V Domingo de Pascua

Mucho ha cambiado desde la época de los apóstoles. El mundo es muy diferente. Y sin embargo, algunas cosas también son muy parecidas. En nuestra primera lectura, vemos a la comunidad cristiana en sus comienzos. Podrías llamarla la primera parroquia. Y, en muchos sentidos, se parece a nuestra parroquia. Se dedicaron a predicar el Evangelio y las obras de caridad. Hacemos lo mismo Y, como vemos en nuestra primera lectura, a veces esos primeros cristianos no se llevaban bien. Había camarillas, y esto causó celos y acusaciones de favoritismo. Algunas personas sintieron que los Apóstoles no estaban haciendo bien su trabajo al dirigir esta primera parroquia y comenzaron a quejarse.

Y, al igual que en esa primera parroquia, a veces las cosas hoy en la Iglesia y en nuestra parroquia no funcionan tan bien como deberían. Yo sé que con una homilía como esta puede haber una tendencia a tratar de averiguar de quién está hablando el padre, como si toda la homilía fuera una referencia velada a una persona o evento en particular. Permítanme decir desde el principio que no lo es. Esta homilía no se trata de ningún evento en particular que ocurra aquí en San Carlos Borromeo, sino de la realidad normal de que a veces, en las parroquias y en la Iglesia, suceden cosas que molestan a algunas personas. Todos somos pecadores. Cometemos errores, hacemos las cosas mal y, a veces, no nos comportamos como seguidores de Cristo. Vemos eso en la primera lectura. En la primera parroquia, hubo favoritismo, y algunas personas estaban molestas por eso. Cuando las personas en la Iglesia no actúan como deberían hacerlo los seguidores de Cristo, esto naturalmente causa frustración y enojo.

La pregunta es, ¿qué hacemos cuando surgen estos desacuerdos y frustraciones en la Iglesia? La tentación es simplemente alejarse. Alguien en la Iglesia hace algo que nos lastima o nos enoja, así que nos alejamos de la Iglesia. Es posible que conocemos personas que hicieron eso.  Yo he escuchado muchas historias de personas que dejaron la Iglesia porque alguien en algún lugar hizo algo que las molestó. A veces tienen quejas muy legítimas, pero alejarse no es la solución. La Iglesia es un hospital para pecadores. Esa es una buena noticia, porque significa que hay un lugar para mí aquí, porque soy un pecador. Pero también es un desafío, porque significa que las otras personas en la Iglesia, incluso las personas en posiciones de autoridad, también son pecadores. Si quiero una Iglesia donde todos son perfectos, donde nadie peca o hace algo que me lastima, entonces estoy en problemas, porque esa Iglesia no existe. Si voy a ser parte de la Iglesia, tengo que aceptar que soy parte de un cuerpo de pecadores, y los pecadores pecan.

Los judíos griegos en la primera lectura nos dan el ejemplo de qué hacer cuando hay un problema en la Iglesia. Tienen una queja legítima, por lo que llevan esa queja a los Apóstoles y trabajan para solucionar el problema. Ellos no se fueron. No se quejaron entre ellos. No chismorrearon sobre cómo los apóstoles eran malos líderes. Los judíos griegos trabajaron para resolver el problema. Y lo mismo es necesario cuando nosotros encontramos problemas en la Iglesia. Cuando sucede algo que nos hace pensar: “Esto está mal. Esta no es la forma en que debe actuar el Cuerpo de Cristo”, entonces es nuestro llamado como miembros de ese Cuerpo trabajar para solucionar el problema. Y no curamos el Cuerpo de Cristo por amputación, cortándonos a nosotros mismos ni a otras personas.

Por supuesto, solucionar el problema a menudo requiere estar dispuesto a hablar con la persona responsable. Tantas heridas crecen y se agravan porque la gente se niega a hablar sobre ellas. Eso es cierto en la vida en general y en la Iglesia. He tenido momentos como sacerdote donde dañó a alguien algo yo que hice, pero no averigüé hasta meses después, porque nadie me lo dijo. También, a veces los feligreses vendrán a mí para quejarse de algo que otro feligrés ha hecho, pero no se hablarán entre ellos para abordarlo. Al igual que las personas en la primera parroquia, cuando alguien hace algo mal en la Iglesia, ya sea alguien a cargo o un compañero feligrés, debemos estar dispuestos a hablar al respecto con amor y humildad.

