Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Today’s readings

“Athirst is my soul for the Living God.”

The Psalmist today sums up what is going on in the entire Liturgy of the Word.  In the book of Acts, we see that even the Gentiles seek salvation in Christ, and Peter learns that those God has called to holiness cannot be treated as unclean.  In the Gospel, we have the image of the Good Shepherd – a bit of a re-run from yesterday – whose voice the faithful hear in the depths of their hearts.

At the core of our creation, all of us – and not just the “us” who are here in this church or tuning in online, but all people – all of us yearn for the Living God.  This is not surprising, because God made us – all of us – for himself, in his own image.  This is an important point for us Christians to get: God made all of us, created us good, created us for himself.  And so, deep down inside, every person yearns for the Living God.

And it’s this realization that makes our lack of unity so very troublesome; it’s this realization that puts the work of evangelization on the front burner.  God created only one People and Christ established only one Church.  God made us to be one, and one with him, and it is sin that has driven us apart and kept us apart for so very, very long.

And so our goal as God’s people is to become one in him who made us, and one in him who redeemed us.  The work of evangelization is so important because God’s creation will not be complete until all of us are one.  And so we disciples have to make it our life’s vocation to see to it that everyone who knows us hears Christ in us, we have to open doors so that people can come to Christ and we have to tear down barriers of hostility or elitism.  The souls of every person cry out, “Athirst is my soul for the Living God.”  Who, then, are we to hinder God’s unifying work?

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)

Today’s readings

What would you do for just five minutes of peace and quiet?

If you’re a parent, maybe you’d be happy for just five seconds of peace and quiet!  In these days when many of us are sheltered in place together, it can be easy to get on each other’s nerves.  For those of you sheltered alone, you’d probably love to have an interruption to the peace and quiet, but that’s not my point here!

We are all probably sadly familiar with the many loud distractions our world puts before us.  And we’ve become conditioned to accepting it, even needing it on some primitive level, I think.  How often do we get out of bed and flip on the radio or television right away, or check our text messages or email before our feet even hit the floor?  Can we even get through a car ride without having the radio going?  Is the television always the background noise in our homes?  I know I’m guilty of some of those myself.  There’s a whole lot of noise out there and it’s become so that we are very uncomfortable with any kind of quiet.

A big source of noise in these pandemic days has been the many sources of “knowledgeable” information.  I know that for me, it’s been hard to discern which voice I should be hearing.  So many people have so many ideas about what we should be doing in every given situation.  It’s amazing how many people are epidemiologists and medical experts.  I hadn’t even known they had gone to medical school!  News goes on for hours and gives us all kinds of conflicting advice.  In some ways, it’s been another source of noise.

And all that noise doesn’t lead us anywhere good.  The Psalmist talks about walking through death’s dark valley.  I think some of the noise out there resembles that dark valley pretty closely.  There are voices out there tempting us to all sorts of evil places: addictions, selfishness; pursuit of wealth, prestige, or power.  Those same voices call us to turn away from the needy, from family, God and the Church.  Those same voices tell us that we are doing just fine on our own, that we don’t need anyone else to make us whole, that we are good enough to accomplish anything worthwhile all by ourselves.  And those voices are just wrong; dead wrong.

Those are the voices of those Jesus mentions in the Gospel who circumvent the gate and come to “steal and slaughter and destroy.”  The frightening thing is, we have become so used to these distracting voices that we have turned away from God, turned away from the Savior we so desperately need, and have been led astray.  That’s the heart of why our pews aren’t filled, why people call themselves “spiritual but not religious”, why the likes of Oprah and Joel Osteen have become so popular in this day and age.

So maybe we have to become a little more like sheep.  Now I want to be careful about saying that, because I know what you’re thinking: being like sheep has a pretty negative connotation.  To be clear: I don’t mean that in the sense of cultivating blind obedience leading us on the pathway to ruin.  Because, as it turns out, sheep aren’t as dumb as we often think they are.  I once read an explanation of the backstory on today’s Gospel image of the sheep, the shepherd, and the sheepfold. 

