Archive for the ‘Renewal’ Category

Jesus Rested

June 19, 2021

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt, 1633.In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus commanding the wind and sea during a storm. He rebukes the wind and tells the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” and a great calm settles. His disciples in the boat, in awe at what they’ve witnessed, say to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” It’s a stunning moment for them, but there’s another striking detail contained in this Gospel – a detail which Jesus’ disciples found completely unremarkable before the storm: Jesus was resting in the boat, he was asleep on a cushion in the stern. Christ wielding divine power is an important sign, but the fact that Jesus took naps also contains lessons for us that I’ll discuss a bit later.

The Book of Exodus records how the Lord had previously commanded winds and waters to save his people when he parted the Red Sea: “The Lord drove back the sea with a strong east wind all night long and turned the sea into dry ground. The waters were split, so that the Israelites entered into the midst of the sea on dry land.” God commanded the waters as with his words from the Book of Job: “Thus far shall you come but no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stilled!” Even though God brought the Hebrews safely through the Red Sea to Mount Sinai, delivering them from their Egyptian slavemasters, they were not yet free. God had gotten his people out of Egypt, but he needed to get Egypt out of his people.

Habits and attitudes from their years of bondage had to be unlearned. To do this, God’s Mosaic covenant commanded them, for example, to sacrifice animals which the Egyptians associated with their pagan deities, such as bulls and rams. To slay and offer up these creatures to the Lord undermined the cults of the false gods. Likewise, when you desire to turn away from old sinful habits, absolutely pray for God’s help and go to Confession, but also after that do more than just passively hoping that things will change. Take positive steps in the right direction. Make an act of your will to renounce your sins. Literally say: “I renounce the sin of (such-and-so),” and then actively avoid the patterns which you know lead you into sin. Like those bulls and rams sacrificed on God’s altar, kill and burn your idols.

Another way in which the Lord sought to train the Hebrews out of the old mindset and routines of their prior slavery was through giving them a weekly vacation day. God commanded his people:

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female servant, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.”

As slaves in Egypt, the Hebrews worked long days for long stretches of days. It was grueling labor, fueled by fear of painful consequences. But the Lord did not wish for them to carry with them this slave mentality toward work. So he gave them a special day, every week, for worship, rest, and joy. God desires the Lord’s Day, Sunday, to be such a day for us.

When I was an undergrad at college, my studies were my daily grind. I looked forward to my college breaks, but those could be weeks or months away, and were always on the other side of due dates and exams. Although I faithfully attended Mass I had never observed Sunday as a special day of rest. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, (that hinder) the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, (that hinder) the performance of the works of mercy, (or that hinder) the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.” Then it notes, “Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. (However,) the faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

So I resolved in those days of college to abstain from doing homework or studying on Sundays. I had some very late Saturday nights, but I held faithfully to this rule. And over time, I noticed two surprising things. First, my Sunday resting never burned me academically. I can’t recall ever bombing a test, failing to meet a deadline, or doing worse on my assignments because I didn’t work on Sunday. My second great surprise was that I began looking forward to every Sunday as a one-day vacation. In addition to going to Mass, Sunday was a day for me to take a nap, see a movie, play a game, hang out with friends, or do anything delightful. I sacrificed a gift of myself to the Lord and he gave me an even greater gift in return. So I urge you to be courageous and intentional about keeping and celebrating the Lord’s day of rest yourself.

Let’s return to Jesus sleeping in the boat. What lessons does this teach us? First, the fact that he sleeps means he is a real human being who can personally relate to our own lived experience. Jesus knows firsthand what it’s like to be one of us, and he compassionately understands us.

Second, his sleep shows us that human fatigue is not a sin. Sometimes in confession I hear older people accuse themselves of laziness because they aren’t as productive as they were when they were decades younger. I encourage these persons to be easier on themselves. The Stations of the Cross recount Christ falling down three times. Jesus’ holy, loving spirit was willing, but his flesh was weakened, and none of his physical limitations, missteps, or stumbles were sins. Our own bodily limitations are not sins either.

