As I Love You

We are winding down Eastertide, two weeks from now is Pentecost, the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the birth of church, and as we come closer to Pentecost and the end of the Easter season, the Church brings us back to the Last Supper, the start of Jesus’ passion, with today’s Gospel[1] passage.

We are brought back to a solemn moment. Jesus is at table with his closet followers, his Twelve Apostles. He knows that this is the last time they will be gathered in this way.

Nothing is carelessly said during this solemn moment. These are the Lord’s final words to his followers before His passion. Jesus explains that He has loved us, and that He longs for us to remain in His love, to stay in His friendship, so that we may experience the indescribable joy that flows from true love. And then He lays down His summary of all his teaching and of his entire life: “love one another as I love you.”[2]

The Ten Commandments of the Old Testament were summarized by Jesus during His public life in two commandments of the New Testament: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. But now, at the climax of His earthly mission, Jesus combines those two into a final, summarized commandment: ‘love one another as I love you’[3]. In a very real way this is the Christian journey plan. The journey map towards heaven.

At the Last Supper, with the words we just heard, Jesus was preparing His followers against evil and all the forces of darkness. And the Church He is forming through His Apostles will take that same plan; Holy Mother Church is the living witness to ‘love one another as I love you’[4]. By her witnesses – the saints, by her devotion to Lord, by her constant guidance towards the Triune God. By her radiating the love of God she points us towards the eternal light and peace of Heaven. She bleeds when we bleed, she cries when we cry, she celebrates when we celebrate and most importantly; she brings Christ to us and us to Christ.

Her witness and proclamation to us is combined with her urging us to use it in our lives and take it to the ends of the earth and to every corner of human history and culture. The plan is so simple and straightforward, summed up in this single, final, definitive command: ‘love one another as I love you’[5].

Friends, we are the loved ones of Christ, and He is our most loved. Our experiences in love with those who have been in our lives help us understand what true love is. Those who have been in our lives and have witnessed to us this special love; those who nurtured us, whether it be our mother whom we celebrate today or other special and loved people, have shown us what is most important in our lives and help us to desire to be part of the Lord’s final command: ‘love one another as I love you’[6]. This is the life we are called to, that we are called to bring to the world.

Today’s gospel is the start of our Lord’s passion, the great work that destroyed death and restored our life, it is His most intense proclamation of ‘love one another as I love you’[7]. Christ’s whole life on earth was one great action of love after another.  Holy Mother Church’s witness (mentioned earlier) is through its members, the family of Jesus, us. We take what we have received and pass it forward to those lost and looking. But the question that comes to my mind is: how do I hope to get even remotely close to witnessing like Christ, like the saints, like you?

St Josemaria Escriva said to his followers, and to us: ‘Do everything for love. That way there are no little things. Everything is big.[8]

In everything we do, we should do it for Christ, we should do it for Love. Normal little moments made special by our faith in God will be witness to those around us, and they may be a big moment for those who are lost, unloved.

Every public thing we do will be a more believable and impactful witness to others by the strength we receive from the Holy Spirit through the quiet of our soul. We do for others, we love others, because we do it for the love we have for the Triune and loving God.

During an interview, when the cameras had stopped Saint Theresa of Calcutta responded to a comment from the interviewer when he said: ‘Your works speak so strongly of the love you have for these poorest of the poor’. She answered: ‘I don’t do it for them only, I do it because my Lord loves me and He expects nothing less from those He loves and who loves Him.’ This is important, our love for God energizes our love for each other.

But I am preaching to the choir, so to speak; as I mentioned two weeks ago, there is a loving community here at St. John the Baptist. You changed my ministry to you into being welcomed to your family. You are a great example to Christ’s lived witness ‘love one another as I love you’[9]. As I leave here, and move south, I want you to know that, after five years I have come to that command is this parish’s lived mission statement. But we can’t rest on our laurels, we can’t be satisfied with how things are. As good as they are we still need to come closer to the love that Jesus gave to us and better in passing it to those around us. I am taking your witness with me and will bring it to those I will encounter, may you continue to inspire others, and may you continue to grow your love for others as you all journey towards He who is Love.

This expectation might seem daunting, and beyond our strength. But the Lord looks at the heart not the actions. He doesn’t expect us to succeed all the time. He only expects us to try with love in our hearts. I would like to finish with words that I keep in my wallet. They are words that provide strength throughout my journey. May they do the same for you on this journey.

There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But precisely then we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world. In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on[10][11]

Indeed, ‘the love of Christ urges us on!.’



[1] Jn 15:9-17
[2] Jn 15:12
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] The Way #813, St Josemaria Escriva
[9] Jn 15:12
[10] 2 Cor 5:14
[11] Deus Caritas Est #35, Pope Benedict XVI

Easter People

There is a liturgical saying concerning the Nativity: ‘The shadow of the cross falls back across the manager’; meaning that Christ was born to die. In fact, the shadow of the cross falls back upon all humanity, because of this very reason for Christ’s incarnation. He died for all of us. However, Catholicism is joyful faith; even on the most solemn liturgical celebrations like Good Friday we can’t help feeling joy and peace underneath our reflective sorrow. During the penitential seasons of Advent and Lenten joy bursts forth on Gaudete and Laetare Sundays. The great Exultet, at the opening of the Easter Vigil, poetically proclaims this understanding of our joy when describing Adam’s fall: ‘O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer![1]

In short, there would be no shadow of the cross if it wasn’t for the light of the resurrection.

