Solemnity of Christ the King
This is one of the most vivid parables Jesus ever spoke, and the lesson is very clear: that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. God’s judgement does not depend on the knowledge we have accumulated, the fame that we have acquired, or the fortune that we have gained, but on the help that we have given.
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you…, or ill or in prison, and visit you? 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
Those who helped did not think that they were helping Christ and thus piling up eternal merit. They helped because their hearts moved them to help without thinking about gaining a reward. While, the attitude of those who failed to help was; ‘If we had known it was you we would gladly have helped, but we thought it was only some common man who was not worth helping.’ The sin of omission led them to be judged by the Master.
In the saints and Church Fathers we have a lot to learn about virtues and vices. It is not enough to just avoid vice, or sin, but to also work toward attaining virtue and virtuous behavior. To do no harm is not the same as to help. This is what we are called to do: to not just avoid doing wrong or harm, but to go out of our way to do good as well.
There is a story about St Martin of Tours. He was a Roman soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he entered a city a beggar stopped him and asked for alms. Martin had no money, but the beggar was blue and shivering from the cold, and Martin gave what he had. He took off his soldier’s cloak, and cut it in two, and gave half to the beggar. That night he had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus among them, and Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels said to Him, “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you? And Jesus answered softly, ‘My servant Martin gave it to me.”
Today’s parable and the story of St Martin of Tours teach us that it is precisely the attention we give to those who are less fortunate than we are that becomes the determination of our future.
The kingdom of God is an inclusive kingdom and criteria for membership is not only based on obedience to the commandments or on conformity to sacramental obligations, but also on the covenant bonds that unite us to one another.
Mis amigos, assistance is given whenever and wherever there is need. It is given in ordinary acts: in giving food and drink, shelter and clothing; in spending time with someone who might be lonely or afraid, in patiently waiting for an elderly person, and in thanking people for their service.
Let us examine our hearts today and deeply reflect about how, in our daily life, we are building God’s Kingdom.
Let us always remember that the kingdom of God is established, brick by brick, through simple acts of kindness, mercy, and love. And if this is the kingdom we establish during our lifetime, this will be the kingdom into which we will be welcomed at its end. Amen
Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary TIme
“Lord, open the door for us. But he said in reply, Amen, I say to you, I do not know you. Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour…” As we approach the end of the Liturgical Year, the Church, through the gospel, invites us to contemplate the end – the end of our lives and the end of the world.
The conclusion to be drawn from today's gospel is that the time of the arrival of our Lord as judge of the universe, the day on which the eternal wedding feast of Christ with his elect will begin, is as uncertain as the arrival of the bridegroom. A follower of Christ cannot afford to be casual and unprepared for that moment.
The ten virgins in today’s gospel represent the disciples who are waiting for the coming of the bridegroom which is the return of Christ Jesus. The wise ones brought both their lamps and extra oil. The unwise ones brought only their lamps. While they were waiting the lamps of the unwise virgins began to go out. Mis amigos, for one who is unwise and therefore unprepared, it means that his faith and love has grown cold and his good works are fading.
“Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out… No, for there may not be enough for us and you.” The wise virgins cannot lend their ‘oil’ of faith, love and good deeds to others. Each disciple has to take personal responsibility for his or her faith and salvation. The teaching here is that the wise disciple, whose love, faith and good works do not grow dim, is recognized by the Lord and takes their place in God’s Kingdom.
A disciple needs to remain alert, vigilant and prepared for the ‘day of salvation’ by continually growing in a faithful and loving relationship with God which bears fruit in good works for neighbors. Mis amigos, that is what it means to be hearers and doers of God’s Word.
“Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!' Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’”
we can say in the context of today’s parable that the 'oil' of loving service is not transferable to others. No one can say 'Yes' to Christ on my behalf. So, while the foolish virgins went off to make up for lost and wasted time, those who were ready went into the wedding hall. Then the door was locked. All are invited, but not all get inside. This is not due to any partiality on the bridegroom's part but because of the tardiness of some in responding to the invitation.
