Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In every romantic relationship, there comes that moment of great importance where, for the first time, one person says those three powerful words, “I love you.” There is so much weight hanging on that moment, first, because it is an admission of something deeply personal. But even more important, everyone knows that in that statement is an invitation. When one person says, “I love you,” there is inherently an invitation for the other person to respond, “I love you, too.” Every act of love is also an invitation to reciprocate. That is why expressing love for another person is so scary, because there is always the fear that the person will not reciprocate, that our love is one-sided.

The Eucharist is a gift of love, and it is also an invitation. As Jesus says in the Gospel today, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in my and I in him.” He makes it clear that he is not speaking metaphorically. He says, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” The Greek word here, ἀληθῶς, means “true,” “most certainly,” or “in reality.” Christ is telling us that His Flesh is truly and in reality food and His Blood is truly and in reality drink. It is easy to see how this was shocking to His listeners. “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” they ask in the Gospel today. If I were to stand here in the pulpit and insist that if you wanted eternal life you had to eat my flesh and drink my blood, you all would probably be a little concerned as well.

But later at the Last Supper, Our Lord would make these words clear. When He took bread and said, “This is my Body, which will be given up for you,” and took the chalice of wine saying, “This is the chalice of my Blood, which will be poured out for you,” it became clear how He wanted us to eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood. He truly gives us His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. This has been the perennial belief of the Church. The Eucharist is not just bread and wine, it is not just a symbol or a representation, it is truly the Body and Blood of Our Lord. So strong is the Church’s belief in this that, in the early days of the Church, there was a rumor that went out among the pagans that Christians were practicing cannibalism. They heard that Christians were eating the Body and Blood of their messiah, and, not understanding the Eucharist, they assumed that Christians met every Sunday morning to practice literal cannibalism. That shows us just how strong the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist has always been. As Catholics, we take seriously the words of Our Lord. He told us that His flesh and blood were really and truly food and drink. He insisted that we must eat His Flesh and Drink His Blood to have eternal life. And then He gave us the Eucharist saying, “This is My Body and this is My Blood.” Why would we not believe that He is telling us the truth? Why would we doubt that this Eucharist is really Jesus Christ, here present among us?

In the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. That is an amazing gift. God gives us Himself, really and completely. He holds nothing back, but in love completely gives Himself to us. The definition of love is to give of ourselves for the good of another. When we love someone, we give of our time and our resources for that person. The Eucharist is the greatest gift of love imaginable. Christ doesn’t give just some thing for our good, but He gives us Himself. Not just part of Himself, but He gives us Himself completely. The Eucharist is the most amazing gift of love that Jesus could give us. There is nothing greater that He could give. This is an amazing gift.

But in this gift is also a challenge. Every gift of love is also an invitation to reciprocate. When we give of ourselves in love to someone, there is contained in that gift an invitation for them to give of themselves in love as well. Love always contains within it an invitation to reciprocate. The Eucharist is the greatest gift of love, which means it is also the greatest invitation to respond.

In the Eucharist, Christ tells us, “This is my Body, given up for you.” Christ’s words are contrary to selfishness and ego. Our selfishness and pride say, “This is my body, and I’ll do with it what I want.” Christ says, “This is my Body, and I give it for you.” The invitation is for us to imitate the love of Christ. This is my body, this is my blood, this is my life, given in love for God and for my brother and sister. That is the invitation and the challenge that we receive in every Eucharist. The challenge is to mortify our pride and selfishness, to mortify the part of us that says, “It’s my body, it’s my life, and I’ll do what I want with it,” in order to imitate the love of Christ which says, “This is my body, and I give it for you.” The Eucharist is a remedy for our sinfulness, which always turns us in on ourselves. We receive Christ’s gift of love, and we are invited by this Eucharist to imitate and reciprocate that gift. We are challenged to become what we receive, an outpouring of love for others.

The danger is that we receive but do not reciprocate. We come here, and Christ gives Himself to us completely in love, but then we remain closed in on ourselves, not giving of ourselves in love for God and our brothers and sisters. How tragic to receive such an amazing gift of love and yet not reciprocate. Unfortunately, this past week, we saw a particularly grievous example of this in the Church with the reports from the grand jury in Pennsylvania. Priests and bishops, men who stood at the altar and daily said the very words, “This is my body, given up for you,” failed tragically to live out that example of self-giving love. By their sinful actions, which are morally reprehensible, they made a mockery of the very Eucharist they celebrated. They held in their hands the cure for all sins and they failed to allow it to bear fruit in their souls. In so doing, they did inestimable harm, first and foremost to those young people whose lives they damaged, as well as to the Church as a whole. The actions, both by those who abused children and by those who hid these sins, deserve severe condemnation.

