Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth

Moments for the Word – a live presentation to the American Bible Society staff in New York City on November 3, 2008.

To speak of the spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth entails a heuristic, exegetical and hermeneutical work, which consist of coming closer to the biblical sources. These sources speak of his person, his ministry, his life projects, his Gospel, his announcements, his denunciations, and his conflicts; as well as of his passion, death and resurrection. Among the biblical sources, especially, we should study the texts of the New Testament; more specifically, the works and words of Jesus as they were seen and heard, kept in memory and in oral tradition, to later be written down by the primitive Christian communities who authored the Gospels that have come to us today. Besides having been lived and interpreted by the millenary tradition of Christianity and the history of the church.

The hermeneutical work, specifically, will consist of being able to perform an “intelligent” and detailed reading of the Bible; as well as being capable of noting the “historical data” found in the confessions of faith made by Christians –in the light of the Passion-- about the person and works of Jesus of Nazareth.

The exegetical work that seeks to search for clues about Jesus’ spirituality must keep in mind that, among other things, not all texts written about Jesus reached our present day; and that not all that Jesus said and did was preserved in writing (John 21.35).

After these preliminary points are clear –in reference to the way we should approach the neo-testamentary sources-- it is of utmost importance to know that the original term “spirituality” has being loosing its original content. It has lost its full sense and its value is corrupted. So much so, that it’s meaning refers to something “Light.” The term has been used –and often enough handled— from astrology to Zen Buddhism, from the Hindu “mantra” to the diverse religious markets of “New Age.” Spirituality then, these days, refers to a subject far from reality or something that –in the worse case— helps us escape from it and its commonality. Spirituality is now something venal, of no use; especially when we live immersed in a society that maximizes and gives privilege to what is tangible, what is pragmatic, what is useful and what is “material.”

Also, spirituality –lately and wrongly-- is tied to a pertinent subject handled only by religious groups or institutions, or by those who follow and practice religion. In fact, the word “spirituality” has come to mean something oppose to the institutionalized religious practice. This to such an extent that there are people who call themselves religious --while not belonging to any religious institution-- but who are deeply “spiritual.”

I would like that here, in the most simple and direct manner, we could understand for “spirituality” the deepest motivation of a human that brings the whole to be, to do and to work in the world. Spirituality is therefore, the peregrination that each human being does –or has to do-- to his own inside looking for his own essence, his reason for being and for existing. This journey and walk generates an encounter with “good”; in other words, a face-to-face with the divine tendencies in us because we are God’s creatures. This encounter brings together our whole being and gives sense and direction to our works, our words and our every day living in the world. It inaugurates and gives a new significance to the relationship we establish with others and with the Transcendent. Spirituality is, therefore, a taking of consciousness, a “Cosmo vision” that manifests itself in a style of being and behaving in the world. It is an attitude, a style of living that shows --and gives fruit-- in acts and words.

“Spirituality” gives man a responsibility as the main character in the story and the builder of a better world according to a new criteria and a specific set of values. When man chooses to dispense of the spirituality which inspires him, or chooses to abandon his search for his own spirituality, then life looses its reason for being.

The biblical recount of the Baptism of Jesus –as well as that of the Transfiguration-- makes everything very clear to us if we try to find the clues or the basis for Jesus’ spirituality. In both cases, the voice from the clouds says “this is my own dear Son.” (Mt. 3.17; Mk. 9.7).

If in the Old Testament God reveals himself as the “I Am” (Ex. 3.14, 15; Is.43.11; 45.5; 48.12); in the New Testament of Jesus, God comes out of himself (ad extra) and goes to the saving encounter with man to reveal himself as Father. Therefore, God’s revelation is before anything “Good News” (Mt. 4.23); a happy and hopeful news that gives human beings confidence, trust and hope; an eternal, complete and abundant life full of happiness: “I came so that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest.” (Mt. 10.10).

Then the most original and new, but at the same time the most proper and regular in the life and teaching of Jesus, is that he calls God “Abba” (Gal 4.6). So, if God exists for Jesus and for every man as a “merciful” Father (Lk. 6.36) --“He makes the sun rise on both good and bad people” (Mt. 5.45)-- then Jesus dedicates himself faithfully and unconditionally to live for God as Son: This man really was the Son of God! (Mk. 15.39). He always did God’s will (Lk. 3.49; Mt. 26.39), which was to love and serve all people as brothers and sisters: “I am giving you a new command. You must love each other . . . “The Son of Man did not come to be a master, but a slave.” (Jn. 13.34; Mt. 20.28)

Therefore, Jesus’ spirituality does not come from, nor is it being sustained by, the religious structure of his people, nor the Scriptures, traditions or worship traditions of his time, which he often criticized: “You Pharisees and teachers are show-offs, and you’re in for trouble! You give God a tenth of the spices from your garden, such as mint, dill, and cumin. Yet you neglect the more important matters of the Law, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Mt. 23.23) “Don’t make my Father’s house a market place.” (Jn. 2.16) The spirituality of Jesus is based on a new type of experience: the knowledge that God is “his” Father and “our” Father” (Jn. 20.17; Mt. 6.9), the assurance of knowing that without paying a price He is “the very loved Son of God” (Jn. 15.16; Mt. 10.8; 17.26) without the requirement of other precepts, or previous rites, and without the need for sacrifices or holocausts. Later, during the exercise of his ministry, Jesus would explain his independence, his audacity and prophetic freedom when facing the traditions, precepts, laws, and cult practices; and when facing those who hold social and religious power: “Go tell that fox . . .” (Lk. 13.32) “My kingdom doesn’t belong to this world” (Jn. 18.36).

Then, Jesus’ spirituality, his most intimate understanding, the breath of his whole existence, project and ministry originates from his experience of God. I highlight and expose here the word “experience” to a knowledge of God strictly gnoseological, nemotechnical, conceptual, and rational. Jesus’ ancestry, in the Old Testament, declared features of God according to the different and individual experiences they had in their history as a people. So that, during the time of the exodus they declared him as the “Liberator”; and in times of kings, they confessed him as “The King”. In the time of the priests they confessed him as “Holy”; and in times of battle he was “the God of battle”. In good times he was “Our God” and in bad times they claimed he had “forgotten their pact”, etc. . . .

In other words, the known and confessed traits of God in the Old Testament are born and based on a concrete historical experience. Jesus, just as his ancestors, construes God as a very personal experience. He discovers and confesses of God –the same God of the Old Testament-- the traits of a merciful and compassionate Father (Cf. Lk. 15; Mt. 18.33; 20.15)

The experience of God as “father” and the understood “affiliation,” marks the temperament, the personality, the attitude, the postures, the options, the acts, the words; the risks taken, the passion, the death and the resurrection of Jesus. From then on, starting with the acceptance of God as Father, Jesus dedicates himself to live as the Son: to love and serve all peoples as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father, because “The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them.”(Jn. 15.13)

This experience integrates all known angles of what we call the “public ministry” of Jesus of Nazareth. The knowledge that God is the Father is the breath of his life, the reason for being and working in the world. In other words, God’s paternity is the clue and foundation of his spirituality taken to the ultimate consequence. (Mt. 27.46)

An elementary reading of the New Testament makes very clear that, in Jesus, God is never a concept, but a historical and every day experience. Therefore, Jesus does not preach a doctrine or philosophy about being God in one’s inside (ad intra), or about the way of conceiving God. On the other hand, he proposes “Good News” about a new way of existing in the world, starting with the certainty that God is Father of all, and that “humans” are loved by God as “sons and daughters”: “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (Lk. 15.31) From this can be derived the commitment to build a world based on love. In other words, create a world with freedom, solidarity for justice, and reconciliation for forgiveness and peace.

The certainty that God is his Father gives Jesus a style of life as “Son” which manifests joy, happiness, hope, humility, obedience and trust in the Father’s love. God’s loving paternity is in Jesus’ life a permanent and daily presence, which “encourages” him to live as Son. (Lk. 5.16; Mk. 6.46)

Even if Jesus assumes and respects the previous confessions of faith and discoveries made about God, he distances himself from his ancestors by not proposing or following a “religious system”. Instead he preached a new and profound manner of being and staying in the world; a new style of life, the style of the children of God: for now we are not servants or slaves but children, with the freedom of Sons. (Jn. 15.15; Ro. 8.21; Mt. 17.26) This life as children responds to the ancestral question and constant search for happiness in each human being: What must I do to have eternal life? (Lk. 10.25; 18.18)

So, while the “religious system” in the time of Jesus and among the people tries to give glory to God through the strict and external adherence to the Law, precepts and rites, Jesus seeks to associate the life of man to God and in that way bring closer the life of man to the life of God. The first and fundamental preoccupation of Jesus is man and his well-being, from a divine perspective: the horizon of cosmo-vision and understanding of a God who is Father, close and kind: “Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’” (Mt. 9.13; 12.7)

Reading the Gospels it is clear that this “Good News” is easier and sooner understood and followed –yesterday and today—by those who need God’s mercy: by sinners, by those marginalized by the established socio-religious system, by the publicans, the ill, the women, the children, the poor and impoverished by various circumstances . . . Those are the ones who come closer to “listen” to Jesus (Lk. 15.1) and to find benefit in the mercy of God, manifested in the words and the works of the Son.

A second group presented by the New Testament as listening to Jesus is made up by the High Priests, Scribes, Pharisees, elders, authorities of the people, and holders of social power –who at the time were identified with cultural and religious power in the Temple. They came close to Jesus “to test him” (Mt. 22.15 ff) or to find reasons to “take him out.” And the reason is that Jesus, in his time and among the people, became a threat against the status quo which identified the political-legal with the sacred-cultural.

