Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is October, or, as businesses seem to see it, Halloween season. I’ll be honest, part of me loves Halloween. I love dressing up and parties and candy. Especially candy. But Halloween also means scary things, like scary movies and haunted houses, and I do not like being scared. I don’t even like going to Halloween stores to get things for Halloween because I know they’ll have the scary masks and costumes. As a kid, on Halloween, I used to go trick or treating early so that I would be safely home before the big kids in the neighborhood went out trick or treating in their scary costumes. I guess you could say that I’m a bit of a coward.

Perhaps I should take consolation in the second reading today. St. Paul tells Timothy, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.” God did not give us a spirit of cowardice. St. Paul here is not talking about being afraid of haunted houses or afraid of snakes. He is speaking of a different kind of fear. He is talking about a spiritual fear. Very often, the thing that keeps us from living our faith boldly is fear. We are afraid to talk to someone about God. We are afraid to let people know that we are Catholic. We are afraid to pray in public. We are afraid to invite someone to Mass. Fear often keeps our faith hidden and private.

But St. Paul says God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but of power. At our confirmation, we were filled with the Holy Spirit and called to be witnesses. I think Confirmation is one of those sacraments that we don’t often think about or talk about, but Confirmation is important. By our confirmation, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are given the graces that we need in order to proclaim the good news to others. Jesus says in the Gospel today that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed to do miracles.

I know what it is like to be afraid of sharing the faith. Even as a priest I experience that. For example, sometimes when I’m meeting with couples for marriage preparation I’ll think to myself, “I don’t want to talk about God too much, they may think I’m overly-religious.” I’m a priest. Being overly-religious is my job. A few months ago I was at lunch with two local Protestant pastors. They were talking to our waitress, and one of them asked her, “Is there anything we can pray for you for?” And my first thought was, “Don’t say that to her; that’s weird. Stop it.” I know what it is like to be afraid to share your faith. But that’s not what God calls us to.

“I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have […] For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice.” God has already given us a spirit of power and of courage. He has given us the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets to speak to kings and rulers, the same Holy Spirit who gave the Apostles courage to preach the faith, the same Holy Spirit who gave the martyrs the strength to endure suffering and death – that is the spirit we have received. In our Baptism and Confirmation, we have been filled with the Holy Spirit, who does not ration His gifts but pours them out in abundance. We don’t have anything to be afraid of. We have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, dwelling in us. That is amazing. If we really believe that, nothing else should matter. What do I have to be afraid of when God dwells in me? Why should I worry what other people think about me when God is with me? God didn’t come down from heaven, suffer, die, and rise from the dead so that I can be a coward.

Scripture tells us that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but of power. So whatever in us is prone to cowardice is not of God. And, if it is not of God, then we should not obey it.  It is as simple as that. Anytime we hear a voice in us telling us to be quiet, to not share the faith out of fear and cowardice, we ought then and there to recognize that that voice is not of God and make a conscious and deliberate effort to act contrary to it.

Sometimes we can think, either consciously or subconsciously, that living our faith in a public way is going above and beyond what is asked of us as Catholics. But it isn’t. Sharing our faith is only living out the grace that God has given us in the Sacrament of Confirmation. If you have been confirmed, then you have been called to be a witness to the faith. To share and defend the faith is not going above and beyond; it is simply living out the grace that God has given us and that we accepted in Confirmation. When we share the faith with others, when we live the faith in public, evangelical way, we are like the servant in the Gospel parable, doing only what we were obliged to do. When we fail to share our faith, when we hide it out of cowardice and fear, we are rejecting the grace and the call of God.

So we’re going to practice something right now. I’m guessing that at some point over the next few days, someone will ask you, “What did you do this weekend,” or “How was your weekend?” Maybe it will be a coworker, a neighbor, a family member, or the person who cuts your hair. And you have a choice, do you say that you went to Mass, or do you hide that? So I want you all to repeat after me. “I went to Mass this weekend.” Go ahead. Now, here’s the next step. Again, repeat after me. “Would you like to come with me some time?” Most Catholics are terrified of those words. But again, that’s our mission. That’s what God calls us to. They may say, “No.” That’s okay; they’re allowed to say no. Our job isn’t to force people to come; but our job is to invite people. So that’s your challenge for this week. Invite someone. Don’t be afraid.

Lord, stir into flame the grace that you have given us. Deliver us from any cowardice and fear. Help us to be courageous in sharing the good news of your great love.

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Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Why does the rich man in the parable end up in hell? Jesus doesn’t ascribe to him any particularly heinous acts. He doesn’t say that the rich man was a murderer. He wasn’t out beating people up or robbing them. In fact, there isn’t a single thing that he does in the parable that seems to warrant his eternal punishment. The problem is not what he did but what he didn’t do. At his doorstep sat Lazarus – poor, hungry, sick – and the rich man ignored him. Again, it isn’t like the rich man was actively persecuting Lazarus. He just ignored him. And in that consisted the rich man’s sin.

There is a famous saying that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. For many of us, when we think of sins, we think of what are traditionally called sins of commission, that is, active sins, sins that require doing things. But there are also sins of omission, passive sins, sins of doing nothing. It is these latter sins, the sins of omission, that, in the final reckoning, may actually be more harmful, because they are more insidious. They are insidious because it is easy to overlook them. We all know when we do something wrong. But it is easy to overlook the times when we did nothing. We can identify the times that we hated, but what about the times that we were indifferent?