When such terrible acts are brought to light, what do we do? First and foremost, we pray. Pray for those who were victims of abuse and for their families, for their healing. Pray for those whose faith in the Church has been shaken as a result of the sinfulness of her priests and bishops. Pray for all priests and bishops, that they may be faithful in their promises to God and their commitment to protect especially the most innocent. And, yes, pray for those priests and bishops who are guilty of such heinous sins. Second, we must as a Church continually recommit ourselves to ever greater vigilance in protecting our children. The Church has made great efforts in this. The grand jury report from Pennsylvania, as condemning as it is, reveals this, in that most of the abuse it found occurred decades ago. The Church has made great efforts over the past fifteen years to protect our young people, and these efforts have borne and continue to bear fruit. We remain fully committed to doing everything within our power to safeguard our children. Anyone who needs to report current or past sexual abuse by a member of the clergy or lay employee of the Church is encouraged to call the Office of Child and Youth Protection in the Archdiocese as well as the appropriate civil authorities.

Finally, in the face of such atrocities, the greatest remedy we have is right here in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist is the font of holiness for ourselves as individuals, for the Church, and for the whole world. The best thing that any one of us can do is to respond to the invitation that Christ gives to each of us in this great gift. Do not neglect this invitation of love. As you receive this Eucharist, ask God for the grace to imitate the words of Christ, “This is my body; given up for you.” And pray that all priests and members of the Church who receive from the altar always imitate Christ’s gift of love.


XIX Domingo Ordinario

¿Hay veces que sientes que vivir una vida buena y moral de acuerdo con las enseñanzas de la Iglesia es demasiado difícil? ¿Que no es posible para vivirlo? Escuchen lo que San Pablo dice a los Efesios en la segunda lectura: “Destierren de ustedes la aspereza, la ira, la indignación, los insultos, la maledicencia y toda clase de maldad.” Y si eso no era lo suficientemente difícil, él agrega, “Sean buenos y comprensivos, y perdónense los unos a los otros, como Dios los perdonó, por medio de Cristo.” Y finalmente, él dice: “Imiten a Dios.” Cuando yo miro una lista como esa, cuando miro la forma de vida que el Evangelio demanda, hay parte de mí que piensa, “Por qué no dime también para respirar bajo el agua, porque parece tan probable que podría hacer eso como vivir de acuerdo con el Evangelio.”

Entonces, ¿es humanamente posible para vivir las enseñanzas de Cristo? En una palabra, no. No es posible humanamente. Podemos ser personas decentes por nuestra cuenta, pero ser santos, ser perfectos, no es posible para nosotros por nuestra propia cuenta. Y Dios lo sabe. Es por eso que no necesitamos hacerlo solo. Si Dios nos dijera que debemos ser perfectos, ser imitadores de Él, y no nos daría ayuda, Él estaría pidiendo que nosotros hagamos lo imposible. Pero Él vino a ayudarnos.

Al igual de Elías en la primera lectura, Dios nos ve agotados en el desierto de este mundo. Para Elías, Dios envió a un ángel con pan y agua, diciendo, “Levántate y come, porque aún te queda un largo camino.” Del mismo modo, el camino de aquí al cielo es demasiado largo para nosotros. Dios no nos da cobijo bajo un árbol de retama, sino a la sombra del árbol de la Cruz. Él no envía un ángel con pan y agua, sino que Él mismo viene con Su Cuerpo y Sangre, el Pan de Vida.

Es por eso que Jesús nos da la Eucaristía, porque sin ella, es imposible para nosotros vivir una vida santa. Una vida de santidad, la a que Dios nos llama, es sobrenatural, es decir, está  por encima de nuestra capacidad natural. Para ser imitadores de Dios, necesitamos Su vida dentro de nosotros. Y eso es lo que Él nos da en la Eucaristía.

En el Santísimo Sacramento, Dios nos da Su vida. En la Eucaristía es el Cuerpo, Sangre, Alma y Divinidad de Nuestro Señor. Como dice Jesús en el Evangelio, “él que coma de este pan vivirá para siempre. Y el pan que yo les voy a dar es mi carne para que el mundo tenga vida.” Cristo viene a nosotros y nos permite recibirlo para que Él puede  vivir su vida divina en nosotros. Él nos da Su santidad para que podemos ser santos. Él nos da Su perfección para que podemos ser perfectos.

