Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus and the Gospel presents us with the Lord’s final encounter with his apostles before He ascended into heaven. This final encounter with Jesus takes place on the mountain.
The “mountain” has a strong symbolism and important meaning for the writer of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus proclaimed the Beatitudes on the Mount (cf. Mt 5:1-12); Jesus went by himself to the mountains to pray (cf. Mt 14:23). Jesus welcomed the crowds at the mountain and healed the sick (cf. Mt 15:29). Jesus went up to the mountain with three of His disciples and while they were praying his face shone like the sun and he was transfigured (Mt 17:1). And in today’s gospel the apostles were instructed to go to the mountain in Galilee to meet the risen Christ.
However, this time on the mountain, Jesus is no longer the Master who acts and teaches, but rather the Risen One who asks the disciples to take action and to proclaim, entrusting to them the mandate to continue his work. This final meeting with the Lord offered full confirmation of two aspects of the Easter message: the glorification of Jesus Christ and the continuation of his message through the disciples.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (vv. 19-20).
An interesting fact in today’s gospel is the moment when the disciples met the Risen Lord once again on the mountain. The gospel says that the disciples fell down and worshiped Jesus but that they also doubted; that there was certain hesitation in their adoration. This point is highlighted by Matthew in today’s gospel and it expresses the mixture of light and darkness in faith. Throughout the gospel of Matthew, the mixture of good and bad, of strong and week, of light and darkness in the church, is a recurring theme.
In today’s world, members of the Church often find themselves within this mixture of light and darkness in the faith as well. Due to sudden events in our lives such as the passing of a loved one, getting news regarding our own health or that of a loved one, the losing of jobs, the losing of friends, the losing of goods, and so on, we can, in a moment, move from having strong faith to deep doubts.
However, the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord tells us that although Jesus ascended to Heaven to dwell gloriously at the right hand of the Father, he is still and will always be among us. And this is and should be the source of our hope, joy, strength, and perseverance in the faith.
May the Virgin Mary accompany our journey with her maternal protection. And no matter what kind of hardship we are in the middle of at this moment, may we learn from her the courage and perseverance to be witnesses of the presence of the Risen Lord in our midst always. Amen
Fourth Sunday of Easter
The Gospel says that: “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (Jn 10:3). The Lord calls us by name, He calls us because of his love for us. However, the Gospel says, there are other voices, voices that are not to be followed: those of strangers and thieves who only bring harm to the sheep.
Dear friends, mis amigos, these different voices resonate within us. They have strong differences. The voice of God speaks kindly to the conscience. The tempting voice leads to evil. How can we recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd from that of the thief? How can we distinguish the inspiration of God from the suggestion of the evil one? Mis amigos, as people of faith, we are always invited to discern these two voices.
These two voices speak two different languages. They have opposite ways of knocking on the door of our hearts. Just as we know how to distinguish one language from another, we can also distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the evil one.
One difference between these two voices is that the voice of God never forces us: God proposes himself, He does not impose himself. However, the evil voice seduces, assails, forces: it arouses dazzling illusions, emotions that are tempting but temporary.
The voice of God corrects us with great patience, but always encourages us, consoles us: it always nourishes hope. God’s voice is a voice that has a horizon, while the voice of the evil one leads us to a wall. It brings us into a corner.
Another difference: the voice of the enemy distracts us from the present and wants us to focus on fears of the future or sadness about the past — the enemy does not want the present — it brings to surface the bitterness, the memories of the wrongs suffered, of those who have hurt us, … many bad memories.
The evil voice never wants to bring peace and joy. Instead it causes anger and then it leaves bitterness.
The voice of God speaks in the present. It says to us, “Now you can do good, now you can exercise the creativity of love, now you can forego the regrets and remorse that hold your heart captive”. Mis amigos, God’s voice inspires us, it leads us ahead, but it speaks in the present and in the now.
