Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

What does it mean to be a good Christian? What is expected of us as disciples of Christ? It is easy to fall into the temptation of thinking that being a good Christian is essentially the same as following the rules. As long as I don’t break any of the commandments, I’m a good Christian. Just follow the rules and I’m all set.

But Jesus tells us that following the rules isn’t good enough. Repeatedly in the Gospel today Jesus raises the bar beyond just obeying the rules. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not kill;’ but I say to you whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.’ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery.” “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath,’ but I say to you, do not swear at all.”

What Christ asks of us is not simple rule-following, but a conversion of heart and mind. As disciples, we aren’t supposed to just avoid doing anything really bad, but we are supposed to strive for the heights of holiness. Christians should never be minimalists. We should never be content with just following the rules. The rules aren’t bad. Jesus says that He came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it. The rules are good, but the rules are supposed to change us. Just following the rules isn’t enough. As Jesus says, it isn’t enough just to not commit murder or adultery or take a false oath, but we should have a conversion of heart and mind, so that we do not even act in anger or lust and so that our every word is one of truth and integrity.

Sometimes, we can hear that we are called to holiness and think, “That’s a nice idea, but I don’t really need to do that, right? Holiness is there if I want to pursue it, but I’m just fine if I stay where I am.” But Jesus doesn’t say that the conversion of heart and mind is just a nice idea. He doesn’t say, “Well, if you’d like to work at avoiding anger or lust, that would be great, but there’s no pressure.” No. He ties it explicitly to our salvation. “Whoever says to his brother ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.” “It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.” Gehenna literally referred to a valley outside Jerusalem where Israeli kings had sacrificed their children to idols and later became a place where trash was burned. It was a cursed place filled with refuse and worms and fire. The name came to be used symbolically for the state of eternal punishment in the afterlife, which is how Jesus is using it here. Jesus says that acting in anger or in lust leads to eternal punishment.

When we reduce Christianity to simply following the rules, we can then believe that following the rules is the basis of our salvation. As long as I am a good person and I don’t commit any really bad sins or break any really big rules, I will go to heaven. We can think that salvation is something we earn by following the rules. But that is not right at all. You and I cannot earn our salvation by following the rules. We aren’t saved because we are good people or because we don’t commit any big sins. We are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. But that grace should change us. The Son of God did not become incarnate, live among us, preach and heal, suffer and die, rise from the dead and ascend into heaven just so that we could follow the rules. He did all that so that we could be made new creations, so that we could be radically transformed by His grace.

That is what Jesus is driving at in the Gospel today. His disciples are not supposed to be rule followers; they are supposed to be made completely new. We should be wholly transformed by the grace of God. And our salvation depends on it. Our salvation depends on us allowing the grace that Jesus won for us to enter our hearts and radically transform our every thought, word, and action. He says explicitly, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” The scribes and Pharisees were really good at following the rules, but their hearts were not converted. And so Christ is telling us that even if we follow all the rules, unless we truly allow His grace to convert us, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

This Gospel reading should unsettle us. I know it unsettles me. Because I’m going to be really honest, I don’t live up to that standard that Jesus sets. My heart and mind have not been completely transformed by the saving grace of Christ. I get angry with others, I give in to lust, my words are not always words of complete truth and integrity. And Jesus says that there are eternal consequences to those actions. That is terrifying. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that Hell is real, and that it is not just for the worst of the worst. Our salvation is contingent not just on following the rules, but on allowing the grace and the mercy of God to truly and entirely convert us. Now praise God that He is merciful, that our lack of conversion can be forgiven, but we also cannot take that mercy for granted or treat it as something cheap. The mercy that God gives us was won by the blood of Jesus. It is a costly mercy. And if you and I are going to take that mercy seriously, then it needs to change us. It is impossible for us to truly understand the value of God’s mercy and at the same time be content with merely following the rules.

In the first reading today, the author speaks about a choice. “Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” We have a choice to make as well. We can choose to just follow the rules and not let our hearts be changed. But Jesus tells us that that choice has consequences. “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Or we can allow the grace and the mercy of Christ to truly transform our every thought, word, and action, and to draw us ever upwards towards greater and greater holiness. That is the choice that you and I have to make. Let us make it well.

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It seems to be a common sentiment in our society today that religion is supposed to be a private affair. It is fine if you pray and go to Church and believe, as long as you do it in a way that no one else knows about it. Religion should be out of sight, out of mind the common opinion holds. Our Lord in the Gospel today says something entirely different. He tells his disciples that they are supposed to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city set on a mountain. Christians are supposed to be visible and active. Disciples of Christ are supposed to live in such a way that people cannot avoid noticing us.

Let’s go through the three metaphors Christ uses. First, he says that we are the salt of the earth. Salt has two primary uses. First, salt is a flavor enhancer. That is why companies use it in literally everything. If you go to the grocery store, absolutely any food that isn’t still in its raw, original form probably has salt added. As disciples, our lives are supposed to enhance the world around us. We should make the world noticeably better by being in it. Secondly, salt is a preservative. It prevents decay. Especially in the time of Christ, before refrigeration, salt was necessary to preserve food. I don’t think it is too controversial to say that there is a lot of decay and corruption in our world today. As disciples, as the salt of the earth, our job is to be the force that pushes back against the corruption.

