the Christ Child into your arms. Look upon him, and more importantly, let him look upon you with love. He comes for you. Let your heart be melted by his gaze, delight as he smiles upon you. Then let your heart respond with love. He takes nothing; he gives everything. O come, let us adore Him.
 Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 71.
Hace poco más de 22 meses, mi vida cambió cuando nació mi sobrino Liam. Nuestra familia se regocijó por el nacimiento de una nueva generación de Rooneys. Todos sabíamos que Liam estaba llegando para los nueve meses antes de eso, pero había algo acerca de finalmente poder abrazarlo.Sabemos que podemos saber mucho acerca de una persona sin conocerla. Conocemos a una persona humana a través de su cuerpo. La persona se revela a través de su cuerpo y el cuerpo revela a la persona. Cuando estaba abrazando a Liam por primera vez, lo conocí. Yo conocía a mi sobrino y lo quería. Encontrar a Liam por primera vez cambió mucho la vida para mí y mi familia. Sin siquiera elegirlo, Liam se me reveló y esa revelación cambió mi vida: sabía que era un tío. Se creó una nueva relación.
Hace 22 meses, mi vida cambio porque conocí a Liam. Hace 2 mil anos el nacimiento de otro bebe cambio la vida de todas las personas desde el principio hasta el fin del mundo. Hoy, en esta gran fiesta de Navidad, celebramos que Dios se nos revela humildemente al hacerse hombre. En esa revelación, se crea una relación. Dios ata a la humanidad a sí mismo.
La afirmación radical del cristianismo es que la Palabra que habló de la creación se convirtió en un Bebé que no podía hablar una palabra. Dios se encarna. Él toma carne y sangre. Asume una mente humana y una voluntad humana. Asume la humanidad para sí mismo. Se hizo como nosotros en todas las cosas menos en el pecado. Él nació de una mujer y a través de su humanidad llegamos a conocer la divinidad. Cuando miramos al pequeño bebé en el pesebre, vemos el rostro de Dios. El niño Jesús acostado en el pesebre revela a Dios. Cuando él sonríe, Dios sonríe. Cuando llora, Dios llora. Cuando agarra el dedo de María o José o un pastor, es Dios que está agarrando la mano humana.
Esto es fundamental para el cristianismo y si lo reconocemos cambiará nuestras vidas. En esta noche de la navidad, “el amor indefenso de Dios, su humildad y su bondad aparecieron a la vista: se expone a nosotros en el corazón de este mundo” Dios viene a nosotros de manera que podemos recibirlo. Como un pequeño bebé.
Cuando oro y pienso en el hecho de que Jesús se convirtió en un bebé pequeño, me vienen a la mente tres ideas.
La primera es que los bebés son encantadores. Nos traen una gran alegría. ¡Qué alegría ha sido ver a mis hermanos y sus esposas regocijarse en mi sobrina y sobrino! Se regocijan en cada nueva habilidad. La más mínima sonrisa de mi sobrina de tres meses es suficiente para alegrar nuestros corazones. Cada nuevo día es una nueva aventura con un niño. Los niños nos invitan a tener una nueva delicia en el mundo; pero lo más importante es que nos invitan a deleitarnos con ellos. Cristo se convierte en un niño encantador, para que podamos aprender a deleitarnos en Dios que deleite en nosotros.
El segundo cosa es que los bebés son indefensos. Son vulnerables.Dañados por el pecado, nuestros corazones están a la defensiva. Con demasiada frecuencia se nos hemos lastimado en nuestros intentos de amar. Debido a esto, colocamos muros alrededor de nuestros corazones para protección. Un bebé puede derretir esas paredes por completo, porque es muy vulnerable. Él o ella no pueden protegerse a sí mismos. Los bebés no nos amenazan. Simplemente nos invitan a amar. El niño Jesús no ofrece ninguna amenaza. Cuando era un bebé, no era una amenaza para nadie. Jesucristo dependía de sus padres al igual que cualquier otro niño nacido en el mundo. Necesitaba su ayuda para vivir. Era pequeño e indefenso. Necesitaba estar protegido. Por amor supremo, la Palabra se vuelve vulnerable de esta manera. La madera del pesebre presagia la madera de la Cruz. Dios se abre a ser dañado para mostrarnos que no nos amenaza, sino que desea amarnos. Cristo se vuelve indefenso para derretir nuestros corazones defensivos, para que podamos amarlo.
Sí, al encontrarnos con el Bebé de Belén, vemos que Dios elige convertirse en un bebé que nos saca de nosotros y nos acerca a Dios. Él nos abre la puerta para que lo conozcamos como persona y espera nuestra respuesta. Esto me lleva a la tercera idea: los bebés son exigentes. Los bebés tienen muchas necesidades que los que los aman deben satisfacer. Ser padre es exigente. Cuando llegan, los bebés nos exigen que cambiemos muchas cosas. Los padres y las familias tienen que adaptarse a las necesidades del bebé en medio de ellos. Piensen en todas las cosas que los padres sacrifican por sus hijos: sueño, comida, dinero, oportunidades, tiempo, sus propias expectativas. La paternidad significa vivir para el otro de una manera radical.
Así también, el niño Jesús exige algo de nosotros.
El hijo de Belén nos invita a amarlo … y responder a esa invitación amor significa cambiar nuestras vidas. Él viene en el amor, nos invita a amarle, haciéndose indefensa y encantador. Si respondemos con amor, exigirá todo y lo recibiremos todo. Si elegimos amarlo, conocer a este niño cambiará nuestras vidas. Significará una reorientación radical de nuestros corazones al amor de Dios y al prójimo. El amor nos exige todo, no porque Dios necesite nuestro amor sino porque al amarlo seremos completamente satisfechos.
Hermanos y hermanas, si han estado lejos del Señor, no tengan miedo de dejar que los ame hoy. A todos: No tengas miedo de recibir al Niño Jesús en tus brazos. Míralo y, lo que es más importante, deja que te mire con amor. El viene por ti. Deja que tu corazón se derrita con su mirada, alégrate mientras te sonríe. Entonces deja que tu corazón responda con amor. Él no toma nada; Él lo da todo. ¡Oh, vengan, adorémoslo!
Last summer, I was with my Godson’s family. We were all swimming in their pool. The 5-year-old brother of my Godson had just become good enough at swimming to make it across their pool unassisted and he absolutely loved showing me how he could do it without help. It was amazing to see his growth from the last year in the ability to swim well.
Most kids love to show parents and other adults what they are capable of doing, don’t they? It’s natural and good that they want to because they are learning how to do things on their own – they are learning autonomy. It brings them delight when they know that those who love them delight in them and their new abilities.
We want to help our kids to grow into a healthy sense of autonomy – the sense that “I am able” — it is really important. “I want to do it myself,” and “I can do it” are the verbal signs of this growth in autonomy. And this is a really good thing. We want our children to grow up and know that they are able to do things.
At the same time, we all know that kids need help. They often can’t do what they need to survive. Sometimes kids try to be too autonomous, too independent…like when the toddler tries to run across the street, or the 4-year-old tries to pour the milk by himself, or the kid wants to put his clothes on by himself ( and takes 30 minutes to do so). Thus, we not only want our kids to have a sense of autonomy, but we also want them to learn to ask for help when they need it and gratefully receive that help.