The locked door means that access to Jesus is not automatic or to be taken for granted. That is precisely the warning in today's parable - “Therefore, stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”
May the Blessed Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, help us to stay awake and be prepared, living an active faith with shinning lamps, so we can pass through the night beyond death and reach the great feast of life. Amen
Solemnity of All Saints
In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches his disciples and the crowd that gather by the Sea of Galilee about the beatitudes as the way that leads to holiness and to life eternal in heaven (cf. Mt 5:1-12).
Often when people think of holiness they think of keeping 'the Ten Commandments' and perhaps some other requirements of the Church like going to Mass on Sundays or fasting during Lent. What we often tend to forget is that the Ten Commandments really belong to the Old Testament and are part of the Jewish law. Of course, they are still valid, and Jesus said clearly that he had not come to abolish the Jewish law but to fulfill it. We might then say that the Beatitudes are an example of that fulfilling.
In Matthew’s gospel the Beatitudes have a central place. The Beatitudes is a summary of Jesus' teachings. They are a kind of mission statement saying what kind of person the good Christian will be.
The Gospel says that particularly blessed are: Those who are poor in spirit; those who are gentle; those who mourn; those who hunger and thirst for what is right; those who are merciful; those who are pure in heart; those who make peace; and those who are persecuted in the cause of right.
This is the kind of Christian we are all called to be. It is these qualities which made the saints, and which will make saints of us too. They go far beyond what is required by the Ten Commandments. If taken literally, the commandments can be kept and not with great difficulty. Many of them are expressed in the negative, 'You shall NOT…' so we can observe them by doing nothing at all! 'I have not killed anyone… I have not committed adultery… I have not stolen…' Does that make me a saint?
Being a Christian is a lot more than not doing things which are wrong. The Beatitudes are expressed in positive terms. They also express not just actions but attitudes. Be poor in spirit; be gentle; hunger and thirst for what is right; be merciful; be pure in heart; be a maker of peace and so on.
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 are a true and reliable recipe for sainthood.
The celebration of today’s solemnity is an occasion for great rejoicing and thanksgiving. It is altogether reasonable to think that many of our family, relatives and friends who have gone before us are being celebrated today. We look forward to the day when we, too, can be with them experiencing the same total joy, happiness and peace.
Today is also a day for us to pray to them – both the canonized and the not-canonized – and ask them to pray on our behalf that we may live our lives in faithfulness so that we too may experience the same reward.
May their intercession help us to walk always on Jesus’ path and to obtain eternal happiness promised to us by God. Amen
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Juan Arias, a Spanish priest, wrote a book entitled ‘The God I Don’t Believe In.’ His interesting title came from a remark made by a bishop on television. It was a panel discussion. This bishop sat there in silence as the Church and religion in general were attacked. Eventually the TV host asked the bishop to reply to the points made. He began by saying: ‘The God I have heard about here tonight is the God I do not believe in.’
In Jesus’ day, long before TV panels, there was no shortage of religious debates. There were many who put all their heart, all their energy and all their mind into talk about religion. One of the debaters now attempted to draw Jesus into the confusing midst of words and arguments.
‘Which is the greatest commandment of the law? At that time, they had turned the 10 commandments into 613 precepts – small laws. Was there one of these precepts which was the key to all the others? It was a question which had supplied endless hours of arguments among debaters.
Jesus cut through the web of opinions and commentaries in a simple and challenging answer. Religious laws and prophets’ sermons mean nothing if they are not pointed towards total love of God and love of one’s neighbor as oneself.
Love of God and love of neighbor were not new precepts. But Jesus emphasized the necessary connection between the two as no one had ever done before. You cannot have one without the other. Love of God whom we cannot see, is fake if it is not expressed in love of the people whom we do see. And love of people is incomplete unless it is infused by love of God. In this remarkable answer given to the Pharisee by Jesus, he very much said, like the bishop on TV, ‘Yours is the God I do not believe in…yours is the religion I have no time for.’
Mis amigos, Jesus has no time for the religion of barren debate and unproductive words. Nor did St Paul have time for such empty discussion as he very much said to the Thessalonians in today’s second reading: ‘Have nothing to do with pointless philosophical discussions. They only lead further and further away from true religion.
