Friday, September 30, 2011

10/2/2011 - la homilia del XXVII Domingo del tiempo ordinario - Isaías 5, 1-7, Mateo 21, 33-43

Isaías nos dice que Dios ama y cuida a las plantas en su viña. Dios tenía mucho amor y mucha ternura para su pueblo, el pueblo de Israel.  Dios ha cuidado de este pueblo, pero el pueblo de Israel no ha correspondido de este amor y de las esperanzas y las expectativas de Dios. Este pueblo no ha sido fiel al amor de su Padre. ¿Qué más puede hacer Dios por su viña?  Dios no ha abandonado a su pueblo en los tiempos de dificultad, en los momentos de sufrimiento.  Dios siempre estaba al lado de su pueblo.  Dios espera que su viña, que su pueblo, da frutos buenos.  Pero, al contrario, su viña no ha prosperado, no ha dado frutos buenos, no ha dado las uvas dulces, pero ha dado las uvas amargas y silvestres.  El pueblo ha oido esta profecía de Isaías, y sabía que el profeta estaba hablando sobre ellos mismos.  En verdad, Israel no ha producido los frutos de su salvacíon, de los dones que Dios le dio. 
El mensaje que recibimos de Isaías y la parábola que Jesús nos da en el Evangelio explican la importancia de producir frutos en nuestra vida de fe. Es una cosa de escuchar la palabra de Dios, de darse cuenta de la realidad de su mensaje.  Pero, es otra cosa para vivir su palabra, para dar vida a su mensaje.  El Señor nos da los dones y los tesoros y los talentos de nuesta vida. Y El tiene las expectativas y las esperanzas y las normas de la vida para estos dones y estos talentos y estos tesoros.  Con nuestra vida de fe y nuestra vocación profesional, con nuestras obras buenas y nuestras relaciones humanas, Dios nos pide una respuesta.  ¿Qué vamos a hacer? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

10/2/2011 – homily for the 27th Sunday in ordinary time – Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80, Matthew 21:33-43

