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
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord
Today, we celebrate the feast of “The Baptism of the Lord.” Last weekend, we celebrated an 'infant Jesus.' From today, we celebrate an 'adult Jesus.' Therefore, today's celebration marks the transition from the liturgical season of Christmas into the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. With His baptism, The Lord Jesus begins his public ministry.
The gospel says, “The people were filled with expectation and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” The Israelites had been waiting for centuries for “the Christ:” the One who would come to save them and to liberate them from oppression.
To some of the people, John the Baptist may have been a possible candidate for the Christ who was to come. He was a fascinating, simple, and a man of prayer. He was an engaging speaker and he was considered by the many as a prophet of God.
However, John clarified his role for the people. He told them: “I am baptizing you with water, but one who is mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” Then John added, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Here John is clearly speaking about Jesus whom he had just baptized.
Jesus, the sinless one, even though he did not need to be baptized, he submitted himself to a baptism for the forgiveness of sins offered by John, to show unity and solidarity to humanity and to become one of them.
Luke’s narrative story about the Baptism of the Lord invites all of us to reflect about the beauty and power of baptism and how baptism connects us with one another. Baptism makes us one in Christ. It makes us part of Jesus’ Body no matter what our race or color skin is or what language we speak. All of us are part of the Body of Christ and are compelled to care for one another.
We use the trinitarian formula in baptism. “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” We are baptized in the name of the Holy trinity which lives in community, which lives in communion; communion based in love. Therefore, mis amigos, baptism enters us also into communion with the Holy trinity and into communion with one another.
In the first letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians he says, “If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body,” The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.”
All the parts in our body are related to one another. If the eye gets sick, the ear would not say, it is not my problem. It is the eye problem. I am fine and that is what matter to me.
Mis amigos, as what happens to an organ in our body concerns the whole body, in a similar way, as baptism unites us with one another, what happen to a brother and sister should concern to all of us. My brother and sister’s problem should also become my problem.
That is why the Church, in its wisdom and through its teaching continues to raise awareness of how important is that the members of the Church, as members of the Body of Christ, should embrace and live within the principals of solidarity and charity, loving, accepting, and welcoming one another. May the Holy Spirit help us to stay united with one another and to put away feelings and ideologies which bring dysfunction, division, and disunity among us. Amen
Feast of the Holy Family
As today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family - Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the readings present us with the image of two families on pilgrimage to the temple, the house of God. Elkanah and Hannah bring their son Samuel to the Temple to consecrate him to the Lord (1 Sam 1:20-22, 24-28). In the same way, Joseph and Mary, with the twelve-year-old Jesus, go as pilgrims to the temple in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover (Lk 2:41- 52). I like the word pilgrimage because it is a very meaningful word for the Christian life. We are always on a pilgrimage. Families, which are the center of today’s gospel, are certainly on a constant pilgrimage. A pilgrimage full of moments of joy but also moments of distress and tension. A pilgrimage of growth, of hope and of faith.
I always think about how the Holy Family interacted together. The traditions they they taught Jesus every day. It is so beautiful to think about Mary and Joseph teaching Jesus how to pray! This is an important part of the family pilgrimage, educating their children in and about prayer. Throughout the day Mary, Joseph, and Jesus probably prayed together, and then went each Sabbath to the synagogue to listen to the readings from the Law and the Prophets, and to praise the Lord with the assembly.
How important it is for all families to journey together towards a single goal! We know that we have a road to travel together; a road in which we encounter difficulties as well as moments of joy and consolation. And on this pilgrimage of life we also share in moments of prayer. Remember, at the baptism of your children, when the priest asked you to sign your child with the sign of the cross!
I wonder if you still sign your child with the sign of the cross regularly? What can be more beautiful than for a father and mother to bless their children at the beginning and end of every day, to trace on their forehead the sign of the cross? Mis amigos, is this not the simplest prayer which parents can offer for their children? To bless them. Parents, by doing so, they entrust their children to the Lord, just like Elkanah and Hanna, Joseph and Mary did.
