Father Carlos’ Weekly Homily

SUNDAY HOMILY 2/18/2024
1ST SUNDAY OF LENT (B)

Today we celebrate the First Sunday of Lent, and we begin this special journey in the desert in preparation for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Our Lord, his passion, death, and resurrection. The Church every year proposes us to meditate upon the temptations of Jesus in the desert. The gospels tell us that Jesus (after his baptism) was driven out by the Spirit into the desert and remained there for forty days, tempted by Satan.
The Gospel of St Mark does not give us details of Jesus’ temptations, it simply informs us that he was tempted by the devil. However, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke do give us the whole account, so we know what actually happened, Jesus was tempted three times, the devil said to him: “command this stone to become bread…I shall give to you all my power and glory if you worship me…If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here for the angels will take care of you…”
I think we have a very poor image and concept of the devil. We think he is evil, and bad, always behind us making us fall into temptation. But I think the devil is quite the opposite, he is kind, compassionate, always concerned about our wellbeing, and the most important “good” the devil does, he makes things easier and more comfortable for us.
Let us think about it. Is anything really bad or evil in transforming a stone into bread? I mean, you are the Son of God, you have been in the desert for 40 days without food and water, you have the power to do it. Isn’t the devil helping Jesus to recover his physical strength? To be aware of his divine identity? What would you do if you had the power to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world in just 1 sec? Would you not do it?
Isn’t the devil so generous with Jesus that he wants to give up his power and glory and give it to him? Would you not do the same if you had more money, more power, more resources? Isn’t this an image of a devil who is so generous and kind?
Is the devil doing something really bad by asking Jesus to confirm his faith in God’s power and protection? Think about it. God is invisible, how do we know He cares about us? He must prove it; He must do something that confirms to us He is taking care of us if we are in danger. Isn’t that fair, much easier?
Isn’t actually the devil making Jesus’ life and ministry easier? Isn’t the devil being more generous and kinder and loving by offering us an easier life?
So, why should we complicate our life following and obeying the rules of the Catholic Church regarding faith and morality? Isn’t that easier and faster and more loving and more compassionate to allow a man who loves another man, to get married and be happy rather than to embrace years of painful chastity and celibacy? Isn’t that easier and less complicated to enter a second marriage if your first one didn’t work, rather than to remain faithful and alone for the rest of your life? Isn’t that easier to kill a fetus (who doesn’t feel anything and doesn’t know what is going on) in your womb than to keep him for 9 months? Isn’t that easier to confess our sins to God privately rather than to go to a priest (who is also a sinner) and reveal to him our secrets? Isn’t that easier to take money from the wealthy and give it all to the poor in Africa? Isn’t that easier to pray just one our father rather than to do 30 minutes of eucharistic adoration? Why do we complicate ourselves so much? Why so many moral rules and restrictions? It seems that God wants to complicate our lives but the devil (“in his goodness and kindness”) wants to make them easier and more comfortable.
Temptation (the Church teaches us) is the more common and ordinary way the devil uses to influence us and draw us away from God. The extraordinary way is the diabolic possession which is something more serious and complex. But in our daily lives the devil draws us to him through temptation.
And we must be careful because oftentimes our temptations do not appear as something evil, sinful, or bad, something to be rejected. Most of our temptations are disguised as something that looks good, benign, and even holy.
Let us remember, the devil is an angelic spirit, his intelligence is beyond our understanding, he is smarter than us, he knows us more than we know ourselves. He uses everything we think is morally and spiritually good and benign to make us fall.
Society (for instance) believes that same sex marriage is good and acceptable because we must be compassionate, easy! End of the problem. Divorce is necessary and fair because people change. If you don’t love your wife anymore, you have the right to leave her and get another one, easy! End of the problem. You can commit abortion, it’s your body, it’s your choice, it’s your future, easy! End of the problem. You don’t have to wait in line for confession, God can listen to you privately, easy! End of the problem. You don’t have to come to Mass every Sunday, you can pray the Our Father at home, easy! End of the problem. That’s exactly the problem with the devil and his temptations, he wants to make everything easier for us, he wants us to take the shortest and fastest way, but when things are easy then we become mediocre in all areas of our life, especially in our relationship with God.
We learn from the whole gospel, from the life of Jesus, from the saints that God definitely does not like the easy way, He rather prefers effort, work, process, dedication, discipline, discernment, preparation. God takes us through the longest path, through the narrow gate.
Everything that is truly good, beautiful, holy, requires a lot of effort, time, preparation, and resources. What does it require to build a building? Months, years, millions of dollars, hundreds of workers, meetings, plans. That’s complicated! —How long do you need to take it down? Less than 10 minutes? How many people? 1? That’s easy!
Let us be careful when things in our lives, in our spiritual lives, in our morality appear so easy and comfortable, and even benign. We must be careful with that mentality that says, if that makes you feel happy, do it! We oftentimes believe we are being kind and compassionate and truly human by simply allowing ourselves and others to live out a life that doesn’t demand a lot from God, in state of sin. It is easier than obeying the commandments, that’s for sure.
Let us be careful with telling lies to ourselves and others because they make our life and peoples’ lives much easier.
Do you see? All the sins we commit have this characteristic, they are so easy to commit, they make us feel so good, refreshed, empowered.
My brothers and sisters, remember! temptations usually appear as something good and benign; the devil wants to make our lives easier and more comfortable. But Jesus teaches us that this is not what God wants for His Church and for His people.
Authentic faith requires a calvary, authentic faith matures with a painful cross, growing in faith demands effort, time, struggle, discipline, preparation, dedication. Keep this in mind; nothing that truly comes from God is easy, magical, and immediate.
Jesus did not transform the stone into bread, that would be too easy and mediocre to do, he had something better, the bread of life, his Body and Blood. Jesus did not accept the devil’s offering of power and glory, that would be too easy and mediocre; he rather waited until his painful passion and resurrection to receive truly power and glory from his heavenly Father.
Examine your whole life this Lent, check your spectrum of morality, the principles that sustain and guide your life, the life of your family, how you see the teachings of the Church, check your spiritual life, your sacramental life, how much you believe, how much you take the devil and sin seriously.
If everything seems to be easy, comfortable, good, and benign, if you continue to be the same person every single year, if coming to Church is not leading you to make radical changes in your daily life, in your routine, in your relationship with the Lord, if the Gospel is not making you feel uncomfortable, if Jesus’ words are not shaking your soul and your mind, be careful! wake up! Your whole life, your spiritual life, even your moral principles (that you think are reasonable and good) might be guided and controlled and even manipulated by someone else, and believe me, that one is certainly not God.

SUNDAY HOMILY (2/11/2024)

6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)

“If you wish you can make me clean…”

We continue reading the Gospel according to Mark in which Jesus performs many miracles of healing. Jesus begins his public ministry in Galilee preaching the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons.
In today’s Gospel he has an encounter with a leper. Let us remember that leprosy was a very common illness at the time of Jesus. Many people suffered from this condition. Now in the 21st century, thanks to all the medical advances, the infection can be controlled and cured, but at the time of Jesus, unfortunately these people didn’t have resources available.
—————————According to the Law of Moses we just heard in our first Reading today, people who suffered of leprosy had to isolate themselves, they had to leave their family and friends behind because it was a very infectious illness, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “If someone has on his skin the sore of leprosy…he shall dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp…”
These people were excluded from the community, from society, they lost their jobs, their income.
This leper comes to Jesus and (in a humble way) says to him, “If you wish you can make me clean…” Jesus immediately feels compassion for him, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Jesus knows how tragic this illness was for people and he feels compassion for them because it is not only the physical condition but all its implications, the psychological and emotional frustrations people have to confront, isolation, being away from their loved ones, being treated as an impure person, as a sinner.
Jesus “…said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” This is what Jesus does with his miracles of healing, not only the physical healing but most importantly the restoration of the human dignity of the person.
We can imagine the great joy this man felt once the leprosy disappeared, not only the fact that he was cure but also the possibility to see his family again, the reintegration into society, to be able to work, to love and be loved again.
Restoring the dignity of the human person was the most extraordinary and important work Jesus performs. That’s why he touches the leper with his hands, “Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him…” He has physical contact with him because he wants to let him know that he is also loved, that he deserves compassion.
The story of this leper helps us recognize that God wants to have contact with us. That’s why He remains in the Sacrament of the Eucharist as the most physical way to have an encounter with Him. Jesus was not afraid to touch this leper giving the implications and consequences, to get infected, to become impure.
God is not afraid of our leprosy, he is not afraid of our sins, He wants to cleanse us, to make us clean over and over again, no matter how big our sins are, His love and mercy are greater and much powerful. God wants to restore our human dignity. Psalm 32 reminds us of that, “I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation”
Let us not hide ourselves from the Lord, let us not hide our sins and sufferings. We have an extraordinary Sacrament that heals us and cleanses us, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
God wants to heal us and restore us, we just need to be willing to come closer to him (like this leper of the gospel) and with confidence and humility in our hearts tell him, I am here Lord with all my misery, my sins, my frustrations, my pain, my weakness, “If you wish you can make me clean…”

SUNDAY HOMILY 2/4/2024
5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)

Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted
The Readings we have proclaimed today portray the reality of human life, our limitations, our frailty, our suffering. In the first Reading we remember the dramatic story and situation of Job, a man who had everything in his life, good health, wealth, family, love, the perfect life. But one day everything changed dramatically when he started to lose all he had, he became very ill, he lost his wealth, his friends.
The story of Job is the story of humankind. Nobody is exempt from suffering, from losing everything. We are witnesses to how illness can appear unexpectedly in our lives, how relationships can change, how financial crisis surprises us at any moment, we know how vulnerable we are. Our lives can change without us being prepared for it.
Jesus was aware of this reality. In today’s Gospel he finds so many people who came to him looking for physical and spiritual healing. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever, and he was asked to cure her. He was also willing to heal those who were ill and possessed by demons. This is what brought people’s attention about Jesus, his capacity to heal illness and cast out demons.
God wants to heal us, He wants us to be well, physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, God doesn’t want us to suffer. This was Jesus’ mission in this world, to make us free from all infirmities,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” And Psalm 147 calls us to, “Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted.”
It is important to develop a more trusting heart in the Lord, to be confident that God can do something extraordinary for us and for our loved us. Miracles really happen, there are so many testimonies, extraordinary cases of healing, conversions. God has power and more than power, He loves us,
“He heals the brokenhearted.”
We easily take the power of prayer for granted and especially the prayer of intercession we can do for others. We put so much trust in medicine, in science, which is necessary. God uses doctors and scientists to perform miracles too, but it is also important to trust in the power of our faith, to be aware that God is powerful and believe that what Jesus did (2000 years ago) for Simon’s mother-in-law and for those people who came to him, he can do it again today.
If you are going through a difficult situation today (illness, struggles in your family, a financial problem, spiritual darkness, grief), pray! pray as much as you can, as often as you can, read and meditate upon these passages where Jesus heals people over and over again and trust that He can do something extraordinary.
God always listens to us, and although He doesn’t always do what we ask Him for, we are confident that He can use our sufferings and pain for good, to sanctify us and to be a living witness to His power for those who are around us.
Let us not give up so easily, let us keep knocking the door, looking for Him, let us bring to Him all our infirmities, struggles, frustrations, crisis, and let us
“Praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted”