Today’s gospel invites us to pay attention to the voices that reach our hearts. Let us ask ourselves where they come from. Let us ask for the grace to recognize and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, who brings us out of the enclosures of selfishness and leads us to the pastures of true freedom. May Our Lady, Mother of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, guide our daily Christian journey of faith and help us recognize the voice of Her Son, Jesus, among the voices that compete for our attention. Amen
Third Sunday of Easter
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from his life flashed across the sky. For each scene, he noticed two sets of foot-prints in the sand, one belonging to him and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of foot-prints. He also noticed that it happened at the lowest and saddest times in his life. This bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most difficult times in my life there is only one set of foot-prints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied, "My child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering,�when you see only one set of foot-prints in the sand, it was then that I carried you.”
Today’s gospel presents us with the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. The gospel says that the disciples did not recognize Jesus when He walked beside them. Perhaps that’s because they are so involved in their own hurt, sorrow, and disappointment. Mis amigos, this can sometimes happen to us, as well?
In the gospel we see that the journey to Emmaus begins in blindness, gloom, disillusionment and despair. It ends with the warming of the disciples’ hearts, the opening of their eyes, and their return to Jerusalem. Their encounter with the Risen Christ had made them see the events in Jerusalem from a new perspective. Instead of looking at Jesus’ death as the end of their aspirations, they now view it as the beginning of a new life in the Risen Christ.
Mis amigos, all of us, at some point in our lives, have been on the road to Emmaus. It is the road of disappointment, failure, sorrow, grief and broken dreams—a road of work and worry, of doubt, confusion, and fear. But we are not alone on this road. The Lord is also walking with us as He did with His disciples.
For some people the Emmaus journey has become so long, for others it has been short. Today’s gospel invites us to reflect about our Emmaus journey and how we recognize the divine presence of Jesus in our daily Christian journey of faith. Jesus always wants to meet us where we are, not where we would like to be or where we think we ought to be. He comes to us in ordinary life situations, but he never forces himself on us.
When we read the Emmaus story what strikes us, as amazing, is not that the two disciples finally recognize Jesus, but that they fail to do so in the first place. How often in our lives do we fail to recognize the presence of Christ?
Dear friends, let us remember that without the Lord’s presence with us we certainly will feel lonely and defeated. Without His presence we will not be journeying to a destination, we will simply be wandering. Amen
Second Sunday of Easter
In the room where the disciples were, the doors were closed for fear of the Jews and the Roman soldiers. These closed doors vividly express the mental condition of the disciples. As a group they were without leadership, purpose, or direction. And as individuals each one cowered in a private little hell of lostness, guilt, sadness, fear, or anxiety. It is Easter evening, the day of the resurrection, the day they saw the empty tomb. However, the message of the empty tomb seems not to be understood by the disciples yet.
The gospel says that the Risen Lord came and stood in their midst and that the atmosphere changed immediately. He greeted them with ‘Peace.’ The evangelist states that the disciples were filled with joy when they saw Jesus in their midst again. Then Jesus invited them to come out of their caves of darkness and to discover new life. “He breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’”
Jesus breathed into the disciples the new breath of divine life. They were given a new life: life on a higher level than ever experienced in human history. In this new life, they were being called to share in the mission of Jesus. Then Jesus spoke to them of two sendings: two divine missions. The first mission was when the Father sent Jesus into the world. And the second mission is the sending of the disciples by Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue his work of healing the world through forgiveness and reconciliation.
Mis amigos, with the power of the Holy Spirit in them, there would be no more closed doors and caves of darkness. They were called forward to leave the tombs empty behind them and to go to proclaim the risen Lord to the ends of the earth.
One of the apostles, Thomas, the so-called doubter, was not with the others when Jesus came. So once he heard that Jesus had appeared to his friends he said; “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” The evangelist John, by recording this incident, wants to teach all of Jesus’ fallowers that Thomas was surely chosen for the sake of those who doubt and hesitate.
What Thomas needed was time. So, after a week of growing with the idea, he was ready.
John the evangelist honors Thomas by placing onto his lips the highest act of faith reached in the gospels: “My Lord and my God.” By highlighting Thomas’ act of faith, the purpose of the evangelist, is to invite people to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that those who believe this will never die but have life in His name.
Let us remember that the Risen Lord, through the power of the holy Spirit, continue to call us to come out from behind the closed doors of life.
He continues to call us to come out of the tomb of guilt unto full belief in the Church’s divine power for forgiveness.