       Today’s lectionary presents us with several readings about a vineyard.  The psalmist declares that the vineyard of the Lord is the house of Israel, that the Lord transplanted a vine of people who were in bondage in Egypt, that he put this vine forth as far as the sea and the river.  The Gospel reading from Matthew talks about a vineyard, about how the servants and messengers the vineyard owner sent out to the tenants were either killed or treated with hostility.  Then we have Isaiah’s prophecy about God’s vineyard, how the choice grapes that the Lord planted and tended with love and care became wild grapes, how this foretold about Israel’s upcoming destruction due to the failure of the people of Israel to do what God expects of them.
         Since today’s readings allude to God’s creation and our response to God, and since the feast day of St Francis of Assisi is coming up on October 4th, I thought it would be good to reflect upon today’s readings in light of the spirituality of St Francis.  Francis of Assisi is such a popular figure in today’s world not only for his love of nature, but also for the brotherhood and sisterhood he saw in all of creation, for the way he saw everything in our world coming forth from the love of God, our creator. 
         As Isaiah tells the people of Israel that they have not lived up to God’s hopes and expectations, I wonder how we fare under such an appraisal.  Look at all of the gifts the world has to offer us, at the individual talents and gifts each one of us has been given from God.  We can all ask ourselves if we are good stewards of these riches and talents, if we as individuals and as a society use them according to God’s desires for us, or if we squander these talents and resources in ways that are against God’s will.  We are indeed the body of Christ gathered together as the Church, but in many ways Francis thought of nature and all of creation as God’s body as well.  Francis gloried in the beauty of God’s creation that was all around us.
         I have told you all many, many stories about my missionary travels before I became a priest. I would travel all over the rain forest jungles of Ecuador in a canoe, on foot, even sometimes on horseback.  Almost every weekend for the three years I was a missionary in Ecuador, I would travel about 4 or 5 hours in a canoe to a village called San Francisco – how appropriate that I am telling you about this village on the day we are talking about the spirituality of Francis of Assisi, after whom this village was named.  Even though I would take this journey every weekend, I never tired of traveling through the vast rainforest jungle.  I was in absolute awe of its presence, of the trees and plants and animals that made up such a fascinating ecosystem.  Yet, when I saw how fast the lumber companies were cutting down the many acres of trees there in the jungle without replanting or caring about what they were destroying, it made me wonder if we were really good stewards of God’s creation.
         Many of the poor in Ecuador had very little opportunities for education, or work, or to be able to follow their dreams, so it made me appreciate even more all of the opportunities and resources that we have here in the United States.  Yet, just look at last week’s Mississippi Catholic newspaper, how on the very front page there was an article in there by Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, urging us priests to preach to our congregations about the effects of poverty and job loss in the economic downturn that is affecting our country and most of the rest of the world.  We are still a very rich nation, but there are many in our country who are suffering a great deal and who are having great difficulty paying their bills and providing for their families.   Archbishop Dolan stated that he did not want to make excuses or place blame for these problems, but rather wants us all to take responsibility to help create jobs and overcome poverty, to work together in trying to correct those structural elements in our society that are creating and perpetuating such conditions. 
         And in the midst of this, we as the Catholic Community here in Yazoo City are looking at ways in which we are called to be stewards to our Church, to share our time, our talents, and our treasures in order to support our faith community here in Yazoo City.  I have been here almost a year now as your pastor, and I am so happy to be here with all of you, to share in our community’s rich faith traditions.  I think of how St Mary’s was established 160 years ago, how you and many of your ancestors sacrificed so much over the years and gave so much in order for the Church to prosper here. I think of how St Francis parish was started here in Yazoo City by the SVD priests from Chicago and by the School Sisters of St Francis from Milwaukee, how the school and the parish nurtured so many children and youth and adults throughout the decades.   Our reality is a lot different today than it was when these two parishes were established, but we bring our hopes and our dreams to the Lord for the future of our faith community.  We put our faith and hope in God, but we also need to respond appropriately to the Lord, to meet his hopes and expectations, just as Isaiah tells us in his prophecy today.  We want the Lord to be able to say that we have truly followed him as disciples of Christ, that we have lived up to the values of the Gospel through the midst of the reality of our modern world.
         Francis of Assisi saw all of creation bound together by the Spirit of our Lord, seeing all of creation as a part of the brotherhood and sisterhood we have in Christ, to see the fire and the wind and the sun as our brothers, to see the moon and the water and the earth as our sisters.  May we see the holiness that is present around us, the holiness and the spirit and the beauty of God that is in all of creation.  And let us discern the stewardship and responsibility to which God is calling us as a part of this message.  

9/28/2011 – Homily for Wednesday of the 26th week of ordinary time – Luke 9:57-62

        In today’s Gospel, we hear that as Jesus and his disciples continued on their journey, one of the disciples said to him: Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go. Of course, Jesus knows that his journey will lead him to Jerusalem, to rejection by the scribes and Pharisees and the leaders of the community there, that his journey will ultimately lead him to death on the cross.  I am sure Jesus’ disciples would not dream of such a violent, humiliating end for Jesus, and they would not so willingly say that they would follow him wherever he went if they knew that final destination. 
         I remember when I was sent off to be a missionary in Ecuador, how idealistic and courageous I felt going there.  Yet, if I knew about the struggles I would have, about the malaria and Dengue fever, I don’t know if I would have gone so willingly and with so much joy.  And I ask myself: If I knew of all of the trials and troubles I was going to endure, would I even have signed up to be a missionary?  It is a good thing that we don’t know where our journey of faith is going to lead us, isn’t it?  Jesus said that he has no place to rest at night, even thought the birds and the animals have homes where they can go to rest.  If Jesus accepted his lot in life, if he went where the Father called him, we should expect to do the same if we are truly his followers.  The road to discipleship is never any easy one.  Do we have the courage and the faith to truly follow Christ?  

