Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our “enlightened” reason. We must set aside our false certainties, our intellectual pride, which prevents us from recognizing God’s closeness. We must follow the interior path of Saint Francis – the path leading to that ultimate outward and inward simplicity which enables the heart to see."

-- Pope Benedict XVI, December 24, 2011

I wish you and yours a very blessed Christmas. May the gift of faith be with you and yours throughout the New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Great joy!

Christmas is the liturgical season in which Christians celebrate every year the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The birth of the son of a humble carpenter (Mt 13,55) who divided human history into two parts: years and centuries before and after Christ.

The account of his birth in the Gospel of Luke, as with all human accounts, and therefore as in all biblical accounts, is interwoven with historical details and confessions of faith.

Concerning the historical information, Luke underscores his concern to provide a temporal and spatial framework that is as precise as possible for the birth of the “Savior”. Thus Luke tells us that:

·      In those days a decree went out from Ceasar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment when Quirinius was governor of Syria.”.(Lk 2,1-2, CEV).

Further historical data of the simple yet outstanding Lukan account of the birth and infancy of Jesus are his references to:

·        “The city of Nazareth, in Galilee” (Lk 2,4).
·        “His wife Mary, who was pregnant” (Lk 2,5).
·        “There were shepherds in the region…” (Lk 2,8).

But all the strength and intentionality of the account, according to Luke, are placed on the confessions of faith of the primitive Christian community —“in light of the Passover”— concerning the child, now raised from the dead, the infant who is now proclaimed as their Lord.

In Luke’s account, the following confessions of faith are high-lighted:

·        “Of the house and family of David” (Lk 2,4)
·        “The city of David, known as Bethlehem, in Judea” (Lk 2,4)
·        “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them: ‘Do not be afraid, for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today, in the city of David, a savior has been born to you who is Messiah and Lord’ (Lk 2, 9-11)
·   “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2.14)

After twenty centuries, even though the social, historical and cultural circumstances have changed, we can affirm that our creed is a historical faith and religion, founded on facts that occurred in a proven and irrefutable way in the time and space of human history (D.V. 2).

Yet we can especially say that after twenty centuries, in the liturgical season of Christmas, as Christians we unite in the very same confessions of faith proclaimed by the early Christians in their communities. And today, as we do every day and always at Christmas, we also confess that the child “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” was born to us as the Savior, the Messiah, the Lord, “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14,6), the one who fills the sense of history of our personal, family and social life.

Thus Christmas is a liturgical season with historical foundations, yet it is especially a season of joyful celebration for the good news of great joy that the birth of the Son of God meant for the early Christians who proclaimed it as such in the beautiful Lukan account, and for us who also acknowledge this fact in the current moment of our own history.

This good news, this great joy amply justifies all the celebration of Christmas. Therefore we desire for you: Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful, and expectant…

Once a year, the inhabitants of this great nation submerge themselves in the festival most characteristic of the American spirit: the celebration of a DAY OF THANKGIVING and, although with the passing of time it has been paganized and secularized so much that the celebratory events have been disconnected from any reference to the Transcendent One, for believers in Christ every expression of THANKSGIVING causes us to reflect on the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit, for we see ourselves as beloved sons and daughters of our compassionate and merciful Father. We recognize that from God comes “every perfect gift” (1 Cor 7,7) and that all that we are and have we have received “freely” from God and for that we must give him thanks (Mat 10,8). Therefore, the Eucharistic preface reminds us: “It is truly just and necessary, it is our debt and our salvation, to GIVE YOU THANKS, always and in every place, Lord…”.

Thus the DAY OF THANKSGIVING is not only the historical remembrance of an event that occurred between natives and colonizers, but especially the wisest, most honest, appropriate and unique posture that corresponds to the creature before the Creator and Son who is with the Father: GIVING THANKS.

In this way, human gratitude for God’s freely given favors becomes a permanent attitude of life, a life style, a way of being and acting in the world and not simply a question of annual rites without content or true gratitude.

In the economic frenzy of our society, in the daily push to accumulate power, pleasure and possessions, in the midst of the great political and social concerns that envelope us every day, it is a blessing that an annual date reminds us of how we need to recognize how much we are loved, how fortunate we are, how much we can share with gratitude.

In a hedonistic and consumer-oriented society, in a capitalistic economic society, we may falsely believe that everything we are and have we have achieved, thanks to the power of money provided by our work. But little by little life reveals to us another truth: there are values, truths, goods and favors in the human soul that cannot be purchased or sold; values and truths that are discovered in the deepest and most intimate essence of the human being that will always lead us to live with thankfulness, like the gift of life, liberty, beauty, solidarity, etc.

