Tag Archives: Orlando Hernandez

Grieving

By Orlando Hernández

To many of us Good Friday always feels like a day of mourning. We remember how our beautiful Lord was cut down in the prime of His life. Part of us feels like we lost a true friend, family . Maybe we remember those we lost. How we buried them. How we grieved and yet the world went on as if nothing had happened, business as usual. I remember when I was a kid in Caracas, Venezuela in the 1950’s. On Good Friday the whole city would shut down: government, business, entertainment. The streets seemed empty. There was a silence everywhere. Even the few TV stations and the local movie houses would only show films about the life and the Passion of Christ, which I would find very scary.

And yet today, on Good Friday, in New York, most people are unaware. They are out trying to make a living. Tonight they’ll be out in the bright city at restaurants, clubs, bars, and theaters. So different from the way I feel. This poem, by W.H. Auden (maybe you know it) expresses some of my feelings about Good Friday :

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead,
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My moon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My soul agrees with the feelings in this poem. But it also disagrees with its message. Love does last forever. Good can come out of suffering and loss. This is a message of the Passion : The Resurrection of life and of love. But I think about those apostles in the darkness of the Upper Room!
Their guilt, their desolation, their grief, their uncertainty. I think of Peter, my friend Peter, remembering his question (my frequent prayer to the Lord): “Master, to whom will we go? Where can we go, when You have the words of Eternal Life?” And now where is that Life?

I can think of so many friends who lost their loved ones in the last few weeks, the despair they feel. And those who feel abandoned in nursing homes, jails, and hospital beds, those who feel unloved by God, who have forgotten how to believe. I am reminded of this excerpt from “The Crucified God”, by Jörgen Monltmann: “Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about every thing that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality. It must be born out of nothingness.” Only God can do this. And He does.

Again, I think about these apostles in fear and disbelief, at the edge of despair. But I believe that they could not have been totally deaf! Our Lord told them more than once that He would “Rise again”. They had seen His miracles. There must have been some hope against all hope in their hearts as they cowered in that dark Upper Room. Even I, after the benefit of so many graces and instruction, at times like this, I momentarily forget that our Lord Jesus resurrected full of glory, power and love. I truly believe that when you have experienced Jesus in your life, no matter how hard your faith in Him is buffeted by adversity, hope still remains… A hope that is His gift from the cross, which is fueled by His infinite Love.

Dear Lord. By the power of Your Cross awaken in us the certainty of Your Resurrection within our dark, troubled hearts. You live, you live in us. We are not alone. Let us rejoice in your indestructible Love. Give us the confidence to share this joy with others during this Easter season.

Living Law

 

    In today’s Gospel (Mt 5:17-19) our Lord speaks to His disciples and to the crowds ( to all of us !) on the beautiful site of the Mount of the Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. After presenting to them the revolutionary concept of the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-10), and of our calling to be shining examples of goodness to the world (Mt 5:13-16), He goes on to tell us:

    ” Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches other to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. “

    Our Lord seems to say to me that the greatest contribution which a citizen of the Kingdom can make is to do as much good as possible. To love others. The Beatitudes and the Ten Commandments are certainly great guides for how to bring goodness to humanity. This is what the Kingdom on Earth is about.

    Our Lord fulfills and fuses these two sets of precepts and statutes by showing in the next verses and chapters how we are called to love of others, compassion, tolerance, self-giving, self-control, self-knowledge, honesty, forgiveness, prayer, spiritual poverty, and confidence in God. These components form the substance of the solid rock foundation on which each of us can build our relationship with Him.

    I believe that the great majority of humanity really yearns to live by these rules. We want peace, security, love, respect between us and our neighbors. The society that prospers most is the one that comes closest to living by these rules. World literature is filled with heroes who strive to live like this in order to find happiness. And yet we are so flawed. There is so much disrespect, hate, and violence in our world.

    I am certainly guilty of breaking many of these commandments. I am certainly one of the least in the Kingdom of heaven. I could fall into hopelessness and despair if it were not for the supernatural presence of Jesus in my life. Through His gift of prayer He has given me faith, love and hope to go on trying everyday, to trust, even in the darkest of days, in the power of His plan. For my part, in my hobbled, imperfect way, I promise Him, along with millions of brothers and sisters, to strive to ” obey and teach these commandments “, empowered by His live-giving Grace, ” until heaven and earth pass away “.

Orlando Hernández

The Most Holy Name

                                       The Most Holy Name

     On this Tuesday’s Gospel (Jn 1: 32-34) John the Baptist says : ” I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon Him. I did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me,  ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, He is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God.”