Monday, September 26, 2011

9/30/2011 – Friday of the 26th week of ordinary time - Homily for the Memorial of St Jerome – Baruch 1:15-22

      Today, we celebrate the memorial of St Jerome, who lived in the late 4th and early 5th century.  Jerome was known as one of the greatest Scripture scholars in the early Church.  In fact, St Augustine, one of our Church’s greatest theologians, once said: “What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known.”  Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, which was the common language of his day. That version of the Bible, the Vulgate, is still held in high esteem today.  As we are getting ready to start using the new English translation of the Roman Missal in a couple of months, perhaps we have new respect for Jerome and his translation expertise.  Jerome is the patron saints of librarians, students, archeologists, and translators.
         In our first reading today, the prophet Baruch tells us how the people in Israel who were in exile in Babylon were contrite for their sins, how they recognize the ways they are their leaders strayed from the road of faith to which God was calling them.  The people recognize the ways that they rejected the word of God in their lives, the ways that they turned away from him even though he brought them to the dessert to the land of milk and honey.
         As God gives us his word to nurture us and guide us in life, as Jerome helped translate God’s word into the language of the people, how he helped us understand what the word of God really means, may we take the word of God into our hearts and our lives.  May we be thankful for the word of God. 

9/29/2011 – Homily for the Feast of the Archangels – Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel - Thursday of the 26th week in ordinary time – Revelation 12:7-12

       Today, we celebrate the feast day of the three archangels – Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael.  We’ve been celebrating the feast day of these three archangels together since 1970, when their feast days were combined together in the revised Roman calendar after the Second Vatican Council. 
         In our first reading today from the book of Revelation, we hear about a war that breaks out in heaven, with Michael the Archangel leading the battle against the Devil, who is depicted as a dragon.  Sometimes in our lives it may seem like we are in the middle of a war that is fought by the angels who are on the side of God as they battle against the demons and the evil spirits who seem intent on getting us.  Michael is seen as the Archangel leading us in battle against those evil forces, so he is the patron saint of police officers, soldiers, paratroopers, and fighter pilots. 
         In a homily he gave, Pope Gregory the Great clarified that the word “angel” denoted a function rather than a nature.  He notes that the holy spirits of heaven have always been spirits, but they are called angels when they serve the function as messengers of God, when they deliver some message for him.  Angels are those who deliver message of lesser importance, while Archangels are those spirits who proclaim messages of supreme importance, such as when the Archangel Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary, to tell her that she was with child, that she would deliver the Son of God.
         I know it is popular in our secular world today to believe in angels as well, to have a belief in the divine messages that they deliver to us.  May we give thanks for the angels and archangels today.  In our preface before starting the Eucharistic prayer in the mass, we proclaim that we join the angels and archangels in their song of praise to the Lord.  May we truly feel the praise that we proclaim to the Lord in connection with these heavenly spirits.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

9/25/2011 – la homilia del Domingo XXVI de tiempo ordinario - Ciclo A – Mateo 21, 28-32; Ezequiel 18, 25-28; Filipenses 2,1-11.

¿Como podemos tener una conversión en nuestro corazon? Las lecturas de hoy hablan sobre este tema.  El profeta Ezequías habla sobre la responsabilidad personal que necesitamos tener en nuestra vida de fe, una responsabilidad de convertir nuestras almas a Dios. Recibimos el don de salvación de nuestro Salvador. Segun Ezequías, nuestras obras y nuestro camino de fe tienen consecuencias, especialmente si no nos arrepentamos de nuestros pecados y nuestras debilidades. 
         En el Evangelio de hoy, tenemos un lección sobre nuestra responsibilidad tambien. No es sufficiente para seguir nuestro Señor y sus mandamientos sólo con nuestras palabras y nuestros pensamientos, pero es necesario que nuestras obras y nuestra acciónes acompañen nuestras palabras. Sin cambios en nuestra vida, no es una verdadera conversión. Por esta razón, segun el Evangelio de San Mateo, los publicanos y las prostitutas precederán a los maestros de la ley en el Reino de Dios. Las prostitutas y los publicanos dijeron “no” en sus palabras y en sus vidas a la voluntad de Dios antes de su conversión a Dios, pero después, en el gran cambio en su vida de fe, ellos están siguiendo nuestro Señor en su plenitud.  Los maestros de la ley dicen que están siguiendo el camino de fe, pero no sienten la necesidad de convertirse y de hacer penitencia por los pecados en su vida. Con sus palabras, ellos dicen “sí” a Dios, pero en sus obras y sus acciónes , ellos dicen “no.” 
         Nuestra segunda lectura de la carta de San Pablo a los filipenses nos da un modelo para seguir.  Cristo es nuestro modelo como un siero en su humildad y en su viaje a la cruz. Cristo es nuestro modelo en su humanidad y su divinidad, y en la manera que El cumplió con sinceridad la voluntad de su Padre. Es verdad, a veces nuestro camino no es fácil.  Pero, poco a poco, con cada paso, podemos avanzar en nuestro camino de fe. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

