Monday, August 11, 2014

A Couple of Memes

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     Spending some relaxing time in the Caribbean, I had the chance to photograph this year's Supper Moon . The picture turned out so good I decided to combine it with one of my favorite quotes, the problem is...I have many favorite quotes. I narrowed down to two. Since I could not make up my mind which quote to use, I used them both. Here are the result of my efforts.I hope you enjoy them and I invite you to share them as much as you want.


"Viva Cristo Rey!!"
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Sunday, July 20, 2014

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

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   Today’s Gospel reading is a bit strange. First we get this beautiful image about how the kingdom of God is like a field, in which a farmer intends to grow good seed, but an enemy disturbs this plan by planting weeds among the good plants… and then Jesus does this sharp left turn and starts talking about the mustard bush and some birds making nests in it and then he makes another sharp turn an tells about a woman mixing yeast and flour to make bread, and then finally he does a complete U turn and returns to the original story to explain its meaning to His disciples.
   One might think that when St Mathew was writing his gospel he could not find a good place for these two extra stories so he threw them right in the middle of the Good Sower parable, hopping that some day some poor deacon could make sense of it all. But I think this type of view for this Gospel reading is a bit…I don’t know…shallow? The reality is that these three stories, as confusing as they might look, appear together in this gospel for a very good reason.  Because this is the way the Holy Spirit uses to force us to reflect on the big ideas of Jesus’ message, ideas which will challenge us, the ones who require effort and commitment on our part.
   Let me show you what I mean: The first thing to notice is that all three of these parables are that they have a common theme: growth; a growing field, a growing bush, growing bread. The first parable is obviously the most important, since it is the only one which is explained by the Lord. In it we are instructed to the incredible ability the Kingdom of God has to grow, even when it is surrounded by enemies, enemies bent into destroying it.
   Now if you think about it, we, the disciples of the Lord are the ones who have been given the charge of growing as this kingdom. Jesus says very clear that the field is the world, and we are the good seed planted in it. The attitude of the servants in the story reflects the natural human desire to do things the easy way. It is true that we would much rather build the Kingdom of God without having to deal with any troubles. But, I don’t need to tell you that trouble is the one thing we cannot avoid. There are many Catholics who waist no opportunity to ignore and criticize the actions and the teachings of our Church. The natural tendency would be to remove these from the picture so that we can have a nice little kingdom all for ourselves.  But this is not God’s plan for us. God’s plan, which is given in the second parable, is to grow His kingdom from a small band of fisherman into what we are today, and what we will continue to be until the day the Good Lord returns to us:  the voice of the needy, the weak and those society wants to eliminate because they are inconvenient, the largest charitable institution in the world, home of saints and sinners.
   The attitude of the Master in the parable tells us what our own attitude should be: Ignore the bad seeds, eventually they will receive what they deserve; concentrate in growing the kingdom.  How? To borrow a phrase from one of my kids “By mixing it up”. We are called to be the yeast which mixes with the flour the world.
  Now I know for a fact that here at St Michael we have a lot of good bakers. I also know that if you want to make really good bread you have to mix the yeast in with the flour. This is not what you would call a “gentle process” There is a lot of hitting and pushing, and then there is some waiting and them some more knotting and hitting a bit more until the mass is ready to rise.  To make a good loaf of bread first you really need be manhandled.
   This is the image our Lord Jesus wants to place in our minds; to help us understand how are we to build the Kingdom Of God. It is not by staying in our own little world, but by getting out there, where we can encounter those who like flour have not reached their full potential until they are mixed with us. It is not going to be easy, we are going to encounter push back and hostility. I wish I could tell you differently, but to grow as the Kingdom of God, requires sacrifice.
   Which brings me to my last point. Today’s reading ends with a warning to evil dowers and to those who cause others to sin, a warning them about their eternal destiny. But it also ends with a promise to those who hold unit the end, to the ones willing to grow the kingdom among the weeds. Those will shine as bright as the Sun.
  Like I said at the beginning, today’s message require careful consideration. How am I growing the Kingdom of God and what can I do to be the yeast to the flour of our culture and our society? That is a question each one of us has to answer by ourselves. Today during communion let us ask to the Holy Spirit to guide us and show us the best way to grow, right where we have been planted. Amen?
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Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Hidden Bible Podcast: Episode 1: Joshua 10

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Folks,

    For a while I've been thinking about what would be the easiest way of expanding my online presence. Currently I have the blog in which I faithfully post my homilies, and every once in a blue moon, whenever I can find the time, I write a post. I wish I could write more but I have found that  it takes me multiple iterations to get these up to my satisfaction.  The problem I'm encountering is that I have many posts (about 25!) in various stages of development, with no clear publishing date on sight. After much prayer and reflection I am convinced that the blog medium is not what I'm looking for.