He continues to call us to come out of the dark cave of fear into the light of faith.
May we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, live always in the joy of the resurrected Christ Jesus. Amen
Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord
“After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb.” According to Jewish tradition, the first day of the week is Sunday so the women could not make the trip to the tomb until after the sabbath.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, the women went home and kept the sabbath as the law required. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. For the Jewish of the time, a day included any part of a day; thus, Friday was the first day, Saturday was the second day, and Sunday was the third day.
Mark, in his account of the resurrection, says: “When the women arrived at daybreak on the first day of the week which is Sunday, the third day after the crucifixion, Jesus had already risen. So the women found a tomb that could not hold the Body of Jesus. The tomb was empty. What happened? Was it the same as happened to Lazarus or the daughter of Jairus or the widow’s son? These three people were revived, brought back, resuscitated by Jesus. They resumed their old life after a period of interruption.
The resurrection of Jesus was not the same as resuscitation. It was not a matter of now returning to his old way of life after a three-day interruption. Resurrection means new life.
But what does this new life really mean? All the evangelists, through the various stories of the apparitions of the risen Lord, offer us signs, which invites us to reflect not only about what this new life really means but also about the beauty and immensity of this new life.
In some of the apparition stories, various disciples did not recognize Jesus until some sign was given. In the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene did not recognize the risen Lord and thought she was speaking with the gardener until she heard him call her by name.
The disciples who had gone back fishing, did not recognize the risen Lord either by sight of by voice until they saw the huge catch of fish as a sign.
And in the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke tells us that something prevented them from recognizing him. This leads us to conclude that the appearance of Jesus was very different to what they had known.
On the other hand, the gospels state that when Jesus appeared to his disciples, he invited them to touch him and to put their fingers inside his wounds, so they would realize it was him and not a ghost.
Dear friends, indeed the Lord Jesus rose in the same identifiable body as had received the wounds of crucifixion, but in a totally new condition. Jesus’ risen body is no longer supported by the laws of physical life but lives now by the laws of divine life.
Resurrection means new level of life. Jesus is glorified. He has returned to the glory of the Father’s countenance after his period of emptied life within the limitations of human flesh.
In the risen body of Jesus, all human life is invited to transcend the grave and share in divine life. Through baptism we die and rise with Christ. We enter the tomb and rise from the tomb with him. Our eternal destiny is to go through death to be totally one with Christ in the glory of the Father.
Dear friends, Easter is more than a mere historical remembrance. Easter is the celebration of the raising up of humanity to a sharing in divine life with Christ. The risen Lord now lives in us, through baptism, and leads us through our earthly life to the full experience of divine adoption in heaven.
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, a new level of life has been opened up to humanity. Pope Paul VI once said: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the unique and sensational event on which the whole of human history turns.” May we always marvel at the beauty of this gift given to us by Jesus Christ and in a special way, today, give thanks to God for his tremendous love and compassion toward us. Felices Pascaus para todos ustedes. Happy Easter to all of you. AmenFifth Sunday of LentToday’s gospel presents us with the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. To the people of that time this miracle by Jesus ranked as the most astonishing miracle. Traditional Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person remained with the body for three days. After three days the soul departed never to return, and that was when corruption set in. So in the traditional Jewish mentality bringing a dead person back to life after four days and therefore decaying was unthinkable.
Martha, by saying, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days” was expressing the common view that this was now hopeless. But is that the reason why Jesus delayed His arrival, to let the situation seem “impossible?” Probably. What Jesus teaches us through this miracle is that there is always hope.
For the early Christians the story of the raising of Lazarus was more than a pointer to the resurrection. Jesus rose on the third day; his body never saw corruption. For them this miracle was a challenge to never surrender hope even in the hopeless situations in which they found themselves as individuals and as a community. It is never too late for God to revive and revitalize a person or a community.
For me, the most powerful words in today’s Gospel are: Untie him and let him go free. Mis amigos, freedom is one of the deepest aspirations of the human heart. We long to be free – free from illness, worry, fear, the expectations of others, guilt, our faults, and so on. The ultimate freedom is freedom from eternal death.
