Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fixing our gaze on Jesus

Homily: New Year 2014

“Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”.

As we end the year 2013 and begin the 2014, we behold before us the image of Mary, the Mother of God, reflecting on all the marvelous events that happened in her life lately: the Anunciation by the angel that she would become the Mother of God, the conception and the birth of John, and now, the birth of Jesus. Mary kept all these things in her heart.

The Church, on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, invites us to imitate Mary in her silent and contemplative disposition. As we start the New Year, we, too, must reflect on all the marvelous deeds that God has done in our lives during the year that now ends. Like Mary, we shall keep all these things. Like Mary, our soul shall also proclaim the greatness of the Lord.

Taking indication from the ancient liturgy of the city of Rome, the revised liturgy of Vatican II has restored the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, and placed it on January 1, the first day of the year. Mary has been venerated as Theotokos, the Mother of God, since ancient times. In 431, the Council of Ephesus declared decisively that the divine motherhood of Mary is a dogma of faith. It is a singular dignity from which all other privileges of Mary flow: the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption and other titles of Mary that we find in the Litany.

They say that the moment a woman gives birth to her child, she ceases to think of herself and begins to focus all her life on her child. Mary is Theotokos, that is, “the Bearer of God”. The moment she became Theotokos, she ceased to think of herself. From now on, all her life is focused on Jesus, her Son. Jesus became the center of her existence. Every breath she takes was for Jesus.

That is why, Mary is an excellent model for us to imitate as we start this New Year. With Mary, we should also make Jesus the center of our lives this year 2014. With Mary, let us fix our gaze on Jesus. When we fix our eyes on the Lord all throughout the year, we are assured of two consequences.

First, when we fix our gaze on Jesus, slowly but surely, we become more identified with Him, as we should be. And if we are identified with the Son of God, we will also become children of God. This is what St. Paul told the Galatians (Second Reading): “God sent His Son… so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children (of God), God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ You are no longer a slave but a child of God”.

If we are no longer slaves, but children of God, then we should strive to act as God’s children. Let us not remain slaves to sin and vices. The best way to greet 2014 is not to gather round fruits but to gather sound virtues like charity, generosity, humility and sincerity. If you are a son or a daughter of God, then there’s no need to worry of what 2014 would bring you. “We may not know what our future holds. But we know who holds our future”. And that is enough. So why consult the horoscopes instead of the Gospels for guidance on what to do and how to behave this 2014?

The second consequence when we fix our gaze on Jesus this year is that we will certainly receive numerous blessings from the Lord. Our First Reading (Book of Numbers) assures us that if we invoke the name of the Lord, He will bless us. “The Lord said, ‘This is how you shall bless the Israelites (and us). The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!”

Three specific blessings are promised to us this New Year: (1) the Lord will keep us – He will keep us in good health, if we don’t need purification through bodily or spiritual sickness. He will keep us in joy, if we cooperate in His grace by avoiding sin, the only cause of moral sadness; (2) the Lord’s face will shine upon us and will be gracious to us – He will keep an eye on us always, guarding and protecting us from every kind of evil. But He cannot do anything if we deliberately misuse our freedom and choose the evil of sin rather than the grace of God; (3) the Lord will give us peace – Peace, says Mother Teresa, is not the absence of war – of inner conflict, of suffering, of pain – but the presence of Christ, amidst these things. 2014 will be peaceful in the measure that each of us will fight to keep the presence of God alive every day in our hearts.

Brothers and sisters, let us begin the year 2014 with Mary, meditating in silence on the marvels the Lord has done for us. Beginning this New Year, let us fix our gaze on Jesus so that we may become true children of God. With the words of the Responsorial Psalm, “may God bless us in His mercy”. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Call on Him! Believe in Him! Proclaim Him!

Homily: Friday, December 6, 2013

“When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him”. Haven’t you wondered: how could the blind men catch up with Jesus unless Jesus slowed down for their sake? Most probably, Jesus heard their shouting; He knew what they needed; He tested their faith and trust in Him. Then, He healed them. The Gospel today, somehow, describes also our own story of blindness, our own struggles of faith and our own experience of healing.