Our first reading also speaks to this indifference. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!” the Lord says through the prophet Amos. Woe to those, he says, who are stretched comfortably on their couches, who eat well, enjoy entertainment and distraction, drink wine and fuss over their appearance. That should unsettle us, because, if you’re like me, that describes me. Most evenings, when I’m done with meetings, you’ll find me stretched on my couch, having eaten well, enjoying entertainment and distraction. And to people such as that, the Lord pronounces woe. Far too often, we are that rich man in the Gospel, enjoying the finer things of life while our brothers and sisters suffer.

We don’t have to travel to far off corners of the world to find those who suffer while we are indifferent. Like the rich man, Lazarus is at our doorstep. Poverty, racism, domestic abuse, gun violence, abortion, environmental degradation, these are problems that exist in our own city and in our own neighborhoods. We know that those problems exist. I’m not telling anyone something they don’t know. And yet, I know that I am far too often guilty of seeing these problems and saying, “Wow, that is terrible,” and then doing nothing about it. We can all do that. We see a problem and we feel bad about it, and we think that feeling bad is enough. We don’t actually do anything. And it is true that, for any of those problems, I personally can’t solve them by myself. The rich man in the Gospel couldn’t solve the problem of poverty or disease or hunger in its entirety. But he could help Lazarus. You and I can’t solve all the problems of the world on our own, but we can do something. And woe to us when, in our complacency, we do nothing.

God has given each of us not just material riches, but spiritual riches as well. God has lavished upon us the riches of His grace and the faith. Meanwhile, there are people who are spiritually poor, spiritually hungry, and spiritually sick. We are spiritually rich, and they are spiritually Lazarus, sitting at our doorstep. And, far too often, we sit comfortable and complacent. We might feel bad for them, but do we actually do anything to share with them the riches of the faith that we have? At our Town Hall meetings this past week, people said many times, “People aren’t coming to Mass. We need more young people in the Church. We are losing the Millennials.” But are we doing anything to correct that? Again, we very often feel bad about a problem, but then retreat back to our comfort and complacency.

Today’s readings are a wakeup call. Complacency isn’t just a bad thing, it is spiritually deadly. The rich man in the parable is described as suffering eternal torment because of his complacency and indifference. That may seem extreme, but Heaven is union with God, who is perfect love. And indifference is the opposite of love. God is never indifferent, never complacent. God is always pure active love. When we are indifferent, we are directly violating the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves.

How do we overcome this indifference? We do so by setting our sights on heaven. St. Paul, in the second reading, emphatically reminds St. Timothy to compete well for the faith in order to attain eternal life in order to attain the eternal life to which we are called. How many times this past week did you consciously think about heaven and eternal life? Probably not many, if at all. And yet, that is our destination. This past summer I went to Florida with a friend. For months we talked about it, planned for it, thought about it. And that was just a temporary destination for a week of vacation. Heaven is our eternal destination. But we ignore it, too caught up in the things of this world. I know that I do the same thing. Until I started writing this homily, I can’t say I thought about heaven much this past week or this past month.

Heaven is our eternal destination, but it is not a guarantee. The Gospel today makes it abundantly clear that hell is a reality. And it isn’t just reserved for the worst of the worst. Just because we show up to Mass on Sunday and don’t commit any bad sins is not a guarantee that we will go to heaven. As St. Paul tells Timothy, we have to “compete well for the faith.” When we keep our eyes on heaven, when we make getting to heaven our primary goal in life, we live differently. We stop being complacent and start doing things to help those in need, whether their needs be material needs or spiritual needs. I challenge you, this week, to start every day with a prayer. “Lord help me to compete well for the faith today. Remove from me any complacency or indifference. Help me to keep my eyes on heaven, and to pursue my eternal destination by loving You and my neighbor.”

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

How would you react if you got to heaven and found out that Hitler was there? Just imagine, you enter the pearly gates, and there among saints like St. Francis and St. Paul is Adolph Hitler. Would you rejoice to see that this lost sheep has been found, that he in his final moments repented, turned to God, and received His mercy? Or, like the older son in today’s parable, would you remain outside, refusing to enter in and celebrate with the likes of him? Or what if, upon arriving in heaven, you encountered Joseph Stalin or Osama bin Laden there? What would you do?

I admit, even saying the words is jarring. Some of you may be feeling your blood pressure rising just at the suggestion that men like that could possibly be in heaven. Like many of you, I am not sure how I would react to such a thing. And that is important for us. The Gospel today starts with the Pharisees and scribes complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” It is easy for us, as good Christians, to criticize the scribes and Pharisees for their arrogance and hypocrisy. “I would never reject someone for being a sinner,” I tell myself. “I treat all people with the mercy and love of Christ.” But, in reality, we all have a little of the Pharisee in us. There may be some groups of sinners whom we would gladly welcome as Christ did. But for all of us there is probably some group of sinners whom we would reject like the Pharisees.

