Friday, December 21, 2012

Christmas is a time to open our doors

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

One of the greatest gifts I received from my parents was their example of hospitality and charity when it came to people in need. It was not uncommon for my dad to bring home someone from my Boyle Heights neighborhood who needed something to eat or a place to rest. My mother was always there with a warm welcome. As we reflect during this season on the story of our Lord’s birth, you could say that my folks took the lesson of Las Posadas to heart. There was certainly room at their inn.

Many years later when they came to San Antonio for my ordination to the priesthood, that spirit of hospitality was returned to them beautifully. It was Christmas time and they were given such a welcome upon their arrival that I remember my mother saying that she felt she had truly experienced Las Posadas, herself. It was God’s poetry.

Some of us are blessed to have an “inn”—the means to provide something to a brother or sister in need. Others, like the Holy Family, are desperately in search of a room – a place to rest and take sustenance on a difficult journey. In either case, we all have a part in the story of how God came to be among us. “For today in the city of David a savior has been born who is Messiah and Lord (Lk 2:11).

As a diocese we celebrate hospitality as one of our four core values. In this season of giving and as we continue to observe the Year of Faith I invite you to pray and reflect on our call to be welcoming and to, as Jesus commanded, love our neighbor as ourselves.

Christmas is a time where we show hospitality by giving each other gifts and celebrating with family and friends. Though it has been 2012 years and we are surely living in a different world, the “Christmas Spirit” of today is a continuation of the hope and joy that was felt at the miraculous birth of Jesus, God’s promise of salvation made manifest in human form. The story of Las Posadas, the one that my parents so faithfully lived, is that we are called by God to open our homes and hearts to the other, the stranger, the unlikely one. It is in doing this that we show our gratitude to God for the many blessings he has provided us.

Let that be a seed that grows within us in 2013 as we continue to live the Year of Faith.

I offer you my deepest prayers and blessings for a joyous Christmas season. Let us all accept the gift of hope that God gives us in the birth of his Son. May your family and friends enjoy good health and prosperity in the New Year. And may God bless you in your journey of faith.

La Navidad es un tiempo para abrir nuestras puertas

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Uno de los mejores regalos que recibí de mis padres fue su ejemplo de hospitalidad y caridad con los necesitados. No era raro que mi papá trajera a casa a alguien del vecindario de Boyle Heights que necesitaba algo que comer o un lugar para descansar. Mi madre estaba siempre ahí para recibirlo con afecto. Al reflexionar durante este tiempo sobre la historia del nacimiento de nuestro Señor, se podría decir que mis padres tomaron muy en serio la lección de las Posadas. Ciertamente, siempre había posada en su mesón.

Muchos años después cuando mis padres fueron a San Antonio para mi ordenación al sacerdocio, se les devolvió de manera hermosa ese espíritu de hospitalidad. Era el tiempo de Navidad y se les recibió con tanto beneplácito a su llegada que recuerdo haber escuchado a mi madre decir que en verdad ahora ella estaba viviendo Las Posadas. Era la poesía de Dios.

Algunos de nosotros gozamos la bendición de tener un “mesón”--- los medios para dar algo a nuestro hermano o hermana en necesidad. Otros, como la Sagrada Familia, buscan posada desesperadamente --- un lugar para descansar y tomar alimento en una jornada difícil. En cualquiera de los casos, todos tenemos parte la historia de cómo Dios vino para estar entre nosotros. “Les ha nacido hoy, en la ciudad de David, un Salvador, que es el Mesías, el Señor.” (Lucas 2:11)

Como diócesis celebramos la hospitalidad como uno de nuestros cuatro valores centrales. En este tiempo de dar y al continuar nuestra observancia del Año de la Fe, los invito a orar y a reflexionar sobre nuestro llamado a ser hospitalarios y a amar a nuestro prójimo como a nosotros mismos, como lo mandó Jesús.
La Navidad es un tiempo en que mostramos hospitalidad al darnos regalos los unos a los otros y celebrar con familiares y amigos. Aunque han pasado ya 2012 años y ciertamente vivimos en un mundo diferente, el “Espíritu de Navidad” en nuestros días es una continuación de la esperanza y alegría que se sintió en el milagroso nacimiento de Jesús, la promesa de salvación de Dios manifestada en forma humana. La historia de Las Posadas, la cual mis padres vivieron con tanta fidelidad, es que Dios nos llama a abrir nuestros hogares y nuestros corazones al otro, al forastero, al extraño. Es al hacerlo que mostramos nuestro agradecimiento a Dios por las muchas bendiciones con que nos ha colmado.

