Our Lady of Guadalupe/Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe

Hay mucho que decir al respecto la aparición de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Pero esta noche quiero enfocar en sus palabras a Juan Diego cuando él trató de evitarla. Recuerden que el domingo, la Virgen le dijo a Juan Diego que volviera el lunes para recibir un signo para el obispo. Pero el lunes el tío de Juan Diego se enfermó, y él no volvió a Tepeyac. El martes, su tío estaba cerca de la muerte, y Juan salió a llamar el sacerdote de Tlatelolco. Él trató de evitar a María para que ella no lo detuviera. Pero ella le encontró en el camino. Juan ha evitado a ella para dos días. Pero ella no estaba enojada de nada. Más bien, ella le habló con gran ternura.

There is much that could be said about the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But tonight I want to focus on her words to Juan Diego when he tried to avoid her. If you remember what happened, on Sunday Mary told Juan to return on Monday to receive a sign for the bishop. But on Monday Juan Diego’s uncle became sick, and he did not return to Tepeyac. On Tuesday, his uncle was near death, and Juan went to get the priest from Tlatelolco. He tried to avoid Mary so that she would not detain him further. But she met him on the road. Juan had avoided her for two days. But she was not angry at all. Rather, she spoke to him with great tenderness.

Ella dijo, “Escucha, ponlo en tu corazón, hijo mío el menor, que no es nada lo que te espantó, lo que te afligió; que no se perturbe tu rostro, tu corazón; no temas esta enfermedad ni ninguna otra enfermedad ni cosa punzante, aflictiva. ¿No estoy aquí yo, que soy tu madre? ¿No estás bajo mi sombra y resguardo?” Que hermosas palabras. En ese momento, Juan Diego estaba lleno de ansiedad y miedo. Pero María le trae gozo, paz y esperanza. Él no tiene que tener miedo de nada.

She said, “Listen, put it into your heart, my littlest son, that that which scared you, that which afflicted you, is nothing; do not let your countenance or your heart be troubled; do not fear this illness nor any other illness, nor any other sharp or afflicting thing. Am I not here, I who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection?” What beautiful words. En that momento, Juan Diego was full of anxiety and fear. But Mary brought him joy, peace, and hope. He did not have to be afraid of anything.

María siempre trae paz y esperanza. En el Evangelio, ella visitó su pariente Isabel. Apenas llegó el saludo de María a los oídos de Isabel, el niño, Juan el Bautista, saltó de gozo en su seno. Por su presencia, María trajo gozo y esperanza a Isabel. También en la primera lectura, escuchamos la historia de salvación en las grandes imágenes del Apocalipsis. Hay una mujer, envuelta por el sol, con la luna bajo sus pies y con una corona de doce estrellas en la cabeza. Es la misma manera en que María apareció a San Juan Diego. La mujer estaba encinta, y es el enemigo del dragón. Y la mujer, María, dio a luz su hijo varón, y los cielos gritaron, “Ha sonado la hora de la victoria de nuestro Dios, de su dominio y de su reinado, y del poder de su Mesías”. María de nuevo trae gozo y esperanza.

Mary always brings peace and hope. En the Gospel, she visited her relative Elizabeth. As soon as Mary’s greeting reached Elizabeth’s ears, the child in her womb, John the Baptist, leaped for joy. By her presence, Mary brought joy and hope to Elizabeth. Likewise in the first reading, we hear salvation history told in the grand images of the Book of Revelation. There is a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. It is the same way that Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego. The woman is pregnant, and she is the enemy of the dragon. And the woman, Mary, gives birth to her son, and the heavens cry out, “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed.” Mary again brings joy and hope.

¿Y nosotros? ¿Con qué frecuencia nos encontramos abrumados con miedos y preocupaciones? Somos como Juan Diego. Tal vez es una enfermedad, como Juan y su tío, o tal vez es otras cosas. Estamos espantados y afligidos. Pero como San Juan Diego, María viene a nosotros para traer gozo, paz, y esperanza. Ella siempre viene con su hijo, Jesús, y nos recuerda que él es más poderoso que todos nuestros problemas y sufrimientos. No tenemos nada que temer mientras Mary esté cerca. Cualquier cosa que te aflija, cualquier que te espanta, tráela a María. Ponlas a los pies de la Virgen de Guadalupe, y deja que te traiga gozo, esperanza, y paz.

And what about us? How often are we weighed down with fears and worries? We are like Juan Diego. Perhaps it is an illness, like Juan and his uncle, or perhaps it is something else. We are frightened and afflicted. But like St. Juan Diego, Mary comes to us to bring joy, peace, and hope. She always comes with her son, Jesus, and reminds us that He is more powerful than all of our problems and sufferings. We do not have anything to fear when Mary is near. Whatever afflicts you, whatever scares you, bring it to Mary. Put it at the feet of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and allow her to bring you joy, hope, and peace.