Perhaps we can put the complaint of the Pharisee in modern language. “This man welcomes people I disagree with politically and eats with them. This man welcomes felons and eats with them. This man welcomes LGBT people and eats with them. This man welcomes racists and white supremacists and eats with them. This man welcomes Black Lives Matter and Antifa activists and eats with them.”

Is everyone sufficiently uncomfortable yet? Some of you are probably already crafting your letter to the Archbishop. Let me be clear, I am not saying that as Christians we should deny or ignore the reality of sin. Christ never denied the reality or the gravity of sin. We should be firm in proclaiming the reality and the gravity of sin. But we have to do more than just paying lip service to the idea of “loving the sinner and hating the sin.” That cliché gets thrown about, but in reality, we far too often reject the sinner and hate the sin. And people know it.

A few months ago, I received a request to meet with an inmate at the county jail whom I had not met before. As I was waiting, into the room walked a young African American man. His face, neck, arms and hands were all covered in tattoos, some of which I recognized as gang related tattoos. I’m ashamed to admit it, but when he walked into the room, my first thought was that the guards had brought the wrong person. Surely someone like this wouldn’t want to speak with me. But he introduced himself and, yes, he was the one who wanted to speak to me. He was going to be getting out soon and, though he had been away from Church for a long time, he wanted to start going back to church, but he was afraid. If he showed up at church, looking like he did, that people would judge him or exclude him. What was I to tell him – that no one would judge him – when I myself had judged him when he walked into the room? How would you react if he showed up this morning and sat down next to you in the pew?

As Christians, there is a temptation to lock ourselves away in our own little enclaves of holiness where only the good people are allowed to enter and all the sinners are kept out. There can be a temptation to live our lives that way, only associated with people whom we deem good enough and avoiding anyone who doesn’t meet our standards. We can dress it up in pseudo-religious reasoning, saying that we are trying to protect ourselves from the corrupting influence of sin and the world. But this is not the mentality of Christ, the good shepherd, who leaves the 99 to search for the lost sheep. When we push people away for being sinners, we are allying ourselves with the Pharisees, who objected to Christ welcoming sinners and eating with them.

Imagine if the early Church had treated St. Paul in accord with his sins. As he describes in the second reading today, he “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant.” He describes himself as the foremost sinner. What would have happened if the early Christians had rejected Paul because of his notorious sins? Or think of St. Augustine. As a young man, Augustine lived a wild lifestyle, even fathering a child out of wedlock. Imagine if, when he experienced his conversion, the Christians in his life had ostracized him because of his earlier sinful behaviors.

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to imitate His example of welcoming sinners and eating with them. We don’t know what Christ did or said to these people, but we know that, whatever it was, they came to eat with Him. I doubt that if Jesus walked up to a tax collector and just yelled, “Repent, sinner!” that the tax collector would have then joined Jesus for dinner. The people Jesus is eating with, the tax collectors and sinners, they know that Jesus is a religious man. They also are used to being rejected by religious people, like the Pharisees and scribes. I would imagine that, when they first encountered Jesus, they probably had their guard up. They were probably just waiting for Jesus to reject them like all the other so-called holy men. We don’t know what Jesus said or did, but however He treated these people, He did so in such a way that they were willing to go eat with Him.

This is something good to pray about. Ask Jesus, “Lord, how did you treat the tax collectors and sinners? How did you break through the barriers and defenses? Teach me, Jesus, how to treat others as you did.” But welcoming people like Jesus is hard to do. Our weakness gets in the way and we start pushing people away. We may be good at welcoming some groups, but others we treat like the Pharisees. One of the best ways to grow in our ability to love and welcome all people as Christ did is the Sacrament of Confession. It helps in two ways. First, in confession we can bring to God all of the ways that we have judged and excluded others. We bring to Him our sins of being unwelcoming and ask for His forgiveness. Second, in confession we admit that we, too, are sinners who need God’s mercy. The real problem with the Pharisees was that they saw the world in two groups: us (the good people) and them (the sinners). But we are sinners. Sinners aren’t just people out there. I am a sinner. You are a sinner. In confession, we admit that, and we experience the merciful embrace of the Father who welcomes back His wayward children. When we experience God’s mercy and welcome in the Sacrament of Confession, it is easier for us to extend that same mercy and welcome to others.

Lord Jesus, in love you welcomed sinners and ate with them, and so showed them the loving mercy of the Father. Grant that we may know, like St. Paul, that we too are sinners who have received your abundant mercy. Having been loved and welcomed by you, Lord, help us to love and welcome others.

Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time / XXIII Domingo Ordinario

If I asked everyone here to name a book of the New Testament, I bet that not a single person would name Paul’s Letter to Philemon. It is one of the shortest and probably least read books of the entire Bible. We have an excerpt from it in our second reading. It is a very unique book. Paul is writing to Philemon, a Christian in Colossae, possibly the bishop. Philemon was a wealthy man, and, like many wealthy men of his time, he owned slaves. One of his slaves, Onesimus, ran away, possibly after stealing money from Philemon. At some point, Onesimus met Paul and converted to Christianity. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, along with the letter that is now part of the New Testament.

