Monthly Archives: February 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent B Jesus is Transfigured

To listen to today’s homily, select the audio file below:

Immediately before the account of his transfiguration on the mountain, which we read in Mark’s gospel this Sunday, Jesus and his disciples go up north to the villages around Caesarea Philippi, a major gentile city of the day. Mount Hermon, the great snow capped mountain that’s the principal water source for the Lake of Galilee and the Jordan River dominates that region. In bible, mountains are places close to God, where God reveals himself.

So here Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Some say you’re Elijah, John the Baptist come back from the dead, the disciples say. “Who do you say I am?” he said. “You are the Messiah,” Peter replied.

But as Jesus goes on to tell them he’s going to “suffer greatly, be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the scribes and be killed and rise after three days,” Peter stops him. No, that’s not going to happen to you. That’s not the Messiah I mean. Jesus turns to him and says “Get behind me Satan, you are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.”

‘You are not thinking as God does, but as human beings do.” Mark’s gospel, more than the others, insists that despite his teaching and the wonders Jesus works, his own disciples whom you would expect would know him best, don’t understand him that well. They think as human beings do. Of course we do too.

And so Jesus takes them up the mountain and is temporarily transfigured before them. It’s a temporary experience. A brief encounter. His clothes become a dazzling white. The great traditional figures of Moses and Elijah appear; a terrifying cloud overshadows them, a voice says “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.” That’s the way the gospels describe it.

The disciples want more. Peter wants to set up tents so they can stay there. But then it’s over. They only have a glimpse of the One who walks with them. After they come down from the mountain they still don’t understand him.

But, still, they follow him.

The mystery of the transfiguration of Jesus reminds us that God periodically reveals himself to us. Periodically,we have intimations,  glimpses of God. We can’t create that experience on our own. God makes himself known. In St. Luke’s account of the transfiguration, he seems to indicate that prayer is one way to enter God’s presence.

And so we do all we can, we wait for him like  the disciples, but we’re absorbed in our human thinking. “Thinking like human beings.”

The mystery of the transfiguration also offers the promise of something that awaits us, something that is permanent, and not temporary. “Follow me.” Jesus says. We try to get ready for him. God will come, but here in this life he comes when he wills. We wait, we watch, we listen.  Jesus saysa Kingdom is coming, where the limitation of human thoughts and actions passes away and our waiting is ended and we shall see God face to face, not for a time but for eternity.
“This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

The first reading for today is from the Book of Genesis. It begins “God put Abraham to the test.” He’s tempted. He takes his only son up a mountain to kill him. What a test that is to our human way of thinking. His only son, his beloved son. Everything he put his hopes in.

For Abraham this was the greatest temptation he or anyone could face. Everything’s lost; nothing more to live for. But God tells him  he’s not lost everything. No, he hasn’t. Go beyond your human thinking. God is for us, not against us.

Friday, 1st Week of Lent

Lent 1
Matthew 5,20-26

Anger and harsh words don’t seem to be the equivalent of murder, but Jesus seems to equate them in today’s gospel. They’re all liable to judgment, he says.

We may dismiss his words as exaggerations, but before we do, think of instances you may know where people have been destroyed by words or angry rejection. It’s not uncommon. Killing someone’s spirit, taking away someone’s reputation may not draw a jail sentence here on earth, but God sees the harm that’s done. Often, so do we.

Murder takes away physical life, but we also must respect others as persons made in God’s image. “Respect” is a wonderful word. It means “to look again” in Latin, to look again at someone and see a value we may have denied or missed, to constantly reassess how we judge another. Jesus says we should do this as we come before God’s altar to offer our gift. It’s one of the reasons behind the sign of peace we offer our neighbor at Mass.

As we look at another, we have to look honestly at ourselves too. Respect is a form of love, St. Paul of the Cross writes, “love toward your neighbor, putting up with the faults of others, looking at all with charity and compassion, having a good opinion of everyone and a bad opinion only of yourself. A simple eye lets you see your neighbor as full of virtues and yourself full of vices, but without discouragement, peacefully, humbly.” (Letter 525)

Lord,
let me look again at those I judge,
let me see them again as you do,
with mercy and forgiveness.
Make me an instrument of your peace,
bringing life and hope to others, not death.