For that reason the DAY OF THANKSGIVING is a celebration and a commitment, since to be thankful requires all of us to create conditions in which everyone, without distinction, can live with gratitude. That is to say, to build a society in equity and justice, in solidarity and compassion, in truth, freedom and peace.

This year 2012, soon to end, we have had painful experiences in our personal, family and community history, in our life as a nation and in the whole world (warring conflicts, natural phenomena with loss of life, etc.), and yet, as those who trust in Christ we believe that, even in the most difficult experiences, with pain and great suffering, men and women can continue to be thankful for we can “continue to hope when hope is gone” (Rom 4,18) and because Christians understand that it is in the course of history (with the weaving of experiences of good and evil, among lights and shadows) that God makes himself known, in deed and word (DV 2).

I invite you then to find motives to be thankful; to build a society in which we can all continue to be thankful and expectant. Have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Year for Faith

In the context of the Synod of the Catholic Church concerning the New Evangelization for transmitting the Christian faith, “The Year of Faith” is inaugurated.

Our very life is an occurrence of faith. The existence of every human being occurs as a combined sum of daily and permanent acts of faith. Faith in life, in ourselves, in all that happens and all that surrounds us. We could not live without faith, without trust (in the food we consume, in the chair that sustains us, in the shower we take and the traffic in which we move, we live trusting in the validity of the present and in our expectant hope for tomorrow…). To live is to trust. Thus the experience of religious faith implies, first of all, profound anthropological roots in the experience of every man and woman in their daily tasks.

Religion is, of itself, an experience of faith, or in faith. On the basis of their religious experience human beings trust and build their life (their yesterday, today, tomorrow and their final and definitive destiny) based on the power of the Transcendent One. As Christians we have placed all our confidence in the God revealed in Jesus Christ: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

A “Year of Faith” is a fitting occasion to plumb more deeply the meaning of our human and religious experience: our vital experience of trusting —through Christ, with him and in him— in the Father, by the Son, in the Holy Spirit. A “Year of Faith” is a providential opportunity to reflect upon our faith in Christ and the implications which the experience of trusting in God have in each of our lives, that of our families, our work and the various contexts (labor, academic, political and economic) in which we live.

The Christian religious experience is that, above all: an experience, a vital practice that coincides with our human existence and involves all our life and activity. The faith of every human being, just as that of Jesus of Nazareth, is a human experience, lived out and tested in the occurrences of every day and in every new and changing circumstance, in all of which we are able to place all our confidence and hope in the God of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, faith is not in the first sense a doctrinal matter (even though this is assumed) nor a concept, nor the celebration of a rite. Christian faith is an experience of human life: a human life that trusts in God, the same as:

The faith of Abraham: Gn 22,1-19
The faith of Job: “God gave; God took away” (Job 2,10)
The faith of Jesus: “Father, in your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23,45).
The faith of Mary: “Let it be to me according to your word”(Lk 1,26-38)
The faith of the leper: “If you want to, you can heal me” (Mt 8,1-3)
That of the centurion: “One word of yours is all that is required to heal me”(Mt 8,5-8).
That of Paul: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil 4,13).

And that of so many men and women who in the Gospel and in human history have placed all their confidence in God, have placed their life in the powerful and merciful hands of God, our Father, through Christ, in the Spirit.

Understood in this way, Christian faith is not a conceptual or theoretical act, nor a conceptual or rational recognition. Neither is Christian faith a singular practice, separate, divorced, distant or marginalized from daily life. To the contrary, Christian faith grants to Christian men and women a special way of looking at the daily circumstances in which all human life unfolds.

The distinction and divorce that we have assumed between the religious experience of faith and our daily life produces frequent contradictions such as the following: societies that are largely Christian possess, on the world scene, the highest levels of iniquity, injustice, violence and death… That is to say, societies in which Christian faith is not involved in the daily life of man-in-society, in which religious faith does not illumine the temporal and worldly realities and in which, to the contrary, faith seems to disturb the daily aspirations and conquests of the people.