A veces, es la otra persona la que necesita crecimiento y conversión, pero a veces, yo los necesito. El problema no siempre es la otra persona, sino mi propio ego herido o mi deseo de ser el líder. Cuando hablamos de abordar los problemas en la Iglesia, no solo estamos hablando de arreglar algo afuera de mí, sino también de mi propia conversión continua. Como dice San Pedro en nuestra segunda lectura, todos somos piedras vivas construidas en el templo espiritual de la Iglesia. Pero para que todas esas piedras encajen correctamente, deben ser moldeadas. Las partes ásperas deben alisarse, los bordes dentados deben cortarse. Si quiero ayudar a solucionar los problemas que surgen en la Iglesia, entonces debo comenzar dejando que Dios continúe alisando mis asperezas para que pueda ser más efectivamente una piedra espiritual en este gran edificio.

Y a veces, surgen problemas en la Iglesia solo porque las personas son diferentes. Las personalidades chocan. Las personas tienen opiniones diferentes sobre la manera de hacer las cosas. Y nadie es correcto o incorrecto; Son simplemente diferentes. Pero si no tenemos cuidado, esas diferencias pueden generar conflictos. Los conflictos masivos comenzaron en las parroquias porque una persona quería flores rojas y otra quería flores blancas. Estoy exagerando, pero solo un poco. Nuestro Señor dice en el Evangelio de hoy que en la casa de su Padre, hay muchas habitaciones. Hay suficiente espacio para todos nosotros en la Iglesia. Pero eso significa que también hay espacio para personas que son diferentes a mí.

Esto puede ser difícil porque nos apasiona servir a Dios; Nos apasiona avanzar en la misión de la Iglesia. Esa pasión es algo bueno. Deberíamos ser apasionados de compartir el Evangelio y construir el Reino de Dios. Pero cuando muchas personas apasionadas intentan trabajar juntas, es probable que haya desacuerdos. Me apasiona avanzar en la misión de la Iglesia, y creo que mis ideas sobre cómo hacerlo son las mejores. Pero otras personas sienten lo mismo acerca de sus ideas. Y, entonces, tenemos que estar dispuestos a comprometernos y aceptar con humildad que las cosas no siempre sucederán como yo quiero.

Desde los primeros días de la Iglesia hasta hoy, han surgido desacuerdos, argumentos y problemas en la Iglesia. Suceden por una variedad de razones. Pueden ser una fuente de dolor y división. O pueden ser una fuente de crecimiento y fortaleza. El desacuerdo del que escuchamos en la primera lectura se convirtió en una fuente de crecimiento en la Iglesia, que condujo a la creación de los primeros diáconos. Todos los diáconos en la historia de la Iglesia y todo su ministerio fueron posibles porque cuando algo salió mal en esa primera parroquia, aquellos que fueron heridos por ella estaban dispuestos a trabajar para encontrar una solución. Si los judíos griegos se hubieran ido en su ira, no habría habido reconciliación, no habría habido crecimiento y no habría diáconos. Pero no se fueron. En medio de su agravio, recordaron que todos estaban trabajando hacia el mismo objetivo, y así pudieron encontrar una solución. Y la Iglesia creció como resultado. Cuando encontramos problemas en la Iglesia, es importante recordar que todos estamos en el mismo equipo. Todos somos miembros pecadores del Cuerpo de Cristo, tratando de servir al Señor pero no siempre lo hacemos a la perfección. Cuando nos encontramos con problemas y desacuerdos en la Iglesia, siempre podemos permitir que Dios lo use como un medio de crecimiento y no de división.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

It is amazing to think how much has changed since the time of the Apostles. The world is a very different place. And yet, in spite of so much change, some things are also very much the same. In our first reading, we see the Christian community at its beginnings. You could call it the first parish. And despite how different the times were, in many ways, it looks like our parish. They dedicated themselves to preaching the Gospel and charitable works. We do the same thing. And, as we see highlighted in our first reading, sometimes those first Christians didn’t get along. There were cliques, and this led to jealousy and accusations of favoritism. Some people felt that the Apostles weren’t doing their job right leading this first parish and started complaining.