9/25/2011 – Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A- Philippians 2: 1-11, Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14

        Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians probably sounds very familiar to all of us, since we hear the second part of this reading every year on Palm Sunday.  Many biblical scholars believe that Paul adapted these words from an ancient hymn in the early Church.  The contrasts that Paul points out in this reading are striking: Jesus was divine, but he took on human likeness; those both in heaven and on earth are to bend their knee to honor Jesus; and in the humiliation that Jesus suffered in his death on the cross, he gained for us victory over sin, and through this humiliation, he has earned our exaltation.   
         So often, we human being want all of the answers.  We don’t like the unknown.  We don’t want to leave a question without getting an answers.  We as believers are always called to seek greater understanding in matters of faith, that is true.  Since we have just started our year of religious education in our parishes, we’re excited about all the programs we have going on this year, of all the opportunities we will have to truly grow in our faith. Yet, we must remember that there is always a part of God, a part of our faith, that is going to remain a mystery for us.  In seminary, when I was studying to become a priest, I took a course in my last year of studies that explored the Trinity as well as the divine and human nature of Christ. This class was entitled “The Mystery of God”, which reflects how no matter how much we learn about God, there is always more for us to learn.  This brings to my mind Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican priest who taught at the University of Paris in the 13th century, who is considered one of our Church’s greatest theologians.  Even more than 700 years after he wrote his famous works on theology, his writings are still fundamental to our Catholic understanding of the faith.  Yet, several months before he died, he was meditating in a chapel where he had a mystical vision of God, which prompted him to say that all of his writings and all of the knowledge that he had accumulated over his lifetime were mere straw compared to this vision and first-hand experience of God that he just had.
         Looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we see that Paul starts with words that try to encourage this community of faith, telling them to be of the same mind, the same heart, and the same love of Christ.  Yet, in all of the enthusiasm we can have for our faith, we’re not to live out our faith with arrogance or pride, we are not to lord our faith over others, but we are to live in the same manner that Jesus lived, by being humble, by being a servant, by not seeking glory for himself, but by proclaiming the kingdom of God in all things.
         Paul saw hope, joy, and encouragement in his faith, in the new life he had in Christ, which he tried to pass down to the communities he founded as he asked those in Philippi to imitate him and the way he lived out his faith.  So, in our modern world, as we follow along this same journey of discipleship that Paul walked, where do we see hope, joy, and support in those difficult realities that confront us in life, in the sufferings we have to endure?  One of my heroes and role models in ministry is Father Gustavo Gutierrez, a Dominican priest who started working with the poor in Lima, Peru and who developed an entire theology around the way the poor see God interacting in their lives. Father Gutierrez now teaches theology at the University of Notre Dame.  As a youth, he was confined to a bed for 6 years from the age of 12 to the age of 18 as he suffered from an illness called osteomyelitis, which is a very terrible infection in the bone marrow.  As a result of this illness, Father Gutierrez has had to walk with a cane for most of his life and he has great difficulty getting around.  He said that he had much reason for discouragement during those years he was confined in bed, but he found hope and new life through prayer, reading, and the support he received from family and friends.  Later as a priest, Gutierrez says that he learned a lot about hope from his parishioners in the poor neighborhoods where he served in Peru.  He says that the gift of hope that God gives us is not for those easy, comfortable moments in life, but rather for those difficult, challenging times.  Gutierrez has learned that while the poor most often do not have a rational understanding for their suffering, while they don’t fully understand its causes or recognize its beginning, the hope that the poor are able to embrace helps them endure and believe.  Father Gustavo Gutierrez, this poor, humble priest from South America, exemplifies for me the love, compassion, and humility that we are all called to bring to our faith, that we to use for the compass that will guide us in life. 
Paul was trying to convince the Philippians that they need to imitate him, since Paul himself imitated Christ in his own life.  Yes, as followers of Christ, we are to imitate Christ himself.  And in imitating Christ in our life of discipleship, we are to be just like Christ in the way he was obedient to the divine purpose to which God called him to in his earthly existence.  Jesus was aware that he could have grasped or exploited the equality that he had with God, for Jesus was aware of his identity as the only begotten Son of God the Father.  Yet, instead of seeking special privileges, instead of demanding that all of creation bow down to him, Jesus submitted himself obediently to God, allowing himself to die on the cross according to Father’s will and his divine plan of salvation.  We as followers of Christ should strive toward this same level of obedience to God’s will, even though it’s not always the easiest path and not always the way our secular world calls out to us to live our lives.
         In the midst of submitting ourselves to God, to obeying him, to trying to discern his will, we hear our psalmist cry out: Remember your mercies, O Lord.  Remember me in your compassion.  Make your ways known to me as you teach me and guide me in your truth. God shows us sinners the way to salvation.  We are never to forget that God is the purest form of love and mercy that we can ever find, that the love of God surpasses anything we can imagine in our limited human understanding of things.  But if we bring God’s love and compassion to all we do, then the love of God will be even more widespread here on earth, then we are doing our part of proclaiming God’s kingdom in the here and now.  So, as we are called to imitate Christ, as we are called to submit to God’s holy will and to be obedient, let us do so not in fear and trepidation, but in joy and in hope.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