I Domingo de Adviento

Yo odio mi reloj despertador. Yo se que, como cristianos, no debemos odiar, pero tengo que admitir que tengo un odio profundo, apasionado e inflexible por ese estúpido reloj. Me gusta dormir. Es tan agradable y dulce. Mi cama es tan cómoda. Pero entonces esa machina inferna empieza de chillar y tengo que salir mi mundo de sueño seguro y alegre para el mundo de la realidad frio, duro, y severo. Y lo que Y lo que me obliga a salir de mi mundo pacífico de sueño, el presagio de estar despierto, es mi despertador. Si tan solo me dejara en paz, podría quedarme para siempre en mi mundo cómodo de sueños.

El Adviento es un despertador. Escuchamos a San Pablo diciendo en la segunda lectura, “Ya es hora de que se despierten del sueño.” En el Evangelio hoy, Jesús nos dice que nos mantengamos despiertos y vigilando. Las lecturas nos recuerdan que Adviento es un despertador litúrgico, nos llamando de despertarnos.

Es tan fácil caminar dormidos por nuestras vidas, especialmente por nuestras vidas espirituales. Nos volvemos complacientes y despreocupados. Como el sueño físico, el sueño espiritual es fácil. No demande nada. No tenemos que hacer nada. Simplemente flotamos a lo largo. Es tan fácil de hacer. Descuidamos nuestra oración. Dejamos de confesarnos. Dejamos de trabajar para evitar el pecado y crecer en virtud. No es como si nos convertimos en personas terribles o negamos la fe, simplemente nos volvemos complacientes. Caemos en un sueño espiritual.

Y así, la temporada de Adviento llega como un despertador y grita “¡Despierta! Deja de descuidar tu vida espiritual. ¡Ser activo! ¡Comienza a tomar en serio tu vida espiritual! ¡No más sonambulismo a través de tu fe!” Ese es el llamado de la temporada de Adviento. Es hora de estar despiertos en nuestra fe. Como un reloj despertador, nos recuerda que hay cosas importantes que hacer, y que no podemos hacerlas si estamos dormidos.

Hay una parte de una alarma que es la más peligrosa. No sé cómo se llama en español; en inglés es el “Snooze button”. El botón que presionas para apagar la alarma durante unos minutos para que puedas volver a dormir. En Internet, sugirió el botón de dormitar y el botón de repetición. No sé cómo se llama. Pero es peligroso. Nuestra alarma suena, y nos dice que es hora de levantarnos, pero pensamos: “Todavía no. Solo unos minutos más”. Y con solo presionar un botón, la alarma se silencia y podemos volver a dormir. Podemos hacer lo mismo en nuestra vida espiritual. Escuchamos la llamada para despertar, pero presionamos el botón de dormitar. Decimos: “No tengo que comenzar todavía. Puedo dormir un poco más. Habrá mucho tiempo más tarde. Permítanme quedarme cómodo y complaciente un poco más de tiempo”. Podemos escuchar la llamada de Adviento para despertar y luego presionar el botón de repetición. Decidimos que estamos demasiado ocupados para centrarnos en nuestra vida espiritual en este momento, o demasiado cómodos con la forma en que las cosas intentan cambiar algo, o el momento no es el correcto. Y entonces Adviento nos pasa y nos quedamos dormidos.

Esta temporada de Adviento, no presione el botón de dormitar. No ignores la llamada para despertar. Porque, como el Adviento también nos recuerda, no sabemos cuánto tiempo tenemos. La mayoría de las personas, cuando piensan en el Adviento, piensan que es la temporada antes de la Navidad. Es la época del año cuando nos preparamos para celebrar el nacimiento de Cristo. Pero la Iglesia en realidad describe el Adviento un poco diferente. El Catecismo dice que, en Adviento, “los fieles renuevan su deseo ardiente de la segunda venida [de Cristo]”. En Adviento, recordamos cómo los antiguos israelitas esperaban la venida del Mesías, y las promesas y profecías de Dios. Esta esperanza se cumplió en el nacimiento de Cristo. Pero nosotros también estamos esperando que Cristo venga, no como un infante en un pesebre sino como el juez celestial. Nos estamos preparando no solo para la celebración de la primera venida de Cristo, sino también para su segunda venida. Profesamos en el Credo cada domingo que creemos que Cristo vendrá nuevamente para juzgar a los vivos y a los muertos. Pero no sabemos cuándo sucederá esto. Jesús nos dice eso explícitamente en el Evangelio de hoy. “Velen, pues, y estén preparados, porque no saben qué día va a venir su Señor. Tengan por cierto que si un padre de familia supiera a qué hora va a venir el ladrón, estaría vigilando y no dejaría que se le metiera por un boquete en su casa. También ustedes estén preparados, porque a la hora que menos lo piensen, vendrá el Hijo del hombre”. Seguimos presionando el botón de dormitar en nuestra vida espiritual, posponiendo las cosas, porque suponemos que habrá tiempo más tarde. Pero no sabemos cuándo no habrá más tiempo para ocuparse de las cosas que deben hacerse. ¿Alguna vez has presionado el botón de dormitar tantas veces en la mañana que luego llegaste tarde al trabajo? Podemos hacer eso en nuestra vida espiritual. Cuanto más nos peguemos espiritualmente, más pospongamos despertarnos y ponernos en movimiento, es más probable que nos encontremos en una situación en la que de repente no hay tiempo suficiente para hacer lo que hay que hacer. No sabemos cuándo volverá el Señor, y eso debería motivarnos a despertarnos del sueño espiritual y agrietarnos. ¿Qué pasa si el Señor regresa y nos encuentra durmiendo?