Jesus calls the men of his day and to every man and woman of good will, to a dignified and happy life; the life as children of God. Jesus presents God as a Father, worried about the fate of his children, especially the ones with most need. A good Father, who comes to meet his children; and who emotionally moved by them, hugs and kisses them and gives them goods and blessings. (Cf. Lk. 15.20; 10.30) So Jesus, brakes the rules, even sacred laws –like the ones for the Sabbath—in order to favor man (Mt. 12.1ff)

We can say that Jesus’ spirituality is Anthropology enlightened by a Theology; or a Theology made specific by Anthropology. Even better, Jesus’ spirituality is Theological Anthropology. In Jesus’ spirituality, the love given daily by God should manifest itself in the love we have one for the other, because “God will treat you exactly as you treat others” (Mt. 7.2); and the worship we give God is the offrend of our lives to service –with works— to our brothers and sisters, especially the needy. “Leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.” (Mt. 5.24) Even more, this criterion, this lifestyle, this spirituality as a child of God and brother to all men defines our salvation or condemnation: “When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. . . . Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Mt. 25. 35, 40) We must understand as salvation our happiness in the here and now which will continue in the beyond of history.

Even more, according to Jesus, human relationships and the forming of the world as a possible space for happiness for man, for all human kind, “as the new heaven and the new earth” (Is. 66.22) are the measure of our relationship with God. Therefore, the place for the worship of God is no longer the Temple, but each human being. No longer is it the stone Temple, but the the temple of live stones: “You surely know that you are God’s temple.”(1 Co. 3.16; 1 P 2.5)

Everything said before explains clearly why Luke, together with the first Christians, applied to Jesus and his mission the words of Isaiah, when he reads the passage that says:
“The Lord’s Spirit has come to me,
because he has chosen me
to tell the good news to the poor.
The Lord has sent me
to announce freedom for prisoners,
to give sight to the blind,
to free everyone who suffers,
and to say, ‘this is the year the Lord has chosen.’” (Lk. 4.18, 19)

Therefore, Jesus does not invite us to seek God as an intellectual, intimate and pious search, but he invites us to work in the construction of the Kingdom of God: But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants.” (Mt. 6.33) In other words, put God’s Sovereignty in history first. To seek God’s kingdom is to build spaces of life in a world, where God would be the Sovereign king to the measure of how humans love each other as brothers and sisters; recognizing that all are children of God, and that he is a Kind Father, compassionate and merciful (Lk. 11.13). These spaces are profoundly “divine” when they are truly “human.” In other words, they are divine if they contribute to a happy and dignified life for every man that comes to this world. All this takes for granted justice, solidarity, freedom, peace and bread.

Also because of this, when he invites to conversion --that is, to the “return” to God’s house-- shockingly, for the people of his time, Jesus invites the brothers to return and to “construct” just conditions: “Lord, ‘I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated.’ ” (Lk. 19.8). So, according to Jesus the “sanctification” of the world happens when “humanizing” occurs.

To this spiritual experience is where Jesus invites us and invites his disciples of all times. Moreover, the novelty of our Christian life becomes authentic --as the first Christians understood and lived it, celebrated it, confessed it, and wrote it down (Ac. 2.42; 4.32)-- when we are capable to call God: Father (Ga. 4.6) then we are capable to love each other as brothers and sisters, because “Our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life.” (1 Jn. 3.14 ff). In other words, we are capable of living in and by the same spirituality of Jesus.

Monday, October 6, 2008

“Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)

In a letter dated February 8, 2008, the Reverend Dennis C. Dickerson, Ph.D., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American Bible Society confirmed ―via His Excellency Nikola Eterović, Archbishop of Sisak and General Secretary of the Bishops’ Synod— the offer previously made to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to prepare and publish a special edition of the Polyglot Bible – Biblia Polyglotta.

The Context

This special edition of the multilingual Bible is intended as a gift from the American Bible Society to the Pope and to all the participants in the XII General Assembly of the Synod of Catholic Bishops, which will take place on October 5 to 26, 2008 in Vatican City. The Synod’s theme is The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. As agreed upon by the American Bible Society and the Vatican, this Polyglot Bible will feature the Old Testament in five languages: Hebrew/Aramaic, Greek, Latin, English, and Spanish; and the New Testament in four languages: Greek, Latin, English, and Spanish.

The Text

In order to accomplish this illustrious undertaking, it was necessary for the American Bible Society to acquire the publishing rights, for the various Bible versions in the languages mentioned, from the following publishing houses:

  • Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, Edited by Karl Elliger and Wilhelm Rudolph / 1977 and 1997 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
  • The Septuagint, Edited by Alfred Rahlfs / 2006 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.
  • The Catholic Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, 1965, 1966 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
  • La Biblia de Jerusalén / 1998 / Editorial Desclée De Brouwer, S.A.
  • La Nova Vulgata / 1998 – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  • The Greek New Testament / 1993 Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.

This edition of the Bible is being published by Grafica da Biblia, the printing arm of the Bible Society of Brazil. It is one of the largest Bible printing plants in the world, which currently stands at eight million units annually. Since 1995, 75.4 million Bibles and Testaments. Grafica da Biblia was built with a significant investment of the American Bible Society in 1995.

The Polyglot Bible, commemorating the Bishops’ Synod, was conceived—not as an edition for mass distribution—but as an edition with texts that could be used in liturgical assemblies, and that would have academic and exegetical merit. It will be a 3,200-page deluxe, leather-bound edition of the Bible, embellished with gold and silver titles, and dedicated to Pope Benedict XVI. The final design and production of this Polyglot Bible will be approved and endorsed by the American Bible Society and the Editrice Vaticana (the publishing house of the Vatican). It will also be an edition which Pope Benedict XVI may present as a gift to heads of state and other dignitaries who visit the Vatican.

The American Bible Society

The Polyglot Bible Project complements the mission of the American Bible Society whose purpose is to make the Bible available in the most diverse parts of the world and to the greatest number of people possible. This is done in various languages and formats so that all people may experience its life-changing message.

Founded 192 years ago, the American Bible Society is the oldest and most prestigious, non-denominational organization in the United States. It is not a church, nor is it affiliated with any denomination. However, because of the Protestant origins of our country, it is understandable that through the years, the American Bible Society has been perceived as an organization which has, to a large extent, served mostly non-Catholic churches.

The American Bible Society does not engage in doctrinal discussions, and thus is free to carry out its biblical mandate ecumenically, as it seeks to share God’s Word to all believers in Christ.

Evangelization: a common task, an ecumenical commitment

According to Monsignor Eterović, while the publication of the Polyglot Bible is designed to help us “rediscover the riches of God’s Word manifested in the person of Jesus Christ—the Eternal Word Incarnate—and its perennial importance in the life of the church, in the life of the ecclesiastic communities, in the life of society in general, and in the life of the believer,” it has now become an ecumenical edition, since its texts (all having the imprimatur and the nihil obstat of the Catholic Church) originate —as is the case with the English text—from the Protestant Council of Churches. Therefore, the symbolic value and contribution that this initiative of the American Bible Society represents for ecumenism and the work of all believers in Christ: namely, to spread the Gospel throughout the world, are enormous.

The Polyglot Bible allows us to transcend our historical foundation and reach beyond our traditions and differences both in the doctrinal and liturgical realms, as well as our diverse religious expressions. It also undergirds the common bond in ecumenism between Christians and Pope Benedict XVI’s Pontificate: the centrality that the Word of God will have in our personal, ecclesial, and social histories.

As Christians, we rejoice in the production of this biblical initiative which contributes, in a significant way, to the fulfillment of our Lord’s desire: “That all . . . may be one.”

(Production details of the Polyglot Bible:

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Fountain of Christian Spirituality
A Reading of the “Lord’s Prayer”

In an encounter such as this, where I have been asked to share with you a reflection on the fountain of Christian spirituality, it is of utmost importance, in the first place, to define the main terms in the title. In other words, it is important to define what we understand as ”spirituality” and what is specifically “Christian”, in the life of a believer in Christ.

The term “spirituality” refers –in every state, situation, life style or belief-- to a reflexive “taking of consciousness” about the most intimate and typical area of the human being who does it, of the deepest and most profound personal identity, and of the reason for its existence in the world. In such an exercise –done using various methods, through the history of humanity, and especially in the great religions of the world—human beings, in their introspection, end up opening themselves up to the world around, to others, and to the divine. They receive answers that respond to great questions about their origin, mission and the final destiny of their own being and existence, and that of others. Therefore, let’s say for now, that from this series of personal and/or communitarian understanding are born and fed all the philosophical and theological systems.

In the case of the Christian religion, this journey to the deepest part of man and his circumstances is done through, what we call, “prayer.” And prayer, understood as a realization of consciousness by the human being who --open to the world and to the “Transcendent”-- ends up realizing and recognizing himself as a creature, a finite being, dependent from/of a loving and all-invading creative presence we call “God,” who embraces everything, and fills everything. This understanding generates, (within whoever realizes it) a particular “life style.” In other words, this conscious realization of Christian prayer that would seem, at first look, something simply known and intellectual, becomes later –after prayer— a daily practice in life, with its own and defined characteristic. It is validated or invalidated by the results.

If we say that, in the Christian life, coming to consciousness or “spirituality” is done through prayer, then the teaching to his disciples of “The Lord’s Prayer” by Jesus himself, a fact well known by all and present in the Gospels of Matthew (6.9-13) and Luke (11.2-4), is evidently what helps the most when we mean to reflect and answer the matter of identity, needed and due to the specifically “Christian” in the life of men and women believers in Christ.