A third lesson from Jesus napping is that caring for your body is an ordinary part of doing God’s will. While taking his nap, Christ isn’t preaching to the crowds, healing the sick, or performing mighty miracles, but he is exactly doing his Father’s will. And this rest prepares Jesus to do the Father’s works after. When I hear a parent in confession say they blew up unusually at their children, lost their temper and yelled at their kids, I ask that person whether they’re tired. Their answer is almost always yes. That’s not surprising, since everything is harder when you’re tired. Rather than disregarding your body, realize that sleeping well, eating right, and trying to be physically active can be important in enabling you to do God’s will.

St. John writes in his 1st New Testament epistle: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” Jesus Christ, God’s divine Son, took rest and enjoyed rest as a human being like us. Let us learn from his holy example.

Sunday: A Day of Rest & Grace

July 22, 2015

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2184-2187

      Just as God “rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done,” (Genesis 2:2) human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord’s Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.

      On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

Jesus Overlooking Jerusalem      Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week. Sunday is a time for reflection, silence, cultivation of the mind, and meditation which furthers the growth of the Christian interior life.

      Sanctifying Sundays and holy days requires a common effort. Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord’s Day. Traditional activities (sports, restaurants, etc.), and social necessities (public services, etc.), require some people to work on Sundays, but everyone should still take care to set aside sufficient time for leisure. With temperance and charity the faithful will see to it that they avoid the excesses and violence sometimes associated with popular leisure activities. In spite of economic constraints, public authorities should ensure citizens a time intended for rest and divine worship. Employers have a similar obligation toward their employees.

Who’s What? — 6th Sunday of Easter—Year C

May 5, 2013

In the verse preceding today’s second reading, an angel tells Saint John, “Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Therefore, the city of God that John next describes is the Church, the bride of Christ, in her holy glory. The city has twelve gates inscribed with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. The city’s foundation stones are inscribed with the names of the twelve apostles.

But didn’t Jesus say, “I am the gate; if any one enters by me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9)? And didn’t Saint Paul say, “…No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11)? Then why do the gates and foundation stones bear the names of God’s people and the apostles? Who is the foundation and gate—Jesus or his people?

Like so many theological concepts in Catholicism, the answer is “both/and.” The Lord works through us, with us, and in us to lead people to himself, to his church, and to heaven. The Trinity dwells in us and calls us to participate in the great project of saving the world. As Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” And Jesus adds, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” The apostles knew that they were working hand in hand with the Holy Spirit. Responding to an important doctrinal question, the apostles declare in the first reading, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities…”

Recently, I have been more intentional about asking the Holy Spirit in the morning to guide my day. After asking him to help me be his instrument and a blessing to other people, I have experienced some amazing encounters and opportunities in my ministry. I urge you to try the same thing. God gives us the privilege of participating in his great work of blessing, love, and salvation. Make yourself available to the Trinity dwelling within you.

En el versículo anterior a la segunda lectura de hoy, un ángel dice a San Juan: “Ven acá. Yo te mostraré la novia, la esposa del Cordero.” Por lo tanto, la ciudad de Dios que Juan describe próxima es la Iglesia, la esposa de Cristo, en su santa gloria. La ciudad tiene doce puertas con los nombres de los doce tribus de Israel. Las piedras de los cimientos de la ciudad están inscritos los nombres de los doce apóstoles.

¿Pero no dijo Jesús: “Yo soy la puerta; si alguno entra por mí, será salvo…” (Juan 10:9)? ¿Y no San Pablo dice: “…Nadie puede poner otro fundamento que el que ya está puesto, el cual es Jesucristo.” (1 Corintios 3:11)? ¿Por qué entonces las puertas y cimientos tienen los nombres de le gente del Señor y sus apóstoles? ¿Quién es el fundamento y la puerta-Jesús o su pueblo?