This is the third week of the great season of the church that focuses on celebrating the central fact of our faith – Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote:

The Cross had asked the questions; the Resurrection had answered them…The Cross had asked: “Why does God permit evil and sin to nail Justice to a tree?” The Resurrection answered: “That sin, having done its worst, might exhaust itself and thus be overcome by Love that is stronger than either sin or death.[2]

Eastertide celebrates this answer to the cross, our ascent towards salvation given to us by our Lord and God. It celebrates unbounded joy and peace because our Lord has done for us what we can never do for ourselves. It celebrates the radiance of divine light in a darkened world. It celebrates Love!

This action, the greatest of gifts that God gives us, opens heaven up to us. It opens our eyes to this truth, our ears to understanding, and our hearts to the Trinity. It also opens our very being to the calling of ministry, a ministry of revelation of this gift. It is our obligation and privilege of proclaiming it to everyone. But a question comes to mind, what does our witness really mean for those we witness to – what does our action do?

Today’s Gospel relates to us the importance of proclaiming the good news – we see the disciples return to from Emmaus to relate their journey with the risen Lord.

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[3]

Bringing the Gospel to others, brings Christ. Not a memory but the risen Lord; not a reminiscence but a relationship. One that we have, and God desires to have with everyone. It is our calling to bring the gospel to the world. In a very real way we follow our patron St John the Baptist, we herald the appearance of Lord in our midst. This is what we are called to do at the end of every Mass when we are dismissed, sent forth.

There are four dismissals for the Mass that the Deacon or Priest can use.

– Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.
– Go forth, the Mass is ended.
– Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
– Go in peace.

Of the four the closest translation for the dismissal used for millennia ‘Ite Misa Est’ is ‘Go forth, the Mass is ended’. A more accurate translation is ‘Go, you are sent’; it is a sending of each of us to continue the Mass in the world by proclaiming the good news, in action and in words.

You might have noticed that I mostly use: ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.’ It is a beautiful command from the Lord to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection; to bring to those around us what has been given to us: joy and peace of salvation and the path to it.

In the first reading we see Peter living this out. Peter brings the gospel to those who killed Jesus. He tells the truth, regardless of what might happen to him. He also brings the forgiveness of Christ. What Christ said on the cross when he cried to His Father ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do[4] is manifested in Peter’s actions and words. “Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.[5]

Brothers and sisters, as the darkness of the COVID pandemic seems to be brightening a bit. As we look forward to a return to a more normal life let’s not settle for normal; let’s climb higher by fulfilling our calling to go forward and proclaim to the world the good news that this season celebrates. As with Peter so with us, don’t be afraid, be strengthened by the knowledge that Christ has gone before us, is walking next to us and bring him to others.

Our call to witness is an obligation, born out of Love, that we must respond to. Do we continue to just go about living our lives and passing by each other on street withholding the help Christ has commanded to us before His glorious ascension, when He said: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…[6] Or do we, you and I, respond to our Risen Lord’s command and bring Him to others by witnessing to the gift that Easter Celebrates. It is up to us, but it seems to me that this year of darkness, and the isolation and polarization that it has inflicted upon us and all society, should drive us to the light and joy that Christ has offered on Easter almost 2000 years ago. Let’s go out, sent from the Mass and show who we are to those we meet.

We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song[7]

[1] Exultet
[2] Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Lent and Easter Wisdom, 110
[3] Lk 24:35-36 (NAB)
[4] Lk 23:34 (NAB)
[5] Acts 3:17-19 (NAB)
[6] Mt 28:19-20a (NAB)
[7] Pope St John Paul II, Angeles Nov 30 1986

Live the Church’s Year

Happy Epiphany.

If we were celebrating it on its designated feast day it would be this coming Wednesday January 6th which is the 12th day of Christmas. Today, count yourself as lucky because you just have 2 clergy up here, not 9 Ladies dancing.

Though the Octave of Christmas ended on January 1st, the intense celebration of Christmastide still continues until next Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In fact, even though the season is officially over then, we still wind down from it until February 2nd the Feast of the Presentation. You may have noticed in recent years the infant Jesus is still in the sanctuary until then, we just move him to in front of this Ambo. This is why the term ‘Christmastide’ is more accurate than the term ‘Christmas Season’. Seasons have arbitrary start and end dates; one turns off while the next turns on. But that is only for us; as far as our climate seasons are concerned, I do not really think the earth notices a change from December 20th to December 21st. Last day of fall was much like the first day of Winter. Tides, on the other hand ebb and flow, slowly. That is how Holy Mother Church’s Liturgical seasons really work. We still have Advent aspects in our Christmas-tide, and we will slowly ebb from it towards Lent (ignoring the ordinary time in between).

