Alegrense en El Senor

Domingo Tercero de Adviento

Me gusta mucho el pasaje de Filipenses:
Alegrense  en el Senor en todo tiempo.  Les repito: alegrense, y den a todos muestras de un espiritu muy comprensivo.  El Senor esta cerca.”
Dos veces dice a nosotros:  “Alegrense.”  Hay mucha alegria cuando sabemos que Dios esta cerca de nosotros en cada momento de nuestras vidas.  Es facil estar muy ocupado con nuestro trabajo y con las responsibildades de familia.  Podemos olvidar que Dios esta con nosostros.
En este Domingo tercero de Adviento esta bien detenerse para ofrecer gratitud a Dios por su presencia entre nosotros.  En todas las situaciones diarias Dios siempre esta con nosotros.  El Dios nunca se separa de nosotros, ni siquiera cuando nos ovlidamos de El,  ni cuando pecamos.
Hemos recibido el mensaje igual de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe.  “Yo soy su madre.”  Maria esta con la gente, especialmente en las tribulaciones y sufrimientos.
En el evangelio de hoy Juan Bautista dijo que el Cristo viene, el que es mas poderoso que el.  El Cristo vino en historia, viene otra vez en la celebracion de La Navidad y al fin de mundo.  El Adviento es un tiempo para preparanos a la venida de Cristo – en La Navidad y  en el tiempo final de nuestras vidas.
En el evangelio tres grupos preguntaron a Juan: “Que debemos hacer?”
A la gente Juan dijo que es bien distribuir una parte de las posesiones  a los  pobres.   Tambien en la carta a los Filipenses Pablo dijo: “Den a todos muestras de un espiritu muy comprensivo.”  A los cobradores de impuestos Juan dijo que es necesario ser honesto.  A los soldados: estar contento e igualmente en las palabras filipenses: “no se inquieten por nada.”
El mensaje para todos nosotros en este Domingo de Adviento es:
     Alegrense en el Senor en todo tiempo.
     Sea generoso.
     Sea honesto.
     Este contento, en paz.
Obispo Esteban Blaire

