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Father's Homilies

 

Twenty sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s gospel presents us with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. In the parable there are three persons, the poor Lazarus, the rich man without a name, and Father Abraham. Abraham represents the thought of God. The rich man without a name represents the dominating ideology of that time. Lazarus represents the silent cry of the poor at the time of Jesus and in all times.

In this story Jesus paints a dramatic scene of contrasts - riches and poverty, heaven and hell, compassion and indifference, inclusion and exclusion. He starts off with a vivid, colorful description of the two main and contrasting characters:

The rich man is obviously wealthy and as expected can afford to be generous, but unfortunately, he is not. He is dressed in purple and fine linen. He lives in luxury and sumptuously feasts every day.

On the other hand, there is the poor man named Lazarus. He is pitiful. Unlike that of the rich man's, his body is 'dressed' with sores.

The gospel says that when the poor man died, his body was carried to Abraham’s bosom. Nothing was said about the moral goodness of Lazarus that made him deserve heaven, nor was it mentioned that the rich man was wicked.

The rich man did not do anything wrong. He did not hurt or exploit the poor man. According to the gospel the rich man was condemned not because he was rich, but because he did not do the good that needed to be done. He did not show compassion to the poor man and instead treated the poor man with indifference.  Therefore, he was guilty of the sin of omission.

Mis amigos, sin is not only about doing wrong. It is also about not doing good – it is about doing nothing, and worse still, being so indifferent toward the needs of others.

According the gospel message, in God’s economy of salvation, those who hold on possessively to what they have, lose it all in the end, while those who share generously, with no string attached, receive back many times more than they gave away.

Lazarus, despite a life of misfortune and suffering, did not lose hope in God. His eyes were set on a treasure stored up for him in heaven. The rich man, however, could not see beyond his possessions. He not only had everything he needed, he selfishly spent all he had on himself and was not interested in being charitable and generous. He lost sight of God and the treasure of heaven because of his inability to exercise generosity and charity.

May today’s gospel message penetrate our hearts and lead us to reflect about our willingness to generously share our blessings with others, especially those most in need. Amen

 

Twenty fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A rich man had a steward who was reported to him for squandering his property.”  The steward in today’s parable was unreliable and dishonest. It is obvious that he has been so for quite some time. it probably started off in little ways, but eventually became for him a way of life. He must have known all along that he was living dangerously. But he got away with it for a long time, thus evading public judgement and even self-examination. However, in spite of his cleverness, he was eventually found out, and his master confronted him with his misconduct.

It must have been a very humbling and painful moment for the steward. He was about to lose not only his job but also his reputation. This was also for him a moment of truth and revelation, because it showed him the dishonest reality in which he had been living. It provided him with an opportunity to leave behind illusions and lies. Thus, it could have a turning point in his life.

But what happened? He learned nothing from it. Even after being dismissed from his job he continued on in his old dishonest ways. There was not the slightest change in his character. He refused to take responsibility for the kind of person he had become.

This teaches us how difficult it is for one to change the habits of a lifetime.

Once a holy man was instructing his disciples as they walked through a wood. He pointed to a small oak tree and asked one of his disciples to pull it up. The disciple did so with one hand. Then the master pointed to another oak tree, a little bigger than the first, and asked the disciple to pull it up. The disciple did so but had to use both hands.

The master pointed to a third and bigger oak tree and asked the disciple to pull it up. The disciple could do so only with the help of one of his companions. Finally, the master pointed to a still larger oak tree and asked the disciple to pull it up. Even with the help of all of his companions he was unable to do so.

And the master concluded, “That is how it is with passions and habits. In the beginning, before they have put down deep roots, it is easy to eradicate them. But if we allow them to put down deep roots, it becomes virtually impossible to eradicate them from our life.

Mis amigos, this presumably, is what happened to the servant in today’s gospel. He had become so used to a dishonest way of life that he could not change. However, what is impossible to us can become possible with the help of God’s grace.