Ist Sunday of Lent: The Human Jesus

 

To listen to today’s homily please play the audio selection below:

Mark’s gospel gives a short, straightforward account of Jesus facing temptation after his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. In just four lines he says that

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,

and he remained in the desert for forty days,

tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1, 12-13)

Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 4,1-11) gives a more extensive account of the temptations Jesus faced, as does Luke who follows Matthew rather closely. (Luke 4,1-13)

In John’s gospel we have no account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, but in chapter 1, 10-11 he says “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” A strong indication of the opposition that Jesus, the Word of God, received when he came into this world.

He was opposed. He did not come among us as a kind of superman, immune from human hurt or human frailty. He was tempted, the gospels say, opposed by “Satan” by “the world” and even by “his own.” So strong was the opposition that it eventually put him to death.

It’s so important to see the human Jesus, his vulnerability, how like us he was. Yes, he was God’s Son, but the Word became flesh, St. John says. Equal to God, he emptied himself, St. Paul says, and took the form of a slave, and became obedient even to death on the cross.

When we look at Jesus in his humanity, we wonder, first of all, at God’s love coming to a world of weakness and frailty, our world. We can also see ourselves in his humanity, in the temptations and opposition he faces as a human being in his lifetime, and particularly as he enters his Passion.

Of all the gospels, Mark’s gospel gives us the most realistic picture of the human Jesus. Mark doesn’t describe the temptations Jesus faces in the desert at the beginning of his gospel because he will describe them as Jesus makes his way through the towns of Galilee where he gathers disciples and meets opposition from the scribes and Pharisees. The growing opposition he meets there leads to Jerusalem, where he’s put to death.

Mark’s account of the Passion of Jesus shows us Jesus fearful in the garden and crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”

When we see Jesus we see ourselves. We live in a world where we face temptation. When we look to him, however, we see where our wisdom and strength and courageous patience can come from. Following Jesus, we will live.

Friday after Ash Wednesday

Lent 1
Mt 9, 14-15

The 30 or so years that Jesus Christ lived on earth are brief on the timeline of human history. Hardly visible at all. But we believe Jesus, “in the fullness of time,” changed the way we look at life and time itself in those years. He’s God’s revelation to us.

His first disciples saw him, listened to his words, followed him and told us about him. They tell us very little about his birth and early years. The part of his life they tell us most about is the story of his death and resurrection. It’s the longest story in the gospels and we believe it’s the key to understandi the One “who is, who was and is to come.”

How can we understand that story best? Shall we study it academically, maybe read a popular book like Bill O”Reilly’s “Killing Jesus”? Shall we ask historians or scholars what it means?

My community, the Passionists, always begins Lent by celebrating on the day before Ash Wednesday the Feast of the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden. The feast points out the best way to share in the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection– enter the Garden of Gethsemane and pray there with Jesus.

Gethsemane is more than a place, it’s an experience humanity shares. Jesus came to the garden in his humanity and faced there the mystery of death, the fears and helplessness it brings, the questions about God’s care, God’s love and God’s will that humanity faces.

He shares our humanity. We enter the garden–not to fall asleep or simply observe Jesus at prayer–but to face death as he faced it, to face our fears and questions about God’s will and care that he faced then, and to draw divine support as he did.

In his spiritual diary, St. Paul of the Cross said that sharing the humanity of Christ leads to sharing his divinity; meditating on his death and resurrection leads us to new life.

“I also had knowledge of the soul united in a bond of love to the Sacred
Humanity and, at the same time, dissolved and raised to a deep, conscious, and
felt knowledge of the Divinity. For since Jesus is both God and Man, the soul
cannot be united in love to the Sacred Humanity without being at the same time
dissolved and brought to a deep, conscious, felt knowledge of the Divinity.” (Diary)

Thank you, Father, for the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ,
the Word who made the universe,
the Savior you sent to redeem us,
who came as one like us
to make us one with you.

Ash Wednesday and Mystical Death

for Swahili

A letter St. Paul of the Cross wrote about “mystical death” may help us celebrate Ash Wednesday.

