Immaculate Conception / Inmaculada Concepción

A veces, la fe se parece muy complicada. Se parece que hay tanto para saber, tantas cosas para aprender. Esto no es algo malo. La fe no es simplista o infantil, pero es una teología rica y hermosa. Podemos estudiar la fe para nuestras vidas enteras y nunca la sabremos todo. Pero a veces nos distraemos con las minucias, en las cositas pequeñas, y es útil para volver a los fundamentos. La celebración hoy de la Inmaculada Concepción nos recuerda de las verdades básicas de la fe.

Sometimes, the faith can seem really complicated. It seems like there is so much to know, so many little things to learn. The fact that the faith is complicated can be a good thing. It means that the faith is not simplistic or infantile, but a beautiful, rich theology. We can spend our entire lives learning more and more about the faith and never know it all. But sometimes we can get caught up in the minutia, in all the little things, and it is helpful to get back to the fundamentals. Today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception reminds us of the basic truths of the faith.

La primera verdad básica de la fe es que todos necesitamos un Salvador. La primera lectura nos recuerda del pecado de nuestros primeros padres. Como       resultado, nuestra naturaleza humana es caída. Esta es una herida que no podemos curar por nosotros mismos. María no se dio a sí misma el don de la Inmaculada Concepción. Ella necesitaba que Dios la salvara, tal como nosotros lo necesitamos a él. Necesitamos que Dios nos salve de nuestro pecado.

The first fundamental truth of the faith is that we are all in need of a Savior. The first reading reminds us of the sin of our first parent. As a result, our human nature is fallen. This is a wound that we cannot heal on our own. We cannot heal ourselves. We are in desperate need of a Savior. We are in need for God to reach out and save us from our sinfulness. The Immaculate Conception reminds us of our need for a Savior because Mary didn’t do it herself. Even she needed God to reach out and save her.

La segunda verdad básica de la fe que nos enseña la Inmaculada Concepción es que no podemos merecer nuestra salvación. La gracia de Dios es un regalo gratis. María no mereció la gracia de la Inmaculada Concepción. Ella no podría haberlo ganado; Ella no existía todavía. La Inmaculada Concepción es una gracia maravillosa que Dios la da a María en el primero momento de su existencia. Al mismo, no podemos merecer la gracia de Dios en nuestras vidas. La gracia es siempre un regalo gratis.

The second fundamental truth that the Immaculate Conception teaches us is that we ultimately cannot earn our salvation. His grace is a free gift. Mary didn’t earn the grace of the Immaculate Conception. She couldn’t have earned it; she didn’t exist yet. The Immaculate Conception was a wonderful grace that God gave her at the first moment of her existence. Likewise, we cannot earn God’s grace in our life. Grace is always His free gift.

Pero la verdad más importante que la Inmaculada Concepción nos recuerda es que la gracia de Dios es siempre superabundante. Dios no es tacaño con su gracia. No nos da solo lo suficiente y no más. Él derrama sobre nosotros su gracia. Él sabe que necesitamos un Salvado. Él sabe que no podemos ganar o merecer nuestra salvación por nosotros mismos. Él ve que estamos roto y débil. Entonces en su amor Él nos da una abundancia desbordante de gracia para ayudarnos. Como dice San Pablo en la segunda lectura, Dios “nos ha bendecido en él con toda clase de bienes espirituales y celestiales.” No solamente unos pocos bienes, pero toda clase de bienes espirituales y celestiales. La Inmaculada Concepción es un signo de la gracia extravagante de Dios. Él no tenía que hacerlo. No era necesario que Él le diera a María el don de ser preservada del pecado original. Pero en su bondad, Él lo elijó. Esto es la razón que el arcángel Gabriel la llama a María “llena de gracia.” Dios ha derramado su gracia sobre ella abundantemente, y Él también nos da su gracia en abundancia.

But the most important truth that the Immaculate Conception reminds us of is that God’s grace is always superabundant. God is not stingy with His grace. He doesn’t give us just enough to get by but no more. Rather, He showers His grace upon us. He knows that we need a Savior. He knows that we cannot earn our salvation on our own. He sees our brokenness and our weakness. So in His love He gives us an overflowing abundance of grace to help us. As St. Paul says in our second reading, God has, “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” Not just a few blessings, but every spiritual blessing in the heavens. The Immaculate Conception is a sign of God’s extravagant grace. He didn’t have to do it. It wasn’t necessary for Him to give Mary the gift of being preserved from original sin. But in His goodness, He chose to. This is why the Archangel Gabriel calls Mary “full of grace.” God has poured His grace upon her abundantly, and He gives His grace to us in abundance as well.