It’s a hard job as a parent to go back and forth between helping and encouraging kids to do things themselves. If we let them do too much, they might get hurt or fail. If we let them do too little, they will never know their own abilities.
What’s interesting is that the same thing often happens in our relationship with God
God, our Father, wants us to be autonomous in the sense that he wants us to exercise our freedom for love. But we also have to realize that our ability to do that flows from God. The fact is that in relation to God, we are like little children, and we need his help. When we forget this, our sense of autonomy can be twisted into pride, which prevents us from receiving salvation.
Advent invites us to shatter this pride, to recognize that we need God’s help and to desire his entrance into our lives. It means coming to recognize that we are his children. God invites us to receive his gift of salvation like a child with joy and gratitude. The Church places before our eyes today two contrasting examples of how we can respond to God’s gift of salvation. Ahaz pridefully rejects God’s gift of salvation and Joseph humbly receives the gift of salvation.
During the reign of Ahaz, other nations threaten the kingdom of Israel. God promises to deliver his people from these threats through Isaish, and he commands Ahaz to ask for a sign that this deliverance will occur. Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign because to do so would mean recognizing that he needed God’s help.
If you read the rest of the book of Isaiah, you will find that Ahaz makes agreements with other nations in order to grasp the security he desires for Israel. These agreements lead Israel to worship other gods. The result is the Babylonian exile.Ahaz’s pride causes the destruction of the kingdom of Israel. Because of his pride, Ahaz cannot see that the security he desires for himself and his kingdom is right there if he will just allow God to work.
Nevertheless, God continues to act. Like a good Father, he acts in the best interest of his children despite the fact that they refuse his gift. Despite the Ahaz’s refusal, God promises a sign. “A virgin will conceive and be with Child.” Where is the ultimate fulfillment of this sign but in the humble Virgin of Nazareth, who conceives by the power of the Holy Spirit and brings forth Jesus?
Joseph is also faced with a difficult situation: He finds his wife, Mary, pregnant, although they had not lived together yet. One can imagine Joseph’s anguish; he loves Mary, and it seems that he has been betrayed by her. Worse, it seems she has broken the law of God, and the punishment for such a crime is death. On the one hand, Joseph desires to spare Mary’s life because he loves her; on the other, as a just man, he desires to do what the law commands.
Faced with a difficult situation, Joseph does something that Ahaz does not and which shows his virtue. Though he is afraid, he goes to the Lord in prayer. He deliberates – he does not act rashly but takes time to think about the best thing to do – in the presence of the Lord.
In the words of St. Jose Maria Escriva:
Joseph “didn’t fulfil the will of God in a routine or perfunctory way; he did it spontaneously and wholeheartedly. For him the law … was not a code or a cold list of precepts, but an expression of the will of the living God. So he knew how to recognize the Lord’s voice when it came to him so unexpectedly and so surprisingly. St Joseph’s life was simple, but it was not easy. After considerable soul-searching, he learned that the son of Mary had been conceived through the Holy Spirit
Because of his humility, when the Lord speaks through an Angel, Joseph is ready to receive the message and act upon it.
Both men’s situations are similar. They both feel they must do something. But what a difference humility makes. Ahaz rejects the message out of pride; the other receives the message and submits himself to it. The pride begets a fall; the humility brings glory.
Let’s return to the pool. Though Joseph is capable of swimming across the pool by himself, he also knows that he should not swim without an adult present. When there is an adult in the pool, he is free to have the joy of swimming because he knows that someone is going to be there if he gets in over his head.
This is the kind of humble autonomy that we need in the spiritual life and that St. Joseph had. He knew he needed God’s help, and he desired that help. So in his need, he goes to God. He places himself as a child in God’s care. Then he is able to act freely and with great joy. Being in the presence of the Father makes him capable of becoming the foster Father of the Son of God to his eternal glory.
The question is, will we also turn to Our Father in every moment, so that we also may welcome the Christchild in our midst with the salvation he brings?
El verano pasado, estaba con la familia de mi ahijado. Todos estábamos nadando en su piscina. El hermano de mi ahijado de 5 años acababa de ser lo suficientemente bueno para nadar como para cruzar la piscina sin ayuda y le encantaba mostrarme cómo podía hacerlo sin ayuda. Fue sorprendente ver su crecimiento desde el año pasado en la capacidad de nadar bien
A la mayoría de los niños les encanta mostrarles a los padres y a otros adultos lo que son capaces de hacer, ¿no es así? Es natural y bueno que quieran porque están aprendiendo a hacer las cosas por su cuenta, están aprendiendo autonomía. Les deleita saber que quienes los aman se deleitan en ellos y en sus nuevas habilidades.
Queremos ayudar a nuestros hijos a convertirse en una sana sensación de autonomía, la sensación de que “soy capaz”, es realmente importante. “Quiero hacerlo yo mismo” y “Puedo hacerlo” son los signos verbales de este crecimiento en la autonomía. Y esto es algo realmente bueno. Queremos que nuestros hijos crezcan y sepan que pueden hacer cosas.
Al mismo tiempo, todos sabemos que los niños necesitan ayuda. A menudo no pueden hacer lo que necesitan para sobrevivir. A veces, los niños intentan ser demasiado autónomos, demasiado independientes … como cuando el niño intenta correr por la calle, o el niño de 4 años trata de verter la leche solo, o el niño quiere vestirse solo (y tarda 30 minutos en hacerlo).
Por lo tanto, no solo queremos que nuestros hijos tengan un sentido de autonomía, sino también que aprendan a pedir ayuda cuando la necesiten y que agradecidamente reciban esa ayuda. Es un trabajo difícil como padre ir y venir entre ayudar y alentar a los niños a hacer cosas por sí mismos. Si les dejamos hacer demasiado, podrían lastimarse o fallar. Si les permitimos hacer muy poco, nunca sabrán sus propias habilidades.
Lo interesante es que a menudo sucede lo mismo en nuestra relación con Dios. Dios, nuestro Padre, quiere que seamos autónomos en el sentido de que quiere que ejercitemos nuestra libertad por amor. Pero también tenemos que darnos cuenta de que nuestra capacidad para hacer eso fluye de Dios. El hecho es que, en relación con Dios, somos como niños pequeños y necesitamos su ayuda. Cuando olvidamos esto, nuestro sentido de autonomía puede convertirse en orgullo, lo que nos impide recibir la salvación.
El Adviento nos invita a romper este orgullo, al reconocer que necesitamos la ayuda de Dios y de pedir su entrada en nuestras vidas. Significa llegar a reconocer que somos sus hijos. Dios nos invita a recibir su regalo de salvación como un niño con alegría y gratitud. La Iglesia pone hoy ante nuestros ojos dos ejemplos contrastantes de cómo podemos responder al don de salvación de Dios. Acaz rechaza orgullosamente el regalo de salvación de Dios y José recibe humildemente el regalo de salvación.
Durante el reinado de Acaz, otras naciones amenazan el reino de Israel. Dios promete liberar a su pueblo de estas amenazas a través de Isaish, y le ordena a Acaz que pida una señal de que ocurrirá esta liberación. Acaz se niega a pedir una señal porque hacerlo significaría reconocer que necesitaba la ayuda de Dios. Si lees el resto del libro de Isaías, encontrarás que Acaz hace acuerdos con otras naciones para tratar de comprender la seguridad que desea para Israel. Estos acuerdos llevan a Israel a adorar a otros dioses. El resultado es el exilio babilónico. El orgullo de Acaz causa la destrucción del reino de Israel. Debido a su orgullo, Acaz no puede ver que la seguridad que desea para sí mismo y su reino está ahí si solo permite que Dios trabaje.