For now it is enough to notice that The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew appears in the middle of a Gospel discourse known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” The biblical exegetes and hermeneutist say that it gathers and contains the highest degree of the “exact words of the Lord,” just as they were pronounced by Jesus in the precise moment. Therefore, it is the section of the Gospels less “contaminated” by the still present veterotestamentary mentality of the Gospel writers (newly converted Jews), or by the “theological intentionality”, the plan of the Gospel writer or by the Christian community who transmitted to us the biblical text.

The Lord’s Prayer in Luke, on the other hand, answers the request that one of his disciples makes of Jesus, when he saw Jesus pray (as so many other times): “Lord, teach us to pray. . . “. The request can also be understood as: “Lord, show us your secret, the secret of your intimacy, of your ‘spirituality’; which is the most intimate formula of your life and relationship with God, with the world and with other people . . . Lord, teach us to become deeply aware, and from that awareness will come the understanding of your relationship with the God, the experience of everyday life, your works and your words . . .”. Following this interpretation “The Lord’s Prayer” is then, a condensed synthesis of Jesus true being, of his interior essence, of his “spirituality”, of all the Gospel, of the gospels, of the complete New Testament and, because of it “The Lord’s Prayer” becomes the norm of spirituality for those who know they are disciples of Christ.

Therefore, I mean here to speak about the spirituality of Christians from the perspective of Jesus’ spirituality. I aim to speak about “Christian spirituality” by reflecting on the spirituality of Jesus of Nazareth, which is implicit and made into an elemental synthesis, but fundamental, in “The Lord’s Prayer.” If we accept that like all human texts, “The Lord’s Prayer” is susceptible to different ways of looking at it, and different ways of focusing on it (depending on the context from which the reading is done), I would like here, --as a special contribution and emphasis in this Pauline Year, (recently called for by Pope Benedict XVI)-- to refer to the reading, that of Jesus and of his Gospel, was assumed, lived, suffered, reflected, preached and systemized by the Apostle of Tarsus and that today can be sensed, imagined, and savored in his “Theology,” which is clearly shown in his writings.


Never before in history, had any man referred to God in this manner, or related in this fashion with the Creator. “Abba” (Padre) is a Hebrew term that implies full confidence, full dependency and complete tenderness. Besides, to call God “Father” was a profanity in the biblical mentality of that moment, starting a new image of God; but especially, a new type of relationship, tie and “religion” with God. It meant to treat, live, reveal and announce an image of God, with features and treatment of “Father,” different and --in some cases-- contradicting the image of God as described in the Old Testament. This was the greatest gift of Jesus to the world; his best and greatest “Good News” to the world. The God of the Old Testament revealed in Jesus is “Father”; and all that is new means a break with the past.

Some years after the historical experience of Jesus of Nazareth, which his disciples and many others who personally knew him, saw him and listened to him testified about, Paul of Tarsus said that the life of Christians was characterized by “being able to call God, as Jesus did, Abba Father”: “Now that we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. And his Spirit tells us that God is our Father. You are no longer his slaves. You are God’s children…! (Ga 4.6ff)

Life as Children!

Therefore, we are “children of God”! To the treatment and revelation of having God as our “Father” belongs the recognition of our “divine” affiliation. Jesus calls God “Father” because he recognizes himself as his “Son;” and he is accepted, throughout the New Testament, as “the Son”: “This is my own dear Son…” (Mt 3.17), “The only one who truly knows the Father is the Son.” (Mt 11.27)

Jesus teaches us to relate to God as “Father,” and with this relationship goes a daily life-style of “children,” similar to the life-style of “the Son”: “He has always known who his chosen ones would be. He had decided to let them become like his own Son” (Ro 8.29). A life of “children” characterized by humble obedience, unconditional trust in the power and compassion of the Father, gratitude towards the Father and the joyful hope in the power and the love of the “kind heavenly Father”: “I am going to the one who is my Father…, as well as your Father” (Jn 20.17), “Your Father in heaven knows that you need all these.” (Mt 6.32), “Even the hairs on your head are counted” (Mt 10.30).

Moreover, we could say here, that “the Beatitudes” describe the profile and program of the life of one who has “poor spirit”: a son, a disciple, one that has recognized in his life God as the Father; and –being gentle, merciful, clean of heart and hungry and thirsty for justice,-- becomes someone persecuted, working for peace, following the example of Jesus himself.

All this means that Jesus, at the same time that he reveals God as “Father”, reveals and elevates man to the dignity and life condition of “son” of God.

Paul –as Jesus himself—understands the new condition and life as a son. And according to Paul, the “son” --the “new man”, the resurrected man, the man in Christ –differs greatly from the previous life as “slave.” Before Christ: “Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants.” (Jn 15.15) “. . . and would share in the glorious freedom of his children.” (Ro 8.21), “My friends, we are children of the free woman and not of the slave.” (Ga 5.31) “Then their own people don’t have to pay.” (Mt 17.26) “The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.” (Ro.8.2)

Christian spirituality, therefore, defines and accompanies in man a specific lifestyle: the lifestyle of the “children of God.” This is the same lifestyle taught and lived by the Son (with caps): Jesus of Nazareth.

Christian spirituality is, as stated up to this point, an itinerary, a following, a discipleship that makes us children –similar to the Son—so that by Him, with Him, and in Him we reach the Father who forms us “in his image” (Gen 1.26), “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (Jn 14.9) “Do as God does. After all, you are his dear children.” (Ef 5.1) “You will be acting like your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5.45)

It is this process, of making us similar to the Son, which Theology calls the process of “Christification” (sons in the Son) until it is possible to say as Paul said: “I have died, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2.20).

When we make possible this life in the “there but not quite” of our daily, personal and community history —at the same time— the process of ”Trinitization” occurs. All of humanity goes, enters, and reaches the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit and all the Cosmos, “all creation is still groaning and is in pain, like a woman about to give birth” (Ro 8.22); and this will happen, until “God means everything to everyone” (1 Co 15.28).

Christian spirituality, described in the most direct way, is an itinerary, a lifestyle that consists of making us similar to the Father: compassionate and merciful as He, who “makes de sun rise on both good and bad people. And sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong” (Mt 5.45) making us similar to the Son. This is our first vocation, our first calling, our most important historical aim: “to be the children of God” (Jn 1.12).


And if those of us who say “The Lord’s Prayer” say “Our”, it means that we are all children of the same Father, and, therefore “brothers and sisters.” To the recognition of God as “Father” corresponds the recognition of us as his “children” and, therefore, “brothers and sisters” among ourselves.

Christian spirituality, therefore, asks and preaches a fraternal relationship with all . . . Moreover, in the relation/religion with others we find the “Christian” measure of the relation/religion with God: “So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God.” (Mt 5.23, 24) Therefore, “have pity on others, just as your Father has pity on you.” (Lk 6.36) Because, “the way you treat others will be the way you will be treated.” (Mk 4.24)

An not only that: but Christians should understand that the authenticity of their spirituality, of their discipleship, and of all their lives consists in having as a permanent program in life and in everything, to do the Father’s will, which revealed in his Son consists in loving each other. “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.” (Jn 13.34, 35) Because “our love for each other proves that we have gone from death to life. But if you don’t love each other, you are still under the power of death.” (1 Jn 3.14) “God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him.” (1 Jn 4.8)

The “love” commandment is lived through works and special dedication to those who need the help most: the weak, the dispossessed, the sinners, the poor and the made poor; the marginalized and rejected of the world, the excluded by society and blocked out from their opportunities: “My Father, . . . I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people” (Mt 11.25), “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me” (Mt 25.40), because, “God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important” (1 Co 1.27 ff), “God drags strong rulers from their thrones and puts humble people in places of power.” (Lk 1.51).

“Son and Brother of all”: this was Jesus; and is what any man or woman who calls himself/herself “a Christian” has to be and do every day and in every state and circumstance in life. This is a new vision of God, of man and of the world. Because when man thinks he can make God disappear from the historical scene, or live with his back towards God –when he cannot recognize himself as a “child” of God—he becomes arrogant, capable of the greatest atrocities, and lives in competence and enmity with all.

Christian spirituality, therefore, allows for human cohabitation through the “fraternity” manifested in forgiveness, truth, freedom, solidarity, justice, peace, and abundant life.

Therefore, in the words “Our Father” --the first two words of the “Lord’s Prayer”-- all hate, violence, vengeance, division, all kinds of evil, and death (in thousands of manifestations) are overcome; and life, “life in all its fullness” (Jn 10.10) prevails because God “isn’t the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt 22.32).

Christian spirituality is, therefore, a practice of God’s children who testify when, with works, they love all other brothers. James, possessing the same conscience of the first Christians (among whom Paul stands out), says it in a clear manner: “If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food, you shouldn’t just say, ‘I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.’ What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help? Faith that doesn’t lead us to do good deeds is all alone and dead!” (Jas 2.15-17)

The balance of the “Lord’s Prayer” is a beautiful rosary of phrases which repeat the first two words. In other words, they put emphasis in the fundamental teachings confirmed in the life and Good News of Jesus for all men and women that come to this world: God is the good “Father.” We are his “children” and, therefore, “brothers” among ourselves; called to live in the “love” manifested in “works, especially with the “little ones”, as God himself loves”. Yes, this is the synthesis of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, of his Gospel, and of all his ministry, his words and his works: Jesus lived as “Son” of God and “Brother” of all.

Since then, the spirituality and the life of his disciples can be lived in a family-like relationship with God and a fraternal relationship with people.

Who Art in Heaven…

Christian life consists in bringing closer the “beyond” to the “here and now” in everyday life. It consists in constructing the eternal life in the “beyond” through the “here and now” of our present story. It consists in constructing “a new heaven and a new earth” (Is 66.22). And God is in heaven. In other words, in the place where his will and his sovereignty is formed: where humans love each other as bothers and sisters while recognizing that all are sons and daughters of the same Father God.