In order that Christian religious faith might be more reasoned, better celebrated, more frequently shared, more eloquently preached, but above all, more fully lived: Let’s extend a welcome to “the Year of Christian Faith”!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The New Evangelization

It was during his first pastoral trip to Poland that the Blessed John Paul II spoke and exhorted from Nowa Huta concerning the need for a “new evangelization,” thus coining the term with which the venerated Pope sought to provide impulse to the permanent task and challenge for the Church in the world. This renewed challenge to accomplish the missionary task of the church with the eternal content of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ himself, should become, according to the Pope - “new” in passion, “new” in methods and “new” as well in its expression, in order that Christ and his gospel might impregnate, not merely apply a varnish to the temporal realities, but that Christ and his criteria, principles and the values of the gospel might work their way into the depth of the heart of every person, renewing the life of all people, including the relationships between all men and Christ, so as to become the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth”. An evangelization that reaches all peoples and impregnates with evangelical values the cultures in all corners of the globe.

The challenge of this “new evangelization” requires the vital and dynamic testimony of every Christian and of the Christian communities with the certainty that the mystery and the ministry of Christ will enlighten and clarify the life of individuals and peoples (GS 22), that in the person of Christ and his gospel they might find a response to the great questions of humanity and the deepest desires of all peoples and of their ever changing history. All of which presupposes that in the life of the church and in the task of evangelism in the world, we might give to Sacred Scripture the centrality it deserves as the source of all that has been revealed in the Word of God, which is Christ himself: the norm of our existence and responsibility as disciples.

In this way, the “new evangelization” and the “Word of God” imply and require that evangelism based on Sacred Scripture will always result in renewal, always fresh, always vital while the “Word of God” makes effective the task of the “new evangelization” today.

Friday, September 21, 2012

That We All Might Be One In Diversity

The word synod, from the Latin sinŏdus, and this in turn from the Greek σúνοδος (sínodos), which in Koiné Greek (the popular Greek language, spoken by most, as distinct from classical Greek, of the philosophers) literally means 'walking together', and today, designating in the Catholic Church (according to Canon 342 in the current Code of Canonical Law) an assembly of bishops, of a deliberative nature rather than consultative, chosen from the different regions of the world, which meets on determined occasions to promote a close union between the Roman Pontiff and other bishops in the world on subjects of current interest in the life of the church and the world.

A Synod, then, is a consultative body of bishops called by the Pope generally every three years, and on special occasions when the Pope considers it to be necessary. There are synods on pastoral subjects, but there are also continental gatherings such as the Synod of the Church in America or in Asia.

Next October the Catholic Church will celebrate a Synod —of ordinary character— on the New Evangelization. It will be Synod XIII of the Catholic bishops, and it constitutes a unique opportunity for Catholics of all races, tongues, peoples and social condition to reflect on the challenges of this particular time in the history of humanity and the life of Christians and people in general in the current social setting, in terms of the evangelistic task of the Church in the world.

On Saturday, December 3, 2005, the Holy Father Benedict XVI, in a discourse to the second group of bishops of Poland in a visit “Ad limina, spoke of the New Evangelization, in reference to the homily of the Blessed John Paul II before the workers of Nowa Huta, during his first visit to his home country, remembering the words: “From the cross of Nowa Huta the new evangelization has begun”. It was on that occasion that John Paul II proclaimed the need of a “New Evangelization” and coined this term to designate all that the Catholic Church needs to do so that —with new ardor, new methods and new expressions— it might adequately accomplish the task of impregnating our current reality with the criteria of the gospel.

The coming Synod seeks to develop guidelines for presenting our faith in this particular hour: how to experience it, how to make it known and how to evangelize today’s world with its interpersonal relationships, micro and macro economics, political and cultural interests, artistic and athletic, cultural and technological, local and international realities, community and global realities, etc.

Underlying the intention of this Council is the same idea developed by John Paul II in the celebration of the 500 years of evangelization in America. Thus the Hispanic community residing in the United States should concern itself anew about its “Catholic” presence in this nation, its Catholic identity that impregnates the history of our Hispano-American origins and the particular challenges posed by our condition as Catholic migrants, as well as those posed to the Catholic Church in this great nation.

Some of these great challenges and concerns, both to Hispanic- and Anglo-Americans, to the Anglo-Catholic and to the Hispano-Catholic, among the purely Hispanic and the purely Anglo and North American population has to do with communion and participation, with Jesus’ desire made known in the Gospel of John: “That they all may be one” (John 17,21). Unity that is realized in full participation and integration, not in the assimilation of the Hispanic culture by the dominant culture.

Even though there is much to be done in this field, much has already been accomplished through a large measure of sacrifice: in the year 1970, Msgr. Patricio Flores was named as the first bishop of Hispanic origin in the USA, currently bishop emeritus of San Antonio, Texas. Yet currently we have 47 Hispanic bishops.