Today, within Christmastide, Holy Mother Church celebrates one of its most ancient celebrations, it even predates the celebration of Christmas. Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the World. The most recognizable aspect of Epiphany is the Wise Men, the Magi. But in times past, and even now in the Liturgy of the Hours, this celebration highlights three epiphanies: The Magi, The Baptism of the Lord, and the Wedding Feast of Cana. This evening, for those praying Vespers (Evening Prayer) we will pray this antiphon:

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.

These three epiphanies are celebrated in an elevated way; they are that important. They mark, as I mentioned earlier manifestations of Christ to the World. These ‘ah-hah’ moments when God’s creatures realized in a most profound way that God is among us. They are beacons of hope that, if we allow them, will change our lives and history.

But Epiphanies are constantly in front of us, not just the ones celebrated in special feast days; Christ manifests himself in many ways, such as: The Holy Bible, the word of God; Holy Mother Church, the bride of Christ. To name a few important examples.

There is one way that we can embrace the panoply of these events, at least those of special universal import.

The Proclamation of Easter and the Movable feasts that was just chanted, is more than a cute interlude in the Mass (or painful depending on how I did); it announces to us great days in the liturgical year that don’t fall on a set date. And it directly points us to the Church’s year, a year filled with great seasonal tides and many feast days of varying degrees. A year, that if we allow it in our hearts, creates within us a constant epiphany, and thus a growing change in our hearts, strengthens the direction of our journey.

This liturgical calendar isn’t just a schedule of color and readings, it is a life altering plan. By embracing the year and its celebrations we come to:

  • Know many of the graces that God rains upon us.
  • Come to understand what Jesus Christ did for and means to us.
  • Learn about how others before us, Saints, succeeded in their journey and maybe help us with ours.
  • Bring a light filled and hopeful atmosphere to each of us and our families.
  • Strengthen family bonds.
  • Strengthen us for our obligations and responsibilities.
  • Brighten our light in the world, so that we may help lead others.

And celebrate them all!

In short, build us into being the heralds of the great epiphany – Love; the love God has given us unconditionally.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to think about diving into the liturgical calendar with your families.   Bring the revelation of God into the daily activities for your life and by doing so bring heaven to those around you. It is the best way I can think of to put into action that what we profess at Mass. ‘We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

Merry Christmas!


Gaudete 2020

To many, Advent season and Christmastide tend to blend together. Many view Advent as countdown to Christmas and the Advent wreath helps with this countdown. When the pink candle is lit we are getting close. The decorations are full, and we hear the carols everywhere.

If you ask me what my favorite Christmas Carol is, I will probably pick the one that is playing at that moment (however, I do have limits: the one with Grandma and a Reindeer come to mind and Chipmunks are not my favorite singers). These carols evoke strong emotions and bring back great memories and lessons. Some seem almost undecipherable, ‘Auld Lang Syne’? But beautiful feelings are still evoked. Some seem awkward, archaic, and maybe in need of updating, ‘Joy to the World’[1] comes to mind.

I have noticed that, lately, some of the newer recordings of the ‘Joy to the World’ have the first line changed. Instead of ‘Joy to World, the Lord is come’ I have heard ‘Joy to the World, the Lord has come.’ Though this updating seems to be a more readable and modern translation, it changes the meaning – the meaning goes from present to past tense; it numbs us to the power of the intended proclamation.

Today’s readings provide insight as to why the original words, in the present tense, are important to meaning of this carol: ‘Joy to the World’. In a very real way, this 3rd Sunday in Advent can claim ‘Joy to the World’ as its carol.

The 3rd Sunday of Advent, like the fourth Sunday of Lent, is a favorite of mine. The penitential aspect, the introspective reflective attitude of the Advent Season gives way to a burst of joy; this is reason we wear these rose vestments (I don’t wear pink because it is my favorite color). This is why it is called Gaudete Sunday.

If we followed the primary option[2] for the entrance rite at Mass we would have heard these words at the beginning:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Dominus enim prope est.
Rejoice in the Lord always: I say it again, rejoice. The Lord is near.

Holy Mother Church gives us beautiful entrance antiphons as its primary option[3] for the entrance rite because they speak specifically to the readings and lessons of each Mass/Season. There are other options and here at SJB we choose to use Hymns, and though they sometimes speak of the theme for the Mass, it is the Introit, the entrance antiphons option, that most clearly introduces us to the Mass. And this Sunday we proclaim and celebrate the joyous realization, that the Messiah is already here – He is near us already. The Lord is come. And we rejoice.

The readings today, that we just heard, speak of this realization. In today’s First Reading[4] Isaiah reminds us that the coming of the Anointed of the Lord, the Messiah, brings good things and is a cause for rejoicing. Indeed, the anointed one is here, and he brings:

  • good news to the poor,
  • healing to the sad and grieving,
  • freedom to the imprisoned and enslaved,
  • a blessed time,
  • and vindication—being cleared from blame for past faults.

And what is more, Isaiah doesn’t just proclaim the arrival of the Anointed One; but he tells us how we should react. ‘I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul…[5] he tells us.  We rejoice because the Messiah is arriving now.

