Sixth Sunday of Easter

            I think that most people would describe themselves as being loving people. If I were to poll everyone here and ask, “Do you generally love other people,” I imagine that most people would say yes. So when we hear Jesus in the Gospel say, “This I command you: love one another,” a lot of us probably feel like we basically have it covered. Sure, we could be a little more loving to the neighbor who lets their dog use our yard or the aunt who can’t stop posting crazy political things on Facebook every day, but, by and large, we are pretty loving people, and Jesus commanding us to love one another doesn’t feel like much of a challenge.

            But Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love. He tells us how we are to love. “This is my commandment,” He says, “love one another as I love you.” We aren’t just told to love, but to love like Jesus loves us. As disciples, we are commanded to love others in the same way that Jesus loves us. And how does Jesus loves us? The second reading gives us that answer. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” Jesus loves us by giving Himself completely for our sake. The love of Jesus is not simply a matter of sentiment and warm feelings. It is a sacrificial love, a love that is willing to give absolutely everything for the sake of the other. And we didn’t deserve this love. Jesus didn’t sacrifice Himself for our sake because we earned it. His love is completely gratuitous.

            That is how Jesus loves us, and that is how we are called to love other people. Our love for others is not just supposed to be a love of happy thoughts and good feelings, but a love that is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of the other person. To be a disciple of Jesus means to love like Jesus with a self-giving, sacrificial love, a love that is willing to embrace even the pain of the Cross. And, like Jesus, our love is supposed to extend to every person, regardless of who they are. People should not have to earn our love as disciples.

            That is who we are supposed to be as disciples. And here’s the thing, the world knows that this is who we are supposed to be. The world knows that, as Christians, we are supposed to love like Jesus. And that is why the world often finds the actions of Christians so entirely incomprehensible. The world sees Christians who claim that there is no greater love than to lay down their lives for another, but then those same Christians are unwilling to even wear a simple facemask to keep other people safe. How would anyone believe that we are willing to endure the pain of the Cross for others if we cannot even tolerate the irritation of a little fabric? The world hears Christians talk about loving all people with the self-sacrificing love of Christ, and then hears those same Christians refuse to pay for social services for those in most need. How can we expect people to believe it when we claim to love everyone when we then refuse to help them acquire the basic necessities of life? Jesus endured the pain of the Cross for our salvation, but we are unwilling to even tell others about Him if it makes us even slightly uncomfortable. How can we claim to love like the one who would die for our sake when we will not endure the slightest hardship for others?

            Our command as Christians is to love every person with the self-giving love of Jesus. In particular, we are called to show this kind of sacrificial love towards those who are most in need. The unborn child, the woman in a crisis pregnancy, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the outcast, the victim of discrimination, all of these people should be recipients of our self-giving love. This kind of love requires action on our part. We cannot love like Jesus only in word or in feeling, nor can we do it only when it is easy or convenient. Sacrificial love requires action, and action that expresses itself even when it is difficult and costs us, even when it means laying down our lives for another. For all of us, we should ask ourselves: what is the evidence in my life that I love like Jesus? How have I sacrificed for the sake of others in real, concrete ways?

            It is perhaps fitting that we have these readings on Mother’s Day, as for many people our mothers were the first example of sacrificial love that we had in our lives. The innumerable sacrifices that mothers make, the way that they even literally give of their own bodies to give their children life and to sustain them, all of this provides a beautiful image of what it means to love with a self-giving love. To those who are mothers, we thank you for your lived example of sacrificial love. I also want to take a minute to acknowledge that, sadly, not everyone had a mother whose love modeled sacrifice and self-gift. For those whose mothers were unable to love as they should, we pray that the infinite love of Jesus and the perfect love of Mary, His mother and ours, would supply what was lacking in the love of your own mother and heal any wounds.

            If we want to truly experience what it means to love like Jesus, we ultimately do not have to look any further than right here in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, the self-giving, sacrificial love of Jesus is perfectly displayed. In the Eucharist, Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, empties Himself of His divine glory and splendor and, in humility, gives Himself completely to us under the appearance of bread and wine. We are invited to imitate what we celebrate here. Jesus in the Eucharist sets aside His rights and prerogatives as God in order to give Himself completely for our sake. He holds nothing back from us in this sacrament, but gives Himself to us completely for our sake. We could never hope to deserve such a gift, but He freely gives it to us.

            Having received Jesus in this Eucharist, we are called to love others in the same way. We are called to give ourselves completely for others, regardless of what it costs us, not insisting on our own rights or what we think we deserve. This is what Jesus commands us to do, and it is also what the world needs of us. If we are going to be faithful to our mission to go and make disciples of all nations, then the world needs to see the example of Christians who love like Jesus. They have seen far too many examples of Christians who do not love like Jesus. The world needs to see Christians who give of themselves in love for others, especially for those most in need.

V Domingo de Pascua

            A veces la gente me dice: “Padre, siento que su homilía fue dirigida directamente a mí”. Les contaré un pequeño secreto: la mayoría de las veces, me predico a mí mismo y espero que si yo necesito escuchar algo, otras personas también lo necesiten. No soy perfecto. No soy un gurú religioso que ha encontrado la iluminación perfecta y ahora transmite ese conocimiento a otros. Tengo tanta necesidad de crecimiento espiritual como cualquier otra persona.

            Por ejemplo, la semana pasada me di cuenta de que a menudo trato a Dios como el cable de alimentación de mi teléfono celular. Déjame explicar. Con mi teléfono celular, lo enchufo cuando la batería está baja y hay que cargarla, pero una vez que está cargada, lo desenchufo. No es necesario que esté conectado en todo momento. Me di cuenta de que hago lo mismo con Dios. Vengo a Dios en oración y en los sacramentos para cargarme, y luego vuelvo al mundo para hacer lo que tengo que hacer y básicamente desconectarme de Él. Y cuando me agoto, cuando mis baterías se están agotando, vuelvo a Dios para recargarme. Creo que mucha gente trata a Dios así. Dios es el cable de alimentación al que nos conectamos cuando necesitamos fortalecernos, pero luego lo desconectamos.

            Ese no es el tipo de relación que Jesús describe en el Evangelio de hoy. La diferencia puede parecer sutil, pero es crucial. Jesús usa la imagen de un sarmiento. El sarmiento, dice, no puede dar fruto por sí sola. Tiene que estar conectado a la vid para tener vida. Hasta ahora, esto puede parecer muy similar a la imagen de un cable de alimentación. El sarmiento está conectado a la vid para cobrar vida, al igual que el teléfono celular está conectado al cable de alimentación para cargarse. Pero hay una diferencia crucial. Mi teléfono celular no tiene que permanecer conectado al cable de alimentación para que funcione. Mientras esté conectado de vez en cuando para cargar, puede seguir funcionando perfectamente sin el cable de alimentación.