9/27/2011 –Homily for Tuesday of 26th week of ordinary time – St Vincent de Paul – Psalm 87

Today, we celebrate the feast day of St. Vincent de Paul, a French priest who died in in the middle of 17th century, but whose influence is still felt so strongly in our modern world today. He founded two influential religious orders in his own lifetime – the Vincentians & the Daughters of Charity.  But, his compassion, humility, & generosity in serving the poor also served as the inspiration for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which was founded by Frederic Ozanam & others at the University of Paris in 1835.  The St. Vincent de Paul Society is known throughout the world for the way it serves the poor as an expression of our Catholic spirituality.  When I served as Associate Pastor of St Richard parish in Jackson, I had the privilege of being on the ground floor of forming a conference of the St. Vincent de Paul Society at that parish, where it has become an important presence in serving the poor in the Jackson area, as well as an important part of St Richard parish.  I have seen a lot of parishioners have their lives changed dramatically through their ministry with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, as I've also seen the ways the Society has changed the lives of those who have received help..
            St. Vincent de Paul taught that true charity does not only consist of distributing alms & giving financial assistance, but also in helping the poor feel the fullness of their human dignity and freedom.  Vincent taught that our good works must never be separated from our faith, but rather must flow out of our faith.  Thus, he counseled that to be men & women of action & good works, we must also be men & women of prayer & deep spirituality.  He advises us: “You must have an inner life, everything must tend in that direction. If you lack this, you lack everything.”
         Our psalm today, Psalm 87, tells us that God is with us, telling of people from various nations who know the Lord.  In many ways, people get to know the Lord not only through his Word and his teachings, but also in the ways we see people witnessing to his word in the world.  We have the witness of the saints and of other faithful examples who have brought the Gospel to us and who have been instrumental in shaping our faith.  Yes, St. Vincent de Paul touched so many lives by his humble, steadfast witness of faith. The way he empowered the laity, as well as his work with abandoned children, prisoners, victims of catastrophe & natural disaster, refugees, and the homebound was considered groundbreaking in his day; his witness has had a profound affect on how many charitable organizations & governmental agencies approach such issues today. 
         May we give thanks to the Lord for the way his Word interacts with our lives, for the many ways that God’s word indeed is with us.  