SUNDAY HOMILY 1/28/2024
4TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)

Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The Readings lead us to focus on the public ministry of Jesus, the very beginning of his preaching. Last Sunday the Gospel of Mark showed us Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of God, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
In today’s Gospel he comes to Capernaum and performs his first exorcism. It is very interesting to notice that the first miracle Jesus performs (according to the gospel of Mark) is the liberation of a man who was possessed by a demon. Throughout the same gospel we will see Jesus having these encounters with people tormented by demons.
The fact that Jesus starts his public ministry preaching conversion and performing an exorcism tells us that the figure of the “devil” is real, and that Jesus had an important mission to save us from that reality.
In today’s world “sin” and the “devil” are losing their meaning. Most people (including Catholics) think that sin is just a human mistake and that the devil is just a mere symbol of evilness, not a real spiritual being. That’s why the confessionals in churches are empty because nobody considers himself a “sinner” anymore and psychology and medicine have the answers to all our physical, mental, and emotional problems.
But this is problematic because the devil (according to the gospel) is a reality, and he played an important role in Jesus’ ministry. Although we cannot perceive it with our senses it continues to have a powerful influence on the world, on our lives, on our families.
The devil (according to the teaching of the Church) works in two ways, what is called the extraordinary and the ordinary way. His extraordinary work we can see it in the Gospel today, when an evil spirit takes possession of the body and will of a person. These manifestations do not happen very often (1 case in a thousand) but they do happen because the devil is a reality. That’s what we learn from the gospel.
The ordinary way in which the devil works and influences our lives is through temptation that happens very often. There is something we are to keep in mind as Christians and believers, we are never alone in our faith. God is with us but also our most powerful and dangerous enemy. The devil only has one purpose, one goal in his existence, that is to draw us away from God.
I know it is hard to believe in this reality in the 21st century because in today’s world we put all our trust and confidence on science and medicine. We think science has answered all our questions and medicine can cure all our infirmities. But the Church continues to make us aware that there is a spiritual realm we cannot perceive that we have a spiritual enemy, who continues to have a powerful influence on our daily lives.
When we stop praying, when we stop nourishing our spiritual lives, when we notice that God doesn’t have a meaning in our life, when we allow our sins to remain with us and the Sacraments do not tell us anything anymore, when God is not our priority any longer, then we become an easy target for the devil, and the most dangerous part of this is that we don’t even realize we have been controlled and manipulated by him.
If you don’t know your enemy, you cannot fight and overcome him. Science, psychology, and medicine cannot answer all our questions and solve all our problems, because there is something else, another realm beyond our understanding and comprehension. Let us not allow the poverty of our minds and reason to make us forget who our spiritual enemy is.
Let us remember the first words of Jesus, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. Repent! because we are still sinners and we need healing and believe! because we are not alone in this spiritual battle, because the gospel leads us to the only Truth that can save us.

SUNDAY HOMILY (1/21/2024)
III SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)

Repent and Believe in the Gospel
Today we come to celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time. We have begun this new and beautiful liturgical time in which the Church invites us to contemplate the public life and ministry of Our Lord. The Gospel tells us that Jesus (after the arrest of John the Baptist) decides to proclaim the Gospel in Galilee.
It is interesting to notice how he starts his preaching, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
These are the words we use on Ash Wednesday for the imposition of the cross because Lent is a time for conversion and strengthening of our faith.
Jesus’ first call in Galilee is to repentance and faith. The word the gospel uses is metánoia which means, change of mentality. Conversion is not only about feeling sorry for our sins but most important, a complete change in our way to think and act.
We have heard the story of the prophet Jonah in our first Reading today. God sends Jonah to the city of Nineveh to proclaim its imminent destruction. The text says, “When the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth…” Once they heard Jonah’s preaching, they immediately converted to God and changed their lives. The Reading concludes, “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out…”
We continue reading and meditating upon these stories because “Sin” is still a reality in the world. The great lie society has told us is that “sin” is an old fashion concept, that we don’t need repentance and conversion, that we are all “ok” spiritually, that if God is loving and merciful, we all can be saved, that we can do whatever we want without consequences. But that’s not true, “sin” is still a reality we certainly can hide and disguise but that we cannot deny, a reality we cannot take for granted, a reality that brings terrible consequences. That’s why Jesus starts his public ministry and preaching with these words, “repent and believe…”
Jesus was aware of the reality of sin in the world. Later, he will say, “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire…And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into fiery Gehenna…” Jesus took sin seriously in his preaching and for that reason he was willing to die on the cross, to save us from the slavery of sin.
We are here today in Church, celebrating the Sacrament of the Eucharist because we are sinners, because we need that important change in our lives, because we need repentance and permanent growth in holiness. “Repent and believe in the Gospel” is a call God continues to make today, a call to keep fighting against our “sins”, against those things that draw us away from Him, from His love and mercy.
Let us take “sin” more seriously in our Christian life and let us allow God to lead us into His perfection as Psalm 25 proclaims, “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me your ways, O Lord…”
May the words of our Lord in Galilee continue to resonate in our hearts and ears, “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

CHRISTMAS HOMILY (12/25/2023)
The Nativity of the Lord

Today we are celebrating one of the most important and extraordinary mysteries of our faith, the mystery of the Incarnation of God in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John tells us, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” God did not come into the world as a religious idea or philosophy, He took our human flesh and blood, He became one of us. And this is what gives meaning to human existence, to history and everything we experience in this temporal life.
In the gospel of Luke we can see different figures who played a significant role in Jesus’ birth, and once they had an encounter with the Lord, their lives began to make sense.
The first figure we are to remember is John the Baptist. He was a baby in his mother’s womb when Mary went to visit Elizabeth, he leaped for joy. The incarnation of Jesus gives meaning and infinite value to human life from the very moment of conception. That’s why we protect the unborn and reject abortion. No matter under what circumstances a child is conceived, every single human life has a meaning and purpose. A child in the womb of his mother is God’s creation, is loved and wanted. Infancy and childhood now make sense, it is valuable and precious because God incarnated Himself in one of the most sacred places in the world, the womb of a mother.
Luke also tells us that two very old prophets recognized Jesus when Mary and Joseph presented him in the Temple. We remember Simeon and Anna. Anna who was 84 years old when she met the baby Jesus. The incarnation of the Lord brought meaning and joy to their lives despite their old age and physical weakness. No matter how old we are and what limitations we have (80, 90, 100 years old), our life is still meaningful and has a purpose because God is in control of our history. Old people can still evangelize, pray, grow in holiness and grace.
Another significant group of people we see in the Nativity of the Lord is the shepherds who were the first ones who received the news that Jesus, (the Messiah) was born in Bethlehem.
Shepherds (at the time of Jesus) were the most discriminated people of society, they didn’t have any value and support, they were considered “nobody”. Poverty now makes sense because of Jesus’ birth. No matter how little we have, how poor we are, life still makes a lot of sense and we still have a purpose. Poverty is not a limitation; God can do extraordinary things out of our lack of resources and misery. The less we have, the less we desire, the less we long for, the more we receive from God.
Let us remember also Zechariah and Elizabeth. St. Luke informs us the great frustration this couple experienced for not being able to conceive a child, but God heard their prayers and, as a miracle, Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist. There is a reality we all face in this life, suffering, illness. But the incarnation of the Lord brought meaning to our most difficult and frustrating situations.
Suffering is not more a curse or a punishment, as many people believed it was (before the coming of Jesus). Suffering now makes sense, if we allow God to suffer with us it can draw us closer to Him. Illness helps us sanctify our souls and grow in grace. We can still do great and holy things for others, for society, for the Church, even in the midst of our physical limitations and infirmities.
God is among us, incarnated, and that is what gives meaning to everything we do in this life, it gives meaning to our past, present and future. Everything makes sense and is valuable because of that little child lying in a manger.
When Jesus is not the center, the motivation, the end and final purpose of our life, everything we do, say, think, hope and sacrifice makes absolutely no sense, it’s meaningless, empty.
I invite you all of you this Christmas 2023 to allow God incarnate in your life, in your family, in your circle of friends, in college, in your work, in your plans and projects.
This little child you see in the manger, vulnerable, weak, innocent changed the history of humankind, and the life and misery of millions and millions of people (men, women, young, scientists, atheists, sinners). Nobody has done such a remarkable transformation in the entire history of this world that this little child.
Imagine what He can do for you, let us imagine what He can do for us if we allow him to become the center, the motivation, the final purpose of our life.
Once we take the risk and come to Bethlehem like the shepherds, or see Him in Jerusalem like Simeon and Anna, our lives will make sense and no matter age, crisis, illness, fears, doubts, poverty, because of this little child in a manger our life continues to have a real value, meaning and purpose.

SUNDAY HOMILY 12/24/2023
IV SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B)

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.

Today we celebrate the 4th Sunday of Advent, and we conclude this time of preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Church today invites us to meditate upon the life of the Virgin Mary through this beautiful passage of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel visits Mary and announces to her the great news, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” We have read this passage so many times throughout the Liturgical Year, but I think it is important to go deeper and try to understand who was Mary? Who was that wonderful woman who gave birth to our savior?
Mary was just a young girl when all this happened, she was probably between 12 and 14 years old at that time. Unfortunately, the political, social, and religious context in which she had to live was not the most just and peaceful. Let us remember her country was under the oppression of the Roman Empire. As a Jewish woman, Mary had a minimal role in society, she was discriminated, no participation and voice at all in the community, she (most likely) didn’t have the opportunity to have an education, probably she never learned how to read and write; she probably had to memorize some passages from the Hebrew Bible and some Jewish prayers for her own devotions.
Mary lived in the north of the country, in a very small and poor town of Galilee called Nazareth, a town that was discriminated by the Jews who lived in the south, in Jerusalem. People living in the north had a very bad reputation. Most of the Jews in Jerusalem thought that the people who lived in Galilee were impure and were not considered as real Jews.
There is a book written in Aramaic called the Talmud that tells us some stories and Jewish traditions that we cannot find in the Bible. The Talmud tells us that the Jews in Jerusalem used to say, “I rather marry a pig than a woman from Galilee…” Very hard and insulting words probably Mary had to hear at some point in her life. Let us also remember the passage in the Gospel of John when Phillip tells Nathanael, “we have found the Messiah, he came from Nazareth”, and Nathanael replies,
“Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Mary grew up in a very hard environment. This is the Mary the angel Gabriel finds in Nazareth. A young lady living in poverty, discrimination, rejection, danger, injustice. But God saw her, loved her and chose her. She was so surprised and amazed of God’s love for her that she cries out in front of Elizabeth,
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me…” Mary (through her difficult life and story) teaches us that no matter our poverty, no matter how much we are rejected, discriminated, unloved by others, no matter if we didn’t have the same opportunities others have (great education, stability, appreciation, talents), God sees us closely and restores our dignity like He did it with Mary.
The most fundamental message of the Nativity of Our Lord is that we must work harder on the virtue of humility and become more aware of God’s love for us, especially, when we feel more vulnerable, weak, unprotected, sad, unloved, lonely, unappreciated, misunderstood.
Mary leads us to believe that God does extraordinary things for those who humble themselves and allow Him to dignify their lives.
Don’t wait for others to see you, present the Lord your own life, your own misery, your own poverty and allow Him to see you simply as you are, and as we get closer to the Nativity of Our Lord in a manger, allow the Blessed Mother to lead you in humility and openness of heart,
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.

