Saturday, November 28, 2015

Homilía, Preparense al Venido del Señor

Sábato XXXIV Semana del Tiempo Ordinario 
Collegio Pontificio Nordamericano 
Roma, IT
Nov. 28, 2015
Normalmente cuando se habla de los tiempos finales, del fin del mundo, discutimos las señales, las cosas que pasarán. Se vea todo eso en las películas apocalípticas y también en las pruebas de los fundamentalistas que tratan de identificar de la Biblia el cuando y el como del fin del mundo. Pero se queda en esto modo en las cosas superficiales, todo lo que sucede a fuera, todo lo que está exterior a nosotros. 

Por eso nadie quiere hablar sobre que pasará en el interior de nosotros, sobre que Jesús nos quiere hablar hoy del disposición de la mente o del corazón. Porque cuando caerá todas esas cosas exteriores que vale será la disposición interior, pues, del corazón. Entonces si queremos ser listo per el final debe que ser dentro de nosotros “una oración continuamente” y un paz que no permite a “las preocupaciones de esta vida entorpecer su mente” (Lc 21:34).

Pero de más esta disposición de corazón tiene que ser una de conversión o de penitencia. Hoy es el ultimo día del año litúrgico. Yo tengo el placer de darles la ultima homilía del año. Y aunque empecemos el Adviento mañana, la lectura del Evangelio será lo mismo, exactamente lo mismo de hoy. Entonces, la Iglesia presupone que tenemos la misma disposición interior, del corazón, enfrente del fin del mundo y el nacimiento del Señor. Y como indicado por la persona de San Juan el Battista, la disposición del Adviento de Cristo es de conversión. San Juan preparó el venido de Cristo predicando un bautismo para la conversión (Matt 3:11). Sí, Él sabía muy bien que enfrente de cualquier venido del Señor debemos que dar fruto digno de penitencia y ser listo para conversión interior (Cf. Matt 3:8-11). 

Pero esta disposición de corazón penitente enfrente del venido del Señor o el primer o el ultimo, no es una disposición interior de destrucción o de devastación total, aunque todo lo que está afuera está cayendo. No, como indica nuestro San Juan es un preparación del camino del Señor, un hacer rectas sus sendas (Matt 3:3).  Entonces, mientras todo quieren hablar sobre la destrucción del mundo afuera en el ultimo día, nosotros queremos hablar de la construcción del corazón penitente, la disposición interior de la conversión que nos deja estar de pie delante del Hijo del Hombre quien es Jesucristo nuestro Señor que viva y reina por los siglos de los siglos. Amen.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Homily, Pray for Sisters

Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Pontifical North American College
Roma, IT
November 21, 2015

Brothers, I wish simply to exhort you to pray in gratitude for the many women religious who have done the will of our heavenly Father and entered the convent. For today sisters, whether they be postulants, novices, or finally professed, whether they be a few months, several years, or many decades, will contemplate in Mary their own entrance into the convent. They will think back to that day when responding to that gentle call of their future spouse in prayer, they finally arrived at those convent doors. Saying goodby to family and friends, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, jobs, careers, studies, their very livelihood—an experience to which we ourselves are not strangers—they bravely entered that convent as Mary that Temple for a life completely dedicated to God. Yes, they are in need of our prayers as we are of theirs, and how they pray for us. Oh how they pray for us! So pray for these sisters, these women consecrated to God, for they are the maiden companion of Mary, her attendants, who today are escorted by Mary amid gladness and joy to the King, Jesus Christ whose future coming we celebrate tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Homily, Signs of Heavenly Realities

XXXI Sunday of Ordinary Time
Santa Susanna Parish
Roma, IT
November 8, 2015

Our second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews reminds me of a few years ago when I had the privilege of studying archeology in the Holy Land. For three whole weeks we followed some of the best archeologists in the world to some of the most magnificent cites. Yet, the one that struck out to me and, indeed, we kept coming back to, was the Temple there in Jerusalem. While all that remains of the Temple is its foundation, the Temple Mount, I was impressed by its size and grandeur, covering a space equal or greater to the city around it and dominating the skyline; it has no rival. And to think that this was just the foundation. I loved the many images and reconstructions of the actual Temple which helped me imagine the beauty and majesty of this lost place of worship. The pristine gold and white rock of its structure; the structured and tiered areas of worship; the altars of incense and sacrifice; the decorations that would have adorned its walls; and of course the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary made by human hands where God Himself dwelt. 

This beautiful place was the culmination of thousands of years of meticulous and pain-staking attention to detail in the worship of God. From Moses following the tedious book length instructions of the Lord in building the Ark of the Covenant; to David who fought endless battles with numberless armies to secure the Holy Mountain of God, the city of peace, Jerusalem in the heart of the promised land; to finally Solomon, the wise king and son of David, who would lavishly build this Temple. And why? Because they believed that these signs and symbols contained in the Temple, the actions and gestures of worship, the sacrifice and incense they offered were copies of the heavenly original, shadows of the celestial reality. Yes they believed that in a mysterious way their sanctuary made by human hands was a reflection of the very same which existed in heaven. Why else would God dwell there, if it were not familiar to Him? And by building and acting out these liturgies, they participated in the adoration of the one true God in Heaven, Adonai. 

