Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rededicate yourself to living the Gospel

The following is an excerpt from a homily given during daily Mass at the Diocesan Pastoral Center with local Serra International group representatives.

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Do you know the last time you sat down to dinner with some very good friends and people who you respect and admire? It can be a family gathering or a gathering with friends and it’s just nice to be there. Now image all of a sudden you don’t know where it came from, but something comes out of left field that upsets the dinner, the friendship. Can you understand that feeling? Then you understand how those with the Lord at dinner felt.

They didn’t invite him to insult them. They didn’t invite him so that they could be rebuked by him. It was very insulting. I don’t know the last time you were really insulted or rebuked, but it is difficult. But He rebukes and he insults these people.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, who had some pretty harsh things to say in her day to the Church and her Carmelite order. It got her into trouble, but she carried on. She felt that what was critical, basic, and central to the order and in the Church was being lost.

It’s kind of what Pope Francis is saying to us today. We have, in some way, lost some of the central message of the Gospel, which is to actually live it. Live the Gospel. He is reminding us that if we live the Gospel, it will be disturbing to others. We are not to just talk about it, take sides, be involved in polemics, and casting judgments, but actually living the Gospel.

This is something that some of us have lost. We have become too comfortable. We make all kinds of excuses. It is always somebody else’s problem, or my age, or my physical condition, or a loss of this or that. We have excuses and have lost the centrality of who we are.

We are reminded today in the fruits of the spirit in the first reading today. We are asked today to really look at what our life is all about. Are we truly on fire with the Gospel? Are we truly living that message in our lives today?

Serra International representatives
We have been blessed with the presence of the Serrans today. The Serrans are an outstanding organization of lay people that work internationally to promote vocations to the priesthood. It is a very good and necessary work for the Church. But sometimes even the Serrans lose their zeal. Sometimes Serrans become complacent and put other things first. They are as human as everyone else. Today they make a statement by their presence here. Their statement or action is to come to identify themselves with the purpose of their association. ‘This is why we joined. We recommit ourselves today by being present in this liturgy.’

In the scriptures today, there is a message for everybody. So we come back to the Lord, thanking him for waking us up again. He is asking us, in his way and through his hard words, to rededicate ourselves to the mission of the Church: the proclamation of the Gospel of Joy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We are called ... to the polls

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

A few years ago I was talking with the mayor of a prominent city in our diocese about the reports of extremely low voter turnout in a recent election. Not Catholic but a man of faith, this mayor said to me very directly that many of those who did not vote were “your people.” He went on to say that if local Catholics voted in greater numbers it would lead to positive change in the city.

I remember wishing that I could disagree with his assertion. But I had to admit that it was a fair challenge. As we approach another national election next month my mind returns to that conversation. I have said this before in these pages but I want to emphasize again that it is so very important that we, as Catholics and as Americans, exercise our right to vote.

We know that matters of public policy often have moral implications that are of great concern to our Church. That is why the Bishops of the United States repeatedly sound the call to “Faithful Citizenship.” The best way for us to ensure that Catholic values are reflected in the laws of the land, and those who make and enforce those laws, is for us to vote.

Or as the Catechism of the Catholic Church reads, “One must pay tribute to those nations whose systems permit the largest possible number of citizens to take part in public life in a climate of genuine freedom.” (No. 1915)

Yet the same dwindling voter participation among the general population is also seen in our Catholic communities. Some may have grown apathetic to the idea that that their vote can make a difference on the bitterly partisan political landscape that we have today. Others may be unfamiliar with the process, eligible to vote but not yet registered. Still others bristle when anyone from their Church promotes anything that even whiffs of civic or political participation, invoking the idea that matters of church and state must be completely separated from one another.

Surely we do not expect that Catholic dogma be imposed in our laws and on our elected leaders. At the same time, we are called, as our Diocesan Vision states, to “impact family, neighborhood and society with the Gospel.” Like it or not, participation in government and politics is an important way that we can do that. And voting is an ultimate expression of that participation.

You can make a convincing argument that it is more important now than ever before for us to voice (and vote) our Catholic values in the public square. We have seen religious liberties that we historically took for granted threatened by government actions and court rulings. Issues of health care, immigration and marriage, to name just a few, are being debated and legislated by our elected and appointed leaders. They must know where we stand!

And where we stand, of course, is the Gospel: recognizing the worth and value of every human life, coming to the aid of the poor and disenfranchised, and respecting God’s plan for creation.

This fall our diocese is working with Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) to teach lay Catholics to promote voter participation in their parish. ICUC has more than 20 years of experience in faith-based community organizing in our diocese. My predecessor, Bishop Phillip Straling, was instrumental in ICUC’s formation. They are offering their skills and experience in how to improve voter participation, but parish ministers will do the work, as it should be.