 

Si yo les pidiera a todos ustedes que nombraran un libro del Nuevo Testamento, apuesto que nadie nombraría la carta de San Pablo a Filemón. Es uno de los libros más cortos y menos leídos en la Biblia entera. Tenemos una parte de esta carta en nuestra segunda lectura hoy. Es un libro muy único. San Pablo le escribe a Filemón, un cristiano en Colosas, posiblemente el obispo. Filemón era muy rico, y, como muchos hombres ricos de su tiempo, el tenia esclavos. Uno de sus esclavos, Onésimo, se escapó, posiblemente después de robando dinero de Filemón. Entonces, Onésimo conoció a Pablo y se convirtió al cristianismo. Pablo envió a Onésimo de regreso a Filemón, junto con la carta que ahora es parte del Nuevo Testamento.

 

Now, by law, Philemon had the right to punish Onesimus severely for running away.  But Paul, in his letter, exhorts him to something else. Rather than punish Onesimus, Paul tells Philemon to welcome Onesimus, “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.” Because Philemon and Onesimus are now both Christians, Paul tells Philemon that the social distinctions of master and slave no longer apply. They are brothers in the Lord, and that overrides any social categories that exist. Those who once were divided are now united in Christ.

 

Por ley, Filemón tenia el derecho castigar a Onésimo severamente para escapando y robándolo. Pero San Pablo, en su carta, lo exhorta a algo diferente. Más bien de castigar a Onésimo, Pablo dice a Filemón que le dé bienvenida a Onésimo, “no como esclavo, sino como algo mejor que un esclavo, como hermano amadísimo […] en Cristo.” Porque Filemón y Onésimo ambos son cristianos, Pablo le dice a Filemón que los distinciones sociales de maestro y esclavo ya no se aplica. Son hermanos en el Señor, y eso anula cualquiera categoría social que existe. Los que una vez estuvieron divididos son ahora unidos en Cristo.

 

This is really the heart of the Christian message. Sin divides the world. Above all, sin divides us from God. But it also divides us from one another. Sin causes war, jealousy, racism, prejudice, injustice, and all the sins that create division between people. By His death and resurrection, Christ destroyed sin, and so destroyed the division that sin creates. He destroyed the division that existed between us and God. And Christ also destroyed the division that exists between people. In Christ, all are reunited as brothers and sisters. The false divisions that sin creates are completely overcome in the death and resurrection of Christ.

 

Eso es la corazón de la mensaje cristiana. El pecado divide el mundo. Sobre todo, el pecado nos divide de Dios. Pero también nos divide uno de los otros. El pecado causa guerra, envidia, racismo, prejuicio, injusticia, y todas las cosas que crean división entre las personas. Por su muerte y resurrección, Cristo destruyó al pecado, y por lo tanto destruyó la división que el pecado crea. Él destruyó la división que existió entre nosotros y Dios. Y Jesús también destruyó las divisiones que existieron entre las personas. En Cristo, todos son reunidos como hermanos y hermanas. Las divisiones falsas que el pecado crea están completamente superados en la muerte y resurrección de Cristo.

 

What does this mean for us? It means that we have to rethink the way that we look at the world. Our society loves to divide people into groups, and it loves to set those groups up in opposition to each other. But as Christians, that cannot be how we view the world. In Christ, human divisions do not exist. In Christ, there is no Republican or Democrat, there is no conservative or liberal, there is no upper class and lower class, there is no citizen or immigrant, there is no legal resident or undocumented immigrant, there is no Anglo or Hispanic. All of those divisions are human divisions. All of those divisions are destroyed in the grace of Christ, which makes all of us brothers and sisters.

 

¿Qué significa esto para nosotros? Significa que necesitamos repensar la manera en que vemos el mundo. A nuestra sociedad le gusta dividir las personas en grupos, y le gusta establecerlos en oposición el uno contra otro. Pero como cristianos, eso no puede ser la manera en que vemos el mundo. En Cristo, divisiones humanas no existen. En Cristo, no hay republicano o demócrata, no hay conservadorismo o liberal, no hay clase alta o clase baja, no hay ciudadano o inmigrante, no hay residente legal o inmigrante sin documentos, no hay anglo o hispano. Todas esas divisiones son divisiones humanas. Todas esas divisiones son destruidas en la gracia de Cristo, que nos hace hermanos y hermanas.

 

In our culture today, this is a radical message. Our culture is so divided. To say that none of those divisions matter, that is a fundamentally different way of looking at the world than the one that society pushes. Unfortunately, far too many Christians insist on these human divisions. We are called to be a witness to the world of the grace of Christ that destroys all division. When we, as Christians, give credence to human divisions, we are denying the grace of Christ.

 

En nuestra sociedad hoy, este es un mensaje radical. Nuestra cultura es tan dividida. Decir que todas estas divisiones no importan, esa es una forma de ver el mundo que es fundamentalmente diferente de la que la sociedad predica. Desafortunadamente, demasiados cristianos insisten en estas divisiones humanas. Somos llamados para ser testigos para el mundo de la gracia de Cristo que destruye toda división. Cuando nosotros, como cristianos, dar crédito a las divisiones humanas, estamos negando la gracia de Cristo.