Esto nunca debería dejar de sorprendernos. Dios mismo está aquí con nosotros. Jesucristo, nuestro Salvador, el Hijo de Dios, está realmente presente aquí, Cuerpo y Sangre, Alma y Divinidad. Nunca podemos entender completamente cuán asombroso es este regalo. Y Él no solo viene para estar con nosotros, sino que Él se nos da como alimento y bebida para que podemos recibirlo y, en Él, recibir la fortaleza que necesitamos para vivir la santidad. En cada Misa, llevamos nuestras oraciones y necesidades a Dios. Cristo une nuestras suplicas a su sacrificio perfecto para hacer de ellas, en las palabras de San Pablo, “fragancia agradable a Dios.” Y luego, después de presentar nuestras necesidades a Su Padre, Jesús viene a nosotros para darnos fuerza, alimentándonos consigo mismo para que Él puede vivir Su vida en nosotros y podemos vivir nuestra vida en Él. ¡Qué hermoso intercambio: nos entregamos a Dios, Él se entrega a nosotros; lo recibimos, y Él nos recibe!

Ese es el misterio de lo que hacemos aquí cada domingo cuando nos reunimos para la Misa. Por eso me duele cada vez que escucho a alguien decir que no recibe nada de la misa. ¿No recibe nada? Recibimos a Dios mismo. Recibimos al mismo Creador y Sustentador del mundo en nosotros. Nos unimos a Dios, y Él se une a nosotros. Y, sin embargo, ¿con qué frecuencia no somos conscientes de este increíble regalo? ¿Con qué frecuencia hacemos los movimientos en la misa, completamente ajenos al asombroso misterio que celebramos? ¿Con qué frecuencia no le agradecemos a Dios por este maravilloso Sacramento? Qué alegría, qué reverencia, qué amor debe inspirar la Eucaristía en nosotros. Qué tristeza debemos sentir por esas veces en que lo recibimos indignamente o desconocemos. Si realmente entendiéramos la asombrosa realidad de la Eucaristía, con qué cuidado nos prepararíamos para recibirlo dignamente. Esta es la razón que la Iglesia nos anima a llegar temprano a la Misa para pasar tiempo en oración para prepararnos. Es por eso que se supone que no debemos recibir a Nuestro Señor en la Eucaristía si somos conscientes de un pecado grave no confesado. La Iglesia también nos anima a quedarnos unos momentos después de la Misa para hacer una oración de acción de gracias.

En la Eucaristía, Nuestro Señor nos se da a nosotros para fortalecernos y darnos la gracia para la vida de santidad. Él nos da, en cada Eucaristía, toda la fuerza que necesitamos para seguirlo. Hoy, y en cada misa, busquemos crecer en nuestro amor por este maravilloso regalo, para que, después de haber recibido dignamente el Pan de Vida, podamos compartir el don de la vida eterna en el cielo.


Nineteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Do you ever feel that living a good, moral life according to the teachings of the Church is just too difficult? Like there is no way it is humanly possible to live it? I mean, listen to what St. Paul tells the Ephesians in today’s second reading, “All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.” If that wasn’t hard enough, he adds, “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.” And finally, as if all of that wasn’t a high enough bar, he says, “Be imitators of God.” I don’t know about you, but there is part of me that looks at a list like that, that looks at the way of life that the Gospel expects us to live, and thinks, “You might as well tell me to fly like a bird and breathe underwater, because it seems just as likely for me to do that as to live according to the Gospel.”

So is it humanly possible to live the teachings of Christ? In a word, no. It is not humanly possible. It is possible for us to be decent people on our own, it is even possible for us to be good on our own, but to be holy, to be perfect, to live without sin, is not possible for us on our own. And God knows it. That is why we don’t have to do it on our own. If God told us to be perfect, to be imitators of Him, to love as He loves, and didn’t give us help, He would be asking us to do the impossible. That is why He came to our aid.

Like Elijah in the first reading, God sees us worn out and exhausted in the desert of this world. To Elijah, God sent an angel with bread and water, saying, “Get up and eat, else the journey will be too long for you.” Likewise, the journey from here to heaven is too long for us. God does not give us shelter under a broom tree, but in the shadow of the wood of the Cross. He does not send an angel with bread and water, but He Himself comes with His Body and Blood, the Bread of Life.