¿Cómo has estado dormido en tu vida espiritual? ¿Cómo te has sentido cómodo y complaciente en lugar de proactivo? El Señor nos está llamando a despertar. Este Adviento, no presione el botón de dormitar. Ha llegado el momento de levantarse del sueño. Esforcémonos por estar despiertos esta temporada de Adviento, y así estar preparados para encontrarnos con el Señor.

First Sunday of Advent

I hate my alarm clock. I know as Christians that we aren’t supposed to hate, but I must admit that I have a deep-seated, passionate, unyielding hatred for that stupid clock. I like sleep. It is so nice and soothing. And my bed is so warm and comfortable. Then that infernal machine starts squawking at me and I have to leave my pleasant, safe, carefree world of sleep for the cold, hard, uninviting world of reality. And the thing that forces me out of my peaceful world of sleep, the harbinger of being awake, is my alarm clock. If only it would just leave me alone I could stay forever in my warm, comfortable dreamworld.

Advent is like an alarm clock. We hear St. Paul say in our second reading, “You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” It is time to wake up. In the Gospel today, Our Lord tells us to stay awake. Advent is a liturgical alarm clock, calling us to wake up.

It is so easy to sleep walk through our lives, especially our spiritual life. We become complacent and comfortable. Like physical sleep, this spiritual sleep is easy. It doesn’t demand anything of us. We don’t have to put forth any energy. We don’t have to do anything. We just kind of float along. It is so easy to do. We neglect our prayer. We stop going to confession. We stop working at avoiding sin and growing in virtue. It isn’t like we turn into terrible people or deny the faith, we just become complacent. We fall into spiritual sleep.

And so the season of Advent comes along like an alarm clock and yells “Wake up! Stop just coasting through your spiritual life. Wake up! Be active! Start taking your spiritual life seriously! No more sleepwalking through your faith!” That is the call of the Advent season. It is time to be awake in our faith. Like an alarm clock, it reminds us that there are important things to be done, and we can’t do them if we are asleep.

Do you know what the most dangerous part of an alarm clock is? The snooze button. Our alarm goes off, telling us that it is time to get up and get moving, but we think, “Not yet. Just a few more minutes.” And with just a push of a button, the alarm is silenced, and we can drift back to sleep. We can do the same in our spiritual life. We hear the call to wake up, to get to work, but we hit the snooze button. We say, “I don’t have to start on this yet. I can sleep just a little while longer. There will be plenty of time later. Let me just stay comfortable and complacent a little while longer.” We can hear the Advent call to wake up and then hit the snooze button. We decide I’m too busy to focus on my spiritual life right now, or I’m too comfortable with the way things are to try to change anything, or the timing’s not just right. So we tune out the call to awake and we just keep spiritually sleeping. And so Advent passes us by and we just stay asleep.

This Advent season, don’t hit the snooze button. Don’t ignore the call to wake up. Because, as Advent also reminds us, we don’t know how much time we have. Most people, when they think of Advent, they think of it as “pre-Christmas.” It is that time of year when we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth. But the Church actually describes Advent a little differently. The Catechism says that, in Advent, “the faithful renew their ardent desire for [Christ’s] second coming.” In Advent, we remember how the Ancient Israelites waited for the coming of the Messiah, and the promises and prophesies that God gave them concerning the coming Christ. This long-awaited hope was fulfilled in the birth of Christ. But we too are waiting for Christ to come, not as a small infant in a manger but as the heavenly judge. What we are preparing for is not just a celebration of Christ’s first coming but we are preparing for His second coming. We profess in the Creed each Sunday that we believe that Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. But we don’t know when this will happen. Jesus tells us that explicitly in the Gospel today. “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” We keep hitting the snooze in our spiritual life, we keep putting things off, because we assume that there will be time later. But we do not know when there will not be more time to take care of the things that need to be done. Have you ever hit the snooze button so many times in the morning that then you ended up late for work? We can do that in our spiritual life. The more we hit the snooze spiritually, the more we putt off waking up and getting moving, the more likely we are to find ourselves in a situation where suddenly there is not enough time to do what needs to be done. We do not know when the Lord will come back, and that should motivate us to rouse ourselves from spiritual sleep and get cracking. What happens if the Lord comes back and finds us sleeping?