And if heaven is the cause of our greatest anxiety and search while we are on this Earth, then Christians – the same as Paul-- understand that their greatest wish and eternal happiness coincides with the salvation offered by Jesus Christ to all people of goodwill. Saint Agustin said: ”God created us for himself, and our hearts are unsettled until we rest in Him.”

Salvation/Happiness consists in the act of living as children of God and in his love with our brothers and sisters. This is heaven on earth. This life saves us, is eternal life, is the full and happy life which begins now and is open to the eternal beyond in God. That is why Paul can say: “Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ . . .” (Phil 3.8)

Therefore, Christian spirituality consists in being happy while living a life that follows Christ, the Son of God and brother of all. Christian spirituality defies us to live on earth as we will in heaven. Therefore. . . “Why are you . . . standing here looking up into the sky? (Ac 1.11)

Hallowed Be Thy Name…

And we honor “thy name” when we live as children of God, brothers and sisters of each other. We honor it when we begin to construct heaven on earth. Only in that manner can the holiness of the only “Holy One,” who is God of Love, ask that our holiness be lived in love: love for God and his children –our brothers and sisters.

Christian spirituality is a path of sanctification: we sanctify the name of God when we do the same for our world of relationships.

Thy Kingdom Come…

May you be the Sovereign of our personal and community histories! May we be constructing the world in accordance to your wisdom, and according to the criteria and values of the Gospel of your Son Jesus Christ. And God reigns and is Sovereign in the world when we are capable of loving each other, and recognizing that we are siblings, children of the same Father.

When we understand the fact that we are created beings, and when that fact places us in relationship with the Creator God, who has the face of a good and merciful Father --as revealed by Jesus of Nazareth-- then we understand our Christian spirituality. This consciousness allows us to develop our divinity, the good and true of our humanity, “an image of God.”

Our Christian spirituality is conscious of our existence --open to the divine, to the Transcendent-- in need of the compassionate love of the Father; and at the same time, of the need God has of man, of each one of us, in the construction of His Kingdom in History.

Thy Will Be Done…

May we do what you want and not our whim and interests, which usually are egotistical and petty. God’s will is that we love each other. For all disciples, throughout history, the Gospel asks us to “do” more than what we “say;” to live in accordance with what we believe; and to practice what we preach. Therefore, the Kingdom of God is built by the execution of his will, manifested in works and results. “Not everyone who calls me their Lord . . . Only the ones who obey my father” (Mt 7.21), “Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, ‘Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others” (Mt 9.13), because “Anyone who obeys my Father in heaven is my brother or sister or mother” (Mt 12.50) and “You can tell what they are by what they do.” (Mt 7.16).

We can say with all certainty that the life program of Jesus consisted in always “doing” God’s will –from his infancy until the supreme moment of his passion and death on the cross: “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house (doing my Father’s work)?” (Lk 2.49) “Father . . . do what you want and not what I want.” (Mt 26.39). In the same way, the disciple who listens to the Good News and does the Father’s will, putting God’s will in the first place, he builds upon the rock. ( Cf Lk 6.48)

Christian spirituality lies in building God’s sovereignty in our personal and social world, and doing God’s will as revealed in Jesus Christ: “that we love one another.”

Give Us “Our” Bread . . .

As we get to this point, it is fitting to note that the “Lord’s Prayer” is written in plural, because as already established, the Christian life is authentic when it is lived in relation with others; and in the same way that we don’t say “My Father”, we don’t say “my bread.”

We use a plural form to ask God to give us, so we can split his gift, we can share it, we can apportion it . . . If we can give the bread, and even our own lives --because there are those who have more and can do more, and those have less and can receive— there is the possibility of constructing fraternity, to do the Father’s will, sanctify his name, and construct his kingdom.

We try to deceive God when we ask for bread (and everything that feels like bread: a roof, a family, an education; health, family relationships; all kinds of opportunities for humanization in society) all in the plural and then, once we receive it, we handle it in singular, selfishly keeping it to ourselves, creating inequity, injustice, violence and death.

But Jesus’ commandment for his disciples of every age continues in force: “You give them something to eat . . . picked up twelve large baskets leftover” (Mk 6.37 ff), Your received without paying, now give without being paid” (Mt 10.8). Therefore, as long as one man goes hungry or suffers any type of need, the Gospel continues to challenge us. This is how Paul understood it, as did the first Christians: (Ref. the testimony of the first Christian communities in Acts 2.42ff; 4.32ff; and 1 Co 11.17 ff).

Christian spirituality is to be lived “in the plural” because it demands of us the building of a fraternal world. And so, Christians live with the certainty that more than bread, what is lacking is love.


So that every day we remember, confidently, that we have a Father who loves us; and that we are his children. Because when we store and monopolize—and in doing it, distort the will of God and his saving plan—we run the risk of forgetting God as Father and the rest as brothers. (Cf Lk 12.20)

As We Forgive …

We are children of God and Brothers/Sisters to each other --but different and diverse. God’s creation work is not boring nor monotonous, but multi-color, with a diversity that does not threaten but makes possible mutual enrichment. Because of that, in being “Christian,” forgiveness is a possibility and a unique condition of human co-existence. Forgiveness is the clearest manifestation of evangelical love and peace; peace that grows out of forgiveness; “peace” understood as a state of “abundant life” -- product of a thousand blessings of God to man: “I give you peace, the kind of peace that only I can give. It isn’t like the peace that this world can give.” (Jn 14.27, also Jn 20.22) “Don’t you think you should show pity to someone else, as I did to you?” (Mt 18.33)

Again, in “Christian”, the measure of our relation/religion with God is done according to our relationship with others. And so, God’s forgiveness of us (man) is directly related with our own capacity to forgive others, and to coexist with each other as brothers/sisters: “Forgive others, and God will forgive you.” (Lk 6.37) “If you forgive others for the wrongs they do to you, your Father in heaven will forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mt. 6.14, 15)

Christian spirituality is a path of forgiveness that facilitate all points in “Lord’s Prayer”; because it is only through forgiveness that we sanctify the name of God, that we do his will, that we construct his kingdom, and that we are capable of sharing the daily bread.

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil…

Christian spirituality does not ignore the experience of evil. Instead, it recognizes it, accepts it, “embodies” it, and assumes it to be able to save it, redeem it, transform it, illuminate it, and sanctify it. Because the light has meaning, gives all its service, shining in the middle of darkness (Cf. Mt 5.14 ff).

Christians live their spirituality in the middle of temptation and evil, and understand that there is no greater experience of evil in the world than the temptation of not recognizing God as the Father and, therefore, not recognizing ourselves as his children. As a consequence, neither do we recognize our brothers and sisters around us. This moral conflict was described masterfully by Paul when, from his own experience, exclaims: “In fact, I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate.” (Ro 7.15)

But “in everything we have won more than a victory because of Christ who loves us” (Ro 8.37) first. Therefore, “we are like clay jars in which this treasure is stored. The real power comes from God and not from us. We often suffer, but we are never crushed. Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us, and when we are knocked down, we get up again.”(2 Co 4.7-9)

Christian spirituality as the life of God’s children, --as an everyday experience of the “Lord’s Prayer,”-- consists in conquering temptation and conquering the evil in the world with the love that comes out of recognizing that God loves us as a good Father and asks that his love be lived and manifested in a brotherhood experience: “Defeat evil with good” (Ro12.21) with your confidence always placed in Christ, who tells us “While you are in the world, you will have to suffer. But cheer up! I have defeated the world.” (Jn 16.33)

Finally, let us say that the fountain of Christian spirituality, while we peregrinate through this world, is the life of Christ himself, made life also in us. This, until we can say as Paul of Tarsus said: “Where sin was powerful, God’s kindness was even more powerful” (Ro 5.20); and that is why the Apostle himself exclaims: “I have died, but Christ lives in me.” (Ga 2.20).

This dissertation was inspired by Mizael A. Roa Cardenas: JESÚS Y SU ESPIRITUALIDAD EN EL SERMÓN DEL MONTE (Jesus and His Spirituality in the “Sermon on the Mount”). Notes for the Monograph and Dissertation for his Theology Degree. / PUJ /Bogotá, Colombia, 1986. 112 pages.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the “Good News Bible” in the Today’s English Version, Copyright © American Bible Society, 1995.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Questions That Challenge Us

The Ephemerides (Recount)

Starting forty years ago, since 1968, and by Presidential Decree, the annual celebration of one month dedicated to the exaltation and recognition of the Hispanic Heritage in the United States of America was established. The beginning of the festivity coincides with the celebration of Independence in Mexico and other Central American nations, in mid September; and ends with the celebration of the meeting of the two worlds in mid-October.

Quantity or Quality?

According to official reports from July 2007 the Hispanic population in the USA has increased by 1.4 million. This means, that at present time there are 45.5 million Hispanics (or people of Hispanic origin) residing in this nation. We are dealing with a spiraling demographic increase which has placed us as the largest ethnic minority living in the United States. Elementary logic would allow us to suppose that if we are the majority, then our influence in this society should be a lot greater. The statistics may help, but they can also serve to distract us. The truth is that in spite of the evidence and number of Hispanics in this nation, the nucleus that governs the political and economic power, which makes the legal decisions remains in control of the destiny of the United States, as they had for the last Century.

What should we say about this celebration of the Hispanic heritage at a time in history where immigrants, especially Hispanic immigrants, have been made into the excuse to hide the real cause of the moral, political, economic and social crisis we are going through? What should we say during this Month of the Hispanic Heritage in a nation that, on one side draws itself as the defender of individual liberties in the world, and as the “Patria de Libertad” (“Land of Liberty”), which welcomes everyone; while hypocritically building walls, exploiting, disparaging, mistreating and pursuing those who have always raised and made possible –with their sweat, hard work, renunciation and sacrifice-- the greatness and strength of this nation?