Likewise, Jesus calls us the light of the world. Again, there is a lot of darkness in our world. We are the light. We are supposed to be the thing that dispels the darkness. We are supposed to drive out the darkness of sin and error with the light of grace and truth. Finally, Jesus says that we are a city set on a mountain. A city on a hill cannot be hidden, even if it wants to be. For better or worse, it will be seen. Likewise, whether we advertise it or not, people will know that we are Christians. They will know that we claim to be followers of Christ. And they will also see whether our lives match what we claim to be.

Christ tells us that we are supposed to be the salt of the earth, a city set on a mountain, and the light of the world. But that means that our lives have to be different. We cannot be the salt of the earth or the light of the world if our lives are exactly the same as everyone else’s. We cannot be the salt of the earth and the light of the world if we keep our faith entirely hidden and private. I think one of the biggest problems that faces the Church is that, most of the time, Christians are practically indistinguishable from everyone else. We claim to be disciples of Christ, but with the exception of one hour on Sunday morning, our lives aren’t any different from the lives of a nice atheist. Christ commands us to live our faith in a bold, visible, world-changing way.

In the early days of the Church, one of the reasons that Christianity spread so rapidly through the Roman Empire, even though it was illegal to be Christian, was because of how Christians lived. Their lives were different from everyone else’s. Their faith was bold and visible and it set them apart from the world around them. The pagan emperor Julian said of Christians, “These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also.” Christians lived their faith in a visible, compelling way. And people were converting because of how they saw Christians live. They weren’t on the street corners with signs telling people to repent. That’s not what Christ means by saying that we are supposed to be the light of the world. Rather, our lives should be so marked by the love of God that people can’t help but notice. Think about what the Lord says in our first reading. He commands His people to “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” We are supposed to do the same. Our lives should be marked by our love for our brothers and sisters, a love that goes far beyond ordinary niceness.

Living our faith in a bold, world-changing way doesn’t mean that we have to be theologians. St. Paul in our second reading says that he did not come “with sublimity of words or of wisdom.” St. Paul didn’t bring thousands of people to the faith because he was a great theologian or a great preacher. Rather, he brought them to the faith because of how he lived. That is how we are supposed to make disciples as well. What the world needs now is not more theologians and catechesis. What the world needs now is Christians who live their faith in a bold, visible, world-changing way. The world needs apostles who are so radically on fire with the love of God, who love in such a powerful way, that people cannot help but notice.

Our lives should be different. We should be the city on a mountaintop that cannot be hidden. We should be the light of the world. Jesus is telling us that His disciples should stand out. In our neighborhoods, we should stand out. In our work places and our schools, we should stand out. In our community, we should stand out. The way we live should be different. Far too often as disciples of Christ we settle for mediocrity. We settle for just living like everyone else lives. But Jesus calls us to something more. We aren’t supposed to just be good people, we are supposed to be radically transformed by the love of God. That is what it means to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We too often buy into the mindset of our culture that says that our faith is supposed to be completely private and that we shouldn’t go outside what our culture deems as normal. Christians are not supposed to be normal. You and I shouldn’t be normal.

Come Holy Spirit, enflame our hearts with the love of God. Give us the strength to push past or fears, to push past our tendency to settle for just being like everyone else. Make our lives truly different, so that we can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Amen.

 

Presentación del Señor

Parece que estamos de vuelta en Navidad. Mucho después de que el mundo haya pasado de Navidad, el Evangelio de hoy habla de Jesús como un bebé pequeño. Pero hay una razón simple por la que celebramos la Fiesta de la Presentación hoy. De acuerdo a las leyes del Antiguo Testamento, se suponía que los padres debían presentar a su niño en el Templo y ofrecer sacrificio cuarenta días después del niño nació. Hoy es cuarenta días después de la Navidad. Por lo tanto, el dos de febrero celebramos la Presentación de Jesús en el Templo. En la presentación, vemos a José y María en un hermoso acto de adoración. Y por ellos, podemos aprender como adorar bien a Dios.

Oímos que María y José trajeron a Jesús al Templo para presentarlo al Señor. Piensen en todos que habían sucedo en sus vidas desde el día diez meses antes cuando el arcángel Gabriel apareció a María. La Presentación es, en muchas maneras, la culminación de todo eso. Trajeron a todas esas experiencias con ellos mientras presentan Jesús en el Templo. Y, al presentar Jesús, están ofreciendo lo mejor que tienen a Dios. Era una requisito en la Ley Judaica que, cuando alguien ofreció algo a Dios en el Templo, tenía que ser lo mejor que tenía. Si ofrecía parte de su cosecha o un cordero de su rebaño, tenía que ser lo mejor. María y José, por ofrecer Jesús en el Templo, nos enseñan que, cuando adoramos a Dios, debemos ofrecerle lo mejor que tenemos. A veces, Dios recibe nuestras sobras, lo que queda después de todas nuestras otras actividades. Él recibe los pocos minutos libres de nuestros días, en lugar de nosotros en realidad haciendo tiempo para Él. Oramos, pero permitimos las distracciones para llenar nuestras mentes. Venimos para adorar a Dios en la Misa, pero llegamos tarde o salimos temprano, no dando a Dios más de lo que es absolutamente necesario. Cuando adoramos a Dios, deberíamos darle nuestro mejor, no nuestras sobras o lo mínimo.