Where have you been asleep in your spiritual life? Where have you been comfortable and complacent rather than proactive? The Lord is calling you to wake up. This Advent, don’t hit the snooze button. The time has come to rise from sleep. Let us strive to be awake this Advent season, and so be ready to meet the Lord.

Christ the King

Close your eyes. Go ahead and do it; I’m not going to ask you to do anything crazy. You all know that I can see you and I can see if your eyes are open, right? Okay, so close your eyes. Picture a king. What does he look like? Does he wear fancy, expensive clothes? Does he have an ornate crown of gold? Does he hold a scepter in his hand? Is he seated on an ornate throne in a grand palace? Is he attended by a court full of advisors, attendants, and subjects? What does a king look like? Hold on to that image of a king and open your eyes. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. But our King probably doesn’t look like that king that you were just picturing. Look at the Crucifix above the altar. There is our king.

Our king doesn’t wear sumptuous clothes; He is stripped. His crown is not made of precious metal and jewels but thorns digging into his flesh. In His hand is not a golden scepter but nails. He does not reign from a throne and a palace but from a wooden Cross on a barren hilltop. He is not surrounded by courtiers and subjects but by mockers and criminals. The inscription above His head that read “This is the King of the Jews” was written in sarcasm and ridicule rather than to proclaim His royalty. I would feel pretty safe in guessing that Christ looks nothing like the king you pictured. But Christ is not just a king; He is the King, the King of the Universe. The Jesus who is hanging on the Cross is the same Jesus that St. Paul describes in our second reading today. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Yet, His Kingship was exercised not as one would expect a king, but from the Cross. As St. Paul said, “Through Him God reconciled all things, making peace through the blood of his cross.” Our King is a crucified king.

Christ is a very different king, and His kingdom is a very different kind of kingdom. On the Cross, Christ has turned the world upside down. He is the King who came not to be served but to serve. He is the ruler who allowed Himself to be killed by His subjects. He is the King who allowed Himself to be mocked and ridiculed by those who should have bowed before Him in worship. Throughout history, kingdoms have been established and spread by war and violence; kingdoms spread by killing. Christ’s kingdom is founded upon the Cross. His kingdom spreads not by killing but by being killed. Christ on the Cross turned the world upside down. Or, more precisely, the world was already turned upside down by sin, and He turns it right-side up.

Listen again to the words of the criminal hanging beside Jesus, the so-called “good thief,” “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It sounds so nice and pious, but really think about what’s going on here. We have three men, sentenced to death, hanging on crosses. They’ve been beaten, mocked, stripped of their clothes, and left to die while soldiers and passersby jeer at them. They have been condemned to die in agony. All three will be dead by the time the sun goes down. In the midst of this, one of those men turns to the other and says, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Imagine seeing a man on the electric chair, and they’re about to flip the switch, and saying, “I want to be in his kingdom.” That’s what the good thief did. To the bystanders, his words must have been laughable. Kingdom? What kingdom? Look at your situation. You’re both up there dying on crosses. You have no power, no authority, nothing, and neither does he. And yet you expect this man hanging next to you to have a kingdom? And you think that you’ll be in it? Get real. You have no hope, and neither does he. That’s how it must have seemed to anyone who heard these words.

And yet, the good thief knew what he was speaking of. We don’t know how he came to such faith, but he believed that, despite all outward appearances, this Jesus who was dying next to Him was truly a king, and that He would have a kingdom greater than any earthly kingdom. And he wanted to be part of that kingdom. That is true faith. Think about what a blessing it must have been to hear Our Lord say those words, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

But there are others besides the good thief. The other criminal reviles Jesus. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” Likewise the rulers and soldiers mock Jesus. “Let him save himself if he is the chosen one. If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” It is easy to look down on the people who mocked Christ on the Cross. But very often we sound like them. When bad things happen in our life, we call out to God, “God, why aren’t you doing anything about this? Save me!” That is the same thing that those who mocked Christ said. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” They are willing to believe that Jesus is the Christ, but they believe that the Christ should fit the model of the world. They believe that the Christ should be a worldly king with worldly power. If Jesus is the Christ, shouldn’t He be exercising His power by saving Himself? Don’t we often feel the same way? If God is really all-powerful, why doesn’t He help me? And the good thief rebukes him, “Have you no fear of God?” Look at where Christ the King is! What’s to fear about the God who lets his King be killed this way? What is there to fear about God? Where even is he?