This is why Jesus gives us the Eucharist, because without it, it is impossible for us to live a truly holy life.  A life of holiness, the life to which God calls us, is supernatural, that is, it is above our natural ability. To live holiness, we need supernatural grace. To be imitators of God, we need His life within us. And that is what He gives us in the Eucharist.

In the Blessed Sacrament, God gives us His life. In the Eucharist is the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord. As Jesus says in the Gospel, “whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Christ comes to us and allows us to receive Him so that He can live His Divine Life in us. He gives us His holiness so that we can be holy. He gives us His perfection so that we can be perfect.

This is something that should never cease to amaze us. God Himself is right here with us. Jesus Christ, Our Savior, the Son of God, is truly present here, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. We can never completely fathom how amazing this gift is. And He not only comes to be with us, but He gives Himself to us as food and drink so that we can receive Him and, in Him, receive the strength we need to live a life of holiness. At every Mass, we bring our prayers and our needs to God. Christ unites our prayers to His perfect sacrifice in order to make of them, in the words of St. Paul, “a fragrant aroma” for God. And then, after presenting Our needs to His Father, Our Lord comes to us to give us strength, feeding us with His very self so that He can live His life in us and we can live our life in Him. What a beautiful exchange: we give ourselves to God, He gives Himself to us; we receive Him, and He receives us.

That is the mystery of what we do here every Sunday when we gather for Mass. That is why it pains me whenever I hear someone say that they don’t get anything out of Mass. Don’t get anything? We get God Himself. We receive the very Maker and Sustainer of the world into ourselves. We unite ourselves to God, and He unites Himself to us. And yet how often are we unaware of this amazing gift? How often do we just go through the motions at Mass, completely oblivious to the amazing mystery that we celebrate? How often do we fail to thank God for this wonderful Sacrament? What joy, what reverence, what love the Eucharist should inspire in us. What sorrow we should feel for those times that we receive Him unworthily or unaware. If we really took seriously the amazing reality of the Eucharist, with what care we would prepare ourselves to receive Him worthily. This is why the Church encourages us to arrive to Mass early in order to spend time in prayer so that we can prepare ourselves for this great gift. This is why we are not supposed to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist if we are aware of unconfessed grave sin on our soul. The Church also encourages us to stay for a few moments after Mass in order to make a prayer of thanksgiving.

In the Eucharist, Our Lord gives us Himself to strengthen us and give us the grace necessary for the life of holiness. He gives us, in every Eucharist, all the strength we need to follow Him. Today, and at every Mass, let us seek to grow in our love of this wonderful gift, so that, having worthily received the Bread of Life, we may share in the gift of eternal life in heaven.

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is amazing how fickle we can be. We can so quickly go from thinking and feeling one way, then pull a complete 180 and think or feel the opposite. This is the case in our first reading today. In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, God leads the people out of slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea. In the fifteenth chapter, they are singing praise to God who has freed them. But in today’s first reading from the sixteenth chapter, they are already complaining. “Would that we had died at the LORD’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!” They are already wishing that they were back in slavery in Egypt. How could they do that? How could they want to go back to slavery? They’ve forgotten about the hard labor in Egypt, about Pharaoh killing their children, about the cruelty of their taskmasters. All they remember is that the food they had more food in Egypt than they now have in the desert. They’re willing to abandon their freedom for a little food.

It’s easy to be critical of the Israelites. How could they want to go back to slavery? How could they be willing to trade their freedom in God for a little food? But that’s really the temptation of all sin, the temptation to trade the freedom we have in God for some passing thing. We do it all the time. Every sin, from the smallest to the largest, is a case of trading the freedom we have in God for some lesser good. And, like the Israelites in the Exodus, we convince ourselves that it is a worthwhile tradeoff. The Israelites were convinced that it would be worth it to abandon their freedom for the sake of better food. Likewise, every time we sin we on some level have convinced ourselves that whatever benefit this sin seems to give us is worth abandoning our freedom in God. In our fallen, sinful human nature, we can deceive ourselves into thinking that somehow sin is worth it. As St. Paul says in our second reading, “the old self of [our] former way of life [has been] corrupted through deceitful desires.” In our sinfulness, we have come to believe that our sins are worth it.

