Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas and the Sacred Family

Christmas is an annual occurrence based on a historical and saving event: the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which Christians commemorate liturgically using the same name. In a materialistic society like ours, Christmas has been converted into a season for buying and selling, for spending and consuming, for show-off and waste. And in this enormous consumer traffic, the message that we remember as Christians, the significance of which we celebrate on this occasion is manipulated, glossed over or lost, or even forgotten.

The significance that Christmas has for the world in general and for Christians in particular is enormous. What we are celebrating is the birth of JESUS OF NAZARETH, who is for all peoples a model of Humanity and Divinity: since Jesus is both divine and profoundly human.

When we confess Jesus as God who has become human, we are confessing at the same time the final and definitive destiny to which all humanity is called: incarnating divinity in history, and in daily living humanizing the divine life. At Christmas time, therefore, we celebrate the joyful and hopeful certainty that in the birth of Jesus, God has shown that he wants to live with us always, revealing in himself the Way, the Truth and the Life to which we have been called.

The historical fact of Christmas occurs in the context of a family. Among the many aspects that give meaning to the commemoration of the first Christmas, the value that God accorded the family in the birth of Jesus takes on special meaning among us.

We are experiencing in our times a profound human crisis in all aspects. The serious problems that are evident in this crisis reveal a more profound and definitive crisis in the very heart of human beings: a de-humanization that is contrary to all that is meant or implied in the message of Christmas. Yet, at the same time, the serious social problems that emerge from the heart of people have their origin in a profound crisis in the family.

There is an extensive list of great conflicts which today threaten the family model proposed on that first Christmas Eve and presented in the proclamation of the Catholic Church in the Western world:

  • The generational gap between parents and children in a world that is rapidly changing.
  • The breakups, divorces and rapid and easy annulments in “express” fashion.
  • Unfaithfulness in a pan-sexual society where such is proposed and stimulated.
  • The lack of commitment in a hedonistic society that delights in levity, changes of fashion, meaninglessness, easy come-and-go, throw-aways, appearances that are purely superficial.
  • The world of academia and labor that separates, alienates and disintegrates families.
  • “Machismo” and feminism.
  • The pretended scientific manipulation of God’s designs concerning creation and family life.
  • Abortion.
  • Promiscuous use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
  • The senselessness of life in a society that quickly destroys the will to live, when the end of life is reduced to something merely material and historical, masking the transcendent vision of men, of the world and of history, etc….

In a world that pleads for the plurality of ideas and life style as well as respect for individual liberty and human rights, the Truth — under that pretext — should not be denied, confused or diluted in the midst of the rash of individual, small and almost always selfish pocket versions of truth. It is the Church’s responsibility, on the basis of the Good News contained in the gospel for every man and woman of good will, to proclaim every day and, especially at Christmas time, that every person has the right to be born and “to grow in grace and wisdom” in the bosom of a family constituted by a father, a mother and children: a family model in which are replicated and lived out the relationships defined as parental love, and filial and fraternal love, that we recognize and venerate in the very heart of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The troubling statistics that cry out to us concerning the millions of boys and girls that seek to “grow” and “mature” in “homes” that are dysfunctional, with a single parent, or “substitute” homes, with grandparents and other relatives or in government institutions that try to “replace” inexistent families, sound an alarm that warns us of something that is occurring in our communities as well as an urgent challenge for us to give value to living out the model of Christian family suggested in the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, as never before, there is a nostalgia for Nazareth.

  • Nostalgia for homes where parents and children live together in harmony.
  • Nostalgia for homes like the example of Nazareth: where the parents love and fulfill God’s will, loving and nourishing the the life of their children.
  • Homes in which the children fulfill God’s will, obeying their parents.
  • Homes that tend toward the construction of a world of fraternal relationships lived out first at home in family relationships.
  • Homes in which love and respect prevail over the circumstances of life that are always difficult and always changing.
  • Homes with parents that are dedicated to the care of their children, and where the children are attentive and devoted to their parents.
  • Homes that are true domestic churches, initiating the experience of the church and seedbeds of permanent evangelization.
  • Homes in which parents and children grow in their humanity, cooperating with the creative work of God through their daily tasks.
  • Families that are true homes, that is to say, where the home fires burn with love that is able to warm and illuminate a world so often cold and in darkness.