Sin embargo, Dios continúa actuando. Como un buen padre, actúa en el mejor interés de sus hijos a pesar del hecho de que rechazan su regalo. A pesar de la negativa de Acaz, Dios promete una señal. “Una virgen concebirá y estará con el Niño”. ¿Dónde está el cumplimiento final de este signo sino en la humilde Virgen de Nazaret, quien concibe por el poder del Espíritu Santo y da a luz a Jesús?
José también se enfrenta a una situación difícil: Se encuentra a su esposa, María, embarazada, aunque no habían vivido juntos todavía. Imagina la angustia de José; él ama a Mary, y parece que ella ha sido traicionada por ella. Peor aún, parece que ella ha violado la ley de Dios, y el castigo por tal crimen es la muerte. Por un lado, Joseph desea salvar la vida de Mary porque la ama; por el otro, como hombre justo, desea hacer lo que ordena la ley.
Ante una situación difícil, Joseph hace algo que Acaz no hace y que muestra su virtud. Aunque tiene miedo, va al Señor en oración. Él delibera, no actúa precipitadamente, sino que se toma el tiempo para pensar en lo mejor que puede hacer, en presencia del Señor.
En las palabras de Jose Maria Escriva, el cumplimiento de la voluntad de Dios de San Jose:
“no es rutinario ni formalista, sino espontáneo y profundo. La ley…no fue para él un simple código ni una recopilación fría de preceptos, sino expresión de la voluntad de Dios vivo. Por eso supo reconocer la voz del Señor cuando se le manifestó inesperada, sorprendente. Porque la historia del Santo Patriarca fue una vida sencilla, pero no una vida fácil. Después de momentos angustiosos, sabe que el Hijo de María ha sido concebido por obra del Espíritu Santo.”
Debido a su humildad, cuando el Señor habla a través de un ángel, José está listo para recibir el mensaje y actuar en consecuencia.
Las situaciones de ambos hombres son similares. Ambos sienten que deben hacer algo. Pero qué diferencia hace la humildad. Acaz rechaza el mensaje por orgullo; el otro recibe el mensaje y se somete a él. El orgullo engendra una caída; La humildad trae gloria.
Volvamos a la piscina. Aunque Joseph es capaz de nadar solo a través de la piscina, también sabe que no debe nadar sin un adulto presente. Cuando hay un adulto en la piscina, es libre de tener la alegría de nadar porque sabe que alguien va a estar allí si se mete por encima de su cabeza.
Este es el tipo de autonomía humilde que necesitamos en la vida espiritual y que San José tenía. Sabía que necesitaba la ayuda de Dios, y deseaba esa ayuda. Entonces, en su necesidad, él va a Dios. Se coloca como un niño al cuidado de Dios. Entonces puede actuar libremente y con gran alegría. Estar en la presencia del Padre lo hace capaz de convertirse en el Padre adoptivo del Hijo de Dios para su gloria eterna.
La pregunta es: ¿volveremos también a Nuestro Padre en cada momento, para que también podamos dar la bienvenida al Christchild en medio de nosotros con la salvación que él trae?
Si tuviera que
decirle a alguien en 20 palabras o menos, lo que quería lograr con su vida,
¿qué sería? Tómense 10
segundos para pensarlo. Cada
cosa creada actúa para algún propósito. El venado come la hierba para vivir. El
árbol toma agua para crecer. Del mismo modo, los seres humanos actuamos con un
propósito. Pero la diferencia entre nosotros
los humanos y otros animales es que podemos elegir libremente este propósito.
Un animal no puede. Podemos elegir lo que queremos lograr.
En su libro
clásico Los siete hábitos de las personas altamente efectivas, Stephen Covey
escribe que las personas altamente efectivas “comienzan con el fin en
mente”. Ser efectivo significa lograr lo que nos propusimos hacer. El punto de Covey no es tanto que debamos actuar para lograr un fin, lo
hacemos sin siquiera pensarlo, sino que para ser personas efectivas necesitamos
tener nuestro objetivo en mente. Necesitamos pensar hacia dónde queremos ir y
luego elegir las cosas que van allí.
Esta no es una
idea nueva; Los grandes filósofos hablan de esta práctica como la marca
definitoria del hombre o la mujer prudente. La prudencia es elegir el mejor medio para lograr el objetivo. Pero
esto genera otra pregunta: ¿Cuál debería ser nuestro objetivo en la vida? ¿Qué
fin debemos tener en mente?
En las últimas
semanas del año litúrgico, la Iglesia llama nuestra atención precisamente sobre
esta cuestión. Ella llama nuestra atención hacia el final de nuestra vida
cristiana: el cielo. Todos los domingos profesamos que
el cielo es nuestro fin cuando decimos en el Credo, que esperamos “la
resurrección de los muertos y la vida del mundo por venir.”
están aquí por varias razones. No he tenido la oportunidad de conocerlos a
todos y no conozco todas sus historias. Pero sí sé esto: Dios te creó, él tiene un buen plan para tu vida y
quiere que estés en una comunión cada vez más profunda con Él. Dios te ama
tanto que envió a su Hijo unigénito al mundo para que puedas tener comunión con
él para siempre. Esto es el cielo. Comunión con Dios.
¿Con qué frecuencia pensamos en el cielo?
Nada más importa
realmente excepto en relación con este hecho: Dios te está llamando a vivir con
él. Me temo que no pensamos lo
suficiente en el cielo. Es fácil distraerse en nuestra cultura con tanto ruido.
Estamos constantemente llenos de cosas, por lo que tenemos poco tiempo o
energía para pensar en el cielo. Pero si ni siquiera pensamos en el cielo,
perdemos la perspectiva eterna de la vida, la única perspectiva que finalmente
Aquí hay otra
forma de hacer esa última pregunta de manera más práctica: ¿Qué hemos hecho tú
y yo para cooperar con la gracia de Dios que nos da esperanza de vida eterna? No es suficiente simplemente saber a dónde deberíamos ir. No es suficiente
tener el final en mente. Tenemos que elegir avanzar hacia este objetivo y esa
no es una opción única: es algo que tenemos que hacer una y otra vez, incluso
cuando nos cuesta algo.
Aquí es donde
entran en juego las virtudes que escuchamos en la primera y segunda lecturas:
¿qué virtudes vemos en estas lecturas? Valentia y esperanza
Como muchos de
los israelitas en tiempos de los macabeos, los hermanos y su madre en la
primera lectura muestran valentia y esperanza en desafiar las órdenes de los
helenistas. La lectura de hoy nos da un vistazo a la historia; Puedes leer la
saga completa en los libros de los Macabeos. Aquí hay un poco más de contexto
sobre cómo los hermanos se convirtieron en mártires:
Cuando el rey
griego Antíoco conquistó a Israel, ordenó que los habitantes se sacrificaran a
dioses paganos y comieran alimentos inmundos para destruir su identidad
cultural. Por miedo, muchos del pueblo del
pacto de Israel decidieron conformarse a estas leyes para salvarse.
estos hermanos fueron asesinados porque con gran esperanza se negaron
valientemente a seguir la cultura prevaleciente incluso a costa de sus vidas. Los siete hermanos y su madre -imaginen esta
situación, ustedes que son padres-, saben que permanecer en comunión con Dios
es algo por lo que vale la pena morir. Prefieren morir “en integridad,
poniendo [toda] su confianza en el Señor”, en lugar de abandonar el pacto.
