It is not that complicated!

Sometimes we tend to over-complicate our faith. Sometimes we over-think just what the Church is about. We have two thousand years of history, theological discourse and philosophical contemplation that sometimes muddies the waters of just what it means to be a member of Holy Mother Church. And though we have need of theology, and spiritual philosophy and need of advanced study and research sometimes we just need to get back to the basics.

For the past two weeks our Sunday Gospels tell us of Jesus calling his disciples. Today’s Gospel we see Jesus, while walking along the Sea of Galilee called to those he would make disciples to come and follow him. He says to Simon and Andrew: “Come after me. . . “. Each of us, as well, are being called to follow. Daily we are being called to come and see; for the rest of our lives we will get the same invitation. Christ loves us without end – He is always and everywhere urging us by this calling to enter into the Church, where we belong, where we realize our fullest as humans, where we are complete.

It is the Church where we find our strength, our peace, our joy of being. Within the Church I am assured of the Love that is lacking in the outside world. Within the Church I am assured of the Truth. The Church alone supplies the eternal light that illumines our path home. I am fully alive when I rest in the Church.

And why is this? Well, if we look for the answer by trying to analyze an institution we will not find it. We need to look for the answer in our relationship with a person – Christ.

I know this might sound very simplistic – but deep down, at the root of our relationship with God are two people you and Him. The reason the Church is all those things mentioned earlier, is because it is a living, breathing, organic if you will, body – it is Christ! When we lose sight of this our faith journey tends to become stale in its flavor, pale instead of vibrant, inert instead of active. As with any relationship if we don’t appreciate the other person it loses its vitality. We need to look at the Church, love the Church as we do Christ – because Christ and the Church are the same – it is that simple. Or as Saint Joan of Arc replied to her judges: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

Peace of Mind

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – 1/22/2012

It seems that mankind is struggling to find peace of mind as evidenced by a couple of trendy self-help phrases that I occasionally hear.

How do I know where I am going, if I don’t know where I am?
and
How do I know what I am supposed to be, if I don’t know who I am?

It seems that many in society are at a loss to explain the reason for their situation.  They are at a loss to find meaning for their lives, a purpose for themselves – resulting in anxiety. All you have to do is look back over the last 60 years, or so, and count the number of self-help books, videos, programs and groups to notice that this is pervasive throughout society.  Of course, this social senselessness plays right into hands of trendy authors, publishers and ‘gurus’ who are willing to help you with your search – for a price.  But, considering the continuing explosion of these ‘self-helps’ and the continual downward spiral of the overall attitude in society – something is missing.  What is obvious is that mankind can’t create a path to true happiness – at best we wander around blindly and stumble on temporary pleasures that fade as quickly as they come.

But the great news is that there are answers to the two trendy phrases I mentioned earlier.

How do I know where I am going if I don’t know where I am?
You are right in front of Christ and that is where you should be.
and
How do I know what I am supposed to be, if I don’t know who I am?
You are a member of the Mystical body and that is who you are supposed to be.

In other words – there is THE Eternal Answer, Jesus Christ. We are God’s.  Anything short of this true answer to those questions leads to failure.  St. Augustine says at the beginning of his epic autobiography ‘Confessions’:  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You O Lord”; and he should know – his life was a story of searching and dissatisfaction until he found God’s plan for him.  In today’s readings Holy Mother Church is pointing this out as well.

We see in the first reading, Jonah hearing the Lord’s call and doing His will.  But in the chapters and verses before this reading we see that Jonah did everything he could to keep from listening to God’s word.  It was only when he acquiesced and submitted to God that his life turned around – and of course that big fish helped!  We see that Jonah went through Nineveh proclaiming God’s message. We see that doing God’s will not only helped Jonah but helped God’s people as well.  Jonah announces to the sophisticated city of Nineveh, a place with many trendy ‘gurus’ and experts, that they were heading down the wrong path.  There was a dissatisfaction in Nineveh that just needed the truth to be proclaimed to ignite the people, and Jonah was the spark.  He woke them up to God’s eternal plan and they turned away from their own designs that, as St Paul says in the second reading: ‘is passing away’.