And we, Christians, heirs of this great mystery, do the very same. Look around you! We built big beautiful churches. And we feel this in Rome where every church we see seems to be the most elegant, stunning, and beautiful church we have ever seen such that we find ourselves saying over and over again: “this is the most beautiful church I have ever seen.” Why did our forefathers in faith do this? Why did they spend such time and money? Was it really to show off their power and wealth as we so often hear from our tour guides? Certainly intentions are always mixed, but deep down they wished to show off not their own riches but the riches of Christ and the heavenly kingdom to which these churches testify. Indeed, they believed that Christ their Savior who suffered, died, and was buried, rose again on the third day and ascended into heaven (not that old Temple built by human hands). Now He sits at the right hand of God the Father to intercede for us that the merits of His one sacrifice on the Cross, His blood might wash away our sins. And so to await His coming again (as St. Paul mentions today), such generous souls have created these magnificent and beautiful structures, these churches where we can already now see as through a mirror those heavenly realities that will one day be ours!

Yet there is another such Temple or church which is itself a mere copy of what we will have in heaven. If the Temple and the church are images of heaven, so too our own bodies are that new temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. For when Jesus said—“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:19)—He was not speaking of the stones and mortar before Him. No, as John the beloved disciple tells us in the margin notes—“But He spoke of the temple of His body”! (Jn 2:21). And so now our own bodies are images of what we will become after the resurrection when we will have glorified bodies. As St. Paul says—“Our homeland is in heaven, and from it we await our Savior Jesus Christ who will change our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body (Phil 3:20-21). 

And so like the Temple and the church we must adorn and decorate this new temple. We must treat ourselves with the utmost care and respect realizing that we are signs of heavenly realities. I do not speak here of tattoos, piercings, or elegant clothing for these do not highlight the way we will be in heaven. No, like the church and Temple, we must be true images of that sanctuary not made by human hands. So we must dress ourselves with great modesty and out of respect of the purity we will have in heaven—blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. We must refrain from any behavior that is demeaning or damaging to the body. We must be healthy and moderate, for this is a dwelling place of God.    

If you will allow me another example, the Church requires priests and religious to refrain from marriage. Only months ago, I promised the Church that I would live a celibate life. While the reasons for this discipline are many, one of the under appreciated reasons is the sign-value, that is, the testimony such a celibate life gives to our future heavenly life. For as Jesus says—“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mk 12:25). Thus, when one does marry here in this life, we qualify the vow, saying the proverbial “till death do us part.” In short, those who choose to live a celibate life do so as a sign of that future life; they have started their heavenly life early, so to speak. We stand like the Temple and the church as a sign of how things are in heaven. 

What of marriage, then? Do married couples have no sign-value? Of course not. St. Paul says that that marriage is a profound mystery, because if refers to Christ and His Church (Cf. Eph 5:32). Thus, marriage, your marriages, should (like the church and the Temple) be signs or shadows of the marriage in heaven between Christ and His bride the Church. Would that when people look at us they react as we do when we walk into these churches, not seeing the work of human hands, but seeing the reflection of that heavenly reality, eternal life with God. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Homily, Faith and Hope

Feast of All Souls
Pontifical North American College
Roma, IT
Nov. 2, 2015

Today’s feast is a workout in hope, whose primary weight is not measured in kilos or pounds but in propositions of faith. The opening collect asks: “as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may our hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new strength.” And so like reps in the gym, we are presented with this proposition of faith—the resurrection of the dead—again and again. “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them,” we hear from the book of Wisdom (3:1). “Are you unaware that we…were baptized into his death?” says St. Paul. “We were indeed buried with him …so that just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Maxing it out, Jesus promises: “This is the will of my father, that anyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6:40). 

These reps, deepening our faith in the resurrection, strengthen our hope such that our hope is full of immortality (Wisdom 3:4). Indeed, such hope does not disappoint! For it is firmly rooted in the sure knowledge that Christ will do the will of the one who sent him (Cf. John 6:38). 

Yet this hope is not directed towards our own salvation but rather to those who have gone before us in the passing from this life into the next. Again the collect: “so may our hope of resurrection of your departed servants.” We are hoping in the salvation of “all souls.” 

And it is fitting that we should work on the virtues of faith and hope today, for amongst those who have gone before us, we have the most in common with those penitent souls in purgatory. At the gates heaven, faith and hope have passed from the holy ones of God such that love alone remains; at gates of hell, faith and particularly hope have been abandoned by all—and may we never have anything in common with those lost souls—; and yet for us the pilgrim people on earth and for them the penitent souls in purgatory faith and hope are held in common. 

And yet how deep is their faith in God where the light of His love radiates everywhere, casting not even a shadow of doubt. And how firm their hope as they strive towards the God who in His particular judgement has definitively wrought their redemption. And are these same virtues not to be found in us?

So, brothers, consider the surging hope and joy in the hearts of those souls who arrive today on the shores of purgatory. As our poet Dante describes, hundreds of souls on ships escorted by the angel of the Lord singing in exitu Israel de Aegypto, there they disembark where the Tiber meets the salty sea (Cf. Canto II: 28-54, 101). There they rush upon the shore endeavoring to understand new and eternal things. Hope, brothers, wrought by a definitive act of our Saving Lord. And we are to have the same virtue!