Jesus has no time for round table discussions and panels on social justice issues which lead those involved in them to do nothing for the most vulnerable.
Jesus has no time for one whose mouth has all the nice words about God, heaven, grace, prayer, sacraments, fasting, novenas and so on, but the heart harbours bitterness, retains barriers between people, and remains socially insensitive.
Dear friends, the religion Jesus did favor totally hung together on love. The laws, the sermons, theologies, debates, institutions, and social plans have lost their direction if they are not helping us towards loving God with our total energy of heart, soul, and mind; and loving our neighbor with an extension of the love which we ourselves have received from God.
Let us remember that if our rituals grow out of and express our sincere love for God and neighbor, then they have value. We must avoid the risk of putting rituals above the practice of love. Amen
Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" The pharisees and Herodians who approached Jesus usually were parties in conflict, with one side against Rome and one side in favor of Rome.
They were young men sent in the hope that Jesus would not suspect them of trickery. They addressed Jesus as a mediator, inviting him to settle their dispute. However, their true purpose was only to discredit Jesus.
Teacher, “is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Jesus knew it was a trap, so without hesitation he asked them; why are you testing me with this question, you hypocrites? Of course, Jesus knew why, but this question exposed their motives and reveled them to those listening.
“Show me the coin that pays the census tax…" He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God."
What Jesus meant to tell these two groups is that paying taxes did not have to mean submission to the divinity claimed by the emperor. Caesar had the right to claim their tax money, but he had no claim on their souls.
The crucial issue for Jesus here is not about whether or not they should pay taxes to Caesar but about what they were giving to God. Were they giving their lives to God? These Jews and especially the self-righteous Pharisees claimed to be God’s chosen people, but were they rendering to God what truly belonged to him which is themselves?
The Pharisees and Herodians thought they could trap Jesus by forcing him to choose between two responsibilities. He astounded them by choosing both. Jesus demonstrated that behind many of our conflicts lies a failure to recognize priorities. Should we give time and attention to our families or our work? Can we communicate our relationship with God through the work we do or by setting our work aside and engaging our fellow workers in conversation? Should we support our church or other worthy causes?
According to Jesus’ handling of this situation, these problems are issues of timing and priority, not right or wrong. Dear friends, the real challenge for most of us concerns whether or not we are doing what we should be doing at the appropriate time.
Let us remember that citizenship in the kingdom of God does not lessen commitments. In fact, it often intensifies them. Marriage duties, parental roles, church involvement, earthly citizenship – all have a specific place under God’s authority.
Let us make sure our commitment to God stays strong, then all our priorities will be under his authority. Amen
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Today’s gospel presents us with the third parable Jesus addresses to the chief priests and the elders of the people. This parable is told in the context of a wedding feast given by a great King and it contains three important parts:
The first part is about God’s gracious invitation and its indifferent and sometimes violent refusal by those invited first - the religious and lay leaders of the time.
The second part is about God’s invitation and its rejection by those to whom it was first offered, and the new people to whom the invitation is now offered; good and bad alike.
The third part is about the story of the guest without a wedding garment. One who accepts the invitation but does not change like the son in the first parable who said to his father, “Yes, I will go to work in the vineyard”, but did not go.
The wedding garment, in today’s gospel, is a symbol of a converted life full of good deeds. The sense of the last line of today’s Gospel: “Many are called but few are chosen”, is that all are called to salvation, but it seems to be only achieved by those who accept the invitation and are willing to change and yield good deeds. According to today’s gospel, there is no room for complacency.
The Gospel parables of the last three Sundays are about conversion. Conversion is not just turning away from sin but a radical transformation of one’s life - turning towards God.
Repentance is not so much about being sorry for past sins but a total change of direction. For instance, one cannot be sorry for stealing money if one does not have the intention to stop stealing money. One cannot be sorry for unchristian behaviors if one is not willing to change the unchristian behaviors.
In the world we live in we see so many examples of unchristian behaviors because there is no longer fear of God.