Estaban preparados para morir para permanecer en comunión con Dios.
¿Cómo nos impacta
Parece un compromiso tan pequeño, comer un
poco de cerdo, y sus vidas se salvan. Pero al mantener la vida del cuerpo,
habrían destruido la vida de sus almas. Recuerdo las palabras del joven santo Dominico Savio que prometió al
Señor a una tierna edad “¡Antes morir que pecar!”. Vio claramente,
como los macabeos, que el pecado y la separación de Dios son mucho peores que
nos enseñan que la vida y la relación con Cristo exige la voluntad de dejar
todo atrás y seguirlo, incluso a la Cruz, para que también podamos levantarnos
con él. De hecho, usted y yo que hemos
sido bautizados ya hemos muerto, y la vida que vivimos ahora está en Cristo, ya
es el comienzo de la vida del mundo por venir. El pecado solo puede matar esta
vida dentro de nosotros
Nunca ha sido
fácil seguir a Cristo. Ser un discípulo hoy requiere grandes sacrificios. En un
mundo post-cristiano, simplemente no caeremos en seguir a Cristo Todos los
días, ser discípulo nos exige una elección valiente para seguir a Cristo. Tenemos
que comenzar con el cielo en mente y elegir la relación con el Señor todos los
días. Porque si no lo hacemos,
simplemente seguiremos los caprichos de la cultura en la que nos encontramos. Y
nuestra cultura se está volviendo cada vez más anticristiana. La semana pasada,
escuché la historia de un joven del quien se burlaron por leer la Biblia
durante un momento libre en la escuela.
Escúchenme, como católicos no condenamos todo en nuestra cultura, pero tampoco podemos aceptarlo sin reflexionar. Teniendo en cuenta nuestro fin, tenemos que probar todo por su valor eterno. Al hacerlo, agregamos nuestro propio testimonio al de los mártires; hacemos presente a Cristo en el mundo y cumplimos nuestro llamado bautismal de darle testimonio.
La forma en
que Dios nos llama a dar este testimonio es única para cada uno de nosotros. Lo
llamamos nuestra vocación. He tenido el
privilegio en los últimos 7 años, gracias al generoso apoyo de su parroquia y de
la diócesis, para formarme en el seminario. Todos ustedes han facilitado mi cooperación con la gracia de Dios en mi
vida a través de su apoyo financiero a cosas como el CSA y, lo que es más
importante, a través de sus oraciones
reflecciono en estos años, se han llenado de grandes alegrías; También han
habido muchos momentos en los que se requirió valentia para perseverar en
seguir el llamado del Señor. Por la gracia de Dios he crecido en santidad. He
aprendido a confiar más en Jesús que en mí mismo. Estoy lejos de ser perfecto,
pero estoy tratando de responder al llamado de Dios con valentía cada día.
ansias el día, en unos pocos meses, cuando seré ordenado como sacerdote. Pero
el llamado de Dios no ha terminado para mí. Cada día tendré que comenzar con el
fin en mente. Estoy llamado al cielo y a llevar a cuantos mas pueda.
Tu también eres llamado al cielo y llamado a alentar a otros en su viaje al cielo. Jesus te llama a seguirlo valientemente de una manera maravillosamente única, una forma que, en última instancia, solo él conoce por completo. Ya sea para la vida familiar, para el sacerdocio o para la vida religiosa, ruego que respondas con valentía a este llamado y que el Señor dirija todos nuestros “corazones al amor de Dios y a la resistencia de Cristo”!
If you had to tell someone in 20 words or less, what you wanted
to accomplish with your life what would it be? Take 10 seconds to think about
Every created thing acts for some purpose. The deer eats the
grass in order to live. The tree takes up water in order to grow. Likewise, we
human beings act for a purpose. But the difference between us humans and other animals
is that we can freely chose this purpose. An animal cannot. We can choose what
we want to accomplish.
In his classic book the Seven
Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes that highly
effective people “begin with the end in mind.” To be effective means accomplishing
what we set out to do. Covey’s point is not so much that we should act
for an end – we do that without even thinking about it – but that to be
effective people we need to have our end in
mind. We need to think about where we want to go and then choose things go
This is not a new idea; the great philosophers talk about this practice
as the defining mark of the prudent man or woman. Prudence is choosing the best
means to achieve the goal. But this prompts another question: What should be
our goal in life? What end should we have in mind?
In the closing weeks of the liturgical year, the Church draws our
attention to precisely this question. She draws our attention to the end of our Christian life: heaven. Every
Sunday we profess that heaven is our end when say in the Creed, that we “look
forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
You are all here for various reasons. I haven’t had the chance to
meet all of you, and I don’t know all your stories. But I do know this: God created
you, he has a good plan for your life, and he wants you to be in an
ever-deepening communion with Him. God so loves you that that he sent his only
begotten Son into the world that you might have communion with him forever. This
is heaven. Communion with God.
Another question: How often do we think about heaven?
Nothing else really matters except in relation to this fact: God
is calling you to life with him. I fear that we don’t think about heaven
enough. It is easy to become distracted in our culture of so much noise. We are
constantly being filled up with stuff and so we have little time or energy to
think of heaven. But if we don’t even think of heaven, we lose the eternal perspective
on life – the only perspective that ultimately matters.
Here’s another way to ask that last question more practically:
What have you and I done to cooperate with God’s grace which gives us hope of
eternal life? You see, its not enough to simply know where we should be going.
It’s not enough to simply have the end in mind. We have to actually choose to
move toward this goal and that’s not a one time choice – its something we have
to do over and over again, even when it costs us something.
This is where the virtues we hear of in the 1st and 2nd
reading come to bear: what virtues do we see in these readings? Courage and hope.
Like many of the Israelites in time of the Maccabees, the
brothers and their mother in the first reading display courage and hope in
defying the orders of the Hellenists. The reading today gives us but a glimpse
into the story; you can read the full saga in the books of the Maccabees. Here’s
a little more context for how the brothers became martyrs:
When the Greek king Antiochus conquered Israel he mandated that
the inhabitants sacrifice to pagan gods and eat unclean food in order destroy
their cultural identity. Out of fear, many of the covenant people of Israel
decided to conform to this and save themselves.
In contrast, these brothers were being killed because with great
hope they courageously refused to go along with the prevailing culture even at
cost of their life. The seven brothers and their mother — imagine this
situation, you who are parents — they know that remaining in communion with God
is something worth dying for. They prefer to die “in integrity, putting [their]
whole trust in the Lord,” rather than abandoning the covenant. They were prepared
to die in order to remain in communion with God.
How does their
martyrdom strike us?
It seems such
a small compromise, a little pork, and their lives are spared. But in keeping
the life of the body, they would have destroyed the life of their souls. I
am reminded of the words of the young saint Dominic Savio who promised the Lord
at a tender age “Death rather than sin!”
He saw clearly, like the Maccabeans that sin and separation from God are
far worse than death.