SUNDAY HOMILY (12/17/23)
III SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B)

“I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul”
Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent that traditionally is called GAUDETE SUNDAY. Gaudate is a Latin word that means “rejoice” We continue on this Advent journey in preparation for the Coming of the Lord and His Nativity. This special Sunday reminds us that we have to be joyful as our Lord and savior is getting closer. That’s why we light the rose candle (in the Advent Wreath) and the priest wears a rose chasuble today. This color in the liturgy of the Church gives us a sense of feast, celebration, joy.
The Readings today also talk about the joy in God. The Prophet Isaiah claims, “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice…” In the Responsorial Psalm we remember that beautiful Canticle of the Blessed Mother (the Magnificat) when she visited her relative Elizabeth, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” And St Paul in his First Letter to the Thessalonians calls us to “rejoice always, to pray without ceasing. To give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God…”
This Gaudete Sunday is important because it calls us to renew our Christian joy in the Lord. We live in a world that constantly offers us comfort, happiness, relief, pleasure. But we all know and have experienced (through different kinds of circumstances in life) that the “happiness” this world offers us is so limited, temporal.
Unfortunately, we allow the true happiness of our lives to depend on external circumstances (people, things, situations, promises, guarantees, securities). And what we always get is disappointments and frustrations. The Word of God and the history of the Church teach us that true joy comes only from a relationship with the Lord.
God is the only one who can grant us that joy our soul desires and longs for. We cannot live out an authentic Christian life with sadness and frustration in our hearts. The real Christian is always joyful, in a joyful Advent, for he knows what the authentic source of his joy is, God.
The real Christian does not allow the limitations of this human life (suffering, disappointment, pain, injustice) to take control of his/her joy, the joy of being loved by God the Father, the joy of being saved by the Lord incarnated in a little child and crucified on the cross.
We (as Christians) cannot allow death, the loss of a loved one and our own death, to put us down in sadness and fear. We believe in the Resurrection of the Lord and keep the hope that we will be glorified in heaven, that death is not the end.
As long as we believe and base our happiness on a relationship with God, nothing in this life can take away our joy and hope the Lord has given us.
Let us be aware that what we are expecting during this Advent is not a Christmas symbol, nor a religious idea, nor a tradition; what we are expecting is a real person, God, the Father we know loves us more than anything in His entire creation and the salvation of His beloved Son Our Lord Jesus Christ.
What else can fill our emptiness and desires in this life? What else can give us authentic happiness, real joy that lasts forever? Let us rejoice today in our faith, let us allow God to fill our hearts with authentic joy. As we get closer to this extraordinary encounter with the Lord, let us proclaim with the prophet Isaiah, “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 12/10/2023
SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT (B)

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths
Today we celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent as we continue this spiritual journey in preparation for the Coming of the Lord. One of the most significant and relevant figures of this time of Advent is John the Baptist. We hear a lot about him during these special days. His preaching in the desert is found in the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John) which means, this prophet (John) played a very important role in Jerusalem before Jesus’ public ministry.
The prophet Isaiah says about him: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”
John the Baptist is the prophet who prepares the way of the Lord, who opens the door for Jesus to preach the Kingdom of God and to perform the plan of salvation. “He proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me… he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Let us remember how he prepared the path of the Lord, with repentance and conversion. This was the center of his preaching. The Gospel says, “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins…”
This is what Advent is all about. So many people (unfortunately) take this time for granted and this consumer culture takes us away so easily from the real meaning of this beautiful season. We think that Advent is Christmas already but that’s not right. 80% of Advent has to do with something that it is very serious, the Parousia of the Lord, our final encounter with God that certainly requires preparation.
ADVENT is a time to think about our lives, to stop for a moment and think about who we are as Christians, what it means to be baptized, what it means to be Catholic, how seriously we take sin and all its consequences in our spiritual life. If the Lord came today, are we ready?
St Peter in our second Reading today reminds us, “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…”
God is always patient with us and the fact we are here today celebrating another Advent, means God is being patient and, once again, He is calling us to take Christianity seriously, to change those things that draw us away from Him, from His love and presence.
Let us not allow this consumer society, this noisy culture to make us forget what we are celebrating, what we are waiting for. Advent is a time in which God cries out so loud into our ears and hearts, I’m coming! be ready! like John the Baptist who called the Jews of his time, ‘repent, acknowledge your sins, One mightier than I is coming after me…!!!
Let us take advantage of this graceful and beautiful time of Advent, let us focus on what it is important, essential and necessary in our lives, “let us Prepare the way of the Lord, let us make straight his paths…”

SUNDAY HOMILY 11/26/2023
SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE (A)

Where were you?
Today the Church celebrates The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. With this important Feast we come to the last week of the Liturgical Year. Next Sunday we begin a new liturgical time with Advent in preparation for the Nativity of the Lord.
As we come to the last week of the year, the Church invites us to meditate upon the Final Judgement in which Jesus (as the Supreme King of the Universe) comes to judge all peoples and nations according to their works of mercy and charity. He says, “I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, in prison and you gave me food, a drink, you clothed me, you visited me…Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
St John of the Cross, one of the most important Spanish mystics and Carmelites of the 16th century summarizes this Gospel passage in one of his most famous quotes, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.” Love is the center of Jesus’ message, love for God and love for our neighbor. Let us remember, we were created to love and to be loved.
It is important to see that in the Gospel today, Jesus identifies himself as the one who is in need, “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, I was naked…” This means that God is not indifferent to our reality, God Himself embodies our human misery. God is not seated at a distance in His heavenly Throne observing passively how the poor suffers from hunger, the thirsty strives for water, the immigrant for a shelter, the prisoner for freedom.
God Himself becomes the poor, the thirsty, the prisoner, the immigrant. That’s why we have to be careful with that famous question so many people ask when we contemplate suffering and injustice in this world, Where is God? Where is God when the poor dies of hunger, when the innocent is abused, when the immigrant is rejected? And God gives us the answer, “I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was a stranger, I was naked…”
The question is not where is God? The real question is, Where are we when people need us? That’s what Jesus makes us aware of in the gospel. What do we do when we see people in need? Do we turn away? Do we avoid contact with them? Do we consider it just a problem to be solved by institutions, by the Church or by God?
True and authentic charity calls us to recognize the presence of God in those who are suffering. The poor, the sick, the stranger are living sacraments. Let us remember that a Sacrament (Baptism, Eucharist, Anointing) is a visible sign of God’s presence and grace.
We recognize Jesus in the Consecrated Host when he says through the priest, “This is my Body…”, we recognize his mercy and forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation when he says through the priest, “I absolve you in the Name of the Father + Son + Holy Spirit”. We believe Jesus is sacramentally present, hidden in the bread and wine, hidden in the person of the priest. In the same way, the poor, the sick, the immigrant, the prisoner embody the presence of God.
That’s why it is so important to be attentive to the needs of our brothers and sisters. God is not asking us to solve all the moral and social problems of the world, to eradicate poverty, to heal all infirmities, it is impossible. God rather calls us to be there for those who suffer, for those who need to be loved, to be consoled, to do what we can to appreciate, recognize and restore their dignity as human beings and children of God.
Let us not miss that extraordinary opportunity to have a physical and sacramental encounter with the Lord in those brothers and sisters who are suffering, who are in need.
If we come to Holy Mass and receive the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have also to be able to recognize and embrace the presence of the same Lord in the poor, in the naked, in the immigrant, in the ill, in the prisoner.
Let us remember, we all will be judged on love alone, and when we all stand before the Judge, we will have to answer an important question Our Lord Jesus Christ, will ask us, Where were you? Where were you when “I was hungry, and thirsty, and a stranger, and naked, and sick…?”
Where were you?

SUNDAY HOMILY 11/12/2023
XXXII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)
“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Today we celebrate the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time which means we are entering the final weeks of the Liturgical Year. In two weeks, we will conclude this current year with the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the universe and then we begin the new one with the Advent Season.As we move towards the end, the Church directs our attention to what is called the Parousia = the Second Coming of the Lord.
In the Gospel today Jesus uses the image of the Jewish wedding to call us to be prepared, to be awake, for we do not know neither the day nor the hour when the Parousia will happen, when Jesus (the bridegroom) will come back.
A Jewish wedding usually took place in the evening, that is why these 10 virgins in today’s gospel were keeping their lamps, but it was necessary to bring extra oil and save it for later in case they ran out of it. The gospel tells us that 5 virgins didn’t have enough oil to keep their lamps burning and they didn’t have extra oil either, that’s why they are called foolish. When the bridegroom arrived, they were away buying more oil but unfortunately, they arrived late and were unable to enter the feast.
The oil in the Bible represents our love for God and others which is manifested in good works. In this parable the Lord is telling us that we all have an important job to perform in this life, a job that will help us prepare for His coming. Let us remember what Jesus teaches us in another passage, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love is the most important work we perform in this temporal life, love is what always keeps us awake, alert, ready, and it is the only thing we are able to bring with us when we die. St Paul in his Letter to the Corinthians reminds us, “faith, hope, and love remain; but the greatest of these three is love…” When we die and have the final encounter with the Lord faith and hope will be no longer necessary, but love is what will keep us always united to God for all eternity. We were all created to love and to wear out our lives for the sake of others.
But there is a reality we cannot deny, love has a limit, a deadline on this earth, death. Last week (on November 2) we commemorated our faithful departed which is a reminder of our destiny in this life. It does not matter who we are, how much we have, how young or old we are, we all will face death at some point of our lives. Death is our Parousia; death is our final encounter with the Lord and the only thing we can bring with us when we die is the love we have professed to God and shared with others during our journey. How much we did for God and how much we did for our brothers and sisters.
Love always requires a little bit of extra oil, a little bit of extra of us, more time, more prayer, more service, more forgiveness, more humility, more devotion, more testimony.
That is why Jesus consistently calls us to be prepared, to be ready, to keep our lamps burning, because there is no worse tragedy in this life than to die unprepared, than to die without loving God enough, without serving our brothers and sisters enough, without forgiving enough, without giving ourselves enough to others. Let us love as much as we can, as often as we can.
Let us remember love has a limit, a deadline in this life, which is our death. Therefore,
“Stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 11/5/2023