     This past New Year’s Eve my wife and I could have spent the time in an anonymous bar, or in front of the TV, half-a-sleep, drinking. Instead we had the opportunity to go to a chapel in St Nicholas of Tolentine Parish in Queens, and wait for the new year in front of the Blessed Sacrament. We were singing songs with the people, praying, looking at Him in silence, realizing that here was Jesus, the Blessed, Living Name, the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”(Jn 1:29b)

     This event could only have been possible through the efforts of two children of God, Grace and Maria. They arranged it with the parish priests. They invited whomever could make it. They prepared the sheets with songs and prayer. They hauled and provided all this food to be shared afterwards in the church hall. And they led us in song, with their guitar accompaniment, singing in such lovely harmony, like two angels.

     I could not help but feel the Spirit of God ” Come down and remain ” upon them, as I have often felt it in their presence before. I did not see a dove, or a halo over their heads. I saw their humanity, the precious humanity that we share with our Lord. Their presence leads me to whisper in my mind the Most Holy Name:  “Jesus”.

     I have experienced the same phenomenon countless times at the Immaculate Conception Monastery, and Passionist Retreat House in Jamaica, New York. Here, these holy men, priests, prophets, servants, have touched my life in so many ways. They guide me, inspire me, correct me, accept me. They have given me their friendship in God. Yes, what they say and how they say it has great power. What they do is so admirable. But it is their very selves, the invisible light that I feel emanating from their presence, that makes me think,

“Jesus, Son of God”.

     In Tuesday’s first reading, the first letter of St John, it says, ” Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know  that when it is revealed we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope based on Him makes himself pure, as He is pure.”

I know that these Passionists are only men, like me, but the hope that I see in their eyes is what gives me the strength to hope that purity is possible, because

“We are God’s children now”.

    A number of them, people I came to love, have left us in the past year. I miss them. But I just know that what they truly are has now been ” revealed to them”, that they ” have seen Him as He is”. And I just have to smile and think, ” Jesus, blessed be Your Name”.

     On New Year’s Day, my wife and I were walking through the woods in Alley Pond Park, Queens. We passed a couple with their big dog. I didn’t even look at them. I was afraid of the dog, and I didn’t like the man’s face. A friendly voice came from beside me wishing them, “Happy New Year”. With such lovely smiles on their faces the couple answered back in kind. Even the dog seemed friendly. This interchange was started by my beloved wife, Berta, who more and more each day seems to have the Spirit of Love ” come down and remain ‘” with her. I am so grateful to God because so many times she sets me straight and reminds me of Whose child I am, and of what I can become. And I just smile and say ” Jesus, Son of God, thank you. Blessed be Your Name!”.          

                      Orlando Hernández

Comfort for those who labor

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Wednesday’s Advent Gospel (Mt 11: 28-30) is so beautiful and comforting. No wonder it is specially beloved and quoted by so many of His people. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

     I am trying so hard to talk less and to listen more, for God’s voice, during my prayer. It is not easy. But reading these Gospel sentences from Jesus always makes me feel as if He is personally talking to me with all His tenderness and love.

     One of the blessings of retired life is that my wife and I can go for an early dinner at 5:00 p.m. on a weekday. Last Thursday, while looking out the picture window of the diner, I could see row upon row of slow-moving headlights on Northern Blvd. and the Clearview Expressway in Queens, NY: so many people sitting through the heavy traffic in their cars in the falling darkness after a long day at work. I spent so much of my life like that, like so many others “who labor and are burdened”, longing for a few hours of rest at home. Back then I did not realize that the place of rest was right there within my heart, where the Love of Jesus was always waiting patiently for my conversion.

     Now, years later, when I rest and rejoice in His Love, I have also learned from Him a thing or two. His Love makes His yoke easy and His burden light, but it is still a yoke and a burden. He calls us to share, and relieve, the burdens of so many of our brethren, His brothers and sisters.   

     In the November 26th issue of The Brooklyn Tablet, Fr. Robert Lauder writes:

      ” While many of us may be able to wax eloquently about how beautiful love is, we may need to remind ourselves that in our lives the call to love God and neighbor can be demanding. Dorothy Day, who spent her life loving and serving the poor often referred to an insight from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel,

‘The Brothers Karamasov’. The insight is that in reality, love can be a harsh and dreadful thing. Love can call us to make great sacrifices. Though we benefit from loving, that does not necessarily make loving easy.”

     I pray that the people in those cars realize what an important part love has in the sacrifices and struggles that they undergo in their work-lives. I pray that within their personal loves they discover, some time, somehow, the One who loves them beyond comprehension, the Source of everything that is worthwhile and good in their lives, the One who at the end of the road waits for them with open arms to give them true rest.

Orlando Hernandez