We heard in the Gospel how Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James and John from their lives to follow a new life – one with God.  Jesus is calling each of us as well.  As Christ proclaims in the Gospel ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’ – it is already here.  This message is still needed, maybe more than ever.  We are Christ’s ‘Jonahs’.  We are the messengers of His word.  This is who we were meant to be, what our happiness, true happiness is found in.

My brothers and sisters, when we quit trying trendy ideas and start following eternal truth we will know peace of mind.  When we stop running from God to find our own way and run with Him we will know peace of mind.  When we stop being impressed with cute and clever manmade sayings and phrases and embrace the eternal Word we know peace of mind; and so will those we meet.

tranquilidad de espiritu

Parece que la humanidad está luchando por encontrar paz, como lo demuestra un par de frases que a veces escucho.

¿Cómo puedo saber a dónde voy, si no sé ni dónde estoy?
y
¿Cómo podré saber lo que debo ser, si no sé ni quién soy?

Parece que muchos en la sociedad no saben explicar la razón de su situación.  Quieren encontrar sentido a sus vidas, un propósito para sus vidas – y como resultado sufren de ansiedad.  Todo lo que tienen que hacer es mirar hacia atrás en los últimos sesent años, más o menos, y contar el número de libros de autoayuda, videos, programas y grupos de fenómenos en toda la sociedad.  Por supuesto, esta neurosis social es perfecto para los autores de moda, los editores y los “gurús” que están dispuestos a ayudarle con su búsqueda – por un precio. Pero, teniendo en cuenta la continua explosión de estos libros de autoayuda y programas, y la espiral a la baja continua de la actitud general en la sociedad – que algo falta.  Lo que es evidente es que la humanidad no puede crear un camino hacia la verdadera felicidad – caminan a ciegas y tropiezan en los placeres temporales que se desvanecen tan rápido como vienen.

Pero la gran noticia es que hay respuestas a las dos preguntas que he mencionado anteriormente.

¿Cómo puedo saber a dónde voy, si no sé ni dónde estoy?
Estás justo enfrente de Cristo y es donde debes de estar.
y
¿Cómo puedo saber lo que se supone que debo ser, si no sé ni quién soy?
Tu eres miembro del cuerpo Místico de Cristo y eso es lo que debes ser.

En otras palabras – ahí está LA Respuesta Eterna, Jesucristo.  Somos de Dios. Cualquier cosa por debajo de esta verdadera respuesta nos conduce al fracaso.  San Agustín dice en el comienzo de su autobiografía en las “Confesiones”:  “Nuestro corazón está inquieto hasta que descanse en Ti Señor”, y él debería saber – porque su vida fue una historia de búsqueda y insatisfacción hasta que encontró el plan de Dios para él.  En las lecturas de hoy la Santa Iglesia lo señala así.

Vemos en la primera lectura, como Jonás escucho el llamado del Señor y hizo Su voluntad.  Pero, en los capítulos y versículos anteriores de esta lectura, vemos que Jonás hizo todo lo posible para evitar escuchar la palabra de Dios.  Fue sólo cuando él se resignó y se sometió a Dios que su vida se dio la vuelta – y, por supuesto, ese pez grande ayudó mucho tambien!

Vemos que Jonás en Nínive, fue proclamando el mensaje de Dios.  Vemos que la obra de Dios no sólo ayudó a Jonás, pero ayudó a la gente de Dios también.  Jonás anunció a la sofisticada ciudad de Nínive, un lugar con muchas de moda “gurús” y expertos, que se dirigían por el camino equivocado.  Había un descontento en Nínive que sólo necesitaba que la verdad fuera proclamada para encender a la gente, y Jonás fue la chispa.  Los despertó con el plan eterno de Dios y se alejaron de sus propios diseños que, como dice san Pablo en la segunda lectura: “este mundo que vemos es pasajero”

Hemos escuchado en el Evangelio cómo Jesús llamó a Simón, Andrés, Santiago y Juan, de su vida para seguir una nueva vida – una con Dios. Jesús está llamando a cada uno de nosotros.  Como proclama Cristo en el Evangelio “el Reino de Dios está cerca” – ya está aquí.  Este mensaje sigue siendo necesario, quizás más que nunca.  Somos los “Jonás”de Cristo.  Somos los mensajeros de su Palabra.  Esto es lo que estábamos destinados ser, es donde se encuentra la verdadera felicidad.