And, just like in that first parish, sometimes things today in the Church and in our parish don’t run as smoothly as they should. Now, I know that with a homily like this there can be a tendency to try to figure out who father is talking about, as if the whole homily is a veiled reference to a particular person or event. So let me say at the outset that it isn’t. This isn’t about any particular event happening here at St. Charles Borromeo, but just the normal reality that sometimes, in parishes, things happen that make people upset. We are all sinners. We say as much at the start of every Mass. We make mistakes, we do things wrong, and sometimes we do not behave the way we should as followers of Christ. We see some of that in the first reading. In that first parish, there was favoritism going on. When people in the Church don’t act as followers of Christ should, this can naturally cause frustration and anger.

The question is, what do we do when these disagreements and frustrations in the Church arise? The temptation is to just walk away. Someone in the Church does something that hurts us or makes us angry, so we just give up on the Church. We may know people who did that. I have heard plenty of stories of people who left the Church because someone somewhere did something that upset them. Sometimes they have very legitimate grievances, but walking away isn’t the solution. The Church is a hospital for sinners. That is good news, because it means that there is a place for me here, even though I am a sinner. But it is also a challenge, because it means sometimes these other people in the Church, even people in positions of authority, are also sinners. If I want a Church where everyone is perfect, where nobody sins or does anything that hurts me, then I’m in trouble, because that Church doesn’t exist. If I am going to be part of the Church, then I have to accept that I am part of a body of sinners, and sinners sin.

The Hellenists in the first reading give us the example of what to do when there is a problem in the Church. They have a legitimate complaint, so they bring that complaint to the Apostles, and they work to fix the problem. They didn’t leave. They didn’t just sit there and grumble to themselves. They didn’t gossip about how the Apostles were playing favorites. They worked to solve the problem. And the same thing is necessary when we encounter problems in the Church. When something happens that causes us to think, “This is wrong. This is not the way that the Body of Christ is supposed to act,” then it is our call as members of that Body to work at fixing the problem. And we don’t fix the Body of Christ by amputation, by cutting off ourselves or other people.

Of course, fixing the problem often means that I need to be willing to talk to the person responsible. So many hurts grow and fester because people refuse to sit down and talk about it. That is true in life in general and in the Church. I’ve had times as a priest where something I said hurt someone, but I don’t find out about it until months later. Parishioners will come to me to complain about something another parishioner has done, but they won’t talk to each other to address it. Like the people in the first parish, when someone does something wrong in the Church, whether someone in charge or a fellow parishioner, we need to willing to talk about it with love and humility.

Sometimes, it is the other person who needs growth and conversion, but sometimes it is me. The problem is not always what the other person did, but my own wounded ego or desire to be the one in charge. When we speak of addressing the problems in the Church, we are not just talking about fixing something out there, but also about my own continual conversion of heart. As St. Peter says in our second reading, we are all living stones being built into the spiritual house of the Church. But in order for all those stones to fit together properly, they have to be shaped. Rough parts have to be smoothed out, jagged edges have to be chipped away. If I want to help fix the problems that arise in the Church, then I need to start by letting God continue to chip away at my rough edges so that I can more effectively be a spiritual stone in this great building.

And sometimes, problems arise in the Church just because people are different. Personalities clash. People have different opinions about the best way to do things. And no one is necessarily right or wrong; they are just different. But if we aren’t careful, those differences can lead to conflicts. Massive conflicts have started in parishes because one person wanted red flowers and someone else wanted white flowers. I am exaggerating, but only a little. Our Lord says in the Gospel today that in His Father’s house, there are many dwelling places. There is enough room for all of us in the Church. But that means that there is also room for people who are different from me.

This can be tough because we are passionate about serving God; we are passionate about advancing the mission of the Church. That passion is a good thing. We should be passionate about spreading the Gospel and building up the Kingdom of God. But whenever a lot of passionate people try to work together, there’s bound to be disagreements. I am passionate about advancing the mission of the Church, and I think that my ideas for how to do so are the best. But other people feel the same way about their ideas. And so we have to be willing to compromise and to accept in humility that things won’t always go the way I think they should.

