Sunday, June 30, 2013

13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The other day I was reading an article which made an amazing claim. Apparently scientists have discovered that our brains are configured in such a way that we are born with a natural disposition to find, follow and admire people which display the characteristics of a leader. Scientists believe this desire comes from our need to be part of a group and the fact that we are social creatures.  

What I found interesting about this article is that it took scientists more than 2000 years to discover what St Augustine of Hypo knew back in the fourth century. Back then St Augustine declared that God created us for himself and that our hearts will never find rest until we direct our desires towards God and rest in Him.

 The problem is that since we are not born with the knowledge of God in our minds, we spend our lives trying to satisfy this desire, trying to fulfill this need to follow and give our adoration to something bigger than ourselves.  Since we don’t know how to direct this desire, most of the time we end up following the wrong thing. It is our nature to be attracted to those people who represent hope and greatness. We even have a name for this, we call this behavior “Hero Worship”.

In today’s reading we see this desire in action.  Jesus encounters three different people who express their willingness to follow him. Each time Jesus gives a surprising, if not confusing, answer to their requests, but each answer also shows that Jesus is unlike any hero or personality we will ever meet.

The first man offers to follow Jesus were ever he would go, Jesus in reply says “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head”. To understand His words we need to keep in mind that Jesus lived in a time in which people were very close to nature. For His listeners, foxes and birds were examples of creatures who prepare nests, a place they can call Home. The Lord is telling this man his followers have nothing, and that to follow  Jesus means the embracement of  poverty.

 The second man tells The Lord he will like to bury his dead father, before accepting his invitation. Jesus answers “Let the dead bury their dead; but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”… On Jesus times the dead was considered unclean, and touching them would make you impure. Jesus is telling that to proclaim the Gospel one must be kept clean and pure, one must embrace spiritual and physical chastity.

The third man wants to follow Jesus but will like time to say goodbye to his family, again Jesus answer “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”…To be a follower of Jesus one must be willing to abandon everything, even their family, and once one has started walking with the Lord, one must never look back, one must live in complete obedience to his plans.

Poverty, chastity and obedience this is what Jesus demands of His followers.

You might be thinking that these demands are impossible to meet for us, people of the 21st century; but the fact is, we all know people who live their lives by these simple rules. Poverty, chastity and obedience are the three promises every priest, nun and religious brother make when they profess their solemn vows.  They are the visible sign of God’s kingdom on earth, the example for us to follow.

Like I said, Jesus is unlike anyone we will ever meet. No celebrity will ever demand these things from their fans, on the contrary, many celebrities today encourage a life of riches and excess; and many of their followers live to imitate this life; a type of life which in itself is a miss-use of our God given desire to follow greatness.

Jesus greatness and the greatness of his followers contradict everything we have learned about success and about how to reach complete happiness. For his followers success and happiness reside in the complete willingness to self sacrifice; to live lives dedicated to the service of the kingdom of God, staying pure, and chaste and obedient.

Before I finish today I would like to give the young people here a challenge. The future belongs to you, and it is a future in which most likely the religious freedom we enjoy today will be severely, limited. Under these conditions, a life lived on poverty, chastity and obedience will be the truest, highest and most difficult form of live you can imagine. Are you tuff enough to take this challenge? If you are tired of following, heroes made out of clay, that only care about themselves, Isn’t it time you try to follow a new kind of Hero? The Lord is waiting for your answer. I assure you, following Him will be un-like anything you have ever tried before.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Egyptian Statue Turning 180 degrees... by Itself???

Coming from the Caribbean I have seen some weird stuff in my life. This is why this video caught my attention. Apparently there is an Egyptian statue at the Manchester Museum (UK) which slowly (it actually takes days) turns by 180 degrees. The statue is in a sealed enclosure attached to the wall, and by what can be seen in the security camera no one touches it. Here is the raw video:

                                               NOTE: I apologize for the background music. Not of my making.

Some people are claiming a supernatural origin for this behavior, but I think there is a more natural explanation for it. Notice that the statue only moves during the day when people walk by it. During the  night (and you can see when the night is in the video) the statue remains still. So the correlation between the vibrations caused by people's steps and the movement of the statue is clearly established.

An easy way to see if the movement is intrinsic to the statue (supernatural) or due to the vibrations caused by museum patrons (natural) is to place the statue on a pedestal and see if this behavior continues.  Of course I'm sure the museum would not like to determine what causes this movement, since a statue who moves by itself is always good for business.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

Saturday, June 22, 2013

St. Thomas More and Archbishop WIlliam Lori

The very first time I heard Archbishop William Lori preach was during his mass of installation, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. I was very impressed with the first words he delivered as the leader of the Baltimore Church. Since then I've had a couple of opportunities to serve with him and I continue to be impressed by his preaching.

