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Father's Homilies

Fourth Sunday of Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Third Sunday of Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Second Sunday of Easter

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord

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

 

 5th Sunday of Lent

Today’s gospel presents us with Jesus saving an adulterous woman who was condemned to death.
 
While Jesus was teaching in the Temple area, the scribes and Pharisees brought him a woman caught in the act of adultery, placed her in the middle, and asked Jesus if they should stone her as the Law of Moses prescribes (John 8:1-11).
 
Those men came to Jesus with a deceiving attitude and Jesus saw it in their hearts.  Any answer given by Jesus, meaning approving or disapproving them, would bring serious consequences to him.
 
If Jesus would have said “NO” to stoning the woman, they would have reported Him to the Jewish Authorities of disobeying the law of Moses. And if Jesus would have said “YES”, they would have reported Him to the Roman authorities which had reserved such sentences to themselves and did not permit lynching by the people.  The hypocritical accusers pretend to entrust the judgement of this woman to Jesus while it is Jesus whom they really wish to accuse and judge. 
 
“Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.” Jesus looked up and said: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Mis amigos, these words are full of the disarming power of truth that pulls down the wall of hypocrisy and opens consciences to a greater justice - justice of love, mercy, and compassion.
 
“The law of Moses prescribes that such women should be stoned.” Jesus did not disagree with the accusers. He did not tell them that the woman was innocent of the charge. Rather, He confronted them with their own sinfulness. He forced them to go over their own personal histories of sin and if they found themselves innocent, then they could throw the first stone. This shows us a Jesus who wants to condemn the sin but save the sinner and unveils hypocrisy.
 
One by one the accusers had left the place. Only the woman remained, still waiting for the rest of her sentence. At that moment she was finally given the dignity of responding for herself. Jesus straightened up and asked her two questions that would highlight her amazing experience of salvation: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” When the redeemed woman answered that there was no one, Jesus exercised his authority, not as a judge, but as a savior. Unlike the Pharisees and Scribes, upholders of the Law, Jesus refused to condemn her. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
 
By saying this Jesus is not, by any means, saying that what the woman did, was not wrong. Jesus did not give approval to her sin, but instead, he showed mercy to her and forgave her.  And, as for the woman’s accusers, Jesus re-directed their judgmental mind-set mentality. Instead of judging others, they should judge themselves. Jesus did not condemn them either, but he helped them to come to their senses and acknowledge their sin.
 
Mis amigos, may we, when ready to judge, attack, and condemn, have the courage to drop down the stones which we keep, ready to throw to others, and reflect about our own sin. May the Mother of God, Mary, free from all sin, who is the mediator of grace for every repentant sinner, help us in this. Amen

 

 4th Sunday of Lent

Today’s gospel presents us with one of the most beautiful and well-known parables of Jesus, “The Parable of the Lost Son.” The father says: “Let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

Jesus does not describe a father who is offended and resentful for what his son did. On the contrary, Jesus describes a father whose heart is full of love for his prodigal son. a father who is so quick to restore the dignity of his son: bring the finest robe, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

The reception of the prodigal son is described in a moving way: “While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, ran and embraced and kissed him.” This means that the father probably went out constantly to look at the road with the willingness to see a son returning.

In the parable there is another son, the older one. Perhaps the saddest part of the story, even more pitiable than the prodigal son, is the resentful and arrogant older brother who refused to be part of this moment of joy. “Look, all these years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command... but when this son of yours came...!”

It is interesting that when the older son speaks to the father, he never calls him “father,” and when he is referring to what his brother did, he never says “my brother.” This older son is selfish. He cares only about himself.

He boasts of being always at his father’s side and of having served him. But, was he ever happy? No, he was not. He was close to his father only because he was expecting to get something in return.  “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends.”

The resentful older son, though he was physically near to his father, he was also lost as the younger son was.

Mis amigos, what we see here is a picture of a poor father with two insensitive sons! One who went away, and the other who was never close to him! The suffering of the father is like the suffering of Jesus when we distance ourselves from him, either because we go far away or because we are nearby without being close.

The general teaching of the parable of the prodigal son is that not only the younger son needed the Father’s mercy but also the older one. The righteous ones, those who believe they are righteous, are also in need of God’s mercy. Mis amigos, the older son, in a way, represents those who have the tendency of doing things expecting always something in return. Or those who think they do not sin anymore and thus, they do not need of God’s forgiveness and mercy.