In today’s Second Reading[6] St. Paul reminds us that joy should be our attitude at all times, ‘Rejoice always.[7] he writes.  All our trials and troubles pale compared to the joy our Lord is bringing us. We rejoice because even though holiness is hard, Our Lord has promised He will help us, we just have to let ourselves be led by His Spirit; and He is arriving right now to help.

In today’s Gospel[8] John the Baptist tells the priests, Levites, and Pharisees that he is not the Messiah, but that the Messiah has arrived, and he is heralding him. The Messiah is not coming. He is already here and just hasn’t “gone public” yet. He is already among us, but hidden, waiting to be revealed.

Gaudete Sunday proclaims loudly one of three comings that the whole season of Advent is about – that the Lord is here and coming to us. Indeed, in spite of the important preparatory aspect of Advent, the very meaning of the word ‘Advent’ speaks of the nearness of the Lord. Advent, by historical definition is an action, it means to be in the midst of an arrival. It doesn’t look into the past (that the arrival already happened), nor does it look into the future (that the arrival will happen). Though hope in the future is part of the meaning; it is looking at the present, at the now. It was used to describe the entrance of a king. And though the Advent season looks first to His final coming and then to His first coming in Bethlehem, it is foundational to the season that He is also in front of us, arriving at where we are – now. His arrival within us is current and it is active. We should be constantly preparing ourselves for this action.

Today, we heard St. John the Baptist – herald of Christ proclaim: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord.’”[9] And when challenged he proclaims, ‘there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.[10] His words joyfully proclaim the Lord with us, ‘Emmanuel’. He urges us to make our hearts ready, as the Lord comes to us, so we can receive Him.

All the great ministries that we can participate in, the vocations that God calls us to, should be built on this constant arrival. Each and every day we should rejoice as we allow the Lord to arrive into our hearts. Our acceptance of this arrival manifests in us the profound gifts Christ brings – hope, peace, joy and love.

Brothers and sisters, as we enter the final weeks of Advent lets ask the Lord to open our hearts to these gifts of His arrival so that we can witness to the world the meaning of those beautiful words from that seemingly archaic carol ‘Joy to World the Lord is come.’


[1] Joy to the World – Isaac Watts
[2] GIRM paragraph 48
[3] ibid
[4] IS 61:1-2A, 10-11
[5] IS 61:10
[6] 1 THES 5:16-24
[7] 1 THES 5:16
[8] JN 1:6-8, 19-28
[9] JN 1:23
[10] Jn 1:26-27

A Beautiful Hymn

In our second reading today[1], we hear St. Paul, ring out poetically. This is rare since he is known for complex sentences that, sometimes, are hard to fathom and even harder to read aloud (ask any of our lectors). It is a beautiful “hymn” that clergy and anyone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours, pray almost every Saturday evening. It is not just the poetic structure that makes it beautiful, but most importantly it is the message he is handing us that catches our hearts. It is a lyric that lifts our hearts because it proclaims that God has come down to our level. It is an assurance of God’s personal closeness and intense love for us. An assurance that needs to be repeated as often as possible.

It has always been very hard for humanity to grasp the revelation that God is among us. The Old Testament is a history of how God’s chosen people would rebel against Him, then long for Him, draw close to Him by His grace; then when they were close, begin to feel self-assured and push Him away to do things on their own; and, of course, then succumb to their own delusion causing the cycle to start over and over.

We see epic examples in the Old Testament of the Jewish peoples’ attitude of self-cleverness and reliance on their own merits and talents reaching up to God by trying to climb towards Him:

  • the Tower of Babel,
  • creation of the golden calf, indeed the whole Exodus story,
  • Jonah,
  • and on and on.

Today is the same. Humanity today, is all about individual achievement and making it on our own. The great modern society of today isolates itself from God. Technology is king, science is the answer, the truth. We are constantly trying become what St. Athanasius of Alexandria said when he wrote: “God became man so that man might become like Gods[2] but we tend to forget the first part.

This modernist mentality seeps into our faith as well, through our lived experience. We try to do for only ourselves, when we can do for others, or have others do for us. We don’t open up to our Christian family, even our own immediate families, as we should.

I admit this can be scary, it seems easier to do things on our own. We find opening ourselves up is making ourselves vulnerable, it sometimes gives us a feeling of failing. We don’t even allow ourselves to talk to God as we should. Our prayers tend toward the rote, the formalistic. Those are good, but they should be just a start. Prayer should never be a monolog.[3] These prayers should lead to intimate dialog, but it is hard for us to open up to a transcendent deity who rules from on high; who has nothing in common with our lives. At least that is my experience.

But we have been in missed a most important truth and that is what St. Paul reminds us of.

Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross. [4]

Pope Benedict XVI, in his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy echoes this poetic proclamation as this:

What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?

The answer is very simple: God…. He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and the lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.”[5]

Brothers and sisters, we have a God who came to us!!!! We have a God who knows us intimately because He has lived among us and knows our journey. And not only that – He is still with us; He cares for us; He feeds, strengthens and heals us. He is not a transcendent deity that looks from on high. God is great precisely because He made Himself small. He made Himself us and that should be a very reassuring. “Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven” [6] the psalmist writes and He writes of Christ. It is of great peace and joy to know that during our journey, as we strive to live the life of truth and faith and when life burdens us to point of longing to talk with God and look upon His loving gaze all we need to do is drop to our knees and we are looking at him face to face.