            El sarmiento, por otro lado, tiene que permanecer conectado a la vid en todo momento si va a dar fruto. El sarmiento no puede desconectarse y volver a conectarse de vez en cuando. No puede desconectar un sarmiento y luego intentar volver a conectarla y esperar que esté bien. Si el sarmiento va a permanecer vivo, tiene que permanecer siempre unido. Esto es lo que Jesús quiere decir cuando dice en el Evangelio: “Permanezcan en mí y yo en ustedes”. Jesús no es a quien acudimos de vez en cuando para cargarnos, desconectarnos y reconectarnos cuando es necesario. Jesús es la vid a la que debemos permanecer conectados en todo momento si queremos dar fruto. Al igual que el sarmiento, tan pronto como nos desconectamos, morimos.

            Puede parecer un poco extremo decir que tan pronto como nos desconectamos de Jesús, morimos. Seguramente no tenemos que permanecer conectados con Jesús en todo momento, ¿verdad? Pero Jesús dice en el Evangelio de hoy: “Sin mí nada pueden hacer”. No dice: “Sin mí, todo será mucho más difícil”. No dice: “Sin mí, puedes hacer algunas cosas, pero me necesitas para otras”. Él dice: “Sin mí nada pueden hacer”. Nada en absoluto. Tan pronto como nos desconectamos de Jesús, no podemos hacer nada. Somos sarmientos muertos, que no sirven más que para quemarnos.

            Seré honesto, este dicho de Jesús me irrita. Mi orgullo lo rechaza. Mi orgullo quiere creer que soy una persona fuerte, hábil y competente. Me digo a mí mismo que puedo hacer todo tipo de cosas por mi cuenta. Claro, agradezco la ayuda de Dios, a veces necesito la ayuda de Dios, pero también hay muchas cosas que creo que puedo hacer yo solo. Eso es lo que me digo a mí mismo. Y es mentira. Jesús es bastante claro. “Sin mí”, dice, “nada puedes hacer”. Todas esas habilidades que creo que tengo, todas esas cosas que creo que puedo hacer por mi cuenta, sin Jesús, no son nada.

            ¿Eso pica a alguien más como a mí? Escuchar a Jesús decir que todo lo que hago sin Él no es nada, hiere mi orgullo. Pero Jesús no lo dice para lastimarnos. Más bien, es una invitación. Jesús me invita a mí, y a todos nosotros, a cambiar la forma en que pensamos sobre Él y sobre nosotros mismos. Nos está llamando a cambiar esa mentalidad que ve a Jesús como un cable de alimentación al que solo tenemos que enchufar de vez en cuando para estar bien. Nos invita a permanecer en Él siempre, a hacer todo en Él. Así como sin Él no podemos hacer nada, con Él todo tiene sentido y valor. Cuando se hace con Él y en Él, cada cosa que hacemos, hasta la más pequeña, tiene un valor inestimable.

            Cuando cambiamos nuestra visión de Cristo del cable de alimentación al que nos conectamos en ocasiones a la vid a la que debemos permanecer conectados en todo momento, también cambiará la forma en que vemos el pecado. Si solo tenemos que conectarnos con Dios de vez en cuando, el pecado se vuelve más excusable. Vemos el pecado como una desconexión momentánea de Dios, pero nos volveremos a conectar más tarde, así que no es gran cosa. Pero el pecado es un gran problema, porque un sarmiento no puede desconectarse de la vid ni por un momento y esperar permanecer vivo. Como dice San Juan en nuestra segunda lectura, “Quien cumple sus mandamientos permanece en Dios y Dios en él”. Ahí está esa palabra “permanecer” de nuevo, al igual que en el Evangelio. Pero eso significa que quien que no cumple Sus mandamientos no permanece en Él. El pecado es grave porque nos convierte en sarmientos cortados de la vid. El pecado nos aleja de Dios y sin Él no podemos hacer nada. El pecado es tan grave que solo la muerte y resurrección de Cristo pueden restaurarnos a la unión con Dios.

            Alabado sea Dios, Él nos ha dado un medio para reconectarnos con Él a través del sacramento de la Confesión. Cuando nos separamos de Él a través del pecado, Él nos vuelve a injertar y nos devuelve la vida. Pero recuerde, no debemos pensar en esto como en un teléfono que se desconectó momentáneamente pero está bien. A través del pecado, somos sarmientos muertos, y solo un milagro de la gracia de Dios en Cristo puede devolvernos la vida en Él. Cada vez que le pedimos a Dios que nos perdone nuestros pecados, venimos ante el Padre diciendo: “Señor, sé que me separé de ti y estoy muerto, pero por la muerte y resurrección de tu Hijo, te ruego que obrar un milagro y traerme de vuelta a la vida”. Pero esto también debería fortalecer nuestra determinación de evitar el pecado en el futuro, porque no queremos ser separados de Él nuevamente.

            “Permanece en mí”, dice Jesús. No se limite a conectarse de vez en cuando, permanezca siempre. Haz todo en mí, porque sin mí no puedes hacer nada. Jesús, danos la gracia de permanecer en ti siempre y nunca separarnos de ti.

Fifth Sunday of Easter

            Sometimes people tell me, “Father, I feel like you were speaking right to me in your homily today.” I will let you in on a little secret: most of the time, I preach to myself, and I figure that if I need to hear something, other people need to hear it as well. I am not perfect. I am not a religious guru who has found perfect enlightenment and now passes that knowledge on to others. I am in just as much need for spiritual growth as anyone else.

For example, this past week I realized that I often treat God like the power cord for my cell phone. That may sound weird, so let me explain. With my cell phone, I plug it in when the battery is low and needs to be charged, but once they are charged I unplug it. It doesn’t need to stay plugged in at all times. I realized that I do the same thing with God. I come to God in prayer and in the sacraments to get charged up, and then I go back out into the world to do what I need to do and basically disconnect from Him. And when I get worn down, when my batteries are running low, I come back to God to get charged back up. I think a lot of people can treat God like that. God is the power cord that we plug into when we need to be strengthened, but then we unplug afterwards.

            That is not the sort of relationship which Jesus describes in the Gospel today. The difference may seem subtle, but it is crucial. Jesus uses the image of a branch. The branch, He says, cannot bear fruit on its own. It has to be connected to the vine to have life. So far, this may seem very similar to the image of a power cord. The branch is connected to the vine to get life, just like the cell phone is connected to the power cord to be charged. But there is one crucial difference. My cell phone does not have to remain connected to the power cord to work. As long as it is connected from time to time to charge, it can continue working perfectly well without the power cord.