I was born and grew up in a very strong Catholic Colombian family. Since I was little my parents taught me traditions which I still keep to date such as getting the blessing from my parents before going to school and when returning back home. Every day I asked my mother and father to give me their blessing. They always said, “may God bless you and keep you well.” Then they traced the cross on my forehead. I speak over the phone with my mother regularly and at the end of each conversation I always ask her to give me her blessing. For me to get the blessing from a mother and a father is such powerful thing. My father passed away in 2007.
Small things like getting a blessing from our parents, praying before a meal, praying before going to bed, praying before a journey, are so important to keep within the family. Little gestures such these point to the great formative role played by the family in the pilgrimage of everyday life.
The gospel says that at the end of the pilgrimage, after His parents found him at the temple area, Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents (Lk 2:51). This image also contains a beautiful teaching about families. A pilgrimage doesn’t end when we arrive at our destination, but when we return home and resume our everyday lives, putting into practice the spiritual fruits of our experience.
We know what the twelve-year-old Jesus did on that occasion. Instead of returning home with his family, he stayed in Jerusalem, in the Temple, causing great distress to Mary and Joseph who were unable to find him. For this little "adventure", Jesus probably had to beg forgiveness of his parents. The Gospel doesn't say this, but I believe that was what happened.
Mary's question contains a certain reproach, revealing the concern and anguish which she and Joseph felt. Returning home, Jesus surely remained close to them, as a sign of his complete affection and obedience. Mis amigos, moments like these become part of the pilgrimage of each family; the Lord transforms the moments into opportunities to grow, to ask for and to receive forgiveness, to show love and obedience. May God continue to bless families. May families strive to follow the example of the Holy Family by ingraining in their children’s hearts the importance of keeping faith and traditions. Amen
Third Sunday of Advent
Last weekend we heard John the Baptist preaching repentance and proclaiming a baptism for the forgiveness of sins. The idea of repentance is not just about being sorry but about experiencing radical transformation in one’s heart, turning around and facing in a new direction. John’s call to the people was to turn away from the old ways of life and to turn towards God. Today’s gospel is the continuation of last weekend’s gospel. The Gospel opens with the people, the tax collectors, and some soldiers who had heard the call to change their lives. All asked John, ‘What must we do?”
These three groups would normally be very suspicious of each other. The Roman soldiers, occupying the country, the locals who collected taxes on behalf of the Romans, and the crowd, often the victim of both. One interesting thing in today’s gospel account is how John’s preaching has led these groups of people to reflect about their lives, their actions, and behavior. So they came together to him.
John’s advice is very practical, and it is intended to everyone. To the crowd he gives a call to live by the values of compassion, to the tax collectors he gives a call to exercise justice, and to the soldiers he gives a call and invitation to promote peace.
Mis amigos, values and behaviors opposite to these hinder the relationship between one and God and ruin life in community. The result from conversion and transformation, is a new way of life.
The gospel says, “now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.”
John was the messenger sent to prepare the world - not to save it. He was sent to begin gathering the harvest - but the one to come will separate the grain from the chaff. The grain is what has the capacity to bear fruit - the chaff will blow away - or be burnt in the fire. Those who repent and live according the to the directives ------John lays down ----have the capacity to bear fruit in their own spheres.
A tax-collector who does not cheat - or a soldier who does not extort will soon be marked out as different. They may suffer rejection and be ridiculed by many. But, holding firm to their principles, will set an example of living which will influence others. What is it that these people have ------that causes them to behave like this? Mis amigos, in our own day - and in our own work, the challenge remains the same: How do we act? Do we act as grain - or chaff?
John the Baptist became a voice which invited people to experience transformation in their lives. What kind of voice is mine; what kind of voice is yours? Are we voices which lead to transformation and renewal? We live in a world full of voices. Which voices do we listen to in today’s society? May we be always a voice that invites to transformation, renewal, and unity. Amen
Second Sunday of Advent
“Prepare the way of the Lord.” This is a phrase we commonly hear during the season of Advent. It gives us an invitation to get ready for the Lord. In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tells how this is to be done by echoing the First Reading from the prophet Baruch - valleys are to be filled in, mountains and hills laid low, winding ways straightened and rough roads made smooth. Mis amigos, in our journey of life we find a lot of obstacles - valleys, hills and crooked curves which more often block the path of our relationship with God. what are they and What do they represent?
