Monthly Archives: August 2017

To Practice What We Preach

This Wednesday’s Gospel (Mt 23: 27-32) presents a small portion of chapter 23, where Jesus denounces the scribes and Pharisees for various sinful behaviors:

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of filth. Even so, on the outside you appear righteous, but inside you are filled with hypocrisy and evildoing.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what you ancestors measured out!”

I believe that our Lord loved these scribes and Pharisees as much as He loves any of us, and yet He presented before them all their ungodly practices and acts. Perhaps Jesus, in His frustration at their lack of acceptance, was hoping to startle them into repentance, and yet, He must have known that there was little chance that this shaming was going to work. They would not stop until Jesus was apprehended and killed.

Jesus points out the large load of sin that His beloved people had been carrying for generations, the stubbornness, the pride, and the fear that had led to the persecution and killing of so many prophets in the past. This unfortunate “tradition” would continue and end with Him. They and their ancestors had “measured out” a large quantity of injustice and suffering that had to be atoned for. This huge absence of righteousness had to be filled up by them. Instead, because of God’s incredible love, it would be filled with the blood and anguish of our crucified Lord for the forgiveness of all.
In an earlier part of Chapter 23 (vv 2-3) Jesus says,
“The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.”

Sadly, this ominous accusation can apply to all of us, disciples of Christ, in today’s world. In one way of another, despite our pious, clean exteriors (specially when we go to Mass), like the graves that Jesus talks about, our souls carry the deadly rot of sin to a lesser or greater extent.

On the August 25 issue of USA Today, I was reading the long, disturbing article about the the numerous court cases across our country, regarding the sex abuse scandal in our Church. It is awful to see people who, like the Pharisees, are religious leaders who are to set the example of God’s love for us, and instead abuse their power in such cruel, destructive ways. The culprits were not only priests, but also “church employees,” lay people. Even though these persons are a small minority of us and we will not “follow their example,” we are called to “do and observe whatever they tell” us, to follow the teachings of our church and be examples of justice, goodness and love for whole world. Our Body of Christ might have areas of damage, but we will keep it alive, because His Holy Spirit heals and fortifies us as his Church.

I look within the tomb of my inner self and see so much that I am ashamed of. The Risen Lord is there, He Who comes “to judge the living” and Who illuminates with His great light exposes every fault within that crypt. I must admit these faults, accept them, and confess them.

The Lord has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Here, His Holy Spirit comes within and cleanses these earthen vessels with His Glory. He gives us relief, hope, strength, and confidence in His goodness, so that we ourselves will strive to share in His holiness and mercy. He loves us. This is what He wants for us.

Beloved Father in Heaven, Beloved Master, thank You for the saving power of Your Holy Spirit! Don’t give up on us; have mercy on us!

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: Remembrance of Things Past

by Howard Hain

.

“…forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”

—Philippians 3:13


.

What is the past? A remembrance of things past. Of what has been. Of what is not now. Of what is no longer today.

What is re-membering? A putting back together of what once was. Of what was once whole. Complete. United. Unified. A re-attachment of “bodily” members currently detached. A body made whole, brought back into health. It is healing. It is “being” fulfilled.

What is to forget? The act of properly re-membering. Beyond elimination. Beyond denial. It is re-valuation. It is re-deeming. Of value. A re-establishment of worth. An instance of humanity made universality worthy once more.

What is worthy? What has value? The future lived presently. Proper hope brought into active being. Knowing ‘now’ is a perpetual tomorrow, lived fully today.

It is tomorrow’s air breathed as we currently speak.

A human being living in heaven.

A human being “knowing” heaven was once, is now, and will be forever.

Worthy is a person “forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead…”


 

Praise be Incarnate Wisdom. Now and forever.

.


.

.

God doesn’t demonize

We’re reading Paul’s Second Letter to the Thessalonians and the Gospel of Matthew this week at Mass. The letter was written about the year 55 AD, 20 years or so after the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew was written about the year 85 AD, some 40 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Paul’s letters reflect his custom to go first into Jewish synagogues to preach the gospel as a follower of Jesus. Before his conversion, he went to the synagogues as a Pharisee to pursue and arrest Christians. Now he faced those from the Pharisaic movement sharply confronting him..

The Gospel of Matthew reflects this same antagonism and confrontation. Matthew’s gospel was written at a highpoint of Jewish-Christian controversy, after the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.  Read only passages from the 23rd chapter of Matthew’s gospel you would think that the Pharisees were Jesus’ fiercest enemies.

In reality, a number of Pharisees became his most important followers, like Nicodemus and Paul himself. The Pharisees were certainly antagonistic to him in his lifetime; Jesus was angry with them for their blindness to him and his message. But did he see them as mortal, eternal enemies? No, he didn’t.

We have to read the scriptures with an eye on the time they were written and the audience they were written for. It helps us understand the hot rhetoric we hear in Matthew’s reading for today.