The branch, on the other hand, has to remain connected to the vine at all times if it is going to bear fruit. The branch cannot disconnect and reconnect from time to time. You can’t take a branch off and then try reconnecting it and expect it to be fine. If the branch is going to remain alive, it has to remain attached always. This is what Jesus means when He says in the Gospel, “Remain in me, as I remain in you.” Jesus is not supposed to be the one we go to from time to time to get charged up, disconnecting and reconnecting when needed. Jesus is the vine that we have to remain connected to at all times if we are going to bear fruit. Just like the branch, as soon as we disconnect, we die.

That might seem a little extreme to say that as soon as we disconnect from Jesus we die. Surely we don’t have to remain connected to Jesus at every single moment, right? But Jesus says in the Gospel today “Without me you can do nothing.” He doesn’t say, “Without me, everything will be a lot harder.” He doesn’t say, “Without me, you can do some things, but you need me for other things.” He says, “Without me you can do nothing.” Nothing at all. As soon as we disconnect from Jesus, we can do nothing. We are dead branches, good for nothing but burning.

I’ll be honest, this saying of Jesus irritates me. My pride pushes back against it. My pride wants to believe that I am a strong, skilled, competent individual. I tell myself that I can do all kinds of things on my own. Sure, I appreciate God’s help, sometimes I need God’s help, but there are also plenty of things that I think that I can do all by myself. That’s what I tell myself. And it is a lie. Jesus is quite clear. “Without me,” He says, “you can do nothing.” All those skills and abilities that I think I have, all those things that I think I can do on my own, without Jesus, they are nothing.

Does that sting anyone else like it does me? To hear Jesus say that everything I do apart from Him is nothing, it wounds my pride. But Jesus does not say it to hurt us. Rather,  it is an invitation. Jesus is inviting me, and all of us, to change the way that we think about Him and about ourselves. He is calling us to change that mindset that sees Jesus like a power cord that we only have to plug into from time to time to be fine. He is inviting us to remain in Him always, to do everything in Him. Just as without Him we can do nothing, with Him everything has meaning and value. When done with Him and in Him, every single thing we do, down to the littlest action, has inestimable value.

When we change our view of Christ from the power cord we connect to on occasion to the vine that we must remain connected to at all times, it will also change how we see sin. If we only have to connect to God from time to time, sin becomes more excusable. We see sin as just a momentary disconnect from God, but we will reconnect later, so it is not a big deal. But sin is a big deal, because a branch cannot be disconnected from the vine even for a moment and expect to remain alive. As St. John says in our second reading, “Those who keep his commandments remain in him.” There’s that word “remain” again, just like in the Gospel. But that means that those who do not keep His commandments do not remain in Him. Sin is serious because it turns us into branches that have been cut off from the vine. Sin cuts us off from God, and without Him we can do nothing. Sin is so serious that only the death and resurrection of Christ can restore us to union with God.

Praise God, He has given us a means to reconnect with Him through the sacrament of Confession. When we cut ourselves off from Him through sin, He grafts us back on and restores life to us. But remember, we should not think of this just like a phone that got momentarily disconnected but is fine. Through sin, we are dead branches, and only a miracle of God’s grace in Christ can bring us back to life in Him. Every time we ask God to forgive us our sins, we are coming before the Father saying, “Lord, I know that I have cut myself off from you and am dead, but by the death and resurrection of your Son, I beg you to work a miracle and bring me back to life.” But this should also strengthen our resolve to avoid sin in the future, because we don’t want to be cut off from Him again.

“Remain in me,” Jesus says. Don’t just connect from time to time, but remain always. Do everything in me, because without me you can do nothing. Jesus, give us the grace to remain in you always and never separate ourselves from you.

IV Domingo de Pascua

            Es común que la gente diga que todas las religiones son básicamente iguales. He escuchado a mucha gente, incluso a fieles católicos, decir cosas como: “No importa lo que alguien crea, solo sé una buena persona”. Suena tan tolerante e inclusivo. Pero San Pedro no estaría de acuerdo con esa afirmación. En la primera lectura, lleno del Espíritu Santo, San Pedro proclama con valentía: “Ningún otro puede salvarnos, pues en la tierra no existe ninguna otra persona a quien Dios haya constituido como salvador nuestro”.

            San Pedro claramente no cree que todas las religiones sean iguales. Dice que solo Jesús es nuestro salvador. San Pedro no es intolerante. Más bien, es honesto. Decir “Todas las religiones son iguales” es un error de hecho. El propósito de la religión es enseñar sobre lo divino y nuestra relación con él. Pero las diversas religiones enseñan cosas diferentes. El judaísmo enseña que hay un Dios. El cristianismo enseña que hay uno. Dios que es tres personas. El hinduismo enseña que hay muchos dioses. El budismo, al menos en algunas formas, no cree en ningún dios. La cuestión de si hay un Dios, o un Dios en tres personas, o muchos dioses, o ningún dios es importante y esas opciones no pueden ser todas verdaderas.

            Incluso dentro del cristianismo, las diferencias entre las denominaciones son importantes. Quizás el más importante es la Eucaristía. Como católicos, creemos que la Eucaristía es en realidad Jesús mismo, presente con nosotros. Los protestantes creen que la comunión es puramente simbólica. Ambos no pueden ser ciertos. Lo que hay en ese tabernáculo es Jesús o no lo es. Y esa pregunta es importante.

            Siempre que digo que no todas las religiones son iguales, es una garantía de que alguien me diga después: “Pero padre, conozco a alguien que es de una religión diferente y es una buena persona”. No estoy diciendo que las personas que creen en otras religiones sean malas personas. Conozco a muchos no católicos que son personas increíbles. Lo que estoy diciendo es que es lógicamente imposible que todas las religiones sean verdaderas, porque creen cosas diferentes. Y entonces, aquellas personas que creen en religiones diferentes creen algo que está equivocado en los hechos. Alguien puede ser una buena persona y aun así estar equivocado.