 

Often, we hold on to our human divisions because we believe that they are important. We find some sense of value or meaning from these divisions. We allow them to define who we are. In the Gospel, Christ tells the crowd, “Anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.” We normally think of these “possessions” as material goods. But there are other possessions that we cling to. Often, we treat these divisions and human categories as possessions. We cling to them, thinking that they give meaning to our lives, just like some people cling to their physical possessions. Christ calls us to renounce these possessions. He calls us to find our ultimate meaning and value not in human divisions but in Him. The fact that we are redeemed by Christ, the fact that we are His brothers and sisters and coheirs of heaven, this is what gives our life its ultimate meaning and value. This is so much more important than any paltry human category.

 

A menudo, nos aferramos a las divisiones humanas porque creemos que ellas son importantes. Encontramos algún sentido de valor o significado en estas divisiones. Les permitimos definir quiénes somos. En el evangelio, Cristo dice a la muchedumbre, “cualquiera de ustedes que no renuncie a todos sus bienes, no puede ser mi discípulo.” Normalmente, pensamos en estos “bienes” como bienes materiales. Pero hay otros bienes a que aferramos. A menudo, tratamos estas divisiones y categorías humanas como bienes. Nos aferramos a ellas, pensando que dan sentido a nuestras vidas, de la misma manera en que algunas personas se aferran a bienes materiales. Cristo nos llama para renunciar estos bienes. Nos llama para encontrar nuestro último significado y valor no en divisiones humanas pero en Él solo. El hecho de que somos redimidos por Cristo, el hecho de que somos sus hermanos y hermanas y coherederos del cielo, este es lo que da significado y valor a nuestras vidas. Este es mucho más importante que cualquiera categoría mezquina humana.

 

How do we overcome these human divisions in order to live as Christ’s disciples? The three people in the second reading show us three paths. First is the path of Philemon. There may be some person or group that we have previously looked down upon. We have seen the world in terms of “us” versus “them.” Christ is asking us, as Paul told Philemon, to embrace this person or these people as brothers. He calls us to reject human categories in order to see the world through the light of Christ’s grace. Second is the path of Onesimus. Onesimus had stolen from Philemon, and then, rather than make amends, he ran away. Paul sends Onesimus back. He cannot run from his problems, but must confront them. Some of the divisions in our life are divisions of our own making. All too often, we try to run from these problems that we have created. But we cannot run from them. Like Onesimus, we must confront the divisions we have made and seek reconciliation. Third is the path of St. Paul. Paul says that he wanted to keep Onesimus with him, but realized that it was better to send him back so that he could be reconciled with Philemon. Like Paul, Christ calls us to be a peacemaker, to reconcile those who are separated. In this way, we extend the victory of Christ to all people. Lord Jesus, by your Cross and Resurrection, you destroyed the divisions that sin creates. Destroy the divisions in our world. Destroy the divisions in our hearts, so that we can be fonts of peace and unity.

 

¿Cómo superamos a estas divisiones humanas para vivir como discípulos de Cristo? Las tres personas en la segunda lectura nos muestran tres caminos. El primero es el camino de Filemón. Puede haber alguna persona o grupo de personas a que previamente hemos menospreciado. Hemos visto al mundo como “nosotros” versus “ellos”. Cristo nos pide, como Pablo dijo a Filemón, que aceptemos a esta persona o estas personas como hermanos. Nos llama a rechazar categorías humanas y a ver el mundo por la luz de la gracia de Cristo. El segundo es el camino de Onésimo. Onésimo había robado a Filemón, y después, en lugar de hacer las paces, él se escapó. Pablo envía a Onésimo regresar. Él no puede escapar de sus problemas, pero  debe enfrentarlas. Algunas divisiones en nuestras vidas son divisiones de nuestra propia fabricación. Con demasiada frecuencia, tratamos escapar de estas problemas que hemos creados. Pero no podemos escaparlas. Como Onésimo, necesitamos enfrentar las divisiones que hemos creados y buscar reconciliación. El tercer camino es el de San Pablo. Pablo dice que hubiera querido retener a Onésimo consigo, pero realizó que era mejor enviarlo de vuelta para que Onésimo pudiera reconciliarse con Filemón. Como San Pablo, Cristo nos llama a ser pacificadores, reconciliar los separados. En esta manera, extendemos la victoria de Jesús a cada persona. Señor Jesús, por tu Cruz y Resurrección, destruiste las divisiones que el pecado crea. Destruye las divisiones en nuestro mundo. Destruye las divisiones en nuestros corazones, para que podemos ser fuentes de la paz y la unidad.

Fiesta de San Luis

Estos días, sería difícil para encontrar a un político que calificaría para el título “Santo.” No es importa en qué parte del espectro político estás, tienes que admitir que probablemente no hay políticos que se desbordan de santidad. Algunos de ellos pueden ser personas decentes (pueden ser), ¿pero santos? Nadie viene a la mente. De hecho, normalmente los asociamos a los políticos con corrupción y vicia. Esto no es única a hoy. Desde los días de Roma anciana, y probablemente antes de eso, personas con poder política han sido caracterizados por la pecaminosidad.