The martyrs teach us that the life and relationship with Christ
demands a willingness to leave everything behind, and follow him, even to the
Cross, so that we also might rise with him. In fact, you and I who have been
baptized have already died, and the life we live now is in Christ, it is
already the beginning of the life of the world to come. Sin alone can kill this
life within us.
It has never been easy to follow Christ. To be a disciple today
requires great sacrifices. It requires a daily courageous choice to follow
Christ. In a post-Christian world, we won’t simply fall into following Christ.
We have to begin with heaven in mind and choose relationship with the Lord
every day. Because if we don’t, we will simply follow the whims of the culture
we find ourselves in. And our culture is increasingly becoming anti-Christian.
Just last week, I heard the story of a young man who was ridiculed for reading
the Bible during a free moment at school.
Hear me, we Catholics don’t condemn everything in our culture,
but we also cannot accept it without reflection. Having our end in mind, we
have to test everything for its eternal value. In doing so, we add our own
witness to that of the martyrs; we make Christ present in the world and fulfill
our baptismal call.
The way God calls us to give this witness is unique for each of
us. We call it our vocation. I have had the privilege over the past 7 years,
thanks your generous in supporting your parish and the diocese, to be formed in
the seminary. You all have facilitated my cooperation with God’s grace in my
life through your financial support of things like the CSA and more importantly
through your prayers.
I look back over these years. They have been filled with great
joys; there have also been many moments in which courage was required to
persevere in following the Lord’s call. Through God’s grace I have grown in
holiness. I have learned to trust more and more in Jesus rather than myself. I
am far from perfect, but I’m trying to respond to God’s call courageously each
day. I look forward to when, in only a few months, I will be ordained to the
priesthood. But God’s call is not over for me. Each day I will still have to
begin with the end in mind. I am called to heaven and to take as many others
with me as I can.
You also are called to heaven and called to encourage others on
their journey to heaven. He calls you to follow him courageously in a wonderfully
unique way, a way that ultimately only he knows completely. Whether to family
life, to priesthood, or religious life. I pray that you will respond with
courage to this call and that the Lord direct all our “hearts to the love of
God and to the endurance of Christ!”
Este último año hemos estado sufriendo como Iglesia ya que hemos tenido que confrontar los escándalos y acciones pecadoras de algunos de los lideres de la iglesia, incluyendo Obispos y Sacerdotes.
Mi corazón se rompió una y otra vez al escuchar las
historias del horrible abuso.
Yo no sé cuáles fueron sus reacciones, pero por mi
parte, sentí mucha rabia y enojo.
Me sentí traicionado por la falta de valentía para
enfrentar esas maldades, estaba enojado, en parte porque estaba a punto de ser
ordenado al diaconado, lo cual significaba que yo podría ser juzgado por las
acciones de algunos obispos y sacerdotes, que lastimaron o no protegieron a los
miembros más vulnerables de su iglesia.
Sin embargo, muy pronto me di cuenta de que
cualquier consecuencia negativa que yo podría experimentar por los escándalos
no era nada comparado con el sufrimiento de quienes fueron abusados. El abuso
destruye vidas y corazones. Reflexionando en esto, me puse aún más enojado y
quería que hubiera justicia para ellos.
Dos sacerdotes en el seminario me animaron a rezar y
reflexionar en mis propias reacciones. Mientras expresaba mi enojo y dolor al
Señor por las maldades que se habían cometido, el me enseñó como usar la
energía derivada de mi enojo y dolor por su gloria.
Reconocí que el Señor me estaba llamando a vivir una
vida más santa. El me llamó a que creciera en fe en lo que he aprendido y
continuar en despojarme de todo el pecado de mi propia vida.
El Señor también me invitó a ser más valiente al
confrontar la maldad a través de la proclamación del Evangelio si lo encontraba
conveniente o no.
Hermanos y hermanas, hoy les comparto estas
experiencias porque después de Misa, pasaremos un libro que se llama “Carta de
la Iglesia que Sufre”, escrito por el Obispo Robert Barron. Este libro ofrece
una reflexión teológica sobre el escándalo del año pasado a la luz de la misión
de la Iglesia de evangelizar. Les invito a que tomen una copia y lo lean, y
consideren lo que Dios les llama a hacer mientras todos sanamos de estos
A la luz de las lecturas de hoy, permítanme ofrecer
tres puntos principales que debemos tener en cuenta al enfrentarnos al mal en
el mundo (ya sea en la Iglesia o en otras circunstancias): oración, santidad
vivida en comunidad y proclamación.
En la primera lectura, escuchamos cómo Moisés
extiende sus brazos y, a través de su intercesión, Israel derrota a Amalek. Fijese
como Moisés no ordena, pero levanta sus manos en oración. En aquellos tiempos,
un brazo habría sido levantado como un gesto de mando, mientras que dos indican
una acción de oración. Aprendemos a que confrontar el mal debe comenzar con la
Esto significa que cuando nos encontramos con el mal,
no debemos tratar de superarlo solos; más bien, debemos aferrarnos más a Jesús.
El consejo que recibí fue sabio: cuando experimentamos el mal, nos aferramos a
Es por eso que las palabras de nuestro Señor sobre la
oración son tan importantes para que las escuchemos. Debemos rezar sin cansarnos.
No debemos dejar de rezar por la injusticia que
encontramos en el mundo. Podemos estar cansados emocional o físicamente, pero
no podemos dejar que ese hecho afecte nuestra comunión diaria con Cristo en la
Un encuentro con el mal o el sufrimiento debe ser la
ocasión para persistir en la oración.
Nuestra oración, que es nuestra relación con Dios,
nos conduce naturalmente al segundo principio para enfrentar el pecado y el mal
en el mundo: debemos persistir en desear la santidad, lo que significa ser más
La realidad es que el bien de la gracia activa en
nuestras almas – el bien de nuestra santidad que proviene de ser parte de su
cuerpo – sobrepasa cualquier cosa que podamos hacer para combatir el mal.
Nuestra primera lectura nos da una metáfora de esta
Los israelitas enfrentaron un ejército mucho mejor
equipado y entrenado, pero cada vez que Moisés levantaba sus brazos, Israel
salía victorioso en el campo de batalla. Esta señal muestra a los israelitas
que no fue por su propia fuerza que ganarían la batalla, sino solo a través de
la obra de Dios.
Cuando nos enfrentamos al mal, debemos recordar lo
mismo. No seremos victoriosos de nuestro propio poder; más bien, Dios conquista
el mal por hacernos santos con nuestra cooperación.
La lectura también nos muestra que la santidad que
necesitamos no es un proyecto individual, pero sólo realizable en la comunidad
Moisés no hubiera podido mantener sus brazos en alto
sin ayuda. Necesita a Aaron y Hur. Así también, necesitamos la Iglesia. Cristo
hace de la Iglesia su instrumento indispensable a través del cual nos da ayuda
para ser santos.
No venceremos al mal a menos que estemos en comunión
con la Iglesia. No podemos aceptar a Cristo y rechazar la Iglesia que es su cuerpo.
Nos necesitamos unos a otros e incluso cuando una parte del cuerpo peca, no
Esto nos lleva a nuestro tercer principio: la
proclamación del Evangelio es la mayor arma que tenemos en la lucha contra el
mal dentro de la Iglesia y en el mundo.