Saturday, September 17, 2011

9/18/2011 – la homilia del Domingo XXV del tiempo ordinario – Mateo 20, 1-6, Isaias 55, 6-9

La grandeza del plan de Dios, la grandeza de su reino, es algo que nosotros como seres humano no podemos comprender en su plenitud.  Los planes de Dios no estan conocidos por nosotros.  Con nuestra participación en su reino, con nuestra vida de fe, la voluntad de Dios puede interrelacionarse en nuestra vida, la gracia de Dios puede entrar a nuestro camino.
Hoy, en el Evangelio, aprendemos sobre el reino de Dios con el parábola que Jesús nos da.  En este parábola, los trabajadores entran la jornada a las horas diferentes del día.  Pero, al fin de la jornada, todos los trabajadores reciben el mismo salario.  ¿Por qué?  Jesucristo, como nuestro Salvador, es el dueño de la siembra y El nos cuenta esta parábola. Para muchas personas, la meta de esta parábola es una “injusticia”, especialmente del punto de vista de los trabajadores que trabajan todo el día, porque todos reciben la misma cantidad del dinero. Pero, si queremos ir abajo de la superficie de esta parábola, si queremos analizar el mensaje que este relato tiene en nuestra vida de fe, debemos darnos cuenta de que el Señor no está pretendiendo darnos una lección sobre la moral del salario del trabajor. Tiene una meta muy diferente. Al contrario, Jesús quiere ayudarnos para entender que El es el dueño de la viña, que el es el dueño de nosotros y de nuestro mundo, que la justicia de Dios puede ser muy diferentes de la justicia de los hombres. Esta parábola nos indica que nuestro Señor puede llamarnos a cualquier hora: puede ser a la primera hora del día, o a la última, o cuando sea.  En el momento que estamos llamados, debemos responder de su llamada inmediatamente en lugar de buscar las excusas. El salario es lo mismo en esta parábola porque Jesús está hablando sobre nuestra salvación eterna, una salvación que es un don gratis que Dios nos da, que es para todo el mundo que quiere trabajar en la viña del Señor.
Podemos recorder que el Profeta Isaías nos dice en la primera lectura de hoy: Busquen al Señor mientras lo pueden encontrar, invóquenlo mientras está cerca.  Que le malvado abandone su camino, y el criminal sus planes.  Que regrese al Señor y El tendrá piedad.”  Si, el Señor está presente en la realidad de nuestra vida.  Pero, muchas veces, no podemos distinguir entre nuestra voluntad y la voluntad de Dios, entre nuestros planes y nuestros antojos y los planes de Dios, entre nuestra manera de pensar y de mirar el mundo y los pensamientos de Dios.  Somos seres humanos y nuestra visión del mundo no es nada en comparación del punto de vista de Dios.  Estamos buscando la realidad de Dios en nuestra vida, es verdad.  Y Dios nos ayuda en esta búsqueda.  

9/23/2011 – homily for Friday of the 25th week of ordinary time – feast day of Padre Pio – Luke 9:18-22

        It is amazing to see the devotion people have for the saints in our Church and in the world as well.  The people recognize something special in the saints.  Perhaps they can’t even put a name to what draws them to a particular saint, but they indeed recognize the holiness and the special qualities that a saint possesses.  Padre Pio, the saint whom we celebrate today, really captured the imagination of the people of his day for the holiness that they saw in him.  Born in 1887 in a small farming community in Italy, he entered a Capuchin Franciscan monastery at the age of 15.  While praying to give thanks to God after his first mass as a priest in 1918, he had a vision of Jesus and received the stigmata on his hands, his feet, and his side.  Very soon, word of him spread, and busloads of people started visiting him in order for him to hear their confessions.  Padre Pio had a special love for the poor and the suffering, so he had a hospital built right near his monastery in Italy.  At his canonization as a saint in 1998 in St Peter’s square by Pope John Paul II, a huge crowd of over 300,000 people gathered for this event, showing how he had always been a saint in the eyes of the people.
         In the Gospel today, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do the crowds say that I am?”  Through his humble example of faith, through his love for the poor and the sick and the suffering, for the way he endured his sufferings and united them to the sufferings of Christ, Padre Pio answered this question, telling the world in his way the place Jesus had in his life.  We also must answer this question for ourselves.  Perhaps the way we live out our life and live out the Gospel values will tell the world our answer much more than any words could ever say.  Padre Pio used to tell the faithful: “Fear not because God is with you.”  God is indeed with us – may we never forget that no matter what we are going through in our journey through life.