COME, LORD JESUS – A PRAYER OF HOPE BASED ON TRUST IN GOD

Homily   December 1, 2018

On this last day of the Church’s liturgical year our prayer embraces the final words in the New Testament from the Book of Revelation: “Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.  The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.”  This is a prayer of hope based on trust in God.
It is very easy today to be afraid and to lose confidence in God.
We live in a world saturated with violence.  People are harsh and cruel to one another.  If we do not take care of God’s creation there might not be a tomorrow for our children.  Many leaders of the world are filled with greed for wealth and corrupted by their quest for power.  In the Church we are recovering from the abuse crisis and there are divisions on how to structure the Church in today’s world so as to be more in conformity with Christ.  In our own lives we all have burdens to carry.  So we could lose hope —-but not if we pray: Come, Lord Jesus.
Tomorrow we begin the new church year with the celebration of the First Sunday in Advent.  You may be surprised but the Church has nothing to say tomorrow about Christmas.  In fact the Church does not even want us to think about Christmas.  Only the commercial world does.  Advent begins with focusing our attention on the return of Christ in all his glory at the end of time when Jesus will establish the kingdom of God fully and completely.  Tomorrow’s gospel is the same as today’s from Luke:  “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy….be vigilant at all times….and pray that you have the strength…to stand before the Son of Man.”  Advent begins not as a time to think about Christmas. It is a time of grace to look at our lives and to ask ourselves if we are living our lives in accord with the rule of God, a rule that calls us to be just, merciful, loving, generous and a people of peace.
In 2007, we received from Pope Benedict XVI a great Encyclical, ‘Hope In Salvation’ (Spe Salvi) in which the Holy Father reminds us that hope begins and ends in a relationship with Christ.  I love the words of St. Claude de Colombiere “Confidence is the virtue that gives God the greatest honor.”  When we trust in God and do not lose confidence in Him our hope is strengthened no matter what happens in the world, in the human side of the Church, and  in our own personal lives.  Pope Benedict tells us that hope is to know Christ and “to know that I am definitely loved, and whatever happens to me, I am awaited by this love.  And so my life is good.”
The belief that Christ will come in glory is not just something of the future, rather it is a conviction that changes the present and keeps us vigilant and alert in the love of God and of one another.  The First Letter of Peter puts it well: “Cast all your cares upon God because God cares for you.”  The forces of evil remain strong today but we must remain calm.  Christ has conquered all sin by his passion, death and resurrection and this means that good has overcome and will overcome all evil.  I believe that the wisdom of St. John Chrysostom, the brilliant Church Father of the 4th century, can guide us well when he says “that moderation, not a fierce defense, beats back a fierce attack.”  Moderation is the way of the Church.
So what about Christmas?  The celebration of Christmas commemorates the birth of Christ in history. The One who came two thousand years ago is the One who will come again in glory.  Advent enters into the solemn preparation for Christmas beginning on December 17th with a nine day novena leading up to December 25th.  The spiritual coming of Christ in Christmas not only remembers the past but is a prelude for the glorious coming of Christ at the end time.  We welcome Christ in the celebration of Christmas as we want to welcome Him when he comes again in glory.  We welcome Christ in Christmas as we want to welcome him  when he comes to us in the hour of our death.  Death is a personal encounter with Jesus when we enter eternity and the beginning for us of the glorious return of Christ.
The prayerful vigilance of Advent and especially the days immediately before Christmas symbolically express the vigilance of our whole lives.
So Advent leads up to the great Solemnity of Christmas, the coming of Christ Who is the Hope of the world.  Everything has meaning and purpose because Christ was born in the flesh for us and will bring us to the fullness of glory and eternal happiness.
I hope today in your prayer and reflection you might give  some thought to  how we can restore Advent to what it should really be.  It seems almost to be a lost cause and yet for eternity it makes all the difference in the world.  Christ will came again in glory to judge the living and the dead.  Our whole future depends on how we live now, every day of our lives.
Let our prayer and the reality of our lives be: “Maranatha: Come Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all.”

CREATION JUSTICE GENEROSITY

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe  November 25, 2018

Today on this last Sunday in the Liturgical Year we honor and adore Jesus Christ our King, the King of the Universe, the King of all creation. Jesus came from God His Father to establish the Kingdom of God in the world.  He brought about  the kingdom of God by His preaching and miracles.  He definitively established it by his passion, death and resurrection.  At the end of time He will return to judge the living and the dead and establish the kingdom in its fullness.  The Kingdom of God in its essence is the rule of God over the world and over our lives.  To accept the Kingdom of God is to accept the dominion of God over all creation and over all humanity.  One homily is too little time to describe the Kingdom which is pictured for us in its many dimensions by the parables of Jesus.  However, allow me to give a summary of what the Kingdom is all about in three points.
First of all, Jesus is the King of the universe.  God created the world through Christ.  So the world belongs to God, not to us.  We are entrusted by God to be good stewards over the earth and all that has been created.
To harm the environment directly or to fail to care for God’s creation denies the rule of God and sins against God.  We honor the rule of God when we keep the air clean, when we protect fresh water, when we respect the earth.  Degrading the earth for political,economic, or other reasons harms people’s health and shows a lack of responsibility for future generations.  Those who deliberately deny the damage that is being done to our environment such as the greenhouse gas emissions are doing fail in the responsibility entrusted to them by God as caretakers of creation.
Secondy the rule of God is a kingdom of peace, justice, love and mercy.  We are blessed in the kingdom if we live the Beatitudes Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Blessed are the peacemakers.  We are talking here about loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves, especially the neighbor who is poor or an outcast of society.  Those who perpetrate violence, those who expand the nuclear arms race, those who exploit the poor through greed, those who show no mercy, all sin against God and the rule of God and will have to answer when Jesus comes again to judge the living and the dead.
Thirdly, the rule of God proclaims that nothing must stand between ourselves and Jesus.  Nothing, no-one, must be allowed to become a stumbling block for us in being faithful to Jesus.  Jesus pretty much describes an obsession with possessions and wealth as the biggest obstacle to following him.  We see this obstacle everywhere today where the accumulation of wealth seems to be many people’s highest priority.  Nations likewise fall into the same great sin of worshipping the economy.
All wealth, the whole economy, must always be for the good of people, the well being of society, the promotion of the common good, the care of families and to insure that every one in the world  enjoys the basic rights of food, shelter, health care, and education.  How one uses one’s wealth pretty much displays how one views God.  Just like creation, all wealth, all possessions, all money  belongs to God and we are the stewards of what God has given us or we have earned. At the same time the Church respects private property but always with the understanding that there is a responsibility to the common good.  Simply to hoard or accumulate is wrong.  Those who are selfish and without mercy will have to answer to Jesus when He comes again to judge the living and the dead.
When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Thy Kingdom Come” we are praying that God will reign over our world and over our lives right now, today, in all that we are and in all that we do.  At the same time we are praying for God to bring about  the fullness of the Kingdom at the end of time when all will be caught up in the glory of God.  To worship Jesus Christ as our King and the King of the Universe is to accept the rule of God over our world and our lives.
Bishop Stephen Blaire