While the story shows the danger of bad habits it also shows the importance of forming good habits. Just as dishonesty can become a way of life so can honesty.

How does one arrive at this happy state? It cannot be achieved overnight. It has to be learned by long practice. It is not achieved by a few great deeds but by a lot of little ones. The real reward for a good deed is that it makes the next good deed easier. Every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character.

The gospel says, “No servant can serve two masters.” Today’s gospel invites us to reflect on two things regarding service. What are our actions really serving, God or ourselves? Jesus makes it clear that we have to make a choice – no servant can serve two masters. May God’s grace help us always choose God as the master of our life. Amen

 

Twenty fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today we celebrate the 24th Sunday in ordinary time. As the Scribes and Pharisees continued to criticize Jesus’ welcoming and merciful attitude toward the so-called sinners of his time, He addressed to them three parables about losing, finding, and rejoicing.

The parable of the prodigal son, the last one in today’s gospel, is a well-known parable. I want to speak today, in a particular way, about the attitude of the father and the older son.

The gospel says: “Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.” Once he heard that the reason for the party was the return of his younger brother, he refused to enter the house. The Father went out of the house and begged him to come inside. But he answered, “All these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

We see here that the older son also wants feast and joy, but only with his own friends, not with his brother and much less with his father. He does not even call his own brother “brother,” but rather “your son,” as if he were no longer his brother. And he, the older brother, speaks about prostitutes. His malice makes him interpret his younger brother’s life in this way.

How many times does the older brother misinterpret the life of the younger brother! How many times do we misinterpret the life and the practices of others! The attitude of the father is different from the attitude of the older son! the father accepts the younger son but does not want to lose the older son. Both of them form part of the family. One cannot exclude the other!

On the other hand, the father forgave because he was filled with love. The son refused to forgive because he was bitter about what he saw as injustice. The older son carried with him the illness of anger and resentment which would never allow him to forgive his younger brother.

How many people live a life full of anger and resentment because of memories from the past? How many people carried with them the illness of anger because they are unable to forgive and forget what happened to them in the past or because they keep clinging to feelings of being treated unjust?

Mis amigos, while the resentment of the older brother is easy to understand, his words reveal the same sort of self-righteousness that afflicted the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.

The younger son stands for the tax collectors and sinners who were open to experiencing God’s forgiveness and His healing power of love. The waiting father represents God. And the older son represents the religious leaders, the Pharisees, who were angry and resentful that the excluded, the outcast, the so-called sinners, were being welcomed by Jesus into God’s kingdom. This older son represents those who consider themselves just and observant, and who think that they do not need any conversation, just like the keepers of the law in Jesus’ time.

Mis amigos, anger and resentment are illnesses which destroy not only relationships, marriages, friendships, and communities, but also destroy the individual person as such.

May we always open our hearts to the restoring power of God’s healing love in our lives. Amen

 

 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

I am sharing with you my homily for this weekend, the 20th Sunday in ordinary time. Have a blessed weekend. I look forward to seeing you at Mass.

“I have come to set the earth on fire…” “I came not to bring peace but rather division.” These are very strong words from Jesus. We normally do not expect Jesus to use these kind of words “fire and division.”

When James and John wanted Jesus to call down fire on a Samaritan village, he told them they did not know what they were talking about. And when Peter drew his sword in the garden, Jesus told him to put it away.

Jesus did not come to cause trouble or to break up families. But sometimes this happened. In the early days of the Church, conversion to Christianity was likely to lead to rejection by the family. Those who converted to Christianism had to make a choice between Christ and the family.

“I have come to set the earth on fire…” “I came not to bring peace but rather division.” It is clear that when Jesus speaks about bringing fire and division, his words are not meant to be taken literally. Yet those words stand for something real in him. Jesus was gentle. However, that does not mean that he was weak. When the occasion demanded it he could be very assertive – as when he drove the traders out of the temple.