We know we can be physically alive and spiritually dead through envy, greed, fear, hatred. We know we can bring death to others through lies, gossip, meanness, cruelty, withholding forgiveness, and so on. Mis amigos, by living the life of Christ, we bring life, love, and freedom to ourselves and each other.
May the message of the gospel and the reception of the Holy Eucharist help us always experience newness, peace, joy, and freedom. AmenFourth Sunday of LentToday’s First Reading presents us with God sending the Prophet Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint a new future king of Israel in place of Saul. Once at the house of Jesse, one by one the prophet Samuel was introduced to seven of Jesse’s sons. All of them possessed outstanding physical attributes to be anointed king. They created a very good image in the prophet’s mind to the point he was tempted to settle for one of them. However, the Lord God told Samuel to keep searching for God’s chosen one was not one of them."Are these all the sons you have? No, there is still the youngest who is tending the sheep. Then Samuel said to Jesse, send for him.” Then God let the prophet know that he was the one chosen to be anointed as king. David is portrayed as the least likely of his brothers to be chosen for greatness - it never even occurs to his father to present David to Samuel as a candidate for divine election. But God sees into the heart and directs the prophet to anoint David - “There – anoint him, for this is the one!”The prophet Samuel is reminded that the Lord’s vision goes deeper than external appearances.Mis amigos, appearances have become, in today’s world, more important than the reality. People often judge and classify others mostly because of their appearance. However, today’s first reading teaches us that to judge by appearances is to judge superficially. Appearances can be very deceptive and very misleading. Everything that makes up the core of a person’s life, is hidden from us.The description of God’s choice of David over his brothers is a story of human blindness, our inability to see spiritual truth as God sees it.In today’s gospel we see that the hearts of the pharisees were in darkness. And not even Jesus, “the light of the world,” was able to bring light to them. As for the poor blind man, not only his eyes became bright, but his heart was filled with light as a result of his encounter with Jesus.While we tend to look at appearances, God looks at the heart. God sees what is in the heart. That is why only God can truly judge people. May we be cured of any blindness in our hearts through the gospel message and the reception of the Holy Eucharist. AmenThird Sunday of LentGod provided the Israelite people with 'living water from the rock.' “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, Give me a drink.”
Today’s Gospel echoes the First Reading from the Book of Exodus concerning the living water. Jesus promised the Samaritan woman the living water that will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life and the grace to recognize who he really is.
It was not a coincidence that the gospel story tells of the Samaritan woman meeting Jesus at a well. Wells were sources of water, but they were also meeting places. People used to go there to do business, to catch up on gossip, and even to meet their future partners.
The story of the meeting of Jesus and the woman at the well started with a simple request from Jesus, “Give me a drink.” It was noontime. Jesus was thirsty. He came to a well near a Samaritan town and stopped to rest. Then a woman of that Samaritan town came to the well. Now, the polite thing to do was to ignore one another for Jews and Samaritans were not supposed to mix and men were not supposed to address women in public. But Jesus went ahead and spoke to the woman in public. He asked her for a drink of water.
This was socially unacceptable, and the Samaritan woman had to remind Jesus about this. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink, for Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans?” But Jesus reached across the barriers of racial and religious prejudice. He reached across the barriers of sexism. He reached across the barriers of shame and guilt. He reached across the barriers between good and bad. And he asked her for a drink of water. It was a hot day and he and the disciples had been walking since sunrise. So He needed water. However, even though Jesus was thirsty, He had a deeper thirst - his real thirst was for this woman’s faith and salvation.
Like Jesus the Samaritan woman was thirsty too. That is why she came to draw water from the well. But in reality, her thirst was more than water and Jesus could see that. She needed some peace from the turmoil and chaos of emotions and relationships in which she lived. She needed forgiveness and release of the shame that she lived in. She needed the love that she so desperately sought but failed to find five times. She needed someone she could trust and believe in. She needed a Savior; a Messiah!
This Samaritan woman did thirst for a genuine relationship. Even among the outcast Samaritans she was an outsider. She was a woman with a bad reputation. Everyone knew her past. She had had five husbands and was living with a man in sin. This was in a day when only men could divorce. She had been used and rejected again and again.