[1] Phil 2:1-11
[2] De incarnatione 54,3, cf.
[3] St. Josemaría Escrivá #114 The Way
[4] Phil 2:1-11
[5] Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger), Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration
[6] Ps 85: 10-11 

Who Do You Say That I Am ?

In today’s gospel[1] a very provocative question is asked to His disciples. ‘Who do you say that I am?’[2] He had already asked them what the people thought, but now it was their turn. After their time with him, who did they think he was. It was Peter who stepped up and gave an answer, a quite good answer; indeed, inspired by Holy Spirit from the Father. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”[3] Christ tells him. Of course, Peter then sticks his foot in his mouth as we will hear next Sunday[4]: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”[5]

Their actions following this discussion shows that they still didn’t appreciate the importance of this epiphany. Peter immediately falls back into his normal humancentric attitude. Even after Jesus finally acknowledges to them who he is by agreeing with Peter’s statement, His followers still have trouble putting that answer to action, living their lives through the epiphany. It really isn’t until the upper room that most finally believe who he is. Christ would rather they believe without proofs, but human nature is a fallen nature so proofs are necessary – ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’[6] He tells Thomas.

But Christ isn’t just asking them, He is also asking us! Which, in turn, demands a response – who do we say that He is. We have the answer in our heads, we have been raised in the faith and can explain just how important Christ is to us, what He means to us, what we have come to understand about who He is. And this is important, it is foundational, our faith is something that was given to us, witnessed in front of us, taught among us; faith and reason are inseparable.

But words don’t suffice. St. Peter tells the readers of his letter what is important: ‘Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.’[7] Our actions proclaim how our heart feels about what our mind knows. It is by our life that we answer the question, as with the apostles so with us. If our actions, our lives, don’t reflect our words than our words are hollow. If our lives don’t follow what our mind tells us is the truth, then this truth isn’t really important to us.

The adage ‘walk the talk’ comes to mind. Our lives are guided by what we hold dear, what makes sense; not only about the world but about ourselves. If we don’t reflect our faith in our lives, then maybe our faith isn’t what we hold dear.

But it isn’t that easy, our values can be on or off. Due to concupiscence our lives are a reflection of conflicting ideals, values, so-called truths. As with St. Peter we can hit the nail on the head one moment and be wide of the mark in the next. Our lives are more bouncing between two edges then a constant straight unwavering path. It is our job to improve our journey, narrow the distance between the edges so that our path is more straight than staggering. Prayer, sacraments, reflection are they keys.

Some of us truly know, we have come to believe the truth of who Christ is and what He means to us.

Some of us ‘feel’ the import but can’t live the belief, it seems to slip away from us. It is a known truth for us, but it doesn’t affect the change that a loving relationship brings about. Then some of us doubt the import, indeed doubt the belief; it is up to God to help those.

Why is this important? For our salvation. We need to grow in our understanding of who Jesus is and live this understanding, for our eternal destiny depends on it. Not only that but true love makes us free to live a fulfilled life and this is what Jesus brings. But, we need to live this truth for the witness that it provides to others. Our ministry is to bring not only us, but those around us to heaven. Our calling is to point to the truth who is love who is God. In short, to live the greatest commandment love God and love our neighbor.

[1] Mt 16:13-20
[2] Mt 16:15
[3] Mt 16:17
[4] Mt 16:21-27
[5] Mt 16:23
[6] Jn 20:29
[7] 1 Jn 3:18

A Hand From Above

A priest friend of mine commented on the gospel readings of last week, this week, and next week as Cecil B. DeMille gospels, evoking the scene of the parting of Red Seas in the 10 Commandments: Charlton Heston raising his arms and splitting the sea – epic scene with amazing effects. For those of you too young to remember, think of CGI. These gospel readings have stupendous acts: multiplication of the loaves and fish last week[1], Jesus walking on water this week[2], and casting out a demon from a woman’s daughter next week[3].

Of course, his glib comment was made regarding the fact that most people don’t go any deeper than these miraculous acts made by God. Without going into detail, his point was that there was so much more behind these readings. Today’s reading is a great example of the pre-church movement and the lessons that Christ was instilling in His followers, and us. They are so appropriate for this time of the liturgical year, Ordinary Time, or as I think of it, the School of Discipleship, where we learn what it means to a follower of Christ and part of His mystical body.

In the gospel today we see that Christ sends His disciples out, forward. He has done this before and will do it again ‘sent them two and two before his face into every city and place[4] we read in Luke. And: ‘he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two’[5] we read in Mark. They listen and moved as He directed. But they meet headwinds – contrary weather and they are buffeted about; they struggle, and they fear for their lives. But Jesus is aware of their plight; even from the mountain on which He is praying, talking with His Father. His disciples are never out of His mind and heart. He moves towards them; to be physically with them, to guide and help them. He is always with them.