Como tantas ideas teológicas en el catolicismo, la respuesta es “ambos”. El Señor obra por medio de nosotros, con nosotros y en nosotros para llevar a la gente a sí mismo, a su iglesia, y al cielo. La Trinidad habita en nosotros y nos llama a participar en el gran proyecto de salvar al mundo. Jesús dice a sus discípulos: “El que me ama, cumplirá mi palabra y mi Padre lo amará y vendremos a él y haremos en él nuestra morada.” Y Jesús añade: “El Consolador, el Espíritu Santo que mi Padre les enviará en mi nombre, les enseñará todas las cosas y les recordará todo cuanto Yo les he dicho.”Los apóstoles sabían que estaban trabajando de la mano con el Espíritu Santo. En respuesta a una pregunta importante doctrinal, los apóstoles declaran en la primera lectura de hoy: “Es la decisión del Espíritu Santo y nosotros, no colocar el imponeros más cargas que estas necesidades…”

Recientemente, he estado más intencional en pedirle al Espíritu Santo que guía mi día. Después de pedirle que me ayude a ser su instrumento y una bendición para otras personas, he tenido algunos encuentros increíbles y oportunidades en mi ministerio. Ustedes pueden hacerlo tambien. Dios nos da el privilegio de participar en su gran obra de bendición, amor y salvación. Hacerte disponible para la Trinidad que habita en tu interior.

Prepare Yourself—Wednesday, 30th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

October 20, 2010

If you knew for a fact that you were going to die, or that Jesus was coming again,  one month from today, how would you begin living your life differently?

  • Would you pray more? 
  • Would you work harder to do good deeds?
  • Would you resolve to crush lingering vices?
  • Would you forgive enemies?
  • Would you show greater love toward people in your life?

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

This is much is certain: someday we will die, or we shall live to see Jesus return ‘at an unexpected hour.’ So, let us commit ourselves by the grace of God  to living in such a way now that if someone were to ask us what we would do differently if the end of the world or the end of our lives were near, we could honestly answer, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”

Christian and Unashamed — Ash Wednesday at the Parish

February 17, 2010

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against giving so that others see us giving, against praying so that others see us praying, and against fasting so that others see us fasting. Yet, I don’t think that showy religiosity is where the danger lies for us.

In Jesus’ day, the popular culture proudly believed in God and respected religious piety. Hence, those people were tempted to publically flaunt their acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and thereby gain the respect and praise of others. But today, in our secularized culture, the temptation is to do the opposite, and to do something far worse. We are tempted to deny our faith in Jesus and teachings before others because we’re afraid of what they might think of us.

The hypocrites Jesus spoke of, who pray to be seen by others, merely limit their prayers’ reward, but if we deny Christ before others we lose our rewards entirely. For Jesus tells us:

“Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.”

This is why the early Christians went to the lions rather than to deny Christ, and it was their courageous witness to Him that conquered the pagan culture which surrounded them.

This Lent, let us begin to practice putting the Lord before men. For instance, are you someone who will be so embarrassed by having an smudge of ash on your forehead that you’ll want to wash it off the first chance you get? If so, then you should leave it there until it wipes away on its own.

Are you are someone who sees good deeds that just call out to be done but pass them by because of your peers would see you doing them? Then you need to bite the bullet and start doing those hard-good-deeds anyways.

Are you someone who is self-conscious about other people seeing you pray, here at Church, at work, or when your family goes out to a restaurant? Then you need to make it a point to pray, and when you do, do not ask that God would make you invisible; ask Him that other people would become invisible to you and then pray to Him as from your heart.

Now, these are not examples of performing righteous deeds so that others may see you. This is about doing the right thing even if others might happen to see you do it. This Lent, let us begin to love and serve our eternal Lord amidst a world which is destined to become dust.

You are called to be the light of the world. People do not light a candle and then put a bucket over it; it is set it high up, where it can give light for everyone. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. This Lent, let’s begin to shine.