Esta maravillosa solemnidad nos da la oportunidad de volver a lo básico. En humildad, nos recuerda que necesitamos un Salvador y no podemos salvarnos a nosotros mismos. Pero también nos recuerda que tenemos un Salvador que abunda en su amor y gracia. Y en esa generosa gracia, Él nos ha dado a María como madre e intercesora. Pidámosle a la Inmaculada María que ore por nosotros siempre, para que, como ella, podamos estar siempre abiertos a recibir el abundante amor de Dios.

This wonderful solemnity gives us an opportunity to get back to basics. In humility, it reminds us that we need a Savior, and we cannot save ourselves. But it also reminds us that we have a Savior who is lavish with His love and grace. And in that lavish grace, He has given us Mary as a mother and intercessor. Let us ask the Immaculate Mary to pray for us always, that like her we can always be open to receiving God’s abundant love.

 

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First Sunday of Advent

What are you doing to prepare for Christmas? Lots of shopping, I’m sure. Decorating the house probably. Baking cookies perhaps. We do a lot to prepare for Christmas. Why do we go through that much trouble? Because we want to be ready. When Christmas comes, we want to make sure that we are ready to have the best Christmas possible. All that effort, all that time and energy, all that preparation, all to make sure that we can celebrate Christmas well.
This is a time of preparation in the Church as well, as we begin this season of Advent. Most people think of Advent as the time that we prepare for Christmas. That isn’t exactly right. It would be more proper to say that Advent is a period of preparation for Christ’s coming. The word “Advent” itself comes from the Latin “adventus” meaning “coming.” Advent is less of a preparation for Christmas and more of a preparation for Christ’s coming. That may seem like a bit of nit picking on my part, and to some degree it is. But here’s what’s important: when I say that we are preparing for Christ’s coming, I am not talking about His birth in Bethlehem. We can’t prepare for birth in Bethlehem; it’s already happened. You can’t prepare for something that is already done. We can prepare to commemorate His birth in Bethlehem, but we can’t prepare for His actual birth. It is done.
But Christ still comes to us, and we should be prepared for Him. But He doesn’t come to us as a little baby in a manger. That was how He came the first time. Now, He comes to us in different ways. Often, when we think of Christ coming, we think of His final coming, which we hear about in the Gospel. “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Certainly, we should be prepared to receive Christ when He comes at the end of time. Advent reminds us of that. Christ will ultimately come again in glory, at a time that no one knows, and we need to be prepared to receive Him then.
But Christ also comes to us here and now in many ways. Christ comes as the homeless person who is trying to have enough to eat and stay warm. Christ comes as the unborn child whose life is in danger. Christ comes as the migrant at the border seeking security for themselves and their family. Christ comes as the coworker and family member towards whom we find it difficult to be loving. No longer the child in Bethlehem, Christ comes to us in many different ways and under many different appearances. And the question is, are we prepared to welcome Him? Are we prepared to welcome Christ in the poor, the sick, the unborn, the immigrant? Are we prepared to welcome Christ in the person that we find difficult and frustrating?
All too often, when Christ comes to us, we are not prepared, and we miss Him. At Christ’s first coming, so many people were unaware that the Messiah had come and they missed His first coming. And, if we are not prepared, we will miss Him when He comes to us. Christ warns His disciples in the Gospel, “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy […] Be vigilant at all times.” Be vigilant, He says. Be watchful and attentive. Very often, we miss Christ because we are not looking for Him. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so many people missed the signs because they were not really looking for it. They were just going about their daily lives, caught up in their own concerns, and they were not aware. Likewise, we can go through life caught up in our own anxieties, our own daily concerns, and we stop looking for Christ in others.
I worked retail one year during the Christmas season at a Christian bookstore. It was disappointing to see how some people treated their fellow shoppers or the employees at the store. People so caught up in their stress and anxiety to prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ that they were unable to see Christ in the person standing right in front of them. We can all fall into the same problem. If we aren’t vigilant, if we are not prepared, we can be unable to see Christ in other people. We see Him in some people and not others. We are open to receive Christ in some situations, but remain closed off to Him in other situations.
This Advent, we are called to be prepared to receive Christ at all times. As St. Paul says in our second reading, “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” Love for all. Seeing Christ in all. That is our call. Who are those people whom you have the most difficulty seeing Christ in? What are those situations where you have not been prepared in the past to receive Christ? This Advent season, what can you do to be more vigilant, more prepared for receiving Christ at all times? How can you increase your ability to see Christ in others, especially those in whom you have not seen Him before? We spend so much time and energy during this month preparing to celebrate Christmas. Let us make sure that we also put time and energy into preparing to receive Christ, especially when He comes to us in our brothers and sisters.