Very well, we not only need to see the recognition of Hispanic bishops, we also need to see the recognition of Hispanic academics in the universities, and promote the development of political leadership inspired by the instruction of the Church achieved through the support and concourse of everyone, among many other areas, of humanitarian migrant laws, treatment that is equitable and just for the poor and marginalized according to the gospel, which among us today have faces and proper names: millions who are poor, impoverished, marginalized and excluded by the societies from which they came, as well as in the one where they have arrived —for lack of documents— where they are exploited, persecuted and condemned to live in conditions inadequate for inhabitants of this nation that is recognized as a free and democratic society, especially when they are considered to be children of God.

All of this should contribute to the fulfillment of the vision and dream of John Paul II: to become in fact, not three Americas, but ONE AMERICA, united and for everyone. An America with different faces, languages and colors, with different creeds and ideologies, with different flavors and customs, but with a common destiny: to build a more fraternal society, more united, more human and more just. A society in which no one is excluded and all fit, for all of whom the greater realization of their best and most human longings is possible.

Thus the subject chosen for the Synod of this coming October on the New Evangelization involves us and acquires in our Hispanic context in the United States its own profile and interest: that of discovering what is truly Hispanic, North American and Catholic as a possibility of convergence, integration, unity and mutual enrichment with our differences, rather than an obligatory separation and cause for rejection and discrimination due to the things that are not common to us all.

Common to us all is the same divine origin, the same tendencies toward that which is noble, good, beautiful and true. Common to us all is the planet where we live and the dreams of a better world. Common to us all as believers in Christ (whether Hispanic or non-Hispanic) is the dream and the task of building unity —in diversity— lived out and preached by our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Half Century Since Vatican II

Pope John XXIII signs the bull convoking the Second Vatican Council.
Dec. 25, 1961. (CNS photo)
Fifty years ago the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council was inaugurated. In reality, this was the twenty-second ecumenical council (that is to say, of a universal character) in the history of the Catholic Church. Vatican Council II was called by Pope John XXIII on January 25, 1959 and, without a doubt, was one of the great historical events marking world history and that of the church in the Twentieth Century. The Council consisted of four sessions: the first was presided over by the same Pope in the fall of 1962. He was unable to conclude this Council due to his death a year later, (on June 3, 1963). The other three sessions were called and presided over by his successor, Pope Paul VI, until its conclusion in 1965. The official language of the Council was Latin. Vatican Council II was also the Council with the greatest and most diverse representation of languages and races, with an average attendance of some two thousand council fathers coming from all corners of the earth, and included the attendance of members from other Christian religions.

The Council was called for the principal purpose of promoting the development of the Catholic faith, achieving a moral renewal in the Christian life of the faithful, adapting the ecclesiastical discipline to the need and methods of our time and accomplishing an improved relationship with other religions, especially from the Orient. The goal was thus to produce an aggiornamento or actualization of the Church with the passing of human history, renewing the elements having the greatest need of such, reviewing in depth the form and contents of the evangelistic task of the Church in the world. Therefore, Vatican Council II sought to provide an open dialog with the modern world, updating the life of the Church, with new conciliatory language while facing problems that are both ancient and current.

The multitude of representatives from so many and such distinct corners of the Church in the world allows us to suppose that the sessions, discussions and documents emanating from the Council contain a diversity of vision concerning the life and activities of the Church in the world.

However, we propose —in the brevity of this article— to underscore the central themes of Vatican Council II:

  • The need to return to the Source: to the Good News lived and proclaimed by Jesus of Nazareth during his public ministry and the Christian experience of the early days of the Church as lived by the first Christian communities. Following twenty centuries of world history it was time for a reflection, a review, a pruning and an updating to determine all that was pertinent and that which was not pertinent to the integrity of the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  •  All the baptized members of God’s people are called to holiness. And, in Vatican Council II, the comprehensiveness of the Church overcomes the geographical limits to become the place of salvation for all men and women of good will, all those who live in Christ without understanding the fact because they live a life of love and service for the building of more fraternal societies.
  • By the same token, the Church sees itself as Mother and Teacher, but above all, as the site for compassion and mercy in the world to gather and protect within its bosom all people, especially the smallest, the weakest and poorest of the world; in the same way that Jesus constituted in his time the site of mercy, sacramental sign and historical presence of the Father’s love.
  • In Vatican Council II, the Church sees itself more as a community of communities, of fellowship and participation and retreats from the Roman imperial model and pyramid and renews its awareness of its special power and role in the world for serving in the example of her Lord.
  • The centrality of Sacred Scripture and, especially, of the gospel (Good News) which is Jesus himself: the norm of our life and activity as disciples. For this reason the approach and study of theology and, more concretely, of Sacred Scripture has become possible, promoting and encouraging the evangelistic and missionary task of the Church.
With these and other subjects, all of them important and some of them new, the Vatican Council proposed enormous changes to the inner life of the Church, of its members and in the way the Church presents itself to the world. At the same time, contrasts and tensions appeared between those who desired and still desire –conservatively– greater commitment to the customs and traditions and those who prefer a walk of the Church that is more consonant with the rhythm of humanity in history.