The disciples are struggling to not only save themselves but now they are trying to come to grips with the seemingly impossible – Jesus walking towards them on the water. It is with the eyes and mind of man that they view this, they are terrified. Their faith has left them – for a while.

But in the Gospel Christ tells them: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.[6] He urges them to look with the eyes and the understanding of faith. ‘Come[7]. Peter comes, at first, he is walking on the water, his eyes, mind, and heart on fixed on his teacher and Lord. However, Peter is human, and his humanity gets in the way, he starts to doubt, and he starts to sink. “Lord, save me![8] – his call, his prayer for help. Peter is asking for Jesus to help him; his fear brings him back to the one who can save him.

And then comes the great lesson of this event. ‘Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?”’[9]. Jesus saves him even amidst doubt. And entering the boat, being with His disciples ‘the wind ceased[10] Peace and calm for those who are with the Lord.

Our time is the same, we are no different that the disciples in the boats. We are constantly meeting headwinds and rough seas. Society challenges us and our faith at every turn. We, at times, feel as if we are floundering. We are tempted to just give in to the pressure from our friends, fellow citizens, society. Go with the winds of the times and not in the direction that Christ has led us. It is just easier and costs us less in terms of angst and turmoil. We feel as if we belong, even if we lose ourselves.

But we can take heart from the example of the gospel; Christ is near us, always. He is always aware of our plight and He will never let us succumb to the turmoil of the times. Flounder we will, it is inevitable; but He will be there with His hand out telling us “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” “Come[11] He is always giving us His hand is a given. The only uncertainty is whether we accept His hand; whether we put our trust in His help. Whether we truly love the Lord.

Friends, Christ will send us in a direction we don’t know, but rest assured it is always known to Him. “It is the LORD who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed.[12] we hear God tell Moses and us.

But, the gospel prepares us for even more.

Brothers and sisters, in a very real sense we are His hand to those around us. Our vocation, our apostolate, is to witness to this hope He continues to give. We are the witness of His love and the joy that faith in Him brings, we are living examples of the ‘calm in the boat’. By our journey, into the wind, we can walk on the rough water of today and bring the good news. By our participation in the discussion of the public square we can offer our alternative, life in Christ. We can stand among the waves and proclaim a better way, and by our actions it will be believable to those who hunger for something other than rough seas.

Faith is not an interior force that we strive to live by, it is a driving force within us to move out of us and bring this joy those we meet– this walk on water. Friends, we might be the only witness to this life that many will see. We might be the only hand that reaches down and helps someone up. We might be the only chance for many to hear His words: “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” “Come[13]
[1] Mt 14:13-21
[2] Mt 14:22-23
[3] Mt 15:21-28
[4] Luke 10:1
[5] Mark 6:7
[6] Mt 14:27
[7] Mt 14:29
[8] Mt 14:30
[9] Mt 14:31
[10] Mt 14:32
[11] Mt 14:27,29
[12] Deut 31:8
[13] Mt 14:27,29

Along with St. John the Baptist

(In the past month my bishop has transferred me to a new parish. This is my first homily as their deacon.)

As you have already noticed our vestments are green again; it is now Ordinary Time.  This season will soon give way to Lent, the Sacred Triduum and Easter but will return after that. I like to think of Ordinary Time as the season of learning how to be a follower of Christ; it is, in a very real way, the School of Discipleship.  It is a time when Holy Mother Church proclaims the readings of Christ living His ministry among the people. The time in His life, from the River to the Cross, when he proclaims the Kingdom of God and reveals the Father’s plan; when He transforms those who follow Him to be living witnesses of His message.

It is most appropriate that this season starts with the words of our Patron, St. John the Baptist: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.[1]  Powerful words; words that we hear from our priests at every Mass while gazing on our Lord held high before Communion. Words that elicit from us the response: ‘Lord, I am not worthy…[2]’ which echoes the Baptist’s words[3]. These words are foundational in our walk with our Great Teacher. This proclamation is also a short description of our lesson plan for Ordinary Time as we start, once again, to reflect on just who Jesus is to us, what He does for us, what He brings us, and what He expects from us. It is obvious who Jesus is to St. John the Baptist: ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.[4] Now it’s our turn to start to reflect on our understanding of Christ and our response. Maybe the best way is to make the words of St. John the Baptist our own.

Who Jesus is to us.
With these words we proclaim, along with St. John the Baptist, that we recognize Jesus as our savior. That He is the way to eternal happiness and salvation, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.[5] He tells us in John.

What Jesus does for us.
With these words we proclaim, along with St. John the Baptist, that we follow God who humbled Himself, who lowered Himself, who offers Himself for us. God-made-man who is our sacrifice. His great sacrifice will be celebrated more intensely in the Lenten season, Holy Week, and Easter season, but we will witness to His daily sacrifices of living among us in this great Green Season. He shows us how our daily sacrifices bring us closer to holiness.

What Jesus brings to us.
We proclaim, along with St. John the Baptist, that Christ Himself brings the light of God; the light that shines love upon all creation. Indeed, Jesus is the Light, the light that will penetrate us during our reflections on the readings during this season. The light that allows us to see clearly the path of joy and peace, as well as the evil that is around us. The light of truth that can guide us through our choices.