On the cross—that is where He is. God is love, and all the power of God’s love is shown there upon the Cross. To save us, and to bring us to himself in heaven, the incarnate God will suffer even the torment of death on the cross. When we suffer, when we undergo pain, when we want to cry out to God, “Where are you?” Christ provides the answer. He is on the Cross, exercising His Kingship of complete self-sacrificing love.

Christ is a king, and He wields infinite power, but it is not worldly power. It is not the power to command armies and conquer by force. Christ the King wields the power of love, of love so strong that even death itself cannot conquer it. And if that is our King, then we are called to follow Him. How much we thirst for supremacy. We desire preeminence, we seek worldly power and control. We always want to be on the winning team. We are motivated by envy, greed, and lust for power. Think about our politicians. They say, “Vote for me, because I will be a powerful leader. Vote for me, because then you will be on the winning team.” And in our pride and thirst for power we follow them.

But Christ our King spurned all of this. Look at Christ on the Cross. There is our King, our supreme leader. Jesus doesn’t say, “Follow me, and I will make you rich and powerful.” He says, “Follow me, and you will take up your cross as well.” As we celebrate today the Kingship of Christ, it is also a call to examine our lives. Do I live as though Christ is my king, seeking what He sought and rejecting what He rejected? Have I allowed myself to be more concerned with earthly power than with the humble power of self-sacrificing love? Especially as our country prepares for another election cycle, it is so easy to get sucked into the narrative that says the goal of life is power. The powerful of this world don’t recognize the kingship of Christ. The soldiers and rulers of the people who stood at the Cross of Jesus jeered at Him. They sought earthly power, and to them Christ was weak. But the humble criminal crucified with Christ can see what the strong of the world cannot. He can see the kingship of Christ. When we find ourselves on the Cross, do we act like the other criminal, demanding God show His power and save us, or are we like the good thief, trusting that God’s power is revealed even in the midst of suffering and death? Do I belong to the kingdom of the world or the kingdom of Christ?

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. That’s pretty common sense. If you squeezed an orange and ended up with a glass of apple juice, you’d know that something had gone very wrong with the universe. I think about that in relation to today’s Gospel. Christ is talking about all of this terrible stuff: false messiahs, wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, signs in the sky. It sounds terrifying. And He says that His disciples will not be spared from this, but that they will be arrested, persecuted, and put on trial. Again, it sounds pretty awful. And then He says, “It will lead to your giving testimony.” For the disciples of Jesus, all of this terrible stuff will not be the cause of anxiety and distress, but will be an opportunity for them to give witness to Jesus. When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. When you squeeze a disciple, you get Jesus.

There are times when it is easy to be a disciple. I’ve been on a fair number of retreats in my life. And, when I’m on retreat, I always have an amazing experience of God’s love and my closeness with Him. But, as amazing as those retreats are and the experience of God on retreat, it’s kind of a no-brainer. It is easy to be a disciple on retreat. When you do nothing but pray and talk about God for several days, of course you’re going to feel close to Him. On retreat, all the troubles and distractions of life are taken away. Of course I’m going to focus on God on retreat; there is nothing else to focus on. That doesn’t mean that retreats are bad. They can be times of great growth. But what happens when I get home from retreat? What happens when I get back among the problems and difficulties of life? What happens when life squeezes me?

What makes us a disciple is not how we act when everything is good. What makes us a disciple is how we act when things are bad. The struggles and trials of life are the proving ground for disciples. When we get squeezed, it reveals what is really inside us. When I face difficulties and frustrations, does it lead to me giving testimony to Jesus? If I’m honest, that answer is probably not what I want it to be. When my life is going well, I’m a disciple. But when things get hard, when I get squeezed, what comes out too often is not Jesus but anger, judgement, and spite. And that reveals something about me and my discipleship. It shows that while I might be a disciple on the surface, my discipleship hasn’t sunk all the way down to the depths of who I am.

Everyone loves a hero, whether it is a fictional hero or real life heroes. But heroes aren’t made in easy times. What makes someone a hero is how they respond in the difficult situations. When things are difficult, people’s true character comes out. The same is true for disciples. Discipleship is heroic, because it means loving Jesus even in the difficult situations. But sometimes, my discipleship isn’t heroic. I love Jesus when it is easy. I follow Him when there aren’t any challenges. I can be a really good Catholic at Mass on Sunday, but if someone cuts me off in traffic, or something doesn’t go my way this afternoon, I’m suddenly not such a good Catholic.

And of course, I know that I shouldn’t react that way, but I try to cover it up by blaming the situation or blaming someone else. If the situation was different, I wouldn’t be angry. If only this person wouldn’t act that way, I wouldn’t be frustrated. But the problem is not the situation, nor is it the other people. The problem is that our discipleship isn’t deep enough. It is surface level. My discipleship is on the surface. But when I get squeezed, what is under the surface comes out. A situation that, for a worldly or selfish person, causes pain, will, for a disciple, be a source of blessing. We see that in the first reading. The prophet Malachi is speaking about the day of the Lord. He says that, for the proud and the evildoer, it will leave them burned and scorched, but for those who fear the Lord, it will be the sun of justice with its healing rays. The same situation has two different effects. Those same situations that cause me so much anger and frustration can be sources of blessing. But I have to live differently.