            En el Evangelio de hoy, Jesús dice que Él es el buen pastor, y que hay un solo rebaño y un solo pastor. No hay muchos buenos pastores. No hay muchos rebaños. Solo hay un rebaño, Su rebaño, y solo hay un Buen Pastor, Jesús, que dio su vida por las ovejas. Si todas las religiones son iguales, podríamos preguntarnos por qué Jesús pasó por todo ese problema de morir en la cruz. Jesús murió por nosotros precisamente porque es el único Buen Pastor y el único salvador.           Jesús es el único Buen Pastor, y que solo hay un verdadero rebaño. Esto es importante por dos razones. Primero, es importante porque significa que debemos asegurarnos de ser parte de Su rebaño. Más adelante en este mismo capítulo del evangelio de Juan, Jesús dice que sus ovejas escuchan su voz y lo siguen. ¿Conozco la voz de Jesús y lo sigo? ¿Pertenezco realmente al rebaño del Buen Pastor? ¿O pertenezco a un rebaño diferente? ¿Pertenezco al rebaño de Jesús, o pertenezco al rebaño de América, o al rebaño republicano o al rebaño demócrata? ¿Pertenezco al rebaño de la cultura? ¿Quién es realmente mi pastor? ¿A quién sigo la voz? ¿Es la voz de Jesús, o es la voz en la televisión o la voz de la gente en las redes sociales? ¿Pertenezco a mi propio rebaño, siguiendo mi propia voz en lugar de la voz del Buen Pastor? Solo hay un pastor. Como dice San Pedro, Jesús es el único salvador. Estados Unidos no nos salva. No somos salvados por el Partido Republicano o el Partido Demócrata. No somos nuestro propio salvador. Creo que muchas personas que se llaman a sí mismas cristianas pertenecen a lo que podríamos llamar el rebaño de ser buenas personas, porque creen que mientras sean buenas personas, serán salvas. No somos salvos por ser una buena persona. Solo hay un Salvador, Jesús, el Buen Pastor. Por eso es de vital importancia que nos aseguremos de pertenecer realmente a Su rebaño.

            La segunda razón por la que es importante que sepamos que hay un solo Buen Pastor y un solo rebaño es porque ese es el impulso para la evangelización. Si creo que no importa lo que alguien crea, entonces no hay razón para que le cuente a alguien acerca de Jesús. Si todas las religiones son iguales, entonces no importa si alguien sigue a Jesús o no. Pero si solo Jesús puede salvarnos, si solo hay un Buen Pastor y un solo rebaño, entonces es de suma importancia si alguien sigue a Jesús o no. Si Jesús es el único Buen Pastor, si es el único Salvador, entonces debería querer asegurarme de que la mayor cantidad posible de personas conozcan a Jesús y lo sigan.

            Mucha gente piensa en la evangelización como imponer nuestras creencias a otra persona. Eso convierte la evangelización en un acto de poder. La evangelización no es un acto de poder sino de amor. La evangelización es darnos cuenta de lo que Dios nos ha dado al llamarnos a ser parte de su rebaño y amar a otras personas lo suficiente como para querer que tengan lo mismo. La segunda lectura de hoy dice: “Miren cuánto amor nos ha tenido el Padre, pues no sólo nos llamamos hijos de Dios, sino que lo somos”. Dios, en Su asombroso amor, nos ha dado un regalo inestimable al hacernos Sus hijos y llamarnos a Su rebaño. ¿Por qué nos guardaríamos ese regalo para nosotros solos? ¿Por qué no le contamos a otras personas sobre ese amor?

            Hoy es la Jornada mundial de oración por las vocaciones. La Iglesia Católica en los Estados Unidos tiene una gran necesidad de sacerdotes, incluso aquí en St. Louis. Cada año, tenemos cada vez menos sacerdotes. Hay dos parroquias aquí solo en St. Charles que no tienen pastor porque no hay suficientes sacerdotes para todos. La gente a menudo pregunta por qué no hay más sacerdotes. Probablemente hay muchos factores, pero uno de ellos es la creencia de que todas las religiones son iguales y realmente no importa lo que creas. Si no importa lo que la gente crea, si todas las religiones son iguales, ¿por qué alguien dedicaría su vida a Jesús en el sacerdocio? Permítanme asegurarles que si yo pensara que todas las religiones son iguales, ciertamente no habría dedicado mi vida a tratar de hablarle a la gente acerca de Jesús. Hay muchas otras cosas que podría estar haciendo con mi vida en este momento y que requieren mucho menos sacrificio. Soy sacerdote porque creo que importa si alguien sigue a Jesús o no. Soy sacerdote porque creo que hay un solo rebaño y un Buen Pastor, y quería ayudar a la gente a pertenecer a ese rebaño.

            ¿A qué rebaño perteneces? ¿La voz de quién sigues? ¿De quién buscas la salvación? Todos sabemos que la respuesta “correcta” es Jesús, pero ¿es esa la respuesta verdadera? Y, si realmente perteneces al rebaño de Jesús, si crees que Él es el único que puede salvarnos, ¿qué haces para decirles a los demás, para que ellos también puedan pertenecer a Su rebaño?

Fourth Sunday of Easter

            These days, it is common to hear people say that all religions are basically the same. I have heard plenty of people, even faithful Catholics, say something like that. People will say things like, “It doesn’t matter what someone believes, as long as they are a good person.” It sounds so tolerant and inclusive. St. Peter would not agree with that statement. In the first reading, filled with the Holy Spirit, St. Peter boldly proclaims, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

            St. Peter clearly does not believe all religions are the same. St. Peter is not intolerant. Rather, he is honest. Saying “All religions are the same” is factually inaccurate. The purpose of religion is to teach about the divine and our relationship to it. But the various world religions teach different things. Judaism teaches that there is one God. Christianity teaches that there is one God who is Three Persons. Hinduism teaches that there are many gods. Buddhism, at least some forms of it, does not believe in any gods. The question of whether there is one God, or one God in Three Persons, or many gods, or no gods at all is important. And those options cannot all be true.

            Even within Christianity, the differences between the denominations is important. Perhaps the most important is the Eucharist. As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is actually Jesus Himself, present with us. Protestants believe that communion is purely symbolic. Those cannot both be true. What is in that tabernacle either is Jesus or it isn’t. And that question is important.

            Whenever I say that all religions are not the same, it is a guarantee that someone will say to me afterwards, “But Father, I know someone who is a different religion and they are such a good person.”  I’m not saying that people who belong to other religions are bad people. I know plenty of non-Catholics who are amazing people. What I am saying is that it is logically impossible for all religions to be true, because they believe different things. And so those people who believe different religions believe something that is factually wrong. Someone can be a nice person and still be wrong.

            In the Gospel today, Jesus says that He is the good shepherd, and that there is one flock and one shepherd. There are not many good shepherds. There are not many flocks. There is only one flock, His flock, and there is only one Good Shepherd, Jesus, who laid down His life for the sheep. If all religions are the same, we could ask why Jesus went through all that trouble of dying on the Cross. Jesus died for us precisely because He is the only Good Shepherd, and His name is the only name by which we are saved.