Feast of St. Charles Borromeo

From the outside, you would never have expected Charles Borromeo to become a saint. He was born into the powerful Medici family in 1538. The Medici’s were known for their political influence and power, not so much for their holiness. Tales of their intrigue and scandals are shocking, even today. Charles’s uncle was Pope Pius IV, and in a classic case of nepotism, Pius made Charles a cardinal when Charles was only twenty-one, before he was even ordained a priest. A few years later, he was made bishop of Milan. Before Charles, no bishop of Milan had actually lived in Milan for eighty years, choosing instead to live in the more influential courts of Europe, enjoying all of the material comforts and participating in all of the corruption of Renaissance courts.
And the Church in Milan, like the Church in much of Europe at the start of the sixteenth century, was abysmal. Most priests were more interested in living worldly lives than the salvation of souls. Many priests lived with mistresses. Some were so badly educated they didn’t even know how to celebrate the sacraments. Likewise, many of the religious orders had abandoned their way of life. Women’s convents became sites of festivals and balls. Monks lived like princes. And the laity suffered from the poor state of the Church.
With his background and the cultural situation, Charles could have easily been part of the problem. Instead, he chose to be part of the solution. He took seriously the exhortation that Our Lord gives to Ezekiel in the first reading today, that he must use his position as a bishop to call people to holiness and fidelity to the Gospel. The Council of Trent had just finished, and Charles zealously implemented its reforms in his diocese. He insisted that priests and religious in his diocese live according to their way of life and put an end to abuses. He preached regularly, which was not common for bishops of that time, calling all people to holiness of life. Not everyone appreciated Charles’s reforms. When he tried to require a group of friars in his diocese to live according to their way of life, two of them disguised themselves and tried to assassinate Charles while he was praying vespers. They shot him in the back, but miraculously he survived.
St. Charles persevered, and he was remarkably successful not just at reforming his own diocese but also the Church. In fact, the effects of his reforms are still felt today. It is inconceivable these days that a bishop would not live in his diocese, or that priests would not receive sufficient seminary training. St. Charles was responsible for promoting these reforms.
So how did St. Charles do it? How did one man confront so many problems so successfully? First and foremost, he did it through personal holiness. St. Charles realized that he couldn’t help other people to grow in holiness if he himself was not holy. St. Charles was dedicated to holiness in his own life. First, he was a man of prayer and the sacraments, which is the greatest source of holiness. His union with Christ, which was a result of prayer, is what kept him from getting sucked into the corruption and sin that was so prevalent in the church and in the society around him at his time.
St. Charles was also a model of active charity. He truly imitated the love of God by his generosity. He fed three thousand people a day from his own finances during a famine in 1571. But his most notable acts of charity came during a plague in 1576, in which over 25,000 people died in Milan alone. When the plague started, the civil government officials fled the city, leaving people to fend for themselves. Borromeo, as the Archbishop, refused to leave his people. Like the good shepherd that Christ speaks of in the Gospel today, He did not flee when the sheep were in need. He also encouraged his priests to stay, telling them, “We have only one life and we should spend it for Jesus and souls.” Most of the clergy stayed, and more than a hundred died, giving their lives for the sake of their people. Charles himself sold his furniture to feed those in need. He had his tapestries made into clothes for the poor. He organized hospitals to care for the sick and dying. He himself would bring communion to those afflicted by the plague, and was once seen climbing on a pile of corpses to give viaticum to a dying man who had been thrown in with the dead before he actually died.
St. Charles Borromeo brought reform to the Church of his day. He didn’t do it by leaving the Church. He didn’t do it by sitting around complaining. He didn’t do it blaming others. He didn’t do it by insisting that the Church change her official teachings or practices. St. Charles helped reform the Church by his holiness of life and by his example. But Church reform isn’t just something for the sixteenth century. The Church is always in need of reform, because the Church is always made up of sinful human beings like you and me. The Church is always the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, the spotless bride of Christ. But the Church is also always in need of reform, because it is a group of sinful human beings. This is true in our own day, just as it was true in the time of St. Charles Borromeo. In every age, the Church needs saints like St. Charles Borromeo who, by their holiness of life and their example of virtue, bring about true reform.
But if we are going to be sources of reform in the Church, it won’t happen by leaving. It won’t happen by sitting around complaining. It won’t happen by blaming others. It won’t happen by insisting that the Church change her official teachings or practices. If we are going to be sources of reform in the Church today, then we have to do it the same way that St. Charles Borromeo did – by being saints. If we want the Church to be holy, we have to be holy, because we are the Church. We are all part of the Body of Christ as we hear in our second reading, and each of us has a role in the body. We can make the Body of Christ better, or we can make it worse.
As we celebrate our patron saint, let us follow his example of sanctity. Just as St. Charles brought true reform to the Church in his day by his holiness, so we too can be the source of greater holiness in the Church today, but only if we are first holy ourselves. Above all, St. Charles Borromeo looked to the Eucharist as the source of his holiness. He once preached “By this consumption of the Eucharist, the faithful are so efficaciously joined to Christ […] that they draw in the most abundant treasures of all the Sacraments.” Let us look to the Eucharist as the source of our holiness, so that, following the example of St. Charles Borromeo, we may be fonts of grace in the Church and in the world.