In Jesus’ day, the shepherds would gather several flocks in the same fenced-enclosure. They needed to do that, because they were always on the move with their sheep, bringing them to market, and they didn’t own every plot of land across the entire route of their trip.  So they would find a sheepfold which might be constructed in a pasture using brush and sticks; or, maybe it would adjoin a wall of a house and have makeshift walls for the other sides. Owners of small flocks of sheep would have combined them in the secure enclosure at night.  Someone – the gatekeeper – would then guard the flocks. The “gate” would have been a simple entrance, but the gatekeeper might even stretch out across the opening and literally be the “gate.” The shepherds would arrive early in the morning and be admitted by the gatekeeper. They would call out to their sheep and the members of the flock recognize the voice of their own shepherd, and that shepherd would “lead them out.”  The shepherd then walks in front of the flock and they follow. (cf. Jude Sicilliano, OP)

So the sheep are smart enough to recognize their shepherd’s voice, and follow him.  We, like the sheep, have to cultivate the silence that is needed to hear our shepherd’s voice and follow him, so that we can be led to green pastures, and not be distracted by all the noise out there.  We are a people in great need of a Savior, of the Good Shepherd.  When we deny that, we’ve already lost any hope of the glory of heaven.  We desperately need the guidance of the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life; the one who leads us to eternity, laying down his own life to keep us out of the eternal clutches of sin and death.  Jesus came into this world and gave himself so that we might “have life and have it more abundantly.”  We just have to stop settling for the noise out there and tune in to our Savior’s voice.

Here’s a way to pray with this in the coming week.  Take five minutes, or even just five seconds if that’s all you can find, and consciously turn off the noise: whether it’s the physical noise of the television or radio, or the internal noise of distractions in your head.  Step outside by yourself for a while, if that’s what it takes.  And then reflect on what voices are out there distracting you from hearing  the voice of your Good Shepherd.  Bring all that noise to mind and acknowledge its presence.  Then, ask the Good Shepherd to help you tune them out so that you can more readily discern his voice and follow the right path.  Sometimes we have to take note of the distraction before we can move past it.  When you’ve done that, you can spend some time in the presence of the One who is the gate, the sheepfold, and the shepherd.

Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Allelluia!

Saint Joseph the Worker

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate one of my very favorite saints, Saint Joseph.  You might be thinking, didn’t we already celebrate his feast day this year?  And the answer to that would be yes, absolutely!  The feast – or rather the solemnity – of Saint Joseph (it’s a solemnity because he’s a very special and important saint), is on March 19th.  But today we celebrate the memorial of the very same Saint Joseph, this time because he is the patron saint of workers – people who work!

And that, quite frankly, is all of us.  We all have work to do, don’t we?  We have our schoolwork and our chores.  We may have to work on a sport or a musical instrument or develop one of our talents in some way.  And then there are our parents.  They may go to work, so that they can earn money for the family, and so that people who depend on them can thrive.  They also work in our homes, taking care of you, and making the home a place that’s comfortable for the family.  They cook and clean and all those things that are part of a parent’s life.

So all of us work.  And sometimes work is great.  Maybe it’s exciting, maybe it helps us learn new things, maybe it allows us to use our talents in a special way.  But sometimes work isn’t so exciting: sometimes work is, well, work and it makes us wish we can do something else with our time – anything else!  For some people, work can also be oppressive: maybe it’s not work they like to do and maybe it doesn’t help them care for their families enough.  There’s all sorts of work out there.

But Catholic teaching on work is that it is always supposed to be part of the creative work of God.  Our first reading paves the way, doesn’t it?  This reading is from the end of the story of the creation of the world in the book of Genesis.  Here, God has just finished creating everything there is, and as his last, most splendid creation, creates human beings: male and female, famously, Adam and Eve.  Everything he has created is good, and now God gives that goodness to the man and woman and charges them to keep on creating with him: “Be fertile and multiply,” he says to them, “fill the earth and subdue it.  Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.”