XXXI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

In today’s gospel Jesus warns people and the disciples to be careful with the Pharisees because they appear to be very religious, and pious and devoted men but behind that appearance there is a great search for recognition, admiration, superiority, control and manipulation. Jesus says of them, “They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’”
The Pharisees wanted to take advantage of their social and religious position among people, advantage of their authority, they wanted people to serve them, they made people slaves to their traditions and rules.
Jesus knows who they are and he recognizes that they have a special call from God, “The Scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you”.
Jesus certainly recognizes their authority as the interpreters and teachers of God’s Law but he also clarifies that a social position and authority has the purpose of serving the community, the society, the congregation not of being recognized and admired by others.
In our society and even in the Church we have different kinds of positions, titles, authorities: we call a professional man or woman a DOCTOR, a PhD, we call a priest REVEREND or FATHER, we call the pope YOUR HOLINESS. But what really defines who we are is not the title we carry on but rather what we do for others, what we give and share with others.
We might experience the temptation to think that we are better than others because of our high education, or social position, or income, or talents. But let us remember that what we have received from God (talents, skills, education, authority, leadership) is not for our own benefit but rather for the benefit of others. If our brothers and sisters, our community, the Church, our society are not benefiting from our talents, from our education, from our skills, from what we have, we are being like the Pharisees, looking just for admiration, status and recognition.
It is certainly important to be recognized and admired by others for what we have accomplished in life, for our efforts and dedication, for our contributions, for our leadership, for our talents and gifts, it is important to hear sometimes, “thank you” or “you’re doing great job!” or “I’m so proud of you!” Those things help elevate our self-esteem and encourage us to do better, to work harder but we cannot forget that what we do, we do it with humility, for the sake and benefit of others.
Jesus says to his disciples, “The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
How are we using our talents? What do we expect from others when we serve and help them? How do we see and perceive and treat others? How are we serving and working for the progress and well-being of our society, our community and the Church? Let us keep always in our mind and heart what Jesus teaches us, “The greatest among you must be your servant.”

SUNDAY HOMILY (10/29/2023)
XXX SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

In today’s Gospel Jesus answers a very important question, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” Jesus (as a very devoted Jewish man) answered correctly, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…” But let us remember that the Jews were very legalistic in their religion. They based their daily lives and faith on the Law of Moses, especially the 10 Commandments. They thought that they were good and holy people by fulfilling all the law requirements, by following all the religious traditions.
Very often we see in the gospels, discussions between Jesus and the religious authorities because Jesus didn’t follow the traditions, especially keeping the sabbath, the rites of purification, or washing hands before eating, etc.
The Jews also discriminated the poor, the widow, the orphan, the sick. They thought these people were suffering in life because they were sinners, abandoned by God. They even felt the right to kill those caught committing a sin. Let us remember the scene of the woman caught in adultery whom Jesus saved.
That’s why when Jesus answers this question, he reminds them that there is a second commandment as important as the first one, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself…” And he adds, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Jewish people forgot that to love God is not about following the rules and traditions. God is perfect, God is happy forever, He needs absolutely nothing from us. But what God does want from us is to love Him through His most beautiful and perfect creation, the human person.
St John in his first letter clarifies this idea, “If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he sees cannot love God whom he cannot see.” And he adds, “This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother…” (1Jn 4:20).
Our neighbor (no matter who he is, where he comes from, how many sins he has committed) is the image of God. In other words, the other person (we see, we touch, we hug, we talk to, we insult, we offend, we discriminate, we deprive from forgiveness, we fail to help) is the most realistic image of God the Father.
The invisible God we cannot perceive with our physical senses becomes visible and accessible in the reality of our brothers and sisters. That’s why there is no greatest hypocrisy among us than to come to Mass, to pray rosaries, to donate money to the church and yet be able to diminish the dignity of others, creating conflicts, offending, gossiping, lying about others. Our worship to God, our prayers, our devotions only make sense when they lead us to see and recognize the face of God in others, in the neighbor.
But we also have to be careful with the other extreme, to love and help others without loving and acknowledging the only and supreme source of love, God Himself. St John also reminds us, (Deus caritas est = God is love).
There are so many good and generous people in this world, people who help the poor, the sick, who work hard to defend the human rights of those most vulnerable, but people who don’t have a relationship with God or don’t even believe in Him. Certainly, to help others doesn’t require to believe in God, but we cannot fully and perfectly love our brothers and sisters without the source of love, which is God. (Deus caritas est = God is love).
We love others and support them in their needs not because we are good people, not because we feel sorry and compassionate for them (love is not a sentiment, nor an emotion), but rather because God has loved us first, and the love we share with others is the same love God has shared with us.
To love God and our neighbor are not two different options, we cannot choose which one is more convenient, we cannot say that one is more important than the other, it is only one commandment, two pillars that must sustain every single aspect of our lives; our spirituality, our worship, devotions, our relationship with family and friends, our work, our rest.
Many people have great projects, plans, enterprises in this life, but we (who have heard Jesus’ answer today) only have one project, one purpose, one enterprise that matters all and that transcends life and time, to love God (the only source of perfect love) and our neighbor (God’s image) as much as we can, as often as we can, as much as we love ourselves.

SUNDAY HOMILY 10/22/2023

XXIX SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

In today’s gospel the Pharisees ask Jesus a very tricky question, “Is it lawful to pay the tax to Caesar or not?” Let us remember that the Jews were governed by the Roman Empire and everybody had to pay taxes. Jesus immediately realizes that they wanted to put him in trouble. If he says, it is lawful to pay the tax, his followers could feel betrayed, they would say that he was in favor of the Roman oppression and control. But, on the other hand, if he says, it is NOT lawful to pay the tax, that could be considered an act of rebellion against the Empire. In fact, one of the false accusations by which Jesus was arrested and condemned to death was that one, some were testifying that he was against paying taxes to the Romans.
Jesus in his wisdom and extraordinary discernment was able to give them the right answer, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus is aware of his people’s history, they were always oppressed and obliged to pay taxes to other nations. He understood that he had to be a good model of peace and justice, a good citizen and avoid scandals and revolutions.
In another passage of the gospel of Matthew Jesus says to Peter that only foreigners should pay taxes and the citizens should be exempt, “But that we may not offend people, he asked Peter to go and pay the taxes…”
We, as Christians, are called to be good citizens, to speak and act always according to the gospel principles of peace, justice and obedience. It is ok to have different opinions, to be in disagreement with political leaders and statements but we have to show others, as Jesus invites us today, that we are committed to peace and reconciliation.
The Word of God teaches us that all authority comes from God. In our first Reading today the prophet Isaiah reminds us that God Himself chose Cyrus to govern all the nations. Cyrus was the first Persian King. He allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile and rebuild the Temple and their religion. So Cyrus was considered the Messiah sent by God to restore Israel.
Let us remember also what Jesus says to Pilate during his trial, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above…”
St Peter also in his first Letter claims, “Be subject to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king or to governors as sent by Him…For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people…”
St Paul in his Letter to the Romans also calls us to respect our authorities, “Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God…”
It is true that our governments not always do the job they are called to do, some of them only serve to their own interests. We all know how much so many people (in different countries) have suffered due to the corruption and ambition of their leaders.
But God has established authority in the world to keep the society in permanent function, order and progress; and we as Christians, are called to contribute (the best we can) to the wellbeing and progress of the society, to be models of peace, respect and reconciliation, to “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 10/15/2023

XXVIII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

“Behold, I have prepared my banquet…and everything is ready; come to the feast.”
Today the Liturgy of the Word continues to teach us about the reality of the Kingdom of God. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah portrays a beautiful description of the Kingdom as a feast, a banquet. The Lord says through the prophet, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines…On this mountain he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from every face…”
This is a description of what we call “heaven”, a spiritual and transcendental reality where there is no more suffering and pain but only joy, peace, salvation, an eternal banquet of delicious food and permanent celebration.
That’s why Jesus also uses the image of the wedding feast in his parable today. He says that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a king who organized a wedding feast for His son. He invited people but all of them rejected his invitation. The gospel says, “Some refused to come, others ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business…The rest mistreated the servants of the king, and killed them…”
One of the most important aspects of our faith is that it comes from our freedom. God does not impose faith in Him, He gives us the invitation, He calls us. That’s why not everybody in this world believes in God or professes our Christian faith, because God respects our freedom, our capacity to decide whether we want to establish a relationship with Him or not. And this is the reality Jesus exposes in the parable. The king invited people to attend the feast, but some were too busy, others didn’t care, others were so evil.
Where do we find ourselves in our journey today? The world today is making us busier, technology is consuming our time, there is now so many demands. Are family duties or our work responsibilities taking us away from this opportunity to have a relationship with the Lord?
God is not asking us to give up our families and jobs or moments of rest and enjoyment to be in permanent contemplation; God simply invites us to establish a relationship with Him, to come to His feast, not only on Sunday (for Holy Mass) but every single day, even in the midst of our busyness, to be permanently aware of His gentle and loving presence. We responded to Psalm 23 today with this simple and beautiful statement, “I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” The house of the Lord is not only the church, the building where we gather together, the house of the Lord is also our bodies. Let us remember what St Paul teaches us, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit…” and when we receive Holy Communion at Mass God starts dwelling within us, even in a physical way, because we consume the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.
If we are here today it is not a coincidence or just a mere chance, we are here alive, able to come and gather together because God is giving us a special invitation, “Behold, I have prepared my banquet…come to the feast.” -Are we accepting His invitation today? Are we going to do it tomorrow, and the next day? Are we taking a moment every day to collect ourselves in prayer and tell God that we want to go to His feast? That it is crucial and essential for us to go. Are we allowing the busyness of our daily lives to take control of our faith and Christian responsibilities? God wants to share with us His divine life, His perfection, his love and mercy. But it is up to us to accept it with joy, with hope and with responsibility. “Behold, I have prepared my banquet…and everything is ready; come to the feast.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 10/8/2023
XXVII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