The words fire and division also stand for something very strong in his teaching. His teaching caused division. He taught that the Kingdom of heaven was open to everyone – saints and sinners, Jews and Gentiles.

This brought Jesus into conflict with the religious authorities of his time. he called the Scribes and Pharisees hypocrites and blind guides. They called him a troublemaker and a man possessed.

Mis amigos, if Jesus had pleased people and said only nice things to them, he could have made himself popular and very loved. But he chose to disturb people, because they needed to be disturbed.

Jesus’ words chocked some and made others angry.  The words he spoke to the less privilege were different from those he spoke to the most privilege. The words he spoke to sinners were different from those he spoke to the Pharisees.

Mis amigos, we betray the Gospel if we reduce it to a weak message to all which ignores the differences between the unprivileged and the privileged, between the so-called saints and sinners of today’s society. Reducing the Gospel to a weak message would make it insipid, and such an insipid Gospel would never be a leaven in the world.

In today’s world there is a tendency to domesticate the Gospel, to reduce it to lovely words, and feel-good experiences. When that happens, then the fire has gone out, the leaven has lost its power, the salt has lost its taste, and the light has grown dim.

Mis amigos, we as Christians, should not be surprised if the Gospel should divide people. Jesus’ sense of justice brought him into conflict with those who exploited the weak and the poor. His integrity brought him into conflict with the dishonest. His tolerance brought him into conflict with the narrow-minded and the prejudiced.

“I have come to set the earth on fire…” Fire burns up what is useless and refines what is impure. The Gospel message is a fire that purifies. It is the leaven of society. Mis amigos, let us never forget that a fire needs not only to be lighted but also tended.  Amen

 

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus leaves Galilee and decides to go to Jerusalem. Today’s gospel presents us with the first difficulties which Jesus finds along this road. He experienced rejection and abandonment due to the inability of the people to understand Him.

Today, the same thing happens. Throughout our individual or communal journey of faith, there are misunderstandings and abandonment. When things do not go the way we want them to go, we often distance ourselves from God or from the community we have been journeying with.

The gospel says that Jesus leaves Galilee and takes the disciples with Him to the territory of the Samaritans, a pagan territory. He tries to form the disciples so that they will be ready to understand the openness to the new, the openness toward the other, the openness toward what is different.

Jesus goes beyond the borders of the territory. He sends His disciples to go and prepare for His arrival in a town of Samaria, but the mission fails.
 Luke says that the Samaritans did not receive Jesus because He was going to Jerusalem. But if the disciples had said to the Samaritans, “Jesus is going to Jerusalem to criticize the project of the Temple and to demand a greater openness”, Jesus would have been accepted, because the Samaritans were of the same opinion.

This mission failed because the disciples did not understand why Jesus was going to Jerusalem. They did not understand the openness of Jesus to welcome everyone.

Mis amigos, often when one shares a different opinion, one is rejected. We see families being divided because of the sharing of a different opinion or because of being more open to understanding and accepting people.

After being rejected by the Samaritans, James and John asked Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  James and John did not want to take home this defeat. They did not accept that someone was not in agreement with their ideas. So, they want to use fire for revenge.

Jesus rejected the proposal. He did not want the fire. Some bible translations add, “You do not know what spirit is moving you!” This means that the reaction of the disciples was not according to the Spirit of Jesus. Remember when Peter suggested to Jesus not to follow the path that would lead Him to the cross, Jesus turned to Peter and called him Satan (Mk 8: 33).
Mis amigos, Satan is the evil spirit who wants to change the course of Jesus’ mission. The message of Luke for the communities of his time is that those who want to hinder the mission among the pagans are moved by an evil spirit!