They aren’t. Whatever apparent benefit sin promises is never worth abandoning God. I hope that, on an objective level, we all know that. We all know intellectually that sin is not worth it, that whatever good our sin seems to give us is not greater than God. We know that in our heads. But in the moment, it is so easy to forget that, isn’t it? Like the Israelites, we can so quickly forget that God has freed us and want to go back to our sins. Again, every time we sin that’s what happens. Every time we sin, we are like the Israelites who, after being freed by God, want to go back to slavery in Egypt.

So how do we combat this tendency in us that seems to keep pulling us away from God to go after lesser things? As St. Paul says, we need to “put away the old self” and “put on the new self.” We have to put away the old self. The “old self” is that sinful way of thinking that we can all carry with us. It is the self-centered part of us, the part that wants what I want when I want it and doesn’t care about whether it is really good. It shows up in so many ways: impatience, gossip, lust, dishonesty, laziness, prejudice, pride, greed. It is the part of us that convinces us to shirk our duties to God, to neglect making time for prayer and reading the Scriptures. It’s the part of ourselves that tells us that sin is worth it even though we know it isn’t. That is the “old self” that we are called to put away. This isn’t a one-time thing. Daily we are called to put away this old self with its deceitful way of thinking. This is not easy. We live in a world where the old self is rampant. Lust, prejudice, hatred, pride, greed, divisiveness, these things are rampant in our world, and it is easy for us to get sucked into them if we are not careful. The more aware that we are of how this “old self” manifests itself in our own lives, the more we can work at putting it off.

But the faith is not about just rejecting something but about choosing something better. The Israelites were not just leaving slavery in Egypt but choosing freedom in the Lord. We are called not just to put off the old self but to put on the new self, as St. Paul says. The new self is the life of freedom in God. It is a life lived in holiness and truth, where we truly see that life with God is greater than all of the illusory enticements of sin. As we live this new self, we find a new freedom, where we are not in slavery to our desires and temptations but can choose to do what is right and good. Again, this putting on the new man is not a one-time thing. Just as we must daily choose to put off the old self of sin and temptation, so we must daily choose to put on the new self of freedom and holiness.

Thankfully we do not have to do this work of putting off the old self and putting on the new self all on our own. Just as God provided for the complaining Israelites in the desert, so He provides for us. He provides not just bread from heaven, but the Bread of Life. As Christ says in the Gospel, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” Whenever we sin, we are hungering and thirsting for something. There is something we want. And we feel like this thing we want is so important that it is worth abandoning God to have it. The Israelites hungered for the food they had eaten in Egypt, and they felt it was so important that they were willing to abandon the freedom God had just given them in order to get that food. When we sin, we are saying that we are willing to abandon God to get whatever we are hungering for. But Jesus reminds us that our deepest hunger and our deepest thirsts are only fulfilled in Him. Sin and temptation may seem to promise to satisfy our desires, but in the end they just leave us empty. Only in Christ are our desires truly fulfilled. He alone can give what nothing in this world can ever deliver.

In this Mass, we come to the one who can provide for our every need. As we do, let us commit ourselves ever more deeply to put off the old self so that we may put on the new. Let us reject the temptations and allures of sin in order to live in the freedom of God.

XVI Domingo Ordinario

En nuestro mundo, muchas personas se enorgullecen de ser ocupado. Se jactan de lo ocupados que están. En verdad, los sacerdotes son lo peor. Reúne algunos sacerdotes juntos, y pronto empecerán comparar a calendarios para ver quien es lo más ocupado. Tenemos orgullo en lo que podemos hacer. La capacidad de hacer muchas cosas a la vez está deseable. Vivemos en una sociedad a que no gusta tiempo perdido.

El evangelio hoy nos llama para reevaluar esas prioridades. Los apóstoles han regresado de su primera vez de ser enviado en misión, y ellos vuelven llenos de emoción sobre lo que habían hecho y enseñado. Casi puede escucharlos jactándose sobre quien hizo lo más. “¿Tú predicó a trescientos personas? Yo prediqué a cuatrocientos personas, y curé un leproso.” Pero Jesús les dijo, “Vengan conmigo a un lugar solitario, para que descansen un poco.” Él no dice esto porque hay una falta de trabajo para hacer. De hecho, el evangelio nos dice que eran tantos los que iban y venían, que no les dejaban a los apóstoles tiempo ni para comer. Pero Jesús les dijo para dejar todo y venir para descansarse.