Valleys to be filled. This makes reference to the sins that create a hole in the life of the Christian. They point to broken relationships, lying, gossip, and lack of prayer that eat up from within. They leave one very empty & weak and create a gulf between him and God.
Mountains and hills to be made low. This makes reference to the tendency to selfishness and self-centeredness which do not give place to God. Here we find the sins of pride, arrogance, anger, fighting, lack of forgiveness, and hatred. These sins make the relationship between God and the human person very hilly and difficult.
Winding roads and rough roads. This makes reference to the sins that disfigure the Christian personality. They point to the sins of double standard living such as: drunkenness, drug addiction, stealing, and cheating.
Today’s gospel highlights that John the Baptist preached “A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John appeared in the desert to give a wakeup call, proclaiming and inviting people to repent so all experience the salvation offered by God.
John the Baptist centered his message on Repentance and forgiveness. In Greek, the word used for repentance is METANOIA. Metanoia means, a radical transformation of one’s heart, of one’s thinking, of one’s mentality. (repent, be sorry, because you want to change and because you want to move in a new direction – a person who has no intention to change is a person who is not repented).
John the Baptist wanted to give a message to the people of his time that they were to become aware that their way of thinking, influenced by the “yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod” (Mk 8:15), that is, by the government’s propaganda and by the official religion, was wrong and had to change. This is the same message that John the Baptist wants to give to all of us today as we live in a very divided world full of so many voices which compete for our attention - voices which most of the time want to create division and disunity. Mis amigos, repentance and forgiveness bring with it reconciliation with God and with neighbor and it leads one to experience metanoia, radical transformation in his lives.
Mis amigos, God is loving and merciful and his loving action gently fills in the valleys and lowers the mountains and straightens and smooths the roads so that we can be fully open to the living and transforming presence of Jesus.
How is the Eucharist leading us to experience Metanoia? How is the sacrament of reconciliation leading us to experience Metanoia? How is our relationship with God leading us to experience Metanoia, radical transformation in our lives? May the Holy Spirit help us to always recognize what needs to be transformed in our lives in order to experience the fullness of God’s presence in and around us. Amen
Christ the King
Today we celebrate the feast of Christ the King and the gospel presents us with the confrontation between Pilate, the Roman Governor, a man who had unlimited power and Jesus, a traveling preacher who seems to have no power at all. But what really is this feast all about? Is it still relevant to call Christ – the King? Why is it celebrated at the end of the liturgical year?
The feast of Christ the King fits very appropriately into the liturgical year – a cycle which begins with Advent, then moves on to Christmas or the actual birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, then to the dying and rising of Jesus at Easter, and finally, after the Sundays in Ordinary time, to the end of the liturgical year where Jesus Christ comes in glory at the end of time in today’s feast of Christ the King.
Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus answers him, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over…but as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Then Pilate asks him again, “So you are a king?” and Jesus answers, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”
Although Jesus does not explicitly say, 'I am a king', he clearly speaks about 'his Kingdom' which He says it is 'not of this world'. So John the evangelist’s intention is to present Jesus as king, but a king in his humiliation, standing bound and scourged before Pilate. Jesus is King because he witnesses to the truth, the truth that God is love and that it is by the power of love that He rules the world. Mis amigos, Jesus as king is quite different from the conventional image. It is very different from the image that Jesus’ own people had of the Messiah-King they eagerly awaited. In front of Pilate, Jesus looks anything but a king.
As we celebrate the feast of Christ the King, let us bring ourselves under his Kingship. It is Jesus who rules our life with LOVE. We await his final coming at the end of time and we have no complete understanding of what the end of time will be like. But, to know how it is to happen should not concern us. What should concern us is how we are preparing ourselves for the final moment, for the moment when they Lord will call us to himself.