In this memorial of St Thomas More, a man who was martyred because he refused to yield to the demands of an unjust monarch, I think it is fitting to take a quick look at the highlights of Archbishop Lori's homily for last night's mass celebrating the beginning of the 2013 Fortnight For Freedom campaign. Once again Archbishop Lori was presiding and, once again he was not pulling any punches. Here are some highlights from his homily.

“Faith enriches public life not only by the magnitude of its services but by the qualities of mind and heart, by the values and virtues, it brings to the task,”

 “the Church does not have two wings: a ‘faith and worship’ division on the one hand, and a ‘service’ division on the other.... what we believe and how we worship gives rise to public service.”

“No wonder we shudder, no wonder we react so strongly, when governmental authority tries to slice and dice our Church by separating in law and policy our houses of worship from our charitable, healthcare and educational institutions on the score that the latter are somehow less religious than our churches.” 

“We continue to live in an age of martyrs – when believers, not just Christians, are being persecuted for professing and practicing their faith – when believers are tortured and killed because they are believers, in places like Iran, Iraq, China and Nigeria.”

“Let us keep the flame of faith and the flame of freedom burning brightly not only for our children and our children’s children, but also for the sake of these persecuted believers who see in our form of government and in our great land a beacon of hope.” 

I'm trying to get the complete text as I have only found excerpts, but judging from what I have seen, once again, Archbishop Lori delivered.

I'm very proud and happy to have such a courageous man as my bishop and spiritual leader.

St Thomas More pray for Archbishop Bishop and for all of us.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

When Engineers Get Bored: I Know What I Want for Christmas!!!

If you follow me in facebook you might have noticed a series of videos which I have titled "When Engineers Get Bored" (or WEGB for short).

Back in my college years, when a I was a very busy engineering student, boredom was something me and my peers hardly ever encountered. When we did however, we became a dangerous lot, always trying to channel our creative energies by coming up with some really outrageous ideas just for fun.

In honor of those days and of the hundreds of engineers and engineering students that know what I'm talking about, I give you the first installment of what I hope will be a recurring feature.

From the University of Maryland I present to you: RoboRaven


Tweets Show that Christians Happier than Atheists

From the University of Illinois comes this study. Perhaps you have seen reports about it, since it has been picked by multiple news feeds. My quotes are from this Pacific Standard article.

Researchers compared the tweets of well known religious figures against well known atheists figures looking for:

... the relative frequency of words expressing positive and negative emotions. They also looked at the usage of terms indicating social interaction (such as “friend”), and the presence of terms associated with intellectual analysis (including “think” and “consider”).

The results were not surprising .

In their tweets, Christians expressed more positive emotions, and fewer negative ones, than their atheist counterparts. In contrast, the non-believers tended to use “a more analytical thinking style,” which, the researchers write, is “associated with less happiness.”

“Christian followers were more likely to use insight words characterized by certainty and emotion, whereas atheist followers were more likely to use insight words characterized by skepticism and analysis,” they report. “The percentage of words expressing certainty was higher among Christian tweets than atheist tweets.”

In addition, “Christians talked more about social processes than atheists, which was in turn associated with more happiness,” the researchers write. “On average, 9.36 percent of words used by Christian followers were related to social processes, compared to 8.08 percent among atheist followers. [This is] consistent with the hypothesis that religion promotes social support and social connectivity.”

Like I said, I'm really not surprised. Based on my interactions with atheists and believers, I have found that those with a deep faith are able to cope better with life situations,  approach life's unavoidable trials with a better attitude and are generally more positive about the future than non-believers.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

SCOTUS Balks at Making a Decision: Freedom Suffers.


Today, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) refused to rule in a case which pinned the right of pro-life activists to publicly display images of abortion against the right of children not to be exposed to gruesome images. Here is a link to an article from World Christian News. This is such a thorny issue, I don't blame the SCOTUS for deciding to stay away from it, but I am afraid their silence will provide the pro-abort side with a powerful weapon.

As a father I see how I would do everything in my power to protect my kids from the gruesome reality of aborted babies. As a prolifer, I'm of the same mind as Father Frank Pavone, from Priests for Life: the only away Americans will wake up to the horrors of abortion is by been exposed to the product of this inhuman medical procedure.