Si alguien pudiera decir que estaban demasiado ocupados para tomarse un descanso, era Jesús. Su trabajo era para salvar al mundo. Pero Él está tomando un descanso de ese trabajo, tan importante como es, para irse con sus apóstoles para descansar. Y si tomar tiempo para descansar es importante aún para Jesús, pues es importante para nosotros también. Nosotros todos necesitamos tiempo para descansar. De hecho, descansar es tan importante que Dios designó un día entero para descansar y lo hizo un mandamiento. Desafortunadamente, para la mayoría, el domingo es solo otro día de ocupaciones. Es más tiempo para hacer trabajo. El domingo se ha convertido en un día más de labor, antes que un día del descanso.

Necesitamos aclarar lo que significa “descanso.” A veces, pensamos de descanso como vegetando sin pensar. Para muchas personas, descansar significa pasar muchas horas casi comatoso en frente de la televisión. Esto no es el tipo del descanso a que Jesús estuve invitando a sus apóstoles. Dios no quiere que pasamos todo el domingo haciendo un maratón de series en Netflix. El tipo del descanso a que Dios nos comanda no es perder el tiempo pero es recreación, eso es literalmente re-creación, cosas que nos crean de nuevo. Trabajar es bueno e importante y santo. Pero el trabajo también requiere cosas de nosotros. Si no tenemos cuidado, el trabajo, incluso trabajo bueno, puede desgastarnos. Necesitamos tiempo para ser re-creado, para ser construido de nuevo y para continuar de tener los recursos que necesitamos para hacer el trabajo que Dios nos da.

Yo entiendo completamente que, para algunas personas, no es posible que el domingo ser un día del descanso y recreación. Quizás necesitas trabajar los domingos. Claro, yo entiendo tener que trabajar los domingos. Pero para todos nosotros, necesitamos tiempo para el descanso y recreación, incluso si no es los domingos. Si todos que hacemos es más y más trabajar, y si el solo tiempo libre que tenemos está usado por vegetando sin pensar, eventualmente nos encontraremos corriendo en vacío. Tantas personas viven sus vidas constantemente cansadas, irritadas, y carentes de energía y celo porque no hacen el tiempo para descanso y recreación. Eso es por que Dios nos comanda para tener tiempo para descansar. Eso es por que Jesús dijo a los apóstoles para hacer tiempo para descansar. Necesitamos tiempo para descanso. Necesitamos tiempo para recreación.

Y necesitamos tiempo para relaciones. Mira que Jesús no envíe a los apóstoles para irse individualmente, pero salir juntos. Ellos estaban saliendo para pasar el tiempo juntos y con Jesús. Necesitamos tiempo para relaciones. Una de las peligras de siempre trabajar es que no tenemos tiempo para relaciones importantes con otras personas y con Dios. De nuevo, esto es la importancia del domingo. Se supone que el domingo es un día para relaciones, tanto pasar tiempo con Dios como con otras personas. Dejamos a un lado el trabajo para tener tiempo para descansar y recreación con los demás y con Dios.

Cuando hacemos esto, encontraremos mucho más paz. San Pablo enfatiza ese don de paz en la segunda lectura. En esta lectura corta, él usa la palabra “paz” tres veces. Cristo es nuestra paz, nos reconciliando con Dios y con los demás. Tantas personas quieren más paz en sus vidas. Si queremos paz, no encontraremos en más y más trabajo. También, no encontraremos la paz en ociosidad excesiva. Encontraremos la paz en relaciones con otras personas y, sobre todo, con Cristo.

¿Cómo vas a hacer de hoy un día de descanso y recreación? ¿Cómo vas a hacer de hoy un día para relaciones, con otras personas y con Dios? Los aliento a no usar hoy como otro día para el trabajo, ni a perder el día con la holgazanería. Escuche al llamado de Jesús para realmente descansar, para ser re-creado por encontrando su paz en Él.


Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In our world, “busy” is often a badge of honor. People like to brag about how busy they are. Priests are the worst about that. Get a group of priests together, and soon enough they’ll start comparing schedules to see who’s busiest. “Oh yeah, well last weekend I had two weddings, seven baptisms, six Masses, and a partridge in a pear tree.” We take pride in how much we can accomplish. The ability to multi-task is highly prized. We live in a society where we don’t like wasted time.