We no longer speak about purgatory or hell, only about heaven. So one can behave the way he wants and no matter what, one thinks he is going straight to heaven. Those who have that idea or mentality, I believe that they could be disappointed when standing in front of God.
Salvation is not to be taken for granted. Salvation is to be gained every day by our willingness to be transformed and to yield good fruits through good deeds.
Dear friends, conversion is impossible for the self-righteous because they don’t believe they need it. Hardness of heart and the refusal to listen are two great biblical sins.
In the three parables, Matthew is urging his community to seek after true righteousness which comes from conversion and repentance, and which flows from allowing the vision of God to fill their eyes and hearts.
The kingdom has been entrusted to us. We are to produce its fruit of good deeds through a life of continually turning towards God. Mis amigos, hard hearts, blocked ears, blind eyes, and the refusal to change are the path to death. We are here because, I believe, we choose life and not death.
May our actions and deeds gain the fruits required to earn the life in heaven offered to us by God. Amen
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
During World War II, a small group of soldiers were on a special mission. Their good buddy had died of wounds he suffered during the war. They wanted to bury their friend in a proper grave. They wandered through the countryside until they came to a little village. They found a Church with a small graveyard. The cemetery was surrounded by a white fence.
The young men found the parish priest and asked if the soldier could be buried in the Church cemetery. The priest expressed his sympathy and asked if the soldier was a Catholic. They said he wasn't. The priest said he was sorry, but the graveyard was reserved for the members of the Holy Church. He told the young men that they could bury their friend right outside the fence and that he would personally care for the grave. The soldiers were very grateful to the priest and they buried their friend right outside the cemetery on the other side of the fence.
Finally, the war was over. The soldiers returned home. One year, at their reunion, they made plans to visit the graveside of their friend. The village had not changed much through the years, and they easily found the Church but couldn't find the grave of their friend. The priest recognized the soldiers and went out to greet them. They told him that they could not find their friend's grave. The priest explained that it just didn't seem right that the soldier was buried outside of the fence. “So you moved the grave?” asked the soldiers. “No,” said the priest, “I moved the fence.”
Today’s gospel presents us with Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman. We are presented with Jesus’ apparent hesitation to heal the woman’s daughter until her persistence demonstrates her great faith. The healing of the woman’s daughter is a sign that the reign of God belongs not to those with ethnic or social status, but to those of great faith.
Have faith, be persistent, never give up, be like the Canaanite woman. Through the gospel, Jesus very much says this to us today. The more we persist the more we get. People from the region of Tyre and Sidon were considered by the Jews as impure and unclean people who worshiped different gods. However, that impure woman with such a strong faith and humility was able to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and the God over her gods, capable of healing her daughter from demon possession.
This woman gives us a typical example for keeping faith and prayer even when our prayers are not answered according to our timing. Let us remember that Jesus never declines anyone seeking his help. Yes, He was testing the woman’s faith and cured her daughter after the test.
The Canaanite woman and the centurion in Matthew 8, who were gentiles, could gain healing for their beloved ones because of their faith and persistence in prayer. In 2nd Timothy 2:12, Paul says; “even when we are unfaithful, He remains faithful.” The teaching for all of us today is that even when we do not deserve anything by our merits, faith and prayers can gain benefits from God.
Today’s readings highlight that God’s salvation is not limited only to the Jews, His chosen people, but also to the gentiles and foreigners. God is the God of all nations and He moves the fence to include all people. Let us never forget that the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven awaits all who are faithful to Him. Amen
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven. Mary “rejoices in God because he has looked on the humility of his handmaid” (Lk 1:47-48). The virtue of humility. Mary’s secret is humility.
God does not look at the appearance. God looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7) and is pleased by humility. Humility of heart pleases God. Today, looking at Mary assumed into heaven, we can say that humility is the way that leads to Heaven.
Today’s solemnity invites us to ask ourselves: how am I doing with humility? Do I seek to be recognized and praised by others, or do I think rather about serving? Do I know how to listen, like Mary, or do I want only to speak and receive attention? Do I know how to keep silence, like Mary, or am I always chattering? Do I know how to take a step back, defuse quarrels and arguments, or do I always want to stand out? Let us think about these questions: how am I doing with humility?