The parable, in the end, does not tell us if the older son enters the house to celebrate or if he remains outside. In the end it is up to the son to make that decision.

The same is with us. God, the Father, keeps inviting us to experience the joy of his mercy and forgiveness, but it is up to us to decide if we want to live in the joy of his presence or if we want to live in a pool of anger and resentment.

In today’s parable, the inside of the house represents joy and happiness. The outside of the house represents anger, resentment, and bitterness. Let us remember that it is always up to us, if we want to get inside or if we want to remain outside.

May we always experience the love, compassion, and mercy of the heavenly Father and share that mercy, love, and joy with one another. Amen

 

 

3rd Sunday of Lent

Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Lent and in the Gospel, Jesus recounts the parable of the barren fig tree. A man has planted a fig tree in his vineyard, and with great confidence, each summer, he goes in search of its fruits, but he finds none because that tree is barren.

After a number of years waiting for the fig tree to bear fruit, the man got disappointed and considered cutting down the tree in order to plant another. So he calls the gardener and tells him of his disappointment, ordering him to cut down the tree. But the gardener asks the master to be patient and to give him one more year. During that year the gardener himself would take special care of the fig tree, in order to stimulate its productivity. What does this parable symbolize? What do the characters in this parable symbolize?

The master represents God the Father and the gardener is the image of Jesus, while the fig tree is the symbol of people’s indifference and insensitivity. Jesus intercedes with the Father in favor of humanity and implores him to wait and to give it more time so that it may bring forth the fruits of love and justice.
The fig tree that the master wants to cut down represents a sterile existence that is incapable of giving, incapable of doing good. It is the symbol of one who lives for himself, enjoying his own comforts, incapable of turning his eyes and his heart to those who find themselves in conditions of suffering, poverty and hardship. Mis amigos, this attitude of selfishness and spiritual barrenness, is compared to the gardener’s great love for the fig tree. He asks the master to wait. He is patient, knows how to wait, and devotes his time to it. He promises the master to take special care of that unfortunate tree.

The gardener’s attitude manifests the mercy of God who gives us and gives us time for conversion. We all need to convert ourselves, to take a step forward; and God’s patience and mercy accompanies us in this. Despite the unfruitfulness that marks our lives at times, God is patient and offers us the possibility to change and to make progress on the path towards good. However, the delayed requested and received in expectation of the tree bearing fruit also indicates the urgency of conversion. The gardener tells the master: “Sir, give it one more year”

Mis amigos, may this Lenten journey lead us to reflect daily about the things that are not good in our lives, the things we must cut out to get ourselves closer to God. Let us reflect about the things we must correct in our lives, in our way of thinking, of behaving, and of living our relationships with others.

Let us not wait until tomorrow or until the next Lenten season to start cutting out the things that keep us away from the mercy of God. Because tomorrow or by the next Lent journey, we do not know if we will still be here. Today, let us each think: what must I do before this mercy of God who awaits me and who always forgives? What must I do? Mis amigos, we can have great trust in God’s mercy, but without abusing it. We must not justify spiritual laziness but increase our commitment to respond to God’s patience and mercy by cultivating daily the soil of our lives in order to produce fruits; fruits that will bring us to God’s kingdom in heaven.

May the Virgin Mary help us to live these days of preparation for Easter as a time of spiritual renewal and trusting openness to the grace of God and his mercy. Amen

 

1st Sunday of Lent

“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days... He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.” Today’s gospel presents us with the three temptations Satan brought to Jesus at the very end of the forty days he spent in the desert fasting and praying.

• First the devil invites Jesus to change stone into bread. This is the temptation of appetite (pleasure, gluttony, materialism).

• Then, from above, the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and the vision of becoming a powerful and glorious messiah. This is the temptation of arrogance (power, fame, boasting).

• Lastly the devil takes Jesus to the parapet of the temple of Jerusalem and invites Him to throw himself down, so as to manifest His divine power in a spectacular way. This is the temptation of ambition (power, fame).

These three temptations point to three paths that the world always offers: greed for possession to have more, and more and more; human vainglory and the manipulation of God.

Mis amigos, these are three paths which lead one not always to happiness and fulfillment but often to emptiness and desolation. These three paths more often lead one to never be satisfied.

These paths create an illusion in one’s heart that in this way one can obtain success, and therefore, becomes the happiest person. This illusion more often distances one from God.

