Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Keep Advent on the front burner

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

“For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal ( 2 Cor. 4:14-16).”

In his second letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul challenges us to look beyond what confronts us in the present to what awaits us in eternity. In some respects this is counterintuitive to how we are wired – especially in today’s society that promotes instant gratification. Our packed schedules and our reliance on technology, among other things, keep us preoccupied with what is right in front of us and, unfortunately, this can distract us from the promise of our Lord’s return and our place in His Kingdom.

Fortunately for us as Roman Catholics we have a liturgical season that calls us back to this Holy long view. The season of Advent invites us to rediscover the art of waiting in hope. It’s probably no coincidence that it falls when our busyness is really kicking into high gear. Ministries are in full swing, the school year is underway and “the holidays” are nearly upon us. Amidst all of this, is a season of patience and anticipation.

The readings of the first half of Advent focus on the return of our Lord Jesus Christ; we look at our own readiness. Have we been the faithful servant of Jesus’ parable in the Gospel of Matthew? In the latter half of Advent we reflect on the hope and anticipation of the Lord’s birth, foretold by the prophets and given life in the ultimate faith of Our Blessed Mother. When we call to mind and spirit the events that led to the coming of Jesus (it wasn’t all smooth sailing, remember) perhaps we kindle in ourselves that same hope for His return. This also allows us to fully experience the joy of the Christmas season that immediately follows.

This Year of Faith that our Church has just begun invites us to reconnect with our Catholicity by renewing our relationship with the Lord and committing to know more about our faith by studying the Catechism and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. The Catechism teaches us that the seasons of liturgical calendar together depict the unfolding of the one Paschal Mystery. How important it is then that we don’t relegate our observance of Advent to the backburner but that we truly immerse ourselves in the coming fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of salvation. That part of our journey is just too important to miss.

I offer you my prayers for a blessed Advent. May you be truly alive in faith during this season.

Tengan siempre presente el Adviento

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

“Porque momentáneos y leves son los sufrimientos que, a cambio, nos preparan un caudal eterno e insuperable de Gloria; a nosotros que hemos puesto la esperanza, no en las cosas que se ven, sino en las que no se ven, pues las cosas que se ven son temporales, pero las que no se ven son eternas ( 2 Cor. 4:17-18).”

En su segunda carta a los corintios, San Pablo nos desafía a ver más allá de lo que enfrentamos en el presente, lo que nos espera en la eternidad. En algunos aspectos esto es contraintuitivo a la manera en que estamos programados – especialmente en la sociedad actual que promueve la satisfacción instantánea. Nuestras agendas tan cargadas y nuestra dependencia de la tecnología, entre otras cosas, nos mantienen preocupados por lo que está justo ante nosotros y, desafortunadamente, esto puede distraernos de la promesa de la segunda venida de nuestro Señor y nuestro lugar en Su Reino.

Afortunadamente para nosotros como católicos romanos, tenemos un tiempo litúrgico que nos llama a retornar a esta sagrada perspectiva. El tiempo de Adviento nos invita a redescubrir el arte de esperar con esperanza. Probablemente no es coincidencia que el Adviento cae en un tiempo cuando estamos realmente más ocupados. Los ministerios están en pleno auge, el año escolar está en marcha y los “días festivos” casi se nos vienen encima. En medio de todo esto está este tiempo de paciencia y anticipación.

Las lecturas de la primera mitad de Adviento se enfocan en la segunda venida de nuestro Señor Jesucristo; analizamos nuestra propia preparación. ¿Hemos sido el siervo fiel de la parábola de Jesús en el Evangelio de Mateo? En la segunda mitad de Adviento reflexionamos sobre la esperanza y anticipación del nacimiento del Señor, anunciado por los profetas y al que da vida la máxima fe de Nuestra Madre Santísima. Cuando recordamos los sucesos que condujeron a la venida de Jesús (no todo fue viento en popa, recuerden) despertamos quizás en nosotros esa misma esperanza de su segunda venida. Esto nos permite también sentir plenamente la alegría del tiempo de Navidad que sigue inmediatamente después.

Este Año de la Fe, que nuestra Iglesia acaba de iniciar, nos invita a reconectar con nuestra catolicidad, renovando nuestra relación con el Señor y comprometiéndonos a aprender más sobre nuestra fe, estudiando el Catecismo y los documentos del Concilio Vaticano Segundo. El Catecismo nos enseña que los tiempos del calendario litúrgico, en conjunto, representan la revelación del Misterio Pascual. Qué importante es entonces que no releguemos nuestra observancia del Adviento a segundo plano, sino que realmente entremos de lleno en el cumplimiento que se avecina de la promesa de salvación de Jesús. Esa parte de nuestra jornada es demasiado importante para omitirla.