All this indicates that we, Hispanics, cannot be satisfied nor boast of the millions present in the United States: the numbers and statistics are not enough. We need to overcome the syndrome of quantity with the effectiveness of a Hispanic presence which wins, simultaneously, in quality.

Some questions, some challenges . . .
In the political arena . . .

In January 2007, NALEO had 5,129 Hispanics elected for positions in representation and government. This number is very low if we take into account that many of these positions are simple popular and community representation in such entities as School Boards, etc. . . . But the true number of Hispanics present in the United States Congress is only 28, and Hispanic Senators only 3; the number of State Governors is only 2, and City Majors, 12.

This is an election year! What can we say now, when Hispanics have the weight to tilt the scale of political power in the United States? Politicians will have to understand that, with the needs and aspirations of the Hispanic Community present in this nation, and in the shadow of our earned progress and participation, it will take more than greetings and flirting in Spanish to earn our backing.

For decades the north American politicians have used and abused the Hispanic electorate using their strength in numbers to jump to the parliamentary arena without making much effort so that our presence may have some significance and relevance in this nation. On our side, the lack of solidarity, formation, unification, organization and of leaders to defend the most valuable aspects of our Hispanic heritage have allowed that the community be mocked and disregarded.

The month of the Hispanic Heritage is a unique opportunity to create conscience of our present political importance and of our urgent need to actively participate in the electoral struggle, where the future of the nation –and our future within it-- is decided.

In the Religious and Moral Aspects . . .

The full Hispanic Community comes from people whose origin, history and identity as nations are permeated and marked by the Iberian Catholicism, and through it by the Christian vision of the world and of man. In this vision, human beings, the individual, the person has the dignity of a Child of God, and this dignity puts him/her over any structure or circumstance.

From this Hispanic identity, permeated by the Catholic and the Christian ideals, come the best of our heritage and of our values: the joy of giving, the value of family, of human relations, of “fiesta”, of music, of an open table, of service to the stranger. And these values, our very own and therefore very different from other people, should not distance or separate us. In fact, they should allow us to unite so they can enrich and construct a common future, propitious to all.

The “Catholic” Church in the United States should become “Madre y Maestra” (Mother and Teacher) among and for all its children: those who are scattered throughout the world and those who come to this nation. As in no other nation, in the United States, the Church has the opportunity and the historic responsibility to show –in many ways and expressions-- its “catholicity,” that is its “universality,” welcoming all, promoting all, comforting all, open to all so it can always unfailingly be the Church of Jesus Christ, where all are recognized as brothers, children of the same Father.

But what can be said in the celebration of the Hispanic Heritage when the Hispanics, who are mostly Catholics, live their faith as a socio/cultural fact, almost as folklore or an anecdote; where the principles of the Gospel do not affect the criteria and values by which they forge their personal histories and community behavior?

“Commercial” versus “Human”

From a wide Christian vision of the world and of life our attention is attracted by the easiness with which accords and international treaties for free commerce are signed for goods and services of all kinds. These international treaties allow free traffic and access to the agreed products. At the same time, walls are built and treaties are reaffirmed to impose migration impediments which stop access to better living conditions for people. We ask ourselves: Are things more important than people? Are consumer goods more important than human beings?

Our First Priority: To Instruct, To Educate, To Prepare Ourselves . . .

The above questions challenge us toward a better future: more prosperous, just, solitary, humane and Christian.

A dialog in North American society with the dominant culture, and in conditions of equality, urges Hispanics to go back to the understanding of our historic past, to the study and appreciation of our origins as a people and as Hispano-American nations. For example, our history of heroic deeds for liberty and independence were under the leadership of great men accompanied by great values.

The needed changes that will bring to fruition and reality our greatest aspirations will come true only through family formation and education, and by academic instruction which in all fields of knowledge we develop in the present.

In conclusion

Beyond this, it is of utmost importance to improve (not to transplant here) the individuality of our origins, since our aim here should be, first, to build “hispanicity,” while preserving –for example and as understood-- the “mexicanidad” or the “colombianidad.”

The complexity of the present historical moment, the social difficulties at an international level, the national crisis, and the crisis in which our own people and countries and nations of origin are immersed, defy us. The Hispanic community present in this nation, with its rich historical, social, cultural and religious inheritance has to answer the demands of this historical juncture with the needed wisdom and greatness.

Not to answer adequately the questions and challenges here exposed, will delay and impede the new and always renewed presence of the Hispanic Community in the United States, with implications at continental and worldwide levels.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Year of St. Paul - “But Christ Liveth in Me”

In keeping with the solemnity of the liturgy of the Church, which every June 29 honors the Apostles Peter and Paul, on the eve of that celebration and from the balcony of St. Paul's Basilica in Rome, the Pope will this year inaugurate "The Year of St. Paul": a year in which Benedict XVI is calling on all Catholics around the world to remember, learn about and reflect upon the figure and the work of the Apostle Paul. He is especially calling on the worldwide Roman Catholic congregation to revive and adapt Paul’s theological and missionary legacy to the circumstances in which the Church and the world find themselves today.

But who was this man, Paul, to merit, after two thousand years, that we Catholics be urged to place our hearts and minds in him as the model for our path in Christian life? I shall try to respond to this question – which deserves an extensive answer, given the abundant and rich life and work of this Apostle – despite the brevity imposed by available space for this type of article.

Some Biographical Background

Thanks to the literature of the New Testament, to Paul’s own writings and especially to the Apostles’ Book of Acts, we today have some chronological data on the life of Paul and, in more abundant form, on his work as a missionary, writer and theologian. Saul Paul was born in 8 A.D. in the city of Tarsus, in the region or province of Cilicia (an area of what is today south central Turkey and where, in those days, people born there had the privilege of being granted Roman citizenship) into a family of Pharisee traditions and observances. As a member of the tribe of Benjamin, he was given – as was the tradition of those days – the name Saul (Saulo), common in that tribe in honor of the memory of the first king of the Jews. As a Roman citizen, meanwhile, he received the Latin name Paul (Paulo). It was only natural that upon initiation of his apostolate among the gentiles, Paul would use his Roman name.

Saul learned the tent-maker’s trade, or, as is also believed, that of the weaver of canvas for tents. Very young, he was sent to Jerusalem to receive a good education in the Gamaliel School. As of that point, it is difficult to trace his path until he took part in the martyrdom of St. Steven, a time at which he was referred to as “young”, but this term might well have been applied to anyone between 20 and 40 years of age.

“In the world ye shall have tribulation…”

Arising from the deep and coherent Judeo-Pharisee convictions that he professed and from his fiery and combative temperament, Paul took part in the persecution of the first Christians. Today we can safely say that, as of his "encounter with Christ" Paul applied these same deep convictions and his same impetuous temperament, with renewed and growing fervor, to go from the best of Jews to being the best (and most persecuted) of believers in Christ and in his work of salvation. So true was this that he was able to say of himself and to exclaim at the height of his Christian vigor: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20).

The Book of Acts contains three stories regarding Paul’s conversion to Christianity (9:1-19; 22:3-21; 26:9-23), which, although they contain slight differences, are not difficult to harmonize and in no way take away from the unique experience: that of Paul’s “encounter” with Christ, in one of the most singular experiences to mark his life – what now was to be his life of faith – forever.

Following his conversion – undoubtedly influenced to a great extent by testimonies of faith to the Gospel of Jesus Christ from those who he himself persecuted - baptism and miraculous cure, Paul began to preach to the Jews. Later, he withdrew to Arabia, probably the region south of Damascus (in what today might be called a “religious retreat”). On his return to Damascus, the intrigues of the Jews forced him to flee by night. He went to Jerusalem to see Peter, but remained only fifteen days, for the snares of the Greeks threatened his life. He then left for Tarsus and is lost to sight for five or six years. Barnabas went in search of him and brought him to Antioch, where for a year they worked together and their apostolate was most fruitful. Together also they were sent to Jerusalem to carry alms to the brethren on the occasion of a famine. They do not seem to have found the Apostles there, since these had been scattered by the persecution of Herod.

“Go forth into the world…”

The richest and most fruitful period in the life of the Apostle Paul was from 45 to 57 A.D. During those years, he traveled on his three great journeys or missions (in keeping with how they have been traditionally organized and in accordance with his own written testimonials), setting off from the City of Antioch and ending up in Jerusalem. These were journeys ever steeped in sacrifice (shipwrecks, inconveniences and dangers of all kinds...) and marked by major conversions to the Christian faith (the heads of synagogues, public authorities and the wealthy of the cities he visited), as well as by persecution and imprisonment (especially at the hands of the Jews) because of the Gospel that he indefatigably preached. The First Mission is related in Acts 23:1-24:27. The Second Mission is narrated in Acts 25:36-28:22. And the Third Mission is described in Acts 28:23-31:26.

It is important to recall, that one of Paul’s top priorities on this missionary journeys was to visit churches and encourage them in their faith. But thanks to his practicing of this task, as he passed through giving his testimony and preaching the word, new Christian communities also started taking shape – new communities that he would visit and encourage in their faith when he returned on later trips.

Paul was a man of his times, a man whose times and the world he lived in could enter his mindset: the Roman world (because of the city in which he was born), the Jewish and Semitic world (passed down from his family), the Greek world (due to prevalence of the Greek culture and language in his corner of the world and his era). This cosmopolitan profile of the man, together with his obsession with making known the salvation (and joy) that comes of knowing the Gospel of Christ, explains why it was Paul – with his journeys, his hard-headedness, his valiant, open, universal (catholic), missionary spirit – who, not without harsh confrontations with his opponents, made it possible for the person of Jesus and his Word to expand beyond the reduced limits of the Israel of those days and spread to every corner of the known world of those times.