Jesus said that trials and difficulties should lead to us giving witness to Him. When we are squeezed, what should come out of us is Jesus. But for that to happen, our discipleship has to be more than skin deep. Our relationship with God has to be more than just on the surface. It needs to soak all the way to the depths of our hearts and minds. We need to let the Holy Spirit into every part of our soul, every nook and cranny of our lives, to fill us up completely. If we are completely filled with God, then when we are squeezed, what will come out is God.

For a disciple, even the difficulties of life are an opportunity to give witness to Christ. Imagine if all of us lived that way. Imagine if, every time we faced difficulties or painful situations, we simply showed Jesus even more clearly to the world. That’s what the Apostles did. That is what the martyrs of the Church have done through the centuries. There are countless stories of people converting to Christianity after seeing a martyr die for Christ. When they were squeezed, when life was painful and hard, they gave witness to Christ, and it was such a powerful witness that it converted others. It is unlikely that any of us here will face literal martyrdom. But we all face difficulties and challenges and painful situations. And the way that we react in those situations can bear witness to Christ. Or it can show that there is something else in us that isn’t Christ-like.

Where are the parts of you, deep down, that are not yet filled with the Holy Spirit? When life is difficult, what are those parts of you that come out that are not of God? Invite Jesus here in this Eucharist to come into those parts, to soak all the way down into your soul, so that when life squeezes you, it won’t lead to anger or resentment. When you squeeze an orange, you get orange juice. When you squeeze a disciple, you get Jesus. Let us be disciples that are so full of Jesus that, no matter how life squeezes us, it will only lead to our giving testimony to Christ.

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Imagine this: your country has been invaded by a foreign nation. They have deposed your government. They have forbidden practicing your religion. They are arresting people and forcing them to violate their faith at the threat of death. That is the reality of our first reading. A Greek emperor has invaded Israel and is trying to force the Israelites to abandon Judaism and practice Greek paganism. Greek idols were erected in the Temple in Jerusalem, and animals considered unclean by Jewish law were sacrificed there. In our first reading, a mother and her seven sons have been arrested for practicing their Jewish faith and are being tortured to force them to eat pork, a violation of Jewish kosher laws. They are told that if they do not eat it, they will be killed. Every one of them steadfastly refuses to violate the law. And, when given a reason for their fidelity, they all give the same answer – the resurrection of the dead. The first says, “You are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever.” Another answers “It was from Heaven that I received [my body]; […] from him I hope to receive [it] again.” And another brother answers, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.”

For the mother and her seven sons, they are willing to accept death because they believe in the future resurrection of the dead. It is worth noting that the belief in the resurrection of the dead is not unique to Christians; as our first reading shows, it existed in some branches of Judaism even prior to Christ. But not all Jews believed in the resurrection, as we see in the Gospel. The Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection, pose this bizarre scenario about a woman having been married seven times to try to trick Jesus. But Our Lord does not fall for their trap, instead showing that they are thinking in earthly terms and reaffirming the reality of the resurrection. This conversation takes place just days before Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection. By His Resurrection, He will reveal the definitive truth of our resurrection from the dead – that our resurrection is a share in the resurrection of Christ.

In these two readings, we see a definitive truth of our faith: the Resurrection changes everything. We profess every Sunday that we look forward to the resurrection of the dead. The resurrection is a fundamental truth of our faith. God created us for life. As Christ says in the Gospel, our God is a God of the living, not of the dead. He is the God of life. And so this God who is the source of life and who created us for life will not let death have the final word. The Lord has promised that life will be victorious, that He will be victorious. That promise was verified in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. We too will share in that victory and in the resurrection.

If we believe that, if we believe that we shall share in the Resurrection of Jesus, it should change everything. It should change how we live. We see that illustrated dramatically in the mother and her seven sons. They were willing to die for their faith, because they knew that death was not the end. They were not living for this world but for eternal life. They were not motivated by the pleasures of this world nor frightened by its sufferings. Likewise, if we believe in the Resurrection, it should change the way we live. Of what good are the passing things of this world when compared to eternal life? What value can this life’s allurements have to us when we have our sights set on the world to come? Why should we fear the temporary pains and sufferings of this life when we are looking for eternal life? When we remember that we are called to eternal life, when we actually live looking forward to the resurrection of the dead, we no longer have to chase after the things of this world. When we live in the light of the resurrection, we live differently. The things that motivate us, the things that scare us, are different.