I join with you in these days in which as Christians we live with the memory of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I join in the joy of the world because “to us is born a son, a child has been given to us” that bears the name “Emanuel, meaning God is with us” and I encourage you to extend into all our homes, our family groups, our communities, the great, good, sacred and eternal lessons which we can learn and apply in the life of our family, illustrated in the home of the Sacred Family of Nazareth, on this Christmas and always.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent: The Hoping for Hope

With the Advent Season begins another year in the liturgical life of Catholics. Adviento is a latin word which means “to wait for what is coming, expectation of something that is waited for, something expected which will come and shape the present.”

What would human life be without hope? We would sink in a sea of uncertainty, of suffering, of pain and of evil without something to encourage us to continue trusting, trying, working, projecting, loving, believing and hoping . . . 

We, Christians, are essentially and fundamentally men and women of hope. In other words, men and women who live in a permanent advent: waiting that the birth of God comes at Christmas; waiting for the daily encounter with God through his creation, through our brothers and sisters (especially the poorest in society), through liturgy, through the sacraments; through the many signs and circumstances by which God comes near to us and meets us each day. Christians live waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled; that God’s Kingdom overcomes the kingdoms of the world; that God’s mercy overcomes the lack of love; and that God’s power triumphs over the mean power of man.

But the fulfillment of this hope –as the Advent Psalm says--  for  “justice to flourish and peace to be abundant” it requires that we Christians construct, with our acts and our words, with our announcements and denunciations, and with our behaviors, attitudes, and works, a time and space in which Christian hope is possible; in other words a time and space in which God’s Kingdom becomes evident through us.

In this way, the hope we are waiting for takes us out of a passive attitude of resignation, and brings us to construct the hoping attitude we are wishing for  --the new heaven and the new earth we wish for! Even more so, Christians know that the daily wish for happiness becomes true only in the real hope: which is Christ and his life in us.  Christian hope is not a hope that can be reduced to ephemeral and temporary satisfactions; but one that pushes all our present lives towards a full and total future in God.

Advent, this liturgical time, just before the anticipation of Christmas is  –more than just a liturgical time--  a life attitude and a personal and communitarian commitment of the believers and those from the Church who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Also the belief in a world in which the divine starts, shows, and stays in the most humane and every day aspects of our present history.

Liturgy, in this time of Advent, speaks to us of a hope which does not die in the day to day; a hope that lightens up each moment of our lives; a hope that is infinite and without conditions; a hope which has no limits and is eternal; a hope that opens up for us the beyond of our limited intra-history; and a hope which overcomes all forms of evil, pain and death.

Circumstances today, more than ever, urge us to live in the spirit of Advent. All around us there are manifestations of crisis: crisis of the human spirit; crisis of goals which humanity dreamed of; crisis of trust and confidence in men and institutions; crisis of trust in governments, regimes, political and economic models; lack of trust between peoples and nations; lack of trust and belief in spiritual leaders.  There is disillusion and mistrust because there is a hunger and a thousand forms of inequity, injustice, violence and death.  There is a collective feeling that our present has no future.  There is uncertainty, a loss of the sense of life and much anguish. We live in difficult times for all spheres of life. Nevertheless, Catholic liturgy, in this time of Advent, once more invites us to the wait for Hope, the commitment and construction of better times . . . 

The hope that the election of Pope Francis gives us, is a renewed enthusiasm for a better future for our Christian communities, the Church and for society. The Bishop of Rome with his words, gestures and act of faith, encourage us, move us and motivate us to work with renewed enthusiasm for the building of the Kingdom.

I wish for all of us that this Advent 2013 fills us with hope; fills us with an always renewed strength to make possible our hope: which is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be among us. That the Gospel be lived and announced by us for the construction of a better world;  a world which is more just, more humane and more according to God’s wish.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Heart's Memory

Each year, as Thanksgiving Day arrives, I remember the Gospel story in which only one out of ten cured lepers --a foreigner--  returned to Jesus to express his gratitude and to give glory to God for being cured.