And because of her thirst she requested Jesus saying, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty again,” and Jesus offered her living water, the water of eternal life! She was thirsty for a real relationship and for God. Then Jesus let her know that He knew her and still cared.
Was she the only thirsty one in that town? No, there were many more thirsty people like her there. As soon as the woman knew who Jesus was, she ran to the town to tell others. The beautiful thing here is that even though she has been shunned and abused by many in that town, some there may have been her ex-husbands and men she had been in elicit relationships with, she still ran right to these people to tell them that God's Anointed One had arrived.
Certainly, few of them trusted her and they came to see this man she spoke of. They came to Jesus because they were thirsty too. They yearned to know God. They came to him for living water, and their thirst was quenched. “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”
Mis amigos, today’s gospel invites us to reflect about our thirst. What is it that we thirst for? Do we thirst for material things, for bodily pleasures, for power, for recognition, or for status? Or do we thirst for God’s grace to become more like Him every day?
During this Lenten Season, may we come to the well and meet Jesus there Who is willing to give us the living water, which is water that does not run out because it grows from within, and it quenches our deepest thirst – the thirst for God. AmenFirst Sunday of Lent
Temptation is the central theme in today’s Readings. In the first reading, Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the garden. In the gospel, Satan came to tempt Jesus in the desert. In these two temptations there is one thing in common. They are about making choices, choices that get us closer to God or choices that put us away from Him.
In the book of Genesis, we hear about the perfect world God created for humans and how through a temptation, Adam established a pattern that led to sin and death. Eve was the first one being trapped on a big lie: the trap was to lead Adam and Eve to believe that even they were creatures of God, they do not need to depend on God. Satan, in the form of a serpent, brought to Adam and Eve the attraction of becoming like God. To be self-sufficient, self-made.
The devil knows human psychology very well. His first task was to get Eve’s attention. So, he brings the first question, "Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" Satan uses a lie to get Eve’s attention. So Eve corrected Satan’s question: No, that is not what God told us. God said to us that we could eat of the fruit of all the trees except one; the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and evil. And that His command was clear: "You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die." Eve made the mistake of arguing with Satan. To Satan we say “NO,” we do not argue with him.
The reading says that after that the devil took immediate advantage of his gain and told Eve: No, you would not die; instead, “Your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil." Then Eve’s curiosity aroused, she saw that the fruit was good for food, pleasing to the eye, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
After they both ate the fruit, they realized that they were naked. Ashamed of their nakedness they covered parts of themselves, and afraid of God, they went into hiding.
Mis amigos, we see here that sin brings about disruption in our relationships. Instead of openness; hiding or covering–up has become our way of relating to God and to each other. And we justify our weaknesses (No I did not do it, it was not my intention, you are wrong, you misunderstood me, I did not lie to you; I just forgot to tell you the whole truth, and so on).
Today’s gospel presents us with the temptations of Jesus in the desert. Jesus’ temptations are similar to the temptations of Adam and Eve! Jesus’ temptations happened in the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Adam and Eve’s temptations happened just when God placed them in the garden.
The Gospel tells us that Jesus was tempted three times in the dessert. The Tempter begins, “If you are the Son of God, ...” “do what I ask you to do.” The first temptation is of appetite (pleasure/gluttony/materialism). The second temptation is of ambition (power/fame/boasting). The third temptation is of arrogance (pride/vanity/idolatry).
Mis amigos, the three temptations of Jesus are the three essential weapons that the devil uses to destroy humanity. The devil invites us to turn towards self. Jesus invites us to turn towards God.
