Saturday, November 26, 2011

First Sunday of Advent: Come Lord Jesus!

We, Christians always celebrate Christ but especially when He gave everything on the cross. The Mass is the greatest celebration of the death and resurrection of Our Lord. We call that celebration Easter.

We make preparations for that celebration and that is why we have a specific time to do it: Lent. We remember the 40 days of Jesus praying in the desert, we do our best to emulate Him.

Because of the gift of the resurrection is huge we need to learn to appreciate it. If it is too rich of a gift the Easter season will continue in time and we will call it the Paschal Time.

We have Lent (the days before Holy Week until the Easter Vigil) and Easter (fifty days until Pentecost) which are two very important Liturgical times.

These are the two oldest Liturgical times that we have as Christians. The first thing they celebrated is what we celebrate: the death of Jesus filled with love for us, and His resurrection which is the forgiveness of our sins and the source of our hope and joy.

After a while, some ages, the contemplation of the mystery of Christ starts to help the first Christians to discover other richness such as the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus.

The Gospels tell us of the circumstances that preceded the birth of Christ. They are many reasons to celebrate as we see in the readings, symbols, and new translation of the Roman Missal. What we have is the desire and hunger of centuries for the Savior. Not only hope or desire from ages past but also our desire now because we too are in need of Him.

As you can see we also have another pair of Liturgical times: Advent, the one we are starting today until Christmas (a very short three weeks). That is a time of joy for His birth. We also celebrate the Epiphany, a manifestation to the poor and strangers.

The word advent is an entire catechesis. It comes from the word “adventus” which means “the coming”. Advent is a time to prepare for someone’s coming. Is this the memory of the first Christmas? Is it just a nice way of celebrating Jesus's birthday?  Yes, but it is more than that. When we celebrate His coming we also remember that we are in need of Christ.

Jesus came over 2000 years ago but He still needs to come now. Even though He was born in Bethlehem, we still today need to celebrate His birth. Even though the Incarnation has already happened, Jesus still has to start His work of salvation in many souls.

As we can see it is not only a matter of remembering the past and saying what a good birthday of Jesus that happened over 2000 years ago. Advent has the seriousness of knowing that something is missing in our society, our families and in our own lives.

I think this Advent is going to be very special and difficult to forget because of all the things that our eyes are witnessing. There is much justice that is missing and more; peace, solidarity, love, happiness and joy.

Advent is a time to come to our senses and sees how much we need Jesus individually, in our families and in our community at St. Marks. What is going on with the world? Where are we going?

Advent is asking those kinds of questions, it is accepting that we need conversion in politics, relationships, money, life issues such as abortion, education, moral issues. Where are we going with all of these? What are we doing with this great gift of life?

The conclusion is one: Come Lord Jesus, come and save us, come and save us from our selfishness and desire of revenge, from our addictions and lack of love. Come Lord, because it doesn’t seem to get better when I try by myself, without your grace which comes through prayer and the Sacraments.

Advent my brothers and sisters is regaining our appetites and hunger, the necessity of Jesus in our lives. Advent is getting to the point of saying: We need meekness, wisdom, goodness, purity Jesus Christ. We need you, come and don’t delay your visit.

Lord Jesus, I easily forget that you deserve the first spot in my life. At least right now I recognize you as my King and Master. I know you are present with me now and that you wish to fill me with your grace. Thank you for your friendship; I offer my weak love in return. I love you, Lord, and wish you to reign in my life.
Lord Jesus, help me to stay vigilant to your holy inspirations.

I have sought to please you in my actions, and when I have failed, I have turned to you through confession to be washed of my sins. I want to hear you say to me: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come share my joy” (Matthew 25:23).

Lord Jesus, help me to “stay awake” in my daily life, keeping heaven as my true goal in all that I do. Help me to stand ready in every moment of my life to be called into your presence, Amen.

I asked all of you to incorporate some specific pratices this Advent. Here you have some prayers for your personal and family devotions for the first week:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ The King

Saint Paul offers us a perspective about the mystery of Jesus coming as our King. His kingdom will appear only at the end of the world. Our future then has a very clear goal and direction given to us from history.  It is not only what Ecclesiastes 1:9 said: “There is nothing new under the sun”...Christ gives understanding and meaning to history. He is the goal and without Him personally or collectively, everything is just a sum of desires that can't satisfy.

In 1 Cor. 15:20-26, 28, Paul presents  the whole universe submitted to Christ. The perspective and direction is precisely this one: the submission of everything to Christ. If this is true, we can prepare and anticipate that goal. Even though there is no specific day, we can anticipate it making Christ reign in our hearts and in other hearts as well.

The words of Jesus that day will be “'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” or “'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt 25:31-46) and if we see and think more on those words, they are  the mirrors of our actions. The judgment of Jesus is going to be the result of the kind of life that we all had.