Single-Minded Faith — Monday, 6th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

February 15, 2010

From the letter of St. James we hear that ‘God gives to all generously and ungrudgingly,’ yet in the Gospel the Pharisees asked Jesus for a sign and received nothing. The Lord told them, “no sign will be given to this generation.”

Why didn’t the skeptical Pharisees receive what they asked for? As St. James says, they were men of two minds: “Yeah, we believe in the messiah and that he’s coming, but we’re certain that he’s not you!” Are we people of two minds in our lives of faith?

“Yeah, I hope for a renewal, a new springtime in the Church, but I don’t think much will change here in the United States.”

“Sure I want unity in our parish, but with the people we have to deal with it’s not very likely.”

“I really want my children to know Christ and to fall in love with the faith, but I can’t teach them very much.”

“Of course I’d like to be a saint, but I know the limits to my holiness and God ought to know and accept those limits too.”

Let us not be people of two minds. Let us pray and act with a single-minded faith, so that we may see, in this generation, the signs of Christ’s power.

Traveling to God — Epiphany of the Lord

January 3, 2010

Today the nations come to Christ, to bring Him their gifts and to worship Him. We see it in the gospel, where great, wise ones called Magi travel afar to Bethlehem of Judea. And we see it in our world today, wherever those honored to be called Christians gather in Christ’s Church throughout the world. Every Sunday is a little Epiphany where, like the Magi, all the nations come to worship the One whom all the world ought not to be able to contain.

Our responsorial psalm prayed, “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” In another psalm, Psalm 87, the Lord foretells that every nation on earth would adore Him. The Lord says,

“Babylon and Egypt I will count among those who know me; Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia, these will be her children and Zion shall be called ‘Mother’ for all shall be her children.”

Today there are Christians in all of these places: in Egypt and Iraq, in the Holy Land and Africa.  In fact Christians span entire continents about which the ancients never knew. There are Christians all nations who have entered the Lord’s house and found Jesus with Mary, who is the symbol of Mother Church. She is rightly called mother, for all nations are her children.

In many lands Christians suffer harsh persecution, as in China, where a red dragon like that of Revelation still seeks to destroy the Christ Child and the God-bearing mother. How fortunate we are to be able to safely gather here, to be free to practice our faith without fear, to come to Christ’s house easily and often, not in hiding or in secret, and without having to travel for months across desert expanses like the Magi.

Yet, in our ease, we can take our religion for granted. In our routine, we can be blind to how we are blessed. And in our closeness to Christ, we can overlook Him. So, from time to time, it is important for our faith to be renewed. One way we can do this is to imitate what the Magi did. At least once every year we should make a pilgrimage to Christ and stay to retreat some days with Him.

After spending precious time with Jesus in the heart of their pilgrimage the gospel says the Magi “departed for their country by another way.” Their physical journey changed (for they had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,) but their spiritual way changed as well. The Magi were believers even before they came, but after adoring Jesus and giving their gifts, they went away spiritually richer. We too would be spiritually richer if we were to give Christ some gift of our time and treasure to pilgrimage and retreat with Him.

As busy as priests are, the Church requires all of them to go on several days of retreat each year, for she knows how important this is for spiritual renewal and intimacy with Christ. Imagine what difference a pilgrimage to a shrine and a quiet, prayerful weekend on retreat center would have for you.

You must love and care for your children, so show them by your own example the importance of seeking after Christ. Give your spouse the opportunity to spend two days alone with the Lord, or take the whole family along for a trip to a holy shrine. For instance, there is a new, magnificent shire to Our Lady of Guadalupe which everyone should make it a priority to see. If you are looking for destinations or ideas, I’m more than happy to help.

In this year of our Lord, 2010, 51 weekends remain. Let us act now to prepare even just one of those many weekends for a gift-bearing journey. Pilgrimages and retreats are a gift to Christ and a gift to ourselves. Let us follow the Magi and come, let us adore Him this year, with days of pilgrimage and retreat.