 

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My family is not good at making decisions. If we are going out to eat, it is preceded by 15 minutes of my parents, my sister, and I saying, “Where do you want to eat? I don’t care, what do you want? I don’t have any preference.” If you ask someone in my family directly, “What do you want?” odds are we will say, “I don’t know.”

Perhaps that is why I find Our Lord’s question in the Gospel so disarming. Jesus asks Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” What do you want? This question is at once very simple and very profound. On one level, basically everything we do is in some sense guided by our desires. And yet, how often are we out of touch with our own desires. Have you ever done or said something and then, after the fact, thought, “Why did I just do that?” Presumably we were acting on some desire, but we are often unaware of what those desires are or why we are acting the way we are.

This lack of awareness of what we want is problematic. At its heart, desire is the language of prayer. When we think about bringing our desires to God in prayer, we often think of superficial desires. I want the Blues to remember how to play hockey. I want my sister to get over her cold quickly. I want this thing I am working on to be successful. Those are good desires, and we should bring them to God in prayer, but they are surface level desires. The important desires, the ones that form the true language of prayer, are the deeper desires. I desire to be loved. I desire to be accepted. Those are our real desires. We all have them. Unfortunately, they sometimes get buried beneath other things, and they end up coming out sideways.

Jesus invites us to bring those desires to Him, because it is only in Him that those desires will find their fulfillment. We all want to be loved. No human being, no matter how good and loving they are, will ever completely fulfill our desire to be loved. Only God can do that. Only the infinite love of God can satisfy our need to be loved, but we have to bring that need to Him, and we have to let Him get close enough to us to fulfill our deep desires. God can’t fill our deepest desires if we keep Him at arm’s length. In the Gospel today, Jesus first called Bartimaeus to come to Him. We have to draw near to Christ if He is going to be able to fulfill our deepest desires.

One of the things that can keep us from bringing our desires to Christ is that some of our desires aren’t good. As fallen, sinful human beings, some of our desires will be for things that are not good for us and are contrary to God’s will. What do we do with those desires? It may seem counterintuitive at first, but we have to bring those desires to Christ as well. That may seem strange to people. I’m supposed to bring Christ my desires for things that are sinful? Yes. That doesn’t mean that Christ is going to grant our desires. We bring our desires to Him not for Him to give us everything we want, but in order to purify our desires. Especially with our sinful desires, we need to bring them to Christ so that He can heal them. We don’t have to be afraid of bringing even our sinful desires to the Lord. He knows our humanity. As our second reading says, “Every high priest […] is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness.” If this is true of the human high priests that served in the Temple, it is also true of Christ, who, as Scripture says, became like us in all things but sin. Christ knows our weaknesses and our temptations. And so when we bring them to Him, He is able to treat us with compassion.

Sometimes, we may wonder why we have to tell God what our desires are. Doesn’t He already know? Certainly today’s Gospel could be a situation like that. When Christ asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” the answer seems obvious. Why does Jesus ask? Why not just heal Him? Why do we have to tell God what we desire? It is true that God already knows what we want and what we need, even better than we know ourselves. But God always respects our free will. He never forces anything. When we bring Him our desires and our needs, we are opening ourselves up for Him to be able to meet us. If I don’t open myself to God, He isn’t going to force His way in. We don’t tell God our desires for His sake but for our own. We bring our needs to Him so that we are open to receive Him. By bringing our desires to Him, we also acknowledge that we are not in control. It isn’t for us to tell God how He should work, only to place our needs before Him. Bartimaeus didn’t tell Jesus, “Heal me,” but simply, “Master, I want to see.” He brought his desire to Christ, but He didn’t tell Christ how to work. Likewise, when we bring our desires to God, we don’t get to tell Him what He has to do. We simply place our needs before Him in faith and hope.