Our work, all of it is a sharing in the creative activity of God.  Our Gospel today shows us that even Jesus himself was a worker: he was the carpenter’s son (that carpenter would be Saint Joseph!), and Jesus was not ashamed to be known that way.  The people of the time took offense at this, because they thought the Messiah wouldn’t have to be someone who was a laborer.  But they had it all wrong, because work was something that God did in the beginning, and continues to do all the time.  When we work with faithfulness, we are part of God’s creating power!

So for all of this, we have the intercession and patronage of Saint Joseph, who was a worker, a carpenter, and knew all the blessings and drudgeries of labor.  We should always look to him when work is hard or when we don’t have work, so that he might intercede for us.  And when work is great, we should join with him in giving praise to God who gives us the blessing of work.  And so let us pray:

Almighty God,
maker of heaven and earth,
we praise you for your glory
and the splendor of all your creation.

Bless us as we continue to do our work,
and bless all that we do for you.
Help us to carry out all our activities
for your honor and glory
and for the salvation of your people.

Through the intercession of Saint Joseph the Worker,
guide us in all we do,
and help us build your kingdom
and one day, come together to eternal life.
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

White Mass for Healthcare Workers

Today’s readings: Lamentations 3:17-26 | Romans 8:18-30 | Mark 16:15-20

One of the most important things I’ve ever learned about the healing ministry of the Church is summed up in one of the lines in our Gospel reading this evening:

“They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

And let’s notice carefully who Jesus says will do these things.  Is it just Jesus himself, or the apostles, or great saints?  Is it only priests or people who do ministry?  No, not at all.  It’s all of us believers.  

These signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will drive out demons,
they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.

This is really the basis for all of the Church’s teaching on healing.  At the core of our belief is that believers have the ability to do great things, not of their own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Those who believe are so caught up in the life and activity of God that their gifts go out and accomplish God’s purpose in the world.  That is what we celebrate tonight.  That believers in the field of healthcare put their gifts and talents at the service of God’s desire for healing.

Tonight we also call on God’s grace and blessing to healthcare workers, because while their work is never easy, the COVID-19 pandemic only makes things more difficult.  In some ways, healthcare workers are the only faces the sick get to see in these days, because visits from family, friends, even priests is severely limited, if not impossible.  All of us know the value of those visits.  The psychological boost of seeing friendly faces, hearing comforting words, and partaking in prayer and the sacraments does a lot in the healing process, and now those remedies are not that available.  This places a great deal of added strain on those who are working endless shifts and doing their best to be the face of compassion to those in their care.

While the rest of us can never know the burden healthcare workers bear in these days, we can enter into solidarity through prayer and encouragement.  It’s up to all of us to hold up the healers, to be the face of Christ to them, whose hands, words, and hearts Christ is using right now to do his healing work.  Tonight we will offer a blessing to them and entreat our God to keep them well, keep them strong, and help them put an end to this pandemic disease that causes the misery they see daily, once and for all.

We could have read tonight from many Gospel passages in which our Lord heals someone of an illness.  And to those who have watched someone die of this illness many times, those readings may have echoed hollow in some ways.  If God can heal a leper in Jesus’ day, why can’t he heal this poor woman gasping for breath in her last days?  If he can make a lame man walk or stop a twelve-year hemorrhage, why can’t this poor man get up out of his bed and be well?  Those are hard questions, and we all grapple with the implications of that all the time: if not for patients, then for loved ones.  Illness and death are completely unfair.  Sometimes the healer does everything possible and still the patient dies.

Those are horrible times, but know this.  Know that God weeps with you.  Because while he allows sickness, disease, war, hunger, poverty, sin, and death, he never wills them.  The consequences of our fallen world take nothing away from God’s love for us, nor does he inflict them on us.  Even in our darkest moments, God walks with us and enables us to do all we can.  On those occasions when all you can do is not enough to make a person well, know that all that you do gives healing in other ways.  In these days especially, your care for them may be the only Jesus they get to see right now.  Our God who never wants anyone to die alone and uncared for is using you in these moments to give comfort and grace.  That’s an amazing privilege.

