Thursday, August 14, 2014

Don't let fears sink your ship

By Father Benjamin Alforque, MSC

In Matt 14:22-33, Jesus is seen sending off the disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. He then also dismissed the crowds. When he was alone he went up to the mountain by himself to pray. In the early hours of the new day, he came walking on the waters towards the boat where the disciples were. Apparently the disciples were not afraid of the tossing sea; but they were afraid of ghosts: they thought he was a ghost walking on the water. Jesus had to assure them that it was he, and there was no cause for fear.

Peter, who always makes the first excited move, but almost always in a wrong way, volunteered to come to Jesus on the water. Notice: he asked Jesus to command him to walk on the water; not to command the water to let him walk on it towards Jesus. Jesus did as Peter asked him; but when Peter began to be afraid of the strong wind, he began to sink. Again, we take note of this detail: Peter did not notice the water tossing, because he was able to walk on it. But he noticed the strong wind above the water, and that he feared. Only then did he begin to sink. Thus: he was not afraid because he was sinking; rather, he began to sink because he was afraid! Jesus saved him by extending to him his hand, catching the sinking Peter. He pointed to his little faith that produces doubt. The wind ceased when both entered the boat; and those in the boat knelt down before Jesus, proclaiming: Truly you are the Son of God.

Friends, The Dawn of the New Day has come: Jesus. Jesus prays to the Father and gets the strength from him in his mission and care for the Church. He comes, bringing in the new day, full of grace and blessing. On the other hand, humanity continues to seek him. They bring to him the prayers each early new day. The disciples, the Church, under the leadership of Peter, the Popes, have always sailed in the rough waters of challenges and trials. They would falter, and begin to sink, if their sights and senses were only focused on these problems. For apart from Jesus, they , we – the Church – cannot save themselves, we cannot save ourselves. Only by being with Jesus, who has promised us that he will always be with us, and who always stretches out his hand to us, would we be saved in a stilled and silenced world. Jesus, the Lord of the tempests, will never abandon us, the ship of Peter, the Church.

Be Not Afraid! Yes, how many times have we doubted, singly or collectively, the power of God and his mercy and steadfast love in times of troubles and difficulties. We often forget that he is always with us through thick and thin every moment of our lives until forever! In these times of forgetfulness, we vacillate. We only hear the strong winds and feel the stormy sea, and forget that Jesus is with us. Is the boat sinking? No! Tossed by the waves of indifference, injustice, violence and war? Yes! We are persecuted but we are not forsaken! With Jesus, we need to pray to the Father. With Jesus we need to navigate in the stormy seas of human history. If we fear, we will falter and sink. But Jesus is with us always. Therefore, there is no reason to be afraid!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

God speaks of Life in recent events

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Two family-owned businesses take legal action so that they don’t violate the tenets of their faith by providing their employees with contraception and abortifacients as required by the new federal health care law. They prevail in the nation’s highest court.

Hundreds of children and families from Central America flood into Texas seeking refuge and reconciliation with loved ones, and are subsequently transported to a Border Patrol station in our diocese.

Are these unrelated events?

At first glance you might think so. But when we look at these stories through the lens of our Catholic faith we see a common thread – our belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every human life.

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 30 that two businesses, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood, would not be subject to a new federal mandate that they pay for contraception and abortifacients as part of health insurance coverage, we applauded. It had no direct bearing on our Church’s legal challenges to the so-called HHS mandate but it was a win for religious freedom and the right for individuals and groups to act according to their conscience on matters of health care. Underlying this outcome, of course, is our concern for the unborn and also our belief that the plan for creation is God’s, not ours. It is in this context that many see the issue of “Life.”

At the same time, we are equally concerned about the lives of those coming to our country to be reconciled with family and to escape the violence and destitution of their home country. Recently, we have seen a spike in the number of families and even unaccompanied children seeking asylum inside the southwestern borders of our country. The drive toward comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled in political gridlock so federal immigration authorities made a decision to transport busloads of migrants from their point of entry in Texas to a U.S. Border Patrol facilities in Southern California, including one in Murrieta.