   So after some more prayers and reflections I've decided that the best  way to increase this part of my ministry is with a podcast instead of more written posts. Now I've never done anything like this before and I'm not sure where this endeavor is going to take me but I feel this is the way to go, so with this in mind. I'm announcing my latest project: "The Hidden Bible Podcast" A semi regular podcast about those passages from the Bible which make us go like: "say what??????".





If you want to download the MP3 file to listen to it later just click here

And here are the show notes:

Ralph Reed  in Bill Maher Daily Show

Fr. Robert Baron's talking about the Maher-Reed exchange.

Joshua 10:7-15

This Is What Will Happen If Earth Stopped Spinning

Noctilucent Clouds

Time slowing down
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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Corpus Christi (Cycle A)

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  Last Sunday, been Fathers Day, I took some time to do a quick inventory of all the gifts I have received from God in my life. Don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with all the details of my list. The one thing I will say is that after I was done reflecting in all the blessings, material and spiritual, I have received…I have to admit I was feeling pretty good about myself… until later that day. That evening, as I sat down and stared reflecting on today’s readings and the feast of Corpus Christy, it became clear to me that I had forgotten the most important gift, the one gift which surpasses every other gift I have ever received from God; God himself… given to me in The Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Now, to be fair if I were to ask everyone here to spend some time repeating my little exercise, I’m willing to bet that the vast majority will do as I did and list all the blessings they have received in their lives without considering Jesus in the Eucharist as the one gift above any other gift.
     So the question for us today should be, Why? Why do we forget so easily about the Lord if, like St. Paul says, in Him we “We live, we move and we exist?” Some people might claim that this is caused by our lack of faith, but I think this is not the case, I think it is the other way around, I think that we are so used to be in His presence that we take this divine person for granted. To put it plainly Familiarity breeds indifference. And I’m not saying indifference as in the “I do not care about you Jesus” sense but in the sense of “it is so obvious to me that you are there and I’m here that for me, you are just, part of the background”.  I think this is where the problem resides, Jesus is there and I’m here when it should really be: Jesus and I:  WE ARE here together. More than together, because our Lord wanted to be so close to us he commanded us to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”  the only way we can have ethereal life. When we receive him in the Eucharist he becomes one with us, this is how close he wants to be to us…not side by side but one with us.
   Now I do not want anybody to feel as guilty as I felt during my reflection, but I ask you today to join me in asking ourselves: what can we do to place our Lord were he deserves to be in our lives, at the very top of any gifts received? Well, I think it will take just three little things to accomplish this.
  First, we could start by recognizing our smallness and our complete dependency on Him and the fact that without Him we have no life in us. Yes, we might think that we have a good life, a great job, a beautiful house, but without feeding our spirit with His Body and Blood none of these things amounts to anything, because spiritually we are dead or dying.
   Second, once we recognize this dependency on Him, we need to capture back our sense of respect and awe. Think about it: When we sit in this Sanctuary we sit in front of the creator of the universe, the Alfa and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the lamb of God who takes away our sins, the bread of life who came down from heaven, the second person of the Most blessed trinity… Need I say more to make my point? Sitting here in front of Him is a pretty big deal????  My brothers and sisters at this very moment angels are prostrated around this tabernacle singing “Holy, holy, holy”.  Let’s ask ourselves: what is my own disposition when I enter this holy space? What do I do, In what do I think when I’m in front of Him?
  And finally, the third thing we can do, is ask ourselves, how is my soul doing? How do I prepare myself to receive Him?  Imagine for a second if after mass someone hands you a note which says “This Sunday, Jesus will drop by your house just to say hi and spend some quiet time with you”. I think our week would be a pretty busy one, we would all fall on a cleaning frenzy, we might even take care of little things that have been left un attended for a while like a leaky faucet or a cricking step. I’m sure that we would want our home to be spotless, ready to welcome him. How are our souls when we receive him? Is there any blemish, any corner which needs some cleaning? Maybe some garbage that has been slowly accumulating and we need to get rid off?
  There you have it, my brothers and sisters three small steps to help us rekindle the appreciation, respect and love we all felt that day so many years ago when we received our first communion, and today as on that day the same Jesus is present waiting to feed us with his body and blood, and give us His eternal life, Are we ready to receive him? Blessed be Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the altar. Amen.
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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ascencion Sunday (Cycle A)