What Jesus expects from us.
We need to proclaim Christ’s message by walking the walk that St. John the Baptist did. The Baptist’s witness was not so much his words, but more by how he lived his life within those words, how he lived the Word of God, Jesus Himself.  How he stayed within the light of Christ, warmed by it, guided by it, strengthened by it, even in his time of doubt. He witnessed by his life how he decreased so that Christ would increase, allowing God’s glory to radiate through him. In short, Christ expects us to follow the life of the Baptist. 

Our challenge
Our parish has taken as their patron the greatest of all the prophets[6], and with that selection comes the great opportunity and obligation to proclaim to the world all we will reflect on this year. To make our own the Baptist’s words: ‘Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.[7] by how we live our lives in the Public Square.  Our faith isn’t one of secrecy, we don’t live it in private, behind our doors. It is a public faith, one that everyone should be able to see. One that shines with the truth of God and brings hope. By living our faith in the open means that both successes and failures will be open for everyone to see, and that is ok; it is by how we move on from them, especially our failings, that will mark us a real follower. With heads held high we witness that: ‘I am not perfect; I am sinner and I am trying not be. Yes, I didn’t do what I proclaimed but I am trying to. But, I am loved nonetheless by God; who loves you too.’

Brothers and sisters, this can be a daunting, scary journey if it was left up to us alone. But, we are not alone, we have each other on this journey, we have the help of all the saints and angels, we have our Blessed Mother. But most importantly we have the Lamb of God who defeated death for us and opened the gates of heaven for each of us. Let’s take our strength and courage from our Patron and herald the Lord through our lives, and to do this let’s make this year’s Ordinary Time a spiritually fruitful season for not only us but those we witness to.

Let’s do this together, you and me.
Let’s help each other radiate our Lord.
And most of all: Let’s start now.

[1] JN 1:29
[2] Roman Missal
[3] MT 3:11; LK3:16; MK 1:7; JN 1:27
[4] JN 1:29
[5] JN 14:6
[6] LK 7
[7] JN 1:34

End Of Times

The end of the liturgical year is upon us; next week is the last Sunday which is the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe. Throughout the liturgical year you and I have celebrated within the Mass the great mysteries of God in the special seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and of course the Sacred Triduum. We have been taught throughout the season Ordinary Time what it means to be a disciple and how we should live our lives. And throughout the year, at each Sunday Mass professed our beliefs by proclaiming the Creed.

Now, in these past few weeks Holy Mother Church points us to the end of times. She is witnessing to what our final goal is and what needs to take place, both around us and within us. This Sunday, our readings dive deep into the meaning of one line in the Creed which we are about to proclaim: ‘Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.[1] These aren’t her words; Holy Mother Church didn’t make them up; no, Christ Himself has given us knowledge of the end.

The first reading is a warning about the judgement to come, our personal judgement:

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven,
when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble,
and the day that is coming will set them on fire,
leaving them neither root nor branch,
says the LORD of hosts.
But for you who fear my name, there will arise
the sun of justice with its healing rays.[2]

God, will come and judge our lives; Heaven and Hell are real; these are solid and irrefutable facts. But, the end times are not a foregone conclusion. We can affect our eternal goal, as we hear in Malachi: ‘But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.’[3] By the words ‘we who fear His name[4] we mean: we who revere God to the point that we want to do everything we can to be close to Him, do His will, avoid sin.  We mean: we whose greatest fear is that of letting down the most loved person in our lives. We mean: we who offer back our existence to He who gave it to us; to trust in Him completely. This is what we mean; what we are meant for. This is what will affect our final judgement.

In addition, Christ tells us that we can never know when this judgement will come. In Matthew, He tells us: ‘But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.[5]; and so, we must persevere – come what may. Christ tells His apostles and us in the Gospel today: ‘By your perseverance you will secure your lives.[6] By perseverance ‘not a hair on your head will be destroyed[7] He tells us. This is how Jesus will judge each of us. All of us will stand in front of Him and be held accountable. All of us must be prepared.

These readings sound heartless and mean, they can sound scary and threating. We know our selves. How can we hope to meet this threshold of salvation? How can we have the strength to persevere?  Take heart – our judge has been one of us; has lived among us. We will stand in front of Jesus who is our brother. He knows what it means to be a frail human, what it means to suffer, what it means to face overwhelming forces and struggle with goals. The then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote. ‘One is reminded of the mighty vision of Christ with which the Book of Revelation begins (Rev 1:9-19): the seer sinks down as though dead before this being full of seemingly sinister power. But the Lord lays his hand on him and says ‘Fear not, it is I’ (1:17)[8]

Brothers and sisters, we come to the end of this year’s lessons. We are given the full import of our final judgement. We can understand that to succeed we need to fear the right things – fear of failing God, not of God’s judgement. The first affects the other.