A veces, cuando oímos que deberíamos ofrecer nuestro mejor a Dios, entonces esperamos demasiado de nosotros mismos. Pensamos que cada oración necesita ser el pináculo de la devoción. Deberíamos dar nuestro mejor a Dios, pero a veces nuestro mejor no va a ser lo mejor de lo mejor. Cuando María y José fueron al Templo, ofrecieron a un par de tórtolas. Pero si lee el Antiguo Testamento, dice que los padres deben ofrecer un cordero. Si los padres eran tan pobres que no pueden pagar un cordero, entonces podrían ofrecer dos tórtolas o palomas. Sin duda, María y José hubieran querido ofrecer un cordero según lo prescrito por la ley. Pero eran tan pobre y no pudieron pagarlo, así que ofrecieron dos tórtolas.

Queremos ofrecer nuestro mejor a Dios en adoración también. Pero a veces nuestro mejor no sera perfecto. Yo pienso en padres que traen sus niños a la Misa. A menudo se distraerán o estarán incapaces de adorar a Dios tan bien como quisieran debido a sus hijos. Es fácil pensar, “Si no puedo dar a Dios lo mejor de lo mejor, ¿porque intentarlo?” Yo he oído a los padres dicen que no vienen a la Misa porque sus hijos les distraen. Pero estamos llamados a ofrecer nuestro mejor a Dios, incluso si no es perfecto. Si lo mejor que puedes hacer en Misa es intentar estar atento a pesar de las distracciones de sus hijos, eso es lo mejor que puedes hacer. Si tomas tiempo para orar y estas distraído, pero todavía intentas orar, eso es lo mejor que puedes hacer. No te desanimes porque, a veces, a pesar de hacer tu mejor, las cosas no están tan bueno como quisieras. María y José no se desanimaron porque su ofrenda no era tan bueno como podría ser. Era lo mejor que ellos pudieron hacer. Ofrécele a Dios lo mejor que puedas y no juzgues lo que ofreces contra lo que crees que deberías ofrecer.

María y José están en el Templo para presentar una ofrenda a Dios en respuesta al nacimiento de Jesús. En esto, nos enseñan que toda adoración realmente está devolviendo algo a Dios de lo que Él ya nos ha dado. Dios siempre da primero. Cuando le adoramos, no le estamos haciendo un favor. Más bien, le devolvemos una pequeña porción de lo que nos ha dado. Dios nos ha dado la vida. Nos ha dado todo que tenemos. En devuelta, le damos tiempo en orar o leer la Biblia o en la Misa o confesión. Todo que estamos haciendo es devolviéndole una parte de lo que ya nos ha dado. Es importante que siempre vemos nuestra adoración de Dios en esta manera. A veces, la oración, leyendo la Biblia, o viniendo a la Misa o confesión puede parecer una imposición. Puede parecer que adorar a Dios quita nuestro tiempo y nuestros planes. Si se siente así, significa que ya no comprendemos que estamos devuelta a Dios lo que Él nos ya ha dado. Todo que tenemos, cada momento de cada día, es un don de Dios. Adorarlo es nuestra oportunidad para devolverle algo de eso. No es una imposición que Él pone sobre nosotros ni una carga, pero la ocasión de mostrar nuestra gratitud por darle una pequeña cantidad de la abundancia que hemos recibido.

María y José ciertamente habrían estado alegres cuando vinieron al Templo ese día. Vienen con su bebé para alabar y adorar a Dios. Pero cuando son recibidos por Simeón, sus palabras no parecen alegres. Él les dice que Jesús es “signo que provocará contradicción”. Él le dice a María que ella será atravesada por una espada. Estas no son las palabras que un nuevo padre o madre quiere escuchar. María y José están allí para adorar a Dios y cumplir con sus deberes con Él, y lo que reciben es una profecía de tristeza. Es un recordatorio para nosotros de que nuestra adoración a Dios no es una salvaguardia que previene cosas malas. El hecho de que seamos fieles en nuestra oración y seguimos la ley de Dios no significa que nuestras vidas siempre serán felices. Como María y José, como Jesús mismo, nuestras vidas tendrán tristeza, sufrimiento y dificultades. Nuestras oraciones no nos protegen de eso. Pero nos recuerdan que, incluso cuando esas cosas suceden, Dios todavía está con nosotros.

Mientras celebramos que María y José traen al niño Jesús al Templo, ¿qué estamos trayendo al Señor? ¿Qué le ofrecemos a Dios? ¿Le damos lo mejor? ¿Vemos nuestra adoración a Él como una carga, o como una oportunidad de devolverle lo que nos ha dado? María y José nos enseñan hoy cómo adorar a Dios. Aquí en esta Eucaristía, como María y José, ofrecemos a Jesús al Padre. Aprendamos de María y José cómo adorar bien a Dios, hoy y todos los días de nuestras vidas.