My fellow bishops of California and I are also asking Catholics to pay special attention to State Proposition 47, which very much aligns with the growing ministry of Restorative Justice in our diocese and in our state. I invite you to learn more about Prop 47, see the California Catholic Conference's statement.

It is my hope that you not only vote in next month’s election but that you do so having done proper reflection and examination of your conscience. Consult the scriptures and the many relevant documents of Church teaching, and take any conflicts or questions that you have to the Lord in prayer.

And no matter the outcome, please receive the election results with civility and respect, and pray for those elected to office.

May God bless you and may He continue to bless our nation.

Somos llamados ... a votar

Por Obispo Gerald Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Hace unos años, hablaba yo con el alcalde de una ciudad prominente en nuestra diócesis sobre los reportes de la extremadamente baja participación en una reciente elección. No católico pero sí un hombre de fe, este alcalde me dijo directamente que muchos de los que no votaron eran “su gente”. Él dijo además que si los católicos locales votarán más, eso llevaría a un cambio positivo en la ciudad.

Recuerdo haber deseado estar en desacuerdo con su aseveración. Pero tuve que admitir que era un desafío justo. Al avecinarse otra elección nacional el mes próximo, mi mente vuelve a esa conversación. Lo he dicho antes en estas páginas pero quiero enfatizar de nuevo que es muy importante que nosotros, como católicos y como americanos, ejerzamos nuestro derecho al voto.
Sabemos que algunas cuestiones de política pública a menudo tienen implicaciones morales que son de gran preocupación para nuestra Iglesia. Es por eso que los Obispos de los Estados Unidos hacen repetidamente el llamado a ser “Ciudadanos Comprometidos”. La mejor manera de asegurarnos que los valores católicos se reflejen en el derecho común, y quienes crean y hacen cumplir esas leyes, es votando.
O como lo expone el Catecismo de la Iglesia Católica, “Es de alabar la conducta de las naciones en las que la mayor parte posible de los ciudadanos participa con verdadera libertad en la vida pública”. (No. 1915)
Sin embargo, la misma decreciente participación de los votantes en la población general se ve también en nuestras comunidades católicas. Algunos tal vez consideren apática la idea de que su voto puede marcar una diferencia en el ambiente político amargamente partidista. Otros tal vez desconozcan el proceso, elegibles para votar pero aún no registrados. Y otros se encrespan cuando alguien en su Iglesia promueve algo que huele a participación política, invocando la idea de que las cuestiones de la iglesia y el estado deben estar completamente separadas.
Seguramente no esperamos que el dogma católico se imponga en nuestras leyes y en nuestros líderes electos. Al mismo tiempo, somos llamados, como lo expresa nuestra visión diocesana, a “impactar positivamente a la familia, el vecindario y la sociedad con el Evangelio”. Nos guste o no, la participación en el gobierno y la política es una manera importante en que podemos hacerlo. Y el voto es una expresión máxima de esa participación.
Pueden hacer un argumento convincente de que es más importante ahora que nunca antes que expresemos (y votemos) nuestros valores católicos en el ámbito público. Hemos visto libertades religiosas que históricamente hemos dado por sentadas amenazadas por actos del gobierno y determinaciones jurídicas. Cuestiones de atención médica, inmigración y el matrimonio, por mencionar algunas, las debaten y legislan ahora nuestros líderes electos y nombrados. ¡Ellos deben conocer nuestra opinión!
Y nuestra opinión, por supuesto, es el Evangelio: reconocer el valor de toda vida humana, acudir al auxilio de los pobres y los despojados de sus derechos, y respetar el plan de Dios para la creación.
Este otoño nuestra diócesis está trabajando con Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) para enseñar a líderes laicos a promover la registración y participación de los votantes en su parroquia. ICUC tiene más de 20 años de experiencia en organizar comunidades de fe en nuestra diócesis. Mi predecesor, el Obispo Phillip Straling, fue fundamental en la formación de ICUC. Ellos están ofreciendo sus aptitudes y experiencia en cómo mejorar la participación de los votantes, pero los ministros parroquiales harán el trabajo, como debe ser.
Mis hermanos obispos en California y yo estamos pidiendo también a los católicos que presten especial atención a la Propuesta Estatal 47, la cual se alinea mucho con el creciente ministerio de Justicia Restitutiva en nuestra diócesis y en nuestro estado. Los invito a que se informen más sobre la Propuesta 47.
Espero que no sólo ustedes voten en la elección del mes próximo sino que lo hagan después de una debida reflexión y un examen de conciencia. Consulten las escrituras y los muchos pertinentes documentos de la enseñanza de la Iglesia, y presenten cualquier conflicto o interrogantes que tengan al Señor en oración.
Y sin importar el resultado, por favor reciban los resultados de la elección con urbanidad y respeto, y oren por los funcionarios elegidos.
Que Dios les bendiga y que continúe bendiciendo a nuestra nación.