Mary was filled with God because of her humility. Humility is a very important Christian virtue and it is the virtue which defeats the vice of pride.
In her littleness, Mary wins Heaven first. The secret of her success is precisely that she recognizes her lowliness, that she recognizes her need, her need of God. With God, those who recognize themselves as nothing can receive the all. Those who empty themselves can be filled by him. And Mary is the “full of grace,” precisely because of her humility. For us too, humility is always the point of departure, the beginning of our having faith. It is fundamental to be poor in spirit, that is, in need of God. Here I am not talking about economic poverty, but poverty in spirit…. Recognizing God’s need in our lives. Acknowledging that we are sinners and therefore in need of God’s mercy all the time. Those who are filled with themselves have no space for God — and how often we are so full of ourselves? But those who remain humble allow the Lord to accomplish great things.
Let us pray to her now that she may accompany us on our journey that leads from Earth to Heaven. May she remind us that the secret to the journey is contained in the word humility. Let us not forget this word, and that lowliness and service are the secrets for obtaining the goal, of reaching heaven.
May we always have room in our hearts for Mary; welcome and embrace her as Saint Mary de Montfort says; ‘the easiest and fastest way to get to Jesus.’ Amen
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Today’s gospel presents us with the parables of the treasure, the fine pearl, and the net.
The purpose of parables is not to provide answers to questions but to get us to think. As we know, the Kingdom of God is not a ‘thing’ or a ‘place’. It is an experience or an encounter with the life of God.
In the life and ministry of Jesus many people experienced the Kingdom through their encounter with him which brought dignity, love, forgiveness, release from illness, disability, guilt, shame and even death. Jesus made present the reign of God’s grace for people in all kinds of need.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the Kingdom to a treasure hidden in a field, to a merchant on the lookout for fine pearls and to a fisherman’s net which brings in a very mixed catch.
The treasure in the field and the pearl of great price illustrates the value of the kingdom, which is worth every penny of sweat and sacrifice.
The net is a picture of the mixture of talents and faults, virtues, and vices, within each individual, as well as in the community of the church and the whole world.
In the first two parables the joy and delight of those who find or experience the Kingdom is obvious. It is so strong that nothing is spared in order to possess the Kingdom.
The third parable introduces a note of reality: The Kingdom is a mixture of all kinds of things, good and bad, saints and sinner, and some sorting out is needed.
Dear friends, the Church as the representation of God’s kingdom on earth, is a pearl beyond price; yet it is a net with a vast variety of members. However, it is not the task of members of the kingdom to judge; the final sorting out belongs to God alone. In the meantime, patience and tolerance must guide the practice of those in the kingdom.
Mis amigos, the time of separation of good and bad is not yet, for the boat is still at sea. While storms of criticism are blowing, and our boat is full of all kinds, what is most needed now is balance.
Balance is exactly what Solomon prayed for in today’s first reading. Balance means “wisdom of heart.” It means knowing how to discern between good and evil. Wisdom has been described by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, as the ability to hold opposites together in balance.
“The ability to hold opposites together in balance.” This is exactly what I admire and love about the Holy Catholic Church, its tremendous wisdom which has maintained the balance between port and starboard, left wing and right wing, progressive and conservative, first world, second world, and third world.
Some members of the Church want her to be only conservative. Some others want her to be only progressive. However, the Church does not have the option of being conservative or progressive. The church conserves its vitality only by responding progressively to the new needs of the changing situations. Yet it makes progress only when it conserves what is true, and good, and beautiful in its tradition.
May today’s gospel message penetrate our hearts and minds and lead us to reflect about how we, as members of God’s kingdom of love and compassion through our attitude, actions, and deeds, are contributing to help It to continue to grow here on earth. Amen
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary TIme
“A sower went out to sow.” Those simple words begin one of the most memorable parables in the gospel – a story that has much to teach us not only about gardening and growing, but also about listening. Listening to the Word of God. Being receptive and open to it.