Dejemos que eso sea una semilla que crezca en nosotros en el 2013 al continuar viviendo el Año de la Fe.

Les ofrezco mis más profundas oraciones y bendiciones deseando que tengan un tiempo de Navidad lleno de júbilo. Aceptemos todos, pues, el regalo de la esperanza que Dios nos da en el nacimiento de su Hijo. 
Que su familia y amigos gocen de buena salud y prosperidad en el Año Nuevo. Y que Dios les bendiga en su peregrinación de fe.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A moment of pain and grief

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we have witnessed a terrible tragedy in the shootings that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. This horrific act of violence that claimed the lives of these little ones, so precious to God, is almost beyond comprehension. I ask all to join me in prayer for the victims, their families and the school community. May God’s mercy and compassion be with them during this terrible moment of pain and grief. May the souls of those who perished rest in the loving arms of God. And may we all continue to cherish and protect the children that bless us in our homes, schools and communities. In this season when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us confront the violence in our midst by carrying His peace within us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Santa Maria de Guadalupe, llévanos a la fe

Por Petra Alexander
Directora, Oficina de Asuntos Hispanos

En las tradiciones marianas se acostumbra decir que para abrir la puerta de acceso a Cristo, María, es la llave. Creo que entre las comunidades Hispanas de nuestra Diócesis, hay numerosos testimonios de cómo Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe ha hecho posible el milagro de nuestra fe. Ramón Valenzuela, de La Quinta, nos contaba cómo en su juventud tuvo una gran crisis de fe y buscó en diferentes iglesias pensando que eran mejores.

Ramón entró en una congregación cristiana, y por algunos malestares de salud necesitó un diagnóstico. En el Hospital de Loma Linda le confirmaron que tenía un cáncer severo para la que era urgente comenzar un doloroso tratamiento. En aquella lucha por su vida, pensó que entre tantas cosas que había conocido hallaría consuelo. Pero trataba de releer sus libros, repasó ideas de los buenos predicadores, temas de conferencias…

Todo se deshacía y nada de aquello le devolvía suficiente confianza para su batalla contra el cáncer. Repasó todo y finalmente sintió que el único recuerdo donde se aquietaba su angustia eran los rosarios de su madre ante Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Y sí. Allí estaba el manantial de renovación, con Ella dejó la congoja y renació a su vida de católico creyente.

Actualmente la tecnología nos lleva a prescindir de las tradicionales llaves, muchas puertas no se abren desde fuera, sino que dentro están las claves electrónicas. A lo más, miramos una lucecita o un tenue sonido que nos avisan que la entrada está accesible. La experiencia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe es también interior y nos abre a Cristo desde dentro de nosotros mismos. Los estudiosos de la Teología aseguran que la fe está relacionada con la experiencia de confianza, y la confianza la necesitamos para vencer los temores interiores más profundos.

Como seres humanos no podemos soportar la idea de que todo va a terminar mal. Por eso, ninguna presencia es tan eficaz como la de Nuestra Señora. Su mensaje corre paralelo a la constante expresión de Jesús: “No tengan miedo”. Santa María habla al pueblo necesitado con el lenguaje del afecto, pero no es para quedarse en un plano emocional. Ella sabe que el lenguaje de la Fe parece oscuro y frío, por eso ella da la tibieza de su abrazo y su maternidad compartida ilumina a quien se acerca a ella. Como a Juan Diego ella nos repite: ¿Acaso no están en el cruce de mis brazos? ¿No soy yo la fuente de tu alegría?