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    This Sunday we are celebrating the feast of the Ascension, the day in which our Lord Jesus Christ departed from the physical presence of His disciples to return back to the Father All Mighty in body and spirit. Every year this feast day falls around the time in which a lot of families are involved with graduation ceremonies. I myself went to two graduations this past week, so I know that although they might not want to admit it many parents and children have it in their minds that in a very short 8-12 weeks these graduates whom we have been celebrating will be leaving their homes to start new lives as college students.
   I bring this up because as I was reflecting on the image of the Apostles worshiping the Lord while interiorly struggling with their own doubts, I kept remembering when my own child left for college. You see many people think that when the gospel reading says that the apostles worshiped but doubted it means that somehow they were not sure if the person in front of them was in fact the Lord. However, It occurred to me that perhaps the real reason for the apostles doubts was  because they did not know what they were going to do now that they were going to be left all by themselves.
   Separation from the ones we love either because of reasons we cannot control or because we have to let them follow their own path in life, could be a source of deep doubt and fear. A parent that is left with an “empty nest”, a child that is starting a new life away from the protection and comfort of all that is familiar, a spouse who suddenly finds him or herself alone once again will inevitably experience these feelings.
    Fear and doubt are part of been human. Jesus knew very well what His friends were feeling, and what everyone of us feels every time we experience separation; so the last words that the Lord ever spoke with His human voice, recorded in Saint Mathew’s Gospel, were words not only spoken for His friends, but for every person who ever found experiencing loss of a loved one: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me…I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Time and distance mean nothing to Him, even if we feel that separation and absence hammers a wedge between us and our loved ones, with Jesus we can overcome anything. We are never truly alone. With our Lord Jesus we have no reason for fear and doubt because with the power that has been given to Him, there is not distance or period of time we cannot overcome.
     To me these finals words of Jesus are a source of great consolation whenever I am assaulted by doubt and loneliness. However these are not the only words Jesus spoke to his disciples, and to us, he also said “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” The Lord Jesus wants us to do something better with our time than just feel sorry for ourselves. He wants us, those who stay home and those who depart to always, wherever we might be, at any time to be witnesses of His power to the nations. To quote Pope Francis “The Lord does not want sourpuss Christians” cowering in a corner, feeling sorry for themselves.
   The mystery we celebrate in the feast of the Ascension of our Lord has been called the greatest mystery of his life! How He by departing still remains with us, and now gives us power to be His witnesses. It is a mystery that speaks about having to let go so that we can encounter the resurrected Lord, and gain a whole world for Himself; disregarding any sense of fear or doubt.  It is a mystery about having to say goodbye, so that we can find Him, so that we can fulfill our destiny as Christians: In our homes, in our schools, even to ends of the world.
   I would like to finish today by congratulating all graduates, and by reminding them of the words Jesus spoke in the Gospel today. You will never be left alone, you are now sent on a mission to bring Jesus to those who don’t know him, never forget who sent you. God bless you all!

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"
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Sunday, May 11, 2014