“You can live as a true servant and friend of God by dying each day: ‘We die daily; for you are dead and your life is hidden with Christ in God.’ It’s a mystical death I want you to undergo. I’m confident that you will be reborn to new life in the sacred mysteries of Jesus Christ, if you die mystically in Christ more and more each day, in the depths of the Divinity. Let your life be hidden with Christ in God…

“Think about a mystical death. Dying mystically means thinking only of living a divine life, desiring only God, accepting everything God sends without worrying about it. It means ignoring everything else so that God can work in your soul, in the sanctuary of your soul, where no creature, angelic or human, can go and where you can experience God working and being born, as you mystically die.

“But I’m in a hurry, and this note is getting too mystical, so listen to it with a grain of salt, because we don’t get it.”    (Letter, Dec 28, 1758)

ashes

Ash Wednesday’s a good time to try to “get” what the saint is saying.  Ashes are placed on our foreheads in the form of a cross and a few simple words are said: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

A reminder we will die. Yet, this brief symbolic act says much more. A daily mystical death is now taking place within us. Our physical life will end, the ashes tell us; the day and hour unknown. But ashes in the form of a cross say Jesus Christ changes death. “Dying, you destroyed our death. Rising, you restored our life.” Jesus Christ has made his risen life ours. His gift is hidden from us; what he promises we will experience when we enter his glory.

Meanwhile, the mystery of his death and resurrection is at work in us now. Enter this mystery mystically, St. Paul of the Cross says. Daily, deliberately, attentively accept God working within you. A new life is being born in you, though you do not see it.  Desire it, accept what God sends, without worry. God is working within you through the mystery of the Lord’s cross.

Yet, the saint says in his letter that he has to hurry off, like the rest of us, to something else. He’s going somewhere, he has something to do, someone to see, and he tells his correspondent that you can’t think about deep things too long. No, we can’t.

And so, we only glimpse the mystery of the ashes that placed on us. Still, let’s hear the Lord’s voice in today’s readings and the signs of the liturgy. Ash Wednesday is an ambassador God sends to remind us he is at work in us; he’ll send  graces through the days of Lent and Easter. Yes, all the days of our life.

Embrace his cross each day and die mystically and be born anew.

En Espanol

Una carta que San Pablo de la Cruz escribió sobre “la muerte mística” nos podría ayudar a celebrar el Miércoles de Cenizas.

“Tú puedes vivir como un verdadero ciervo y amigo de Dios si murieras cada día: ‘ Morimos diariamente; porque tú estas muerto y tú vida está oculta adentro de Cristo en Dios.’ Es una muerte mística a la que yo quiero que tú te sometas. Tengo confianza de que tú renacerás a una nueva vida dentro de los sagrados misterios de Jesús Cristo, si tú mueres misticamente en Cristo más y más cada día, en las profundidades de la Divinidad. Deja que tu vida se pierda dentro de Cristo en Dios…

“Piensa sobe la muerte mística. Morir misticamente significa pensar solamente en vivir una vida Divina, deseando solamente a Dios, aceptando todo lo que Dios manda sin preocuparse sobre ello. Significa ignorar todo lo demás para que Dios pueda obrar en tu alma, en el santuario de tu alma, donde ninguna criatura, angélica o humana, puede ir, y donde tú puedas sentir a Dios trabajando y naciendo, mientras tú mueres misticamente.

“Pero, estoy apresurado, y esta nota se está poniendo muy mística, así que escúchala pero no te obsesiones, porque esto nosotros no lo podemos captar.”( Carta,  28 de diciembre,1758)

El Miércoles de Cenizas es una buena ocasión para poder captar lo que el santo está diciendo. Cenizas son untadas sobre nuestras frentes en la forma de una cruz y unas sencillas palabras son dichas: ” Recuerda que tú eres polvo y al polvo retornarás .”

Un recuerdo de que vamos a morir. Sin embargo, este breve acto simbólico dice tanto más. Una muerte mística diaria en este momento está tomando lugar dentro de nosotros. Nuestra vida física va a terminar, nos dicen las cenizas; el día y la hora, desconocidos. Pero cenizas en la forma de una cruz nos dicen que Jesús transforma la muerte. ” Al morir Tú destruistes nuestra muerte. Resucitando, restaurastes nuestra vida.” Jesús Cristo ha convertido su vida resucitada en nuestra vida. Este regalo de Él está escondido de nuestros ojos; lo que Él promete lo experimentaremos cuando entremos en su Gloria.