From the very earliest days of the Church until today, disagreements, arguments, and problems have arisen in the Church. They happen for a variety of reasons. They can be a source of hurt and division. Or they can be a source of growth and strength. The disagreement that we heard about in the first reading became a source of growth in the Church, leading to the creation of the first deacons. Every deacon in the history of the Church and all of their ministry was possible because when something went wrong in that first parish, those who were hurt by it were willing to work to find a solution. If the Hellenists had walked away in their hurt, there would never have been reconciliation, there would never have been growth, and there would be no deacons. But they didn’t leave. In the midst of their grievance, they remembered that they were all working towards the same goal, and so they were able to find a solution. And the Church grew as a result. When we encounter problems in the Church, it is important to remember that we are all on the same team. We are all sinful members of the Body of Christ, trying to serve the Lord but not always doing it perfectly. When we encounter problems and disagreements in the Church, may we always allow God to use it as a means of growth and not division.

Fourth Sunday of Easter

When I first arrived here at St. Charles Borromeo, a lot of people remarked that I was very young to be a pastor. Which is in some sense true. I had just turned 31 when I was assigned here. Historically, in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, priests were often in their 40’s or even 50’s before they were assigned as a pastor. So, compared to many priests, being made a pastor at 31 years old is very young.

So why was I made pastor so young? Simple: because there was no one else. The Archbishop did not skip over a whole list of older priests in assigning me here. As I often tell people, I was simply the next warm body in line. I was made administrator of Borromeo at 31 years old because there aren’t enough priests to allow men to wait until they are in their 40’s or 50’s to be made pastor.

The number of priests is decreasing. To put it in perspective, when I was ordained, there were five of us ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Some people may be thinking, “Five priests ordained in one year? That sounds like a great number!” But in my first year as a priest, 13 priests of the Archdiocese died. Five priests ordained, thirteen priests die. That’s not replacement level. That’s not even close to replacement level. And that has happened year after year for decades now. And we are seeing the effects of it. Two local parishes, St Robert Bellarmine and St. Francis in Portage des Sioux, don’t have a pastor at all because there aren’t enough priests.

In many religious communities, the problem is even worse. Once-thriving orders of religious sisters, orders that were fundamental in the foundation of the church here in St. Louis, are now on the verge of collapse because of a lack of new vocations. I’ve had people say to me, “Father, it would be great to have nuns teaching in the school like in the past.” And it would be great. But there simply aren’t enough nuns to do it.

So why are there so few priests and religious brothers and sisters? Did the Holy Spirit stop calling people to those vocations? Did God get sidetracked and forget that His Church needs priests and religious? Of course not. But vocations don’t just fall out of the sky. I wasn’t born knowing that I was going to be a priest. It is appropriate that the Church uses the word “vocation” to speak of someone’s state of life. “Vocation” comes from the Latin “vocare,” which means “to call.” But a call has to be heard and responded to. If someone calls me on my cell phone, but it’s on silent, it doesn’t matter how many times they call. Or if I hear my phone ringing but don’t answer it, it still doesn’t matter that I can hear it. In the Gospel today, Jesus says, “The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice, as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice.” The sheep hear the shepherd’s voice and respond.

God is still calling people to vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, but people need to be able to hear his voice and respond. Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. But we can’t just pray for vocations. We have to cultivate them. God is calling people. There are vocations out there. But we have to teach our young people how to hear the Good Shepherd’s call and respond.

First, we have to teach our young people how to hear God’s voice. No one can respond to God’s call if they don’t hear him calling. We have to teach people, especially young people, how to hear God’s voice if we want more vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Often, when we teach the faith to our young people, we simply teach it as a bunch of stories to know and rules to follow. But we don’t teach them how to hear God’s voice. To hear God’s voice, we need two things: Scripture and prayer. The clearest way to hear God’s call is in His Word, the Bible. In my own discernment, reading God’s Word was important in finding my vocation. I was blessed in high school to have people teach me how to hear God’s voice in His Word. The other thing that we need to hear God’s voice is prayer. Not just reciting words, but personal, intimate prayer in which we talk to God and He speaks to us. Again, I was fortunate in high school to have people who taught me how to pray in a way where I could hear God. If we want more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, we have to teach our young people how to hear God’s voice. But we cannot teach what we do not know. We cannot teach our young people how to hear God’s voice if we don’t know how to hear God’s voice. If you want more vocations to the priesthood and religious life, learn how to hear God’s voice in your own life, through Scripture and prayer.