Unfortunately, I know that I can all too often become focused on the things of this world. The passing things of this life distract me and I take my view of eternal life. It is so easy to live for this world and its fleeting attractions. Do you ever feel that way? Maybe that is where you are right now. If you feel caught up in the things of this world and feel like you have lost focus on eternal life, I invite you in your heart to turn back to Christ. Here in the tabernacle is Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, the conqueror of sin and death. Receive anew His promise to grant you a share in His Resurrection. Let the risen Christ lift your eyes from the passing shadows of this world to the bright light of eternal life. Christ wants to reorient our lives, so that we are walking not towards the things of this passing life but towards eternal life with Him in the resurrection.

The resurrection is also the antidote to the death and despair we see in our world. Every day we are confronted with another tragic story of death. And if we live only for this world, so full of death, it is easy to give in to despair. In fact, when we look out in the world, that is exactly what we see – people weighed down by despair and hopelessness. They have seen the reality of death, and it leads them to conclude that nothing in this world matters. Other people, having glimpsed the reality of death, try to avoid confronting death by throwing themselves into the things of this world. They use worldly pleasures to construct a wall around themselves in a futile attempt to keep death at bay. This, too, is a form of despair. It is like someone who is drowning clutching at twigs trying to stay afloat.

In the face of the hopelessness that surrounds us, we have the answer. The resurrection is the reminder that death is not the end. Death and sin have been defeated. While they may at times seem to have the upper hand, they will not be victorious. Of course, sometimes that is easier to say than to believe. Some of you right now may find yourselves in that situation where you feel overwhelmed by the world, by sin and by death. We can all get there. One of the problems in the Church is that everyone puts on a happy face and acts like everything is okay. And so when we struggle, and we all struggle, we feel alone. When we are tempted to despair, when we have trouble believing in the power of the resurrection, we can feel like we are the only ones who feel that way.

I have been there. I know what it is like to feel overwhelmed by all the death and sin in the world. I know what it is like to look out on the world, or to look in at myself, and be tempted to hopelessness. But I also know what it is like to experience the power of the resurrection in my life. I know the power of Christ to bring life in the midst of death, to bring hope in the midst of despair. The promise of the Resurrection gives us strength to look out on all the sin and death in the world and still be people of hope, because we know that sin and death do not have the last word. If right now you are feeling weighed down by all the sin and death in the world, turn to Jesus and ask Him to strengthen your hope in the resurrection. St. Paul says in our second reading that God has “given us everlasting encouragement.” That encouragement is the truth of the resurrection.

Lord, we renew our faith in the resurrection of the dead. Fix our eyes on eternal life. Do not let us be distracted by the pleasures of this world, nor overwhelmed by its evils, but may we always live for you. May the resurrection change the way we live. Pull us out of the grave and into the light of your life.

XXXI Domingo Ordinario

Tengo cinco pies y seis pulgadas de alto, y soy la persona más alta de mi familia. Así que siempre me consideré de estatura media. Pero, a medida que crecía, la gente se aseguraba de informarme que, de hecho, soy bajo. Lo busqué en línea, y estoy tres pulgadas por debajo de la altura promedio de los hombres en los Estados Unidos. Así que supongo que estoy un poco bajito. Y tal vez por eso me gusta la historia de Zaqueo. Todo el episodio depende del hecho de que Zaqueo es corto y de que para ver a Jesús tuvo que subirse a un árbol. Es fácil escuchar la historia de Zaqueo y pensar: “Él está dispuesto a hacer todo lo posible para ver a Jesús”. Pero esta historia es mucho menos sobre las cosas que Zaqueo hará para ver a Jesús, y mucho más sobre lo que Jesús es dispuesto a hacer para encontrar a Zaqueo.

El Evangelio dice que Jesús tenía la intención de pasar por Jericó. Implica que no estaba planeando detenerse. ¿Por qué no? ¿Por qué Jesús tiene tanta prisa? Se dirige a Jerusalén, donde sabe que su pasión sucederá. De hecho, el final de este capítulo es el Domingo de Ramos y la entrada triunfal de Cristo en Jerusalén. Nuestro Señor ha puesto su mira en Jerusalén y cumpliendo su misión, y aparentemente no tiene intención de detenerse. Eso es hasta que ve a Zaqueo. Cuando el Señor ve a Zaqueo, le dice: “Zaqueo, bájate pronto, porque hoy tengo que hospedarme en tu casa”. El Evangelio nos acaba de decir que Jesús simplemente estaba pasando por Jericó en su camino para cumplir su misión en Jerusalén. Pero ahora insiste en quedarse con Zaqueo. Necesitamos tomarnos un momento para apreciar cuán dramático es esto. Jesús pospone ir a Jerusalén por su pasión para pasar tiempo con Zaqueo. Todo el curso de la historia de la salvación cambia todo porque un hombre trepó a un árbol. Anote un punto para nosotros, chicos bajos.