The Lord asks you today the same question He asked Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Bring your wants, your needs, your desires, and lay them before the Lord. Open yourself up to receive His healing and grace as you encounter Him here in this Eucharist.

XXX Domingo ordinario

Mi familia tiene dificultades para tomar decisiones. Si vamos a cenar, hay quince minutos de mis padres, mi hermana y yo diciendo: “¿Dónde quieres comer? No me importa, ¿qué quieres? No tengo ninguna preferencia.” Si le preguntas a alguien de mi familia directamente, “¿Qué quieres?”, Es probable que digamos: “No sé.”

Quizás es por eso que la pregunta de Nuestro Señor en el Evangelio es tan impactante para mí. Jesús le pregunta a Bartimeo: “¿Qué quieres que haga por ti?” ¿Qué quieres? Esta pregunta es a la vez muy simple y muy profunda. Todo lo que hacemos es guiado por nuestros deseos. Pero, ¿con qué frecuencia estamos fuera de contacto con nuestros propios deseos? ¿Alguna vez has hecho o dicho algo y luego pensaste: “¿Por qué acabo de hacer eso?” Presumiblemente, estábamos actuando por algún deseo, pero a menudo no nos damos cuenta de cuáles son esos deseos o por qué actuamos de la manera en que somos.

Esta falta de conciencia de lo que queremos es problemática. El deseo es el lenguaje de la oración. Cuando pensamos en llevar nuestros deseos a Dios en oración, frecuentemente pensamos en deseos superficiales. Quiero que los Blues recuerden cómo jugar al hockey. Quiero que mi hermana supere su enfermedad rápidamente. Quiero que esta cosa en la que estoy trabajando tenga éxito. Esos son buenos deseos, y debemos llevarlos a Dios en oración, pero son deseos de nivel superficial. Los deseos importantes, los que forman el verdadero lenguaje de la oración, son los deseos más profundos. Deseo ser amado. Deseo ser aceptado. Deseo estar seguro. Esos son nuestros deseos reales. Todos los tenemos. Desafortunadamente, a veces se entierran debajo de otras cosas, y esto causa problemas. Cuando no reconocemos estos deseos profundos, a menudo actuamos para cumplirlos de maneras que no son saludables.

Jesús nos invita a traerle estos deseos a Él, porque es solo en Él que esos deseos encontrarán su cumplimiento. Todos queremos ser amados. Ninguna persona, no importa cuán buena y amorosa sea, nunca cumplirá completamente nuestro deseo de ser amada. Solo Dios puede hacer eso. Solo el amor infinito de Cristo puede satisfacer nuestra necesidad de ser amados, pero tenemos que llevarle esa necesidad a él. Y tenemos que permitirle que se acerque lo suficiente para cumplir nuestros deseos más profundos. Dios no puede cumplir nuestros deseos más profundos si lo mantenemos a distancia. En el Evangelio de hoy, Jesús llamó primero a Bartimeo para que viniera a él. Tenemos que acercarnos a Cristo si Él va a poder cumplir nuestros deseos más profundos.

Una de las cosas que a menudo nos impide llevar nuestros deseos a Cristo es que algunos de nuestros deseos no son buenos. Como seres humanos caídos y pecaminosos, algunos de nuestros deseos serán por cosas que no son buenas para nosotros y son contrarias a la voluntad de Dios. ¿Qué hacemos con esos deseos? Tenemos que traer esos deseos a Cristo también. Eso puede parecer extraño a la gente. ¿Se supone que debo traer a Cristo mis deseos por las cosas que son pecaminosas? Sí. Eso no significa que Cristo va a conceder nuestros deseos pecaminosos. Le traemos nuestros deseos a Él, no para que Él nos dé todo lo que deseamos, sino para purificar nuestros deseos. Especialmente con nuestros deseos pecaminosos, necesitamos traerlos a Cristo para que Él pueda sanarlos. No debemos tener miedo de traer incluso nuestros deseos pecaminosos al Señor. Él conoce nuestra humanidad. Como dice nuestra segunda lectura, “Todo sumo sacerdote […] es capaz de lidiar pacientemente con los ignorantes y los errantes, porque él mismo está acosado por la debilidad.” Si esto es verdad de los sumos sacerdotes humanos que sirvieron en el Templo, también lo es de Cristo, quien, como dice la Escritura, se hizo como nosotros en todas las cosas excepto en el pecado. Cristo conoce nuestras debilidades y nuestras tentaciones. Y así, cuando se los traemos a Él, Él puede tratarnos con compasión.

