Saturday, March 28, 2009

5th weekend of Lent

Here is my homily for the 5th week of Lent. If you want to read a good article about Benedict's comments just go to this link.


If you have been reading the newspapers or watching the news lately, you will have to agree with me that Pope Benedict has been having a pretty ruff time lately. It seems that every time this poor man opens his mouth it is to create uproar and controversy in the world media. Take for example the comments he made a couple of weeks ago on his way to Africa. Let me paraphrase what he said: “AIDS cannot be overcome by just the distribution of a contraceptives method; in fact the availability of this method increases the problem.” Now my intention today is not to discuss the truth behind the Pope’s words. My intention is to point out a simple fact about these words. None of this is new. Benedict was just repeating the words of John Paul II, which based his teachings of human reproduction and AIDS in Africa on Pope’s Paul VI encyclical “humane vitae”! But this was not new stuff either!! In fact, the first person who ever spoke about human dignity and contraception in our Church was Clement of Alexandria in the year 191. Nothing Pope Benedict said was new…. But what happened after he made these comments? Well… The world media went on attack mode! Benedict was called ignorant, out of touch with the real world and “fallible”, and his comments where called “A danger to public health policy”. There was even a German newspaper clamoring for Benedict’s resignation as Pope, and another calling for the Pope to be “impeached” (Whatever that means) And you know what was the Vatican’s reaction to this uproar? Just nine words…“ The Pope was maintaining the position of his predecessors”.

Now if you are like me that always try to avoid conflict (At least that’s what my wife says). You might think: wouldn’t it be better if Benedict just didn’t say anything? After all, the teachings of the Church are well known. Why stir controversy? Why give the professed enemies of The Church ammunition? Why not just quietly retire into the Vatican gardens and spend the rest of his life reading books, feeding the birds and visiting the museums? Well… I think that in today’s Gospel Jesus gives a very clear answer to that question, let me re-read it for you: “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” Unless his disciples are willing to die, they will not produce any fruit, and notice that I say HIS DISCIPLES. Because the call to be witnesses to the truth is for all of us not just the Pope. If we want to be good servants of the Lord we should follow Jesus commands. He is very clear when he says “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.” And if that place, my brothers and sisters, is to be nailed to The Cross of public opinion… So be it.
Neither popes or clergy or anyone that has been baptized is called to be an innocent bystander, we are all called to get
involved, and be like Jesus witnesses of the truth regardless of the consequences. The history of our Church has been written with the blood of the Martyrs; men, woman and children that were willing to give their lives for what they knew was the truth. Of course in this day and age the majority of Christians do not have to risk their lives for the Gospel, but this is the same reason why the majority of Christians have no excuse for not been witnesses to the truth of the Gospel.
My brothers and sisters the words that we constantly hear the Church proclaim, words like “Human life in all of its forms from the one day old stem cell, to the terminally ill, to the elderly… all forms of Human life are sacred and should be protected from the abuses of the powerful” or the words of Pope Paul VI “Contraception will never be the a solution to any problem”, these words are not just slogans… They are part of the truth handed over to us by the Holy Spirit, through the teachings of the Apostles and the magisterium of the Church.
Pope Benedict does not shy away from controversy, does not walk quietly into the night because he knows well the words of Jesus from today’s Gospel… “What should I say?” whenever someone asks me a controversial question”Father save me from this hour? But that is the purpose that I came to this hour!”
Jesus told Peter to feed and take care of his flock. That is the purpose of Benedict's Papacy… But what about OUR purpose… why are we here in this time and place? …The answer is simple to be witnesses of the truth…our purpose has not changed in 2000 years.
My brothers and sisters, we should all ask God, every day, to give us the strength he gives Benedict, the strength he gave the Martyrs, the strength that can only come from the Holy Spirit so that when it is our turn to stand up for the Gospel, when it is our turn to defend our Catholic faith… when it is our turn to be witnesses to the truth… we will not shy away but proclaim to the world that as followers of Jesus we are willing and ready to make a stand, regardless of how mush it will cost us, for the Glory of God The Father, Amen.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