Note también que Zaqueo simplemente quería ver a Jesús. No dice que él quería que Jesús se quedara con él, o incluso que quería hablar con Jesús. Zaqueo, como jefe de publicanos, no habría sido apreciado en la comunidad, especialmente por las personas religiosas. Probablemente ni siquiera podría haber imaginado que Jesús podría querer quedarse con él. Su deseo era solo ver a Jesús. Eso era lo máximo que se habría atrevido a esperar. Pero Nuestro Señor no se contenta con solo darle a Zaqueo lo poco que desea. Quiere darle mucho más a Zaqueo.

El encuentro entre Zaqueo y Jesús nos revela la extravagancia del amor de Dios por nosotros. Muestra cuánto hará Dios para encontrarnos. Jesús literalmente dejó de lado su misión para quedarse con Zaqueo. Fue más allá de lo que Zaqueo podría haber deseado o incluso imaginado.

Pero esto no es solo cierto para Zaqueo. El amor de Dios por cada uno de nosotros es tan lujoso como su amor por Zaqueo. Jesús deseaba tan profundamente una relación con Zaqueo que estaba dispuesto a retrasar la salvación de la humanidad solo por tener un encuentro con él. Si eso es lo que Dios hará para tener una relación con Zaqueo, piense en lo que Él hará para tener una relación con cada uno de nosotros. A veces podemos actuar como si tuviéramos que trabajar muy duro para convencer a Dios de que tenga una relación con nosotros. Pero Dios desea una relación con cada uno de nosotros no menos que con Zaqueo. No tenemos que convencer a Dios de tener una relación con nosotros. No tenemos que trabajar por ello. Él lo quiere. Él hará todo lo posible para tener una relación con nosotros. Solo tenemos que responder.

A veces, no buscamos una relación personal con Dios porque creemos que está más allá de nosotros. Nuestra primera lectura nos dice que, para Dios, “el mundo entero es como un grano de arena en la balanza, como gota de rocío mañanero, que cae sobre la tierra”, y pensamos, “Claro, un Dios que es tan grande, tan magnífico, no podría querer una relación conmigo.” Creemos que tener una relación personal con Cristo es solo para las personas realmente santas. Nos conformamos con algo menos, tal como Zaqueo estaba dispuesto a conformarse con solo ver a Jesús, sin imaginar que Jesús podría desear más. Con nosotros también, Cristo no está dispuesto a conformarse con lo poco que deseamos. Jesús quiere una relación personal con cada uno de nosotros. Su deseo es mucho más grande que el nuestro. Incluso si no creemos que podamos tener una relación con Él, Él quiere una relación con nosotros, y nos buscará continuamente para que podamos encontrarlo. Él quiere superar todas nuestras esperanzas o deseos para permanecer con nosotros.

Algunas personas piensan que, para tener una relación con Dios, primero tienen que limpiarse. Piensan: “Me haré una buena persona, y luego podré tener una relación con Dios”. Pero eso es al revés. Es como decir: “Después de que me recupere, iré al médico”. No nos volvemos saludables para ir al médico, vamos al médico para que nos pueda hacer saludables. No nos convertimos en personas santas para encontrarnos con Jesús, nos encontramos con Jesús para que Él nos haga santos. Lo vemos en Zaqueo. Solo después de su encuentro con Jesús, Zaqueo decide reformar su vida, no al revés. Mientras Zaqueo está en el árbol, no tenemos indicios de que él tuviera la intención de reformar su vida. Solo después de encontrarse con Jesús, su vida cambia. Del mismo modo, no tenemos que cambiar para encontrarnos con Jesús. Más bien, es cuando nos encontramos con Jesús, cuando nos encontramos con su amor extravagante y su deseo de tener una relación con nosotros, entonces nuestras vidas cambiarán.

Dios quiere una relación contigo. Él quiere encontrarte de una manera poderosa que te cambie la vida, tal como se encontró con Zaqueo. Y, como Zaqueo, todo lo que tenemos que hacer es estar abiertos a recibirlo. Él vendrá a nosotros, superará todos nuestros deseos, cambiará nuestras vidas, si simplemente abrimos nuestros corazones para recibirlo. Justo aquí, en esta Eucaristía, abre tu corazón para encontrarte con Cristo. Deja que venga a ti con su extravagante amor. Encuentra a Jesús aquí y, como Zaqueo, Él cambiará tu vida.

Bendito Señor, tal como lo hiciste con Zaqueo, nos buscas para encontrarnos, permanecer con nosotros y tener una relación con nosotros. Tu amor, oh Señor, excede todo lo que podríamos esperar o imaginar. Ven a nosotros ahora, Jesús, y déjanos encontrar tu amor, para que, como Zaqueo, puedas cambiar nuestros corazones.