Pero hoy, celebramos un santo que era tanto un santo como un político. Y no solo un político, pero un rey de lo que fue, en aquel entonces, uno de los imperios más poderoso y ricos en el mundo. Hoy es la fiesta de San Luis, rey de Francia y el santo patrón de nuestra arquidiócesis. San Luis es uno de mis santos favoritos, principalmente porque él no se parece a lo que esperamos que sea un santo. A menudo pensamos en santos como un cierto tipo de persona. Pensamos en santos como sacerdotes o monjas. San Luis era un hombre casado y un padre. Pensamos en santos viviendo en pobreza. San Luis estaba rodeado de toda la riqueza de la monarquía francesa. Pensamos en santos como personas separadas del mundo y sus preocupaciones. San Luis estaba muy en el mundo, se ocupaba no solo de todas las preocupaciones de tener una familia, sino también de las preocupaciones de dirigir una monarquía.

Y, en eso, San Luis es un ejemplo para todos nosotros. Cristo nos dice hoy, “Esfuércense en entrar por la puerta, que es angosta.” Esta exhortación no es solo para la élite espiritual. Jesús habla a todos nosotros. Todos estamos llamados a ser santos. Hemos escuchado eso. Pero ¿lo creemos? Para muchos, en realidad no creemos que podamos ser santos. Creemos que podamos ser buenas personas. ¿Pero santos? Algunos de ustedes podrían estar pensando: “Sea realista, padre. No puedo convertirme en un santo. Solo soy una persona normal. Los santos son personas extraordinarias, no ordinarias como yo.”

A menudo aceptamos la mentira de que la santidad es solo para unos pocos y para los especiales. Pero eso no es la enseñanza de Cristo. Jesús nos dice a todos que nos esforcemos en entrar por la puerta angosta. “Esfuércense” Él dice. La palabra en la griega es muy fuerte. Es la palabra “agonizomai.” Significa para luchar. Es el origen de la palabra agonizar. Jesús nos dice para agonizar sobre entrar el cielo, para luchar duro. Muchas personas piensen del cielo como un lugar en el cual podemos entrar casualmente. Pero Jesús nos dice que el cielo es un lugar que requiere esfuerzo significativo de nuestra parte para entrar. Tenemos que trabajar para ser santos. Nuestra segunda lectura de la Carta a los Hebreos dice algo similar. “Robustezcan sus manos cansadas y sus rodillas vacilantes”. Se nos anima para no sentarnos y descansar, pero robustecernos a nosotros mismos para que podamos esforzarnos en el camino de la santidad.

Para algunos de nosotros, eso puede parecer demasiado para nosotros, como si estuviera fuera de nuestro alcance. Y eso es por que santos como San Luis son tan importantes. Ellos nos recuerden que la santidad no es solo para los pocos. No es solo para personas que tienen vidas ideales o que existen aparte de las preocupaciones del mundo. Santidad no es solo para los sacerdotes o monjas. Santidad es para todos nosotros.

Pero la santidad no sucede por sí sola. No vamos a despertarnos un día y nos habremos convertido en santos. Necesitamos esforzarnos para ello. Se necesita tiempo y se requiere esfuerzo. Tenemos que robustecernos para el desafío. Tenemos que soportar dificultades.

Algunos de ustedes pueden estar pensando, “Está muy bien que se suponga que debo ser santo, pero no sé cómo hacerlo”. Primero, déjame decir lo que no es la santidad. La santidad no es solo siguiendo un montón de reglas. Santidad no es solo hacer lo correcto. Santidad es ser profundamente enamorado de Dios. Santidad es el resultado de tener una relación fuerte y personal con el Padre, Hijo, y Espíritu Santo. Como el mismo San Luis dijo, “Fija todo tu corazón en Dios y ámalo con todas tus fuerzas, porque sin esto nadie puede ser salvado”. Eso es lo que significa ser santo, para fijar nuestros corazones en Dios y amarlo con todas nuestras fuerzas.

Ser honesto, como una Iglesia, hemos hecho un buen trabajo de enseñar que cada persona es llamada para ser santa, pero no hemos hecho un buen trabajo de enseñar cómo hacerlo. Asumimos que las personas sabían cómo hacerse santas y lo hacían. Esa suposición es probablemente incorrecta. He hablado como muchas católicas que quieren ser santo – quieren amar a Dios y ser sus discípulos – pero ellos sienten que no conocen como hacerlo. Eso es la razón para nuestro Foro Parroquial este otoño. Vamos a discutir como nosotros como una parroquia podemos equipar las personas para ser santos y discípulos. Como parte de nuestra preparación para el Foro, pedimos a cada feligrés para completar una encuesta breve y anónima. Puedes completarla en línea, y hay información en el boletín o en nuestra página de Facebook sobre cómo hacer eso. Había copias de la encuesta en el boletín de la semana pasada y hay copias en la oficina también para alguien que prefiere completarla por escrito en lugar de en línea. Por favor tome el tiempo para completar la encuesta, y hacerlo honestamente. Solo requiere tres minutos. Queremos ayudar a cada persona crecer en la santidad, pero para hacer eso necesitamos una comprensión precisa de dónde están las personas en sus vidas espirituales y cómo podemos ayudarlas.

San Luis nos recuerda que todos nosotros podemos ser santos. No nos contentemos con ser menos. Como Cristo dice, tenemos que esforzarnos en entrar por la puerta angosta. Y Él dice también que hay ellos que se encontrarán bloqueado del banquete. Si no queremos ser eso, no podemos contentarnos con ser lo suficientemente buenos. Necesitamos ser totalmente santos. San Luis, rey de Francia y nuestro patrón, ruega a Dios por nosotros. Obtenga por nosotros la gracia para esforzarnos para la santidad en media de nuestras vidas diarias. Siguiendo tu ejemplo, que todos seamos santos, y que podamos ayudar a nuestros hermanos y hermanas a crecer en santidad también, para que podamos entrar por la puerta angosta y compartir contigo los gozos del cielo.

