Category Archives: Inspiration

Divine Flute Player

by Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 7;31-35) Jesus tells the crowds :

“To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sand a dirge, but you did not weep.’ “.

In the previous verses our Lord had been reflecting on the person of John the Baptist. Jesus now speaks with regard to the way so many people rejected John’s stark message of repentance and asceticism (the “dirge”). He is also saddened by the way His message of forgiveness, inclusion, gladness, and salvation is also rejected as perhaps too lenient, too loose, too much like party music.

In our generation, what will satisfy us? My Lord offers me the joy of an eternity in His Glory, and I often find myself looking the other way, at the pleasures and ideas of this world. Why do I do this? Why am I blind and deaf? I suffer frustration and depression when I look at the news and see the sad condition of our planet. My Lord invites me to go into this heart of darkness with Him and do something about it. But nooo, it’s too hard for me. Let me vegetate in front of the TV.

But He returns, inviting again and again until He becomes irresistible. Like the Pied Piper, He arrives with His flute, playing the most delightful melody, a love song, a dance that can make us “rejoice, and leap for joy”. So we follow Him up the mountain. There are crosses waiting at the top. The poverty, the hunger, the mourning, the intolerance of this world are always there waiting for us. He bears them on His body. He carries us. The tune becomes a song of mourning. We’re invited to die with Him.

But resurrection follows, my faith tells me so. Love is stronger than death. The jovial music returns. There is a purpose to life. The Beloved One embraces us into His glorified body. We’re lost in an endless sea of Goodness. “Dissolved and brought to a deep, conscious, felt knowledge of the Divinity”, Paul of the Cross writes. Nothing can be better than that. We are strengthened and inspired by His Grace to love and help our neighbor.

Lord, open my eyes to see the marvelous treasures that You offer to all of us.! Open my ears to hear Your Song of Life.

Orlando Hernandez

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United Nations: World Leaders Meet


“ Our Sister Earth cries out, pleading that we take another course. Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last two hundred years. Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.

The problem is that we still lack the culture needed to confront this crisis. We lack leadership capable of striking out on new paths and meeting the needs of the present with concern for all and without prejudice towards coming generations. The establishment of a legal framework which can set clear boundaries and ensure the protection of ecosystems has become indispensable; otherwise, the new power structures based on the techno-economic paradigm may overwhelm not only our politics but also freedom and justice.

It is remarkable how weak international political responses have been. The failure of global summits on the environment make it plain that our politics are subject to technology and finance. There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected. Any genuine attempt by groups within society to introduce change is viewed as a nuisance based on romantic illusions or an obstacle to be circumvented.”

Pope Francis, Laudato SI 54-55

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Feasts are for Reflection

Ryrson cross
Feasts are times to reflect. The Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, September 15th, is an important feast for my community, the Passionists. Mary is the first disciple of Jesus and a model for anyone who wishes to follow him.

The gospel reading for the feast from St. John says simply that Mary stood by the cross of Jesus. She’s a brave woman, not afraid to come close to the fearful place where Jesus was put to death. The Book of Judith, ordinarily the 1st reading for the feast, praises Judith, the brave and wise Jewish woman who’s not afraid to stand with her people at a dangerous moment in their history. Two women of courage face suffering and the challenge it brings.

The prayers, traditions and art of this feast take up the theme of Mary standing by the cross. She’s remembered  in poetry, music and art. “Stabat Mater” Here’s an example in Gregorian Chant and Pergolesi’s magnificent baroque setting.

At the cross her station keeping
Stood the mournful mother keeping
Close to Jesus to the last.

Blessed Dominic Barberi, in his reflections on Mary’s sorrows, emphasizes that Mary is a mother, the new Eve and a follower of Abraham, who hopes even as his son faces death. Dominic places particular emphasis on Mary’s ties to Jesus as his mother, ties of flesh and blood.

Her motherhood provides another strong tradition that  appears in early medieval art – the Pieta– the Mother holding her dead Son in her arms on Calvary. Where did this come from? Some say it comes, not from the gospels which make no mention of it, but from the writings of mystics like St. Bridgid of Sweden, a mother who saw the life of Jesus, particularly his passion, through a mother’s eyes.