Luke offers an extensive part of his gospel to the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. In the ten chapters that describe the journey up to Jerusalem, Luke constantly reminds us that Jesus is on the way toward Jerusalem. He rarely says where Jesus passed. Only at the beginning of the journey, in the middle, and at the end, is something known about the place where Jesus was passing. Luke gives importance to the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem probably because he wants us to never forget that we are always on a journey and no matter what events comes to our lives, good or bad, we cannot stop, we must continue to walk toward Jerusalem, the Heavenly Jerusalem.

When conflictive moments come to our personal life, our family life, or our life in community, which spirit moves us to act? May the Blessed Mother of God help us to recognize the good spirit that always wants to lead us to move from self-center to self-giving, from anger and revenge to peace and healing, from division and exclusion to unity and inclusion, from living in the past to living in the present. Amen

The Most Holy Trinity


“Jesus said to his disciples: I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” A priest was on a plane. The man seated next to him said to the priest: Father, I do not accept anything I am not able to understand. How is it that there are three gods in one God? The priest pointed to the sunlight coming in through the windows and said to the man: Do you believe in the sun? The man answered, yes, I do.  The priest said, well, the light you are able to see comes from the sun, which is millions of miles from here. The heat we feel comes from the sunlight. Can you explain how that happens? Asked the priest. Then the priest added; something similar happens with the Trinity. The sun is God the Father; the light is God the Son.  From the Father and the Son comes the Holy Spirit; the heat.

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, which takes us to the heart of our faith. “God, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons in One God.”

 Today’s readings give us a clear picture of whom God is. Throughout the History of Salvation, we find a God that walked with his people, who were oppressed by the Egyptians and the Babylonians.

 The very same God that revealed himself to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets, in the Old Testament, is the very same God that came into the world, Jesus Christ, and experienced the realities of humankind. It is the same God that continues to walk with us today. It is the very same God that we encounter every Sunday when we get together to celebrate the Holy Mass.  And it is the very same God that comes to us every year on Pentecost, “The Holy Spirit”.

The Father so loves the Son that He gives Him to us, the Son so loves the Father that He does the Father’s will, and the love from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit, the One that stays with us. They exist as a communion, as a family.

According to Augustin, one of the greatest saints of the Church, the Father is the lover, the Son is the loved one and the Holy Spirit is the personification of the very act of loving. This means that we can understand something of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity more readily with the heart than with our small mind.

There is a story about St. Augustine. One day St. Augustin was walking by the seashore. He was overthinking about the mystery of the Holy Trinity. He wanted to understand the doctrine of one God in three persons and to be able to explain it logically. 

 As he walked along, he saw a small boy on the beach, pouring seawater from a shell into a small hole in the sand.  "What are you doing, my child?" asked Augustine.  "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole," the boy answered with an innocent smile.  "But that is impossible, my dear child,” said Augustine.  The boy stood up, looked straight into the eyes of Augustine and replied, “What you are trying to do - comprehend the immensity of God with your small head - is even more impossible.”  Then the child vanished. 

The child was an angel sent by God to teach Augustine a lesson.  Later, Augustine wrote: "You see the Trinity if you see love."  And I would like to add, we understand the trinity as we understand love, not Eros love, but agape love. Love that takes us out of our comfort zone and leads us to do something for others. Love that leads us to welcome and include people. Love that leads us to be more compassionate, loving, caring, and forgiving. Mis amigos, in order to be able to love, one needs first to have the experience of being loved.
The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father's will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery and to live in love for one another. Amen

Fourth Sunday of Easter

My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” John 10: 27-28

Jesus’ words help us to understand that no one can say I am a follower of Jesus if he does not hear His voice. The hearing of His voice Jesus speaks about in today’s gospel it is not just to be understood literally as hearing. It is a hearing that takes one out to do something for others, especially the Jesus that suffers in today’s world, the poor, the needy, the abandoned, the neglected, the sorrowful, the so-called minorities.