“I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain.” This was our Gospel acclamation in our Liturgy of the Word today.
The last Sundays we have heard Jesus talking about the Kingdom of heaven and he uses the image of the vineyard. Two Sundays ago, we heard that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner who hired men at different times during the day to work in his vineyard.
Last Sunday we read the story of the man who asked his two sons to work in his vineyard, one son said yes, but didn’t go, the other one said no, but changed his mind and went.
And today, Jesus tells another parable in which the main scenario is a vineyard. Jesus says that a landowner planted a vineyard and hired tenants to take care of it, but they decided to keep it for themselves. They killed the servants the landowner sent to obtain the produce and finally they dared to kill even his son, they said, “Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance…”
The image of the vineyard, especially in today’s gospel, helps us be aware that God has called us to work in His vineyard, to become its administrators, not its owners, “I have chosen you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will remain.” Our call is to bear fruit wherever we find ourselves, not to take control and absolute possession of the of our lives, our vineyard.
We are all know how today’s world is suffering a tremendous crisis in all areas because we (human beings) believe that the world and everything in it belongs to us.
We are all aware of how nature is in danger and declining globally. Pope Francis wrote a beautiful encyclical (in 2015) called “Laudato Si” in which he addresses the ecological crisis and environmental problems the planet is facing now. This beautiful planet, a place we call “earth” is our vineyard, a vineyard that requires care, a responsible and fruitful administration. When natural disasters happen (tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes) is a reminder that we are not the owners of this place.
We are all aware of the ideological and moral crisis of our society that shows us how the beautiful gift of our bodies and our sexuality is becoming an object of manipulation and control. Who told us that we are the owners of our body, the owners of our sexuality and identity and that we have the right to change our nature, our original design? Let us remember what St Paul says, “The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” We are only administrators of this gift, of our body, we are called to bear fruits of charity and holiness.
We continue to put in danger the sacrality of human life from the very moment of conception to its natural death. Who told us that we have the right to interrupt the natural development of a human being in the womb of his mother? God called us to be only administrators of this vineyard, human life, not to take possession and control of it.
Right now, there is a synod of the Bishops in Rome where some important issues are being discussed. Some Cardinals and bishops long for radical changes in Church’s structure and morality. The blessing of same-sex unions, allowing women into the priesthood, holy communion for divorced-remarried people and some other things. The question is, are we the owners of the tradition and morality of our faith? Are we the owners of the sacrament of marriage? Are we the owners of sin? Can we say that an act was sinful yesterday and today is no sinful anymore?
Let us remember we are only administrators of this vineyard, we may improve things, we may discuss issues and dialogue, but we cannot forget that God is the only and absolute landowner of this vineyard (the planet, the church, marriage, faith).
We are all servants and administrators in this world, nothing belongs to us, and the proof of this is the reality of death. No matter who we are in this life and how much we have, we all die in the same conditions, in complete loneliness and poverty. We cannot take with us our own ideas, our own opinions, our desires, our possessions, not even the people we love the most. We only take with us our fruits (either good or bad).
My brothers and sisters, we cannot forget who we are in this vineyard, who we are in the world, in the church, in this society; we cannot forget who the landowner of this vineyard is, we cannot forget our main job in this life, what we are here for, “I have chosen you from the world, says the Lord, to go and bear fruit that will remain.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 10/1/2023
XXVI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

The Liturgy of the Word today brings up an important topic for our Christian journey, conversion. In the first Reading, God explains to people (through the prophet Ezekiel) that we certainly will die for our sins, but if we change our lives and turn away from sin we will live. In the Gospel Jesus illustrates this teaching with the simple parable of the father and the 2 sons. At the father’s request to work in his vineyard, one of the sons was willing to go and work but, in the end, never went. The other son, however, who had said “no”, later on changed his mind and did go.
God knows we are not perfect, He knows we are weak, stubborn, selfish, unfaithful, fleshly, that for us it’s much easier to say “no” to Him rather than say ‘yes”; He is aware that we always will make mistakes in life and commit sins. But it is important to understand that God is not concerned about us committing sins, He is more concerned about us embracing our sins, justifying our sins, living in a permanent state of sin.
God has given us a great gift; the gift of freedom, and we have the option to use it rightly or not. God does not have control over us, so we can make mistakes and commit sins, we all enjoy absolute freedom; but we also have freedom to change, to repent, to turn to the other direction. That’s exactly what the word “conversion” in the New Testament means. Conversion comes from the Greek word “metanoia” which means a change of direction, a change of mentality. We are all capable of doing that. If we are able to commit sins, God tells us, we are also able to change.
That’s why sinners were so important for Jesus and played a significant role in his preaching. He was very clear on his mission, he knew what he came for, “Those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Jesus came to help us be aware that our sins and mistakes in life cannot fully define who we are and that they don’t have the last word, that we all can change, that our wounds (no matter how deep they are) can be restored and healed, that what really matters it’s not what we did in the past but what we are doing today. Psalm 25 claims, “Remember that your compassion, O LORD, and your love are from of old. The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not…” This is the good news Jesus proclaimed, we can change, it’s never too late.
This is what the chief priests and elders of the people didn’t know (or didn’t want to accept and recognize), that people can change, that people can start over again. Jesus uses hard words, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you…because they believed in the preaching of John and changed their lives. But you did not believe in him and changed.”
It is ok to make mistakes, it is ok to commit sins, we are all sinners, we are all so fragile and weak in our humanity; but what is never ok, never right, never acceptable is to justify our sins and remain in them. The problem is not falling (we all fall, some more often than others, some deeper than others), the problem is not getting up again. The problem is not committing sins, the real problem is not turning away, repenting, asking God for forgiveness.
That’s why the Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a sacrament that becomes our second chance, not a tribunal where we are judged and condemned but rather a place of hope where we are lovingly and mercifully renewed and strengthened to keep fighting.
Let us not allow our sins to control us, to determine our eternal future, let us always keep in our minds and hearts this fundamental truth, that if we able to commit a sin today, we are also able to repent and change.

SUNDAY HOMILY 9/24/2023

XXV SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.” These are the words God addressed to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah. This is an important principle we should be aware of in our relationship with the Lord. God does not work based on our human logic. We have a particular way to see things, to understand situations, to deal with conflicts. But God has another way to do it. We just need to recall Jesus’ preaching and message throughout the gospels. Jesus has a different logic, “The last will be the first,” “If you want to be the greatest and the most important you have to become a child,” “deny yourself, hate father and mother and follow me,” “whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will find it,” “love your enemies, bless them and pray for them.”
The parable Jesus tells in today’s gospel portrays this reality. A landowner needed workers for his vineyard, so he went out at different times of the day and asked some men to go and work for him. At the end of the day, he began to pay each one the same salary, starting with those who were hired later. The first ones who came earlier in the day and worked harder were surprised and annoyed to see that all workers (no matter how long and hard they worked) were being treated equally. It seems to be unjust what the landowner is doing. Our human justice and logic tell us, “The more you work the more you get.” But let us remember, “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”
That’s why it is so difficult to be a Christian in this world, the world leads us to follow a path based on our physical, mental and emotional needs, God (instead) leads us to go in the opposite direction.
The landowner (in the parable) is concerned about those men who were hired later; they must have families to feed, they need the money for their survival, therefore the landowner cannot allow them to go back home with less than a 1-day wage. But for us it’s so difficult to see it, to understand it, because we are more concerned about how much others can give us, how much others can do for us. We have the tendency to see others as simple products. God sees his children as individuals, their needs, their concerns, their problems, their joys and accomplishments in life. We need to start seeing others and situations in our daily lives with God’s logic, not with our limited human logic, because we are very selfish, we are interested, we are prideful and egocentric and these things do not allow us to perceive and accept God’s plan in our lives.
When things are not going the way we want it, we tend to complain, to look for logical explanations, we judge others, we judge ourselves, we complain to God, but we don’t usually take a moment in prayer to think what God is trying to tell us through that particular situation, what God is planning, what is His logic, what we can learn.
The parable Jesus told us today is a call to be more open to God’s work in the world and within us; it’s a call to see people, things, situations in a more Christian perspective, not based on our assumptions, judgements, personal and selfish interests but on God’s love and justice.
God is powerful, God is wise, God is intelligent, He knows what He does, and most importantly, God loves us in a way we cannot imagine, we cannot understand. So, we just need to trust in His ways, to allow Him to work and do what He knows is the best for us because “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.”

9/17/ 2023

XXIV SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

The Liturgy of the Word today brings up one of the most important teachings of Jesus, the necessity to forgive, a call to forgiveness. In the Gospel, Peter approached Jesus to ask him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” And Jesus’ answer is very surprising, he says in reply, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”
Let us remember that in the Bible number 7 has a special meaning, it means totality, perfection, fulfillment. Jesus is trying to make Peter aware of the importance and essentiality of forgiveness, to forgive our brother “seventy-seven times,” means, to forgive everything, always, unconditionally, beyond perfection, beyond our limits.
Certainly, we all know how difficult it is to do it, especially when we are strongly offended, when we are hurt, insulted, humiliated. Our tendency (as human beings) is to develop a sentiment of anger, hatred, a desire for revenge.
The book of Sirach claims, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight…” We are so selfish, egocentric, we believe that we only deserve to be forgiven, to have a second chance, but the others are not worthy to have this privilege.
That’s why it is so hard to forgive. Jesus portrays this reality in his parable. This wicked servant thought that he deserved the forgiveness of his master but he himself considered that his fellow servant was not worthy of receiving the same forgiveness he received.
And it is important to recognize why forgiveness is so central in Jesus’s preaching and so significant for God, “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”
God calls us to forgive our brother because forgiveness is the beginning of a healing process. There are so many people who struggle with the consequences of trauma, people who have been hurt tremendously in their lives (physically, mentally, emotionally); and we know how much anger and hatred we are able to build and keep within us, in our hearts. Emotions that cause more damage and pain.
God calls us to forgive our brother not as a divine commandment but rather as a remedy for our wounds.
Nourishing our hearts with hatred, and anger and revenge (in reality) do not make us feel better, these negative emotions don’t help us recover, neither they heal our wounds, on the contrary, they destroy us and consume us little by little, they put in danger our mental, emotional and spiritual life.
The book of Sirach says, “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?”
That’s why Jesus is so insistent on forgiveness, on forgiving always, as much as we can, “seventy-seven times,” because the first step toward inner healing, restoration and peace (after being hurt and offended) is forgiveness.
Jesus knows what he is talking about, he knows what he is saying to Peter, he is the first one who had to forgive the whole humanity, all our offenses and sins.
God knows there is evil in this world, God knows there are people who cause damage to others, but our response to evilness cannot be anger and hatred. It is certainly not easy to do it, but not impossible. Let us remember that forgiveness is not based on an emotion, it’s not a sentiment, forgiveness is a choice we are to make.
So many people wait and wait years trying to “feel” themselves ready to forgive. But it is not a matter of feeling something, it is a matter of choosing to do it, it’s an act of the will that leads us to healing and restoration.
Let us not allow our selfishness, our anger, our frustrations caused by others to control us, to manipulate us, let us be always open to forgiveness and allow God (through His forgiveness on the cross) to heal us, to restore us, to love even our enemies and overcome the evil of others with goodness and justice.