But hearing God’s call is only half the story. Once people hear God’s call, they have to respond. If the sheep hear the shepherd’s voice but do not follow, it doesn’t benefit them. Responding to God’s call to the priesthood or religious life is difficult. It requires sacrifice. But that is true not just of vocations to the priesthood or religious life. The vocation to marriage also requires sacrifice. In the life of any disciple of Christ, sacrifice is necessary. As St. Peter reminds us in our second reading, Christ Himself embraced suffering and sacrifice. If we are going to be His disciple, we have to accept suffering and sacrifice as well. We don’t like sacrifice. We live in a society that tells us we should never have to suffer. It tells us that the goal in life is to have whatever we want, whenever we want it. And often, we pass that on to our young people. We teach them that the goal in life is to live the American dream – to have a big house and a nice car and lots of money. And if they think that the goal in life is to have whatever they want, it is going to be very hard for them to respond to God’s call to sacrifice. But, again, we cannot teach what we do not know. For all of us, whatever our vocation in life, following God’s call requires sacrifice and suffering. If we want our young people to embrace the sacrifice of following God’s call, we have to model it for them by our behavior.

All of this applies to more than just the priesthood and religious life as well. Marriage is also a vocation, a call from God that should be heard and responded too. Unfortunately, I think that most people do not enter into their marriage as a call from God that they have heard and responded to. When I ask an engaged couple, “Why do you want to get married,” they almost never respond, “Because we have discerned that this is God’s call in our life and we are responding to His call.” As much as we talk about the shortage of priests and religious, there is another shortage that we do not speak about as often, and that is the shortage of good, holy marriages lived as a response to hearing the call of the Good Shepherd.

Do you want more vocations to the priesthood and religious life? Do you want more good, holy marriages? Then absolutely we should pray for them. But we also need to work to cultivate them. Whether you are a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher or coach or friend, the best thing you can do to encourage vocations is to teach the young people in your life how to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and respond. And the only way to teach that is to first live it. For all of us, we have to learn how to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice. We have to learn how to hear God speaking to us in Scripture and in prayer. And we have to learn how to respond, even when that requires sacrifice. May we all grow as disciples who hear the Shepherd’s voice and respond with our whole hearts, so that we can encourage many good and holy vocations.

Second Sunday of Easter

Like many of us, over the past few weeks I have used the phrase, “When things go back to normal.” “I can do this or that when things go back to normal.” But if things go back to normal, it will mean that we missed the point. As an Easter people, we shouldn’t want things to go back to normal. Because God doesn’t ever go back. Easter is not the celebration of things going back to the way that they were. God didn’t undo Good Friday. Notice that, when Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Gospel today, He still had the nail marks in his hands and the wound in His side. When Jesus rose on Easter, things weren’t put back to the way they were before. Nor was Good Friday undone. Good Friday still happened, and the scars of it still remained. But now, those wounds were glorified. After Easter, Jesus and the Apostles didn’t go back to the way things were before. Jesus ascended to heaven, and the Apostles, who had never left Israel, went to the ends of the earth. Easter is not about things going back to normal. Rather, Easter is God taking something awful, the Cross, and, by means of it, making something even better than what was before.

What we are living through right now is certainly a cross. It is a sort of Good Friday experience. And we know that God can bring Easter out of Good Friday – the Resurrection from the Cross. But, again, that isn’t about going back to normal. When everything we are going through is said and done, we shouldn’t want things to go back to normal. We should want the world, our society, and ourselves to be changed, to be resurrected.