Suffice it to recall here the introduction of the native language of each place for the liturgy of God’s People and all the changes arising in the divine worship, the creation of collegiate bodies in the life of the Church like the Synods, the Episcopal Conferences, the Parish Councils, etc., for the purpose of “democratizing” the participation in the life and activity of the Church for all the people of God.

The context in which the council sessions were carried out is part of a greater context: that of the decade of the 1960s marked with all kinds of spiritual convulsions throughout the planet: the perception of human history as a “graveyard of hopes”, the feeling of a non-existent future since science and modern technology did not solve the great problems of humanity (hunger, misery, injustice, divisions, inequity) while fostering new ones (contamination, weapons race, etc), youth rebellion, protests, leftist revolutionary movements, guerrillas, sexual liberation movements, etc. This new spirit of humanity affected and still necessarily affects the life of the Church and of all its members, for the Church —inserted in the world— cannot hide from the light and darkness of the world where it lives and which it seeks to illuminate with the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The celebration of these fifty years since the Council urges us to return to the documents of the Council to understand and live them out and, above all, to return to the spirit of renewal that gave impulse to the mind and heart of those who called it and made it possible, to return to the great lesson left us by Vatican Council II: the need for the Church to better understand the history of the world and of humanity where it finds its destiny in its life and its task to be faithful to Him who clarifies our life, the mystery of every person and of all humanity.

Friday, September 14, 2012

National Hispanic Heritage Month

On September 17, 1968, the Congress of the United States authorized the President of the United States (then Lyndon B. Johnson), to proclaim National Hispanic Heritage Week. This proclamation urged the people of the United States, especially the educational entities, to observe the week with appropriate ceremonies and activities. President Gerald R. Ford, in 1974, issued a proclamation that particularly urged schools and human rights organizations to participate fully in the celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Week.

Twenty years later, on August 18, 1988, President Ronald Reagan reiterated Ford’s call for a broader recognition of all residents of Hispanic origin. To this end, the Congress approved Public Law 100-402, extending the celebration for a period of 31 days, to be known as NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH, (from September 15 to October 15 of each year). The United States continues that month-long celebration of the culture and traditions of the residents of this country who have roots in Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking countries of Central America, South America and the Caribbean, and honors the accomplishments of the Hispanic or Latin community who reside in this nation.

As a Hispanic community, we remember and enjoy festivities revolving around our origin, history, culture, the values of our identity and reality in this nation. It is a privileged time each year in which we review our Hispanic state in this nation: our common objectives (where they exist), our efforts, activities, desires, longings, and ideals; our participation in the history and progress of the country; and, above all, the accomplishments that our Hispanic presence has achieved in the overall concert of this great nation’s life.

The Hispanics of several generations have proceeded from the many different corners of Latin America. We have brought with us the richest and most varied cultural expressions, (originating from our historic associations with Spain or Portugal), and most especially, our Catholic faith. We constitute a veritable multitude in this nation. The National Census of the year 2000 found 56 million persons of Hispanic origin living in the United States, making us the largest minority, representing 15% of the total population.

Our numerical growth greatly increases, at the same time, the problems that we as a community must face and resolve equally increase. Looking beyond ourselves to the rest of the very diverse population of the United States, we see the issues that result from our multiculturalism in every field of life: academic, economic, political, cultural, artistic, athletic, religious, etc.

Some of the great problems we face include: a lack of understanding of our own inner being; a knowledge of who we are and of our Hispanic communities (which lack integration and unity); our limited or absent sense of belonging to the Hispanic community present in the United States; our lack of leadership and of interrelationship between the leadership of our varied communities; our lack of common objectives (especially political); the absence of a common vision which could give strength in a unified struggle to reach common goals and achievements in the life and growth of this nation. We don’t even share a common name to define and identify us as a community in relation to the rest of the nation.