This nation’s historical tradition invites us to give thanks during one day each year. Without doubt, it is the date which gets the most people together. It is the most familiar and nationally recognized of all celebrations in the United States.  The tradition of this celebration goes way back to a historical gesture of which not all know the story but the majority celebrates. It is all due to the fact that the attitude and action of being grateful and giving thanks is a profoundly human tendency, and because of it, profoundly divine.
In the Eucharist, we Christians have the fountain, the base, and the beginning and end of the Christian life. The Greek word “eucaristía” means precisely, “to give thanks”. That is to say that the most authentic and genuine Christian posture is to live giving thanks to God who gives us all we are and all we have. 

In the present “consumer driven society”, the importance we give to money, the importance we give to having instead of to being, impedes us from remembering that always and in all circumstances we are not self-sufficient; that we do not auto-provide ourselves. We do not remember the fact that others work to give us things and services which we enjoy; that to live, we all need each other; that we are, beyond rational animals, beings which are solidary in good and evil; social beings that, as human beings and believers are part of the creative work of God, and that the main dynamic is to serve.

When we become conscious of our social nature and our importance in a creation in which everything created serves to help us live each day in the spirit of service and gratitude.

What allows our hearts to be thankful is the capacity for opening our senses and being conscious of everything we have and everything we are. The consequences of this thankful understanding come without delay: the grateful human being is a joyful man or woman, confident, humble and hopeful . . . and waiting on that loving presence which surrounds us, and which Christians call Holy Trinity.

When Jesus teaches us to see all good things as gifts from God, he at the same time teaches us to give all things as gifts. In other words, every good gift received from God commits us to place all at the service of our brothers and sisters, following a lifestyle that does not hoard life selfishly but favors all, especially the needy. Therefore, gratitude and gratefulness are attitudes which require of each of us a time and space in which all human beings can have the capacity, the possibility and the joy of being grateful. 

Gratitude is an attitude, but because it is an attitude it is also an obligation. Therefore on Thanksgiving Day we are grateful but also give away . . . May it be that, more than things we give our time, our presence, our lives –and not only one day a year—but each day of our lives. 

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving Day! May we all be able to always be grateful and to aid others in having a reason to always be grateful!!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

American Protestant-based group making inroads with Catholics

November 6, 2013

Founded nearly 200 years ago, the American Bible Society has always played a big part in spreading the Gospel within the United States.     

The non-profit organization was founded by Protestant leaders in the early times of the American nation. But in the past few decades they've begun reaching out to Catholics. 

“The mission of the American Bible Society is to spread the Word of God, to make available to all people. And certainly, an important segment of Christianity is the Catholic Church. And so this inter-confessional organization called American Bible Society is opening the door to the Catholic Church and serving the Catholic communities.” 

- Mario J. Paredes, American Bible Society

This outreach has reached the top levels of Catholicism. The organization's president addressed the Synod of Bishops in 2012. And their latest effort is the book Pray With the Bible, Meditate With the Word. It was published in collaboration with the LEV, the Vatican's publishing house. 

The book is described as a manual on Lectio Divina, studying Christianity's Holy Book. It features a four step process: knowing the text, understanding the words, meditating on their message and putting them into action. 

“The end goal of the Lectio Divina is to bring people back to the Bible, and to bring people back to praying with the Bible. It's to bring people to get to know the God of the Bible, and a relationship that can become a personal relationship between myself and the God of the Bible.” 

- Mario J. Paredes, American Bible Society

The book is available in three languages: English, Italian and Spanish. It's available at specialty bookstores. Over time, the American Bible Society has expanded its services beyond the United States. Keeping in line with their mission, this book is another resource they provide for Catholics worldwide to better understand the Gospel.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Building a Hispanic Heritage

Between September and October of each year and coinciding with the holiday of Mexican Independence and ending with the celebration of the “Encounter of Two Worlds”, in the United States, we celebrate “NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH” a nationally recognized observance which has been enacted into law. 

Today, to speak of the significant Hispanic presence in this country is to speak of something obvious. The National Census Bureau indicated that there are fifty three million Hispanics, as of July 1st of 2012, residing in this Nation in addition to the three million people residing on the Island of Puerto Rico.