For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” In these times of fake news and alternatives facts, it is so refreshing to hear Jesus solemnly proclaim that he was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. The basic truth is that God is love and loves the world he created so much that He sent his Son to save it. How is truth important for us? To what extent are we committed to find the truth and live by it? Mis amigos, we live among many voices which compete for our attention and which, most of the time, lead us to confusion and division. Let us ask for the grace to always seek, recognize, listen, and follow the voice of truth, the voice of Jesus the true shepherd. Amen
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today we celebrate the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Next Sunday is the last Sunday of our liturgical year. As we approach the end of the Church year, the Gospel invites us to reflect on Jesus’ teaching about the end of times. In the context of Mark’s Gospel, the words of Jesus about future events are spoken to his disciples as he prepares them for his passion and death.
Mark wrote his Gospel for a community of converted gentiles living near Rome between the years 65 to 70 A.D. This was a time of political turmoil in Rome. Some Christians experienced persecution by the Romans during the reign of the emperor Nero (about the year 64 A.D.). Jewish revolutionaries rebelled against the Romans, which led the Romans to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70. In this time of political chaos and persecution, many members of Mark’s community wondered if the end of times predicted by Jesus were near.
Mis amigos, we are at the end of chapter 13. This entire chapter contains eschatological discourses of Jesus about future events. All those discourses happened while Jesus and his disciples were at the temple area. As we heard in the last weekends’ gospels, Jesus has been walking toward Jerusalem, the place where He would be rejected, torture, and killed. Finally, they reached Jerusalem and are at the temple area which was a magnificent and enormous building at that time, probably decorated with costly stones and beautiful frescos.
In the beginning of chapter 13, Jesus was already with His disciples at the temple area. He predicted the destruction of the temple: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down.”
And in today’s gospel, which is from the end of chapter 13, Jesus and His disciples are probably still at the temple area. He continues with His eschatological discourse: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” WOW, I can imagen the disciples’ terrifying faces when hearing these words from Jesus. They were in awe because of the beauty of the temple, beholding such magnificent building and Jesus spoke those words to them.
With all these teachings Jesus’ intention was to instruct his disciples and us about the need for watchfulness, the need to stay awake, to be prepared so that they and us would not be caught unprepared for this final day when the Lord will come again or when the Lord will call us to himself.
At the end of today’s gospel Jesus offers the lesson of the fig tree, a parable that teaches that if one knows how to read the signs, one can be prepared for the end of times. “Learn a lesson from the fig tree.” What lessons do I need learn to be more faithful? What resources do I have/ to grow in faith?
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. What passing things do I rely on? How can I grow in my reliance on God’s holy Word?
The gospel’s words are not to scare or frighten us but to make us aware of the need to stay awake, to be watchful, and to be prepared for we do not know when the Lord will come again or when He will come to call us to himself. Our time can be tomorrow, in a year, ten years, fifty years, or more but it will come.
May we always open our hearts to the transformative presence of Jesus Christ and may the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, and our Mother in heaven guide us to believe in the Lord’s presence in and around us and to trust in His promise to us, life eternal with Him. Amen
32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s readings present us with the narrative story of two widows. Widows before and at the time of Jesus were very vulnerable women, unprotected, and excluded. They had no one to help and support them. A woman at that time depended on the support of her husband and if she would become a widow she would depend on the support of her grown children.
Remember the story of the widow whose only son died. She was going to bury him, and a crowd accompanied her. She was so devastated for her son was the only support she had. Jesus saw her great pain and was moved with compassion. Jesus raised him and gave him back to her. And He did that because He knew how much that mother would suffer for the rest of her life with no support and protection.
Today’s first reading presents us with a poor widow who was so generous to Elijah the prophet. Even though she was down to her very last portion of food, which she was saving for her son and herself, she was prepared to share it with Elijah. And in today’s gospel Jesus highlights the generosity shown by the widow (but not by the scribes). The widow’s dedication and generosity in the midst of her poverty was a real sacrifice. This widow is a contrast to the wealthy scribes who parade around in long robes and make a show of lengthy prayers.
Jesus condemns them for their hypocrisy, for their use of religious show to enhance their status and for their unjust abuse of widows as they went to the houses of widows to recite extensive prayers and then asked the widows for monetary reward.