            The fact that Jesus is the only Good Shepherd, and that there is only one true flock, is important for two reasons. First, it is important because it means that we need to make sure we are part of His flock. Later in this same chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus says that His sheep hear His voice and follow Him. Do I know the voice of Jesus and follow Him? Do I actually belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd? Or do I belong to a different flock? Do I belong to the flock of Jesus, or do I belong to the flock of America, or to the Republican flock or Democrat flock? Do I belong to the flock of the culture? Who actually is my shepherd? Whose voice do I follow? Is it the voice of Jesus, or is it the voice of the pundits on TV or the voice of the people on social media? Do I belong to my own flock, following my own voice rather than the voice of the Good Shepherd? There is only one shepherd. As St. Peter says, there is no other name in which we are saved. We aren’t saved in the name of America. We aren’t saved in the name of the Republican Party or Democrat Party. We aren’t saved in our own name. I think a lot of people who call themselves Christians belong to what we could call the flock of be a nice person, because they believe that as long as they are a nice person, they will be saved. We aren’t saved in the name of being a nice person. There is only one name by which we are saved, the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. And so it is vitally important that we make sure that we actually belong to His flock.

            The second reason why it is important that we know that there is only one Good Shepherd and one flock is because that is the impetus for evangelization. If I believe that it doesn’t matter what someone believes, then there is no reason for me to tell someone about Jesus. If all religions are the same, then it doesn’t matter if someone follows Jesus or not. But if there is only one name by which we are saved, if there is only one Good Shepherd and one flock, then it is of the utmost importance whether someone follows Jesus or not. If Jesus is the only Good Shepherd, if His name is the only name by which we are saved, then I should want to make sure that as many people as possible know about Jesus and follow Him.

            Many people think of evangelization as forcing our beliefs on someone else. That turns evangelization into an act of power. Evangelization isn’t about power, it is about love. Evangelization is about realizing what God has given us in calling us to be part of His flock and loving other people enough to want them to have the same thing. The second reading today says, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.” God, in His amazing love, has given us an unfathomable gift in making us His children and calling us into His flock. Why would we keep that gift to ourselves? Why would we not tell other people about that love?

            Today is the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. I’ll be honest, the Catholic Church in the United States is in desperate need of priests, including here in St. Louis. Every year, we have fewer and fewer priests. There are two parishes here in St. Charles alone that do not have a pastor because there are not enough priests to go around. People often ask why there are not more priests. There are probably many factors, but one of them is this belief that all religions are the same and it doesn’t really matter what you believe. Think about it. If it doesn’t matter what people believe, if all religions are the same, why would anyone devote their lives to Jesus in the priesthood? Let me assure you, if I thought that all religions are the same, I most certainly would not have devoted my life to trying to tell people about Jesus. There are a whole lot of other things I could be doing with my life right now that require a lot less sacrifice. I became a priest because I believe that whether someone follows Jesus or not matters. I became a priest because I believe that there is only one flock and one Good Shepherd, and I wanted to help people belong to that flock. 

            Whose flock do you belong to? Whose voice do you follow? By whose name do you look for salvation? We all know that the “right” answer is Jesus, but is that the true answer? And, if you truly belong to the flock of Jesus, if you believe that His name is the only name given to the human race by which we are to be saved, what do you do to tell others, so that they can belong to His flock as well?

III Domingo de Pascua

            Durante la Cuaresma, escuchamos mucho sobre el arrepentimiento. Ahora que terminó la Cuaresma, es fácil pensar que podemos dejar de lado el asunto del arrepentimiento por un tiempo. Pero aquí estamos en medio de la Pascua, y nuestras lecturas tratan sobre el arrepentimiento. En la primera lectura, San Pedro dice a la multitud: “Arrepiéntanse y conviértanse, para que se les perdonen sus pecados”. Jesús, en el Evangelio de hoy, dice a los discípulos: “Está escrito que el Mesías tenía que padecer y había de resucitar de entre los muertos al tercer día, y que en su nombre se había de predicar a todas las naciones, comenzando por Jerusalén, la necesidad de volverse a Dios para el perdón de los pecados”. En la griega original del Nuevo Testamento, la palabra para “volverse a Dios” es la palabra para “arrepentirse”. Y aunque la segunda lectura no usa la palabra “arrepentimiento” directamente, se trata de evitar el pecado y el perdón que tenemos en Cristo si pecamos.

            Al mirar estas lecturas, puede parecer que alguien en la iglesia cometió un error y accidentalmente colocó lecturas de Cuaresma durante la Pascua. ¿Por qué escuchamos sobre el arrepentimiento durante la temporada de Pascua? Para entender la conexión entre el arrepentimiento y la Pascua, primero tenemos que entender qué es el arrepentimiento bíblico. A menudo, pensamos que el arrepentimiento significa “sentirse mal por” nuestros pecados. A veces expresamos sentimientos negativos sobre nuestros pecados y asumimos que es arrepentimiento cuando en realidad es simplemente sentimiento. ¿Cuál es la diferencia?

            El sentimiento es simplemente sentirnos mal por nuestros pecados. A menudo, lo que nos hace sentir mal no es el pecado en sí, sino la consecuencia. No lamento haber mentido; Lamento que me atraparan y me metiera en problemas. No lamento haber hecho algo pecaminoso, pero sé que no debo hacerlo, así que le digo a Dios que lo siento por romper las reglas. Eso es sentimiento, simplemente sentirse mal por nuestros pecados.

            A veces, incluso podemos usar nuestro sentimiento como excusa para pecar. Ocurre así: pecamos, pero sabemos que no se supone que lo hagamos, así que nos sentimos mal por ello. Convencidos de que sentirse mal es lo mismo que arrepentimiento, pensamos que sentirnos mal es todo lo que se requiere de nosotros y que, habiéndonos sentido mal, somos perdonados. Ahora que la pizarra está limpia, podemos volver a pecar, contentos de haber sido perdonados antes y seremos perdonados nuevamente.

            El arrepentimiento es mucho más. La palabra griega para arrepentimiento en el Nuevo Testamento significa literalmente “cambio de mente”. El arrepentimiento no se trata solo de sentirse mal, se trata de cambiar. El arrepentimiento en realidad es cambiar, pasar del pecado a la santidad, de la desobediencia a la obediencia, de la muerte a la vida.