Hispanic presence in the life of this Nation is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, Hispanics have been here even before the arrival of the pilgrims. Since 1550, men like Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, together with other explorers, traveled and explored the width and length of the territories which today constitutes the American Union. Hispanics had established themselves in what today is called “Florida”, many years before the British founded Jamestown. Without a doubt, Hispanics have made a mark in the history of this Nation. We have participated in many of the heroic deeds during its formation and have greatly contributed to the overall development of the United States. 

Because of our substantial and growing numbers, subjects such as immigration or the legalization of undocumented immigrants are today on the front pages of the media; and rank amongst the principal preoccupations of the institutions which have in their hands the destiny of this Nation. 

It is important to note that there are three U.S. Senator and thirty House representatives of Hispanic origin in Congress. This speaks loudly to the undeniable Hispanic contribution in today’s North American society. 

Our presence here is a reality, but the mere simple existence of a large population does not give authority. Authority comes from authorship of our own destiny; we must be protagonists and not simply spectators of our own historical and social destiny within this Nation. Only then would we have gained respect and recognition from others. 

It is not enough that we are many, big numbers give not true rights; what is needed and urgent is for us to shape the quality of our contributions. 

We must define our existence as Hispanics in this Nation in a meaningful way by integrating the Hispanic Community into the greater American Life and to have social, religious, political, economic, cultural and academic influence in the life of this Nation. 

During the celebration of HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH, we allow ourselves the opportunity to reflect and truly understand our present situation and its challenges; and to be on the alert about the best way we can develop a future as a Hispanic Community and be of influence and contribute to the everyday life of the American Union. 

Some of the questions we must ask of ourselves are as follows: 
  •  Why can’t we have a well lead, organized, reasonable and respectful debate on immigration? 
  • What relationship (and recognition) is there between our enormous purchasing power (nine hundred billion dollars a year) and our competent and competitive presence in the economy and the commercial life of the United States?
  • Knowing that the future is formed in the years of childhood, what can be done about the high percentage of drop-outs amongst the children and youth of Hispanic origin? At the same time, what can be done to address the many Hispanic youth also plunge into the world of gangs, the use of drugs and alcohol, and other forms of vices and violence in very large numbers? • While academic preparedness amongst Hispanics born and raised in our country is on the increase, great numbers of us still have very low standards of living and live in poverty. How can this be addressed?
  • How do we integrate into the working world of this Nation the massive influx of illiterate youth who are in the possession of little formal education in Spanish, let alone English? These youths have arrived from extreme poverty in their home countries and become easy prey to the culture of consumerism and materialism and can easily cast aside their altruistic or transcendent values resulting in truncated ideals. How do we keep our youth from becoming perfect targets for those who traffic in human misery?
  • It is important today to raise the question of where are the Christian values that have inherited. Such as humanism, integral development, solidarity, spirituality. 
The work that is in front of us is difficult and requires conscious, responsible and generous participation of all Hispanics. Hispanics need to develop internally the required leadership to thrust ourselves as a voice in the building of the present and future of this Nation. 

This effort implies a focus on encouraging our youth to obtain a higher degree of education; to develop skills in organization and respect for one another and the ability to develop a higher degree of communication with the dominant culture, so that together we can make this society more viable and humane. In a Nation which proclaims freedom, there are still many situations of slavery and licentiousness.

In a Nation which claims to be the empire of rights and law, there are many situations of injustice and abuse to the most elemental rights of man. We can still verify many inhumane situations, all within a society which preaches respect for the human being. 

We Hispanics must take the lead in the rebirth of a new American society, truly tolerant and fraternal. We should be proactive protagonists in the emergence of a new society which will finally discover the integrated and harmonious values of the whole American Continent. Such a society that discovers the true value of American Union --that is “Pan-Americanisn” will become a Society that is richer as a result of the diversity of nations, with its diverse ethnicities, histories, languages and cultures but also become united in one territory. We become a society with the same aim to be happy, with the common goal to be prosperous people, more humane and humanized, with fewer borders and divisions and more solidarity. 