Jesus speaks this way to his disciples because he wants his disciples to get away from imitating the showy religiosity of the dishonest scribes, instead He wants them to learn from the sincerity and generosity of the widow who gave ‘her all.’
Mis amigos, Today’s gospel teaches us something important in Christian life. If you want your life to increase, give it away, share it with others, put away the desire for self-center and selfishness. If you want your faith to increase, share, share with others. The reality is that we grow in faith as we show generosity to others.
When we hold tight to material things we fall into the temptation of just wanting to store more and more to the point we are never satisfied. But when we hold tight to God we give, give, and give. We never run out. The result is our treasure grows abundantly. Look at the widow from the first reading, the reward for her was that her jar of flour never went empty, nor the jug of oil run dry.” All of that happened because God is good to the ones whose hearts are generous and whose trust is in Him.
There are two principles we all want in our lives. Faith and joy. If we want more joy in our lives, then we must become a mean of joy for others by sharing. If we want peace in our lives, then we must become instruments of peace for others. Mis amigos, if we do not become instruments of peace, then we will never experience peace in our lives.
So what is God asking me to do today? What is God asking you to do today? Let us be open to the things God wants us to do today.
May we always be willing to grow in faith as we share generously with others and to live in joy as we become instruments of joy for others. Amen
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Mk 10, 46-52). Today’s Gospel presents us with the cure of the blind man Bartimaeus. The gospel says that as Jesus and his disciples were leaving the town of Jericho to continue their journey to Jerusalem, a blind man called Bartimaeus was sitting at the side of the road. He could not be part of the procession which accompanies Jesus because he was considered an impure person. But once he heard that the one passing was Jesus, he began calling out, asking Jesus for help. “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The gospel says that the cry of the blind man bothered the people who was with Jesus and they tried to stop him from shouting. However, the more they tried to silence him, the more he kept shouting, “have pity on me.” And what did Jesus do? Jesus listened to the call of the blind man, he stopped and said, “Call him here.”
Those who wanted to stop the blind man from shouting now at Jesus’ request are compelled to bring the blind man to Jesus. “Courage, get up, Jesus is calling you.”
The gospel says that Bartimaeus left his cloak, his mantle which is everything he had and went to Jesus. For a beggar, his cloak, his mantle was also his sleeping mat. This was his security, the only thing he possessed. He probably approached Jesus almost naked: with nothing except himself. This is a symbol of both his inner and outer poverty. Mis amigos, this is a reminder that before God, all of us are poor for we all need of God’s compassion and mercy all the time.
Face to face now with Jesus, Bartimaeus is asked - “What do you want me to do for You?” Do you remember Last weekend’s Gospel? two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John came to Jesus with a question, Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." And Jesus replied to them; "What do you want me to do for you? In last weekend's Gospel Jesus asked James and John the very same question he asked the blind man in today’s gospel, what do you want me to do for you? And James and John’s answer was: "Give us the two top spots in the Kingdom of your glory – sit us, one on your right and the other on your left."
In reply they were told very clearly, they would get only what they deserved. They also got some strong teaching about serving others and not looking for positions of power - whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
When being asked the same question, Bartimaeus gave Jesus a very different answer: "Lord, I want to see." Here, the blind man is asking for much more than physical. He also wanted Jesus to remove the stain of sinfulness which surrounded people with disabilities in those days. The removal of Bartimaeus’s stain of sinfulness led him to follow Jesus to Calvary.
The disciples saw in Jesus an opportunity for power and prestige, Bartimaeus, on the other hand, with the eyes of his heart, saw in Jesus an opportunity for healing, transformation, and change. Mis amigos, the blind man’s prayer is the most basic of all and is the one we all need to make continually, Jesus have mercy on me.
The presence of Jesus in our lives heals and restores us to our true calling as the People of God so that we can truly follow Jesus in our lives. What Jesus asked Bartimaeus in today’s gospel, he asks us, too: What do you want me to do for you? Let us reflect about what we want Jesus to transform, renew, or change in our lives so we become better disciples of Him.