“But Christ liveth in me…”

It was in seeking to encourage Christian communities in their faith and in urging them to adhere to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that the Apostle Paul's writings were born, works in the form of epistles or letters that were preserved and were handed down to us in the present day: the Letter to the Romans, to the Corinthians (1 and 2), to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians (1 and 2), to Timothy (1 and 2), to Titus and to Philemon.

It is in his writings that we can discover Paul’s profound human as well as Christian experience. His writings – as well as his entire life as a believer in Christ – are driven by a burning desire for everyone to know the saving grace of Christ, or in other words, the possibility to find complete happiness in discovering the one who saved Paul himself: Jesus Christ, the Son of the God of their fathers: the God of the Old Testament.

And so, the doctrine spoken and written by Paul is, first and foremost, a life experience, the experience of a man in search of honest salvation, of happiness, of abounding life, of life eternal: first in the Pharisee world and now, finally, encountered and realized to the fullest in his authentic following of Jesus Christ.

For this same reason, his theology is anthropology (a vision of Man from the viewpoint of faith in Christ) and his anthropology is soteriology (a theological reflection for the salvation of Man in Christ).

Furthermore, his life as well as his work (after his encounter with Christ) is Christ-centric: centered on the “event of Christ” (whom Paul refers to as “the Gospel”: the good news for him and for every person who cares to listen to it, heed it, live it and spread the message to others).
Paul divides the history of Mankind and of every human being into two great chapters: before and after the encounter with Christ. Paul has a whole series of interpretations for this “encounter” with Christ, bearing in mind the richness of that event and the diversity of the audience to which he directs his message: mystery, redemption, resurrection, justification, expiation, liberation, salvation, baptism, faith, etc.

  • The life of Man before his encounter with Christ is the life of the ancient Man, devout in the law (the law of the Old Testament and, in general, in all law), which leads him to sin and, through sin, to death. The ancient Man, then, lives according to the knowledge of the world and produces certain of its fruits: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like…” (Gal 5:19).

  • The life of Man in Christ is, on the contrary, the life of the “new” Man. Life according to the knowledge of God, which is the knowledge of the cross, another logic, other criteria. It is a life of love by which Man remains in a state of grace and finds abounding life, joy, salvation and begins to produce new and good fruits, fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Gal 5:22).

Seen from this understanding of the history of Mankind, the history of every man and woman, and the history of Paul himself, the viewpoint from which he reflects, lives, writes and gives testimony, it is possible to comprehend the wealth of his writing, with which the Apostle accompanies the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church right up to the modern day, challenging us, if we want to be happy, to embrace a more authentic and ever-renewed discipleship of Jesus Christ.

“I have fought the good fight…”

One of the last trips that Paul made, the final destination of which was Rome, was known as the journey of “captivity”, and it is set down – including five famed sermons that the Apostle gave – in Acts 21:27-28:31. After countless sufferings and sacrifices, Paul arrived in Rome, “And he remained two whole years in his own hired lodging (under house arrest) …preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, without prohibition.” The Book of Acts ends with these words. It is unanimously accepted that the “captivity letters” were sent from Rome.

Since we have no documentation regarding the latter years of the life of the Apostle, “the itinerary becomes highly uncertain, although the events that followed appear to be indicated in the pastoral letters…”

Regarding Paul’s death, “an old tradition makes it possible to establish the following points:

  • Paul suffered martyrdom near Rome at a place called Aquae Salviae (now Tre Fontane), somewhat east of the Ostian Way, about two miles from the splendid Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura which marks his burial place.
  • The martyrdom took place towards the end of the reign of Nero…
  • According to the most common opinion, Paul suffered in the same year and on the same day as Peter …
  • From time immemorial the solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul has been celebrated on 29 June, which is the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics.”

“The feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (25 January) is of comparatively recent origin. There is reason for believing that the day was first observed to mark the translation of the relics of St. Paul at Rome...”

Learning from Paul…

How timely and beneficial, this initiative of Pope Benedict XVI in urging us to live a “Year of St. Paul”! There is so much we need to re-learn about Paul's life, about his fervor, his efforts, his mystique, about the generous and unconditional sacrifice of his life in service to the Gospel and, especially, about the universal character of his authentic Christian experience.

“Catholic” means universal. Today we are nostalgic for Paul, faced with the need of many who, like him, employ their best efforts in the building of a world and a Church, not as a scattering of islands tossed on the sea, each different, distant, distinct and xenophobic, but as a sole and single (though diverse) community of the children of God, with neither walls nor boundaries (be they racial, religious, cultural or economic), where everyone has a place, because we are all brothers and sisters in the same faith, in the same love, in the same hope, and in the same search for salvation and joy.

All of this runs counter to the convenience of a Christianity that is kept locked up in church vestries and that forgets the prime mission of the Church and the urgent need for the missionary task, for preaching the Gospel, no longer in far-flung, uncharted lands, but here and now, in the midst of a family, a city, a society and a culture that we attempt to build on the shoulders of God, of the Gospel of Christ and thus of Mankind itself.

Paul understood and lived in this way the “novelty” of his experience in Christ and in the ecclesial community for which he strove, even applying a new and distinct terminology to the “novelty” with respect to the Old Testament, speaking no longer of high priests and Levites, but of “ministers” and “deacons”, and so on. This attitude of Paul’s remains ever necessary: this daring to renew, of attempting new forms of evangelization, of always returning to and drinking from the sources of the New Testament and of the very first Christian communities, but carrying out the task of evangelization always bearing in mind the new and ever-changing circumstances of the world in which we are destined to live our faith in Christ (quote from Paul’s Sermon in Areopagus Acts 17:23)

Let us hope that in every experience and circumstance, everyday until the end of our lives and in our own personal and community experience in Christ, we can say as Paul of Tarsus did: “I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me." And let us hope too that this papal call for us to live a “Paulian Year” may help us and strengthen us toward this purpose.

Literal English-language quotes in italic:, and the Holy Bible (New International Version)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Great Light Shineth…On The Visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States

The Roman Catholics of this area of the United States and, represented by us, all of the Catholics of the Americas, are making ready to welcome the visit of Pope Benedict XVI during April.

In the person of the Pope, we Catholics are not simply receiving a Chief of State, and much less still, simply a great writer or famous personality. We Roman Catholics receive the Pope with enormous gratitude and are joyful at his visit and physical presence among us, because he is, above all, the successor of Peter, the first of the Apostles in the Church and the one who is for us the confirmation of truth and unity. In other words, we Catholics see the Pope’s visit to our particular churches as an event that should strengthen our faith and encourage our hope.

A large part of today’s Catholic world knew Pope John Paul II, thanks to his long time at the head of the Church. We knew him in the early days and latter years of his mission, as well as during his times of strength and frailty. John Paul II was seen and heard, followed and loved, but he was not always obeyed. Benedict XVI is another man altogether and – according to an old adage – “the style is the man”. The current Pope, the one that will be visiting us, is a German priest, an intellectual, a recognized thinker of our times and circumstances from the viewpoint of Christian theology, in his role as a great academic, professor and prolific writer.

And Benedict XVI comes to us in a space and time conditioned and characterized by difficult circumstances, not only in terms of what is happening in the United States, but also in the history of the entire American Continent and the world as a whole.

In effect, and at an internal level in this Nation, we are going through a worrisome and evident time of economic “recession” or of “deceleration” (the terminology or technicalities are immaterial, in the end, when the pocketbooks and needs of the poor are at stake), with all that this signifies: fewer job opportunities and, with this, less access to personal and social welfare – e.g., to more highly qualified training, better housing, better health care, and so on. It is a difficult time, above all, because it gravely and scandalously reveals the huge gaps and inequalities that are prevalent in North American society, where a handful of people have a super abundance of wealth, while millions survive a situation of injustice for anyone living in the world’s most powerful Nation, and a situation too that is unworthy and inhuman for any among the children of God.

We find ourselves currently immersed in an electoral battle for the presidency of this Nation. In a Nation in which, from a social and governmental standpoint, the stakes surround issues that are indeed major and pressing, topics of the delicacy and controversial nature of war and peace, the rights of the unborn, U.S. foreign policy, public sexual morals, immigration reform and with it, the rights of those who have magnified this country’s economic greatness with their work, sweat, abnegation and sacrifice, only to then be abused, exploited, mistreated and persecuted. And this is a treatment of immigrants that is clearly at odds with the image of the United States in the eyes of the world as the safe harbor and oasis of freedom, of democracy and of respect for civil rights and the dignity of the human race.

And as if all of this were not enough, we also find ourselves immersed in warfare being waged in different parts of the world, and especially in Iraq. This is a war that comes with great losses of human life, with unjust and unjustifiable spending on arms, with the destruction of what was once the land of the Old Testament and that signifies a huge step backward in age-old progress and development in the humanization and civilization of Mankind.

The climate in the heart of the Catholic Church in this Nation is hardly alien to the social crisis. We carry with us the still fresh wounds of recent scandals involving sexual abuse, and in which ordained ministers of the Church have been implicated. Worrisome too is the ever-lower number of those confessing a vocation for life as priests or nuns and the constant challenge of building the Church in the midst of such diversity between that which is “national” and “immigrant”, “Catholic” and “ecumenical”. The fact is that universal unity is enriching, precisely because of its ethnic, social and cultural diversity. And this diversity has identifiable faces: namely, the more than 45 million Spanish-speaking men and women who inhabit this Nation (the immense majority of them Catholic in terms of their roots and identity), not counting growing waves of immigration from Europe, Asia and Africa. All of this signifies that, currently, over a quarter of the entire population of the United States of America is made up of immigrants.