That sounds good, but what does it mean? What would it mean for this experience for the coronavirus to be a Cross that leads to a Resurrection? Let me offer some real specific examples of what I’m talking about. Why have we all been staying inside? It’s not been just about keeping ourselves healthy, but trying to keep others healthy as well. Our decisions have been motivated by wanting to take care of others, and we have altered our own lifestyles to take care of each other. Was that our normal? In the past, when we made decisions, was it motivated by how it would affect others, or did we just do what we wanted? If I’m honest, for myself, it was often it was the latter. Think, for example, about all the feel-good stories that people are sharing about dolphins in the Venice canals and reduced pollution in the atmosphere. In the past, did any of us really make massive changes of our lives based on how it affects our planet? Did we take into account how our actions really affect other people and make significant changes because of it? I didn’t. I don’t want that to return to normal. I want this experience to leave us resurrected, where we are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.

I have seen many posts online talking about people like grocery store employees, postal workers, and restaurant workers and calling them “heroes.” But was that normal before this? Before this, those were the kinds of jobs that often got dismissed. Those jobs were used as threats to our kids. “You better do well in school, or you’ll end up working in a grocery store your whole life.” Those are the kind of minimum wage jobs that, just a few months ago, people were debating whether they deserved a living wage or not. I don’t want that to go back to normal. I want this experience to leave us resurrected, seeing the true value and dignity in all professions, and not just those that we deem “respectable.”

Many of us this past week received our stimulus money from the government. On top of that, the government has allocated billions of dollars to help people who are unemployed or furloughed, as well as to help businesses that are hurting from a lack of revenue. But was that our normal? For years, people have argued that we couldn’t afford social programs to help the poor, the needy, and the unemployed. The poor and the unemployed were judged. “They’re just lazy.” “They’re scheming the system.” “They just want a handout.” And then, it started affecting people like you and me, and suddenly we found two trillion dollars hidden in the couch cushions to give out to those in need, and even to those of us who aren’t in need. I don’t want that to go back to normal. I want this to leave us resurrected, where we make caring for the poor and the needy a priority at all times.

During this time, families are spending a lot more time together. Without all the normal activities, they are having dinner together, playing games together and going on walks. Families have told me that they have started praying together in the evening. All this togetherness has been a little challenging at times, but I know that it has also been rewarding for many families. Was this our normal? Not for many families. Many families often had such full calendars that it was rare for all the members to be in the house at the same time except when they were sleeping. Families could go weeks without everyone sitting down together for a meal. I don’t want that to go back to normal. I want us to be resurrected, where we have a society that prioritizes families being able to spend time together, rather than pulling them in a thousand directions.

One final example. Over the past few weeks, I have heard so many people tell me how much they miss going to Mass and how hard it is to not be able to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. But, before all of this, was that our experience of Mass? When we came to Mass on Sunday, was it normal to look around and say, “Wow, this is a community of people who long for the Eucharist, who can’t imagine living without the Mass?” The first reading says the early Church “devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.”  Did we devote ourselves to Mass? That wasn’t our normal. Often, Mass felt more like checking off a box, like something that we did because we were supposed to. Mass was something that we did, but if we were tired or other things got in the way, we could skip it. After all, we could always go next week. I don’t want that to go back to normal. I want this experience to leave us resurrected, to leave us longing for Jesus in the Eucharist, to be a community devoted to the Mass and truly in love with it.

The Resurrection is not about returning to normal; it is God making all things new. In the coming days and weeks, let us pray and ask God to show us how He is trying to bring about the Resurrection as a result of what we are currently going through. This experience that we are all living through can result in a resurrection. Or, things can just go back to normal. The choice is ours. Will we be different from all of this? Will we let God’s grace penetrate this experience of the Cross to bring about a Resurrection in us? Will the way that we act, the way that we treat other people, the way that we view going to Mass, will all of that be changed? Or will we just go back to normal?

Pascua

Justo aquí, en este momento, cada uno de nosotros tiene que tomar una decisión. Podemos vivir en la oscuridad y el vacío de la tumba, o podemos vivir a la luz de Cristo resucitado. La Iglesia necesita la esperanza de Cristo resucitado ahora más que nunca. Nuestra misión es ser quienes llevan la luz y la esperanza de Cristo al mundo. Pero eso significa que primero tenemos que dejar que esa luz y esperanza penetren en nuestras almas y expulsen la oscuridad del pecado y la desesperación. A la luz de esta mañana de Pascua, que Cristo resucitado disipe la oscuridad y nos haga sus discípulos para el mundo.