Les ofrezco mis oraciones para que tengan un Adviento lleno de bendiciones. Que su fe realmente se avive durante este tiempo.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Practicing the ‘Gift’ of Presence

By Deacon John De Gano
St. Catherine of Alexandria, Riverside

I have always tried to be pastoral in my dealings with others.

Since early in my teens I have invited the missionaries at my door to come in, have something to drink and talk with me about God.

I have patiently listened to my fellow angst-driven teens pour out their problems to me on school nights and have dispensed wisdom to them in return.

And as a permanent deacon for the Diocese of San Bernardino, I have been invited into the ‘sacred’ moments of life – birth, death and baptism into new life.

For all this I am humbled and grateful for the ‘gift’ that has been presented to me on such occurrences.

I have not always seen this as a blessing, however. As a teen I often felt a sign was affixed to my forehead with the letter “L” on it. While others might be labeled ‘loser,’ I had the equally uncomfortable label of being a “listener.”

And the awkwardness I felt then, and sometimes even now, was that I really had no more experience or expertise in matters of the heart or relationships than they had. They just needed someone sympathetic to listen to them.

And, in my immaturity, I mistakenly thought I had to give them answers.

Today, I am a more mature listener. Having received training in care giving and ‘tools’ with which to use in my role as listener and I am no longer anxious to ‘fix’ things as perhaps I felt I needed to do as a teen.

I offer my ear and try through empathy, to understand where they are coming from and what they are looking for. My goal (if that is what it can be called) is to let them know that they already have the answer to their situation. They don’t need me to ‘fix’ them, but only to help them gain clarity.

Each of us can be a gift to another if we practice the art of presence. To be present to another as a sign of respect, recognizing their human dignity and infinite value to God, who created us. By giving our full attention to the one we are speaking with and not texting or tweeting while half-listening to what is being shared with us, we affirm our brother or sister and their personal struggle in life.

We were made for community. And as communal creatures we owe it to ourselves to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This doesn’t mean monopolizing the other person’s time with our own life events, but by mutual sharing and listening with intentionality that the person sitting across from us is a beloved son or daughter of God and worthy of our love and our full attention.

And while we are practicing being ‘gift’ to one another, by all means, make eye contact! There we will encounter our God looking upon us with profound love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post election

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those in our diocese who worked to promote passage of the state ballot propositions, Prop 34 and Prop 35, supported by the Bishops of California that were put to a vote of the people on Nov. 6. In our sustained and vocal advocacy for these propositions we answered God’s call to promote human dignity and to turn away from violence.

We are grateful to God that voters recognized the terrible scourge of human trafficking and passed Prop 35, which we hope will reduce the incidence of this crime and sin. Despite our efforts, Prop 34 was narrowly defeated and so the death penalty remains legal in California. While we are certainly disappointed, we must resolve to continue our work to abolish the death penalty and promote a consistent ethic of life. Please join me in continuing to pray for the families of murder victims and for our incarcerated brothers and sisters and their families. We ask God to bring to our society a spirit of reconciliation and non-violence.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

After the election

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

With the presidential election just days away, the political polarization of our country is difficult to deny. Many have strong feelings about the two candidates – both the one who will get their vote, and the one who will not.

I have written recently about our call as Catholics to accept the gift that God gives us to participate in the election of our government leaders. I am hopeful that you will measure the candidates and the propositions against the social teachings of the Church and that you will take the time to examine your conscience on these very important matters before us on Nov. 6.

Given the sometimes acrimonious tone of the dialogue, both inside and outside the Church, I am also compelled to again call upon the faithful of the diocese to show civility and respect for all of our brothers and sisters in Christ once the election is decided. Just as we are called to vote in the election and to stand up for the teachings of the Church in the public square, we must also respect the vote of the people and honor the office of the President of the United States, regardless of who holds it. We can disagree with his policies and we can even express that disagreement. But we give our respect to the office and offer our prayer that God will guide his leadership of our nation.

Our country is confronted with many challenges. Our Church has a part to play in easing the burden on those who find themselves on the margins, and also in promoting the culture of life and the value of religious freedom.

Let us come together on Nov. 7 in support and prayer for our president and other policymakers elected to office. May they govern the people of God with prudence and compassion.