Consequently, the recent study done by the PEW Hispanic Center reveals that:

Most Hispanics or Latinos prefer not to be called either “Hispanics” or “Latinos”.

• Approximately 51% of Hispanics in the nation prefer to be identified according to their country of origin.

• Only 49% of those surveyed said that they identify themselves as a Hispanics and/or Latinos.

• Barely 21% said they preferred to be described as Americans.

• 79% of those surveyed said that if they had to do it again, they would come to the United States.

Moreover, in the last five years, in particular, the immigration debate in the United States has been poor, embarrassing, unfavorable and unfair to the Hispanic community. We have been mistreated, legalization processes have been hindered, and social opportunities have been denied, preventing the Hispanic community from being integrated into the national life of this country.

This failure in immigration policy, especially with regard to the Hispanic community present in this nation, gives rise to many different theories, but is due in large measure to our lack of unity, internal understanding and cohesion, as well as the shortage of Hispanic leaders who should represent our needs, concerns, longings, urgencies, and desires.

Given the large number of Hispanics, it is of the utmost importance to both the Hispanic community and the nation, that we not be assimilated, thus losing our identity, but to be integrated with all of our historic riches and our cultural and Christian values within all the fabric of the United States.

The Catholic Church in the United States is being enriched by the increasing number of faithful Hispanics. The nation’s current debate of the immigration laws offer the Church to be “Mother and Teacher” to the Hispanic community and is given the opportunity to advocate for a reform of the laws that are more just and humane. The leadership offered by Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Chairman of the Immigration Committee of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, is most promising in helping to achieve a body of laws that will reflect the values of liberty and justice which are the foundation of our nation.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

“That they might have abundant life”

With the solemn reality of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, as Christians we commemorate the principal confession of our faith. We celebrate the fact that although “you killed him by letting sinful men crucify him... God raised him from death, setting him free from its power” (Acts 2,23-24). For if Christ did not rise from the dead our faith is vain, our preaching is vain and our hope is also vain (Cf. 1 Cor 15,17).

This confession of faith is that which connects us and identifies us with the apostles, with the early disciples, with the first century believers and with Christian of all ages and all parts of the earth. This confession of faith is what determined the character and the identity of Christians in the world as men and women of hope. For in the resurrection of Christ life triumphed over death and –for that reason– we know that the final and definitive destiny of man in the Father’s plan is not death, chaos, nothingness, absurdity, or failure, but life… and not just any life, but abundant life (Jn 10,10).

But this confession of faith, in order to be authentic (and not just from our lips) must be born today out of the same vital experience that was born in yesteryear among the first Christians: a transforming experience in their life through which they bore witness as new men and women (Cf. Eph 4,24; Matt 9,17), renewed in their mind (Eph 4,23); that is, with new criteria, with life based on the logic of the gospel and the wisdom of the cross, and not on the world’s logic (Cf. 1 Cor 1,21; Jn 8,23; Jn 15,18-21)… a transforming experience that caused them to proclaim throughout the world that He who was dead is now alive, he rose again and lives today among us.

Such a vital and transforming experience was evident among the early Christians and must be experienced, proven, manifested and preached today in the life of those who –like Christ himself– address God as their Father, (Gal 4,6; Rom 8,14), see themselves as his children and the brothers of all, by fulfilling the Father’s will, his mandate to love.

Today, the same as two thousand years ago, Christians are asked: What have we done with the One who rose from the grave? (Cf. Jn 20,2ff). Where can the world find Jesus Christ, the One who lives forever? This is the reason the confession of faith in the resurrection requires and commits us to present the living Christ in the world through the testimony of our transformed lives, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. In this way, the presence of the One who rose again becomes a reality in the world today through Christians that bear witness to the life of Christ within them and who cry out with Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20).

Society around us today seeks for possibilities and spaces of life in the midst of a “culture of death”. Such a search challenges us as Christians, all men and women who believe in the God of life that is eternal, full and abundant (Cf. Jn 10,10), believers in God who triumphed over injustice and death and offers us endless possibilities of new life.

Resurrection is the meaning of Easter. Paschal is a Hebrew word that means “passage”, transformation, change, conversion.

