Monday, April 14, 2014

The Passion shows Jesus' love for us

By Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego
Diocese of San Bernardino

The following are excerpts from a homily Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio del Riego gave during a Mass on Palm Sunday at St. Joseph Parish, Upland. 

Review readings

The Passion narrative today begins with something rather surprising. It begins with Judas’ betrayal. It not only begins with Judas’ betrayal but also recounts Peter’s denial, first with simple words and then with curses and outright denying he has ever met Jesus. Even more surprising is that we hear all the disciples abandoned him. So the crime from the Passion is not only with those who did not know Jesus, but also with the very disciples of Jesus then and now. No one can be excused.

The Gospel of today can focuses on two elements. One is Jesus, the center of the narration, and the other is in the sin of humanity. In order to recognize that sin affects us all, the narration begins with the sin of the disciples. The religious leaders are really the ones who condemned Jesus. The political leaders condemn Jesus. The teachers and scribes, who knew of the scriptures, who were specialists in knowing the Word of God and the law, condemned Jesus. The Romans, the ones who did not believe in the True God, represented here by Pilate and the centurions, condemn him. Pilate condemned him even though he knew Jesus was innocent. He washes his hands of him, but he cannot wash away the blood in his hands. He has condemned an innocent man. No one is excused.

The sin is not just for some people, but it belongs to all of us. Today the Lord has revealed to us the truth. This is the time for us to recognize that. The Holy Father has done so. In an early interview shortly after he was elected pope, they asked him, “Who is Jorge Bergoglio?” He said that the best way to describe him was that he was a sinner that God had mercy upon. If the Holy Father has described himself as a sinner who the Lord has had mercy on, then no one else can say that sin does not touch them.

While sin is what brings Jesus to the cross, the central element of the Passion of Christ is Jesus himself. And how does Jesus appear? What does Jesus reveal to us? First that Jesus goes to the Cross voluntarily. He does not go because he is weak or because he is oblivious to what is about to happen? He knows will happen. He knows what is to come. This knowledge doesn’t leave him calm and numb to the pain that he is about to go through. The scriptures say he experienced a mortal sorrow or a sorrow even to death. Jesus is not someone who did not feel pain. Jesus wasn’t numb to the spitting and torturing. When he was in the praetorium and they stripped him, dressed him in red robes, placed a crown of thorns on his head, reed in his hand and began to make fun of him, Jesus was not immune to that.

The crucifixion was not something beautiful. It was an incredible torture. Jesus was not numb to the pain of the crucifixion. He felt alone and abandoned. “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” He was not only reciting a psalm, but communicating what he felt. We know that he died by surrendering his spirit to his father, but that does not nullify his experience, his pain and body and soul.

We ask: why did Jesus accept all of this? Nobody on Earth can claim that Jesus doesn’t know what is going on, because he has been there. There are people that are abandoned in our homes. Husbands and wives are abandoned. The elderly are abandoned. Youth of all ages are abandoned. People are unfairly imprisoned, not only because of the law but also because of ourselves. No one can say that Jesus doesn’t understand his or her own situation or that he is a stranger to suffering.

Many of us may have experienced a time when we felt that God has abandoned us. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me since I don’t feel your presence like I used to? I go to church and I don’t feel anything. I leave the same as when I first entered. I pray and I don’t know if I’m just talking to myself? I pray for my son or daughter who is following the wrong path and you don’t listen. Do you not care? My God, my God, why have you abandoned?

Jesus identifies with us, not because we deserve him, but because we need him. Jesus does not, throughout his entire ordeal, express feelings of enmity, condemnation or of wanting to take revenge. He goes to the cross out of love of us, for the love of those who tortured him and led him to his death. This is the messiah that God had promised us. This is Jesus, one who has the capacity to have infinite love for us. He accompanies us in our sadness, in our broken world without limit. That is why we believe in the ability to experience a renewal of the self, of the parish, of the diocese, of the Church and the entire world. The love of Jesus is infinite.

St. Paul in the letter to the Phillipians writes:

“…he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We are going to live this out as we enter into Holy Week. Jesus, we proclaim, did not finish on the Cross, but lives forever. He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth, savior of all mankind. He continues to live and intercede for us. And we experience his presence in this celebration of the Eucharist. Amen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Beyond the Days...

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

While Lent is still fresh in our minds, with its prayer, fasting and almsgiving practices to help us conquer and/or regain self control over our hearts and minds and bodies, we should set an even longer goal than 40 days (with time off for good behavior) to continue to reflect on what we were able to accomplish. We might consider making a permanent habit from our temporal “giving up.”

After all, we have proved to ourselves that we can survive with fewer distractions (TV, cell phone, etc.), smaller meals and more time with family and with God in prayer and in church.

How powerful a witness would it be to our non-Catholic brothers and sisters if we were to expand our fasting or abstinence? If we spent more time with scripture, attending missions and faith formation sessions, volunteering at our parish, our schools and assisting with literacy programs?

Of course these things would mean that we would have to re-prioritize our present lives in order to accommodate this further growth in faith and holiness.

And that worries some people…

“When is enough enough?”

We were talking about ‘the call’ of God in one of our Adult Confirmation sessions when I was asked that very question last year by a young man who wanted to know what the parameters of service to God were. How long he had to serve? How many ministries?

I was smart enough not to answer right away and took a week to gather my thoughts together, reflect on the Holy Scriptures and took my time developing the answer(s) I had come up with to his question.

The following week I asked him a slew of questions, such as, “What do you do now?” “How often do you go to church?” “Do you feel God calling you to do something but because you are lazy, or frightened, or exhausted you are looking for someone to tell you to ignore his request?”

“Could it just be indigestion?”

He responded that he was already thinking about vacations and retirement… from church life.

If this is happening to you, you might want to investigate getting a spiritual director to help you sort out your feelings and priorities.

In the story of the Transfiguration, Peter witnesses the meeting of Jesus with Moses and Elijah and wants to build three booths for them, presumably so they (and he) could stay atop the mountain swapping stories and having a good time.

Jesus has to remind Peter that there’s still work to be done.

So when we feel that we can’t give another inch. That somehow God will swallow us whole and there will not be anything left of our person if we do one more thing for God, remember that Holy Scripture tells us that God will not give us more than we can handle.

Life doesn’t have to be pretty. Or pain-free. Just that God will be there to walk beside us.

As long as we continue to draw breathe.