• The path of greed for possession. This is always the devil’s deceptive logic. He begins from the natural and legitimate need for nourishment, life, fulfilment, and happiness, in order to encourage one to believe that all of this is possible without God.

• The path of human vainglory. “If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” One can lose all personal dignity if one allows oneself to be corrupted by the idols of money, success, and power, in order to achieve one’s own self-affirmation. And one tastes the ecstasy of a momentary joy. Mis amigos, this also leads us to be ‘peacocks’, to vanity, but this vanishes. For this reason, Jesus responds: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him alone shall you serve.”

• the manipulation of God to one’s own advantage. The devil who, citing Scripture, invites Jesus to seek a visible miracle from God. However, Jesus one more time opposes the temptation with the firm decision to remain humble and confident before the Father: “It is said, you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Jesus rejects this temptation which is the willingness to manipulate God with the inclination to serve and satisfy only the human pride.

Today’s gospel says that Jesus went to the desert and fasted for 40 days. So He calls us to also fast to overcome our appetite desires for pleasure such as food, habits, and addictions. So, the invitation during Lent is to fast because fast will help us control and modify this desire.

If we have a desire to pile and pile money and find ourselves never satisfied, Lent invites us to give alms, to help the poor, to support, to be charitable to the Church. That helps us modify that desire to possess things.

And finally, if we have a desire to just love ourselves – the sin of pride, what do we do during Lent? Pray because prayer is like poison to pride. It kills pride at the root by helping us grow in humility. Let us remember that only in prayer we recognize that God is God and that we are not. Amen

 

ASH WEDNESDAY

We are now embarking on our Lenten journey which leads us to return to the Lord as the prophet Joel says in today’s first reading. “Return to me with your whole heart.” Lent is a journey that involves our whole life, our entire being. It is a time to reconsider the path we are taking, to find the route that leads us home and to rediscover our profound relationship with God, on whom everything depends.

Lent is not just about the little sacrifices we make, but about discerning where our hearts are directed.

Mis amigos, the journey of Lent is an exodus, an exodus from slavery to freedom. These forty-day journey symbolizes the forty years that God’s people walked through the desert to return to their homeland. They left Egypt to go to the promise land.  And even though it was difficult for them to leave the land of Egypt, I believe it was more difficult for them to leave the Egypt they carried within them, the Egypt that penetrated their hearts. Why I say this? Because during their journey through the desert, there was an ever-present temptation to turn back, to cling to memories of the past, to cling to pagan idols and rituals learned while in Egypt.

As it was difficult for them to entirely leave Egypt, so it is with us: our journey back to God is blocked by our unhealthy attachments, held back by the seductive snares of our sins, by the false security of money and appearances, by the paralysis of our dissatisfactions.

Mis amigos, to embark on this journey, we have to unmask these illusions. We must recognize the things that lead us to the temptation to turn back to unhealthy habits, to unhealthy ideologies, to self-gratification and self-justification.  Let us pose for a moment today and reflect about the things which, during this Lenten journey, we need and want to leave behind in order to experience newness in our lives.  

The forty-year journey through the desert was for the people of Israel a time of purification before entering the promise land; a time of purification from idols and rituals which continued to lead them to the willingness of turning back to Egypt.  May this forty-day Lenten journey be a time for us to purify ourselves from unhealthy habits, unhealthy ideologies, and unhealthy misconceptions which keep us unhappy and slaves, so we can entirely see and experience the transforming power of God’s love in our lives. Amen

 

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Gospel presents us with the final part of the Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel. This week, Jesus’ radical teaching continues to focus on excessive generosity in our dealings with one another. The Gospel begins with a parable about one blind person leading another and both falling into a pit. The disciples, like all of us, are on a lifelong journey with Jesus, our Master and Teacher. The purpose of this journey with Jesus is that we start moving from being ‘blind’ to ‘seeing’ with the eyes of Jesus. We gradually learn to let go of our self-righteous inclination to judge small faults in others while never noticing our own larger, more destructive, blind spots

“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but you do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”

It is OBVIOUS, if one is literally unable to see because he has a tree sticking out of his eye, there’s no way he will be able to help someone with a tiny shard in theirs.

So what is it that Jesus is trying to tell his listeners by using this saying? We cannot take Jesus literally. We know that Jesus doesn’t mean our literal eyes.