En la segunda lectura de hoy, Pablo ordena que
Timoteo predique el Evangelio sin falta. Él debe persistentemente
“convence, reprende y exhorta con toda paciencia y sabiduría.”. Pablo
le habla a Timoteo como obispo; Sin embargo, todos estamos gravemente obligados
a predicar el Evangelio, cada uno según su estado de vida. Por eso estamos
llamados a seguir el mandato de Pablo con valentía.
Escuchamos muchas razones por las que ocurrieron
estos escándalos y la mayoría de ellos tienen algún mérito, pero
fundamentalmente estos escándalos traicionan la falta de conversión y la falta
de voluntad de proclamarse el Evangelio entre algunos miembros del clero.
Y esto no solo sucede entre el clero. Todos fallamos
en proclamar el evangelio a veces. Desafortunadamente, a veces somos tibios al
hacer esta proclamación. Para mí, con las personas que es más difíciles de proclamar
son las personas más cercanas a mi. Creo que es porque no quiero arriesgarme a
perder una amistad diciendo algo cuando sé que debería hacerlo. Siempre
hablamos de la presión de grupo con niños y adolescentes, pero creo que es un
gran problema para los adultos, y las que se puede perder es mucho mas valioso.
Requeire mucha valentia proclamar el Evangelio.
A medida que vale la pena repetir, la iglesia es un
hospital para los pecadores, no un museo de santos. Todos necesitamos escuchar
las Buenas Nuevas repetidamente.
El mayor mal causado por este escándalo viene del
hecho de que podría impedir que las personas proclamen, escuchen o reciban el
No podemos dejar de predicar a Cristo por el mal,
incluso el mal causado por miembros o líderes de la iglesia.
Decidámos que vamos a hacer el mejor esfuerzo para
nunca dejar de predicar el Evangelio. Porque mis amigos, lo que está en juego
es simplemente demasiado importante. El mundo está lleno de personas que han
sido heridas por el mal y el pecado. Necesitan escuchar el mensaje de que no
importa por lo que han pasado, Dios los ama y desea su bien. Necesitan escuchar
que Cristo murió por ellos, para traerles vida nueva.
Hermanos y hermanas, las grandes crisis en la
iglesia, como la que hemos experimentado durante el año pasado, exigen la acción
de grandes santos. Dios nos está llamando a usted y a mí a ser parte de la
solución a eéste escándalo a través de la oración, la santidad de la vida y la
proclamación del Evangelio. A través de nuestra santidad y de la oración, que
son sus dones para nosotros, que muchos lleguen a conocer a Cristo, para que
cuando venga el Hijo del Hombre, de hecho, encuentre fe en la tierra.
Homily from the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
Hace poco más de 225
años, durante el corazón del de la Revolución Francesa, la Iglesia sufría mucho.
creían que hombres y mujeres religiosos quienes han dedicado sus vidas a la oración,
el ayuno, y la penitencia fueron egoístas e inútiles.
En el 17 de
Julio de 1794, 16 carmelitas de Compiègne fueron juzgados en un tribunal injusto y
fueron condenados a muerte: El cargo: el fanatismo religioso. El juez explico
que el fanatismo consisto en, “su apego a sus creencias infantiles y sus
prácticas religiosas tontas”. Una de las hermanas santas exclamo: Gocemos,
mis queridas Madre y hermanas, en el gozo del Señor, que moriremos por nuestra
religión santa, nuestra fe, nuestra confianza en la iglesia católica”
con otras ejecuciones, cuando las hermanas fueron guiadas a la Guillotina, la
multitud se volvió inquietantemente silenciosa y pasiva. No se arrojó comida
podrida a las condenadas. Al pie de la imponente máquina de matar, con los ojos
al cielo, las hermanas cantaron “Veni Creator Spiritus”, renovaron
sus votos religiosos y perdonaron a sus verdugos. Luego, uno por uno, subieron
al andamio. La más joven, la hermana Constance, fue primera. Ella subió las
escaleras, “con el aire de una reina yendo a recibir su corona,” todo el tiempo
cantando “Laudate Dominum omnes gentes” “Alaban al Señor todos los pueblos.”
Todas la siguieron, hasta que la última, la priora fue matada.
fueron matadas porque deseaban ser fieles a su consagración a la una cosa que
es necesario: recibir el amor de dios. Ellas eligieron la mejor parte, y aunque
murieron, no les fue quitada. La muerte no limitó su amor y amistad con Dios. Ellas
sabían que el amor de Dios por ellos era más profundo que la muerte. Sabían que
Dios los amaba y confiaba en él más allá de la guillotina.
heroicas, y miles y miles de mártires como ellas a lo largo de los siglos de la
cristiandad, entendieron que, en última instancia, solo una cosa es necesaria
en nuestras vidas: que es el mejor parte lo cual es recibir el amor de Dios. Dios
quiere que estemos en relación con él para nuestro bienestar. No nos ama porque
podemos hacer algo para él, sino por lo que él quiere hacer en nuestras vidas.
que la receptividad es primordial en la vida cristiana. La vida cristiana, en
el corazón, no se trata de hacer; sino, se trata de recibir del señor. Esto es
el parte mejor. Esto es lo que nos muestran los mártires y los santos, y los
religiosos y religiosas. Renuncian a ciertos bienes terrenales por el fin
celestial al que todos somos llamados. Esto no significa que Dios nos llama a
todas a abandonar todas las cosas buenas que hacemos. Hay muchas obras buenas
que debemos hacer pero ni una es la parte mejor. Amar a nuestro prójimo y
servirlo especialmente cuando hay necesidad es muy importante a nuestra vida
cristiana; sin embargo, es mejor recibir del Señor y amarlo, porque al final
todas las demás actividades, aunque sean buenas, terminaran. Recibir,
ser amado por el Señor: esta es la mejor parte y nunca se nos puede quitar,
Si todo esto es
la verdad, ¿por qué no sentamos y recibir del Señor todos los momentos? En pocas
palabras: nuestro orgullo nos impide. Sugiero que hay tres formas en que este
orgullo se manifiesta en nuestras vidas. Tres mentiras que creemos basadas en
el orgullo que impiden que recibamos el amor de Dios:
mentira que creemos, especialmente si estamos lejos de Dios, es que a Dios no
le importa cómo vivimos y, por lo tanto, nuestras acciones no tienen
consecuencias para nuestra relación con él. Quizás actuemos como nos importa a
Dios, pero en realidad es una muestra para ganar honor, fama, o una reputación.
Por ejemplo, vendríamos a la misa porque es una oportunidad de hablar con
amigos o porque nos ayuda a presentarnos como buenas personas.
Pero, aunque el
exterior se muestra limpio, no dejamos que Dios convierte nuestros corazones.
No nos importa que pecamos. Estamos perezosos, tristes por la dificultad asociada
con vivir una vida de santidad. Nos quedamos contentos a vivir por otra cosa,
pero no por Dios. Y por eso no creemos que necesitamos arrepentirnos de nuestros
pecados, porque Dios es un tipo de amor blando. Esto es el ateísmo practico. Suponemos,
damos por sentado, la misericordia de Dios y, por lo tanto, vivimos como si
Dios no existiera. Creyendo esta mentira, no nos sentamos a los pies de Cristo
y recibimos su amor porque él no nos importa mucho.