Our stories of blindness. What kind of blindness do we suffer from in life? Ignorance of God’s love for us? Such ignorance is caused by our excessive and disordered love of self. We cannot see how much God loves us because we see only ourselves. Mafalda, a comic strip written and drawn by Argentine cartoonist Joaquín Salvador Lavado, which depicts the Latin American middle class and progressive youth, once exclaimed: “Do not be so selfish. Think also of me!” The reason we become blind to the love of God is that we excessively and disorderly love ourselves.

Lack of forgiveness also blinds us from seeing the inherent good in people around us. Our biases and prejudices prevent us from discovering something new, something good in the events, places and people we meet each day. We need also to call on Jesus and say: “Jesus, Son of David, help us!”

Our struggles of faith. When we are blind, we move very slowly for fear of bumping into something. Blindness makes us become insecure in our movement. Every move is a struggle. Faith also becomes a struggle because we don’t clearly see what we believe in. We accept as true what is told us not because we have discovered this truth by ourselves, but simply because we trust in Him who reveals this truth to us. He will not deceive us. Nor will He deceive Himself.

Blind persons are the most trustful people. They just entrust their movements – indeed, their lives – to their guides. That is why, we can easily identify ourselves with the two blind men in the Gospel today. In our faith, we are likened to these blind men. We struggle to believe. That is why, we can hear Jesus asking us every day: “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?”

Every time we encounter difficulties and trials in life, doubts and big problems, let us recall the words of Jesus: “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” When we are jobless, loveless, and hopeless; when we are doubtful, revengeful, and resentful, let us hear Jesus say: “Do you believe that I am able to do change you?” Then, we respond Him saying, “Yes, Lord. You can do it. I trust in you. But don’t trust me”.

Indeed, believing becomes a real struggle because we tend to trust more in our own efforts rather than in Jesus. We trust more on our own understanding of reality rather than on what Jesus tells us. We trust more in our own opinion, in our own judgment, in our own decision rather than in the truth proclaimed by the Church, or the moral judgment and decision of the Church, the Bride of Christ.

Our experience of healing. No weakness, no defects, no handicap of ours can prevent us from reaching Christ. The blind men were able to catch up, not because they were simply able to do so, but because Jesus waited on them. Our Lord adjusts to our limitations and waits for us to catch up with Him.

Our awareness of our defects can sometimes slow down our pace, our steps towards Jesus. But we should never stop walking because we know that Jesus will initiate the encounter. He will wait for us because He is as interested as we are of our healing. We know that Jesus is very interested to heal us because He promised it in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, in the First Reading: “On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see”.

Jesus does even more than just simply waiting for us: when we are struck down by discouragement and fear, or are being paralyzed by life’s tragedies (like the Yolanda), He walks toward us to meet us. When we are down, He comes to us. He accompanies us. He heals us!

But in order to be healed, we have to let Jesus heal us. He is very willing to forgive our sins but we need to go to the Sacrament of Confession. Have you see a picture of Jesus knocking on a door without a knob? Traditional interpretation says that Jesus cannot open the door of our hearts from the outside. We must open it from the inside.

Although this is true, we must say that even with doors without knobs, Jesus makes the initiative of reaching out to us. He even broke into the closed doors of the room where His disciples were gathered just to be with them.

Now, after having been healed by our Lord, we must spread the news about Him to all the people we meet every day. Why? Because as Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept His offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness” (EG, 1).

My dear friends, we want to be set free from the blindness of sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. Hence, we call out to Him: “Lord, help us!” We want to rediscover the joy of believing. That is why we say to Him: “Yes, Lord, we believe that you can heal us”. We want to share the joyful experience of God’s healing touch. So we spread the Good News of Jesus to the people around us. Call out to Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Live and share Jesus.

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.