SUNDAY HOMILY 8/20

XX SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

In today’s Gospel Jesus has an encounter with a Canaanite woman who desperately asks him to heal her daughter who is tormented by a demon. This is a powerful scene that reminds us of the power of prayer and what it requires. Everything this woman does helps us rediscover some important aspects of prayer. Prayer requires 1) Persistence, 2) Humility and 3) Trust.
The gospel tells us that the disciples were annoyed by this woman, they said to Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” She keeps calling out. Prayer is a permanent encounter with the Lord and God asks us to keep trying, to keep calling out, to insist, to persevere because when we persevere in something it means we really want it, we really long for it. This woman didn’t give up on her request despite Jesus’ apparent rejection. She was convinced that Jesus was the only one who could help and heal her daughter. And thanks to that perseverance, she was finally heard, and her desire was fulfilled by Jesus. There is a beautiful quote that claims, “Pray not until God listens you, but until you listen to God.”
Let us never give up on our prayer, let us keep insisting, persevering, let us keep knocking on the door. Jesus says in another passage of the gospel, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened…”
Secondly, this woman shows Jesus great humility. Let us remember that this woman was not a Jew, she was pagan, she belonged to another culture, another religion. That’s why Jesus says to his disciples, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and later on he says to her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The ‘children’ represent the people of Israel (the Jews) and the ‘dogs’ are the people from other countries, the pagans. And this woman recognizes that she does not belong to the chosen people of God and says to Jesus, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She is telling Jesus, I know I am nobody, I am your servant, you are superior. Prayer requires to humble ourselves, to recognize our humanity, our limitations and nothingness before God’s majesty and power. When we pray, we must come to God with the same humility our Blessed Mother responded to the angel at the moment of the Annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
And finally, this Canaanite woman teaches us that prayer requires trust. “Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.” Jesus perceived her faith, her trust in his power. Jesus recognized her perseverance and humility. She did everything she could to catch Jesus’ attention and to be heard.
Our prayer requires to be convinced that God is powerful, that He can do extraordinary things for us and for our loved ones. God can heal (physically, mentally, emotionally), God can transform our lives and make us grow in maturity and holiness, God can forgive us our most shameful and terrible sins.
The testimony of this woman in today’s Gospel must lead us to grow in the habit of prayer, it must give us a new desire to deepen our relationship with the Lord. Let us never give up on God, let us come closer to Him by persevering in prayer, with a humble heart that recognizes His greatness and our lowliness——and trusting that He is powerful, loving and merciful enough to heal us, to transform us, to save us.

SUNDAY HOMILY 8/13

XIX SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

We all remember this extraordinary scene in the gospels. The disciples find themselves in a very difficult situation, they struggle with a heavy and strong wind that is putting their lives in danger. But something unexpectedly happens, Jesus appears to them walking on the water. This is a very dramatic moment in the life of the disciples that brings so many teachings for our Christian life and faith.
First of all, the gospel tells us that when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified, they thought it was a “ghost”. That happens when we draw away from God. When we don’t develop an intimate and permanent relationship with Him. God becomes a ghost, mysterious, inaccessible, incomprehensible, something we should be afraid of. —————But Jesus once again tells us, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Jesus presents himself as a close, friendly and personal God who wants to establish a relationship with His creation.
During that dramatic moment Peter (one of the disciples) takes the initiative and try to figure out by himself what is going on, he wants to see how real Jesus is. He says, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
That’s a very powerful act of faith. He wanted to do something that is humanly impossible, walking on water. Our faith leads us to take risks in life. Everything we face in this life is a risk. Marriage is a risk, commitments, a new job, a new business. Peter teaches us that, to not be afraid to take the risk of faith, the risk to believe, the risk to come to Jesus even when everything seems to be lost and hopeless.
Peter also gives us another important tip for our faith. He was doing a great job until he started to doubt and sink, “When he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”
Peter made a terrible mistake, he lost his focus on Jesus, he got distracted by the strong wind. That can happen to us too. When we focus so much on our problems and challenges and frustrations in life, instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus, we allow fear and desperation to take control of us and manipulate us.
I know human life is so fragile and it is certainly full of “strong winds” that can put in danger our securities, stability, our emotions, our physical and mental health, our relationships, our projects. We all know how an illness can change our lives in just a moment, or a financial crisis, or a simple mistake.
But we are all believers, we all profess a faith not in a ghost but rather in a real person and a powerful God, we believe in his power, that He can do extraordinary things in our lives, even in the midst of our storms and chaotic times. Human problems cannot define and determine who we are. Let us not allow fear and desperation to take control of our minds and hearts, and faith, and make us lose the focus. Our faith encourages us to keep always our eyes on the Lord.
We are only able to overcome our fears and struggles and doubts in life when we allow ourselves (like Peter) to get out of the boat (no matter how awful and terrifying the reality looks like) and start walking toward Jesus.
Jesus is always here, waiting for our determination, waiting for us to allow Him to take control, to finally see Him not as a ghost but rather as a loving, friendly and powerful God who will never let us sink. May this powerful story in today’s gospel and the testimony of Peter help us recognize God’s voice saying to us “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 8/6

FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD (A)

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, an important feast that leads us to remember that particular and significant episode in the public life of Jesus and his three disciples, Peter, James and John. Jesus appears to them completely transformed. The gospel says, “His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light…” This is a manifestation of his glory and power. The disciples are contemplating an anticipation of the glory of Jesus at his resurrection.
The gospel of Matthew also tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared conversing with him. These two biblical figures are important. Moses represents the Law of God. Let us remember that he received the 10 Commandments from God on the mountain.
The other figure, Elijah represents the prophets of the Old Testament, especially those who announced the coming of Jesus as the Messiah. This encounter of Jesus with Moses and Elijah teaches us that the Law of God and all the prophecies about the Messiah are fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the new Law of the Father. Therefore, there is no need for more sacrifices as the Law required, Jesus is the most important sacrifice; there is no need to stone and persecute sinners for breaking the Law because Jesus brings the mercy and forgiveness of God. He even had the authority to give his disciples a new commandment, “Love one another…”———As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
Jesus also is recognized as the last prophet of the Father. God doesn’t want to speak through the prophets any longer, He has now spoken through His Son because Jesus is the Word of God made flesh.
All these details are important for us to know because they help us understand and recognize what our faith is based on. St Peter in his second letter claims, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain…”
St Peter is declaring that what he is teaching and preaching about Jesus is 100% true. The faith he professes is not based on a “myth” or a legend, or a lie. Jesus is a real person who was glorified by God. He died on the cross and was risen on the third day.
What we celebrate here every Sunday is not based on a simple belief in something, what we celebrate is the truth of God. Jesus is not a myth, Jesus is not a legend, neither he is another important rabbi in the first century who preached love and peace. He is more than that. “A bright cloud cast a shadow over the disciples, and from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” There is only one person we should listen to, Jesus Christ. He claimed of himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
The Feast of the Transfiguration leads us to clarify and confirm our faith, to recognize that Christianity is not another religion among others but the only one that follows the Truth of God.
Without Jesus all our beliefs are simply myths, legends, fairy tales. Without Jesus what we think is true and absolute in this life is actually false, without Jesus all our knowledge and education is simply ignorance. Without Jesus we certainly lose the right path, the right direction, we lose the meaning and purpose of life.
St Peter tells us that he was an eyewitness to that moment, he gave his own life later on (like many others) for that truth he saw. He left everything in order to be part of that glory and majesty he contemplated in Jesus at the moment of the transfiguration.
Let us not be deceived by all the truths and ways the world offers us today. Let us believe in what we have received from the Apostles who were eyewitnesses to all these marvelous and powerful events and let us focus our faith only on Jesus as God the Father proclaims, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

SUNDAY HOMILY 7/30/2023
XVII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples two beautiful and simple parables that make us understand and recognize the priceless value of the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a treasure buried in a field, a man finds it and then goes and sells everything he has and buys the entire field. Jesus also compares the Kingdom of God to a merchant looking for pearls and when he finds one of great value, he sells what he has and buys that pearl.
Jesus does not describe the Kingdom of heaven in a material way; he doesn’t tell us how it looks like physically, but he tells us that the Kingdom is so valuable, so beautiful, so essential that once it is found, one cannot take it for granted, it makes us leave everything behind just to keep it with us. These two parables simply teach us that there is nothing in this life more precious and valuable than a relationship with God.
Oftentimes we take it for granted and assume that God is not needed because everything in our life is going well. We are healthy, we are financially stable, we have friends, we are successful, we have a job, but what about when all these things are gone? That’s when we become aware of the great treasure God is and what it means to lose it.
There are so many people who have found God in the midst of a terrible crisis, when they have hit rock bottom in their lives. The love and mercy of God changed their lives completely and received a new opportunity.
That’s the most interesting aspect of these two stories. These two men not only found the treasure and the pearl, they immediately sold everything they had in order to buy that field and that particular and unique pearl, “…out of joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…When the merchant finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.”
When we find God in our lives and come to establish an intimate and authentic relationship with Him, the other things we once considered valuable and essential, become secondary. Jesus claims in another passage, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you…”
Let us not make that mistake, to think that what we have in this life is better and more necessary than what God can give us. Let us remember Solomon’s petition and prayer to God in our first Reading today, “The LORD appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Ask something of me and I will give it to you.’ Solomon answered: ‘O LORD, my God, give your servant an understanding heart…” and God was so pleased with that request, “Because you have asked for this—not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding—I do as you requested. I give you a heart wise and understanding…”
God in the life of a person is a treasure and a precious pearl that makes us leave everything behind (our sins, our priorities, our fears, our doubts, our emotional attachments, our possessions) and makes us keep it with us, it changes everything, and everything recovers its meaning and purpose.
If you know you have found the treasure of God in the field of your life, don’t lose it, keep it with you, take care of it. It is something that not even death can take away from you.
But if you haven’t found the pearl of great value in your life yet, if God is not that valuable treasure, that unique pearl yet, Jesus invites you to keep seeking, to keep looking, until you find it, until you are 100% convinced that God and a relationship with Him is the most important, priceless, valuable treasure of your entire life. Believe me, once you find it, you will want to sell everything you have and buy that field, that precious pearl of great value.