 

 

Presentation of the Lord

Today’s Gospel can make us feel like we are back in Christmas. Suddenly, we’re hearing about Jesus as a little baby again. But there’s a very practical reason why the Feast of the Presentation is today. According to the Old Testament Law, parents were to present the child in the Temple and offer sacrifice forty days after a child was born. Today is forty days after Christmas. That’s why the Feast of the Presentation is always February 2. In the presentation, we see a beautiful act of worship by Mary and Joseph, and through them we can learn what it means to worship God well.

We are told that Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple to present Him to the Lord. Think about everything that has happened in their life since that day ten months prior when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary. The Presentation is in many ways a culmination of all of that. They are bringing all of those experiences with them as they present Jesus in the Temple. And, in presenting Jesus, they are offering the very best that they have to God. It was a requirement in the Jewish Law that whenever one brought something to offer to God in the Temple it had to be the best you had. If you were offering part of your crops or a lamb from your herd, it had to be the best. Mary and Joseph, as they offer Jesus in the Temple, teach us that, when we worship God, we should offer Him the best we have. Sometimes, God gets our leftovers. He gets the few spare minutes that we can carve out of the day, rather than us actually making time for Him. We pray, but we allow distractions to take our minds off of God. We come to worship God at Mass, but we leave early, not giving God any more than we absolutely have to. When we worship God, we should give Him our best, not our leftovers or the bare minimum.

Sometimes, when we hear that we should give our best to God, we set an impossibly high bar. We think that every prayer should be the pinnacle of devotion. We should give our best to God, but sometimes our best is not going to be the absolute best. When Mary and Joseph went to the Temple, we are told that they offered a pair of turtledoves. But if you read the Old Testament law, it says that the parents should offer a lamb. If the parents are so poor that they cannot offer a lamb, then they can offer two turtledoves or pigeons. Certainly, Mary and Joseph would have wanted to offer a lamb as the law prescribed. But they were poor and could not afford it, so they offered two turtledoves instead.

We want to offer our best to God in worship as well. But sometimes our best may not be perfect. I think of parents who bring young children to Mass. Often you will be distracted or unable to worship God as well as you would like because of your children. It is easy to think, “If I can’t give the absolute best to God, why bother?” I have heard parents say that they do not come to Mass because their children just distract them. But we are called to offer our best to God, even if it is not the absolute best. So if the best you can do at Mass is to try to pay attention in spite of your children distracting you, then that is the best you can do. If you make time for prayer and you are distracted, but you still try to pray, then that is the best you can do. Don’t get discouraged because sometimes, despite doing your best, things aren’t as good as you would like them to be. Mary and Joseph were not discouraged that the offering they brought to the Lord was not as good as it could have been. It was the best they could offer. Offer God the best you can, and don’t judge what you offer against what you think you should offer.

Mary and Joseph are in the Temple in order to present an offering to God in return for the birth of Jesus. In this, they teach us that all worship is really returning something to God from what He has already given us. God always gives first. When we worship Him, we are not doing Him a favor. Rather, we are returning to Him a small portion of what He has given to us. God has given us life. He has given us everything we have. In return, we give Him back time in prayer or reading the Bible or coming to Mass or confession. All we are doing is giving back to Him a part of what He has given us. It is important that we always see our worship of God in that way. Sometimes, prayer, reading the Bible, or going to Mass or confession can feel like an imposition. It can feel like worshipping God is cutting into our time and our plans. If this is the case, then it means we do not yet understand fully that all we are doing is giving back to God from what He has already given to us. Everything we have, every moment of every day, is a gift from God. Worshipping Him is our opportunity to give some of that back to Him. It is not an imposition that He places upon us or a burden, but rather the chance to show our gratitude by giving Him a small amount of the abundance that we have recieved.

Mary and Joseph would certainly have been joyful as they came to the Temple that day. They are coming with their infant child to offer praise and worship to God. But when they are greeted by Simeon, his words do not seem joyful. He tells them that Jesus is “a sign that will be contradicted.” He tells Mary that she will be pierced by a sword. These are not the words that a new parent wants to hear. Mary and Joseph are there to worship God and fulfill their duties to Him, and what they receive is a prophecy of sorrow. It is a reminder to us that our worship of God is not a safeguard that keeps bad things from happening. Just because we are faithful in our prayer and in following God’s law does not mean that our lives will always be happy. Like Mary and Joseph, like Jesus Himself, our lives will have sadness, suffering, and difficulties. Our prayers do not protect us from that. But they remind us that, even when those things happen, God is still with us.

As we celebrate Mary and Joseph bringing the child Jesus to the Temple, what are we bringing to the Lord? What do we offer to God? Do we give Him our best? Do we see our worship of Him as a burden or as a chance to give back to Him from what He has given to us? Mary and Joseph teach us today how to worship God. Here in this Eucharist, like Mary and Joseph, we offer Jesus to the Father. Let us learn from Mary and Joseph how to worship God well, today and every day of our lives.