· Passage from death to life when we love each other (1 Jn 3,14).
· Passage from hate to love.
· Passage from sadness to joy: “A joy that nothing and no one can take from us” (Jn 16,22).
· Passage from selfishness to service and solidarity.
· Passage from egotism to a generous surrender of our life for the gospel (Lk 9,22-25).
· Passage from anger to forgiveness.
· Passage from iniquity to justice.
· Passage from competition to friendship.
· Passage from darkness to light.
· Passage from slavery to the freedom that belongs to the children of God.
· Passage from sin to grace.
· Passage from the old to the new.
· Passage from the condition of a slave to the life of a son.

Finally, if resurrection is abundant life (Cf. Jn 10,10, eternal life (Jn 3,16) and salvation, and if that full life and salvation is synonymous with happiness that every man and woman desires and hopes for, then Christ, his gospel and the entire saving, paschal and Christian reality is integrated in our life and responds to the fundamental question of humanity: the incessant search for happiness.

Christ saves us because he brings us happiness, teaching us to live his very life: the life that belongs to the children of God and the brothers of all, that enables us –in love- to enjoy a more friendly and just society, with justice and solidarity, equity and peace. There is no divorce between faith and life, between Easter and our daily experience, because the resurrection of Christ –and that for which all of us hope in Him- is the happiness that we seek and find in the everyliving One. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why did he call God “Father…”

“…Now the leaders wanted to kill Jesus for two reasons. First, he had broken the law of the Sabbath. But even worse, he had said that God was his Father, which made him equal with God.” (Jn 5,17-30). With this phrase, John the Evangelist sums up the conflict that Jesus faced with the Jewish authorities of his town and of his times (high priests, scribes, Pharisees, elders, etc.). A conflict that in the end issued in his passion, death and resurrection. Thus this phrase also introduces us to the celebration to the most holy week of the Christian calendar and specifically to the celebration of the Easter weekend.

He said that God was his Father: All the deeds of Jesus, all his words (parables), all his ministry together constitute good news for men and women of good will: the creator and God of the Old Testament is a compassionate and merciful Father “who takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner but desires that he be converted and live” (Cf. Mt 22,32-???), who “makes the sun rise on both good and bad people” (Mt 5,45), “who gives good things to people who ask” (Mt 7,10-11) and who – in Jesus – is the one who has come “to call sinners rather than good people to himself” (Mk 2,17).

Which made him equal with God: Jesus is the Son in the image and likeness of his Father. He is absolutely divine as well as profoundly and totally human. All his humanity is pure divinity. God’s perfection is realized in him, the perfection to which we are all called: “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect, compassionate and merciful, as the Father in heaven is compassionate and merciful” (Mt 5,48). Those who saw him, saw the Father (Cf. Jn 14,9).

He broke the law of the Sabbath: From his filial relationship with God, Jesus derived all the consequences for his own life and that of his disciples in all ages: We are all brothers (Cf. Mt 23,8), 4,11), with deeds, especially toward those who are most needy (Cf. Mt 25,31ff). With such certainty, he gave preference to his Father’s will, which consists in our loving each other (Cf. Jn 13,34) and he denounced and broke with a relationship with God that was only ritualistic, legalistic, external, cultic and sacrificial that pretended to honor and worship him while despising the less fortunate. For that reason, on many occasions, he spoke in that way, especially against scribes and Pharisees, who in their fulfillment of the law and their worship in the temple despised and avoided their fallen brothers (Cf. Lc 10,33ff):

  • “You hypocrites! You give to God one tenth even of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill, and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty.” (Mt 23,23).

  • “Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices” (Mt 9,13).

  • “Leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother” (Mt 5,24).

  • “Whenever you did this for one of the least important of these followers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt 25,40).

  • “We cannot love God, whom we have not seen, if we do not love others, whom we have seen (1 Jn 4,20; 1 Jn 3,15).

  • “You should have had mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you”(Mt 18,33).

For that reason, Easter in Holy Week is the commemoration of the Son’s life surrendered completely to the Father’s will: for the establishment of God’s kingdom, as we see ourselves as children of the same Father loving each other as brothers and sisters.

For this reason also, the reading of the Gospel accounts of the passion and death are the realization of the unjust process carried out against Jesus as a consequence of his options: to suffer and die in the same way (Cf. Jn 1,29; Acts 8,32) and due to similar conflicts and motives for which centuries earlier the prophets of his people gave their lives and for those who today continue to die: all those who – like Jesus – offer their life to the cause of truth, of life, solidarity, justice, liberty, peace.

For all that has been said, Holy Week is the commemoration and realization of the life, passion, death and resurrection of the One who understood and taught us that life is won when it is lost, is given as a donation, surrendered, yielded, spent in favor of others and is lost when hoarded selfishly (Cf. Mt 16,25).