The gospel and readings of today teach us that when we are tempted, we should not trust in our own abilities or strength. Instead we should trust in Jesus and his strength. Remember, where humanity fails, Jesus prevails. So, the point is that we should follow Jesus’ lead when we face temptations and not allow Satan, in his varies forms that comes to us, to conquer us but be able to conquer and defeat Satan. Let us, during this Lenten season, pray as Jesus has taught us to pray to Our Father in heaven – “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” May this Lenten season be a time for us to reflect about the temptations with which we struggle the most and through God’s grace, be able and willing to overcome them. AmenSeventh Sunday in Ordinary TImeIn today’s gospel, Jesus contrasts what the disciples had heard in the past, with what they must practice as his followers. “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye.’ But I say to you offer no resistance to one who is evil.” Here, Jesus is trying to move the disciples beyond what they knew into new behaviors that will help them follow Jesus and his message and, to live according to a new law - the law of love.”Is this easy? Not really. How is one supposed to love his enemies sincerely? Is one really supposed to pray for those who hate him? For those who work against him? is one really supposed to bless those who want him to fail?Who is my enemy? Jesus does not define this for us in today’s gospel. So my enemy could be someone whom we have some tension or discord with. Perhaps there is someone who hates or dislikes you and speaks ill of you, or perhaps there is someone whom you dislike and find yourself angry at or even judgmental toward.A Church’s Father said that we love our enemy when we are not sorrowful at his success or rejoice in his fall – this is also connected with the sin of envy and resentment.Mis amigos, if we find ourselves rejoicing when someone we dislike gets into trouble or if we find ourselves angry when someone we dislike is congratulated by others, then we struggle with the sin of envy and resentment. We struggle with what Jesus speaks in today’s gospel. How is the Holy Mass transforming us? How are we being transformed by the sacraments? How are being transformed daily by the message of the gospel?If we learn and imitate Christ, we do not allow the evil of others to overcome us or to lead us into sin. Christ gave us an example of humility in the face of trial and patience in the face of suffering. Christ turned the other cheek because He would never return evil with evil. Consequently, as his disciples we are called to do the same. May the Blessed Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the model of discipleship for us, help us always embrace and live the gospel message through our actions, deeds, and attitude. AmenSixth Sunday in Ordinary TImeThrough this weekend’s Scripture Readings, God calls us to a radical way of living. We are called to be more than just moral: God calls us to be virtuous. In today’s Gospel Matthew emphasizes the close relationship between the Jewish Law and the teaching of Jesus. Here Jesus teaches with examples that he has not come to abolish the Law and the prophets but to bring them to completion.Matthew's gospel was written for Jewish Christians. Throughout his gospel, he constantly uses the Old Testament to show that the life of Jesus is not a breakaway from past Jewish traditions but that it is a continuation of all that was foretold by the prophecies in the Old Testament. Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” This may sound strange, for often we find in the Gospels that the Pharisees and the Scribes accuse Jesus of breaking the laws, especially the Sabbath law.in Judaism, observance of the law was considered to be the standard of holiness. So, the Pharisees and Scribes considered themselves to be holy and righteous. Their righteousness was merely an external show for their hearts were far from God. For this reason, in today’s gospel, we find Jesus condemning them for their superficial religiosity and blaming them as being hypocrites. We find here two things, piety and holiness. These are two different things. One who is pious is not necessarily a holy one and one who is holy, does not necessarily need to be pious. My intention is not to say that being pious is wrong. There is nothing wrong with being pious however, if one’s pious attitude leads him to think he is better than others, or to think he is worthier of God’s grace, or to think that he does not sin anymore, or to judge others for not being as pious as he is; let me tell you, that is not a sign of holiness. Not at all. Piety is more external, holiness is more internal, and it is shown in the outside through our actions, deeds, and attitude. This is the reason why Jesus condemned the Pharisees and Scribes in today’s gospel, for their superficial religiosity.Jesus warns his disciples – “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”Today’s First Reading from the Book of Sirach invites us to take every advantage to make the right choices in life. We have free will to do it. We can choose life and death, good or evil. God does not command us to act unjustly or give us license to sin. But then that choice will be ours.In conclusion, today’s Readings speak about true freedom and urge us to find true wisdom. Freedom is a Christian virtue and value. To be wise means to choose carefully what choices we make, not through blind obedience, but through thought and prayer. True freedom requires discipline and regularity and only then it becomes spontaneous in the sense that we spontaneously choose Christ anytime, anyplace over anything and everything else. The meaning of s-pon-ta-nei-ty is not wild abandonment. Instead, it is a freedom to spontaneously choose God above all else. “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord!”Fourth Sunday in Ordinary TImeToday's Gospel presents us with 'The Beatitudes,' which open Jesus' 'Sermon on the Mount.' Matthew presents the Beatitudes as a sort of 'New Law' - God's overall will for human beings. This new law is comparable to what happened at Mount Sinai in the Old Testament when Moses received the commandments from God. Through the Sermon on the Mount Matthew also portrays Jesus in the role of a new Moses.