 

III Domingo Ordinario/Estado de la Parroquia

Estoy hablando en todas las misas esta fin de semana sobre el estado de la parroquia. Hay en realidad solo una estadística en que quiero enfocar. Cada octubre, la arquidiócesis pide a todas las parroquias que contamos el número de las personas asistiendo en las Misas. Cuando yo llegué en dos mil diez y siete, tuvimos mil cuatrocientas personas en las Misas cada fin de semana. El octubre pasado, tuvimos mil doscientas personas en las Misas. Esto es un disminución de cien personas cada año. Si esa tendencia continúa, si continuamos perdiendo cien personas cada año, dentro de diez años nuestra parroquia estará en peligro de dejar de ser viable.

No estamos solos en esto. Cada parroquia en nuestra área ha experimentado una disminución de asistencia. Pero lo más importante, esa tendencia no necesita continuar. Nuestra parroquia ha estado aquí por doscientos treinta años. Puede estar aquí por doscientos treinta años más. Pero tenemos que hacer algo. Nuestra misión es hacer discípulos de todas las naciones. Hay mucha gente que podría asistir a Misa aquí. Pero no estamos realizando nuestra misión. No estamos haciendo discípulos de todas las naciones. Ni siquiera estamos haciendo discípulos de las personas que ya vienen aquí, como lo demuestra el hecho de que la gente se está dejando. Todo esto es una advertencia que algo necesita cambiar. Si continuamos operando en la misma manera en que ahora operamos, podemos esperar los mismos resultados.

Por lo tanto, le pido a cada feligrés que haga tres cosas. Primero, les pido que orar. Oren por nuestra parroquia diariamente. Rueguen a Dios que envíe avivamiento a nuestra parroquia. La primera lectura hoy habla del Señor renovando a la gente de Israel. Isaías dice, “El pueblo que habitaba en tinieblas vio una gran luz; sobre los que vivían en tierra de sombras, una luz resplandeció. Engrandeciste a tu pueblo e hiciste grande su alegría.” El mismo Dios que puede cambiar las tinieblas en luz y la tristeza en alegría puede traer avivamiento y renovación aquí en San Carlos Borromeo, pero tenemos que pedirlo. Si no haces nada más, yo te lo ruego, por favor, ora por nuestra parroquia cada día. Estoy seguro que Él responderá a nuestras oraciones.

Segundo, este marzo tenemos una misión parroquial. El tema de la misión es, “Sea Renovado en Cristo.” Nuestra parroquia necesita la renovación. Nosotros, ustedes y yo, necesitamos la renovación. Por favor, asistan a la misión. Hay más información en mi columna en el boletín, incluyendo una oración para rezar mientras preparamos. Yo sé que puede parecer mucho para sacrificar cuatro noches seguidas, pero yo te prometo, Dios te bendecirá abundantemente por tu sacrificio. Por favor trate de venir cada noche. Pero incluso si no puedes asistir todas las noches, si haces el esfuerzo de asistir a la mayor parte de la misión que puedas, yo te prometo que el Señor los bendecirá a tu y a nuestra parroquia. Esta misión tiene la potencial de iniciar la renovación que nuestra parroquia necesita, pero solo si la usamos.

Yo dije que les pido a todos que hagan tres cosas. Lo primero es orar. El segundo es asistir a la misión. El tercero es el más desafiante. Como dije, si seguimos haciendo lo mismo, seguiremos obteniendo los mismos resultados. Nuestra misión es hacer discípulos de todas naciones. Pero las personas no se convierten en discípulos simplemente por ser parte de la multitud. Los Evangelios siempre diferencia entre la multitud, las personas que solo siguieron a Jesús casualmente, y los discípulos, que tuvieron un relación cercana y personal con Jesús y compartieron sus vidas con Él. Uno de los problemas que enfrentamos en la Iglesia Católica es que actuamos como si personas simplemente están aquí, se convertirán en discípulos. No funciona. Así no fue como funcionó en las Escrituras. Y ciertamente no funciona ahora. En el Evangelio hoy, vemos a Jesús llamando a sus primeros discípulos. Y Él les llama por nombre para ser en un grupo cercano de compañeros que compartiremos sus vidas juntas.

Si vamos hacer discípulos, necesitamos hacerlo como Jesús lo hizo. Si nuestra misión es hacer discípulos, necesitamos proporcionar un lugar para hacer discípulos. Entonces lo que estoy proponiendo es que, como parroquia, comenzaremos a formar lo que yo llamo Familias de Discipulado. Estos son grupos pequeños que están diseñados para ser lugares donde las personas se reúnan y compartan su vida de fe. Estarán lugares donde las personas se apoyan, se animan y se edifican mutualmente como discípulos. Obviamente, la Eucaristía es esencial en nuestra fe, y estas familias de discipulado no reemplazar la Misa dominical. Pero en la Misa, es fácil parecerse solo como una cara sin nombre en la multitud. La Misa no proviene un lugar donde las personas pueden compartir abiertamente sobre su fe mutualmente. Eso es lo que estas familias de discipulado intentan proporcionar. El objetivo de estos grupos no es solo ser otro ministerio en la parroquia, sino reorientar cómo operamos y cómo las personas interactúan con nuestra parroquia.