Vigilia Pascual

Las lecturas de esta noche tan sagrada relatan la obra de Dios a lo largo de la historia. Comenzando con la creación, escuchamos del pacto con Abraham, la liberación de Egipto, sus promesas a través de los profetas y, finalmente, la gran obra de la resurrección. Con estas lecturas, la Iglesia nos invita a reflexionar sobre cómo Dios ha trabajado a lo largo de la historia. Al hacerlo, podemos descubrir un tema sobre cómo trabaja Dios. Dios saca el orden del caos, la luz de la oscuridad, la libertad de la esclavitud, la esperanza de la desesperación, la vida de la muerte. Así es como Dios trabaja. Pero la obra de Dios no es solo historia, no solo en el pasado. Su trabajo continúa en nuestras vidas. Continúa su obra de creación, de liberación, de guía y, sobre todo, de salvación. Estas lecturas no son solo la historia del pasado; ellas son nuestra historia también. En nuestras vidas, Dios se esfuerza por traer luz, libertad, esperanza y vida a todos los lugares donde hay oscuridad, esclavitud, desesperación y muerte.

A menudo, cuando pensamos en Dios trabajando, pensamos en momentos grandes y dramáticos. Y a veces eso sucede. Piense en la primera lectura, donde Dios dice “Que exista la luz”, y hay luz. Es grandioso, es dramático y es instantáneo. Pero la mayoría de las veces, la obra de salvación no es eso. De hecho, los científicos nos dirían que incluso la obra de creación de Dios no fue tan dramática e instantánea como la descripción poética que encontramos en Génesis. Y, cuando miramos nuestras otras lecturas de esta noche, vemos que, la mayoría de las veces, la obra de Dios es lenta, oculta y casi imperceptible, en lugar de instantánea y dramática. Piense en la separación del Mar Rojo, que escuchamos esta noche. Hollywood nos ha acostumbrado a pensar en esto como un evento cinematográfico en el que Moisés golpea el agua y con su bastón se divide. ¿Pero qué dice Génesis? “Moisés extendió la mano sobre el mar, y el Señor hizo soplar durante toda la noche un fuerte viento del este, que secó el mar, y dividió las aguas”. Este no fue un evento instantáneo. Más bien, un viento constante separó lentamente el mar durante la noche, y solo cuando finalmente se separó, los israelitas pudieron caminar por el mar.

También escuchamos en nuestras lecturas esta noche de los profetas. Dios enseñó y guió a la nación de Israel a través de los profetas. Pero, nuevamente, esto tomó tiempo. La obra de los profetas abarcó cinco siglos. E incluso entonces, la gente no entendía completamente lo que Dios estaba tratando de enseñarles.

Finalmente, llegamos a la resurrección. Este es literalmente, sin exagerar, el momento más importante de la historia. La resurrección corporal de Jesucristo de entre los muertos no es solo la obra más grande de Dios, sino lo que todas sus otras obras señalan. Así que esperaríamos, para el evento más importante de la historia, para la obra de Dios más grande, que sea apropiadamente grande y dramático, ¿verdad? Pero no lo es. Nadie lo vio siquiera. La resurrección sucede en medio de la noche, sin que nadie se dé cuenta. Imagina eso. La obra más grande de Dios, su victoria de la muerte, el infierno y el pecado, ocurrió en oscuridad completa. El Evangelio de hoy habla de un terremoto y un ángel, y todo eso suena bastante dramático. Pero note que, cuando se abre la tumba, Jesús no está allí. Ya ha resucitado en ese punto. La fanfarria vino después del hecho. El trabajo ya está cumplido, y cumplido en silencio.

Y aquí hay una lección para todos nosotros. La Pascua, la Resurrección, no es solo un evento en el pasado. Como escuchamos en la Carta a los Romanos, “También estaremos unidos con él en su resurrección”. Jesús quiere vivir su resurrección en nuestras vidas. Quiere ganar la victoria sobre la muerte, el pecado y la tumba en nuestras vidas. Pero no debemos sorprendernos cuando la Resurrección en nuestras vidas se parece a la Resurrección real de Jesús. La victoria de Dios sobre el pecado y la muerte en nuestras vidas es a menudo tan escondida y silenciosa como la Resurrección de Cristo.