Christ as we see is hidden in the poor or in other words, poverty is the way in which Christ wants to reveal Himself. This is nothing new for the one that has read the gospel. In poverty grace is revealed through the limit of our efforts and what we want and can do Poverty is not a decoration or caprice of Christ. It is a unique condition where we  discover the love that exists and that we cannot control: a love that  has the power to own our hearts

Lord, let me see you in those who come to me in their need. Open my eyes with faith and love to reach out to all who come to me, offering them what I would offer you. In this, let me find the path that leads to you, hearing you call, “come, blessed of my Father, the Kingdom is prepared for you.”

Sacred Heart of Jesus, you are king of my heart; by the love you have shown me, you teach me how to live not for myself, but for others. Let my motive in doing these acts of charity not be out of fear of punishment or desire for reward, but rather let me act out of love for you. Let me respond to the love you have shown me. You are always a faithful friend to me; let me be a faithful friend to you in every person I meet today.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s readings are inviting us to take a look at our lives. What are we doing with our time? Which means what are we doing with our lives? To live is to pay attention to our talents and how we are administering them.
In Mt 25: 14-30 we see a man that has this same response to the servant that gains two as to the ones that gain five: “Well done, my good and faithful servant…  Come; share your master's joy”.  Why?
For God, what matters is to multiply our talents, to use them.

An empty life, a life without meaning is represented in the Gospel with the ones that haven’t done anything with their talents.  There are many people living like that. They worry too much, focusing on what life can give to them, but not on the talents that they have received and how they can multiply them to serve others. There is a law in spiritual realm: the more you give of your talents the more you multiply them.
First Lesson: God doesn’t care of the amount of work, but the quality of it. God is the owner of the universe. And what is quality: everything, all your talents.
Second Lesson: Don’t live only concerned about things in this world. Your talent could be infertile for the next life.
Teach me, Lord, to take all that you have given me and make it produce fruit for your kingdom.
Lord, give me the grace and love to work for your kingdom with all the talents that you have given me. Let me return them all to you with real fruits for your kingdom.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time: "The foolish and prudent virgins"

The invitation of Jesus is very clear: "Therefore, stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour." (Mt 25, 13)

In this parable specifically Christ suggests that there is a kind of sleepiness that involves all of us. Notice that the main difference between the groups of virgins is not in the fact that one group was sleeping and the other not; what makes them different is the way they where prepared for the banquet, how they anticipated their waking. Some didnt prepare for it at all. The tiredness of the activities defeated them, it was too much for them, and they surrendered to sleep without thinking of what would happen later.

On the other hand the other group knowing that the night could defeat them, found a way to have oil for the lamps, so that when they awoke they could find something to defeat the night.

As we see, it is a matter of awareness. Some of them where conscious of the fact that they could fall sleep and prepare themselves for any inconvenience and the others simple let the tiredness overcome them.

What do we do to prepare ourselves for our awakening? First it depends of what kind of sleepiness we are talking about. It is the sleep of death? Actually that sounds very connected to the end of Ordinary time, this is what we are approaching in the liturgy of the Catholic Church as we come to the last chapters of Matthew.

The ones that let sleep take control of their lives are just assuming that after the reality of this world nothing else will happen.

On the other hand save oil for the lamps, save light and even though the body will suddenly be defeated by tiredness and sleepiness, there will always be enough light to keep them from sleeping. What light are we saving? What can defeat darkness when we are sleeping, in other words when we are dead and the night of our lives will inevitably overshadow us?

The first reading (Wis 6: 12) talks about " A Resplendent and unfading wisdom", a light  that corresponds well to the oil of the gospel (Mt 25: 1-13). Because even though the sleepiness of death will come to everyone, wisdom is not subjected to the empire of death. The light of wisdom will stay with us when we listen to the voice: 'Behold, the bridegroom (Mt 25: 6)

It is good to remember that this wisdom is much more than just knowledge. It is not against knowledge, but there is more than that. This wisdom comes to those that look for it "and found by those who seek her."(Wis 6:16). It is wisdom that helps us in the art of living.

The message then will be: Learn to live this life in order to prepare for the life that will come after.

I would just like to say something about the hour and the final encounter in today's parable. All the virgins were invited to the wedding, all of them were waiting for the bridegroom. This was the proper custom of the Jewish people. To wait for the bridegroom doesn't have a joy that can be compared to on earth. The wedding is a day of joy and happiness in the Book of the Song of Songs 3:11

If we are waiting, we are not lost in uncertainty without purpose and meaning. We are called to SHARE the joy of the coming of the bridegroom, the coming of our Lord and Savior, in the intimacy of a banquet that is clearly anticipated in the Holy Eucharist. Christ is giving all of us the anticipation of plenitude of joy from His Heart in the midst of His Bride, The Church.

Like In the Mass, after the Mystery of Faith, we say "Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory". Today we say Lord, Come to our lives and help us to prepare many more hearts for your coming, Amen.