Yo he hablado con muchas personas sobre la disminución de la asistencia. Una de las respuestas más común que escucho es, “La cultura ha cambiado.” Si, la cultura ha cambiado. Así que también tenemos que cambiar. Cuando yo observo a la cultura hoy, una de las cosas que creo que la gente anhela es una conexión real y personal. Es por eso que las redes sociales son tan populares. Es por eso que las personas están tan dedicadas a sus teléfonos inteligentes. Queremos un lugar al que pertenezcamos. Pero mientras nuestra sociedad trata de ofrecer conexión, no puede entregarlo. Estas familias de discipulado seré lugares de conexión real y personal.

Algunas personas pueden estar pensando, “Espere, el problema es que las personas no vienen, ¿y tu solución es pedir que las personas vienen más?” Correcto. La gente hace tiempo para las cosas que parecen importante. Obviamente, no hemos hecho un trabajo bueno para convencer a las personas de que su fe es lo suficiente importante. Espero que, a medida que estas familias de discipulado crezcan y proporcionen una conexión real y un crecimiento espiritual, más personas verán su fe como algo importante que vale la pena invertir.

Entonces, ¿cómo funcionará esto? Si estos grupos vamos ser exitosos, necesitamos feligreses para liderarlos formados en como fomentar la discipulado. Entonces hoy anunciamos esta nueva empresa. En el próximo estaremos pidiendo a los feligreses que estén dispuestos a liderar las familias de discipulado. Muchos católicos tienen dones asombrosos del liderazgo y discipulado, pero no saben dónde usarlos. Esta es esa oportunidad. Después, pasaremos seis meses trabajando los líderes para formarlos ser líderes efectivos de discipulado. Este otoño, invitaremos a los feligreses a unirse a las familias de discipulado, y la programa se lanzará por completo.

Esta es una gran empresa. Es, en muchos sentidos, una empresa arriesgada. Pero realmente creo que tiene el poder para transformar y revitalizar a nuestra parroquia. Les pido a todos ustedes que se unan a mí en esa empresa nueva. Tal vez sientes que Dios te llama para ser un líder de una familia. Si no, por favor oren por los que Él llama, y estén abiertos a unirse a una familia cuando lanzarán este otoño.

Nuestra parroquia necesita un cambio de rumbo. Necesitamos un avivamiento. Y creo totalmente que Dios es capaz de revivir a nuestra parroquia. Pero nos exige a todos juntos. Nuestra segunda lectura hoy habla de la importancia de la unidad. Esto solo funciona si todos estamos a bordo. Si estamos unidos como parroquia en busca de renovación, no tengo ninguna duda que Dios trabajará en maneras que superan nuestra imaginación. Entonces, de nuevo, les pido a todos que hagan tres cosas. Primero y ante todo, recen por nuestra parroquia diariamente. Segundo, asistan a la misión parroquial en marzo. Y tercero, unan a nosotros mientras creamos las familias de discipulado para llevar a cabo nuestra misión. Que Dios nos renueva, como individuos y como parroquia. Y que vivamos siempre nuestra misión de hacer discípulos de todas las naciones.

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time/State of the Parish

I am speaking at all the Masses this weekend about the state of our parish. As I do so, there is actually only one statistic that I want to focus on. Every year in October, the Archdiocese asks parishes to count the number of people attending Mass on the weekend. We have done this for the past three years. When I arrived in 2017, we had approximately 1,400 people at Mass every weekend. This past October, we had approximately 1,200 people at Mass every weekend. This is a decrease of 200 people, or about 100 people a year. Simply put, if that trend continues, if we continue to lose 100 people each year, within ten years our parish will be in danger of no longer being viable.

We are not alone in this. Every parish in our area has seen a decrease in attendance. But most importantly, that trend does not have to continue. Our parish has been here for 230 years. It can be here for 230 more. But if we want our parish to be here long into the future, we have to do something. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. The population of St. Charles continues to grow. There are plenty of people who could be coming to Mass here. But we are not fulfilling our mission. We are not making disciples of all nations. We aren’t even making disciples of the people who are already coming here, as evidenced by the fact that people are drifting away. All of this should be a big red flag that something needs to change. If we keep operating the way that we are currently operating, we can expect to get the same results.

To that end, I am asking every parishioner to do three things. First and foremost, I am asking you to pray. Pray for our parish daily. Beg God to send revival to our parish. Our first reading today speaks of the Lord renewing the people of Israel. Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy.” The God who can change darkness into light and sadness into joy can bring revival and renewal here at St. Charles Borromeo, but we have to ask for it. If you do nothing else, I am begging you, please pray for our parish every day. If all of us come before the Lord, interceding for our parish, I am confident that He will answer our prayers.