Today, as disciples of Jesus, we can experience Holy Week as the remembrance of some past deeds that have little relationship with our present, or as the remembrance of occurrences that today are realized in our own life and in the life of a world that needs men and women who are able to wash the feet of their brothers, sharing the same bread, bearing the cross of others, washing the face and consoling those who suffer the most, in order to provide a space for abundant life (Jn 10,10), resurrection life.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Lent is a privileged liturgical season for reflecting upon our human nature: the fragile and vulnerable nature of human existence and, especially, upon the experience of evil (and good) in which we live and develop throughout our historical existence, both personally and in community. We refer to the experience of evil that is lived, evidenced and manifested in conflicts (whether personal, family, social, national, international, natural disasters, etc.) and which, in our Christian theology and worldview, we know as “sin,” as contrasted with other worldviews and theological systems in which evil is called fault, guilt, stain and taboo.

As the Gospel informs us (Cf. Mt 4. 1-11; Mk 1.12-15; Lk 4.1-13, passages appointed for the First Sunday in Lent in the Liturgical Cycles A, B and C) Jesus experienced the temptations of evil and sin illustrated through the three significant appetites of every human being: power, pleasure and possessions. The reality of sin comes to all humankind in the form of temptations, which none can escape: “He that is without sin…”(Jn 8.1-11). However, in the Gospel account of the temptations, Jesus overcomes, and with his victory he shows us the possibility and the pathway of triumph over evil, over sin, in this world.

Therefore, Jesus is, for Christians. “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14.6), the new well from which springs eternal life (Jn 4.5-42), the light of the world (Jn 9.1-41), the Savior (Jn 3.14-21), life that confronts the reality of death (Jn 11.1-45) and, finally in the unique sinless person, the One: “being made in human likeness” (but without sin) (Phil 2.7).

Yet the subjects of “sin” and its counterpart, “forgiveness,” are dealt with differently in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament sins are mentioned (in the plural) as faults and transgressions. The law of forgiveness includes punishments (and in later Judaism: rites) for the purpose of healing, vindicating, harmonizing, balancing the life and repairing the damage done, in order to reintegrate the person in the life of the community. The New Testament speaks of sin in the singular (using the Greek word hamartía) as a deliberate human act (conscious and free) against all that is divine in the sinner, as a denial of the divine aspect in man. Sin is understood as an interior detour, as a “fundamental option” of humankind to deny their Creator and Father. It is a denial of our primary vocation -- that of becoming like our Father, that is, perfect, compassionate and merciful. In the New Testament sin is a diabolical posture (not divine), sinful (an irrational act, like that of an animal), inhuman (not divine) through which human beings disseminate evil fruit, sins (now in plural).

In order to correct, straighten out, erase, heal and save humankind, Christ, with the Good News of his life and proclamation, with his surrender to death on the Cross and his resurrection, conquers evil, liberates, redeems, justifies the human being from within (Mt 15.19), like the good tree with good fruit (Mt 7.17). Therefore, the forgiving and saving work of Christ is not one of cleansing sins but of healing sin, healing humankind from within, structurally and integrally so that sin is no more (1 Jn 3.6).

If the objective of the disciple, of the son, is to become like the Son (Eph 5.1) and, through Christ, be with Him and in Him, in his understanding and following, to be made in “the image and likeness of the Father”, then Lent reminds us also of the need to live in a permanent state of conversion, of a change of life, of transforming our life to be like Christ’s life, as well as our principles, criteria and attitudes like the criteria of the Gospel. The logic of the world must become God’s logic, or the wisdom of the cross, until we can exclaim with Paul “where sin abounded, grace abounded even more” (Rm 5.20), “I no long live, but Christ lives in me”. (Gal 2.20). Conversion, especially during the Lenten season, is equated in the liturgy with the Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-9), since to be converted is to be worthy to hear —as Jesus did— the voice of the Father that tells us: “this is my Son, the beloved, listen to him.”

Lent, therefore, reminds us of our sin, our need for conversion, but above all, it reminds us of our need to return to the Father’s house where there awaits for us the compassionate and merciful embrace of the Father who does not deal with us as daily workers or as servants, but as his children (Lk 15). Thus, Lent is also a season for joyful confidence, for gratitude, for humble hope in God’s compassionate love. Conversion and joy, are clearly are part of the entire life of the disciple, involving the Christian’s entire objective.