A veces, podemos preguntarnos por qué tenemos que decirle a Dios cuáles son nuestros deseos. ¿No lo sabe ya? Ciertamente, el evangelio de hoy podría ser una situación así. Cuando Cristo le pregunta al ciego: “¿Qué quieres que haga por ti?”, La respuesta parece obvia. ¿Por qué le pregunta Jesús? ¿Por qué no solo sanarlo? ¿Por qué tenemos que decirle a Dios lo que deseamos? Es cierto que Dios ya sabe lo que queremos y lo que necesitamos, incluso mejor que nosotros mismos. Pero Dios siempre respeta nuestro libre albedrío. Él nunca fuerza nada. Cuando le traemos nuestros deseos y nuestras necesidades, nos estamos abriendo para que Él pueda encontrarnos. Si no me abro a Dios, Él no lo forzará a entrar. Le traemos nuestras necesidades para que estemos abiertos a recibirlo. Al llevarle nuestros deseos a Él, también reconocemos que no estamos en control. No le decimos a Dios cómo debe trabajar, solo para poner nuestras necesidades delante de él. Bartimeo no le dijo a Jesús: “Cúreme,” sino simplemente: “Maestro, que pueda ver.” Trajo su deseo a Cristo, pero no le dijo a Cristo cómo trabajar. Del mismo modo, cuando traemos nuestros deseos a Dios, no podemos decirle lo que tiene que hacer. Simplemente colocamos nuestras necesidades ante Él con fe y esperanza.

El Señor te hace hoy la misma pregunta. Le preguntó a Bartimeo: “¿Qué quieres que haga por ti?” Presenta tus necesidades, tus deseos y preséntalos ante el Señor. Ábrete para recibir Su sanidad y gracia cuando te encuentres con Él aquí en esta Eucaristía.

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Why are you here? I’m not talking in some grand, existential sense of why are you here on earth, but why are you here in this Church right now? That may seem like a dumb question. “Uh, Father, we’re here for Mass.” But why are you at Mass? Are you here to get something, or are you here to give something?

In the Gospel today, James and John are clearly in it to get something. “Teacher, grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left,” they say. That’s not a small request. They are followers of Christ, but they are clearly there because they want to get something out of the bargain. But Jesus corrects their understanding. “Whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” If we are going to follow Christ, our lives will be defined not by what we can get, but by what we give.

We live in a consumerist society. There is no denying that. There is so much focus on getting more, having more. We are taught by the culture that the goal in life is to have as many desires met as possible at all times. We are trained to be consumers. And we can bring that consumer mentality to our faith. Like James and John, we come to God in order to get things. Rather than being disciples, we come to God as consumers.

What is the difference between a disciple and a consumer? Consumers pick and choose. When I go to the supermarket, I buy the things I want, and I don’t buy the things I don’t want. My tastes and my desires are the determining factors. Likewise, when we are consumers in the faith, we pick and choose how we practice our faith. I believe and practice the faith in ways that fit my tastes and my desires, instead of conforming my tastes and my desires to the demands of the faith. But disciples are whole-hearted; they follow Christ completely, not just when it suits them.

Consumers complain. If I go to a restaurant and the food is cold or there is a hair on my plate, I call the waiter over and demand that they fix the problem. Maybe I go on Yelp and leave a bad review. As a consumer, I expect to be catered to, and when I am not, I complain about it. I feel no need to fix the problem; I just bring it to someone else to fix. When we are consumers in the faith, we treat problems in the parish or in the Church the same way. I just sit back and complain that I am not being served properly and wait for someone else to fix it. I feel no need to actually help fix the problem; that is someone else’s job. Disciples, on the other hand, contribute. When disciples see a problem that needs to be fixed or a need that isn’t being met, they offer to help.

Consumers look for deals. We are always looking for a bargain, for a way to get more for less. What is the least I have to give in order to get the thing I want? As consumers in the faith, we try to do the bare minimum. What is the least I have to do to still get to heaven? What is the least I have to do to be a parishioner? Disciples are generous. Instead of asking “What is the least I have to give,” they ask “How can I give more?”