El Papa Benedicto afirma en Porta Fidei: “La Fe crece cuando se vive como experiencia de amor recibido y cuando se comunica como una experiencia de gracia y de alegría.” A quienes sientan que su fe se apaga o desfallece, a quienes experimenten frustración por sentir cerrada la puerta de su fe, les invitamos a acercarse a las celebraciones guadalupanas de nuestra Diócesis. La fe del pueblo creyente, que es generosa y rica en manifestaciones, le caracteriza esa facilidad para transmitir gracia y alegría.


Our Lady of Guadalupe, lead us to faith

By Petra Alexander
Director, Office of Hispanic Affairs


In Marian traditions it is customary to say that to open the gateway to Christ, Mary, is the key. Among the Hispanic communities of our diocese, there are numerous accounts of how Our Lady of Guadalupe has made possible the miracle of our faith. Ramon Valenzuela, La Quinta, told us how in his youth he had a major crisis of faith and even looked at different churches thinking they were better.

Ramon entered a Christian congregation and, because of some health discomforts, was in need of a diagnosis. Loma Linda Hospital confirmed that he had a severe cancer and that it was urgent for him to begin a painful treatment. In this fight for his life, he thought about the many things he had known in search of solace. He tried rereading his books, reviewed the writings of good preachers, recalled powerful conference themes that he had experienced.

Everything began falling apart and nothing gave back any confidence to face his battle with cancer. In the end the only memory which quieted his anguish were his mother’s rosaries to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And, yes, there was the source of renewal. With her, he left his grief behind and was reborn to his life as a Catholic believer.

Nowadays technology leads us to dispense with our traditional keys, but many doors will not open from the outside, because the locks are on the inside. At most, we look for a little light or a faint sound that tells us that the entrance is accessible. The experience of Our Lady of Guadalupe is “inside” and opens us to Christ from within ourselves. Theology scholars assure us that the faith is related to the experience of trust and confidence, and that we need confidence to overcome the deepest inner fears.

As human beings we cannot bear the idea that everything is going to end badly. For that reason, no presence is as effective as that of Our Lady. Her message runs parallel to the constant expression of Jesus, "Be not afraid.” Mary speaks to people in need in the language of love, but not just on an emotional level. She knows the language of faith seems dark and cold, so she gives the warmth of her embrace and shared maternity and enlightens those who approach her. As she said to Juan Diego, she repeats to us, “Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Am I not the source of your joy?”

Pope Benedict says in Porta Fidei, “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy." Those who feel that their faith shut downs or falters, those who experience frustration because of the closed the door on their faith, we invite you to come to the Guadalupana celebrations of our diocese. The faith of believers, which is generous and rich in events, characterizes the facility to transmit grace and joy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Advent is a time to hope

By Sr. Carmel Crimmins, R.S.M.
Sisters of Mercy, Redlands

The word Advent brings to mind the familiar and comforting words we asso­ciate with this season – get ready, hope, promise, the Lord is near, a light to all people, O Come Emmanuel – are the words we love during the season prepar­ing us for Christmas.

Our Church, through its sacraments and seasons, constantly reminds us of God’s gracious loving care for us. In Advent’s first Sunday this year we hear the prophet Jeremiah’s prayer: “Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and for you I wait all the day.” In our lives, we sometimes think we are far from the path God has marked out for us. We feel rather hopeless, and doubtful. Here Jeremiah tells us “to wait all the day.” God’s love and care are always there and the emphasis on hope during Advent is a constant reminder of this fact.

The Gospel reading from the first Sunday of Advent (Luke 21:25-28) sounds ominous, almost threatening but again we are reminded of God’s plan. “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.” As we walk through these weeks of Advent, may we know God’s love and care.

God’s love and care is a constant theme for us who visit Juvenile Hall on Tuesday evenings. When we hear the deeply felt longing from the young people to know that God loves them, it strikes us how much we take our faith for granted. This awareness helps us to look inward, our­selves, in gratitude for God’s unfailing love that lights our way.

May this be a season for us to light the way for others in our families and commu­nities as we prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas. Then we will truly “ready the way of the Lord.”

This reflection was originally published in the diocesan Office of Small Faith Communities’ Seasons of Faith resource for Advent and Christmas. To access the entire resource visit the Office of Small Faith Communities.