Why? Because the God of justice is first and foremost a God of mercy. If we hold close to Him, trust in Him, ask for His forgiveness for those many times we have failed – he will embrace us; Yes, even if we fail and fall and return to Him again and again – He can’t do otherwise. Or as St. Paul writes so poetically ‘The saying is sure: If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.[9]

He remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.[10] These are powerful words that we can hang our hope on.

My friends – these readings are even more profound on this day; the day when the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy begins to close. But even though the year is closing and St. John the Baptist Parish Holy Doors are closing, God’s heart will never close. Let’s look to our Lord, especially in those times of trial and persecution, fear what is important to fear and hold on to His love and mercy. And most importantly pass it forward to those who we see that need it as much as we do.


[1] Nicene-Constantinapolitan Creed
[2] 1 MAL 3:19-20A
[3] 1 MAL 3:20A
[4] ibid
[5] MT 24:36
[6] LK 21:19
[7] LK 21:18
[8] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Introduction to Christianity pg. 251
[9] 2 TIM 2:11-13
[10] 2 TIM 2:13

Look Busy!

Today’s gospel gives us a very loud warning on being constantly prepared and on watch for Christ’s second coming. He tells us: ‘You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.[1] Which always brings to mind an old joke.’

One day in the middle of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican our Lord appears.  The startled security guard quickly finds a priest, the startled priest finds a bishop who then finds a cardinal who then, just as startled, bursts into the pope’s office and loudly informs the pope that Christ has appeared below his window in the square. The cardinal asks the pope ‘what should we do?’ The pope quickly puts down a book he was reading, goes to his desk, picks up pen and paper and starts to write. The cardinal repeats: what should we do? The pope without looking up says ‘act busy!’

In the gospel today Christ seems to be warning his apostles that followers of His need to be always about His business; that being followers of His doesn’t give them a free ride. He says” ‘Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.[2] That Christ has given much to us is a given; but what is it that He expects back? What does He mean when he tells us the parables of the vigilant servants?

The key to these parables and to our understanding His expectation for us is right there in front us. Indeed, the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews screams it at us. Faith, faith is what Christ expects to find when He returns.  When faith is present then the rest takes care of itself.

But the word faith has many explanations, many uses; which begs the question – what does Jesus mean by faith? In our second reading the author gives us a succinct and exact definition: ‘Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.[3] Ok, and just are we hoping for, what are the things not seen? Jesus tells us in the gospel ‘for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.[4]. Eternal life – that is what is hoped for and what we know to be waiting us. But not just eternal life, for people in hell have that, but eternal life with our Lord; or as Jesus Himself worded it, at the Last Supper account in the Gospel of St. John: ‘Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.[5]

In addition, the faith Christ is looking for is an active faith, one that is dynamic and energetic.  A faith that causes us to move – move out from ourselves towards others, towards the future. One that removes all hesitation in the here and now because of what we know about the eternal. To believe in our loving God, a God who is Our Father, who awaits us with all the angels and saints in paradise, will cause us to live the life of a vigilant, active, and loving servant.

How? Because this faith causes within us two great actions – the two greatest actions:

Love God
How can we not love Our Father who offers us joy, peace, eternal happiness? How can we not love His Son who came to us to affect this eternal offering of the Father; who thought only of His Father and us – never Himself – and continually offers Himself to and for us?  How can we not love, Love Himself, the Holy Spirit who dwells within us and guides us and takes our prayers to Our Father.

Love our Neighbors
How can we not love those who our God loves us as much as us. Those who are our family, which is everyone, even those who hate us. If they are as important to God as we are, then they should be as important to us as we are to ourselves.

These actions, these works, are the signs of a true faith – without them faith is weak at best, maybe even illusory. St. James tells as much in his letter: ‘For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.[6]

But faith, true faith, doesn’t just show itself by our works, as if it is just another activity in our daily lives; it affects our lives, it colors our existence. It transforms us into what God intended us to be; we become fully human. In 1993 Cardinal Ratzinger wrote: ‘faith creates culture; faith is itself culture. Faith’s word is not an abstraction; it is one which has matured … through intercultural mingling in which it formed an entire structure of life, the interaction of man with himself, his neighbor, the world and God.[7] This is how foundational faith is. This is why I said earlier: ‘When faith is present then the rest takes care of itself.’

I urge each of us, when time allows, to reflect on our faith. Do our actions reflect our desire for a life of faith? How, do we do this – prayer. That is the first step, prayer, where we open our hearts to ask God to help us understand our own faith. Nothing else will suffice.

Brothers and sisters, what is it that Christ expects to see from us when He returns? True Faith, living faith, faith in all that God has revealed to us about Himself and our future with Him. Faith that lives and breathes through us out toward each other. Faith that enables us to reflect the light of the eternal God in every action we do. Faith that builds and connects each of us with God and each other.

That is what Christ expects to find when He returns; and that, my friends, is no joke.


[1] LK 12:40
[2] LK 12:48b
[3] HEB 11:1
[4] LK 12:32
[5] JN 17:3
[6] JA 2:26
[7] ‘Christ, faith, and the challenge of cultures’, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 3/2-5/1993. Speech to the presidents of the Asian bishops’ conferences and the chairmen of their doctrinal commissions.