Mientras tanto, el misterio de su muerte y resurreción está operando adentro de nosotros. Entra adentro de este misterio misticamente, nos dice San Pablo de la Cruz. Diariamente, deliberadamente, atentamente acepta a Dios obrando dentro de tí. Una nueva vida está naciendo en tí, aunque no lo veas. Deséalo, acepta lo que Dios te manda sin preocupación. Dios está obrando adentro de tí a través del misterio de la cruz del Señor.

Sin embargo, el santo dice en su carta que está apurado y tiene que irse, como el resto de nosotros hacia otra cosa. Va para algún lugar, tiene algo que hacer, alguien que ver, y le dice a su corresponsal , que no se puede estar pensando sobre cosas profundas por mucho tiempo. No, no podemos.

Y así, nosotros solamete vislumbramos por un segundo el misterio de las cenizas que untan sobre nosotros. De todas maneras, escuchemos la voz del Señor en las lecturas de hoy y en los signos de la liturgia. El Miércoles de Cenizas es un embajador que Dios nos manda para recordarnos que Él está operando dentro de nosotros; Él nos mandará Su gracia a través de los días de Cuaresma y de Pascua. Sí, y todos los días de nuestra vida.

Abraza su Cruz cada día y muere misticamente para poder renacer.

Swahili
Lent

Jumatano Ya Majivu
Padre Evans FwambaCp
Mt. Paulo Wa Msalaba aliandika, “Kifo ni fumbo” na kinaweza kutusaidia kusherehekea vyema Jumatano ya Majivu. Maisha kwa watumishi wa kweli ni kuwa marafiki wa mungu, kwamba tunakufa kila siku; kifo chetu na kuishi vimefichika kwa kristo na kwa mungu. Hiki ni kifo ambacho ni fumbo ambalo, nina hakika kwamba tutazaliwa katika maisha mapya kupitia mafumbo matakatifu ya Yesu Kristo, kadiri tunavyo kufa zaidi na zaidi kila siku katika fumbo la kifo cha Kristo na katika undani wa mungu. Tunatambua maisha yetu yote yamefichika ndani ya kristo na mungu.

Fikiria juu ya kifo cha fumbo. Kifo cha fumbo kinamaanisha kufikiri maisha ya kimungu, kumtamani mungu peke yake. Kupokea mapenzi ya mungu bila wasiwasi wowote. Hii inamaanisha kudharau kila kitu ili mungu afanye kazi ndani ya mioyo yetu, ambapo hakuna kiumbe chochote kinaweza kuingia wala malaika au mwanadam. Hapo tunaweza kuona kazi ya mungu ndani yetu katika kufa kwetu ambayo ni fumbo.
“Ila nina haraka, na maandishi haya yanakuwa fumbo, basi yasikilize na punje ya chumvi kwani hatuwezi kuelewa.” (Barua, Dec 28,1758)

Tunapopakwa majivu, ishara ndogo ya msalaba hafanywa kwenye paji la uso na maneno yafuatayo husemwa, “Kumbuka wewe u mavumbi na mavumbini utarudi.” Hiyo alama ya msalaba inamaana kubwa sana. Inatukumbusha kwamba tuliumbwa kutoka udongoni na humo udongoni tutarudi. Kwamba maisha ya mwanadam ni msalaba na kifo ni fumbo kwetu.

Tunakumbushwa kwamba maisha yetu ya kimwili yataisha na kwa ishara ya msalaba, kifo chake Kristo kitabadili maisha yetu kwa ufufuko wake na kuturejeshea uhai.Majivu yanatukumbusha kwamba sisi hatujui mda wala siku tutakapokufa. Mt. Paulo anasema kwamba tafakari kila siku na kupokea kwa makini kazi ya mungu inayofanyika katika maisha yako. Maisha mapya yanazaliwa ndani yako, ingawa huwezi kutambua au kuona.