 

Feast of St. Louis

These days, you would be hard pressed to find a politician who would qualify for the title of “saint.” I don’t care where on the political spectrum you fall, you have to admit that there are probably no politicians that you can name who exude sanctity. Some of them might be decent people (some of them), but saints? No one comes to mind. In fact, these days we normally associate politicians with corruption and vice. This isn’t unique to today. Since the days of ancient Rome, and probably even before that, politically powerful individuals have often also been characterized by sinfulness.

But today, we celebrate a saint who was both saint and politician. Not just a politician, but a king of what was, at the time, one of the most powerful, richest empires in the world. Today is the feast of St. Louis, the King of France and the patron saint of our Archdiocese. I like St. Louis, mostly because he doesn’t look like what we expect a saint to be. We often think of saints as being a certain kind of person. We think of saints as priests or nuns. St. Louis was a married man and a father. We think of saints as living in poverty. St. Louis was surrounded by all the wealth of the French monarchy. We think of saints as people who lived lives that were apart from the world and its concerns. St. Louis was very much in the world, dealing with all of the cares not only of having a family, but also the concerns of running a monarchy.

And, in that way, St. Louis is an example to all of us. Christ tells us today to “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” That exhortation is not just for the “spiritual elite.” Jesus is speaking to all of us. All of us are called to be saints. We have all heard that. But do we believe it? For many of us, we don’t actually believe that we can be saints. We may believe that we can be decent people, even good people. But saints? Some of you may be thinking, “Be realistic, father. I can’t become a saint. I’m just a normal person. Saints are extraordinary people, not ordinary folks like me.”

We all too easily buy into the lie that holiness is only for the few and the special. But that is not the teaching of Christ. Christ tells all of us to strive to enter through the narrow gate. “Strive,” He says. The Greek word is even stronger. The word is agonizomai. It means to fight or to struggle. It is the origin of our word “agonize.” Jesus tells us to agonize over getting into heaven, to fight hard for it. Many of us think of heaven as something we can just casually walk into. Instead, we are told to that heaven is something that requires real effort on our part. We have to work at being holy. Our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews says something similar. “Strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet.” We are encouraged not to just sit back and rest, but to strengthen ourselves so that we can strive along the path to holiness.

For some of us, that may feel like it is too much for us, like it is beyond our reach. And that’s why saints like St Louis are so important. They remind us that holiness is not just for the few. It isn’t just for people who have ideal lives or who exist apart from the cares of this world. Holiness isn’t just for priests and nuns. Holiness is for all of us.

But holiness doesn’t just happen. We aren’t just going to wake up one day and become saints. We have to strive for it. It takes time, and it takes effort. We have to strengthen ourselves for the challenge. We have to endure difficulties.

Some of you may be thinking, “That’s all well and good that I’m supposed to be holy, but I don’t know how.” First, let’s talk about what holiness isn’t. Holiness is not just following a bunch of rules. Holiness is not just doing the right thing. Holiness is, ultimately, about being deeply in love with God. Holiness is the result of having a strong, personal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As St. Louis himself said, “Fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved.” That’s what it means to be holy, to fix our heart on God and love Him with all our strength.

Now, I’ll be honest, as a Church, we have done a good job of pushing the message that all people are called to be holy, but we haven’t done a good job of teaching people how to do it. We have just sort of assumed that people knew how to become holy and were doing it. That’s probably an incorrect assumption. I have spoken to many Catholics who legitimately want to be holy – they want to love God and be His disciples – but they also don’t feel like they have the tools to do so. This is the reason for our Parish Town Hall meeting this fall. We are going to be discussing how we as a parish can better equip people to be holy. As part of our preparation for the Town Hall, we are asking every parishioner to take a short, anonymous survey. You can take the survey online, and there is information in the bulletin or on our Facebook page for how to do that. There were also paper copies of the survey in last week’s bulletin and they are available in the office as well. Please take the time to fill out the survey, and to do it honestly. It only takes three minutes. We want to help everyone to grow in holiness, but to do that we have to have an accurate understanding of where people are in their spiritual lives and how we can help them.

St. Louis reminds us that all of us can indeed be saints. Let us not settle for being less. As Christ says, we must strive to enter through the narrow gates. But He also says that there are those who will find themselves locked out of the banquet. If we don’t want that to be us, we cannot be content with being good enough. St. Louis, King of France and our patron saint, pray to God for us. Obtain for us the grace to truly strive for holiness in the midst of our daily lives. Following your example, may we all become saints, and help our brothers and sisters to grow in sanctity as well, so that we may enter through the narrow gate and share with you in the joys of heaven.