La segunda mentira orgullosa que creemos es el extremo opuesto al primero. Se convierte en una tentación para aquellos que han reconocido su pecado. No creemos que Dios pueda amarnos por razón de la pesa de nuestros pecados. Por eso desesperamos de la misericordia de Dios. Pensamos que nuestros pecados son demasiados malos para ser perdonados por Dios. No suena como el orgullo, pero es, porque supone que un acta nuestra sea más poderosa que la obra de Dios. Dios vino para salvarnos y puede hacerlo. Creyendo esta mentira, no nos sentamos a los pies de Cristo porque tenemos miedo de mostrar a él, al médico divino, nuestros heridos y pecados.
tercera mentira es más siniestra que las dos anteriores porque combina la
primera y la segunda de manera maliciosa. Es la mentira de la autosuficiencia. Creemos
que sí, tenemos cosas para hacer para mejorarnos, pero por nuestros esfuerzos
podemos alcanzar de la punta donde que estaremos dignos del amor de Dios. En
nuestra arrogancia, creemos que podemos hacer cosas suficientes para ganar
nuestro camino hacia al cielo. Por eso, Cristo quizás sea un ejemplo bueno para
nosotros, pero, no es necesario. No es nuestro salvador. Creyendo esta mentira,
no nos sentamos a los pies de Cristo porque no creemos que lo necesitemos.
Todas estas mentiras vacían la Cruz de su
significada: no recibimos el amor de Dios porque él no es una prioridad, no
recibimos el amor de Dios porque le tememos, o no recibimos el amor de Dios
porque no creemos que lo necesitemos. Hermanos: Tenemos que examinarnos en la
luz del conocimiento que María y las hermanas de Francia supieron, y que
también Jesucristo nos ha dado en nuestro evangelio de hoy. Tenemos que
preguntarnos, con humildad si nuestra relación con Jesús, si recibir su amor esta
en el centro de nuestra vida, o si estamos viviendo para otra cosa en lugar de
la mejor parte. Porqué separados de él no podemos hacer nada, pero con él todas
las cosas son posibles.
cuando nos encontramos creyendo y viviendo de uno o más de estas mentiras
orgullosas? Tenemos que rechazarlos y creer la verdad.
reconozcamos con nuestra manera de vivir que Dios existe. Así, debemos arrepentirnos de nuestros pecados.
El arrepentimiento significa vivir en una manera nueva, ir en una nueva
dirección. También, significa que debemos lamentar nuestros pecados, pedir
perdón, confesarnos y comprometernos firmemente a cambiar la forma en que
vivimos. Cualquiera que sea el pecado, incluso si vivimos bien en los otros
aspectos de nuestras vidas, tenemos que ponerle fin hoy. Mañana no.
hecho que debemos recordar, cuando nos enfrentamos a la desesperación, es que
Dios envió a su Hijo para salvarnos, “mientras aún éramos pecadores”.
Esto significa que siempre hay esperanza. Incluso cuando sentimos que no haya
esperanza, hay esperanza. Cuando todo está oscuro y sentimos que no podemos
amar a Dios, Cuando nos sentimos más alejados de Dios, recordamos que Cristo
vino y murió por nosotros. No hay pecado tan grande que pueda impedir que el
amor de Dios nos alcance. Dios no se cansa de perdonarnos; más bien, nos
cansamos de pedir perdón. No nos cansemos nunca de pedirle perdón, siempre lo
verdad que debemos recordar es que Dios hace que todo sea posible: sin él no
podemos hacer nada. Esto es muy difícil en nuestra sociedad que vale el
individualismo. Tenemos que admitir nuestra necesidad por Dios. Tenemos que
reconocer que necesitamos estar en comunión con él en todos los días. Prácticamente,
esto significa orar todos los días especialmente cuando no sea que nos sintamos
con ganas o no y haciendo todo por amor a él.
hermanas, podemos elegir la mejor parte: estar con Cristo. No será quitado de
nosotros. Rechacemos las mentiras orgullosas y vivamos para Cristo, y sobre
todo recibamos su amor sentado a sus pies.
When I was child, when mom and dad got too tired of us, they would often ship us off to my grandparent’s farm outside of Bryan, TX. One of my favorite things about these visits was that on Saturday morning my brothers and I would wake up really early, and we would go jump on my grandparents and ask them to tell us “old-time” stories about growing up in western Kansas. Because of those times, though I never knew my grandma’s parents or my grandpa’s dad, I can tell you a lot about where they were from and what they did. My brothers we fascinated to learn about what life was like then. But I think what made it particularly riveting was that it was the story (at least in-part) of how we came to be who we are in the world.
Biologically and culturally each of us is the result of an inestimably complex combination of our ancestors. There is something natural in asking the question. Where am I from? How did I get here? And perhaps most poignantly, why?
The genealogy and the that we just heard tells us something about the one whose birth we celebrate in splendor tonight.
First, the genealogy is long. It even takes a long time for us to read it all. The one whom we celebrate today is long awaited. He is the child of the promise made in a sense to all humanity, but specifically concretized in the promises to Abraham and David who figure so prominently in the list of names.
To Abraham was made the promise that “in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing.” To David was promised, “when your days have been completed and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, sprung from your loins, and I will establish his kingdom.He it is who shall build a house for my name, and I will establish his royal throne forever”
The genealogy also includes a wide mixture of great saints and great sinners and people in between. The one whom we celebrate today is not from a perfect family. The genealogy includes Jews and gentiles. It includes men and women.
In short it includes all of humanity. All of humanity. In a mystical sense, we are part of the genealogy of Christ. He came at a point in time, but he came to be the new Adam. He came to make us new. St. Luke in his Gospel traces the genealogy of Christ back to Adam and in a sense makes it more explicit that Adam the first man was a figure of the one who was to come namely Jesus Christ.
The genealogy also includes one strange and startling departure at the very end. Joseph is not called the Father of Jesus, but “the husband of Mary, [and] of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ”. And this reveals something profound about how he was born and who he really is.
Joseph adopts Jesus by naming him. But he is not Joseph’s child. He is conceived of the Holy Spirit. He is God from God light from light true God from true God.
The radical claim of Christianity is that the Word who spoke creation into being became a Baby who could not speak a word. God becomes incarnate. He takes on flesh and blood. He takes on a human mind and a human will. He assumes humanity to himself. He became like us in all things but sin.
He is born of a woman and through his humanity we get to meet divinity. When we look at the little baby in the manger, we see the face of God. The infant Jesus laying in the manger reveals God. When he smiles, God smiles. When he cries, God cries. When he grasps the finger of Mary or Joseph or a shepherd, it is God grasping the human hand.
This is fundamental to Christianity and if we recognize it will change our lives. On this night of the nativity, “the defenseless love of God, his humility, and his kindness came into view: he exposes himself to us in the heart of this world” God comes to us in a way that we can receive Him – as a tiny infant.
If the genealogy answers the questions how he came to be born and where Jesus is from, perhaps the more important is why? Why did he come? If then, he is God and he is man, why did he come?
We need to remember that he did not have to come. And even if he had come, he didn’t have to come as an infant. And even if he had come as an infant, he did not have to be born in a cave. And even if had been born in a cave, he did not have to be laid in a manger. Remember God does not need you or me. He does not need us. There was no need on his part which moved him to come.