Mis hermanos y hermanas, cuando dejemos de tratar las ideas mundanas y empezemos a seguir la verdad eterna es cuando tendremos tranquilidad de espiritu.  Cuando dejemos de huir de Dios para encontrar nuestro propio camino es cuando tendremos  tranquilidad de espiritu.  Cuando dejamos de ser impresionado con el hombre lindo e inteligente hecha palabras y frases y acoger la Palabra eterna, tendremos tranquilidad de espiritu, y así tambien con los demas.

Faith is Shared

Today’s prayer after Communion highlighted, to me, a theme running through the readings at Mass; indeed an important, fundamental aspect of our Faith.

Pour on us, O Lord, the Spirit of your love,
and in your kindness
make those you have nourished by this one heavenly Bread
one in mind and heart.
Through Christ our Lord.

Faith is shared.  There is no way around it; no one can believe alone.  Today’s Mass readings and prayers were all about sharing and community.  St Paul tells us in today’s second reading:  “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?”  We are not only part of Christ’s Mystical Body, but we are part of each other.

As our Gospel shows us; faith is always ignited by God’s initial action, it is He who approaches us first. The Gospel starts off with Jesus walking by John and his disciples; He came to them.  When pointed out by John the two follow after Jesus, and of course Jesus invites them to come even further. “Come, and you will see.” He answers them – and they do.  God is constantly approaching, constantly inviting every one to see.

But it is the family of fellow members that is so important in these readings today.  If Andrew hadn’t then gone and brought his brother Simon to Jesus, where would the Church be, who would have been the first Pope?  If Eli hadn’t mentored Samuel about Samuel’s first encounter with God’s approach to him – what would have happened?  Today is no different, we are no different than Simon and Andrew, Samuel and Eli.  It is with those who believed first, before me; and those who believe with me that I am strengthened in my faith.  It is the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church that my faith is lived within, I wouldn’t have a personal faith without it.

Our actions need to be patterned after Andrew and Eli; we are teachers, mentors of the faith, to those who are invited.  At the same time our actions need to be patterned after Simon and Samuel; we need to be open to the call of God, a call that takes many and varied forms. As with any family, we are, at various times, all four with each other.  It is in this way that each of us can rest assure that, as with Samuel, our personal faith will grow in the Lord.

Epiphanies!

The feast of the Epiphany is mostly associated with the Magi and the making known to the nations God’s glory.  But in just a few short minutes, as we proclaim the antiphon for the Magnificat, we will see that the Church has always celebrated the Epiphanies – plural; the constant manifestations of God’s glory that accompanied Christ’s time on earth.

(Magnificat Antiphon 2nd Vespers on the Solemnity of the Epiphany)
Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.

With that in mind, the Solemnity of the Epiphany, for me, calls to mind the joy and the obligation that is Christ’s birth among us.

It is a joy: because the Lord, He who created the Universe, indeed created all that is visible and invisible, has come to me.  He has made Himself known – to me, to us.  His glory is for all to see.  God could have affected our salvation without showing Himself, He could have just willed it and it would have happened.  But He chose to make Himself known to us.  He revealed not only His plan but Himself!  This intimate relationship is a powerful help to me, it allows me to know and to react and participate with my God in a personal way.  I need that.  I need to be part of my journey; we all do. It is part of being human that we take an active role in our lives – anything less would be to not have freewill and that of course is impossible when Love Himself created us in His image.

The Solemnity of the Epiphany also calls to mind the obligation that is Christ’s birth.  We are called to be the continuing Epiphanies for the Lord.  The gift given to us with Christ’s Epiphanies is not to be held within us, it is to be shared.  God created us to watch over the rest of creation – to make known to the rest of His creation that He is among us.  We are to bear witness to that Love that we have been given. It is our duty as disciples to manifest God.

For these reasons I have always connected Psalm 8 with the Solemnity of the Epiphany – it defines for me what this day is all about.  It speaks not only of Christ’s relationship with His Father – but our calling as beloved adopted children to continue the mission.

Psalm 8

O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens
with the mouths of babes and infants.
You have established a bulwark against your foes,
to silence enemy and avenger.

When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars that you set in place—
What is man that you are mindful of him,
and a son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him little less than a god,
crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
put all things at his feet:

All sheep and oxen,
even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!

Merry Christmas!