And the support you receive from many other workers is part of God’s healing work in the world too.  The sick must be fed, and have clean linens and clean rooms.  Broken equipment needs to be fixed.  Facilities need to be adapted so that they can be used in ways they weren’t originally intended for.  This all takes the work of dedicated workers who, like the doctors, nurses and other care givers, are putting themselves at risk in order to take care of those who are sick.  It takes a village to heal the sick and to comfort the dying.  God’s healing grace is active in every person who answers the call to work among the sick.

Today’s readings paint the picture of the situation in which we find ourselves.  Saint Paul writes to the Roman Church in a time of persecution, and he takes note of the sufferings that many of them were enduring.  In all of that, he calls on them to have hope in God.  Hoping is more than just a wish upon a star: hope is a theological virtue that, while never denying what’s going on, knows that the power of God is never limited by suffering.  We may not see the immediate fruits of hope, but then that’s not how hope works: hope never loses confidence that God is in control.  The writer of Lamentations speaks of hope as well, insisting that he has reason to have hope because God’s faithful mercy is renewed each morning.

And so we faithful ones forge on in hope, knowing that COVID-19 is not forever.  Nothing gets to be forever except God’s grace and mercy and love.  And so, while disease is a fearsome thing, we don’t owe it our fear.  If we use that energy instead to hope in God’s goodness, and know that he is at work in us, he can then use us to renew the face of the earth. Even now, the Spirit groans within us, giving voice to our deepest longings, as we wait for our bodies to be redeemed, and our prayers to be answered, and our illnesses to be healed.

And we continue to trust in our Lord who promised that believers would lay hands on the sick and they would recover.  Whether they recover their health, or recover their faith, or recover their relationships, they will recover what God intends them to recover.  That’s not up to us, any of us.  Hoping in God, however, and trusting in the faithfulness that renews us each day, I urge you all to continue to lay hands on the sick, put your gifts at the service of God’s mercy, and trust that he will recover what needs to be recovered.  The Lord always makes good on his promises when we live out of hope.

Because Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

Today’s readings

At our core, we all want peace and security in our lives.  We don’t want rough waters, or pain, or discord in our families, and that’s all understandable.  Certainly we have more than enough of those things in there shelter in place days, and that’s to say nothing of those who suffer from the coronavirus, or those who toil on the front lines these days.  I think that’s something of the same sentiment that is behind our Scripture readings today.

The Jewish people, the elders and the scribes, the religious establishment of the time, had their laws and customs, and for them, following those laws and customs represented a peaceful and secure life.  So they were not at all open to any kind of teaching that challenged their thinking.  Stephen points out that whenever a prophet called them to a deeper reality, a deeper sense of God’s call, rather than accept that teaching and reform their lives, their ancestors instead murdered those prophets.  And so their response was to prove his point.  They could not accept Stephen’s own prophecy that Christ in his glory was the key to human salvation.  So they stone him to death, with the tacit approval of a man named Saul, a man for whom God had future plans.

The crowd in the Gospel reading wants peace and security too.  They had recently been fed in the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  But they had missed the point.  They wanted just the bread they could eat for today; they didn’t get and didn’t want to get the bread Jesus really wanted them to have – the bread of eternal life.  And so they ask today for another feeding sign.  Just like Moses was able to provide bread from heaven, they wanted Jesus to feed their physical hunger too.  But Jesus is more interested in their spiritual hunger, and longs to provide that in himself, he who is the bread of life.

So if all we hunger for is peace and security, bread for today, then we will certainly miss receiving the Bread of Life, a far greater reality.  Our hearts have to be open, and our desires have to be for the deepest longings.  And very often, those deep longings take a lot more waiting and effort than the bread for today.  If we remember to long for the One who wishes to give us his very self, we can receive everything we truly need.  “I am the bread of life,” he says to us.  “Whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”  In him, we will never need anything more.

Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

Today’s readings

Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus is a perplexing one, to be sure.  But in the light of Easter, we can see that Jesus was proclaiming that God is doing something new.  Not only that, but God wants us all to be part of that new thing.  Addressing Nicodemus, Jesus said that the old ways of worshipping and living were no longer sufficient, and really no longer needed.  God was looking not just for people’s obedience, but also, mostly, for their hearts.

We see those hearts at work in the early Christian community.  The reading from Acts this morning tells us that the believers cared for one another deeply, and were generous in that care.  “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”  They were even selling their possessions to give to those who were in need.  Nobody felt needy, nobody felt cheated, nobody felt like they were doing more than their share.  People were worshipping not just with their minds, but also with their hearts, and their worshipping didn’t stop when they left the worship place.

So the same has to be true for us, we who have known the Lord for so long.  We have to be willing to give of our hearts, to believe not just when we’re in church, but also when we are out there, living our lives.  That’s especially true now that most of us can’t be in church for worship, but instead have to watch it on Facebook or television.  The pandemic gives us the opportunity, and even the nudge to make our faith the real viral thing.  So we have to trust God to take care of us when we stick our neck out to help someone else.  We have to trust that even when we are doing more than other people are, God will take care of the equity of it all and never be outdone in generosity.  We have to worship not just with our minds but also with our hearts.

Because Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!

Alleluia!

The Second Sunday of Easter (Sunday of Divine Mercy)

Today’s readings

I know there is a hunger out there, a hunger for the Eucharist, a hunger for being here at church, a hunger for the community we are missing.  But part of me wonders a bit about where that is coming from.  I mean, prior to a month ago, we were open every day of the week, and there were plenty of empty spaces.  So what is it that makes people hunger for the Eucharist more now than when it was available?  Or what makes us miss being together so much more now than when we could be?

Maybe our motives are grand ones.  Perhaps, for those who have been away, they find they can’t get enough of the Word of God and his Real Presence in the Eucharist – I hope that’s the case!  Or maybe we need to be together with the community in order for our faith to make sense and our life to be on track.  Certainly weeks without that possibility might highlight how important that is and make us yearn to return to it.  For some, maybe we know that our presence in the worshipping community isn’t just about us, but rather about all of us being together, that there would be no community without all of us present.  

But maybe our motives aren’t quite so lofty.  Maybe, at some level, we’re here because of fear.  And these days, there’s plenty of fear to go around.  Certainly we can agree there’s fear of contracting COVID-19, fear of losing jobs because of the downturn in the economy, fear that being sequestered in our homes highlights the brokenness of a family situation. That stuff is real, and there’s a lot of it out there.  And then there are the usual fears.  Fear that our lives aren’t going the way we’d like them to.  Fear that family problems are not getting resolved.  Fear that our jobs are unfulfilling or our relationships are in disarray.  Fear that our lives are empty spiritually, and we don’t know where to find our Lord.  Fear that missing Mass will lead us to hell.  Fear that if we don’t get out we’ll be lonely.  I think if we’re honest, there’s a little fear in all of us, and at some level, that fear wants us to be here.

And if you find that’s the case for you, you have ten patron saints locked up in that room.  They too had a great deal of fear.  Fear that they too might be led to the cross by the same people who took Jesus there.  There was certainly some reality to that fear, and I think we can all understand it.  But I also think it’s significant to realize that the Eleven, all of whom lived closely with Jesus for three years, were not yet able to overcome their fears and pursue the mission of Jesus.  Instead, they gather in a locked room, mourning their friend, confused about the empty tomb and stories of his appearances, and fearful for their own lives.  We whose lives are filled with fear right now definitely have the Apostles as our kindred spirits.