            Y esa es la conexión entre el arrepentimiento y la Pascua. El arrepentimiento es precisamente experimentar la nueva vida de la resurrección aquí y ahora en nuestras vidas. El arrepentimiento requiere la Cruz, porque el cambio requiere morir a nosotros mismos y nuestra antigua forma de hacer las cosas. Pero eso es solo una parte de la historia. El arrepentimiento no es solo morir al pecado, sino elevarse a la santidad y a una nueva vida. La Pascua está en el corazón del arrepentimiento, porque el arrepentimiento se trata de entrar en una nueva vida con Cristo. San Pedro es el ejemplo de verdadero arrepentimiento. El Jueves Santo negó siquiera conocer a Jesús. Y, al darse cuenta de lo que hizo, las Escrituras nos dicen que lloró amargamente. Pero no solo se sintió mal. El cambio. En nuestra primera lectura de hoy, el mismo Pedro que juró que no sabía a Jesús está predicando públicamente sobre él. Pedro no solo se sintió mal de haber negado a Jesús; realmente se arrepintió de ello, de modo que su vida cambió.

            El arrepentimiento está en el corazón del mensaje de Pascua. Estas lecturas nos llaman a todos a examinar nuestro propio corazón. ¿Me he arrepentido de verdad de mis pecados o simplemente me siento mal por ellos sin hacer ningún esfuerzo por cambiar? El cambio puede ser difícil. Especialmente si nuestros pecados son habituales, puede llevar mucho tiempo romper realmente el hábito. Nuestros esfuerzos por cambiar y enmendar nuestras vidas no siempre tendrán un éxito perfecto. Pero hay una diferencia entre tratar de cambiar y aún no tener un éxito perfecto, y simplemente sentirse mal por el pecado sin tratar de cambiar en absoluto. ¿He entrado realmente en la nueva vida de la Resurrección, o sigo viviendo en la muerte del pecado? Que podamos seguir las instrucciones de San Pedro para arrepentirnos y convertirnos, para que nuestros pecados sean borrados.

Third Sunday of Easter

            During Lent, we heard a lot about repentance. Now that Lent is over, it is easy to think that we can lay off that whole repentance thing for a little while. But here we are right in the middle of Easter, and our readings are all about repentance. In the first reading, St. Peter tells the crowds “Repent and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” Jesus, in the Gospel today, tells the disciples, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations.” And while the second reading doesn’t use the word “repentance” directly, it is all about avoiding sin and the forgiveness we have in Christ if we do sin.

            Looking at these readings, it can feel like someone at the church made a mistake and accidentally put Lent readings during Easter. Why are we hearing about repentance during the Easter season? To understand the connection between repentance and Easter, we first have to understand what Biblical repentance truly is. Often, we think repentance means “feeling bad about” our sins. Sometimes we express negative feelings about our sins and assume it is repentance when in reality it is often simply regret. What is the difference?

            Regret is simply feeling bad about our sins. Often, what we feel bad about is not the sin itself but the consequence. I’m not sorry that I lied; I’m sorry that I got caught and got in trouble. I’m not sorry that I did something sinful, but I know that I’m not supposed to do it, so I tell God I’m sorry for breaking the rules. That is regret – simply feeling bad about our sins.

            Sometimes, we can even use our regret as an excuse to sin. It often plays out like this: we sin, but we know we aren’t supposed to, so we feel bad about it. Convinced that feeling bad is the same as repentance, we think that feeling bad is all that are required from us and that, having felt bad, we are forgiven. Now that the slate is clean, we can go sin again, content that we have been forgiven before and we will be forgiven again.

            Repentance is much more. The Greek word for repentance in the New Testament literally means “change of mind.” Repentance is not just about feeling bad, it is about changing. Repentance is actually changing, going from sin to holiness, from disobedience to obedience, from death to life. Unlike regret, true repentance never becomes an excuse to sin again; true repentance is what leads us to avoid sin in the future.

            And that is the connection between repentance and Easter. Repentance is precisely experiencing the new life of the resurrection right here and now in our lives. Repentance requires the Cross, because change requires dying to ourselves and our old way of doing things. But that’s only part of the story. Repentance is not just dying to sin but rising to holiness and new life. Easter is at the heart of repentance, because repentance is all about entering into a new life with Christ. St. Peter is the perfect example of true repentance. On Holy Thursday, he denied that he even knew Jesus. And, realizing what he did, Scripture tells us that he wept bitterly. But he didn’t just feel bad. He changed. In our first reading today, the same Peter who swore that he didn’t know Jesus is publicly preaching about him. Peter didn’t just regret denying Jesus; he truly repented of it, such that his life changed.

            Repentance is at the heart of the Easter message. These readings call all of us to examine our own hearts. Have I truly repented of my sins, or do I just feel bad about them without making any effort to change? Change can be hard. Especially if our sins are habitual, it can take a long time to truly break the habit. Our efforts at changing and amending our lives will not always be perfectly successful. But there is a difference between trying to change and not yet perfectly succeeding, and just feeling bad about sin without trying to change at all. Have I actually entered into the new life of the Resurrection, or am I continuing to live in the death of sin? May we follow the instructions of St. Peter to repent and be converted, so that our sins may be wiped away.

Second Sunday of Easter

            St. Thomas gets a bad reputation. Imagine you were in his place. Someone you know has been brutally murdered. Now, three days later, your friends are telling you that they saw him alive. Would you believe them, or would you doubt? I’d probably doubt. Also, remember how the Gospel starts. “The doors were locked, where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.” But Thomas was not with them. Thomas was the one disciple not hiding. And now he is supposed to believe that Jesus is alive and has appeared to these cowards while he was gone?

            But here’s the most amazing part of the whole account. A week later, Thomas is still with them. Think about that. Thomas still does not believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. He still thinks that the other disciples are crazy. But he’s with them. Again, put yourself in his place. If you were convinced that your friends were crazy, would you continue to stay with them for a week? I probably wouldn’t.

            But Thomas was there. One week after the Resurrection, Thomas is still with the other disciples. For a whole week, they’re talking about how they saw Jesus alive, and Thomas doesn’t believe a word of it, but he stays. Why? Scripture doesn’t provide us a direct answer to that question, but I think we can safely say that there must have been something about the disciples that caused Thomas to stay. Even though he thought that they were crazy, there was something about them that also attracted him. Their encounter with the Risen Christ had so changed them that Thomas chose to stay with them.

            That is who we are supposed to be as disciples. We are supposed to be people who have encountered the Risen Lord. And that encounter should change us, so much so that other people see us and say, “I want what they have.” Even if they don’t believe in Jesus, even if they think that our faith is crazy, people should look at us and say, “I don’t believe what they say, but I want to be around them.”