Where there is no need, only love can exist. Love is willing the good of another as other. It means choosing what is best for the other regardless of the cost to ourselves. What is our good? Our good is found in loving God above all things. In loving God consists our salvation.
But we cannot love God as we ought on our own and we fail to love others who are made in his image. We know this. Something is horribly wrong in the world. We see evil actions. We experience evil. And most frighteningly, we have sometimes participated in evil. This evil makes us miserable and try as we might we cannot escape it.
Moved by our plight God takes action, he comes to save us. This is why Jesus is named Jesus – God saves. He comes to free us from sin to make us just by offering himself in sacrifice. He heals from our sins in a way that befits the dignity that he gave us in the beginning. He moves us to love him by coming as man, as an unspeaking infant, in a humble cave, with a manger for his bed. In so doing he teaches us to love Him. When we love the Child Jesus we love God. Through things visible we are caught up into things invisible.
Take courage, you who were lost: Jesus comes to seek and save that which was lost. Ye sick, return to health: Christ comes to heal the contrite of heart with the unction of His mercy. Rejoice, all you who desire great things: the Son of God comes down to you that He may make you the co-heirs of His kingdom. I beseech you, then, O Lord, heal me, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; glorify me, and I shall be glorious. Then indeed shall my soul bless the Lord, and all that is within me praise His Holy Name, when He shall have been merciful to my iniquities, have healed my infirmities, and have filled my desire with good things.
 Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 71.
 Saint Bernard. “On the Joy His Birth Should Inspire.” In Sermons of St. Bernard on Advent & Christmas: Including the Famous Treatise on the Incarnation Called “Missus Est,” 75–81. London; Manchester; Glasgow; New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: R. & T. Washbourne; Benziger Bros., 1909.
In the past 10 months with COVID we have been waiting and waiting. We wait a lot in life but, it seems like we have been waiting even more lately. We are waiting for a vaccine. We are waiting to be able to take off our masks and to be able to have full Churches. We are waiting for life to return to some semblance of normalcy.
So how do we wait? We have seem a lot of different examples of how people have waited, in the past ten months. Some good, some bad. People have used the time of waiting to get prepared for the next thing. Others have complained. Probably for most of us we’ve fallen into both of these camps many times across the time of pandemic.
But the events of the last few months, the waiting, we have endured have taught me something else about waiting.
Have you noticed how much time and energy has been spent in trying to bring human beings together in the past year? For example, my family in the beginning part of the pandemic, we had regular zoom calls to at least have some connection and communication.
We continue to be willing to endure rather annoying circumstances, things like masks and distancing, in order to be together as we wait for the end of this pandemic.
Perhaps more strikingly many have considered the risk for themselves and others and concluded that its better to wait together and have a greater risk of the spread of disease than to remain isolated.
These examples – the ingenuity, the willingness to take risk of health in order to be in communication with other human beings – show us something fundamental about how we wait. And it is already implicit in the that statement: we wait. “We wait” not “I wait”. To emphasize this in our minds we might say “we wait together.”
Brothers and Sisters, Advent is the season of waiting.
We look back to the historical “waiting” of Israel, of the longing for a Savior — both in how they waited well and how they failed in so many ways – in order that we might learn how to wait eagerly for his second coming – his coming in glory. St. Peter reminds us of this in his 2nd Letter, “Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
How we wait matters as Christians because it determines whether we will be able to receive him with joy when he comes.
As I’ve said before, we do not get to choose whether or even how long we wait, but we do get to choose how we wait. We wait because we are human; but how we wait determines whether we flourish or fail as human persons. How do we wait? We as Christians, like I spoke about in my homily last week, we always wait with our eyes fixed upon heaven. We wait with eyes fixed on heaven, because we need a heavenly savior.
But as these examples make clear, we also intrinsically wait together. We are not isolated individuals. The Father knows you as an individual. But your individual self, is never ever isolated from other persons. To be a person, means to be in relation to others.
No one of us created ourselves. We all have a mother and a father; more fundamentally, the fingerprint of God himself is imbued upon our soul. Christ comes to save you, but never just you.
Our entrance antiphon, reminds us of this fact today.
O people of Sion, behold, the Lord will come to save the nations, and the Lord will make the glory of his voice heard in the joy of your heart.
[Is 30:19, 30]
The Lord addresses the people of Zion. And he tells them that he will come to save the nations. Salvation is together.
If natural human life is intrinsically relational, how much more must be the life of grace. How do we wait? We wait for salvation, not so much as individuals, but in communion with one another.
If this is true, the Church, which is the communion of persons awaiting the Lord – this, by the way is one reason that we have traditionally faced the “east” (or at least all the same direction) in liturgy – is not extrinsic to salvation, but rather essential to it. The Church is not incidental to salvation but its very beginning. Being in the Church, in the Body is salavation. This is why the Church has taught – and continues to do so – “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” – outside the Church there is no salvation. Salvation is only through communion with the Mystical Body of Christ. There many levels of this communion.
Pope Benedict offers a pertinent reflection here, he says:
“Our faith is truly personal, only if it is also communal: it can be my faith only if it dwells in and moves with the “we” of the Church, only if it is our faith, the common faith of the one Church.”
The “we” of the Church is essential and precedes every individual “I” of faith.
If all this is true, what keeps us from recognizing that the love of God has gathered us together and that we must wait together? This communion in waiting is not always evident.
Perhaps, I may feel cut-off from the Body, whether by my sins or those of others. I may be in the dark. But I’m not alone. I may feel isolated – John the Baptist for example was isolated and imprisoned. He was in the dark. Can you imagine that John would have imagined when he was proclaiming “Ecce Angus Dei” (a phrase we will hear later), that he would end his days in a dank dark prison cell?
The other common experience is that I may feel angry at another part of the Body of Christ. Divisions like those of the Church of St. Paul’s time abound in our time as well – they are a scandal to the world. They make the waiting intolerable. Likewise divisions in the family abound.
How do we train ourselves to overcome these temptations – to isolation and to division – us versus them? I suggest that a head on attack might have some success but that we might be more successful by an action of receptivity than an active grasping. Remember we wait with our eyes fixed on heaven, because we recognize we need a heavenly savior.
The communion for which we long – for which we are made – this communion is expressed most gloriously and fully in the celebration of the liturgy. This is why — though it is no way opposed to private devotions such as the Rosary – Liturgy is not the time for such private devotions. It is rather the time when the profound preexisting communion of the mystical body of Christ is made manifest most clearly this side of heaven.
This communion which we express through our common worship – consider the preface dialogue, gratias agamos domino deo nostro – endures at all times. This is why liturgy is a school of learning to wait well. We wait together. Liturgy makes manifest the profound truth that you are never, ever, ever, alone. It is the sacrifice which saves us by uniting us to God, and by extension to each other.
The reality brothers and sisters is that we are waiting together or we are miserable. Let the Spirit of the Liturgy inform your life. Recognize you are union with Christ and, thus in union with his body. Live life accordingly. We wait together with eyes fixed on heaven because we need a heavenly savior and he will save us together.
To be disregarded or despised is a painful experience for us human beings. Have you considered that God, in creating free persons, opened himself to being despised and disregarded? From the beginning, he opened himself to the possibility of being despised and disregarded. The Cross is God’s answer to this. It comes down to this: will let him love us? Will we accept his gift or spurn it? He loves you. Will you disregard him, despise him, or will you receive him and be saved?