2nd Sunday of Lent

Yes... I know that I was scheduled to preach three weeks ago, in fact I had a very good idea for this homily but... Archbishop O'Brien decided to preempt me with a recorded Lenten message. So I guess I will have to wait for 3 years to get a chance to use my idea. Anyway, here is my homily for the 2 Sunday of Lent.
For the last 1200 years, the city of Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain, has witnessed one of the oldest traditions in the Catholic Church. Throughout all of this time millions of pilgrims from all over Europe have walked hundreds of miles, to visit the shrine were it is said the Apostle James is buried. You can imagine that in more than a thousand years of history, many legends and traditions have developed in this road.
One peculiar place on the road to the shrine of Santiago de Compostella is a mountain pilgrims have christened “El Monte del Gozo” or the mount of joys. Interestingly enough, noting significant ever happened in this hill. Its importance comes from the fact that this is the very first spot in the road from which on a clear day pilgrims which have spend weeks walking, can catch, for the first time a glimpse of the City of Santiago and of the shrine which houses the apostle James.
“Ultreya e suseya!” is a call of hope and encouragement among pilgrims on the road which literarily means “Press on! Don’t give up!”, and it is said that this call is never more urgent than when claiming the mount of joys.

I bring this up today because like those millions of people that have visited the apostle James, we are all pilgrims. Every man, woman and child in this sanctuary, is in their own personal journey. But unlike the road to Santiago our road is not marked by quaint monuments, not even by the steps of those before us. You can say that our road is just a path on the sand, because we do not walk a road but we wander in a desert. And this is never more evident than during this time of lent, a time in which, by wearing ashes, by fasting, by making sacrifices we show the world that as followers of Jesus we do not wander alone.
In this season, we give up comforts, small things like coffee in the morning or our favorite TV shows. Some of us even make an effort to serve others during this time, perhaps in a soup kitchen or visiting the sick. We do these things not because of some superstitious fear of the fires of hell, like many people like to believe, but because we recognize ourselves as pilgrims, members of the body of Christ that along with the apostles, in these 40 days, we walk with our Lord in his way to the Cross.
So on this time of penance and sacrifices today’s Gospel… Today’s gospel is a breath of fresh air in a long dusty road. Because, today Jesus takes us to a place where we can rest and catch a glimpse of the end of our road. In the transfiguration Jesus takes us to visit our own Mount of Joys. He reveals to us like as he really is, in all of His glory, a resurrected Lord friend of mighty prophets and simple fishermen, in a perfect relationship with The Father, which calls him “beloved” and invite us to listen to the words of His Son.
Our lord takes us with him to show us that His journey, and ours, does not end with the cross. In this mountain of all joys, we find him in His resurrected form and for a moment we experience the Glory of Easter. A moment so joyous that Peter, as the leader of the Apostles and the future head of the Church, echoes the universal feeling of the Eastern Vigil “Lord, it is good to be here!”
But we should not make the mistake the apostles made, where they though they could stay in this mountain forever. We should not forget my brothers and sisters that our journey is not over yet. This is just a stop on the road, a point for rest and get encouraged. Yes, Easter is waiting but between here and there, there is another mountain we all must travel with a cross, a crown and three nails, and in the pilgrimage of our lives we encounter this mountain many times.
Perhaps even today some of us are been visited by the pain of sickness, or the sorrow of losing a loved one. Perhaps we are experiencing fear and uncertainty because of what is going on in the world today. Transfiguration Mountain reminds us that the road doesn’t end with pain, sorrow and fear. Beyond the Cross lies the empty tomb.
So this 2nd Sunday of lent is a well deserved stop on a long road, a moment to visit for a short time with our resurrected lord. This is a day to gather all of our energies so we can go on with the pilgrimage of our lives, so the next time we find ourselves tired and discouraged… we can all return to this mountain of wanders, to this mount of all joys, and perhaps when we need it most we will hear the words of our God as he tells us: “Ultreya e Suseya!” Don’t give up, press on! The Glory of Eastern is waiting beyond the cross!