Consumers expect value, that what they get is worth what they pay. If I buy something and I don’t think it ends up being worth the cost, I’m not going to buy it again. If we are consumers in faith, we only give of ourselves, our time and money, if we feel that we are getting something of value in return. I only contribute to the offertory, I only give of my time for the parish, if I feel that it will ultimately benefit me. Meanwhile, disciples sacrifice. As Jesus says in the Gospel, disciples serve, not because they get something from it, but because that is our call as disciples. Disciples give, not in order to get something in return, but out of sacrificial love.

Consumers shop around. I look for the place that suits my tastes and my wants. I try to find the service and the product that is closest to what I want it to be. If something doesn’t cater to me, I go elsewhere. Consumers in the faith expect the same. As consumers, when we come to Mass we expect everything to cater to our tastes and wants. The music, the homily, the priest, the ministries, the church environment, even my fellow parishioners, I expect them to be the way I want them to be. And, if they aren’t, I shop around until I find somewhere that fits my wants and my desires. Or I just stay home. Disciples accept that worship isn’t first and foremost about me or my desires, but about coming together as a family to worship God. Mass isn’t primarily about everything being what I like, but giving praise and worship to God.

Ultimately, consumers place themselves at the center. Everything is about me: my wants, my desires, my needs, my preferences. Disciples place Christ at the center: His desires, His preferences, His commands. Consumers seek to get. Disciples seek to give.

So, to my question, why are you here? Are you here as a consumer or as a disciple? Are you here to get something, or are you here to give something? Consumerism and consumerist mentality are so pervasive in our society, it is hard for it not to enter into our faith. Who hasn’t left Mass before and complained about the preaching, or the music, or the temperature in Church? Who hasn’t found themselves asking, “What is the least I have to do?” Who hasn’t criticized something in the parish or the Church and wondered why someone else doesn’t fix it? The Gospel today reminds us that we are called to be disciples, not consumers. We are here to celebrate the Eucharist. The very word “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” The name itself reminds us that we are here to give. We are here to give thanks, to give praise, to give worship and honor to Almighty God. And yes, in return, we do receive something, because as we heard last week in the Gospel, there is nothing that we give that God does not repay.

What are you giving to God today? Here in this Mass, how are you going to be a disciple, who gives of yourself out of love for God and neighbor, rather than a consumer? We all need the grace of God to help fight the pervasive consumer mentality in our society to keep it from infiltrating our faith. As we celebrate this Eucharist, this sacrifice of thanksgiving, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide us, so that we may be better disciples, and not simply consumers.

XXVIII Domingo Ordinario

¿Por qué no hay más santos? ¿Por qué no hay más personas que siguen a Jesús completamente, que aman a Dios con todo su corazón, alma, mente, y fuerzas y su prójimo como a sí mismo? ¿Por qué hay tantos cristianos, pero tan pocos que realmente viven el ideal del Evangelio?

Yo pienso que el Evangelio hoy nos da alguna idea. El hombre se le acerca a Jesús, lleno de celo. El Evangelio dice que él corro y se arrodillo. El realmente quiere seguir a Jesús. Él ha cumplido a los mandamientos. Él quiere ser perfecto. Pero entonces él descubrió que para ser perfecto va a costar algo que él no estuvo listo para pagar. Ser perfecto requiere sacrificio. Entonces, él se alejó. Él quería para seguir a Jesús, pero él no quería que doliera.

Es mi opinión que muchos de nosotros son como ese hombre. Queremos seguir a Jesús. Queremos cumplir los mandamientos. Queremos ser perfectos. Pero luego nos encontramos en una situación que requiere sacrificio. Y no queremos para sacrificar. No queremos que el Evangelio nos incomoda. Y así, como el hombre en el Evangelio, nos alejamos de siguiendo a Cristo completamente. Nos quedamos discípulos a medias, que siguen a Jesús cuando es fácil pero no cuando es demasiado difícil. Por eso hay tan pocos santos, porque ser un santo requiere sacrificio. Queremos seguir a Jesús, pero también queremos hacer lo que queremos. Pero debido de nuestra naturaleza caída, estas dos cosas están frecuentemente en conflicto. Lo que Cristo nos pide y lo que queremos hacer a menudo no son lo mismo. Por tanto, necesitamos hacer una elección: ¿yo ignoro a Jesús y hacer lo que quiero, o sacrifico mi propia voluntad para hacer lo que Cristo me pide?

Para el hombre en el evangelio, ese sacrificio fue renunciar a su riqueza, a la que estaba demasiado apegado. Su riqueza le impedía amar a Jesús con todo su corazón y a su prójimo como a sí mismo. Y entonces Cristo le dijo que, si él quería ser perfecto, tiene que dejarlo. ¿Y tú? ¿Que es la cosa que te impide amar a Dios y los otros. Pienso que, para muchas personas, la cosa que les impide ser perfectos es sus propias reputaciones. Ellos quieren seguir a Dios, pero no si tienen doler a sus reputaciones.