Being receptive to God’s Word...! That can be hard to do, especially when there is so much noise in the world distracting us from God and trying to drown out His Word. But there is something striking and very hopeful to this parable that I would like all of us to consider today.
First, as much as this famous parable is about our being open to God and the seeds that He sends our way, it is also about God’s eagerness to share those seeds. Mis amigos, this is a story about the immensity of God’s generosity – and His boundless love.
The sower doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t pick and choose. He scatters his seeds — His Word, His Truth — anywhere and everywhere. He doesn’t hold back. He is generous beyond measure with what he has to offer. He knows that it will somehow reach the richest soil. It might even be in the most unexpected of places.
Thomas Merton, an American Spiritual writer, was a jaded, jazz-loving, cigarette-smoking, girl-chasing writer who drifted from being an indifferent Protestant to being a communist – and then, in the middle of his wanderings, discovered the poetry of the Catholic writer William Blake that led him to explore the Catholic Church and to convert; and after falling deeply in love with God, he became a trappiest monk and priest.
Today he stands as one of the most influential Catholic writers of the 20th century.
“The seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold." Mis amigos, even among the thorns of Merton’s confused and complicated life, God’s seed found rich soil. It happens again and again in our history – from St. Paul to St. Augustine to St. Ignatius to Dorothy and beyond. The soil they sprang from was not always ideal.
We are a church of rocks, and thorns, overwhelmed by birds – and yet, amid this vast and surprising garden, God’s smallest seeds find rich ground. His Word takes root.
In today’s gospel we find that the sower does not change. The seed does not change. What changes is the soil. What changes are the conditions that allow the seed to be planted. What changes is the environment that lets the seed bear fruit. What really changes, in fact…is us.
We are all in a continual state of conversion; therefore, stories like Thomas Merton’s are not so much about a person encountering God, but about God seeking us! Conversions strike us with that amazing fact that God continually comes looking for each and every one of us.
Let us continue to open our hearts to God’s Word and let It grow so that it bears a lot of fruit in our lives and within our families. Amen
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary TIme
We hear in today’s gospel that Jesus is moved with compassion for the crowds. He loves them and feels for them and responds to their need since “they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” it is Jesus’ compassion for the people that compels him to act.
Today’s Gospel also contains the first part of Jesus’ instructions to the disciples as they set out on their mission.
Jesus urges the whole group of disciples to pray to ‘the Master of the harvest’ for more workers and from the broader group of disciples, Jesus chooses twelve who Matthew, the Evangelist, names as ‘Apostles’ or emissaries.
To these twelve Jesus entrusts the mission of proclaiming that the kingdom of God is close at hand. That the kingdom of God is very close to them, to a people who had constantly been told that God despised them, that they were sinners, and that they were very far from the kingdom of God. This was indeed good news for the people at Jesus’ time.
“Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” Jesus gives the disciples the authority to accompany the proclamation of the Good News with the healing of all kinds of diseases and illnesses, to break the idea that illness in whatever form was a curse sent by God or a punishment for sinfulness. Therefore, the disciples are to be a sign of God’s kindness which brings health and wholeness.
Mis amigos, as Jesus sent out the disciples to give others the gift of faith that had been given to them; to proclaim the gospel, and to perform mighty works that demonstrate what they preach, so it is with us.
We have been called to discipleship. To us have been entrusted the good news of salvation. Therefore, we must proclaim this good news to others and be the healing touch of Christ in our world.
We must comfort those who mourn, bring back to life those who are in despair, embrace those who have been rejected by society, drive out anger, and fear, and hatred. We must heal the division in our families, in our communities, and in our workplaces.
May we always remember that as the kingdom of God has been opened to us, our mission and call is to also lead other into it with us.
Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ
“The Lord your God ... fed you with manna, which you did not know” (Dt 8:2-3).
These words from today’s first reading make reference to the history of the Israelites, whom God led out of Egypt, out of slavery, and for 40 years led through the desert toward the promised land.