Can we learn a lesson from readings like these? Be careful not to demonize your enemies. God doesn’t do that and neither should we.

That’s an important lesson to remember today as we look at the Muslim world and controversy building up between them and us. Jesus didn’t demonize people; he turned to the thief on the cross, he told the story of a prodigal son, he received back the disciples who abandoned him.,

When we bring the bread and wine to the altar at Mass, we bring all of creation, not just a part of it, for God to receive. “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,” we say. All creation is God’s creation. He wishes to bless it and see it at peace and harmony. God wishes us to see things as he see them.

God doesn’t demonize.

Friday Thoughts: The Laugh’s On Us

by Howard Hain

.

No matter what I’m going through I feel the urge to laugh when I speak to a brother in Christ—and now I know why—true fellowship reminds us that God laughs at our trifling fears.

 

Rembrandt Self Portrait

Rembrandt, “Self-Portrait”, (1668)

 

For Edith, a Loving Person

by Orlando Hernandez

Right now, a dear friend of mine is dying in an ICU bed at Queens General Hospital. I am reminded of verse 23 in my beloved Psalm 104:

“ People go out to their work,
to their labor till evening falls.”

In this Wednesday’s Gospel we re-visit our Lord’s parable of the workers at the vineyard of the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 20: 1-16). Their workday can represent the short, precious span of a human life. The landowner ( our God! ) starts hiring workers at dawn. He hires more workers throughout the day, even up to five o’clock in the afternoon. At he end of the day He chooses to pay them all the same salary even though some of them had been working for many more hours than others. This seems very unfair to those workers, maybe even to us. Our Lord tells us:

“My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money? Are you envious because I am generous? Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (v.v. 13-16)

This parable reminds me that the Kingdom of Heaven starts right here on Earth, and it is greatly about commitment and work. We must work through word and example, to spread the news of God’s infinite love to all the people we meet. It is not easy work, especially when we must start the work on our very own selves. I pray that we will do the best we can, and yet we must recognize the littleness of our accomplishments, how in the end we are just “unprofitable servants”, whether we started at dawn or at five o’clock!
It’s OK, because this Kingdom of God is most of all about the generosity of this Landowner, who loves us with an unfathomable love, and wants to give us the payment of eternal life with Him. When we are given EVERYTHING, what does it matter if someone else “deserved it” less than we did? We don’t lose anything. This is not a “zero-sum game”. This is an “everybody wins” type of blessing from our magnificent God. I am reminded of the story from Therese de Lisieux’s “ Story of a Soul “ , where she writes about the arrogant , unrepentant murderer who was about to be guillotined in Paris. She had prayed so much for his salvation and at the very last moment the condemned man knelt, grabbed a crucifix, and begged for God’s forgiveness. With her heart full of joy the  “Little Flower” truly believed that this man had been saved. But what sort of “Kingdom work” did that man do during those last few seconds of life? Only God knows. For one thing he worked on himself, and his example of humility and fear of God before so many people must have touched more than one hard, stony heart in that crowd. Such is the mercy of God.
I personally can relate to those laborers in the parable who did not start working until 5 p.m.. After 43 sinful, selfish, unbelieving years, the Lord came and took me as a servant of His love. Thank You Merciful Father!
Now, I must recognize that I took some “time off” when I stopped writing for this blog for the last two weeks! My wife and I were left in charge of our two very beautiful and active granddaughters. Should my excuse be that I did not even have a free second to dedicate to this writing, and if I did I was too exhausted to do anything? Naaah, no excuses. I should be “docked” . Instead, the Lord lavished upon me one bonus after another, because these girls brought such light and joy into my life.
Yes, the ultimate salary is eternal in scope, but in the meantime, our Lord gives us a multitude of “advance payments” every single day: the beauty of His creation, the love of people around us, like my friend Edith Pruzan, the strength to go on despite all challenges and losses, and most of all the gift of faith, prayer, His very presence in our lives. Wow! To go from vineyard laborer to zillionaire! Thank You Beloved! Keep Edith in Your loving arms. Amen.

Orlando Hernandez

A Lot of Things We Don’t Know

 

Vacations take you away from home to somewhere else. My somewhere else for the last few days was Cape May, New Jersey, a small old town along the Jersey shore at the tip of the state.

I went fishing but caught no fish. I went bird-watching at a good spot off the beach, but saw few local or migrating birds –except for the line of gulls perched on a shelter roof looking out to the sea. (Above)

Patient, they were. Why? I wondered. Were they expecting a feast from the nearby waters. Schools of baby blue fish had moved towards the shore, some fishermen said. Was that why no other fish were to be caught?

Were bigger fish on the way to feast on the baby blues? Who knows?

Something mysterious about the gulls perched patiently on the rooftop, though. Were they just taking a break, or did they know a feast was on the way and were gitting ready to swoop down on leftovers on the shore?

There are a lot of things we don’t know. You don’t have to go far from home to find that out.