Mungu anafanya kazi ndani yako kupitia fumbo la msalaba wa Yesu.
Tunapopakwa majivu tunatafakari juu ya msalaba na maisha yetu. Leo tusikilize masomo na ishara za liturijia. Jumatano ya majivu ni kama balozi aliyetumwa na mungu kwetu kutukumbusha kwamba mungu anafanya kazi maishani mwetu. Katika mfungo huu mtakatifu wa kwaresima, mungu anatutumia neema katika kipindi kizima cha kwaresima na pasaka, ndio, na katika maisha yetu yote.
Tupokee msalaba wa Kristu kila siku na tuwa tayari kufa na Kristu katika fumbo la mateso na kifo chake ili tuweze kuzaliwa upya.

Mission: St. Joseph, Keyport, NJ

IMG_1100

I’m leading a 3 day mission at St. Joseph Parish in snowy Keyport, New Jersey, ending Ash Wednesday. The theme of the mission is: Following Jesus Christ. Last night, we remembered how Jesus called others to follow him into the world. Parishioners read from the call of the disciples from St. John’s gospel and I spoke about the way Jesus in Mark’s gospel led his disciples into the town of Capernaum, into its synagogue, the house of Peter and then on the road where they met a leper.

Today Jesus calls us to go with him into our world, into our towns and cities, our churches, our homes and along the road where we meet the poor, the lepers of today. He’s leading us there.

In the catechesis I suggested we look again at the simple ways we were taught to pray, like the Sign of the Cross and the Our Father. In prayer we come know Jesus Christ. For our closing rite we held lighted candles, symbols of our baptismal call. We listened to a wonderful testimony from a couple who returned to church recently; the choir provided inspirational music. Afterwards there were refreshments in the parish hall.

Praching (2)

Tonight we turn to the Passion story of Mark. In our catechesis I suggested reading the bible during Lent, because we can know Jesus Christ through the bible. In recent times our understanding of the bible has grown as archeologists, historians and other studies enlarge what we know of the world Jesus lived in and the early writings that tell of him. The New American Bible Revised Edition is a good choice to read because it contains the same translations read in the liturgy and its notes are up to date and well written.

Knowing more about the books of the bible can help us understand them better. For example, the Gospel of Mark, generally considered the earliest gospel, was probably written in Rome for Christians who had been shaken by a fierce, unexpected persecution under the Emperor Nero. The persecutions caused Roman Christians to question their faith in the light of this absurd injustice.

Mark’s gospel doesn’t answer their questions. Instead, it presents the innocent Jesus as he faces suffering and death holding on to a belief he is in his Father’s care. From death, he will rise again.

Tonight we read from the story of the Passion of Jesus in Mark and reflect on its meaning. We’ll also hear a testimony from one of our young parishioners here at St Joseph’s and be given a small cross as a reminder of Jesus’ words, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

What am I going to do for Lent?

table

Lent begins  Ash Wednesday. What am I going to do for Lent? The supper table is a good place to ask that question, because Lent is about renewing ourselves as we are here and now. The supper table is a sign of life here and now.

Those closest to us there. Doing something for Lent must mean doing something for them, first of all, the people across the table–or maybe those who have left our table because we have driven them away. A scripture reading early on in Lent says: “Don’t turn your back on your own.”  Have we turned our backs on those closest to us because we know them too well or we have hurt them in any way?

Besides the supper table, I guess we should also ask that question “What am I going to do for Lent?” in the place where I work, or where I go to school. Don’t turn your back on them either.

Lent is for renewing ourselves as we are, in real life and real time. We don’t have to leave this world or go to Mars to do that

The Ash Wednesday scriptures say: pray, fast and give alms. What am I going to do for Lent? How about praying each day? How about fasting from my own hard opinions of others? How about looking after someone else instead of myself, someone in need?

What am I going to do for Lent? I hope I can get closer to God, and that means for me to get closer to Jesus Christ. Where should I begin? How about reading the scriptures, especially the scriptures we read during Lent.

Let’s not forget something else, though.  “What’s God going to do for us during Lent?” That’s even more important. Lent is a time of God’s grace, which is more than we can hope for, beyond what we deserve. The great sign of God’s limitless love is the Passion of his Son, a wondrous love beyond all others.