            But that means that we have to stand out. If someone is going to say “I want what they have,” then we have to have something different from everyone else. For many people, Christians look no different than anyone else. There is nothing to make them stand out. If our lives, as disciples, look just like everyone else’s, why would someone want to become a disciple? Unfortunately, in the eyes of many in our society, Christians stand out for the wrong reasons. For many people, Christians stand out for being more judgmental and condemnatory than other people. They see Christians as people who simply use their faith as a cover for their own personal opinions.

            If we are going to be successful in making disciples, we have to counter people’s impression that Christians are just like everyone else or, even worse, that Christians are less loving than other people. We can’t simply counter that with our words, we have to counter it with our actions. Our lives should be such remarkable models of love that people take notice. Listen again to what our first reading says about the early Church:

The community of believers was of one heart and mind. […] There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.

The early Church was a model of generous love. Not just a nice deed here and there. People sold houses and property to care for the poor. These days, people complain if providing for the poor raises their property tax by half a cent. The early Christians sold their entire house and gave the money to the poor. And people noticed. Even as the Roman Empire was persecuting Christians, people continued to convert. This happened in large part because of the amazing example of the early Church. Their lives were so remarkable that people said, “I want what they have. I want to know what inspires this person to live this way.”

            So what was it about the first disciples that caused them to be so attractive that Thomas stayed with them, even though he didn’t believe them? Why were the early Christians so remarkably loving and generous? The answer is the same: they had a personal encounter with the Risen Christ. For the very first disciples, they had physically encountered the Risen Christ on Easter. For the early Church, they hadn’t physically seen or touched the Risen Jesus, but they had a real, living relationship with Him. In their prayer, they had truly encountered Him. In both cases, the encounter had changed them. Their lives were forever different because of their encounter with Christ, so much so that other people saw them and said, “There is something different about that person, and I want what they have.”

            This isn’t a showy, self-aggrandizing sort of faith. The disciples and the early Christians weren’t going around blowing trumpets and shouting, “Look at me!” They weren’t trying to be noticed; they just couldn’t help it. They were, as Jesus says, a city on a hill. A city on a hill doesn’t have to show off, but people still notice it.

            Have you had that kind of encounter with the Risen Lord? Do you have a relationship with Jesus such that your life is forever changed in a way that people can’t help but notice? Does your faith shine through in your life in such a way that people look at you and think, “There is something different about that person, and I want what they have”? If not, do you want that kind of relationship? We know that God can give us the kind of relationship with Him that changes our entire lives. But I think that many people, deep down, don’t want that kind of relationship with God. We are comfortable with a faith that basically leaves us as we are. We don’t want to stand out; we want to look just like everyone else.

            But if that is the case, if we are just like everyone else, we are never going to fulfill our mission to make disciples of all nations. God wants to give us the kind of relationship with Him that changes our lives. He wants to give us the kind of faith that causes people to say, “They might be crazy, but I still want to know more.” But we have to ask for it. We have to be willing to go beyond being just like everyone else.

            This Easter season, let us ask the Jesus to help us encounter Him in that way. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us the kind of faith and love that people can’t help but notice.

Easter/Pascua

            Sometimes, people have a mistaken idea of what faith is. Too many people think that having faith means unquestioning, unwavering certainty. They think that it is wrong to have questions or doubts. I have seen people try to live this kind of faith. It usually doesn’t end well. They are convinced that they cannot allow the slightest question or doubt, so they bottle up all of their uncertainty. What unfortunately often happens is that all of those bottled up doubts and questions eventually become too much and they explode. And because the person still usually believes that faith and doubt are incompatible, and their long-suppressed doubts can no longer be ignored, they abandon their faith entirely.

            A veces, algunas personas tienen una idea equivocada de lo que es la fe. Demasiadas personas piensan que tener fe significa certeza incondicional e inquebrantable. Piensan que tener preguntas o dudas está mal. Yo he visto a personas tratar de vivir este tipo de fe. No termina bien. Están convencidos de que no pueden permitir la más mínima pregunta o duda, por lo que reprimen toda su incertidumbre. Lo que desafortunadamente sucede es que todas esas dudas y preguntas reprimidas eventualmente se vuelven demasiado y explotan. Y debido a que generalmente la persona todavía cree que la fe y la duda son incompatibles, y sus dudas reprimidas durante mucho tiempo ya no pueden ser ignoradas, abandona su fe por completo.

            Doubts, questions, and uncertainty are simply part of the life of faith. Every single one of us will wrestle with doubts during our journey of faith. If we never experience doubts, it is a sign that either we are not actually taking our faith seriously, or we are forcing ourselves to ignore our doubts, which, as I said, often ends very badly. We all have doubts at times. Especially this past year, many of us have had times that cause us to question. Unfortunately, most of us keep our doubts hidden from other people, and so we assume that we are the only one who experiences uncertainty. We judge others by their outward appearances and assume that their faith is unwavering, and so there must be something wrong with us. Little do we know that everyone else is feeling the exact same way.

            Las dudas, preguntas e incertidumbres son simplemente parte de la vida de fe. Cada uno de nosotros luchará con dudas durante nuestro camino de fe. Si nunca experimentamos dudas, Es una señal de que en realidad no nos estamos tomando en serio nuestra fe, o nos estamos forzando a ignorar nuestras dudas, que, como dije, a menudo terminan muy mal. Todos tenemos dudas a veces. Especialmente el año pasado, muchos de nosotros hemos tenido momentos que nos hacen cuestionar. Desafortunadamente, la mayoría de nosotros mantenemos nuestras dudas ocultas a otras personas, por lo que asumimos que somos los únicos que experimentan incertidumbre. Juzgamos a los demás por su apariencia exterior y asumimos que su fe es inquebrantable y que algo anda mal en nosotros. Poco sabemos que todos los demás se sienten exactamente de la misma manera.

            So why am I talking about doubt on Easter? Because Easter is the linchpin of our faith. At the end of the day, there is one question: Do I believe that the tomb was empty? The Gospel today tells us of Mary Magdalene coming to the tomb and, finding it empty, running to tell the disciples, who find it just as she reported. The disciples would go to the end of the world proclaiming the message of that empty tomb. Most of the disciples would be martyred for their faith. They were not martyred because they believed that Jesus was a good man. They weren’t martyred because they believed that Jesus was a wise teacher. They weren’t martyred because they believed that Jesus had worked miracles. They were martyred because they believed that the tomb was empty, and because of what that empty tomb means about who Jesus is. The disciples were willing to die rather than deny the empty tomb.