28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nothing is impossible for God. In the Jewish tradition, wealth was seen as a blessing from God and the wealthy person as especially favored by God. Along with the idea of divine blessing and favor came a divine obligation (often ignored) – the care of God’s poor.
As Jesus and the young man speak, we see that this young man is not a bad man, he is a good man. The commandments that Jesus brings to the conversation are those to do with how one must treat others:
- You shall not kill
- you shall not commit adultery
- you shall not steal
- you shall not bear false witness
- you shall not defraud
- honor your father and your mother
“Teacher, all of these commandments I have observed from my youth… Jesus, looking at him, loved him and invited him…” to share what he had. Jesus very much said to the young man, there is something you need to do to find meaning in life: Share your gifts and treasure with others.
Jesus challenges the young man to move from avoiding doing evil things to doing good things for the most vulnerable ones of his time, the poor. (Here Jesus wants to highlight that in the eyes of God refusing to do good is as sinful as doing evil).
This conversation between Jesus and the rich young man leads me to reflect about two things we are all familiar with:
Accumulations and Attachments: The human tendency is to accumulate possessions, stuff, money, gifts, and many more things, even things we do not need anymore. This desire to accumulate possessions and get so attached to them leads us to want more and more because it somehow makes us feel safer, more protected, and secure. However, Jesus calls us to leave those desires behind and let Him be enough for us.
“Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Jesus invites this young man into a total transformation of his life. He invites this man to go in a new direction, a direction which will move his life from self-centered to self-giving.
Mis amigos, Jesus’ intention is not to ask us to embrace a life of absolute poverty, give all our money away, and leave our children with nothing. Instead, Jesus’ intention is to make us aware of the danger for these desires to have more and more possessions and the danger of getting so attached to them to the point we become selfish, self-centered, arrogant, and uncharitable. Remember, the blessing we receive here on earth must lead us to be humbled and to share those blessings with others. So, as we invest on our future on earth we must also invest on our life in heaven.
The young man in today’s gospel was so attached to his wealth that it was even unthinkable for him to share some with the poor of his time. Mis amigos, when we fall in love with God, we stop measuring what we give -the time we spend in prayer and service, the financial gifts we make to the Church and to charity, the love and understanding we express, because we realize that all is a gift from God, meant to be used for the building of God’s kingdom.
Let us remember that it is in sharing with others that we experience and discover new things in our lives. It is in sharing with others that we are able to see the world’s reality with different eyes. It is in sharing with others that we acknowledge how blessed we are. It is in sharing that we recognize the face of Jesus in others and within the community. It is in sharing with others that we experience new life, life in abundance and ultimately, it is in sharing with others that we gain God’s eternal kingdom. Amen
25th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mk 9:30-37. The moment in the lives of the disciples stated in today’s gospel happened just after the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain and the failure of the disciples to cast out a demon from a young boy. Jesus took his disciples up to the mountain to pray and it was during prayer that the transfiguration happened. And then after the transfiguration the disciples found themselves in front of a demonic case. A young boy was possessed by an evil spirit. The disciples tried to expel the demon out of the boy, but they failed. Those two moments in the lives of the disciples teach us two things about discipleship: First, prayer, prayer is very important in the life of the disciple. Without prayer the disciple is unable to fulfill the mission God has entrusted to him. Secondly, faith, without faith the disciple is unable to perform miracles or see miracles around him.
Today’s Gospel presents us with the second announcement of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Like the first announcement last weekend (Mk 8:27-38), the disciples were terrified and afraid. They do not understand the words about the cross. They are not capable of understanding a Messiah who becomes the servant of all.
Once Jesus announces His Passion and Death, they began to discuss who among them would be the greatest. Here we find two things that are common even today (Ambition and competition).
AMBITION - Being the greatest. Jesus wants to serve, while the disciples only think about commanding! Ambition leads the disciples to promote themselves at the cost of Jesus. Mis amigos, even to the present time, this same desire of self-promotion exists in our communities.