That is why the Lord says, “my sheep hear mi voice and follow me.” To follow Jesus means to do something for our neighbor. We are not only to open our ears to hear Jesus’ voice but also to open our hearts, so the voice of the Lord penetrates our hearts and leads us to do works that shows we are His sheep. 

We live in such a noisy world that often we find ourselves so distracted by voices which urges us to go in various directions. These voices can lead one to a sense of despair or emotional and spiritual trauma encouraging him to follow anyone or anything that promises a moment of happiness, or a brief feeling of peace. 

Mis amigos, the following of these false voices more often leave one feeling empty, lost, and confused. How do we hear Jesus’ voice in our daily life, within our family, at work, in church, in our prayer, and at the Holy Mass we celebrate together? How do we distinguish God’s voice among the many voices that compete for our attention?

Mis amigos, some voices in today’s world and in today’s Church are weak, confusing, confounding, broken, and annoying - so much so that we fail to hear the voices that are strong, clarifying, confirming, whole, and faithful.  Remember, God gave us only one mouth and two ears.  This is because we are probably invited by today’s gospel to listen more and to talk less, or to listen more carefully before speaking.   

Let us never forget that it is in listening that we are able to recognize God’s voice and follow it.

“My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.” Let us open our ears to recognizing God’s voice. Let us follow Him Who is the way of salvation, Who is the truth that endures forever, and Who is the life that never ends. Amen.

 

Third Sunday of Easter

When life gets difficult, when we become lost, confused, and afraid, when the changes of life are not what we wanted or think we deserve, we tend to run away.  Often, we revert to old patterns of behavior and thinking.  Even when we know better and do not want to go backwards, it seems easier than moving forward.

Today’s gospel tells us that Peter and six others have returned to the sea. They left Jerusalem and decided to come home to the Sea of Galilee, the place where it all began. Discipleship, the upper room, the cross, the empty tomb, the house with its locked doors are some 80 miles away. Peter decides to go fishing and the others are quick to join him.

However, instead of fishing for fish, Peter seems to be fishing for answers. What have I done? What were those three years about? Who was Jesus? Where is he? Who am I? What will I do now? Where will I go? What will happen to me? Peter is searching for meaning, a way forward, a place in life.  So Peter is fishing in a dark night.

Throughout our journey of life, we as Peter, have found ourselves fishing in dark nights; asking questions, looking for answers, seeking peace, healing, and understanding.  When failures, losses, and sorrows come to our lives we often find ourselves fishing in a dark night.

In today’s gospel Jesus says to the disciples: “Children, have you caught any fish.”  Jesus is not asking for a fishing report.  He is commenting on the reality and emptiness of Peter’s and the other disciples’ lives.  Peter is living in the pain and the past of Good Friday.  Peter is fishing on the Good Friday side of the boat and the net is empty. There are no fish, no answers, no way forward.  Mis amigos, the nets of dark night fishing contain nothing to feed or nourish life.

Today’s gospel invites us to reflect about which side of the boat we have been fishing, the side of Good Friday, the side of desolation, disappointments, and anger, or the side of Easter, the side of peace, restoration, newness, and joy.  Today, Jesus invites us to “Cast our net to the right side of the boat,” the side where there is light and life.

This movement of the net from one side of the boat to the other symbolizes newness in the disciples’ lives and a way to begin to do things right.  Mis amigos, it is the great Passover.  Jesus calls us to move out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.  And by doing so we see and proclaim, “It is the Lord,” and emptiness gives way to the abundance of a net full of fish.

Darkness dawns a new day with new light.  The last supper has become the first breakfast, and confessions of love overcome denials of fear.

“It is the Lord.” Dark night fishing is over.  Mis amigos, this is Easter.  Good Friday is real.  Pain, death, sin are realities of life.  But the greater and final reality is Easter resurrection.  “Follow me,” Jesus says, “and live as resurrected people.  Follow me and fish in a different place.  “Follow me” is the invitation to examine where we have been fishing.  On which side of the boat do we fish? On which side of the cross do we live? Good Friday or Easter r
esurrection. Amen

 

Second Sunday of Easter

A week ago, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus.  We celebrated the day when the disciples saw the empty tomb and the day when Mary Magdalene announced that she had seen the Lord.  The disciples were gathered in the house and the doors were locked for fear.