For the Hispanic community to be able to reach adulthood in this society, it needs to engage in a deep reflection of its history. The celebration of HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH should not pass as a simple “fiesta”; but should be a call for a serious commitment from all Hispanics with the aim of constructing a true, great and noble “hispanicity” in the life and development of this Nation. If we do this, we will no longer be drifting at the mercy of those who do not accept us, who exploit us, or in the worse case scenario, want us to be without identity or completely assimilated to the culture of this great Nation that still needs to discover the beauty of Hispanics. 

How great it is that HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH exists! For while there is much we have accomplished there is still much more left to be done!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Pope’s Popularity in Latin America

Before the popes, both the Venerable Paul VI and the Blessed John Paul II, began to travel —an initiative that became routine with Pope Wojtyła — it was possible to discuss or debate the pope’s popularity, or the interest it awakened among the Latin American people. Distant, situated on another continent, object of a very insufficient catechesis, that produced myths and religious prejudice, although in Ibero-America there was never hostility or lack of confidence among the people regarding the pope, one might ask, on the other hand, whether Peter’s successor was not simply an object of indifference.

The recent visit of Pope Francis to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day, where he was acclaimed by more than three million participants, gives us reason to reflect on the figure of the Pope in Latin American Catholicism.

The visits of Pope Benedict XVI to Brazil, Cuba and Mexico offer us similar experiences. We have seen that each one of the traveling Popes have very different personalities, yet the people have come out to welcome them with enthusiasm and admiration. 

Paul VI’s trip to Colombia (1968), although quite brief, was the first indication of a response to that question. The people put on their best clothes, filled the streets, and the country stopped everything for four days.

During the first trip of John Paul II was to Mexico (a country in which, incidentally, the Church of Rome had no legal standing). But the country came to a standstill, and the state-run TV had to cover every aspect of the visit of the Holy Father. Possibly half of the people of Mexico saw and heard the pope directly. That clearly implied tiring walks on foot and, at times, all-night vigils. The papal trip from Mexico City to Puebla took three times as long as normal, because the highway, from the day before, seemed to snake between two walls of human beings. Even in Monterrey, in the Northern desert, which is not a megalopolis, the Pope gathered two million people (by government figures).

The Mexican case (considering the proportion of the country’s inhabitants) has been repeated with almost the same exact characteristics, in each Latin American country the pope has visited. No other foreign visitor in history, no local politician since the day of independence, no sporting event, political concentration or national holiday of any kind has achieved such power of convocation. Sociologists ask themselves why, just as do public relations experts and, above all, the political leaders in government. Even some theologians are perplexed. There have been cases (in Mexico, for instance) where political scientists and sociologists have called for a meeting with priests, in an effort to understand the phenomenon.

To attribute the pope’s popularity among the Latin American people (who are as believing as they are insufficiently evangelized) to the Polish Pope’s charisma is an affirmation that no one seriously believes. With Paul VI the same thing occurred. There is little foundation for the argument that the people adhere to one pope over another, or that one, pleases them more than another. Experience shows us that the Latin American people —everyday Christians— have neither points of reference nor ecclesiastical formation, nor any interest in evaluating their popes. That subject is left to the elite in Latin America, who also gather in the street to receive the current pope. It is a question of the pope’s popularity, simply because he is the pope.

How are we to respond to these perplexed sociologists and political scientists?

The answer of course is complex, involving several psychological and social factors, but the key factor is religious. The main cause of the experts’ perplexity is the forgotten fact in the power of the religious to convoke. For one thing, the Latin American people are more or less Christian, and all Christians are interested in meeting the pope, seeing such a meeting as something extraordinary, once in a lifetime, that they dare not miss. Add to this the matrix of Latin American popular Catholicism. This is an expressive Catholicism, happy to participate in community and multitudinous gatherings. It is a Catholicism of the tangible and the symbolic. And the pope (apart from all ecclesiological and doctrinal content, often unknown to the people) is a living religious symbol of the first magnitude. A theologian would call it a symbol of the church’s unity, and of apostolic succession; the people see it in other terms. In their religious intuition, the pope is to them the “man of God”, God’s representative, the concentration of that which is religious and sacred. “To go see the pope” is sacramental; it is also coherent with the itinerant tendency of their religious practice.

To this religious and fundamental factor other factors must be added, which are not always separate from the former marriage, given the marriage in Ibero-American religiosity between faith and culture.