The women mystics, many of them pilgrims to the Holy Land, could not imagine Mary not taking the body of her dead Son into her arms when taken down from the cross.

The 13th century icon above, from the Ryerson collection from the Art Institute of Chicago once belonged to a European pilgrim to the Holy Land who brought it back as a reminder of a pilgrimage. It probably reflects the two traditions. Mary, a mother, holds her Son at birth and she stands at his cross at death.

An alternate gospel for the feast recalls Mary’s loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. Mary’s sorrows were not limited to Calvary; they were lifelong.

A study of the Pieta in art in early medieval France explores the diversity of this scene before Michaelangelo’s Pieta became an overpowering icon. “Often she is viewed as caught up in the horror of the moment, but she is also shown praying or even gazing into the distance, as if contemplating comforting memories or the reunion to come. Her demeanor ranges from youthful innocence—the Purity that Time cannot age—to careworn maturity—Our Lady of Sorrows.”

Sorrow has a range of faces.

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24th Sunday: Forgiveness, Seventy-seven Times?

 

For this week’s homily, please play the video file below:

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Our Lady of Sorrows: September 15

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There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joses, and Salome. These women had followed him when he was in Galilee and ministered to him. There were also many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.”  That’s how Mark’s gospel describes some onlookers at Jesus’ crucifixion. (Mark 15,40-41)

John’s gospel brings some of the women closer. He places Mary, the Mother of Jesus, standing at the cross itself. “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”

She stands, close by,  not at a distance, not afraid to see, not absorbed in her own suffering, not disengaged from him or his sufferings. She enters into the mystery of the cross through compassion, which doesn’t experience his suffering exactly, but enters it to break the isolation suffering causes and helps someone bear their burden.  The sword, the spear, pierces both hearts, but in a different way.

Compassion is a necessary part of the mystery of the cross.

The Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, which we celebrate in the Roman calendar  on September 15th, was placed after the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross (September 14) only recently, in the 20th century by Pope Pius X.  He took the feast,  formerly the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, and placed it on this date which is the octave of Mary’s birth (September 7).

The prayer for today’s feast says that when her Son “was lifted high on the Cross” his mother stood by and shared his suffering, but as yesterday’s feast of the Triumph of the Cross makes clear, Jesus  lifted high draws all to himself to share in his resurrection.

Compassion leads to a share in Jesus’ resurrection.

For a commentary on John’s Gospel see here.

For a study on Mary on Calvary see here.

For readings for the feast and the Stabat Mater see here.

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The Triumph of the Cross: September 14

 

Holy sepul

Pilgims enteing the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

This ancient ecumenical feast,  celebrated by Christian churches throughout the world, originated in Jerusalem at the place where Jesus died and rose again. There, a great church was built by the Emperor Constantine and dedicated September 13, 325 AD, It was called the Anastasis (Resurrection) or the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and became one of Christianity’s holiest places.

Liturgies celebrated in this church, especially its Holy Week liturgy, influenced churches throughout the world. Devotional practices like the Stations of the Cross grew up around this church. Christian pilgrims brought relics and memories from here to every part of the world. Christian mystics were drawn to this church and this feast.

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Tomb of Jesus

Calvary

Calvary

Pilgrims to the church today in Jerusalem’s Old City can visit the tomb of Jesus, recently renovated after sixteen centuries of wars, earthquakes, fires and natural disasters, and also the rock of Calvary where Jesus died on a cross. The building today is smaller and shabbier than the resplendent church of Constantine’s time, because the original structure was largely destroyed in the 1009 by the mad Moslem caliph al-Hakim. Half of the church was hastily rebuilt by the Crusaders, and the present building still bears the scars of time.

Scars of a divided Christendom can also be seen in it. Various Christian groups, representing churches of the east and the west, claim age-old rights and warily guard their separate responsibilities in the place. One hears in this church the difficult challenge Jesus offered when he prayed that ” All may be one.”

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Egyptian Coptic Christians

Seventeenth century Enlightenment scholars  expressed doubts about the authenticity of Jesus’ tomb and the place where he died, Calvary. Is this really it? Alternative spots have been proposed, but scientific opinion today favors this site as the place where Jesus suffered, died and was buried.