THE LAST DAYS

Homily    Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

As the Church approaches the end of another liturgical year (Yes, Advent will be here on December 2nd) we can look back on a turbulent year of crises within the Church.  We must begin by being honest and acknowledge that the Church over these last 20-30 years has created procedures for child safety that have made us one of the safest institutions in the US.  There are still some gaps on accountability of reporting from parishes and some transparency issues but the results have been good.  Almost all the cases you are hearing or reading about are 30 to 70 years old.  However, what remains for great discussion and prayerful reflection and ultimate action is the underlying clerical culture that sought to help the priest in trouble but gave little or minimum attention to the care of the survivor.  There is a tremendous need for an ongoing team effort of lay people, professionals and clergy in renewing the structures of accountability in the Church.  How can we bishops be better accountable to you our people?  We are given the responsibility of governance in the Church which Jesus illustrated in his teaching as servant leadership. How can we bishops be better servant leaders?
Today’s scripture readings give us the context of how to live as a Church in service of the kingdom of God. It is not easy to sort out the teaching of Jesus in the gospels about the last days.  However, two clear points emerge.  We are to have total confidence in God as we live out our lives and we are to live with great vigilance because we do not know the day nor the hour when Jesus, the Son of Man, will return in all his glory.
What does this mean for us today at this very time?
It means first of all that we accept the rule of God in our lives in everything we do.  We know the commandments of God as given to us in the Old Testament and preached by Jesus.  By His teaching and His works he established the reign of God in the world and definitively did so by his passion, death and resurrection.  So the kingdom of God is in our midst at this very moment and will be so until it is fully complete at the return of Christ.
Secondly we need to be alert – vigilant.  The truth of the matter is that most people in their worldly pursuits are far more diligent and astute than we are in following Christ.
I would like to suggest that we will enter into the final coming of Christ when we pass through death.  Death is the moment -so to speak- when we encounter Jesus personally.  We leave space and time and enter into eternity where there is no time and no place.  But we only know how to express our faith about what happens in human words.  We bring with us in death our whole lives and all our experiences, everything we have become.  When we enter into eternity Christ comes again for us but first we have to be purified (what in the old days we called purgatory).  We are prepared to enter fully into God’s glorious presence by the overwhelming love of God who purifies us.  So even though we do not know when Christ will come again in space and in time I believe that in eternity he does come again and that is heaven when we are with him and with all those who have gone before us in death.  Since we bring every aspect of our lives with us into eternity it is so important that we be vigilant in living our lives now for God and for one another.  In this way we will be prepared for death and our personal encounter with the Lord Jesus.
So as the Church moves ahead in seeking to renew itself, it does so in service of the kingdom of God.  In everything we do as a Church and in everything we do as members of the Church we put our total confidence in God.  Then we must be alert, ready to give an accounting of our lives, to  God.  We must be vigilant to live in a way that is good and just and loving. We are  filled with hope that all things will come to good when Christ establishes the fullness of His kingdom in the glory of eternity. But eternity begins now in time.
Bishop Stephen Blaire