Luke uses the Greek word “ὀφθαλμῷ (oph-thal-mō)” which means “eye,” but also means vision, the mind’s eye, a person’s way of perceiving and understanding the world around him.

So Jesus asks: why is it that you are so quick to perceive in your mind’s eye other people’s sins, mistakes, and failures, when you fail to see what is yours to change?

Mis amigos, our own pride is so great a thing that it can indeed blind us. Convinced as we often are of our own rightness, our own perception of what is true, of what must be done, we are like a horse with blinders on: we cannot always see what is happening to our left or right. Humility is very important in the life of the Christian person. And we must constantly pray for the virtue of humility to be able to recognize when we are stuck in a pattern of self-certainty, unable to recognize that the answer to the truth does not always lie inside us.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?

When our Lord spoke these words, his purpose and intention was not to condemn his listeners, the vast majority of whom were guilty of the faults he mentioned. But rather to open their minds and their hearts to their failings so that they would change for the better, learn to live with their neighbor's faults and do all in their power to correct their own.

Mis amigos, it is for the very same purpose the Church has selected this particular lesson for us today. We are all guilty of rash judgement and unjustified criticism, to a greater or lesser degree. Let us turn this criticism on ourselves rather and judge ourselves honestly and sincerely, considering what needs remedy in our own mindset, our own pride, our own pettiness, our own sins and in a short while we may, with God's grace helping us, notice a change in our Christian conduct.

We shall not become saints in a week or a month but little by little, we shall find ourselves becoming more Christian and therefore more charitable towards our neighbor and less critical of the faults of others. Amen

“Jesus said to his disciples: To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In today’s gospel Jesus uses some key verbs which are essential in the life of the Christian: love; do good; bless; pray; offer; do not refuse; give. With these words, Jesus shows us the path that we, as Christians, must take; a path of charity and generosity.

Love: The world’s philosophy asks us to love only those who love us. But Jesus asks us to go beyond the world’s philosophy and to love your enemies.

Do good: The world’s philosophy asks us to do good only to those who do good to us. But Jesus asks us to go beyond the world’s philosophy and do good to everyone, including those who hate us.” Mis amigos, Jesus invites us to defeat evil by giving back good.

Bless: The world asks us to bless those from who we receive blessings. But Jesus asks us to go beyond that and to bless not only those from whom we receive blessings but also to bless those who curse us. Blessing others means praying for them. Jesus challenges us to pray not only for our parents, children, relatives, and friends, but also for those who abuse us or speak ill about us.

Mis amigos, the newness of the Gospel lies in the giving of oneself, giving the heart to those who actually dislike us. The gospel says: “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” It would merely be an exchange: you love me, I love you. But Jesus reminds us that even sinners love those who love them — and by sinners Jesus means pagans — even pagans love those who love them. And this is why, Jesus says, we gain no credit by acting only that way.

 

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Jesus said to his disciples: To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In today’s gospel Jesus uses some key verbs which are essential in the life of the Christian: love; do good; bless; pray; offer; do not refuse; give. With these words, Jesus shows us the path that we, as Christians, must take; a path of charity and generosity.

Love: The world’s philosophy asks us to love only those who love us. But Jesus asks us to go beyond the world’s philosophy and to love your enemies.

Do good: The world’s philosophy asks us to do good only to those who do good to us. But Jesus asks us to go beyond the world’s philosophy and do good to everyone, including those who hate us.” Mis amigos, Jesus invites us to defeat evil by giving back good.

Bless: The world asks us to bless those from who we receive blessings. But Jesus asks us to go beyond that and to bless not only those from whom we receive blessings but also to bless those who curse us. Blessing others means praying for them. Jesus challenges us to pray not only for our parents, children, relatives, and friends, but also for those who abuse us or speak ill about us.

Mis amigos, the newness of the Gospel lies in the giving of oneself, giving the heart to those who actually dislike us. The gospel says: “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” It would merely be an exchange: you love me, I love you. But Jesus reminds us that even sinners love those who love them — and by sinners Jesus means pagans — even pagans love those who love them. And this is why, Jesus says, we gain no credit by acting only that way.

 

Jesus says, “be merciful, as your Father is merciful.” This is the path that goes against the spirit of the world, which thinks differently, that does not accuse others. mis amigos, among us is always the “great accuser,” the one who is always going about to accuse us before God, to destroy. Satan: he is the “great accuser.” And when we enter into this logic of accusing, of cursing, seeking to do evil to others, seeking revenge, we enter into the logic of the “great accuser” who is the “Destroyer.” The one who likes to bring controversy and division to families and communities. The one who does not know the word mercy. 