Second, this March we are having a Parish Mission. The theme of the Mission is, “Be Renewed in Christ.” The theme could not be more appropriate. Our parish needs renewal. We, you and I, we need renewal. Please plan on attending the Mission. There is more information in my column in the bulletin this weekend about the Mission, including a prayer to pray as we prepare. I know that it can seem like a lot to give up four nights in a row to come to Church, but I promise you, God will bless you abundantly for your sacrifice. The Lord is never outdone in generosity. Please try to come every night. But even if you cannot come every night, if you make the effort to come to as much of the Mission as you can, I promise you without a doubt that the Lord will bless you and our whole parish. This Mission has the potential to kick start the renewal that our parish needs, but only if we use it.

I said I am asking everyone to do three things. The first is to pray. The second is to attend the Mission. The third request is the most radical. As I said, if we keep doing the same thing as a parish, we will keep getting the same results. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. But people don’t become disciples just by being part of the crowd. The Gospels always differentiate between the crowd, the people who just followed Jesus casually, and the disciples, who had a close, personal relationship with Jesus and shared their lives with Him. One of the problems that we face in the Catholic Church today is that we act like if people just show up they will become disciples. It doesn’t work. That isn’t how it worked in the Scriptures. And it certainly isn’t working now. In the Gospel today, we see Jesus calling some of His first disciples. And He calls them by name to be part of a close group of companions who will walk together and share their lives with each other.

If we are going to make disciples, we need to do it like Jesus did. If our mission is to make disciples of all nations, we need to provide a venue for disciple-making. Right now, we do not have any ongoing work of disciple making in the parish. So what I am proposing is that, as a parish, we will begin to form what I am calling Discipleship Families. These are small groups that are designed to be places for people to come together and share their life of faith with each other. They will be places for people to support each other, encourage each other, and build each other up as disciples. They will provide places for people to share honestly their walk of faith. Obviously the Eucharist and our communion with Jesus is essential to our faith, and these discipleship families will not take the place of Sunday Mass. But at Mass, it is easy to feel like just a nameless face in the crowd. Mass does not provide people a place to share openly about their faith with each other. That sort of fellowship happens in smaller groups, and that is what these discipleship families are intended to do. The goal of these groups is not just another ministry in the parish, but reorienting how we operate and how people interact with our parish.

I have talked with many people about the struggles of our parish and the declining attendance. One of the most common responses I hear is, “The culture has changed.” It is true, the culture has changed. So we need to change, too. When I look out on the culture today, one of the things that I think people are longing for is real, personal connection. It’s why social media is so popular. It is why people are so attached to their smartphones. We crave connection. We want to belong. But while society tries to offer connection, it cannot actually deliver what it promises. These discipleship families will be places of real, personal connection.

Some people may be thinking, “Hold on, the problem is that people aren’t coming, and your solution is to ask people to get more involved?” That’s correct. People make time for things that they feel are important. Clearly, we have not done a good job of convincing people that their faith is important enough to be worth making time for. It is my hope that, as these discipleship families grow and provide real, authentic connection and spiritual growth, more and more people will see their faith as important and worth investing in.

So how will this work? If these groups are going to be successful, we need parishioners to lead them who are formed in how to foster discipleship. So today we are announcing this new undertaking. The next month will be spent asking parishioners to be willing to be leaders for the discipleship families. Many Catholics have amazing gifts of leadership and discipleship, but don’t know where to use them. This is that opportunity. After that, we will spend six months working with our leaders to form them to be effective discipleship leaders. This fall, we will invite parishioners to join the discipleship families, and the program will fully launch.

This is a big undertaking. It is in many ways a risky undertaking. But I truly believe that it has the opportunity to transform and revitalize our parish. I am asking all of you to join me in this new endeavor. Maybe you feel God calling you to be a leader of a discipleship family. If not, please pray for those whom He is calling, and please be open to joining a family when we launch them this fall.

Our parish needs a change of course. We need revival. And I fully believe that God is capable of reviving our parish. But it takes all of us together. Our second reading today speaks of the importance of unity. This only works if we are all onboard. If we are united as a parish in seeking renewal, I have no doubt that God will work in ways beyond our imagining. So, again, I am asking everyone to do three things. First and foremost, pray for our parish every day. Second, please attend our parish mission. And third, join us as we create discipleship families to carry out our mission. May God renew us, as individuals and as a parish. And may we always live out our mission to make disciples of all nations.

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time/State of the Parish

I am speaking at all the Masses this weekend about the state of our parish. As I do so, there is actually only one statistic that I want to focus on. Every year in October, the Archdiocese asks parishes to count the number of people attending Mass on the weekend. We have done this for the past three years. When I arrived in 2017, we had approximately 1,400 people at Mass every weekend. This past October, we had approximately 1,200 people at Mass every weekend. This is a decrease of 200 people, or about 100 people a year. Simply put, if that trend continues, if we continue to lose 100 people each year, within ten years our parish will be in danger of no longer being viable.

We are not alone in this. Every parish in our area has seen a decrease in attendance. But most importantly, that trend does not have to continue. Our parish has been here for 230 years. It can be here for 230 more. But if we want our parish to be here long into the future, we have to do something. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. The population of St. Charles continues to grow. There are plenty of people who could be coming to Mass here. But we are not fulfilling our mission. We are not making disciples of all nations. We aren’t even making disciples of the people who are already coming here, as evidenced by the fact that people are drifting away. All of this should be a big red flag that something needs to change. If we keep operating the way that we are currently operating, we can expect to get the same results.