XIX Domingo Ordinario

Cuando yo era un niño en las vacaciones de verano, mis padres se dejan notas cuando se fueron para el trabajo en la mañana de lo que querían a mi hermana ya mí a hacer ese día. Pasar la aspiradora de las escaleras. Vaciar el lavavajillas. Regar las plantas. Y normalmente, mi hermana y yo pasábamos todo el día relajante y viendo la televisión, y luego, cerca de las cuatro por la tarde, corríamos para hacer todo en la lista antes de que mamá y papá regresen a casa. Había muchas veces cuando acabamos de poner la aspiradora en el armario o el último plato en la alacena cuando mamá o papá manejaban al garaje.

Nuestro Señor habla de algo similar en el evangelio hoy. Él habla de un siervo que, esperando a su amo para regresar, comienza a aflojar en sus deberes, descuidando su trabajo y maltratando los otros criados. Entonces, a su sorpresa, el amo regrese inesperadamente, y el siervo es castigado por sus fechorías. El siervo probablemente pensó, “Yo tengo mucho tiempo para mejorar. Antes de mi amo regrese, habré reformado. Él nunca lo sabrá.” Pero el amo sorprende al siervo. El siervo no tiene tiempo para reformar a su vida y hacer todas las tareas que pretendía hacer.

¿Con que frecuencia podemos hacer lo mismo? Especialmente en la vida espiritual, es fácil para posponer las cosas hasta más tarde. Yo rezaré luego. Yo asistiré a la Misa la próxima semana. Yo me confesaré luego. Posponemos las cosas, siempre con la intención de hacerlos, pero no ahorita. Tal vez hay un pecado en nuestra vida que sabemos que necesitamos reformar, pero pensamos, “Yo voy a hacerlo una vez más, y después dejaré de hacerlo.” Quizás ha pasado mucho tiempo desde que te has confesado, y planeas hacerlo eventualmente, pero siempre hay una razón para posponerlo. Es tan fácil para aplazar y aplazar.

Una de las razones que es tan fácil para posponer las cosas como oración y leyendo las Escrituras es que las recompensas de otras cosas parecen muy inmediatas y tangibles, pero las recompensas de cosas espirituales pueden parecer más difícil de ver. Por ejemplo, si no pago mis facturas, las consecuencias son obvias. Pero si no oro hoy o no leo la Biblia hoy, no parece que haga una gran diferencia. Entonces, ¿por qué importa si sigo posponiendo las cosas espirituales? Mientras los haga eventualmente, ¿no es eso todo lo que importa?

Hay tres razones por que es problemática para posponer a las cosas espirituales. El primero es porque retrasa nuestro progreso en la vida espiritual. El camino a la santidad es precisamente eso – un camino – que caminamos paso a paso. Cuanto más pospongo crecer en santidad, menos creceré. Imaginen una familia manejando a Florida para vacaciones. Si ellos salen hoy, es posible que no lleguen a Florida antes del final del día, pero estarán mucho más adelantados que si esperaran irse mañana. Del mismo modo, si yo hago todas las cosas que debería hacer hoy, es posible que no seré un santo perfecto antes del final del día, pero estaré mucho más adelantado que si pospongo esas cosas hasta mañana.

La razón segunda es que nuestras acciones se convierten en hábitos. Es verdad que posponer la oración para un día puede no tener un efecto catastrófico en nuestra vida espiritual. Pero hacer eso día tras día lo hará. Cuanto más que pospongo las cosas como oración, leer la Biblia, confesión, y crecer en la virtud, más se convierte en un hábito, y es más fácil seguir demorando. No asistir a misa por una semana fácilmente se vuelve a dos semanas, que fácilmente se vuelve a un mes, y así. No orar por un día se vuelve a una semana, y de repente, ni siquiera pensamos en eso.

La razón tercera, y la más importante, para que hay un problema para posponer en las cosas espirituales hasta más tarde es porque no sabemos cuándo no habrá un más tarde. Este es el punto principal de la parábola de Cristo hoy. En algún momento, no habrá una más mañana. No habrá un más tarde. Todas las cosas que he pospuesto quedarán para siempre no hecho. Y aunque nos guste pensar que eso momento es muy lejos en la futura, no lo sabemos. No sabemos cuándo el amo llegará. En eso momento, ¿seremos el siervo fiel que el amo encuentre vigilante en su llegada, o seremos el siervo infiel que él encuentre no listo?

En la Iglesia, hay una práctica que se llama “memento mori,” que es latina para “recuerda que morirás.” Es la práctica de recordar a nosotros mismos que un día moriremos. No lo hacemos para ser mórbidos, pero vivir en la verdad. Tenemos solo un tiempo limitado aquí en la tierra. Un día, no sabemos cuándo, moriremos. Con el tiempo que tengo, ¿lo voy a usar para seguir a Dios, o lo voy a usar para hacer otras cosas?

Sabemos lo que el Señor nos pide. Como dice el Señor, “Al que mucho se le da, se le exigirá mucho, y al que mucho se le confía, se le exigirá mucho más.” Mucho ha sido confiado a nosotros. No nos demoremos en hacer lo que el Señor nos pide. Reza ahora – no mañana, no más tarde, ahora. Si necesitas confesarte, hazlo ahora. Deja de posponerlo. Si hay virtudes que necesitas cultivar o pecados que necesitas vencer, empiece ahora. No seamos servidores infieles que continuamente posponen las cosas hasta mañana. Más bien, seamos sirvientes vigilantes, a quienes el amo encuentra haciendo su voluntad.