From chapter 5 to chapter 7 Matthew highlights five long discourses by Jesus, which can be seen to match the five first books of the Bible known as the Pentateuch. These five first books of the Bible are attributed to Moses and they are the core of the Jewish Law. Just as the Pentateuch is the core of the Jewish way of life, so these discourses, in Matthew’s gospel, are the core of the Christian way of life.
However, there are major differences between the Commandments and the Beatitudes. The commandments focus on actions, do not kill, do not still, do not wish other people’s goods, and so on. The Beatitudes, on the other hand, focus not just on actions but on attitudes. Blessed are the peace makes, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the meek, and so on.
The Beatitudes invites us to go further. They leave no room for self-righteousness and self-justification, the kind of self-righteousness and self- justification the Pharisees had in keeping the Law.
The Beatitudes invites us to go far beyond the mere moral requirements of the Ten Commandments. They call for a very special relationship with God and with the people around us. They involve not only a personal observance of some ethical rules but also a deep concern to be involved in the building up of the world we live in, helping to make it a place of truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom, and peace.
Mis amigos, this is what the Kingdom of heaven is all about. The kingdom of God presented by Jesus, the New Moses, is not just about avoiding to do evil but about stepping forward to do good. Let us remember that what is sinful is not only doing evil but also avoiding to do good. Which law do we cling to, the law of the Old Testament – law which focuses merely on actions or the law of the New testament presented by Jesus, law which focuses on attitudes. AmenThird Sunday in Ordinary TImeToday we celebrate the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time and Matthew tells us that after John the Baptist had been arrested by Herod, Jesus withdrew to Galilee and began his own proclamation. John the Baptist is in prison and with his voice silenced, his ministry came to an end. So, Jesus leaves Nazareth for the town of Capernaum to begin preaching that the kingdom of God is at hand.In Jesus’ time Capernaum was an unlikely place for Jesus to begin his ministry. Capernaum was known as a rebellious place where even Jews were not noted for their observance of the Law. Yet the prophecy, in Isaiah’s book, suggests that 'The Light of the world' is to be found in Galilee. And it is just in this Galilean town of Capernaum that Jesus begins his mission. Capernaum, a town living in darkness has now seen the light.“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This was the keynote address of Jesus upon the start of his public mission. Like John the Baptist, Jesus also uses the word 'Repent' in His first proclamations of God’s kingdom. There is, therefore, a continuity in their ministries. But while John asked the people to repent to prepare for the coming of the Promised One; Jesus, told the people to repent because the kingdom of heaven was already in their midst.Mis amigos, repentance is the response to Jesus’ call to us. ‘Repent’ usually means to be sorry for or to regret some wrong actions we have done in the past. However, Jesus is asking for much more than that. The call is not just to be sorry for past sins and not to do them anymore. It is a call for a change of direction from now on and into the future. It is a call to a radical change in one’s thinking.As Jesus began his public ministry He called some disciples. They are not Scholars of the law or influential members of the community. They are fishermen, uneducated men. Jesus tells them that they will be fishers of men. Therefore, the catching of fish from the darkness of the sea, becomes a sign of a deeper reality for the disciples. From now on they will be catching not fish anymore but men and women from the darkness of sin and death.The call to follow Jesus establishes a relationship between what the disciple is and what he is to become. Discipleship is about experiencing transformation to be able to influence and transform others. Otherwise it is not discipleship.Mis amigos, we are called to follow Jesus, to become fishers of men and women and to make the light of Jesus shine. We can do so by first being mindful of the dark areas within us - our weaknesses, selfishness, hurts, and inclinations to power, greed and fame. Jesus came to us as the ‘great light,’ therefore we are to be ‘small lights’ to others for the same task; to disperse the darkness that continues to cover the world. This is what our following of Jesus should be about. AmenThe Epiphany of the LordToday we celebrate the “The Epiphany of the Lord,” the manifestation of the Christ child to the nations. Matthew’s Gospel States that “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem looking for the new born king of the Jews, Jesus Christ.The Magi set out in pursuit of this great vision, to find the new born king and they followed that vision to the end. The journey of the Magi was probably not an easy one. They might have encountered many difficulties, had doubts, and