¿Dónde, en tu vida, necesitas la resurrección? ¿Dónde hay caos, confusión, desesperación, oscuridad o muerte? Supongo que muchos de nosotros hemos sentido mucho de eso en las últimas semanas. Hoy celebramos el hecho de que Jesucristo ya ganó la victoria sobre eso. La victoria está ganada. Pero todavía se está jugando a tiempo. Y, a menudo, eso sucede muy, muy lentamente, incluso de manera imperceptible. Entonces, en esta noche santísima, traiga a Jesús lo que necesite la victoria de la resurrección en su vida. Tráele todo lo que necesite nueva vida, luz y esperanza. Y confía en que ya ganó la victoria. La batalla ya está ganada. Pero a menudo sucede cuando ni siquiera la vemos.

 

Easter Vigil

The readings for this most holy of nights recount God’s work throughout history. Beginning with creation, we hear of the covenant with Abraham, the liberation from Egypt, His promises through the prophets, and finally the great work of the Resurrection. With these readings, the Church invites us to ponder how God has been at work throughout history. As we do so, we can discover a theme to how God works. God brings order out of chaos, light out of darkness, freedom out of slavery, hope out of despair, life out of death. That is how God works. But God’s work is not just history. His work continues in our lives. He continues His work of creation, of liberation, of guidance, and, above all, of salvation. These readings are not just the story of the past; they are our story as well. In our lives, God endeavors to bring light, freedom, hope, and life to all of the places where there is darkness, slavery, despair, and death.

Often, when we think of God working, we think of big, dramatic moments. And sometimes those happen. Think back to the first reading, where God says “Let there be light,” and there is light. It’s grand, it’s dramatic, and it is instantaneous. But more often than not, God’s work of salvation is not that. In fact, scientists would tell us that even God’s work of creation was not as dramatic and instantaneous as the poetic description which we find in Genesis. And, when we look at our other readings tonight, we see that, more often than not, God’s work is slow, hidden, and almost imperceptible, rather than instantaneous and dramatic. Think of the parting of the Red Sea, which we heard tonight. Hollywood has accustomed us to thinking of this as a cinematic event where Moses strikes the water and with a whoosh it splits. But what does Genesis say? “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land. When the water was thus divided, the Israelites marched into the midst of the sea on dry land.” This was not an instantaneous event. Rather, a steady wind slowly parted the sea, and only when it was finally parted could the Israelites walk through.

We also hear in our readings tonight from the prophets. God taught and guided the nation of Israel through the prophets. But, again, this took time. The work of the prophets spanned five centuries. And, even then, the people did not fully understand what God was trying to teach them.

Finally, we come to the Resurrection. This is literally, without exaggeration, the most important moment in history. The bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is not only God’s greatest work but the thing that all of His other works point to. So we would expect, for the most important event ever, for God’s most important work, that it would appropriately big and dramatic, right? But it isn’t. No one even saw it. The Resurrection just happened, in the middle of the night, without anyone even being aware of it. Imagine that. God’s greatest work, His victory of death and Hell and sin, happened in complete obscurity. The Gospel today speaks of an earthquake and an angel, and that all sounds pretty dramatic. But notice that, when the tomb is opened, Jesus isn’t there. He’s already risen at that point. The fanfare came after the fact. The work is already accomplished.

And there is a lesson here for all of us. Easter, the Resurrection, is not just an event in the past. As we heard in the Letter to the Romans, “We shall also be united with him in the resurrection.” Jesus wants to live His resurrection in our lives. He wants to win the victory over death and sin and darkness in our lives. But we should not be surprised when the Resurrection in our lives looks like the actual Resurrection of Jesus. God’s victory over sin and death in our lives is often just as hidden and quiet as the Resurrection of Christ.

Where, in your life, do you need the Resurrection? Where is there chaos, confusion, despair, darkness, or death? I’m guessing that a lot of us have felt a lot of that over the past few weeks. Today, we celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ has already won the victory over that. The victory is won. But it is still being played out in time. And, often, that happens very, very slowly, even imperceptibly. So on this most holy night, bring Jesus whatever needs the victory of the Resurrection in your life. Bring Him whatever needs new life and light and hope. And trust that He has already won the victory. The battle is already won. But it often happens when we don’t even see it.