Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year...but

We now prepare for the coming of a new year, which will be the 2010th of the Christian Era. This advent fills us with positive goals; fills us with happiness and the hope that we will reach the projects that were not possible before, or remained incomplete during the year which comes to an end.

Hispanics and Catholics in the United States, especially hope for 2010 to be the year of the Immigration Reform. That it will be the year when a law: humane, generous and as just as possible allows the total and full social and legal integration of millions of immigrants, who in this nation (the same as in Europe) do not enjoy the constitutional guaranties, nor the full access to social benefits because of their lack of documentation, to accredit them as welcomed citizens, documented and legal in the Unites States or Europe. Nevertheless, these same people who are ostracized and rejected become the people who, with their sacrifice and hard work --even though never valued enough-- now sustain the difficult economic panorama, in this nation and in the world.

During the last few years we have witnessed a social phenomenon that moves completely in the opposite direction from this social and legal aspiration. The communication media and social phenomenon now present the private and public aggressions which are evident in the growing racism, dangerous and expanding discrimination, exploitation, and social marginalization of undocumented immigrants, wrongly labeled “illegals”.

These inhumane and unjust attitudes, these discriminatory speeches --racist and anti-immigrant-- hide dark and sinister interests: the wish to perpetuate the ostracism of a great mass of people which, because of their lack of documentation, are being exploited. This population --because it is marginalized and not recognized-- continues to be mistreated, stepped over, used and abused socially and in their labor. It is a speech which hides this great truth: the immigrants, as much in the United States as in Europe are not loved, desired, accepted nor recognized in their rights; but are indeed recognized for what they do; which makes them cheap labor, a population which drives and grows the economy of the conglomerates, the same who wish to maintain the social marginalization and deceit of its “undocumented workers”.

In our religious Judeo-Christian tradition the dignity, the well being and the service to human beings should always be above governments, interests and laws. The year 2010 needs to be, among us and with the help and participation of all, the year in which the highest and best values are restored: people-in-society. We are not to continue with the double standard in which, in one hand human and Christian values are exalted, and in the other –and simultaneously– we step on, affront, disdain human dignity and the right of millions of immigrants to live in just and humane conditions. These rights have been earned by the value of their labor and their economic and social contribution. It is dishonest, hypocritical, and unworthy of our society ---North American and European-- which proclaim to be the founders and defenders of the highest standards in humanity and democracy .

May globalization reach not only the geostrategic, economic and political goals of this Nation, in the year 2010; but that it be present in an ecumenical spirit, where men and women may feel, wherever they live, citizens of the world, with a fitting place on this earth, which belongs to all. May the globalization be felt in a fraternal and universal spirit, which reaches all; so that --finally-- the full and total insertion of immigrants to this Nation, which gives us so much but also receives a lot from all of us, who have reached its shores looking for a better life through huge effort, work, renunciation and sacrifice be a reality.

Traditionally, at the beginning of each year we wish each other “a Happy and Prosperous New Year!” The year 2010 will be a happy and prosperous year for all, in the measure which, above the selfishness and hypocrisy of a few is placed the social interest which shouts for an immigration law for the benefit of many. To this goal we should all commit ourselves, because it benefits us all. HAPPY AND BLESSED 2010!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas and God’s Logic

In the Catholic liturgy, Christmas is a time when each year, we commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who we confess to be our Lord and Savior. Christmas, the memory of that first nativity is, therefore, a past which becomes real in our present and commits us to the construction of a “Christian” future.

Two Gospels (Matthew and Luke), in the New Testament give a glimpse of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; both have as the theological intention of the authors, the confession of Jesus as Messiah. This was experienced in the living, the teaching, the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus; and later verbally confessed and put into writing.

The historical data concerning the birth of Jesus, distant in time for the authors of these two Gospels and with less theological importance --when we consider the public ministry, the passion, the death and resurrection of Christ-- should be read, as all the Good News and especially the four Gospels, under the light of the “Birth celebration”. It should be told, based on the life transforming experience which the first disciples lived right after the death of Jesus. This experience caused that group of men and women to confess that “Christ is alive”, “is resurrected from the dead”, and “is the Messiah”; the one waited for, and in whom were fulfilled --in a new context-- all the messianic promises of the Old Testament.

But, what about real historical data in the so called “infancy accounts”? The oral tradition goes all the way up to the time when Luke writes these accounts (gospel writer of this new liturgical cycle, which just began with the first Sunday of Advent), and who assures that Jesus was born a boy, in conditions of poverty; the only son of Joseph and Mary; born during the time of the census ordered by Cesar Augustus, while Cyrenius was the governor of Syria.

This historical data, —as happens with all human stories and with all the historical data which appears in the Gospels about Jesus— is wrapped in the theological intention of the authors, and is in the confessions of faith of the primitive Christian community: of David’s lineage (which is in the hereditary line from which the Messiah was suppose to come; and because of this, the ancestry of Joseph and the mention of Bethlehem); the participation of the angel (whose intervention tells of a happening /birth where the main character is God himself, as it should have been according to the prophesies of the Old Testament in reference to the Messiah).

In this manner the shepherds, Simeon, Hanna, the Temple erudites, the neighbors in Nazareth, the first Christians and Christians of all times, recognize “the child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger” as the Lord and Savior of all times: beginning of, central to, and culmination of our happiness and eternal life.

This confession, as later taught and written by Paul of Tarsus, shatters Greek and Jewish logic and breaks all the wisdom molds in the world. It breaks the power schemes in the Roman Empire and establishes a new logic, new wisdom –the wisdom of God-- according to which “anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”, “he has filled the hungry with good things” . . ., and the “rich he has sent away empty”. By this logic God “chooses what is not, to confuse what is”.