experienced danger in the course of their journey. However, in spite of doubts, difficulties, and danger they persevered in their quest and were rewarded when they finally found Christ.Though the Magi were guided by a heavenly light, a star - they did not know where the star would lead them. And even though their journey was very much a journey of faith, when they saw the Child, they still had to make an act of faith. Seeing is not necessarily believing. We believe to be able to see and recognize.The story of the Magi has great relevance for us because we too are on a journey – the journey of life. We too are following a vision. As the Magi were guided by the light of a star, we are guided by the light of faith. The Magi’s journey can serve as a model for our journey of faith.However, we have one great advantage over them. We already know Christ and have encountered Him in faith. Christ, the light of the world, is the star we are following. Nevertheless, the fact that we have not seen Jesus face to face means we have not yet arrived at our final destination. We are still searching, still traveling onwards.Mis amigos, we must not be surprised if we have doubts, and if we encounter difficulties. Faith does not guarantee an easy journey, only a meaningful one.The Magi’s journey was one of searching and questioning, of pain and joy, of fear and hope. The faith journey contains elements of all of these.The Magi did not journey as individuals. They had each other. They formed a little community of believers. We too have a community to support us in our faith journey.May the lamp of faith never fail us. May its light see us through the darkness of this world, until we reach the heavenly Bethlehem where we shall see Christ in glory. AmenNativity of Our Lord“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.” “The angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”By putting together these two moments, Luke’s intention, was to make a contrast between Caesar Augustus and Jesus Christ, between darkness and light. Caesar Augustus was such a powerful man at that time that he was regarded in the Roman empire as “god and savior” and he was credited with establishing a time of peace throughout the Roman world.With these two figures together, Caesar and Jesus, Luke wants to highlight that by the time, the most powerful man was ruling the whole world, the one who was considered a god and savor, the real God and Savor was born.the prophet says, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” These words reminds us of the deep reality of what humanity is all about: a people who walk, a people who is on a journey. A journey filled with light and darkness, sorrow and joy, fidelity and infidelity, obedience and rebellion.This walking concept makes us reflect on the course of history. It makes us reflect on that long journey called the history of salvation, starting with Abraham whom the Lord called to set out, to go forth from his country towards the land which he would show him.Mis amigos, from that time on, our identity as believers has been that of a people making its pilgrim way towards the promised land.In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and if we show that love to others through our actions, attitude, and deeds, we walk in the light; but if our heart is dominated by pride, greed, deceit, lie, and self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us.Mis amigos, Jesus Christ came to free us from darkness and to grant us light. In him was revealed the grace, the mercy, and the love of the Father: Jesus is Love incarnate. He is not simply a teacher of wisdom. He is the meaning of life and history, who has set up his tent in our midst.The shepherds in today’s gospel were the first to see this “tent”, to receive the news of Jesus’ birth. They were the first because they were among the last. And they were the first because they were awake, keeping watch in the night, guarding their flocks.Together with them, let us pause before the Child Jesus. Together with them, let us thank God the Father for having given Jesus to us, and with them let us raise from the depths of our hearts the praises of his fidelity: We bless you and glorify you, Lord God, who lowered yourself for our sake. You are immense, and you made yourself small; you are rich, and you made yourself poor; you are all powerful and you made yourself vulnerable.On this night – day let us share the joy of the Gospel: God loves us so much that he gave us his Son to be our brother, to be light in our darkness. To us the Lord repeats tonight - today: “Do not be afraid!” (Lk 2:10) for I gave you and continue to give you my Son Jesus to guide you on the way which leads to the promised land, to my heavenly house.Mis amigos, Jesus is the light who brightens the darkness. He is the peace that brings joy to us.May the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord Jesus bring peace to families that are falling apart, peace to those who are facing terminal illnesses, peace to family members who are mourning the passing of a loved one, peace to those who live their everyday life carrying with them hurt feelings, and peace to our hearts. Feliz Navidad para todos usteded. Merry Christmas to all of you. Amen.