With their silence the justices upheld decisions from two lower courts in Colorado, which ruled in favor of preventing the display of these images when children are present. The lower courts said that there is a “compelling government interest in protecting children from disturbing images.” Which makes me wonder where are these judges during primetime TV, but that is another issue.

My biggest concern is the ramifications of this decision by the Colorado courts; as now the pro-abort side could turn children into "human-shields" to prevent the education of adults. It would be a disturbing precedent if children start appearing at Planned Parenthood abortion mills to be used as a legal tool against the freedom of speech of pro-choicers. The 2014 March for Life is going to be interesting.

One thing is certain; I don't think we have heard the last of this.

"Viva Cristo Rey!!"

Deacon Harbey

Monday, June 10, 2013

10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

I preached this homily after been inspired by the Ironman 3 movie. Go figure.

Lk 7:11-17

Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him.
As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her,

“Do not weep.”

He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said,

 “Young man, I tell you, arise!”

The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming,

“A great prophet has arisen in our midst, ”
and “God has visited his people.”

This report about him spread through the whole of Judea and in all the surrounding region.


Last week I went to see the new movie Ironman 3, the story of Tony Stark, a genius billionaire who wears a metal suit which gives him super powers while shielding him from bullets, fire and explosions. Don’t worry I will not give you any spoilers other than to say that like in the previous 2 movies we are confronted with a paradox; The same suit which Tony Stark uses to protect himself from enemies, acts as a shield against the efforts of those who love him and are trying to get close to him.

Some might say it is very difficult to find deep theological insights in summer super hero movies. But the fact is the contrast between Ironman and Jesus could not pass unnoticed. Believe it or not if you think about it Our Lord Jesus is everything Tony Stark (Ironman) is not. Jesus was poor, and humble; Tony is rich and arrogant. Jesus was wise; Tony although a brilliant scientist lacks the ability to connect with others an live a normal life. Jesus was compassionate while Tony Stark is self-centered.

What made Jesus so special was that although he had divine powers he was always willing to get close and touch the people who needed him; what makes Tony Stark special is just an iron suit which although giving him super powers, keeps his friends and the people who love him way.

I know I’m supposed to enjoy the movies, but it stroke me how Tony Stark instead of trying to overcome the shielding effects of his Iron suit actually used it as an excuse to remain isolated from his friends. Sadly, this is a trait many of us share with Ironman. For some people the idea of pushing others away, of keeping others from getting to close, becomes a way of life. Instead of using an Iron suit, they use their bad temper, grumpiness, or even false pretenses. They think that by showing to others they are smarter, stronger or even wealthier those around them they will be kept at bay, where they belong.

We can all say that we know someone like that. What is harder to admit to ourselves is that, if we think really hard, we all do this in one way or another. And by imitating Tony Stark in this specific point, we become the complete opposite of who we are supposed to be. The model of our lives, the Lord Jesus. Our Savior never wore a shield to keep others away from himself; in fact he made sure to eliminate anything which could potentially isolate him from others.

In today’s Gospel we see a perfect example of this; Jesus is approaching a town, when he encounters the funeral procession of a man, been accompanied by his grieving mother. He could have very easily let them pass quietly and with deep respect for their suffering. Instead Jesus confronts what separates Him from those who needed him: The grief of a mother mourning her dead son, and death itself. This reaction must have been so shocking to his disciples that they remembered it long enough to record it in scripture. St Luke tells us that Jesus was so moved with pity by the woman’s sorrow that he approached her and said “Do not weep”, and then he turned, approached the coffin and touch it, bringing her dead son back to life!

My brothers and sisters this is such a personal act, of our Lord! Bringing consolation to the suffering and breaking through the barriers of sorrow and death with this just a word and His divine touch.

In our culture we are conditioned to place barriers between us and those around us. Jesus doesn’t want us to be like that. He wants us to imitate Him and break through those barriers so that we can bring his healing power to those who are suffering. He wants us to be as personal as He himself is personal. He wants us to touch, the poor and the suffering, even death itself with our own hands.

Iron man is a great movie; it is filed with great action. It is a great way to disconnect our brains for a few hours. However, after the movie is over and the credits roll, we have to enter the world in which we live, the real world, a world filled with people who might be experiencing great pain and sorrows in their lives. The Lord Jesus doesn’t call us to be super heroes, he calls us to be human… just as human as he was; to walk, to talk, to touch, and to be present to be present to each other and those who need Him.

Jesus calls us today to be his imitators, and he assures that been like him is much better than any iron suit or any superpower we whish we had.