These and other changing circumstances and concerns form the political, economic, social, cultural and ecclesiastical context of our times. And they constitute our current challenge, as well as our historical responsibility.

Within the framework of this reality, Benedict XVI faces a challenge of his own, since we men and women of good faith, Catholics or not, who inhabit the length and breadth of this Nation, conditioned by these and other circumstances, eagerly await his message, the light of the Gospel, the coming true of the prophecy of Isaiah: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” And in this way, the religious and Christian experience, as lived in the bossom of the Roman Catholic Church, stands to become an ever more possible, amiable, credible, hopeful and saving life experience.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Resurrection as a Celebration of Hope

Every Sunday, but especially during the Easter Season, and very especially on the Sunday following the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday), Roman Catholic Liturgy commemorates and celebrates the confession of faith that sustains and makes sense of the Christian religion and of the life of every believer, and of the Church community as a whole: namely, that Christ is Risen, that His news, His message, His life’s project and the much-heralded and witnessed coming of the Kingdom of God live on in the new life of Christians in the Church and in the building of a better world – a world in which it is our mission to live bent on complying with the will of the Father of Jesus Christ, our Father, and which consists of loving each other even as God loves us.

At the core and in the essence of the teachings of Jesus – through His words and deeds, through His prophetic aspiration and through the perception of His works as seen by his compatriots and contemporaries and as witnessed in the New Testament – is the establishment of the Kingdom of God, much-heralded by the Prophets and awaited by the people of the Old Testament. But contrary to the warrior/military and politically expansionist traits attributed to this Messiah, the profile of this Messenger, this Envoy come to establish the Kingdom of God, is that of a Jesus who presented the Sovereignty of God on Earth through the love of all those who recognize themselves as the children of the Father and, as such, build their world in a peace that sows justice, peace as the sum of God’s blessings for Man, asserted in abounding truth, compassion, mercy, solidarity, bread, health, forgiveness, freedom, good news and renewed opportunities for life, and not just any life, but abounding life.

The Resurrection, that fundamental confession of faith of the first Christians, was born of a transformation of their lives through the Crucified Lord. Arising from this transformation, they know and confess themselves to be "new men". And in this new life they now raise their voices to God the “Father” and find the Living Crucified Christ upon “breaking bread” and this brings them together as brothers and sisters in small communities of faith and hope, in which they possess the knowledge that they have passed from death to life, a new life in which they now effectively love one another so that not one among them suffers want.

Christian Easter is, then, a celebration of life over death. It is the triumph of love and forgiveness over hatred and it is, for this reason, the opening of a new life, a new world in which peaceful coexistence and reconciliation and goodness are made possible through the new mandate of love, which is the summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who invites Man to partake of a new lifestyle, which consists not of selfishly saving and tending to one’s own life, but of spending one’s life on others, as a condition for happiness and for the eternal life that we all seek and for which we yearn for as long as we are on this earthly pilgrimage.

The most superficial analysis of our current national and international reality provides a sharp contrast to the principles of the New Testament, which is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God as lived and heralded by Jesus and practiced by the communities arising from the ministry of the Apostles. The categories of our society of today are far from those presented and suggested by the Carpenter of Nazareth as the most human means of building the new Heaven on the new Earth.

Today, in the United States of America, we are living in times of deep crisis, of great and grave uncertainty regarding the immediate future: We do not live in peace due to the armed conflicts on which erratic government policies have embarked us. We fail to know whether our senior citizens will be able to enjoy the rights and benefits of their work during retirement or whether current medical services will be able to continue in the form of the most universal and efficient coverage possible for the North American population. Nor do we know if today’s children and youth will have access to an education, or to a proper education, and so on. And all of this is taking place in the midst of an evident recession – one that is undeclared officially but one that is apparent on an everyday basis in both labor and commerce – and also amid an intense, extensive and costly presidential race, characterized by the emergence of new models of candidates and new sectors of the voting population that are being thrown into the ever manipulated, ever self-interested and ever biased mix made of this, and of all information emerging from the Social Communications Media.

But the situation is neither better nor more hope-inspiring in the rest of the world: We have advanced in technical-scientific manipulation but have reverted in the task of humanizing Man and communities. This is manifest in ills that affect today’s world: famine, forced displacements, huge migratory waves, vast inequalities between the few people and nations with squandered wealth to spare and the enormous masses that have nothing, rampant administrative corruption in government systems and multinational corporations alike, the lack of elemental human and social opportunities for the greatest part of the population and for the most diverse of reasons, as well as the lack of access to such basic needs as housing, health, education and work.

From our Christian viewpoint of Man, the world and their history, this disheartening outlook finds its roots in sin, which is manifest in the injustice, unbridled greed and hedonism of a culture that gives priority to knowledge of the world over knowledge of the Kingdom of God, a culture that turns its back on God and where the selfish whims of Man take privilege over the creative, paternal and merciful will of God.

But it is precisely within this inhuman and unjust reality that we Christians must ask ourselves about the legacy of Jesus of Nazareth in the life of his followers and about the presence of the values of the Scriptures in the world, about the ferment of the masses and the effectiveness of the evangelizing task of the Church. In the light of the Gospel, far from intimidating us, this world should challenge us, as of the Easter of Christ, to build upon Easter worldwide – to go from darkness into day, from indifference to love, from intolerance of differences to reconciliation born of brotherly dialog, from attachment to the temporal to yearning for the eternal, from the corrupt and corruptible to the new and transcendental, from a thousand kinds of death to the bounty of life that God offers us in the Resurrected Christ.

Today, then, more than ever, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ takes on significance as a challenge to all Christians, to all men and women of goodwill, to build the new world that we all yearn for and the new Earth that we also all aspire to as the best living space and time possible for future generations, a world built on the criteria of the Kingdom of God.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) Inauguration Speech

Your Excellencies, colleagues and dear friends,

It is a joy and a privilege to stand in front of you today and speak on behalf of all of the members of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. The organization we refer to as C.A.L.L.

Historic moment: Today we are experiencing a historic moment. For the first time in our life in the United States - and in the life of the Catholic Church in this country - we have a group of Hispanic Latino business and professional leaders that have come together to reflect and work on the issues that concern our community from the perspective of the Catholic faith and tradition. There are many Hispanic and Latino groups throughout the Nation, but none created to convene Latino leadership that openly profess their Catholic faith and beliefs.

The importance of Latinos: We are all aware of the magnitude of the Hispanic presence in the United States. According to an American Community Survey conducted by the US Census, in 2006 there were approximately 45 million Hispanics in the US, representing 15% of the total population. The Selig Center estimates Hispanic purchasing power will surpass all U.S. minority groups by 2007 with a buying power of $863.1 billion, and is expected to be almost $1.2 trillion by 2011. That's more than 450 percent growth from 1990 to 2011. In contrast, non-Hispanic buying power’s rate of growth is estimated to be 176% over the same period.

Support of Archbishops: This historic gathering is taking place thanks to the leadership and vision of Archbishop Jose Gomez from this important Archdiocese of San Antonio. Archbishop Gomez has engaged in continuous dialogue with Latino leaders in various professional fields in the hope that they will actively participate in conversations with the dominant culture in our society, speaking with well-informed opinions and from the perspective of our Catholic tradition.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver was the first prelate in the Church to encourage and support Archbishop Gomez in this noble initiative. This process began three years ago with an annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. We have now arrived at this moment: we have a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of Texas with a tax exempt status.

Mission of CALL: Heeding God’s call as members of His Church and active participants in her mission of evangelization, and recognizing our responsibility as leaders within our Hispanic communities, our mission is to work within the context of our culture and in communion with our bishops to promote the common good of Latinos in the United States. This Catholic Association of Latino Leaders will provide a forum for members to strengthen their faith in community through prayer, education and service. We commit to being a national voice for Hispanics on social justice issues and to impact the national dialogue and its outcome in favor of improving our nation’s policies affecting Latinos.

We are people that believe in ethical values, and know they are neither a limitation nor a restraint on business but rather an opportunity that furthers efficiency and business objectives. Moral values are not enemies of the economy nor of its business enterprises, on the contrary they are their best allies. Immorality does not help business rather it weakens it.

Placing it within the Catholic Church’s Framework: The social doctrine of our Church places a very high importance on entrepreneurship, which is a reflection of God’s creativity; this social doctrine does not in any way contain the idea of an intrinsically evil economy that is to be restrained with the reins of ethics like a ferocious beast that must be tamed. On the contrary, it reasserts that the economy, a resolve of human activity, has meaning and longevity only when it corresponds to an anthropological reality. Our late Holy Father, John Paul II, explained the failure of Communism as a result of a major anthropological error which could only lead to economic failure. He also criticized Capitalism, not for its economic system, but for the weakening of the entire social system as it limits itself to producing goods and services, and falls into an equally condemnable materialism.

We cannot deny that the Church and the business world have suffered an ambiguous relationship. Today, we have the opportunity to recognize the positive role of the market rather than condemn its ideology as anti-religious, inhuman, and socially unsustainable. The Catholic life cannot be lived in a dichotomy. Faith matters. All of our being calls us to have an integral personal development. We cannot pretend to be religious in the Church and ruthless in the workplace or community. This is a false interpretation of the human person.

Fr. Bartolome Las Casas of the 16th century, a Dominican Spanish priest, criticized the oppression of the Conquistadores. Las Casas condemned slavery because it presumed that non-Christians had no rights and no souls worth saving. Fr. Las Casas was a critic of power and a genuine champion of liberation who never lost site of the primary focus on the individual person.

Joseph Ratzinger was a champion of the Second Vatican Council that declared the unequivocal right to religious freedom and thus the wisdom of separating Church from the State. The Pope’s support for the politics of freedom grows out of his ideal of a depoliticized faith. In his visit to Brazil his message was to demonstrate that one can care about justice for the poor without constructing a practice that calls for even more power to the State. “What is real?” Benedict asked in a speech in Brazil. “Only material goods, social and economical problems? No, the conscience and soul are also real.”