SUNDAY HOMILY
XVI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

Jesus continues teaching about the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Last Sunday we learned (from the parable of the Sower) that the seed of the kingdom falls in different places (the path, the rocky ground, the thorns, and the rich soil) and that we have to prepare a good soil for the Word of God to grow and bear fruit. —–Today Jesus brings another parable, the Parable of the wheat and the weeds.
The story tells us that a man sowed good seed in his field but during the night the “enemy” sowed weeds, and he allowed both to grow together. This simple parable is a very realistic picture of the world in which we all live. There are two realities that always accompany our existence, good and evil. From the very beginning of our human history, we all have experienced injustice, suffering, pain, violence. We just need to open the first pages of the Bible to find out how evil is always present even at the very beginning. Let us remember that dramatic episode when Cain killed his own brother (Abel) out of anger, jealousy, and envy.
Evil is a reality that continues to exist, that continues to grow along with goodness. The first thing we can learn from this simple story is that evil is necessary in the world, and it’s necessary because it leads us to practice and choose goodness. We are able to grow in the virtue of patience when facing conflicts with others. We become stronger in character when we are hurt. We come to value the presence of our loved ones when they are gone. People turn to God when something bad happens to them. Let us remember how God used the evilness and cruelty of the crucifixion, the evilness of the Roman Empire to save us through Jesus. God allows good and evil to grow together in the world to help us make the right choices in life, to help us choose good over evil.
There is another important teaching we can take away from the parable. In the parable “…the householder asked his servants to let both (the good seed and the weeds) to grow together until harvest; then at harvest time he will first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning…” Jesus explains to his disciples that “all evildoers will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…”
When we see and experience evil in this world, we are to recognize (as believers) that God is more powerful, that evil does not have the last word. It is true that God is merciful, compassionate, patient but let us not forget that He is also just, that He is a judge who judges with justice. Our first Reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us, “There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned. For your might is the source of justice…” That’s the image of God Jesus portrays in the parable, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…,” which means that at the end of time evil will pass away and God will judge those who are permanently causing evil and pain and suffering in the world.
Let us remember God is patient, God is merciful and compassionate, but He is also just, and He will not allow evil to have the last word. The evilness we see in the world today cannot lead us to disappointment and frustration, it’s an opportunity that leads us to make the right choices, to always choose goodness over evil, and to strengthen the Christian hope and conviction that God does not take for granted the suffering of His children caused by evil. Evil will continue to exist, to harm, to destroy, to hurt, to cause pain but God will judge with justice at the end of the harvest, He will bring justice at the right time, at the right moment.

SUNDAY HOMILY
XVI SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)

Jesus continues teaching about the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Last Sunday we learned (from the parable of the Sower) that the seed of the kingdom falls in different places (the path, the rocky ground, the thorns, and the rich soil) and that we have to prepare a good soil for the Word of God to grow and bear fruit. —–Today Jesus brings another parable, the Parable of the wheat and the weeds.
The story tells us that a man sowed good seed in his field but during the night the “enemy” sowed weeds, and he allowed both to grow together. This simple parable is a very realistic picture of the world in which we all live. There are two realities that always accompany our existence, good and evil. From the very beginning of our human history, we all have experienced injustice, suffering, pain, violence. We just need to open the first pages of the Bible to find out how evil is always present even at the very beginning. Let us remember that dramatic episode when Cain killed his own brother (Abel) out of anger, jealousy, and envy.
Evil is a reality that continues to exist, that continues to grow along with goodness. The first thing we can learn from this simple story is that evil is necessary in the world, and it’s necessary because it leads us to practice and choose goodness. We are able to grow in the virtue of patience when facing conflicts with others. We become stronger in character when we are hurt. We come to value the presence of our loved ones when they are gone. People turn to God when something bad happens to them. Let us remember how God used the evilness and cruelty of the crucifixion, the evilness of the Roman Empire to save us through Jesus. God allows good and evil to grow together in the world to help us make the right choices in life, to help us choose good over evil.
There is another important teaching we can take away from the parable. In the parable “…the householder asked his servants to let both (the good seed and the weeds) to grow together until harvest; then at harvest time he will first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning…” Jesus explains to his disciples that “all evildoers will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…”
When we see and experience evil in this world, we are to recognize (as believers) that God is more powerful, that evil does not have the last word. It is true that God is merciful, compassionate, patient but let us not forget that He is also just, that He is a judge who judges with justice. Our first Reading from the Book of Wisdom reminds us, “There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned. For your might is the source of justice…” That’s the image of God Jesus portrays in the parable, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth…,” which means that at the end of time evil will pass away and God will judge those who are permanently causing evil and pain and suffering in the world.
Let us remember God is patient, God is merciful and compassionate, but He is also just, and He will not allow evil to have the last word. The evilness we see in the world today cannot lead us to disappointment and frustration, it’s an opportunity that leads us to make the right choices, to always choose goodness over evil, and to strengthen the Christian hope and conviction that God does not take for granted the suffering of His children caused by evil. Evil will continue to exist, to harm, to destroy, to hurt, to cause pain but God will judge with justice at the end of the harvest, He will bring justice at the right time, at the right moment.

SUNDAY HOMILY 7/16/23

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
In today’s Gospel Jesus shares with people one of his most famous parables, the Parable of the Sower. Let us remember that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a small town in Galilee where most of the people were farmers. Jesus (most likely) grew up learning how to cultivate the soil and sow. Jesus uses the image of the seed and the sower to help people understand the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This is one of the few parables Jesus himself explains to his disciples. So, we don’t really have to make an effort to interpret and understand it. Jesus tells us that the seed that falls on the path represents those who hear the Word of God without understanding it, the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in their heart. This is an image of the people who leave their faith, leave the Church with the excuse that they do not understand God, that they do not understand the Sacred Scriptures, or they feel uncomfortable obeying the teachings of the Church. Today people easily get seduced by new ideologies, by new moral concepts that promise success and a fake happiness. And this does not allow the Kingdom of God to grow within us.
Another seed falls on rocky ground which represents those who hear the Word of God and receive it with joy. But when challenges and trials come, people immediately give up. The knowledge of God must be rooted in a permanent relationship with Him. For so many people the only encounter with God is on Sunday but the rest of the week there is no prayer, zero encounter with His Word. That’s why we complain and give up so easily when we face difficult times. Faith is only able to grow and deepen when we spend more time in prayer, when we are in permanent search for God.
Jesus continues the story and says that another seed falls among thorns. This seed refers to those who hear the Word of God, but then worldly anxiety and longing for wealth and happiness choke the Word and it bears no fruit. These are the people who focus so much on their material and emotional and intellectual needs. People who are always in permanent financial, physical, intellectual competition with others. People who spend a lot of their time and energy and even their resources thinking about themselves but forget about the spiritual component that is so essential in their lives, a reality that also needs to be nourished and strengthened.
And finally, Jesus concludes his explanation with the seed that falls on rich soil which “…is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”
These are the people who take seriously their Christian and religious commitment with God, their Baptism. People who make God the center and priority of their lives, of their jobs, of their family. People of permanent and profound prayer and silent reflection/meditation. People who are always interested and eager to learn more about their faith and to live it out with dedication and joy.
The Parable of the Sower is a real diagnosis of our faith Jesus is proposing us. Where are we now in our relationship with the Lord and with His Divine Word? Are we bearing fruits? Are we growing in the virtues? What kind of spiritual “soil” do we cultivate in our lives? Do we really allow the Word of God to penetrate and fill our whole being, our whole reality as Christians? What are those obstacles (rocks, thorns) that do not allow the Word of God to grow and bear fruit within us?
Perhaps too much social and material anxiety and preoccupation for the future? spiritual laziness and carelessness? Perhaps we are too busy right now? Maybe we are too young, and life is too short? or perhaps we are too old and there is no time? Maybe too ill and weak? or most likely we are extremely happy and successful in this life?
Let us make an honest and serious diagnosis of our faith, of our spiritual soil through this simple but extraordinary parable. It might surprise us; it might help us rediscover how important and essential the Kingdom of God is in our lives; it might lead us to make new changes.
The sower (which represents God in the parable) will continue sowing the seed of His Kingdom in the entire world, but it is up to us to receive it, to embrace it and to make it grow.

SUNDAY HOMILY 7/9/23 

       XIV SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us of the importance of humility in order to embrace the mystery of God. He praises the Father saying, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones…” For Jesus the ‘little ones’ are not only children but especially those who are humble and open to accepting the Will of God in their lives.

We, unfortunately, live in a world that only accepts and believes in what is rational and material. That’s why the idea of an invisible God who created us and loves us is losing its value and reality, and it’s being changed for new ideologies, for new beliefs.

God is certainly a reality we cannot fully understand or explain but we can certainly experience, embrace and come to love, but it requires humility. Only the simple and humble person is able to have a profound experience of God. We don’t need to study theology to fully embrace the mystery of God in our lives, we need humility.

In the Gospel, Jesus is joyful that the Father has hidden His divine mystery from those who consider themselves as wise and learned. Who think they do not need Him, and has revealed it to the humble, to the innocent, to the poor, to those who are insignificant to the world.

Let us remember that God manifests Himself in what is simple. Look at the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the most extraordinary mystery of our faith, the center of our Christian life. A sacrament in which God becomes so real and accessible to us through the simplicity of bread and wine. We always expect miracles, extraordinary manifestations of God that make us believe.

Jesus teaches us that we can find him also in those we consider less valuable in society, the sick, the prisoner, the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me…” We tend to love and welcome those who are well, those who can give us something, but we miss the real presence of God in those who suffer, in those who need us.

That’s why Jesus chose to preach and be around those who were excluded and discriminated by society. He was criticized for touching the lepers, for eating with tax collectors and prostitutes. Jesus knew and understood that only the virtue of humility can allow us to have a personal and strong relationship with the Father.

Humility also helps us recognize and be aware of our permanent necessity for God, that we have limitations, that we cannot control everything and that those burdens sometimes we carry on in our lives need to be unloaded on the Lord.

Jesus gives us these consoling words in today’s gospel, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” Humility leads us to trust in God’s power and love.

Let us cultivate this important virtue that makes us more human, more in connection with our brothers and sisters who suffer, and most importantly, that helps us enter in communion with the mystery of God the Father.

 

SUNDAY HOMILY 7/2/23                                                                                                     XIII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals to his disciples the price we all must pay in order to follow him. He says, “Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me…” 

Certainly, these words coming from Jesus are difficult to assimilate and understand. We are people who live in permanent relationship with others. We are all attached to each other by emotional connections. Family is the most important and significant connection we have in this life. It is a biological, emotional, and psychological connection we all experience.

How can we love Jesus (whom we never see) more than the people we see every day and interact with? How can we put Jesus over a mother and a father, over my children? This is only possible when we come to experience the love of God in our lives because the love of God brings us to the highest level of our humanity, to the fulfillment and realization of our humanity.

In today’s gospel Jesus is not asking us to make a choice between our loved ones and God. He knows how important and fundamental our families and friends are in our lives. When Jesus compares our love for others to the love for God, he is making us aware of how important it is to be free in order to allow Him to fulfill our lives.

It is true that our families, our friends, and the people we love in this life can make us feel safe, loved, happy. Even Jesus himself wanted to be around people. He grew up with Mary and Joseph as his parents, he chose 12 disciples to be with him, he prayed and suffered for them. The Gospel of John tells us that He cried in front of his friend’s tomb, Lazarus, he experienced the pain of rejection, loneliness, betrayal. But he knew and understood the limitations of human relationships.