Mis amigos, Jesus’ challenging message to all of us is this: “Love your enemies instead. Do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Do things without any interest, do things without expecting anything in return, do things without expecting recognition from others. And your reward will be great in heaven, Jesus says.”

The Gospel concludes with the invitation not to judge and to be merciful. However, it often seems that we have been appointed judges of others: gossiping and criticizing, we judge others. But Jesus tells us: “do not Judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” In the prayer that Jesus taught us, “The Our Father” which we pray every day we say: “forgive us as we forgive.” Mis amigos, if we are unable to forgive, how can we ask the Heavenly Father to forgive us. How can we experience forgiveness from god if we live in past memories which continue to cause us anger and resentment?

The readings for this Sunday invite us to examine our conscience, both individually and collectively, and ask ourselves if we have followed the example of David, who even though was encouraged by Abishai to retaliate against Soul, did not lay his hand on Soul, and more importantly, the teaching of Jesus, that is, his very life.

Being Christians is not easy and we cannot become good Christians with our own strength. We need God’s grace. Let us ask the Lord Jesus to fill us, every day, with the grace to be good Christians because alone we cannot do it. Amen 

 

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Simon Peter fell at the knees of Jesus and said, depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man… Jesus said to Simon, do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:8,10)

Today’s gospel presents us with the call of Simon Peter, a fisherman. The gospel says that while Jesus was standing by the sea of Galilee, He saw Peter and his friends, John and James, washing their nets. Peter was tired and so discouraged because they had worked all night long and had caught nothing. Peter, at that moment, had had some contact with Jesus but did not know much about Him.

The gospel says that Jesus got on Peter’s boat and asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Peter might have been surprised by the willingness of Jesus to use his boat to speak to the people.

The gospel says that after Jesus finished speaking to the crowd, he asked Peter to “put out into the deep and let down the nets for a catch. Jesus surprised Peter once again by asking him to do something which they have been doing for a full night with no success. “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” (Luke 5: 5)

Even though Peter was so disappointed, discouraged, tired, and with no hope, he did as Jesus commanded him and threw the nets one more time. Mis amigos, here we see something very important for us Christians, faith. In Peter we see the response of faith, which you and I are also called to give to Jesus. It is the attitude of willingness that the Lord asks of all his disciples, and in a special way those who have been invested with responsibilities in the Church, the clergy. The result of Peter’s faith is a very successful catch.

This miraculous catch is a sign of the power of Jesus’ word: when we place ourselves generously in his service, he accomplishes great things in us and through us. Today Jesus invites us to welcome him on the boat of our life. He wants to navigate into the open sea of our life and brings us to new waters. Waters which are filled with surprises. Jesus does not want us to live in the waters of bitterness, anger, jealousy, competition, and pride. Instead, He wants to bring us to the waters of restoration, healing, peace, and newness.

Mis amigos, the greatest miracle that Jesus accomplished for Simon and the other discouraged fishermen is not that the net got full of fish, but that he helped them not to fall victim to disappointment and discouragement in the face of failure. Jesus prepared Peter and his friends to become proclaimers of His Word and witnesses of God’s transformative Kingdom.

“For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him…and when they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” (Luke 5: 9,11)

The disciples were so amazed by being in the presence of this great man; Jesus, to the point they did not want to let him go away from the boat of their life. They left everything immediately and followed him.

May we strive to keep Jesus on the boat of our life, be open to His transforming presence, and be always willing to become proclaimers of His kingdom through word and deed. Amen

 

 

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” After performing miracles and preaching the good news in Capernaum and in other towns, Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth. But rather than being welcomed by the people who knew him since he was a child, he was rejected.   

Isn’t this the son of Joseph? Isn’t this just the carpenter boy? They began to ask themselves. And because He did not fit in with their image of what Jesus should be like, they rejected him, drove him away, and even wanted to kill him.

In the first reading the prophet Jeremiah also experienced rejection and opposition from his own people. This happened probably because they did not expect him to become a prophet, or perhaps he defied their expectations a little too much. While his people rejected him and came after him, God did not leave Jeremiah alone in his rejection, but strengthened him and protected him against them.