Today’s Gospel calls us to reevaluate those priorities. The apostles have just returned from their first time being sent out on mission, and they return filled with excitement about all they have done and taught. You can almost imagine them bragging about who did more. “You preached to three hundred people? Well, I preached to four hundred people, and cured a leper.” But Jesus tells them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” He doesn’t say this because there is a lack of work to do. In fact, the Gospel tells us that so many people are coming to Jesus and the Apostles that they didn’t even have enough time to eat. But Jesus tells them to leave all of that behind and come rest.

If anyone could claim that they were too busy to take time off, it was Jesus. His work was to save the world. But He is taking a break from that work, as important as it is, to go away with His apostles and rest. And if taking time for rest is important even for Jesus, then it is important for us also. We all need time for rest. In fact, rest is so important that God designated an entire day for rest and made it a commandment. Sadly, for most of us, Sunday is just another day of busy-ness. It is more time to get things done. Sunday has become one more day of work, rather than a day of rest.

But we need to clarify what we mean by “rest.” Sometimes, we think of rest as mindlessly vegetating. For many people, rest means spending hours in front of the television nearly comatose. That isn’t the kind of rest to which Jesus was inviting His apostles. God doesn’t want us just to spend all day Sunday binge-watching Netflix. The kind of rest that God commands us to is not just wasting time but is recreation, that is literally re-creation, things that make us anew. Work is good and important and holy. But work also requires things of us. If we aren’t careful, work, even good work, can wear us down. We need time to be re-created, to be built back up in order to continue to have the resources we need to continue doing the work that God gives us.

I completely understand that, for some people, it just isn’t possible for Sunday to be a day of rest and recreation. Maybe you have to work on Sunday. Trust me, I understand having to work on Sunday. But for all of us, we need to make that time for rest and recreation. If all we do is work, work, work, and if the only free-time we have is spent mindlessly vegetating rather than truly resting, we will eventually find ourselves running on empty. So many people go through life tired, irritated, and lacking in energy and zeal because they don’t take time for rest and recreation. That’s why God commanded us to have time for rest. That’s why Jesus told the Apostles to take time for rest. Because we need it. We need time for rest. We need time for recreation.

And we need time for relationships. Notice that Jesus doesn’t send the Apostles off to go rest by themselves individually, but to come away together. They were going off to spend time together with each other and with Christ. We also need time for relationships. One of the dangers of always working is that we are left without time for real relationships with other people and with God. Again, that is the importance of Sunday. Sunday is supposed to be a day for relationships, both spending time with God and with other people. We set aside work in order to have time to rest and recreate with other people and with God.

When we do that, we will find much greater peace. St. Paul emphasizes this gift of peace from Christ in our second reading. In this short reading, he uses the word “peace” four times. Christ is our peace, reconciling us to God and to one another. So many people want more peace in their lives. If we want peace, we won’t find it in more and more work. We also won’t find it in mind-numbing idleness. We will find it in relationships, in making time for other people and, above all, in spending time on our relationship with God.

How are you going to make today a day for rest and recreation? How are you going to make today a day for relationships, both with other people and with God? I encourage you not to use today just as another day for work, nor to waste the day with idleness. Hear the call of Jesus to truly come away and rest, to be re-created by finding your peace in Him.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In Japan, there is an art form known as “kintsugi.” In kintsugi, a broken piece of ceramic pottery is repaired by mending the breaks with gold. Rather than discarding the broken piece or trying to repair it in a way that hides the break, they repair the piece in a way such that the break now becomes something precious and admirable.

It is a beautiful philosophy, that imperfections are not something to be hidden but rather something beautiful. Most of the time, we don’t live like that. We try so hard to be perfect, or at least to appear perfect. We avoid any appearance of weakness. This is true of physical weakness; we don’t want other people to have to help us do something because then we look weak, and we think that being weak is bad. But we try to hide other forms of weakness as well. People who suffer from mental illness, like anxiety or depression, often try to hide it rather than seeking the help they need because they think that having a mental illness makes them look weak. Above all, we try to hide moral weakness. We all want to appear perfect. We are all sinners. Every single person you have ever met is a sinner. But we all pretend that we aren’t. We all act like we are perfect and do everything we can to hide the fact that we are sinners, even from ourselves. I think that is why so many Catholics don’t go to Confession, because going to Confession means admitting that I am not perfect, and we are afraid to admit that, even to ourselves.

Of course, there is a good reason why we sometimes hide our weaknesses, because, unfortunately, there are people who exploit the weaknesses of others for their own gain. Weakness makes us vulnerable, and being vulnerable means that we can get hurt. We don’t want to be hurt, and so we hide our weaknesses.