COMPETITION AND PRESTIGE- Who is the greatest. The competitive and prestige mentality which characterized the Roman Society at the time of Jesus, was already penetrating the small community being formed by Jesus. This is also happening today. The I am better than you. The I am right, you are wrong. The I am holy, you are a sinner mentality is getting above important Christian values such as humility, service, and love.
The disciples listen to Jesus, but do not understand what Jesus is saying about the Cross. And they do not ask for any clarification. They are afraid to show their ignorance! Mis amigos, so many are like this today. They read or listen and do not ask questions. The result can be either ignorance, shallow understanding, or imaginative interpretations that are incorrect.
Often people hand me articles to read or send those articles to me by email. When someone sends me articles through emails or hands me an article, the first thing I do is to make sure the article comes from a reliable source. If the article comes from an unreliable source, I do not spend time reading it. There are many websites and youtubers posting untrue news – fake news in internet. Sadly, many people, even Catholics, pay attention to those fake new. They waste their time reading articles from those fake sources that only want to call attention and confuse people. We have to ask the Holy Spirit to help us always recognize the true voice of Jesus in the midst of so many false prophetic voices that are competing for our attending today.
The contrast in today’s gospel is an incoherence: Jesus is concerned with being the Messiah Servant and the disciples think only in who is the greatest. Jesus tries to descend; they think of going up!
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel presents us with the last part of the discourse of the Bread of Life. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Many of his disciples refuse to understand Jesus’ words. They say, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” and they began to leave Jesus.
The book of Exodus contains the story when the Israelites were in the dessert fleeing Egypt. Once the Israelites began to experience hunger and thirst, they started to doubt God’s presence in their midst. They complained against Moses, saying: “Is the Lord in our midst or not?”. And they wanted to get away from Moses and return to Egypt.
In today’s gospel the disciples fall into this same temptation. Jesus confronts them with His words “to eat His flesh and drink His blood” in order to have eternal life. And many of the disciples complain like the Israelites in the desert (Jn 6:60) and make the decision to go away from Jesus.
Mis amigos, sadly many Catholics nowadays do not believe in the real presence of Jesus in the consecrated bread. Only 30% of Catholics believe that the presence of Jesus in the consecrated Host is real. 70% believe it is just symbolic. That is why we have many of our Catholics joining non-Catholic parishes. I often hear people say, father we went to a service at a protestant church, and it is very similar to our service. My friends, it could be similar but not the same. Our non-Catholic brothers and sisters celebrate services. We, Catholics, celebrate the Holy Mass which is different. (A service serves – the Mass forms and transforms. We do not come to Mass to be served but to be formed and transformed, transformed into a body)
Let us remember that the real presence of Jesus feeds our spirits. A symbolic presence of Jesus feeds only our imagination and ideologies.
The Gospel says that at the end only the twelve remain with Jesus. In the face of the crisis produced by His words, Jesus turns toward His close friends, the twelve and says: “Do you want to go away also?”
Jesus is leading his apostles to freedom, freedom to follow him or to leave him. Jesus will not change his message to please his followers. He does not put the message in other words to make everyone happy. He does not say, please come back, you misunderstood me, that is not what I meant to say. Mis amigos, the message does not need to be changed, it is the disciple who needs to be changed and transformed through the message.
“Do you also want to leave?” Peter’s response is beautiful: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Even without understanding everything, Peter accepts Jesus as the Bread of Life.
Do we believe that what we receive here is the real presence of Jesus? How is Jesus transforming our lives through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist?
16th Sunday in Ordinary time
Since two weekends’ ago we began with chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel. and Today we are almost at the very end of the chapter. Mark placed today’s gospel between to significant events; the death of John the Baptist. and the feeding of the 5 Thousand people.
Scholars say that Mark, by placing the killing of John the Baptist before and the feeding of the 5 thousand after, probably intended to show a contrast between a banquet of death, held by Herod for the Great of Galilee in his palace and a banquet of life, held by Jesus for the poor of Galilee who were hungry in the desert.
Last weekend’s gospel was the sending of the Apostle on a mission to teach, to preach, to heal, and to cast out daemons in Jesus’ name. In this weekend’s gospel the apostles have come back from the mission. They gathered together with Jesus and reported all that they had done and taught. After their report, Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
My Dear friends, mis amigos, this invitation from Jesus to His disciples to rest, reminds us that Jesus is the good and gentle shepherd who invites us always to refreshment, restoration, and renewal.