We certainly should not despise the element of novelty and contagion in the collective enthusiasm that is always produced by the visits of Peter’s successor. But there are other, more profound, factors as well at work in the Latin American people and in the Third World in general. The pope is a religious leader who speaks to the people not only of God, but also concerning their life and their human, social and even political problems. In the contemporary scene (especially in the Third World) where the public and political discourse has lost credibility, where demagoguery and popular manipulation are routine, and where corruption is notorious among the powerful, the presence and the word of the pope becomes (in addition to the its relevance for faith) a breath of fresh air that brings truth, authenticity and hope. It tends to verify the gospel-saying “The sheep know their shepherd, and recognize his voice”… distinguishing it from the false prophets and others who seek to take advantage of the flock.

In a certain way, from the social and political perspective, the multitudes that gather about the pope (many of whom are poor, marginalized and oppressed) are indirectly protesting against their political and financial leaders, and are giving expression to a desire of liberty and dignity to which they aspire.

Do the people understand what the pope says? Surely not everything. But people are intuitive and understand with their heart. Probably, their approach to the Holy Father is not so much a search for teaching as for religious inspiration and human freedom and, above all, a strong experience of God, the kind they cherish throughout their life, and which justifies in itself the significant sacrifices involved in a papal visit.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A unique opportunity for the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) delegation.

The week of April 8th, I traveled to Rome as part of the delegation of  the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL) for meetings with Vatican officials that had been scheduled over a year ago.

To our great surprise and amazement, when we arrived at the Vatican residence known as Domus Sanctae Marthae, we learned that Pope Francis was residing there. We had the unique privilege to pray, have meals and meet with him. Pope Francis has departed from the formalities of the Vatican which allowed us to see firsthand the the universal pastor of the Church as a humble, easygoing, and most gracious prelate. 

During our week at Domus Sanctae Marthae, we were deeply touched by the Pope's style and, more importantly, by his daily reflections on the scriptures.

Click here to view a few of the photos from this memorable visit.

The following are links to video interviews, in Spanish, regarding this event:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

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”!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New year, new life!

2013 has arrived. Another year in the countdown of human history. Another year of our personal, family and social history. Another year of life and with it a new opportunity to evaluate, refresh, project, and begin anew.

Many are the challenges that we meet and that require the best from each of us and from all of humanity to find solutions, to convert this time and space into “a new heaven and a new earth”.

The armed conflicts, the wars between nations and with internal guerrillas, the economic worries and the great gaps between persons and peoples which are experienced by all and especially by the large numbers that have nothing, the social injustice with a thousand causes and manifestations, the inequality of opportunity of access to social benefits, discrimination in so many aspects of social life, frontiers, migratory movements, the global economic crisis, administrative corruption in government and in public and private business, evasion seen in the youth (drugs, sex, fame, etc.), the waste of the few as an affront to the misery of the many, consumerism and materialism that smother and block out a transcendent vision of life, the senselessness of a hedonistic and pansexual perspective on life, the loss of value of human life, the primacy of having instead of being, and of material things over persons, the primacy of technique over ethics and moral values, the search for power at any cost to oppress rather than to serve, the privilege of production and the accumulation of riches and of capital rather than the search for a shared world economy that is more human, just, equitable and fraternal, the permanent damage to nature and the planet, etc… all are global problems that challenge us, that ask of all human beings and of those who call ourselves Christians, to provide ready answers that are adequate and reasonable.

As Christians we have plenty of reasons to celebrate the beginning of another year as a unique opportunity to make of the world and of our historical moment the space and time in which the kingdom of God might take place.

The kingdom of God occurs when we lay aside our personal choices and interests to give place to the will of God which —as lived and taught by Jesus— consists of “loving one another”. This is the kingdom of God that is possible when we see ourselves as brothers, children of the same Father.

A popular refrain states: “new year: new life”. This should be our standard, our purpose, and that of all: building new lives, new interpersonal relationships and with peoples and nations, for the building of “new” institutions in “new” societies.

May the happiness with the best desires that we offer to others these days serve to commit us to the building of a true, profound and radically new year at the personal family and social level. HAVE A HAPPY AND BLESSED NEW YEAR IN 2013!