¿Qué quiero decir con eso? Tiene muchas maneras. “Yo amo a Dios, pero también quiero que mi hijo juega al fútbol bien. Y así, si el fútbol entra en conflicto con asistir a la Misa, yo elijo a fútbol, porque estoy más preocupado con mi reputación de ser un padre de un buen jugador de futbol que mi relación con Dios.” “Yo amo a Dios, pero tengo amigos que dicen comentarios racistas o sexistas o inapropiadas, y no quiero que ellos me juzgan, así me quedo callado. Estoy más preocupado con sus opiniones de mí que siguiendo a Dios.” “Yo pienso que Dios me está invitado para profundizar mi relación consigo por asistir a un retiro o ser más involucrado en la parroquia, pero tengo miedo que mis amigos pensaran que estoy demasiado piadoso, entonces no lo hago.” “Pienso que Dios me llama para rezar con mi esposo, pero tengo miedo que él o ella pensara que es extraño, entonces no le pido.” Para muchas personas, nuestra reputación es la cosa que nos impide ser perfectos. Y en lugar de sacrificar nuestra reputación, nos quedamos discípulos a medias.

Una de las razones que no nos gusta sacrificar en siguiendo a Dios es el miedo que podríamos perder algo. Tenemos miedo que lo que ganamos por siguiendo a Cristo no vale la pena de los sacrificios que tenemos hacer. De profundo, a menudo no estamos seguros que ser un santo vale la pena. ¿Qué pasa si tengo que renunciar a algo para seguir a Jesús y luego, después del hecho, desearía haber recuperado esa cosa? Necesitamos recordar la promesa de Nuestro Señor en el Evangelio. “Yo les aseguro: Nadie que haya dejado casa, o hermanos o hermanas, o padre o madre, o hijos o tierras, por mí y por el Evangelio, dejará de recibir, en esta vida, el ciento por uno en casas, hermanos, hermanas, madres, hijos y tierras, junto con persecuciones, y en el otro mundo, la vida eterna.” Dios nunca es superado en generosidad. Seguir a Cristo requiere sacrificio, pero Él siempre nos paga abundantemente para los sacrificios que hagamos. No necesitamos tener miedo que, para ser santos, Dios nos va a dejar con las manos vacías. Las vidas de los santos prueban que Jesús es siempre fiel a su promesa: no hay nada que dejamos por El que Él no nos paga el ciento por uno.

Entonces, ¿qué puedo hacer? No quiero ser un discípulo a medias; ¡quiero ser perfecto! Quiero ser santo. Pero ¿cómo lo hago? Como el hombre en el Evangelio, necesitamos pedir a Jesús para nos muestra las cosas que nos impide amar a Dios y nuestros vecinos. Tenemos pedir a Jesús para nos muestra lo que nos falta. Es difícil para verlo por nuestra cuenta. El hombre no pudo ver sus defectos hasta Jesús le dijo. Lo mismo es verdad para nosotros. Una manera belleza en que Jesús puede mostrarnos cómo necesitamos crecer es por leer la Biblia. Como la segunda lectura dice, “La palabra de Dios es viva, eficaz y más penetrante que una espada de dos filos. Llega hasta lo más íntimo del alma, hasta la médula de los huesos y descubre los pensamientos e intenciones del corazón.” Si hacemos un hábito de leer la Biblia, Dios utilizará a su Palabra para revelar con amor lo que nos impide ser perfectos. Leer y reflexionar sobre la Biblia es la mejor manera para oír la invitación de Dios a un amor más profundo. Yo personalmente trato de dedicar tiempo cada mañana para leer y orar con la Palabra de Dios, y es maravilloso como Dios lo use para mostrarme como yo ha evitado la amor sacrificial.

Yo te reto, esta semana, leer la Biblia cada día. Quizás el Evangelio según San Mateo o la lecturas de la Misa cada día. Toma solo diez minutos cada día para leer la Palabra de Dios, y le pida para revelar como necesitas crecer. Yo te prometo, Dios te recompensará abundantemente. Si quieres ser perfecto, si estás cansado de estar un discípulo a medias y quieres ser un santo, empieza por leer las Escrituras. Permita que la Palabra de Dios penetre en su corazón, de modo que su sabiduría y su amor puedan guiarlo hacia un amor cada vez mayor.