To that end, I am asking every parishioner to do three things. First and foremost, I am asking you to pray. Pray for our parish daily. Beg God to send revival to our parish. Our first reading today speaks of the Lord renewing the people of Israel. Isaiah says, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy.” The God who can change darkness into light and sadness into joy can bring revival and renewal here at St. Charles Borromeo, but we have to ask for it. If you do nothing else, I am begging you, please pray for our parish every day. If all of us come before the Lord, interceding for our parish, I am confident that He will answer our prayers.

Second, this March we are having a Parish Mission. The theme of the Mission is, “Be Renewed in Christ.” The theme could not be more appropriate. Our parish needs renewal. We, you and I, we need renewal. Please plan on attending the Mission. There is more information in my column in the bulletin this weekend about the Mission, including a prayer to pray as we prepare. I know that it can seem like a lot to give up four nights in a row to come to Church, but I promise you, God will bless you abundantly for your sacrifice. The Lord is never outdone in generosity. Please try to come every night. But even if you cannot come every night, if you make the effort to come to as much of the Mission as you can, I promise you without a doubt that the Lord will bless you and our whole parish. This Mission has the potential to kick start the renewal that our parish needs, but only if we use it.

I said I am asking everyone to do three things. The first is to pray. The second is to attend the Mission. The third request is the most radical. As I said, if we keep doing the same thing as a parish, we will keep getting the same results. Our mission is to make disciples of all nations. But people don’t become disciples just by being part of the crowd. The Gospels always differentiate between the crowd, the people who just followed Jesus casually, and the disciples, who had a close, personal relationship with Jesus and shared their lives with Him. One of the problems that we face in the Catholic Church today is that we act like if people just show up they will become disciples. It doesn’t work. That isn’t how it worked in the Scriptures. And it certainly isn’t working now. In the Gospel today, we see Jesus calling some of His first disciples. And He calls them by name to be part of a close group of companions who will walk together and share their lives with each other.

If we are going to make disciples, we need to do it like Jesus did. If our mission is to make disciples of all nations, we need to provide a venue for disciple-making. Right now, we do not have any ongoing work of disciple making in the parish. So what I am proposing is that, as a parish, we will begin to form what I am calling Discipleship Families. These are small groups that are designed to be places for people to come together and share their life of faith with each other. They will be places for people to support each other, encourage each other, and build each other up as disciples. They will provide places for people to share honestly their walk of faith. Obviously the Eucharist and our communion with Jesus is essential to our faith, and these discipleship families will not take the place of Sunday Mass. But at Mass, it is easy to feel like just a nameless face in the crowd. Mass does not provide people a place to share openly about their faith with each other. That sort of fellowship happens in smaller groups, and that is what these discipleship families are intended to do. The goal of these groups is not just another ministry in the parish, but reorienting how we operate and how people interact with our parish.

I have talked with many people about the struggles of our parish and the declining attendance. One of the most common responses I hear is, “The culture has changed.” It is true, the culture has changed. So we need to change, too. When I look out on the culture today, one of the things that I think people are longing for is real, personal connection. It’s why social media is so popular. It is why people are so attached to their smartphones. We crave connection. We want to belong. But while society tries to offer connection, it cannot actually deliver what it promises. These discipleship families will be places of real, personal connection.

Some people may be thinking, “Hold on, the problem is that people aren’t coming, and your solution is to ask people to get more involved?” That’s correct. People make time for things that they feel are important. Clearly, we have not done a good job of convincing people that their faith is important enough to be worth making time for. It is my hope that, as these discipleship families grow and provide real, authentic connection and spiritual growth, more and more people will see their faith as important and worth investing in.

So how will this work? If these groups are going to be successful, we need parishioners to lead them who are formed in how to foster discipleship. So today we are announcing this new undertaking. The next month will be spent asking parishioners to be willing to be leaders for the discipleship families. Many Catholics have amazing gifts of leadership and discipleship, but don’t know where to use them. This is that opportunity. After that, we will spend six months working with our leaders to form them to be effective discipleship leaders. This fall, we will invite parishioners to join the discipleship families, and the program will fully launch.

This is a big undertaking. It is in many ways a risky undertaking. But I truly believe that it has the opportunity to transform and revitalize our parish. I am asking all of you to join me in this new endeavor. Maybe you feel God calling you to be a leader of a discipleship family. If not, please pray for those whom He is calling, and please be open to joining a family when we launch them this fall.

Our parish needs a change of course. We need revival. And I fully believe that God is capable of reviving our parish. But it takes all of us together. Our second reading today speaks of the importance of unity. This only works if we are all onboard. If we are united as a parish in seeking renewal, I have no doubt that God will work in ways beyond our imagining. So, again, I am asking everyone to do three things. First and foremost, pray for our parish every day. Second, please attend our parish mission. And third, join us as we create discipleship families to carry out our mission. May God renew us, as individuals and as a parish. And may we always live out our mission to make disciples of all nations.