We see how easily parents abandon their children, how children reject their parents, how many families experience brokenness in their marriages, how many divorces, how friends betray and deceive their own friends. And of course, we cannot forget and deny the reality that people die, the people we love the most can die.

Jesus is not asking us to choose between people and God, to abandon our loved ones; Jesus is asking us to be aware of what is important and essential in this life, what the real source of happiness and security is, and that is God.

Jesus teaches us that God is not a Father, God is the Father, the only one. That’s why Jesus asked his disciples several times, life does not consist of possessions and in today’s Gospel he tells us, our happiness and security cannot depend on people.

We are to love everyone and especially those who are closer to us (father, mother, husband, wife, children) but never putting God aside. God must become our priority, the center of our daily life, the only source of our joy and peace.

Nobody in this life (not even our loved ones) can fulfill completely our need and desire for happiness and immortality. Only God, our heavenly Father can do it. Jesus calls us today to love, to love father and mother, to love our children, to love husband and wife, to love our friends but without losing our focus on God, without rejecting the cross,

Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me, whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me…” 

SUNDAY HOMILY 6/25/23

                                               XII SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)

In today’s gospel Jesus calls his disciples to not be afraid of those who kill the body. This particular gospel was written in a very challenging and difficult time for the Apostles and the first Christian communities. In the first three centuries of Christianity the followers of Jesus were facing persecution and death. Many of them were killed by the Roman authorities. This passage was written in order to encourage and support those brothers and sisters who were suffering for their faith.

The first Christians knew how scary it was to suffer, to lose everything, even life. Even Jesus himself was afraid. We all remember that dramatic episode recorded in the gospels, the agony of the Lord in the garden the night before his passion. The gospels describe that moment as a moment of intense suffering, loneliness and fear. Jesus was afraid to be alone, so he asked his disciples to stay and pray with him, “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 

He knew what was going to happen to him and, as a fully human, he felt the intensity of fear, “He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” 

The gospel according to Luke gives us another important detail, “He was in such agony, and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground…” Peter denied Jesus three times in front of people because he was afraid to recognize Jesus as his master, as his follower.

We are living in times of uncertainty and Fear is a reality we all face at different levels, it is a fundamental part of our humanity, of our human nature. And God knows this, He created us, He is aware of our weaknesses and limitations, He doesn’t want us to suffer, He wants us to use our suffering for something bigger and better, to transform us, that is why Jesus says to his disciples “fear no one…do not be afraid.”

Being afraid of something does not mean we are weak; it means we are humans. It does not mean we have to run away when we are afraid, it does not mean we have to hide. The only way to defeat our fears is by facing them, by confronting them. When Jesus says, “fear no one, do not be afraid” he is calling us to confront our fears with trust and confidence in Him. He calls us to trust, to believe, to keep going despite all of our fears.

Let us remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah in our first Reading today, “The LORD is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph…for to you I have entrusted my cause. Praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” 

How important and essential it is to trust in the Lord, especially when we feel vulnerable, weak, confused, afraid, God does not take away our fears, but He gives us the strength we need to face them, to keep going and that makes us stronger, wiser, it helps us grow and mature, it is very easy to say it than do it, but we have the example of many Saints that placed their complete trust, complete surrender to Our Father in Heaven,  one of them St. John Paul II who lived through difficult and fearful times and left this message to us “I plead with you-never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid”, God will never leave us alone in the midst of suffering, He will allow the fear to be a source of strength within us, so we can help others when they fear too, The Lord is with us, lets fear no one, let’s do not be afraid.

SUNDAY HOMILY 6/18/23

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few”

In today’s Gospel Jesus feels compassion for people who are wandering around without direction, without guidance, “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd…” and asks his disciples to pray for more laborers, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

This particular gospel is mostly used to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. We also see the 12 disciples who were sent forth to preach the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven, to heal the sick, to cast out demons as the image of the priest or the bishop. But it is important to recognize and understand that (although some men and women are especially chosen and called to do a specific job within the Church, priests and religious men and women) we all who have received the Sacrament of Baptism, who identify as Christians, who come to Mass are called not only to pray for vocations but also become ourselves “laborers for the harvest.

We cannot reduce and limit the work of evangelization only to those who are called to the priesthood and religious life. Evangelization is a job that belongs to all, mothers, fathers, single, married couples, workers, retired, children, teenagers, young people, doctors, teachers, etc.

Oftentimes we hear that there is a crisis of vocations in the Church, that there are not enough priests. And probably it’s true, but I think the real crisis in the Church is happening in our families, in the Catholic families. The first promoters of the Christian faith, the first catechists, the first evangelizers are the parents and grandparents. Families are the first “laborers that God needs to work for the harvest.

It is rewarding to see parents and grandparents who are still concerned about the spiritual wellbeing and growth of their families, especially their children and grandchildren. That kind of laborers for the harvest is what we need to pray for.

We continue praying for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, but we also need to pray and promote the Christian vocation of Catholic parents and grandparents, especially young families. During these 4 years as a Religion teacher in SF-SS School I have had the opportunity to teach and evangelize these wonderful young people, but I’ve also learned the reality, the lack of faith, the absence of God in many of their families, the lack of participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. It is not the shortage of priests and religious vocations that we should be worried about, it is the crisis in the family. That’s the real crisis I perceive in the Church, that’s what we need to pray for, to “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” To pray that our Catholic families become real and authentic domestic churches where children and the new generations may grow up learning about God, who He is and why a relationship with Him is so necessary and essential, no matter if at the end they will become doctors, lawyers or teachers, or parents.

If our Catholic moms and dads are not committed to their faith, never pray with their children, only show up for Mass at special events (funerals and weddings) it will be so hard for children, for young people to create a Christian identity and establish a strong relationship with God.

I dare to say that there are more priests, more vocations to the priesthood than families and Catholics really committed to their baptismal faith. That’s the real crisis the Catholic Church is facing. There’s still a lot of work to do, especially today when the world is facing so many changes that challenge our faith, that challenge the Gospel.

The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few.” We all who come to mass every Sunday, who identify ourselves as Christians, are the laborers for the harvest of the Lord and we need to ask the master of the harvest to send out more, not only priests but also Catholics committed to their faith, families that (through their testimony, love for God and faith) help the Church grow and sanctify.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.

SUNDAY HOMILY 6/11/23

SOLEMNITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI

    Today we celebrate the Solemnity of CORPUS CHRISTI, the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. A solemnity that reminds us that the sacrament of the Eucharist is the center of our Christian life and faith. Jesus says, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”
The sacrament of the Eucharist is the answer to that important question in today’s gospel, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” It was really hard for people to understand and embrace Jesus’ words, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Even today it is hard for so many people (including Catholics) and for the new generations to believe that Jesus is really present (body, soul and divinity) in the consecrated host and wine.
It is certainly not easy to believe in this mystery because we are conditioned by our physical senses. We only perceive a piece of bread and wine, it looks and tastes like bread and wine but it is exactly in the simplicity of bread and wine that God wants to become real to us.
TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND EAT OF IT, THIS IS MY BODY, TAKE THIS CUP AND DRINK FROM IT, THIS IS MY BLOOD.    These are the words the priest pronounces at the very moment of the consecration, when the bread becomes real flesh, and the wine real blood of our Lord, not a symbol, not just a mere religious or theological idea, but a reality.
It is really extraordinary that a simple piece of bread and a little of wine become the body and blood of our Lord, something that is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit, but the real miracle that happens in this beautiful Sacrament is that God (being so powerful, almighty, creator) humbles Himself to become a simple bread and wine for our benefit, for our salvation.
That’s why the only way to fully embrace this mystery in our hearts and believe in its reality is by becoming humble people, the person who humbles himself before God is able to recognize His greatness and power in the simplicity of His mystery. To fully understand what really happens every time we celebrate holy Mass requires our humility.
It is ok to doubt, it is ok to ask questions, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Is it real the Body and Blood of Jesus? Can this celebration do something good for me, for my life, for my soul? Can God really save me through a piece of bread?—but let us not underestimate the simplicity and humility of God.
When I think and preach about the Eucharist I always remember that powerful quote from the book ‘the little prince,’ that states, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”
And this is absolutely true about the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Sacrament of the Eucharist always reminds us that it is in those things that are simple and humble (sometimes invisible to our eyes, sometimes insignificant) where God performs His greatest miracles, where His presence becomes so real and powerful to us.
TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU AND EAT OF IT, THIS IS MY BODY, TAKE THIS CUP AND DRINK FROM IT, THIS IS MY BLOOD.

SUNDAY HOMILY (6/4/23)

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, the greatest mystery of our Christian faith. As a mystery, we know, it is impossible for our human and limited mind to comprehend it. The mystery of the Holy Trinity (understood as a community of three different persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit but only one God) is beyond our logical and systematic thinking. That’s why the mystery of God is not a reality to be analyzed and totally understood, it is rather a reality to be experienced, and the only way to do it is through “love.”
The gospel the Church asks us to meditate today is a very short passage from the gospel of John in which the evangelist describes the purpose of the Holy Trinity, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”——-“God so loved the world…” is what really gives meaning to everything we believe. God the Father revealed Himself to humankind not to show us that He is God and powerful but simply because He loves us as a Father loves his children.
Let us remember the first reading today, Moses is before the presence of God and God describes Himself as, “…a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
St John in his first letter gives us the best definition of God, Deus caritas est (God is love), “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love…” That’s why there is nothing more spiritual, more sublime, more divine than love.
Our experience of love in this life (although imperfect and limited) is the only way we have, the only tool we all possess to get to know God and get closer to Him.
When we love one another, we experience the reality of God in our lives. Love is what makes us to be together, in permanent communication and encounter, love is what leads us to forgive even the cruelest offenses against us; love is what makes us endure suffering and pain for those we love the most. That’s how Jesus showed us the love of the Father, through his suffering on the cross. When we experience and practice love for others without selfishness, without interest, with perfect freedom, sincerity and honesty of heart, we are able to embrace the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity within us because that’s how the Holy Trinity is described, a community of love. The Father loves the Son and that love between the Father and the Son is the presence of the Holy Spirit.
We certainly cannot explain love, there is not science behind love, we just experience it and enjoy it. The same happens with God, we cannot explain who He is, we only experience His love for us and enjoy it. ——That’s why love is the most perfect prayer addressed to God, the most perfect sacrifice offered to Him, the most perfect and realistic encounter with the mystery of God.
The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity calls us and leads us to love as much as we can, at any opportunity, without excuses, without selfishness, without conditions because this is the only gift that leads us to see God as He is and to experience His eternal love and compassion for us.
The only way to embrace the mystery of God, the most Holy Trinity, is by loving one another, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”