Jeremiah’s and Jesus’ experience of being rejected encourages us to ask ourselves: how often do we reject and turn away people in our lives because they no longer fit the image of who we think they are or how we think they should be?

Mis amigos, whether intentionally or not, we may think or say things to friends or loved ones who once grown up act differently or have different convictions than we do. How often families end up rejecting a son, a daughter, a grandson, or granddaughter because of sexual orientations.  Sometimes, we might end up rejecting people whom we used to love, simply because they are or act different today. How often we reject and judge someone who has been not so blessed with a good marriage and decides to separate or divorce. 

Sometimes we might find ourselves in the position of the townspeople of Jesus and Jeremiah. We might find ourselves clinging onto the way things used to be, and the way people used to be. We know that change is never easy. But instead of rejecting and judging others for being not what we want them to be, our call is to welcome and accept others as they are.

Sometimes, we might also find ourselves in the position of those who are rejected, of Jesus or Jeremiah. We go home to a place we love but are rejected by our loved ones for thinking or acting differently.  God reminds us that in those moments of rejection, He is with us as we proclaim liberation for the oppressed and rejected.

Today’s gospel says, Jesus passed through the midst of the people and went away. In walking away, he began his ministry, found his new family in his disciples and friends: friends who gave him room to proclaim the gospel, friends who do not underestimate him or reject him for who he is. We learn from Jesus’ leaving Nazareth that in situations where we are not accepted at all and are experiencing harm, it is okay to set boundaries and if need be, to walk away.

The first letter of St Paul to the Corinthians presents us with that famous phrase “love is patient, and love is kind,” and we learn from Jeremiah that love is also strong and love is protective.

We hear from Paul that “love does not seek its own interests, and love is not quick tempered,” but we also see from today’s gospel, that love is knowing how to care for yourself, and knowing when to walk away from harm.

We hear that “love does not brood over injury,” but we also know that love wants us to seek out joy.

Love “hopes all things and endures all things,” but love also calls us to communities and spaces that welcome and embrace us as sons and daughters of God.

My friends, love looks different in different situations. Because love never fails us. May we always open our hearts to the transformative massage of the gospel, become instruments of unity and communion, and never of division, separation, or destruction. Amen

 
 
 
 
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
 
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captive and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

At the time of Jesus there were in Galilee two different types of segregation. A political segregation whose head was Herold and a religious segregation whose head was the Jewish priests. This was a system of exploitation and oppression. Many people were homeless, excluded, and rejected. And the religious authorities, instead of encouraging the community to welcome and to include the excluded and the marginalize, they encouraged the community to maintain this segregation even more. They led the community to division and exclusion.

Mis amigos, the law of God was used to legitimize the exclusion of many people: children, women, foreigners, Samaritans, lepers, the possessed, the sick, and the handicap. The religious authorities of the time did all the opposite of the heavenly Father’s plan which was, fraternity and inclusion among the people.

The gospel says that after Jesus finished reading the passage from the prophet Isaiah, he said, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus applied the Bible passage to the life of the people. However, this produced a double reaction in their hearts. Some people remained surprised and amazed. Others had a negative reaction. And some others were scandalized and wanted to have nothing more to do with Jesus. They began to say; “is this not the son of Joseph and Mary? We know his family. We know who he is. So they were so scandalized.

Mis amigos, they were scandalized because Jesus asked them to minister, to welcome, to accept, to receive the poor, the sick, the blind, the oppressed, the so-called impure and sinners. They refused to accept Jesus’ proposal. And as a result, Jesus, the One who presented a proposal to accept the exclude, was excluded by them.  He became the excluded one. We see here a reality of division and exclusion.

This division and exclusion we still see it in today’s society. We live in a very polarize world. Everyone holds the truth. No one is wrong. But in order for someone to be right, somebody else has to be wrong. I feel sad to see friendships falling apart, families being broken, siblings not speaking to each other, parents and children getting away from each other. All of this happening because of sharing a different point of view, because of not being on the same mind-set regarding politics. And that is very sad.

Family bonds and friendships should be preserved even when sharing different points of view. Mis amigos, we must focus on the value of each person and not welcome and embrace only those who think the same way we do. The gospel proclaimed and preached by Jesus challenges us to go beyond our own desires and expectations and to see each person with eyes of charity and love. Mis amigos, we are to be agents of unity and not of division. May the Gospel of Jesus penetrate our hearts and lead us to promote unity and fraternity among us. Amen