4th Sunday of Easter

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   After Jesus resurrection the disciples found themselves with a great dilemma. For three years they had spent every minute of every hour with The Lord, they have seen him eat, sleep, and cry; they had seen him tired, hungry and mad, they had seen him do all the regular things a regular human being do. But, after the cross and the empty tomb things changed, Jesus was different. This was the same Jesus but his glorified body became something they had never ever experienced; To the point that, many times they had problems discerning Him as The Lord.
  In the previous two weekends the readings have presented us with examples of this problem. Two weeks ago we saw St Thomas for which, it was not enough that the risen Lord was standing in front of Him, he had to touch Him; he had to put his finger into the nail marks in order to believe. Last week we saw the two disciples on their way to Emmaus spending most of the day conversing with the Lord, only to recognize him as he shared the evening dinner, not by how he looked but by what he did; “the breaking of the bread”
  What I find interesting about these encounters is that looking at Jesus with their own eyes was not enough to recognize him; In fact it looks like Jesus knew very well this was going to be the case because as we heard in today’s reading he prepared the disciples to recognize Him not by using their own eyes but by listening to His voice.
   The readings of these three Sundays present to us how the disciples were able to know whom he was; they recognized him by the wounds of His body, by the actions of his hands, and by the sound of his voice.
    If you think about it, things have not changed that much in two thousand years. I think it is fair to say that we Christians of the 21 century still have a lot of trouble recognizing the risen Lord. Sometimes we are overwhelmed by all the different messages we receive telling us to find Jesus here or there or messages telling us that if we do this or that then we will have our own a personal encounter with The Lord. We forget that, what was true to the first disciples is still true to us today. We can still recognize the Risen Christ within our mists by the same three signs the scriptures have been teaching us for the last three weeks.
    We can easily recognize the risen Lord by His wounds. Every time we encounter suffering, there is Jesus. We can find him in the homeless person in the street corner, on the eyes of the tired immigrant, in the scared eyes of a young girl who has been convinced the only choice available to her is an abortion. We can find Jesus in the hospitals and the prisons of our community. The wounds that cover our society today are the wounds of the risen Lord, and by recognizing these wounded people as our brothers and sisters we are recognizing Christ himself.
   We can also recognize him by the actions of his hands. On every person who labors to bring the Gospel into world, He is breaking bread with those who want to meet Him. We can find the Lord in the missionary who is spreading the Gospel in some God forgotten corner of the world and in our classrooms here at St Michael, in the volunteer catechist teaching our children the basics of the faith. Wherever there is an action of the Church to spread the Gospel, there is the risen Lord.
   And finally we can recognize Jesus by the sound of his voice.  Now you might think“how are we going to do this if we have never heard him speak? If we do not know how His voice sounds? The answer to these, very valid questions is given to us in today’s first reading; in it we read that after Peter declared publicly  Jesus as The Lord, the people who were listening felt “cut to the heart” by his words. We can recognize the Risen Lord not by the sound of His voice but by the way his words cut us to the heart.
   Simply put, every time we are moved by the words we hear from Pope Francis, or from our Bishops or even the words you might hear here from this pulpit, these words do not come from us, it is the risen Christ who is speaking into your heart. The words of Jesus have the power to cut through all the clutter and the noise we live in; we just have to pay attention and treasure these moments.
    Now Tomorrow (Today) is Mothers Day. So I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention another way in which we can all recognize the risen Christ in our lives, and that is by the love we receive from our mothers. By their sacrifice and efforts we are kept safe, healthy and loved; showing us the love of the risen Christ by their action. Because of this, on behalf of all of us here at St Michael, I would like to thank you and wish you a very happy mother’s day. God bless you Mom.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

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   Many years ago, before I was ordained permanent deacon, I was doing my liturgical training at St Louis in Clarksville.  Monsignor Luca which was training me asked if I could help in their Easter liturgies. St Louis is like St Michael in which they get large crowds every Easter Sunday; so during communion I literary had hundreds of people in my line. With this many people your one goal is always to keep the line moving.  Just when I thought I had got into my “rhythm”, an older couple (What I assumed it was husband and wife) approached and stood in front of me smiling. It was obvious they did not know what to do. I asked them “Are you Catholic?” And the husband said “Oh no, we are Muslim but we love Jesus and we believe in the resurrection”. My first thought was “Wow you guys must be really lost!”, but then it down into me, although Monsignor Luca had prepared me for the many surprising things that can happen at the communion line; He never prepared me for that one.
    Imagine my dilemma, not been Catholic (or even Christian!) I could not in good conscience give them communion, but the problem was I had never in my life heard a better reason to be in a Catholic Church on Easter morning than “We love Jesus and we believe in the resurrection!” So I quietly told them that I could not give communion but that I will pray for them and give them a blessing. They looked happy with this and after I did the sign of the cross in their foreheads and asked the resurrected Lord to enter in to the hearts of these, His children they move on.

   Every Easter I think about this couple, because they taught me a great lesson. A lesson that not even Monsignor Luca with all his efforts to make of me a “half backed” deacon was able to teach me: Easter is a day which belongs to the whole world.  And every Easter I find myself wandering, how many people here at St Michel are like the Muslim couple of my story, how many find themselves lost, maybe feeling out of place, feeling that they cannot find their way, and after much wandering find themselves sitting in this sanctuary, this morning.

   My brothers and sisters if today you find your selves feeling like this, let me tell you: you are welcome here, this is your home and we are glad you came today. In fact, even if you feel like you are not worthy of sharing on the table of the Lord with us, I invite you get in line and come, cross your hands, and either me, Fr. Mike or one of the other ministers will pray to the resurrected Lord to enter into your heart.

   Easter is a day that does not belong to just “Catholics in good standing”, it does not even belong to just Christians; Jesus rose from the dead for all, for Muslims, for Indus, even for the ones who do not believe in Him.  He rose from the dead for all of humanity, every man, human and child that has ever existed, past, present and future. Today all that matters, all that is required of you to be a member of this family, is just two things: that you love Jesus and that you believe in the resurection. Happy Easter!!
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