The truth is that, like the Apostles, it doesn’t matter why we want to be in Church today.  The important thing is that at least we long for it.  At least in our fear we did not hide away and refuse to be brought into the light.  Because there are many who have left us, aren’t there?  Many have had enough of church scandals and have decided to take their spiritual business elsewhere.  Many have been hurt in all kinds of ways and have not found immediate healing in the Church. Many have been influenced by the allurements of the world and the false comforts of pop psychology and have given up on a religion that makes demands of them.  Many have left us, but at least we are here, at least we have gathered, albeit in fear, albeit locked up in our own little rooms, but definitely in the path of our Lord who longs to be among us in our fear and to say, “Peace be with you.”

The peace that Jesus imparts is not just the absence of conflict in our lives.  It is instead a real peace, a peace from the inside of us out.  A peace that affects our body, mind and spirit.  A peace that brings us into communion with one another and most especially with God for whom we were created and redeemed.  The peace that the Ten had upon seeing their Risen Lord, the peace that Thomas had just one week later, is the same peace that our Risen Lord offers to all of us fearful disciples who gather together as a refuge against the storms and uncertainties of our own lives.  That peace is a peace that invites us to reach out like Thomas did and touch our Lord as we receive his very Body and Blood in all his Divine Mercy.

That peace is not some passive greeting that rests upon us and goes no further.  Whenever we are gifted with any blessing, it is never intended only for us.  We who have been gifted and healed and transformed by the peace of our Risen Lord are called just like the Eleven to continue to write the story of Jesus so that others may see and believe.  We now become the peace of Christ to reach out to a world that appears to be hopelessly un-peaceful, and in a very critical crossroads.  We must extend that peace by reaching out to touch those who are sick, or poor, or lonely, or despairing, or doubtful, or fearful, or grieving, or fallen away.  Our own presence in and among our loved ones, and in and among the world must be a presence that is rooted in the Risen Lord and steeped in his peace.  Now more than ever.  We must be the ones who help a doubting world to no longer be unbelieving but believe.

We have gathered today, albeit remotely, for all kinds of reasons.  We may have tuned in here in doubt and fear, but as we approach our Lord in Spiritual Communion, as we yearn for the very Body and Blood of our Lord who invites us to reach out and touch him in all his brokenness and woundedness, as we go forth to glorify the Lord this day, may we do all that, not in doubt and fear, but instead in belief and peace.  

Peace be with you.

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

Easter Thursday

Today’s readings

Can you imagine how the disciples were feeling at this point?  Prior to today’s Gospel selection, the women found the empty tomb, Peter has seen the Lord, and the two disciples had experienced him in the breaking of the bread on the way to Emmaus.  Their minds were most likely reeling with excitement; trying to get a grip on the things he had said to them while he was still with them.  I’m sure they were trying to figure out what all this meant, what they needed to do next.

Maybe that’s why the Lord’s initial words to them are “Peace be with you.” And apparently it didn’t work right away, because they think they’re seeing a ghost. After he eats some fish and speaks to them of the Scriptures, he sends them on mission with the words: “You are witnesses of these things.”  That’s the key message today.

The peace that Jesus gives them is not the absence of conflict.  That they will be witnesses to the fulfillment of the Scriptures will be anything but peaceful for them.  They will have to make sacrifices – sacrifices of their very lives – to witness as Jesus calls them to, but that’s what apostles do.  They are now beginning to understand the significance of what has happened among them, and they must go forward to do what they had been chosen to do.

When we are called upon to make the decision to follow God’s call in our lives, we too will have to sacrifice.  Not our lives, probably, but we will have to sacrifice our own comfort, our control over our own lives, our own point of view, perhaps even our choice of how to live our lives.  But just like the disciples, we must remember what we have been chosen to do, and follow where we are being led.

We are witnesses of these things too, we are called to live and proclaim the Gospel.  May we too receive the peace of Christ that we might focus on our call.

Because Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night

Today’s readings

Considering all that we have been through since Lent began, it seems in some ways like time has stood still.  I saw a meme on Facebook that said “2020 is a unique leap year.  It had 29 days in February, 300 days in March, and 5 years in April.”  Sheltered in place, and fearing a mysterious illness, it seems like time is standing still.  When you can’t do what you usually do, it’s easy to perceive time that way.

We English-speakers have just one word for time, but other languages have more; those languages recognize the different kinds of time.  Most notably for us, because it is reflected in the New Testament, the Greek language has at least two kinds of time: chronos and kairos.  Chronos is the kind of time you can measure.  It’s a day or a week or even the timeline of a project at work.  Kairos on the other hand can be thought of as quality time: a summer afternoon spent with your family, a visit to a sick loved one, or a chance encounter with an old friend.  

El mundo a veces ve al tiempo de una manera bastante cínica.  Pero así es como Dios ve el tiempo: “Cristo ayer y hoy, el principio y el fin, el Alfa y la Omega, todo el tiempo le pertenece a él, y toda la eternidad, para él sea la gloria y el poder por los siglos de los siglos.  Amén.” Esas palabras, de la bendición de la vela al comienzo de la liturgia de esta noche, son palabras importantes, incluso valientes para que ofrezcamos en esta noche santísima. La vigilia de esta noche proclama que todo tiempo es santo, santificado por nuestro Dios que ha  caminado con nosotros durante nuestros días de ayer, permanece con nosotros hoy y continuará con nosotros en nuestro mañana. No hay un solo momento de nuestra vida, ni un solo momento de nuestra historia que no sea sagrado porque cada momento ha sido, es, y siempre estará lleno de la presencia de nuestro Dios, que es la santidad misma. Es por eso que nos reunimos a celebrar en esta noche santísima.

It’s important to keep these kinds of time in mind because the world sometimes sees time in a rather cynical way.   But here’s how God sees time: “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, all time belongs to him, and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age and for ever.  Amen.”  Those words, from the blessing of the candle at the beginning of tonight’s liturgy, are important, even brave words for us to offer on this most holy night.  Tonight’s vigil proclaims that all time is holy, sanctified by our God who has walked with us through our yesterdays, remains with us today, and forges on with us toward our tomorrows.  There is not a single moment of our life, not a single moment of our history that is not holy because every moment has been, is now, and always will be imbued with the presence of our God who is holiness itself.  That’s what we gather to celebrate on this most holy night.

I think there is often a temptation to come to the conclusion that the world, and especially human history, was a creative experiment that went horribly wrong; that God sent his Son to clean up the mess only to have him killed for it, and then in a last move of desperation raised him up out of the grave.  But we know that’s not how this works: again, this is cynicism and it has no basis in truth.  Salvation was not some kind of dumb luck or happy accident.  The salvation of the world had been part of God’s creative plan all along.  Humanity, given the grace of free will had, and has, certainly gone astray.  But God did not create us simply to follow our own devices and end up in hell.  He created us for himself, and so sent his Son Jesus to walk our walk, to die our death, and to rise up over it all in the everlasting promise of eternal life.  That’s what we celebrate on this most holy of all nights.

Tonight we have heard stories of our salvation, God’s saving action in the world throughout all time.  Each of our readings has been a stop in the history of God’s love for us.  God’s plan for salvation, and his sanctification of time, began back at the beginning of it all.  Each of the days was hallowed with precious creation, and all of it was created and pronounced good.  Later, as Moses and the Israelites stood trapped by the waters of the Red Sea, God’s providence made a way for them and cut off their pursuers, making the future safe for those God calls his own.  The prophet Ezekiel foretells the recreation all humanity will experience as they come to know Christ and are filled with the Spirit.  St. Paul rejoices in the baptism that has washed away the stains of sin as we have died and risen with Christ, and has brought us into a new life that leads ultimately to God’s kingdom.  And finally, our Gospel tonight tells us not to be afraid, to go forth into the Galilee of our future and expect to see the Lord.

We Christians have been spared the necessity of cynicism.  Our gift has been and always is the promise that Jesus Christ is with us forever, even until the end of the world.  And so, just as God sanctified all of time through his interventions of salvation, so too he has sanctified our lives through the interventions of Sacrament.  We are a sacramental people, purified and reborn in baptism, fed and strengthened in the Eucharist, and in Confirmation, set on fire to burn brightly and light up our world.  Tonight we recall these three Sacraments of Initiation and recommit ourselves to the promises of our baptism, and long for the day when all can be fed together by the Eucharist once again.

Creo que Dios está haciendo algo importante en este momento en particular.  Hay suficiente tristeza en este momento como para durarnos toda la vida.  Pero si nos enfocamos en esa tristeza, podemos perdernos de lo que Dios está haciendo entre nosotros.  En estos días, me ha llamado especialmente la atención la invitación a detenerme y reflexionar sobre lo que es realmente importante.  ¿Dónde quiero estar cuando todo esto termine?  ¿Cómo es mi relación con el Señor, con mi familia, mis hermanos sacerdotes, mis seminaristas, mis compañeros de trabajo, mis feligreses? ¿Cómo se verá todo eso cuando todo esto termine?  Mucho de eso depende de mí.  Si me mantengo saludable, tendré la oportunidad de comenzar de nuevo, para hacer un mejor uso de mi tiempo de tal manera que eleve mis acciones de una manera acertada.  Y el momento de comenzar a pensar en eso, reflexionar sobre eso, es ahora.  En esta noche santísima, Cristo nos ha llevado a la plenitud de la hora gloriosa, cuando se levantó sobre el pecado y la muerte, para llevarnos a todos a la promesa de la vida eterna.  Eso tiene que significar algo para nosotros.

I believe that God is doing something important with this particular time.  There is enough sadness going around right now to last us our entire lives long.  But if we focus on that sadness, we might miss what God is doing among us.  In these days, I’ve been particularly struck by an invitation to stop and reflect on what is really important.  Where do I want to be when all this is over?  How is my relationship with the Lord, with my family, my brother priests, my seminarians, my coworkers, my parishioners – how is all of that going to look when all this is over?  A lot of that is up to me.  If I remain healthy, I’m going to have the opportunity to start again, to make better use of my chronos in such a way that it elevates my kairos.  And the time to start thinking about that, reflecting on that, is right now.  On this most holy night, Christ has brought us to the fullness of the glorious hour when he rose up over sin and death to bring us all to the promise of life eternal.  That needs to mean something for us.

And it is this very night that cleanses our world from all the stains of sin and death and lights up the darkness.  The Exsultet, the Easter Proclamation that Deacon Ramon sang when we entered the sanctuary tonight, tells us: “This is the night of which it is written: The night shall be as bright as day, dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.  The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”  What a gift this night is, not just to us gathered here, albeit virtually, in this church; not just to all the Catholics gathered together throughout the world on this holy night, but to all people in every time and place.  Our world needs the light and our time needs the presence of Christ, and our history needs salvation.  Blessed be God who never leaves his people without the great hope of his abiding presence!

And so, having come through this hour to be sanctified in this vigil, we will shortly be sent forth to help sanctify our own time and place.  Brightened by our kairos together tonight, we now become a flame to light up our darkened world.  That is our ministry in the world.  That is our call as believers.  That is our vocation as disciples.  

Y así, después de pasar esta hora de ser santificados en esta vigilia, pronto seremos enviados para ayudar a santificar nuestro propio tiempo y lugar.  Animados por los tiempos perfectos de Dios, juntos esta noche, ahora nos convertimos en una llama para iluminar nuestro mundo oscuro.  Ese es nuestro ministerio en el mundo.  Ese es nuestro llamado como creyentes.  Esa es nuestra vocación como discípulos.

“May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star.  The one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns forever and ever.  Amen.”


 ¡Cristo ha resucitado!  ¡Él ha resucitado!  ¡Aleluya!

Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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