And so Holy Scripture encourages the people of all times to always remember this walk through the desert, especially in times of difficulties, desperation, sorrow, and pain. To remember that God is a God who never abandons but a God who remains with us, feeds us, and heals us, so that, we will not die of our problems and difficulties but live in the expectations of inheriting a land in heaven that is promised to all who are faithful to God.
In today’s gospel Jesus says; “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to live in our midst in human form. He who was the mind of God became a person. In Jesus we see God taking human life upon him, facing our human situation, struggling with our human problems, battling with our human temptations, and working out our human relationships.
When Jesus says, “Eat my flesh,” he is very much saying, feed your heart, feed your mind, and feed your soul on the thoughts of my humanity. And when you are discouraged and in despair, when you are beaten to your knees and disgusted with life and living, remember that I took that life of yours and these struggles of yours on me. Remember that I took the human form to be capable of understanding you. Dear friends, to eat Jesus’ flesh is to feed on the thought of his humanity until our own humanity is strengthened and cleansed and entirely brightened by his.
“Drink my Blood.” In Jewish teachings the blood stands for life. Therefore, as God is the author of life, blood belongs only to God. That is why to this day a true Jew will never eat any meat which has not been completely drained of blood. Genesis 9 says, “Only meat with its lifeblood still in it you shall not eat.” So, when Jesus says, “you must drink my blood,” He is very much saying, “You must take my life into the very core of your heart.” In other words, “you must stop thinking of me only as a subject for theological debate. You must take me into you, and you must come into me; and then you will have real life.” that is what Jesus meant when He spoke about us abiding in Him and Him abiding in us.
Dear friends, when Jesus told us to eat His flesh and drink His Blood, he was telling us to feed our hearts, souls, and minds on his humanity, and to revitalize our lives with his life until we are filled with the life of God.
Remember, the world offers us all kinds of foods and it invites us to be fed only by them: material things, vanity, pride, and power. However, these varieties of food never satisfy us entirely. They bring emptiness and hunger to us again and again. However, Jesus Christ invites us to be fed by His living presence which we find every time we get together with our brothers and sister to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Food that brings satisfaction to us not only in this life but also in the life to come.
May we always be hungry for the food that Jesus offers us, the Holy Eucharist. Amen
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity and the readings show very clearly that this Feast is a celebration of God's love for humankind. It is a day for reflecting on who God is, not for trying to understand how there can be three persons in one God.
Therefore, the focus of the Church today is on experience, not theology because, in intellectual terms, God is and will always be a mystery. But, for people of faith, God is known not by the mind, but by the heart. That is what spirituality and mysticism are about. They are about exploring our experience of God.
Spirituality which is deepening our communication with God in prayer and mysticism which is contemplating God’s love for us, God’s immensity and God’s beauty.
In today’s first reading from the Book of Exodus, God is proclaimed as a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger and rich in mercy; a God who walks with his people and, in today’s second reading Paul expresses the belief that, as Christians have been made in the image and likeness of God, they must always act in the image and likeness of God.
Dear friends, through our public liturgy (the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in communion with all our brothers and sisters), through private prayer, and through contemplation, we come to experience and feel in our hearts that God loves us as we are, and that He forgives us and constantly invites us into an ever-deeper experience of love and charity, of metanoia which is radical transformation of one’s mind and heart.
When we allow God’s heart to speak to ours in love, we begin to absorb more of God’s life into our own. We are being transformed. Our values and attitudes, our ways of looking at and being in the world start to change.
We begin to see with God’s eyes and feel with God’s heart. We become passionate about the things God is passionate about: speaking truthfully, acting with justice and integrity, looking out for each other and especially for the vulnerable, promoting peace and understanding, ending competition and discrimination, and respecting life. That makes us better people and our lives become a blessing for each other and for the world.
Dear friends, that is what it means to live out of God’s great gift to us, the Spirit of Jesus Christ which God has placed in our hearts. God becomes enfleshed in us and we become stewards of God’s grace and life.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to enter ever deeper, with our whole being, into the Trinitary Communion, so as to live and witness the love that gives meaning to our existence. Amen
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. Amen