It has been a moment to renew our cry for reform but, more importantly, it has also called us to accompany these brothers and sisters on their perilous journey, to let them know that the Church is with them and values their life. That is why we chose to receive a group of 46 women and children from Central America in one of our churches this month. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Mt. 25

This for us is also a “Life” issue.

The reality that the continuous ethic of life in our Church informs many sociopolitical issues and not just one is elusive for some. Prayer and deep reflection about what it means to uphold the dignity and worth of every human life, be it an embryo or an immigrant, can help us “connect the dots.” Let us be patient with ourselves and our brothers and sisters who may not see things as we do.

But as I watch these recent signs of the times I can’t help but feel that God is speaking very clearly to us. If we don’t stand for Life, who will?

Dios habla de la Vida en acontecimientos recientes

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diocesis de San Bernardino

Dos negocios familiares toman acción legal para no quebrantar los principios de su fe al proveer anticonceptivos y abortivos a sus empleados como lo requiere la nueva ley federal de servicios médicos. Prevalecen en el tribunal de mayor instancia en la nación.

Cientos de niños y familias de Centro América arriban masivamente a Texas en busca de refugio y reconciliación con sus seres queridos, y subsecuentemente son trasladados a un puesto de la Patrulla Fronteriza en nuestra diócesis.
¿No hay relación entre estos acontecimientos?

A primera vista podría parecer así. Pero cuando miramos estas historias con el lente de nuestra fe católica vemos algo en común – nuestra creencia en la dignidad y el valor inherente de toda vida humana.

Aplaudimos cuando la Corte Suprema dictaminó el mes pasado que dos negocios, Hobby Lobby y Conestoga Wood, no se verían sujetos a una nueva ordenanza federal que ordena el pago por anticonceptivos y abortivos como parte de la cobertura de seguro médico. Esto no influyó directamente en los desafíos legales que la llamada ordenanza HHS presenta a nuestra Iglesia pero fue una victoria para la libertad religiosa y el derecho de los individuos o grupos de actuar conforme a su conciencia en cuestiones del cuidado de la salud. Subyacente a este resultado, por supuesto, está nuestra preocupación por los aún no nacidos y también nuestra creencia de que el plan de la creación es de Dios, no nuestro. Es en este contexto que muchos ven la cuestión de “Vida”.

A la vez, nos preocupan igualmente las vidas de quienes vienen a este país para reunirse con su familia o para escapar de la violencia y destitución de su país natal. Recientemente, hemos visto un aumento en el número de familias y hasta niños sin acompañante que buscan asilo dentro de las fronteras del suroeste de nuestro país. El impulso por una reforma migratoria completa sigue atascado en un estancamiento político, así que las autoridades federales tomaron la decisión de trasladar autobuses llenos de migrantes de su punto de ingreso en Texas a puestos de la Patrulla Fronteriza Estadounidense en el Sur de California, incluyendo uno en Murrieta.

Ha sido un momento para renovar nuestro clamor por una reforma, pero, lo más importante, nos ha llamado también a acompañar a estos hermanos y hermanas en su arriesgado viaje, para hacerles saber que la Iglesia está con ellos y valora su vida. Es por eso que decidimos recibir a un grupo de 46 mujeres y niños de Centro América en una de nuestras iglesias este mes. “Era un extraño y me hospedaron”. Mt 25

Esto para nosotros es también una cuestión de “Vida”.

A algunos les resulta difícil entender la realidad de que la continua ética de vida en nuestra Iglesia informa muchas cuestiones sociopolíticas y no sólo una. La oración y una profunda reflexión sobre lo que significa defender la dignidad y el valor de toda vida humana, sea un embrión o un inmigrante, puede ayudarnos a “atar cabos”. Seamos pacientes con nosotros mismos y con nuestros hermanos y hermanas que tal vez no vean las cosas como las vemos nosotros.

Pero al mirar estas recientes señales de los tiempos, no puedo evitar sentir que Dios nos está hablando muy claramente. Si nosotros no defendemos la Vida, ¿quién lo hará?