ABUNDANT GENEROSITY

Homily  32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Some people are just plain stingy – why? I do not know.  I know good people  who seem to have the  first penny they ever earned.
Some people cannot give without wrapping their gift in a box of complaints.  I know a wealthy donor from another time and another location far from here who was generous but never stopped griping and complaining about how his money was being used.
Some people’s hearts are small and miss the big picture.  I think of those who have a nationalistic spirit who cannot see beyond the self-interests of their own country.  True patriotism is a love for one’s own country while seeing the place of their country in service not only of their domestic needs but also in the great human family of nations.  This weekend we honor our Veterans who have served their country in the great quest for peace in the world.  One hundred years ago the United States helped end World War I and was a leader in promoting the co-operation of nations in working for freedom and peace in the world.
I would suggest that Jesus proposes to us the attitude that can be ours in the examples I have just given.  Jesus has lifted up for us the image of abundant generosity when he pointed out to his disciples the poor widow who put two small coins in the treasury.  “Amen I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”
What characterizes the follower of Christ is abundant generosity in love for one’s family, for the Church, for society locally, nationally and internationally, especially for the poor.  An abundantly generous person is not a bleeding heart because Jesus did say we must sit down and calculate what it means to serve the kingdom of God.   Generosity is always coupled with responsibility because we do have obligations in the situations of the world in which we are a part and in our own personal lives.
For the Christian, abundant generosity replaces stinginess; abundant generosity diffuses griping and complaining; abundant generosity expands the heart beyond narrow mindedness; and abundant generosity transforms us from a gloomy self interest and selfishness into cheerful givers.
“God loves a cheerful giver,” proclaims the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians.
Let Jesus’ words expand our hearts:  “Amen I say to you, this poor widow
put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury.”
Bishop Stephen Blaire

THE VOCATION OF THE CHRISTIAN

November 4, 2018. Homily. Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

National Vocation Awareness Week.
As the Church in the United States celebrates National Vocation Awareness Week, we need to take a look at the word ‘vocation.’  More often than not it refers to a vocation or calling to the priesthood or religious life.  We commonly say that we are praying for vocations. Likewise ‘vocation’ also refers to a calling to marriage or to the single life.  For a long time I have felt this to be  an inadequate understanding of what ‘vocation’ means.
For the Christian there is only one vocation – one calling – and that is to follow Christ.  The calling is one because there is only one Lord and one baptism.  The calling is to follow the one Lord Jesus Christ and to be baptized into the one Church of Jesus.  In Christ there is neither male nor female, rich nor poor, young nor old.  We are all one in Christ.  There can be no status in following Christ, only various ministries of service.  I recently visited a very devout man who is quite ill and perhaps nearing the end of his life.  He said to me: “I give glory to God in my sickness just as I would if I were not sick.”  The point is that our vocation is to follow Christ in every aspect of our lives, when we are well or sick, in our work, in marriage, as a priest or deacon or religious, as a widow or widower, whether we are single, young or old, engaged, retired, enjoying leisure, in all circumstances of our lives, whomever we are and whatever we are doing.
At the same time it is quite appropriate to speak about a variety of vocations, as long as we understand that these callings are specific ways that God calls us to live out our one vocation, our baptism, as followers of Jesus.  As St. Augustine famously said:  “With you I am a Christian; for you I am a bishop.” God may be calling me to be a priest, deacon, Religious or consecrated lay person.  God may be calling me to marriage.  God may be calling me to a particular profession like a nurse or teacher or business person, or agricultural leader.   There is no limit to the specific ways that God can call us to build up the body of Christ and to serve one another.  We must not compare and contrast the grace of the various calls given by God.  It is not right to say that God calls some to the priesthood, some to the state of marriage and some to the single life as if locked into some specific state in life that is chosen from these three.  In the Eastern rite of the Church and somewhat in the Latin Church, one can be called to the priesthood and marriage.  A deacon can be called to the diaconate, marriage and a profession in the world. God can call a young single person to a ministry of missionary service and later to a different vocation including marriage, ordained ministry, consecrated life, lay ecclesial ministry, or a profession in the world and so on.
We are all called to live out our baptism by following the Lord Jesus and keeping the two great commandments of God: to love God with all our heart and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves.       But we are called to keep these commandments in our own particular situation and circumstances.  How I love God and love my neighbor as a bishop certainly is similar to how you love God and your neighbor but it is also different, each according to one’s own particular circumstances in life and one’s own work situation or particular vocation.
So yes we pray for vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and Religious life.  But we do so understanding that there is really only one fundamental calling and that is to follow Christ and to do so according to our own circumstances and particular calling or callings in life. I would also say that our prayers are far more powerful when they come from a community of believers who live their baptismal calling, their vocation to follow Jesus.  And when we pray for the Lord to send laborers into the harvest we are not just praying for vocations to the priesthood, but also we are praying for all members of the Church to live out their vocation in their own particular circumstances as followers of Christ.  While God can and does raise up vocations to the priesthood from any and all circumstances, I believe that generally speaking, vocations to the ministerial priesthood come from strong communities of faith and families where people live their baptismal vocation to follow Christ.
As we celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week let us be deeply aware of our vocation to follow Christ in every dimension of our lives no matter what our specific calling or vocation may be.
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire

HEALING AND MERCY

Homily  30th Sunday in Ordinary Time    October 28, 2018

The world today is filled with people who have the name ‘Bartimaeus.’   They are the people who need healing and are seeking the mercy of God.
When Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. There are people today who rebuke those who are seeking healing from Jesus and the mercy of God.
These are the people who disdain faith as irrelevant.  If you want healing, they say, medicine and technology will provide what you need.  Psychological counseling will enable you to manage your life.  You do not need the shackles of religion which is not only irrelevant but oppressive.  As an autonomous individual you must cast off the chains of religion and do whatever you want and then you will be free,  Science is set up in opposition to religion when in reality faith and science can be very good partners.  The Church deeply respects medicine and technological advances and the psychological sciences.  But they also must respect faith since faith is not in opposition to them as long as technological advances and scientific progress are not made into gods or deny the living and true God.  In fact Jesus often lifted up human ingenuity and industriousness as an example of the kind of zeal we should have in faith. We need to use all the abilities and skills God has given us to do what is right.
Forgive me for repeating myself here from a previous homily but in my recovery I have said that one’s health first of all depends on one’s bodily condition, secondly on the care of physicians and nurses and thirdly on prayer, but the greatest of these is prayer.  Why, because prayer gives meaning and purpose to our lives and all we experience.  One could be physically healed and still be empty inside without faith, without being able to see God.
The blind man regained his sight and followed Jesus on the way to Jerusalem.
The first word Jesus spoke to Bartimaeus, Jesus speaks to us:  “Take courage.”  It takes courage to believe when there seem to be so many reasons not to believe or to remain a faithful Catholic.  When Bartimaeus heard the invitation to get up and go to Jesus, “He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.”  Can we not do the same?  Can we not put off the old cloak of sin in  our lives and spring up to follow the way of Jesus – which is the way of dedication, love and mercy?  Bartimaeus received his sight and followed Jesus on the way to Jerusalem – the way of the cross, which is the way of a dedicated life.
Each of us is a Bartimaeus.  “Lord, I want to see!”  We ask to see who Jesus is and what it means to follow him.  This is our life long quest, and we must never give up no matter what.  Nothing can separate us from God’s love for us.
 Jesus  responds to us as He did to Bartimaeus: “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Like Bartimaeus we receive our sight and can then follow Jesus on the way that ultimately leads to eternal life.
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire