Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving is a reminder for us to live in Gratitude

By Bishop Gerald Barnes
Diocese of San Bernardino

Review readings: Sir 50: 22-24; 1 Cor 1:3-9; Lk 17:11-19

Earlier this month we gathered in the chapel to remember those who have died. We brought to that liturgy the memories of our family members and friends who have died. It was a time in which the Church provides us, all of us, a time to mourn, to remember, to cry and to come back to the Lord filled with hope of the resurrection. We all need a time to feel the loss and to rest, knowing that through our faith, there is eternal life.

We are given an opportunity today to gather together once more, but to give thanks. We give thanks in so many ways throughout the months and in different points in our lives, but today we focus on giving thanks to the Lord. When we gather at Thanksgiving, we give thanks for our families, we give thanks for our country and all those who have served and continue to help build up our nation, and we give thanks to others who have been able to touch our lives. We also give thanks for our work.

Gratitude is what we bring to the altar today.

Often times we bring our worries, our sadness, our grief to the altar, but today we offer gratitude. I invite you to share one thing that you are grateful for with one another.

I think one of the things that I can be grateful for, as I reflect, is the fact that we, as a diocese, are able to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve. We do so by walking with them, listening to their stories, and hearing their pain and hopes. We, in turn, might be able to do something to touch the lives of the people.

The readings today tell us that we need to give thanks. It is a reminder for us. As Christians we should be living with an attitude of gratitude. We are to put gratitude first, be grateful to God. That is why we celebrate the Eucharist. It is an act of gratitude.

The Lord asks in the Gospel today, “ Where are the others?” He is asking us, where are you? Where are you in expressing your gratitude? That is something we need to do more often than one day out of the year. But today we do it together. We give thanks to God together.

You know, we don’t realize it at times how grateful we need to be, until we see that something or someone is missing. Sometimes it takes seeing someone who is in a less fortunate place than we are… and we see them giving thanks. We see that their circumstances have touched their lives to the point that they are different. They are filled with gratitude. That is what we are called to have, that deep sense of gratitude. The gratitude that colors, shades and directs everything we do. We live for gratitude.

There’s that story of a lost dog that had three legs, a broken tail, blind in one eye, and one ear cut off. He went by the name of lucky. But yes, he is lucky… fortunate… blessed to be alive! We sometimes focus on other things, and not thanking God that we are alive!

We come to this Eucharistic celebration with gratitude for what God has given us. And we offer ourselves to Christ, to God in gratitude. So I come to this Eucharistic table giving thanks to God for each one of you. Each one of you works, in your own way, to carry out the mission of Christ in the Church of San Bernardino. I pray for you and I ask you to continue praying for me. Happy Thanksgiving.

Acción de Gracias es un recordatorio para que nosotros vivamos en gratitud

Por el Obispo Barnes
Diócesis de San Bernardino

Lecturas de hoy: Eclesiástico 50:22-24; I Corintios 1:3-9; Lucas 17:11-19

A principios de este mes nos reunimos en la capilla para recordar a aquellos que han fallecido. Trajimos a la liturgia las memorias de nuestros familiares y amigos que han fallecido. Era una época en la que la Iglesia nos ofrece, a todos nosotros, un tiempo para dar luto, recordar, llorar y volver al Señor lleno de esperanza de la resurrección. Todos necesitamos un tiempo para sentir la pérdida y para descansar, sabiendo que a través de nuestra fe, hay vida eterna.

Se nos ha dado la oportunidad hoy de reunirnos una vez más, pero dar gracias. Damos gracias de muchas maneras a lo largo de los meses y en diferentes momentos de nuestras vidas, pero hoy nos enfocamos en darle gracias al Señor. Cuando nos reunimos para el día de Acción de Gracias, damos gracias por nuestras familias, damos gracias por nuestro país y por todos los que han servido y continúan a ayudar a construir nuestra nación, y damos gracias a aquellos que han sido capaces de tocar nuestras vidas. También damos gracias por nuestro trabajo.

La gratitud es lo que traemos al altar hoy.

Muchas veces traemos nuestras preocupaciones, nuestra tristeza, nuestro dolor al altar, pero hoy ofrecen gratitud. Yo los invito a compartir con uno al otro, una cosa por la que estas agradecido.

Al reflexionar, creo que una de las cosas de las que puedo estar agradecido, es el hecho de que nosotros, como diócesis, somos capaces de hacer una diferencia en las vidas de las personas que servimos. Lo hacemos caminando con ellos, escuchando sus historias y escuchando su dolor y esperanzas. Nosotros, a su vez, podríamos ser capaces de hacer algo para tocar las vidas de las personas.

Las lecturas de hoy nos dicen que tenemos que dar gracias. Es un recordatorio para nosotros, como cristianos, que debemos vivir con una actitud de gratitud. Hemos de poner gratitud primero, dar gracias a Dios. Es por eso que celebramos la Eucaristía. Es un acto de gratitud.

El Señor nos pregunta en el Evangelio de hoy: "¿Dónde están los demás?" Él nos está preguntando, ¿dónde estás? ¿Dónde estás en expresar su gratitud? Eso es algo que tenemos que hacer más a menudo que solo un día del año. Pero hoy lo hacemos juntos. Damos gracias a Dios juntos.

Ya sabes, a veces no nos damos cuenta de lo agradecido que tenemos que ser, hasta que vemos que algo o alguien falta. A veces se necesita ver a alguien que está en un lugar menos afortunado que nosotros... y los vemos dando gracias. Vemos que sus circunstancias han tocado sus vidas hasta el punto de que son diferentes. Están llenos de gratitud. Eso es lo que estamos llamados a tener, el profundo sentido de gratitud. La gratitud que colorea, sombra y dirige todo lo que hacemos. Vivimos para la gratitud.

Hay esa historia de un perro perdido que tenía tres patas, una cola rota, ciego de un ojo y una oreja cortada. Se llamaba afortunado. ¡Pero sí, él tiene suerte... afortunado... bendecido por estar vivo! ¡A veces nos enfocamos en otras cosas, y no damos gracias a Dios de que estamos vivos!

Venimos a esta celebración eucarística con gratitud por lo que Dios nos ha dado. Y nos ofrecemos a Cristo, a Dios en gratitud. Así que vengo a esta mesa de la Eucaristía dando gracias a Dios por cada uno de ustedes. Cada uno de ustedes trabaja, a su manera, para llevar a cabo la misión de Cristo en la Iglesia de San Bernardino. Rezo por ustedes y les pido que sigan rezando por mí. Feliz día de Acción de Gracias.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

"Oh God, take me back!"

The following are excerpts taken from a Homily Father Miguel Ceja gave at the Memorial Mass for Deceased Priests held on Nov. 6 at Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, San Bernardino. Scripture reference: Lk 15: 1-10

By Father Miguel Ceja
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Riverside

My friends, the entire biblical message is more thoroughly rejected than accepted by people. That is, the need for our repentance. Most biblical scholars agree that repentance is the very first step into the fullness of our humanity.

The Old Testament prophets without exception preach that repentance is the only way to reestablishing the covenant with God. In the New Testament, John the Baptist preaches repentance and the people flock to hear him. Then Jesus announces the Good News of God’s kingdom and his first specific instruction to the people is contained in one word, repent.

Jesus teaches us that our heavenly father values our repentance more than anything else we might do. He compares the joy over our repentance to that of the shepherd who has found the lost sheep that has strayed from the flock and to that woman who has found her most treasured procession after a long and frantic search. “I tell you,” Jesus says, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

The crux of the problem, with this biblical call to repentance, is that it is a call to change our whole way of life. St. Paul describes it as putting on a new man, reforming our lives. It is reordering our priorities. It is rethinking the way in which we see ourselves and see others. It isn’t easy to accept this biblical concept of repentance, especially when we have convinced ourselves that we are more or less perfect just as we are. We are all doing just fine, thank you. We aren’t about to change all that.

There was a woman who was preparing to attend a special event. She had been looking forward to it, with pleasure, for a long time. The new dress she had bought for the occasion was carefully laid out on her bed. But her little daughter did not want her to go out that night. She wanted her parents to stay home and she put up quite a fuss about it. 
When the mother was out of the room, the little girl thought she had found a way to keep her mother home. She took out a pair of sewing shears and she slashed the new party dress, ruined it completely. 
When the mother came back to the room she was almost stupefied by what she saw. Instead of exploding and becoming very angry, she just fell on the bed and started crying bitterly, completely oblivious to her daughter’s presence in the room. When the little girl saw her mother’s reaction, she realized the seriousness of what she had done. She started tugging at her mother’s skirt, calling out “mommy.” But her mother continued to ignore her, acting as though she was not even in the room. The girl cried out a little more desperately, “mommy, please!” At last, her mother responded, “yes, what is it you want?” And the little girl answered, “Mommy, please take me back.”
That little girl went to the heart of the matter. She didn't say I’m sorry or that I won’t do it again. She didn't say a lot of the things that might need to be said later. She had sensed, somehow, that the problem was the broken relationship between herself and her mother. So she cried out “mommy, please take me back.”

My brothers and sisters, that is what is at the heart of today’s Gospel. This is the point at which all true repentance begins. Every time we ask God to forgive us we are saying, please take me back. Every time we ask God’s forgiveness we are acknowledging the basic problem, our broken relationship with him. Every time we ask God to forgive us, we are positioning ourselves before God for that healing of our broken relationship.

“I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

We share in this joy by first acknowledging God’s forgiveness and then accepting it. It is not a matter of convincing God that he should forgive us. It’s not about moving God to be compassionate through our tears and pleadings. It is not about changing God’s mind and heart. Our loving God never withdraws his love and mercy. It is a matter of changing our own mind and heart. It is a matter of understanding why there will be more joy for the one repentant over the ninety-nine who have no need to repent. The reason is, of course, is that the ninety-nine don’t exist.

All of us, without exception, are called to repentance, are called to change. We are called to a better way of life every day of our life.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Just as God’s love and mercy are greater than the things that separate us from him, so too should our love and mercy be greater than the things that separate us from one another. To forgive is to acknowledge that only love can overcome the evil that divides and alienates. To forgive is to acknowledge that only love can heal the wounded relationships with one another.

So we repent. We begin by clearing out the debris from the past that continues to separate us from God and neighbor. Oh God, please take us back. I am a sinner, Lord. Forgive my self-righteousness. Forgive me for all those half-hearted efforts to understand the problems of others. Forgive me for all those times when I was too busy to listen. Forgive me for being unkind to other human beings. Forgive me for abusing and exploiting other human beings. Oh God, please take me back.

We are the Church of Jesus Crist. Lord, forgive us for our failure to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ effectively in word or in deed. Forgive us for not being salt of the earth and light of the world. Forgive us for hiding our commitment to peace and justice under a bushel basket. Because there are those who have not heard of the promise of eternal life and we are sustained by it. Oh God, please take us back. We know you never withdraw your love and mercy, so we pray, Oh God, please take us back!