Contrary to this, St. Paul says in our second reading, “I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses.” Boast of his weaknesses? That is crazy. Why would someone do that? St. Paul gives us an amazing insight into the Christian approach to weakness.

He tells us that God gave him a thorn in his flesh that he repeatedly begged God to take away from him. We don’t know what this thorn in the flesh was, and it doesn’t really matter. All of us have a “thorn in the flesh,” something that we beg God again and again to take away from us. Maybe it is a physical ailment, maybe it is a repeated temptation. We all have a thorn in the flesh.

St. Paul says that this thorn was given to him for a reason: “to keep me from being too elated.” It is there to keep his pride in check. One reason that we don’t like weakness is because it does precisely that. In our pride, we want to be strong; we want to be self-sufficient. Our weaknesses remind us that we are not as strong as we think we are. I’ve learned the hard way at the gym the danger of thinking you’re stronger than you really are. There is nothing quite like squatting down with weight on your back, only to realize that you don’t have the strength to get that weight back up to the hooks that you just took it off of. Of course, when it happens, and I have to bail out, what is my immediate reaction? I look around to see if anyone else noticed. I have just been humbled, and my pride wants to know if anyone saw it. Whenever we experience weakness, our pride often tries to cover it up, to make sure no one sees. But St. Paul reminds us that the reason we were given weaknesses is precisely to humble us.

St. Paul didn’t like his weakness either, and so he repeatedly begged the Lord to take it away. What is that thing that you have begged God again and again to take away? “Lord, just make this go away and I’ll be great.” So, when St. Paul prays, God answers, right? That’s how we expect the story to go. “I prayed to God, and He answered my prayers. Yay God!” But that isn’t what happens. “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’” God doesn’t take Paul’s weakness away, but promises that His power will work through the weakness.

For most of us, when we ask God to take away our weaknesses, what we are really saying is, “God, take this thing away, because then I can go back to being self-sufficient.” But God doesn’t want us to be self-sufficient. He wants to provide for us, especially in those areas where we are most weak. God doesn’t want to take away our weaknesses. He wants to use our weaknesses as greater signs and sources of His grace.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He still had the wounds of His crucifixion, because now, His wounds give glory to God. Likewise, God doesn’t take away our weaknesses and wounds, because, by His grace, they can give Him greater glory than we would if we were perfect. God doesn’t want to take our wounds away; He wants to glorify them. He wants to fill them with His power and grace so that they can shine His love to the world. That is the lesson that St. Paul learned when He asked God to remove the thorn in His side. And that is how Paul could boast of His weaknesses, because in so doing, He was boasting of the places where God’s power has poured forth in his life. I have learned this in my own life. Those areas where my priesthood is most effective, where I am most able to be a source of God’s grace for others, are those areas where I have allowed Him to glorify my own weaknesses.

So how do we do this? How do we go from running from our weaknesses to boasting in them? We have to bring them to God. Bring your weaknesses and wounds to God, your thorns in the side, whatever they may be. This is hard to do. It means we have to acknowledge them. We have to stop running and admit that, in the end, running doesn’t work. We’re trying to run from our own shadows. I know this from my own life. I have weaknesses, just like everyone else. So often, I find myself trying to hide them or run from them. But it is only when I bring them to God that I find true peace. Let God’s mercy and power fill your weaknesses. God will pour His grace and love precisely in those places where we are most wounded and broken. Like those Japanese ceramics, He will mend our cracks with the gold of His love, making them even more precious than we would have been without them. Feel God’s love there, even in those parts of yourself that you consider unlovable.

As you do this, you’ll begin to see your own weaknesses very differently. And, hopefully, that will translate to how you treat the weaknesses of others. Often, we treat people’s weaknesses as something to be derided or mocked. Or we are uncomfortable with weakness so we try to pretend that it doesn’t exist. The people in the Gospel saw the fact that they knew Jesus’ family as a weakness, because it made Him normal, like them. And instead of seeing how God can work through that supposed weakness, they rejected Him. We, too, can often reject people because of their weaknesses. Rather, we should see the weaknesses of others as something sacred. These are the wounds where the power of God can shine forth in their lives. And it is our job to be living examples of how to do that. That means we must be willing to be vulnerable, to show people how God’s grace has worked in our weaknesses. It means that we also cannot be afraid of their weaknesses, but must learn to love them there, just as God does. In this way, His power can shine forth all the more in our world.