A week later the disciples are still in the same place. It is the same house, the same closed doors, and the same locks.  Nothing much has changed.  The closed and locked house has become the disciple’s tomb. They left the empty tomb of Jesus and entered their own tombs of fear, doubt, and blindness.

This is our first week after Easter.  How is Jesus’ resurrection impacting our life? Where are we living? Are we living in the freedom and joy of the resurrection or are we living behind locked doors? What are the closed places of our lives? What keeps us in the tomb? Maybe, like the disciples, it is fear. Maybe it is questions, disbelief, or conditions we place on our faith.   Perhaps it is sorrow and loss, or that past memory we still live in.  For some people it may be the unwillingness to open up to new ideas, new possibilities, or changes.

When John the Evangelist describes the house, he is not only speaking about a physical house.   He is also describing the interior condition of the disciples.  Mis amigos, the locked places of our lives are always more about what is going on inside of us than around us.

Jesus did not open the door where the disciples were.  Jesus doesn’t open the door for us either, but He gives us all we need so that we might open our doors to a new life, a new creation, a new way of being.  As Jesus did with His disciples, He gives us His peace to be able to experience His resurrection.  Without experiencing peace, we keep ourselves imprisoned in our own tombs, the tombs we create on our own or the tombs we allow others to create for us.  Mis amigos, tombs prevent us from seeing the light, Jesus and from experiencing peace, healing, gladness, restoration, and newness.

May the Blessed Mother of God, our Mother in heaven, lead us to experience the peace of Her Son, Jesus.   And may the peace of Jesus make us always anew. Amen

 

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord

“Peter ran to the tomb” (Lk 24:12).  The Gospel tells us that the eleven, including Peter, had not believed the testimony of the women.  There was doubt in Peter’s heart, together with many other worries: sadness at the death of Jesus and disillusionment for having denied Him three times during his Passion.
 
There is, however, something which signals a change in Peter: after listening to the women and refusing to believe them, “he rose.” Peter did not remain at home as the others did. He did not surrender to the dark atmosphere of those days, nor was he overwhelmed by his doubts. He was not consumed by remorse, fear or the nonstop gossip that leads nowhere.
 
Peter was looking for Jesus, not himself.  He preferred the path of encounter and trust. And so, he got up and ran towards the tomb from where he would return “amazed.”  Mis amigos, this marked the beginning of Peter’s resurrection, the resurrection of his heart.  
 
The women too, who had gone out early in the morning to perform a work of mercy, taking the spices to the tomb, had the same experience. They were “frightened and bowed their faces”, and yet they were deeply affected by the words of the angel: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”
 
Mis amigos, we, like Peter and the women, cannot discover life by staying in sadness, anger, and resentment. Let us not stay imprisoned within ourselves but let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord – each of us knows what they are – so that Jesus may enter and grant us life.
 
The Lord wants to remove the stones of our past which do not permit us to get out of a tomb.  He wants to come and take us by the hand to bring us out of our tomb. A tomb we have created on our own or a tomb we have allowed others to create for us, so that, we are able to see Jesus, the light and experience new life, new beginnings.
 
What is the stone that you and I need to remove to be able to get out of our tomb; what is the name of this stone?
 
Mis amigos let us ask for the grace not to be carried by the sea of sadness, desolation, and anger, but by the sea of joy, peace, and newness.  Let us seek Jesus and at the same time, allow ourselves to be sought out by him.  Let us seek him in all things and above all things. And with him, we will rise again.  Amen.
 
Felices Pascuas para todos ustedes. Happy Easter to all of you.