For more on the history of this place, see here.

And a video here.

Readings for the Triumph of the Cross

 

 

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Via Dolorosa - 17

“Do not forget the works of the Lord!” (Psalm 78, Responsorial Psalm) We can’t forget Jesus Christ. Like those before us, we seek and inquire after God again and again; we remember God our rock, the Most High God, our redeemer. Don’t forget Jesus Christ who “emptied himself.” His cross lifts us up.

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Beatitudes

By Orlando Hernandez

In today’s Gospel (Lk 6: 20-26) we’re blessed with the “Four Beatitudes” of the Gospel of Luke. I was led to reread Max Lucado’s wonderful book “ The Applause of Heaven”, with his incredibly beautiful interpretation of the Beatitudes. Then I also read pages 70-99 in Pope Benedict XVI’s book “Jesus of Nazareth”. In these pages on the Beatitudes I always discover new treasures that lead me to the meaning of who Christ is, what our church should be about, and what Christian life always is: the unfolding of Love. I really recommend these books.

Rather than present the wonderful thoughts in these two works, I was led to view the
Gospel reading as a form of prayer, a chance for a Christian to discover what message Jesus has for him or her today. He blesses us with the grace of His words.

This is what I experienced. First, I encountered a fifth beatitude (besides the four presented in Luke). The first line in the reading is , “Raising His eyes toward His disciples Jesus said:”(v..20a). I imagine what it would have been like to have been there, and to experience those eyes, probably closed in meditation, slowly opening and looking into your heart! Sometimes prayer can be just so rewarding. My mind searches anxiously into the darkness, and suddenly a light seems to dawn, bathing my soul with a Love too great to bear! This is a blessing, a happiness, that sooner or later the Beautiful One brings to anyone who wishes to be His disciple.

Then He says: “ Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.”( v..20b). I imagine the folks in Florida, coming out of their hot, dark houses to see the devastation outside. They look at the bright sky after the storm has left. The quality of their lives has certainly been impoverished, but they are safe! They relish in the fact of their being alive, God’s great gift, and many of us are blessed with a delightful sense of gratitude. Loved ones call from everywhere. Neighbors and volunteers are there for each other. We get a glimpse of the Kingdom of God.

Our Lord says: “Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be satisfied.”(v..21a). What an awesome sensation, the hunger for Jesus! What an incredible gift He offers us everyday in the Eucharist. I experience this overwhelming sensation that is simultaneously physical, mental, and spiritual, this need for Him. And He gives Himself to us. Why does He love us like this?

“Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh.”(v..21b) . Father John Powers CP often says that sorrow is the flaw in love. I was remembering my friend Edith, whom we buried only last week. Her daughter had told me who that beautiful young man in that Bar Mitzvah portrait had been. In our visits Edith had never talked about him. She had lost him many years ago when he was only 20. I thought of the pain she must have carried all these years. I thought about how it would feel to lose my son, or one of my grandchildren. And I missed her. I began to cry in the most loud, unseemly way, out there alone in my backyard. It sounded like laughter, and it reminded me of the many times we had laughed together. She was a lot of fun. I know we will laugh together again.

The Lord says, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man.”(v..22) Last Friday, at the Douglaston Center I saw the Martin Scorsese movie, “Silence”, presented by Father Robert Lauder. Being a disciple of Christ can lead to much horrible suffering and death. My discipleship has fortunately never challenged me this way. When I was young, and I had left he church, I would see Christians expressing their faith, talking to me about it. I would be respectful, but in my mind I would laugh and say, “fanatics”, “crazy hallelujahs”, or “poor deluded people”. I would feel sorry for them. Sometimes I had to tell them, “Listen, leave me alone!”.

Funny how now I am one of “those people”, and get some of my old attitude directed at me. It makes me sad, because when I “Rejoice and leap for joy” with my Sunday prayer group, I realize what they’re missing, and I pray for them.

I know that tomorrow I could read this same passage again and receive different messages, different graces, different words from the Word of God, whose love for us is inexhaustible. He pours upon us Beatitude upon Beatitude. Thank you, Beloved.

Orlando Hernandez

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