            Entonces, ¿por qué hablo de la duda en la Pascua? Porque la Pascua es el eje de nuestra fe. Por último, hay una pregunta: ¿Creo yo que el sepulcro estaba vacío? El Evangelio de hoy nos cuenta que María Magdalena llegó al sepulcro y, al encontrarlo vacío, corrió a contárselo a los discípulos, que lo encontraron tal como ella les informó. Los discípulos irían al fin del mundo proclamando el mensaje de eso sepulcro vacío. La mayoría de los discípulos serían martirizados por su fe. No fueron martirizados porque creían que Jesús era un buen hombre. No fueron martirizados porque creían que Jesús era un maestro sabio. No fueron martirizados porque creían que Jesús había obrado milagros. Fueron martirizados porque creían que el sepulcro estaba vacío y por lo que significa eso sepulcro vacío sobre quién es Jesús. Los discípulos estaban dispuestos a morir antes que negar el sepulcro vacío.

            I’m sure the disciples had their doubts and questions as well. When we look at what they endured, it would be impossible not to have doubts and questions. I think any person, when faced with the choice either to deny that Jesus is God or to be killed, will at least have a moment of asking themselves, “Am I sure about this?” But they knew that the tomb was empty. They knew that Jesus had risen from the dead. Even in the face of death, they could not deny that fact. And that fact provided the firm foundation that their entire life was based on. Whatever other doubts or questions they faced, it could not shake them off of that one belief: that the tomb was empty.

            Estoy seguro de que los discípulos también tenían sus dudas y preguntas. Cuando miramos lo que soportaron, no tener dudas y preguntas sería imposible. Creo que cualquier persona, cuando se enfrente a la opción de negar que Jesús es Dios o ser asesinado, al menos tendrá un momento para preguntarse: “¿Estoy seguro de esto?” Pero sabían que el sepulcro estaba vacío. Sabían que Jesús había resucitado de entre los muertos. Incluso frente a la muerte, no pudieron negar ese hecho. Y ese hecho proporcionó la base firme en la que se basaron toda su vida. Cualesquiera que fueran las otras dudas o preguntas que enfrentaron, no pudieron deshacerse de esa única creencia: que el sepulcro estaba vacío.

            So, as I said, there is ultimately one question that each one of us has to answer: Do I believe that the tomb was empty? Do I believe that the disciples, who were willing to die rather than deny that fact, were telling the truth when they proclaimed that the tomb was empty and Jesus was risen? If I believe that the tomb was really empty, then, like the first disciples, that fact provides an unshakable foundation for my faith. This does not mean that there will not be other doubts and questions. There absolutely will be doubts. We may have a million questions. But, in all of our uncertainty, we are called to place it in the empty tomb. In the light of the empty tomb, we are invited to say, “I don’t understand everything. There are things that don’t make sense to me. Maybe I will find an answer to my questions, and maybe I won’t. But I trust that the tomb was empty. I trust that Jesus is risen. And so even in the face of uncertainty, I believe.”

            Entonces, como dije, en última instancia hay una pregunta que cada uno de nosotros tiene que responder: ¿Creo yo que el sepulcro estaba vacío? ¿Creo yo que los discípulos, que estaban dispuestos a morir antes que negar ese hecho, estaban diciendo la verdad cuando proclamaron que el sepulcro estaba vacío y que Jesús había resucitado? Si creo que el sepulcro estaba realmente vacío, entonces, como los primeros discípulos, ese hecho proporciona un fundamento inquebrantable para mi fe. Esto no significa que no haya otras dudas y preguntas. Absolutamente habrá dudas. Puede que tengamos un millón de preguntas. Pero, en toda nuestra incertidumbre, estamos llamados a colocarlo en la tumba vacía. A la luz de el sepulcro vacío, se nos invita a decir: “No entiendo todo. Hay cosas que no tienen sentido para mí. Tal vez encuentre una respuesta a mis preguntas, y tal vez no. Pero confío en que el sepulcro esté vacío. Confío en que Jesús ha resucitado. Y así, incluso frente a la incertidumbre, yo creo”.

            We don’t have to hide our doubts or run from them. We don’t have to pretend that we understand everything or that we never struggle. Nor must we been overwhelmed by our doubts and questions. Rather, we can confidently bring our doubts and place them in the empty tomb. Today, we profess our belief that the tomb was empty, that Jesus is risen. We profess that Jesus is not just a good man, a wise teacher, or a miracle worker, but that Jesus is God, the conqueror of death and sin, the only source of life and truth. And while we still face questions and doubts, we know that the empty tomb is big enough to hold them all, and that Jesus, Our Risen Lord, can sustain our faith in the midst of uncertainty and lead us to His perfect light.

            No tenemos que ocultar nuestras dudas o huir de ellas. No tenemos que fingir que entendemos todo o que nunca luchamos. Tampoco debemos sentirnos abrumados por nuestras dudas y preguntas. Más bien, podemos traer con confianza nuestras dudas y colocarlas en el sepulcro vacío. Hoy profesamos nuestra creencia de que el sepulcro estaba vacío, que Jesús ha resucitado. Profesamos que Jesús no es solo un buen hombre, un maestro sabio o un hacedor de milagros, sino que Jesús es Dios, el vencedor de la muerte y el pecado, la única fuente de vida y verdad. Y aunque todavía enfrentamos preguntas y dudas, sabemos que el sepulcro vacío es lo suficientemente grande para contenerlos a todos, y que Jesús, Nuestro Señor Resucitado, puede sostener nuestra fe en medio de la incertidumbre y conducirnos a Su luz perfecta.

Palm Sunday

I am Simon Peter. I claim in private to be willing to follow Christ through anything, but I deny Him when I am afraid that I might have to suffer.

I am James and John. I grow lax and fall asleep rather than remaining faithful and vigilant

I am the crowd. When everyone else cries “Hosanna,” so do I, but when everyone else cries “Crucify him,” I do too, swayed by whatever popular opinion says is right.

I am the chief priests and scribes. I am so convinced of my own righteousness and opinions that I would condemn an innocent man to death rather than admit that I am wrong.

I am Pilate. I am troubled by the injustice I see but unwilling to actually do something to stop it.

I am the soldiers and passersby. I mock and mistreat those whom society has cast down or singled out for ridicule.

I am Judas. I betray God for my own personal gain.

And praise God. Praise God that I am the Peter and James and John. Praise God that I am the crowd and the chief priests and Pilate and the soldiers. Praise God that I am Judas.

Because that is who Jesus died for. Jesus died for the Peter and the crowd and the chief priests and Pilate. Jesus died for Judas. And Jesus died for me, and for you. He knew our infidelity, our selfishness, our sins, and He died for us.

As we enter into this holiest of weeks, we are invited to come humbly before the Cross of Christ, confessing our sinfulness. And if we do, if we confess before the Cross our need for a Savior, we shall share in the joy of the Resurrection.