That is why Christmas is a commemoration, but it is also protest. During Christmas, from the manger (as much as from the foolishness and craziness of the cross) Christians protest against the logic by which the world and relations among humans are constructed. During Christmas, from the humble manger, Christians protest against the ostentation which leaves so many hungry; against the consumerism which leaves so many in inhumane situations; and against the luxury, the waste and the squandering which insults so many who have nothing.

Christmas is, because of this, an event and confession of solidarity from God to those who need him and place in him all their trust, confidence and hope. Also because of it, in Baby Jesus and in his manger is reborn the hope of the majority: which are the rejected and marginalized by the present social systems.

It is this hope, which gives meaning to the joy manifested throughout the world during Christmas time. But it is God’s act and his wisdom which makes, in the present, that Christians construct a world according the will of God and the logic of the manger (and the cross), and not according the logic of the world. Because we, the disciples “are in the world, but do not belong to the world.”

Friends, I rejoice together with you during this 2009 Christmas; and ask the God Child to bless us all, to illumine us and to give us the strength to construct our lives, our families, our work and labors, and all our personal and social projects, following the logic which had its beginnings during Jesus’ birth in the manger in Bethlehem. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A “River of Light” in New York

To the right of the Main Altar in St. Patrick’s Cathedral –that is, in a privileged place— during the last 18 years and for the veneration of believers, is placed a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

How did the image make it there? Who was the main person responsible for this incredible act? What happened so that the image of Our Lady of Tepeyac would reach a place of veneration today in New York City is a story that should be told and written. I intend, through these lines, to make known the incredible story that established this landmark.

The painting was done by an unknown artist in the XVIII Century. It is believed that it was the work of a successful painter, student of the great Mexican painter Miguel Cabrera. It is a present from the Archdiocese of Mexico to Catholics of the metropolitan Cathedral in New York. It was acquired in the Art Gallery of Enrique Romero in Mexico City and brought to New York, personally, by the then Archbishop of Mexico His Eminence Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada.

On the 8th of December of 1991, in the solemn Mass of the Immaculate Conception, Cardinal Corripio presented to his brother, the then Cardinal of New York, Archbishop John Cardinal O’Connor, during the solemn liturgical celebration, the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
During that liturgical act were present the Consul General of Mexico, Mr. Manuel Alonzo and Mrs. Rosa María Quijano, protagonist and principal donor so that this historical event would take place.

The miraculous impression of Our Lady of Guadalupe, among roses, on the poncho of the Indian San Juan Diego, in the apparition of December 12, 1531, is permanently on display in the new Basilica, built in her honor and for her veneration in Mexico City.

The word “Guadalupe” means “river of light.” Today we can say that there is a constant “river of believers” who go daily to honor Our Mother and Mother of God, under the invocation of the Mexican, Latin-American, American, and Amerindian “Virgen Morena,” in the beautiful painting now in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. For the visit of his Holiness Pope John Paul II to New York, the painting of the Guadalupana was moved to the main altar to preside over the visit of His Holiness to the Cathedral, and for the prayer of the Holy Rosary directed by the Universal Pastor before the venerated image.

It is worth stating that the prominent placement that the painting has today, within the context of the Cathedral, in the place where the Tabernacle of the Cathedral was, to the right of the main altar, has its own history. All of it is intertwined with signs and miracles, which point to the fact that after a series of difficulties encountered in the placement of the painting --due to the construction and style of the Cathedral--, the Virgin has found a prominent place where to be revered and where she can accompany the life of its children.

Mrs. Margarita Perusquia has a primary placement in this story. As a founder of the organization “Mensajeros de María de Guadalupe” (Messengers of Maria Guadalupe), she has dedicated herself and the Institution to spread in New York and throughout the world the devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This Marian devotion embodies the Latin-American spirit and puts together, in the best symbiosis, the most valuable of our origins, our history, our faith and our culture.

The request of Margarita Perusquia to the then Archbishop of New York: Terence Cardinal Cook was to allow her to build an altar in the Cathedral for the veneration of the “Guadalupana.” This act began this story which today inspires and brings so many devotees, not only from New York, but from the whole continent and across the seas.

The same request, with the best show of Christian patience and perseverance, was made by Margarita several times to Cardinal Cook and Cardinal O’Connor. Each, in their moment, referred her to the Cathedral’s rector, who –in turn—denied the request, usually for the reasons mentioned previously: the lack of consonance between the style of the painting, the construction and architectural style, and the art within the Cathedral.

As it was stated on the 8th of December, 1991, the Cardinal of Mexico: Ernesto Cardinal Corripio Ahumada, while celebrating the Eucharist in the Cathedral gave the painting of the Virgin to John Cardinal O’Connor, who –full of emotion— asks the multitudes where they would want the painting: his house, his office or in the Cathedral. To that the crowd of believers answered, at one voice: “Here, in the Cathedral.”

For one-and-a-half years the painting of the Guadalupe was stored in inadequate corners of the Cathedral. But soon, the daily crowd of pilgrims, the offerings, the candles, and flowers pressured the authorities in the Cathedral to find a better and more adequate place for the veneration of the image of the “Virgen Morena.” May these lines become written evidence of that story; and may they help to honor and give thanks to those who made this religious gesture possible. I would like to congratulate all my Mexican and Latin-American brothers and sisters on this day, in which Catholics happily celebrate the solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of Mexico and Mother of the Americas.