CALL: CALL will be the full realization of our vocation as Christian Catholic leaders. CALL is the organization where there will be no place for double standards, for immorality or unethical actions. The call that we have received by joining this organization is to work for a better society to improve our communities and for the integration of our Christian principles which are rooted in our Catholic tradition, and experience of the Church. This is the challenge we have received.

Specifics: We actively embrace the issues of preserving and promoting Catholic values such as the sanctity and dignity of life, of marriage and family life, Catholic faith formation and education, vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, promoting the dignity of every person, and furthering the evangelization of culture and the common good, all in collaboration with our bishops. The current debate on immigration is one of the most tragic experiences in recent time. To single out an entire community of people as the detestable is to regress in time and history and to have a mean spirit.
According to a recent study from the Pew Hispanic Center, two-thirds of Hispanics (64%) say the debate over immigration policy and the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill have made life more difficult for Latinos living in this country. The same study states that roughly half of all Hispanics report the increased public attention to immigration issues has negatively impacted their lives in one or more ways. This unresolved debate has been for the Nation, the opinion makers and the politicians a lost opportunity to build a solution to the immigration question inspired by authentic humanism. The human person is sacred and in the United States all people are recognized by the Constitution as having inalienable rights.

Call to action:
We would like to invite anyone, moved by the teaching of the Gospels, of our Lord Jesus Christ, to join us in this remarkable journey to further the Christian mission that will enrich individual and cultural transformation full of love, generosity and hope.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL)

Our Reality...

In recent decades, the reality of the Hispanic Community living in the United States of America – and which the National Census Bureau and the most diverse statistics imaginable seek to capture in figures – has become a boundless and ever-changing one.

Not counting those who reside in Puerto Rico, the Census Bureau now counts 34 million Hispanics living in this Nation, 60% of them born within US territory.

The Bureau also reports that the educational and academic indices of the Hispanic Community are on the rise: There are now more Hispanics in US schools and a growing number of them are graduating and receiving diplomas from North American universities.

In politics, the figures indicate that if more than 6.5 million Hispanics took part in the last presidential race, as many as 8.6 million could participate in the upcoming presidential elections, a fact that represents an unquestionably important variable, capable of tipping the balance when it comes to defining and choosing those who will govern the destiny of the Nation.

In business, the increase in the participation, leadership and purchasing power of Hispanics has been noteworthy. More than 2 million businesses in the United States are today owned by proprietors of Hispanic origin. The National Census Bureau confirms what has become evident: the undeniable, growing, far-reaching and decisive presence of the Hispanic Community in all walks of North American life and society.

But, beyond this, we also find and have proof that the reasons why Hispanics immigrate to this Nation and the profile of the Hispanic immigrant as such are changing: In the past decade, Hispanic families hailing from the different countries of Latin America have arrived here with high standards of living and education and have set up housekeeping in the United States for reasons of security and business.

Furthermore, a new profile has emerged in ties between the United States and Latin American countries, especially in the face of the Free Trade Agreements signed, for example, with Mexico, Chile, Peru, Central America, the Dominican Republic, and those to be approved and signed soon with Panama and Colombia. All of this implies new realities for the American Continent, realities that pose new challenges.

Mainly Catholic from our origins as Latin American peoples and nations, the Hispanic Community in the United States has not, however, altogether found its place in the Catholic Church that forms part of this country, nor has the Roman Catholic Church managed, through its evangelizing mission, to permeate the life of the Hispanic Community in the United States at all levels.

The effects of this divorce, this estrangement, this oversight that exists between Hispanic life in the United States and our faith and identity as Roman Catholics are especially hard-felt in Hispanic Catholic circles of political, professional and economic leadership at the heart of the Hispanic Community that have the capacity to relate to and engage in dialog with the different strata of life and society in this Nation.

Our Response...

Immersed in the current reality of the Hispanic Community present in the United States – as briefly described above – aware too of the growing importance of the Hispanic presence in this Nation and, at the same time, conscious of the gap and serious neglect that exists between the Roman Catholic Church of the United States and we Hispanics who make our way, with our history, culture and Catholic faith, through life on North American soil, and still further aware of the lack of and urgent need for a professional organization of Latinos capable of congregating business and professional people from different fields of knowledge, Catholic Archbishops José Gómez of San Antonio and Charles Chaput of Denver are encouraging a dialog that springs from within the Hispanic Community, the Church and American Society as a whole. Knowledgeable like few others of the “Hispanic phenomenon” in the United States, they have been holding talks with professionals and business people with the aim of founding a much lacking and much needed organization: an Hispanic association with the kind of qualified representation necessary to articulate the major concerns of the Hispanic Community within and in relation with the Catholic Church and at the highest levels of society in the United States of America.

The aim is to create a lay organization of Catholic professionals and business leaders which – enlightened by the principles and values of the Holy Gospel, inspired by the humanism lived and preached by Jesus Christ, in harmony with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and imbued with the deeply human and Christian values that are so much a part of the Hispanic essence (solidarity, sharing even in poverty, the sense of celebrating life, of festivity, of sorrow, of death, the importance of family and work, and the value of friendship) – will be capable of contributing the best that Hispanic culture has to offer to US society and culture as a whole.

The Church, Mother and Teacher, has much to teach, to accompany and to learn in this segment of the Hispanic Community, a segment made up of leaders from the professional and business worlds. These men and women themselves belong to, are and indeed make up part of the Church and, as such – based on Christian humanism, on the model of Man and society proposed by Jesus Christ and the Word of the Holy Scriptures – can engage with new impetus in the defense of life and of every person as a child of God and as brothers and sisters among themselves, while testifying to the value of work, home, education, health, freedom, honesty, social justice, peace, progress, integration, communion, participation, responsible citizenship, national dialog, the search for the common good among men and nations alike, and so on. And all of these things in a clear response against the culture of death in all of its multiple and concern-provoking manifestations that have become so much a part of society and culture. An authentic discipleship, through conscious, committed and active participation in the Church can, then, provide members of this organization with important tools for use in developing personal, social and Christian life.

The Church, with its worldwide evangelizing mission, has much to contribute and accompany and much to teach and learn in the interior of the Hispanic Community and, more concretely, among its professional and business leaders and among those from the fields of science and the arts and those connected with the development of contemporary culture. And all of this constitutes an urgent need, a challenge, a pending task, a responsibility and a hope, especially when these spaces in the life of Man appear today to be ignored, worryingly abandoned, forgotten, neglected, impervious to the Gospel.

This, then, is why Bishops Gómez and Chaput recently called a meeting of Catholic Hispanic leaders, at which the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) was founded. At this meeting, CALL also elected its first Board of Directors and the author of these lines is honored to have been named Chairman. In order to initiate this drive of hope, we have legally established the Association under the laws of the State of Texas and obtained our Charter, setting up our headquarters at the Archbishopric of San Antonio. CALL is to be financed by its members themselves and three major annual events have already been programmed:

  • A Spiritual Retreat for Hispanic professionals.
  • A Meeting of members of the Association.
  • An annual professional conference for Catholic Hispanic business and professional people.

There will be other regional activities in major urban centers around the United States where large Spanish-speaking populations are found, such as: San Antonio, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago, among others.

Our Identity: Vision and Mission...

Within the varied landscape of already existing Hispanic groups throughout the United States, with all of their diverse aims, CALL does not aspire to be just one more organization. CALL is, instead, a Catholic Association at the service of leadership in the Hispanic Community of the United States. It is formed from among professional and business men and women, enlightened by and committed to the values and principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as espoused by the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and incorporated into the cultural and historical identity of our nations as part of the necessary, equitable, respectful and just dialog that must be permanently established between the Hispanic Community and the rest of North American and Latin American Society.

To this end, CALL will seek to be:

  • A forum for Catholic leaders from the Hispanic/Latino Community in the United States of America, with its aim being to serve as an instrument for dialog with the dominant culture, while offering a professional and responsible voice and presence in defense of the Hispanic Catholic essence.

  • A venue that makes possible and accompanies the training of Hispanic Catholic professionals and business people to stand at the forefront of the Hispanic Community’s presence in the political, economic, social and cultural life and events of this Nation.

  • A center for national dialog and education to provide for maturity in Hispanic Catholic leadership and within the entire Hispanic community present in the United States, and for the development of its urgent role in the present and future of the Nation.

Our Hope...

From the outset of this journey, full of hope and goodwill at the service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Church and inserted within the world at large, ready as we are to serve the Hispanic Community within the context of new North and Latin American realities that face us on this pilgrimage with our Catholic faith, it is encouraging to note that this Association is responding to the meaning of the acronym that stands for its name: CALL. This is, indeed an organization built on a “calling”, a “convocation” of wills, a “vocation”.

We Catholic laymen and, more concretely, we professionals and business people who are Catholic Hispanics living in the United States, have the primary vocation of living our humanity in the image and likeness of God, being, as we are, his creations and his children as followers of Christ. We have the vocation of being disciples of the Gospel, each within his or her status, style, condition and life circumstances. And, in accordance with the aims of CALL, we also have the vocation to be proper, conscientious and responsible leaders of the Hispanic Community’s presence in this Nation, backed by our origins, our history, our culture, our values and our faith and those of our ancestors.

A calling always encompasses a mission. And the acronym that stands for our Association is, at once, then, a calling, a challenge, and a task.

Ladies and gentlemen, Catholic and Hispanic business people and professionals residing in the United States of America, I invite you, call upon you and convoke you, through CALL, to join me in rising to the challenge and demands posed by the Hispanic Community in this Nation.