At the end of today’s gospel Mark says that “when Jesus saw the crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
My Dear friends, the Jesus that preached His message of peace and love to the crowed 2000 years ago, is the same Jesus who still preaches His message of peace and love to all of us today. The question I believe for all of us is:
- Are we paying attention to His teaching?
- How open are we to the voice of the shepherd? How open are we to instruction and direction?
- Are we attentive and receptive to feedback?
- How flexible are we?
- Are we distracted by the many voices competing for our time, energy, and attention in our lives?
Sheep need a shepherd to protect them, to lead and guide them…. They were like sheep without a shepherd.
There have been times in our lives when we have felt like sheep without a shepherd. At times of distress and trouble, at times of pain and sorrow, at times of confusion and misunderstanding, at times when we have felt disoriented and abandoned. And those times often lead us to be unable to see or hear the shepherd’s voice.
But the shepherd is always there, in the field, in expecting waiting; longing for all of us to show up with a daily ‘YES”….. Yes, I will try it again…..Yes, I will show up…. Yes, I will do what I can…. Yes, I will do the next right thing…. Yes, I will take the next right step.
Mis amigos, we are called to be both, sheep and shepherd: (Sheep that hear God’s voice. Sheep that let Jesus instruct us and form us….. and shepherds that bring Jesus’ Voice and Word to others….. To be leaders, missionary disciples, channels that the Lord uses to continue to form more disciples)
My Dear friend, as we guide others, we will be guided along the right path. We can count on the promises of God from the prophet Jeramiah in today’s first reading to Psalm 23 to the gospel of Mark, that God will gather us all back to his filed. That God will appoint shepherds for all of us along the way, as the first reading states, shepherds who will shepherd us so that we need no longer fear or tremble, and none shall be missing. Amen
13th Sunday in Ordinary TIme
Today’s gospel presents us with two of Jesus’ miracles worked for two women. The first miracle is worked for a woman considered impure because she suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years. The second is worked for a twelve-year-old girl who has just died.
At Jesus’ time, any person who touched blood or a dead body was considered impure. These two women were marginalized, excluded from taking part in the community because of their impurity.
The woman with hemorrhages heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. That was a difficult and dangerous moment for the woman. She was impure and by touching others, she was making them impure as well. At that time the law stated that, if an impure person would go to a crowd and contaminate all who touched her, the punishment for this was to be taken aside and be stoned to death. However, knowing how dangerous that could be, the woman had the courage to go and touch Jesus.
And we see that Jesus did not judge the woman but acknowledged her courage and said: “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction.” My Dear friends, Jesus, by calling her “daughter” He welcomed the woman into the community growing around Him. Jesus recognized that without this woman’s faith He could not have worked the miracle.
and the gospel continues: when they arrive at Jairus’ house, Jesus saw people weeping over the death of the girl. He said, “The child is not dead but asleep.” The people in the house laughed. They know when someone is asleep and when someone is dead. This is the same laughter of Abraham and Sara when they were told by God that they were going to have a son at their old age. And that is also the same laughter of those who cannot believe that “nothing is impossible for God!” For the people at Jairus’ house, death seemed to be an obstacle that could not be overcome.
The curing of these two women means that they were restored to life. they were restored to the dignity of being not excluded anymore but welcome and embrace. Today we also have categories of people who are excluded, or who feel excluded, from taking part in the Christian community.
The Evangelist Mark probably shared these two miracles with his community because there was tension among the members of the community, tension that was causing division and was leading the community to fall apart. So they needed to hear about Jesus cared for these two excluded women.
My friends, there is also tension in our communities today. Tension that is divisive. May we all realize that we belong to the same family of God. That we all, local or foreigner, black or white, short or tall, skinny or big, we all have the same God as our Father. A Father that welcomes and not exclude. May we work together to put away feelings of division and hatred. May we work together to achieve unity and peace among all. Amen