Monday, January 24, 2022

HOMILY– Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Love and Mercy (English & Spanish)


          We have a lot of ground to cover with this weekend’s deep and provocative readings.

Today we are getting a snapshot of what mercy looks like in our salvation history and God’s hand in it. These are shocking and beautiful images of God’s mercy for us all.

First, from the book of Nehemiah, we follow the Israelites out of their Babylonian exile with the help of their Persian liberators who are called by God to help with the restoration of Israel.  This all happened around 5 BC; 25-hundred years ago.

As the Jews return from exile to their homeland, the people ask their priest and scribe Ezra to read for them the scroll of the Law of Moses.

As they hear the law, they are reminded of what each is called by God to do: put aside human instincts for selfishness, self-destruction, anger and hatred, and replace them with God’s command to love.

In their tears, the Israelite people realize that God’s law was never designed to condemn people, but to teach and lead them to a better way to live. Their tears come from the Word of God convicting their hardened hearts as they are made new again.

Aren’t we all asked to have this same conversion each time we come to Mass and receive the eucharist? As people of God, shouldn’t our behavior toward others (especially those on the margins) reflect God’s mercy for us all? 
           Next we read from the first Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. We hear portions of Corinthians at many weddings: "Love is patient, love is kind.”

           Today’s reading is the preamble to this important passage in First Corinthians 13, a letter of mercy to a community that was failing to do what St. Paul had originally instructed them to do. They were acting out of selfishness and arrogance toward each other, especially the have-nots.

Paul finds out how this community is marching down the wrong path and causing division and rancor. He writes them a beautiful letter soaked in love to gently scold this bad behavior (I always chuckle about that fact when it’s being read at a wedding).

Today, St. Paul uses the analogy of the body to promote the importance of unity and diversity in the Corinthian community. This is a sign of God’s mercy in our Church today. Unity. Diversity.

Today Paul is reminding us that every disciple of Christ has a place at the table. Every disciple of Christ has a gift to be shared by his or her community. We are all a part of the Body of Christ. There are no lesser Christians.

How apropos for today’s Catholic, Christian or larger world faith community, especially for people who try to stake out ground as living as perfect followers of God, condemning others for not living or worshipping the way they do.

God and St. Paul are reminding us today: never fall into this trap, because this trap is not of God.

Disharmony, discord, rancor are not of the Lord.

Only love, harmony and peace are.

Do we sometimes fall into this trap in how we act as Catholics? Do we sometimes think we are living perfect Christian lives by condemning others we think are not? Do we honor the unique diversity found in the body of Christ?

Then we come to my favorite Gospel writer Luke. Yes, we are in the Year of Luke, the so-called Gospel of Mercy.

Pope Francis has called for mercy in the Church since the beginning of his pontificate in 2013. This has caused alarm for some Catholics. They worry he’s ruining the Church.

Take as a case in point the action a few years back to change the Roman Missal to officially allow the washing of women’s feet on Holy Thursday (We’ve done that in our parish community for years!).

If you want to see rancor, disharmony and discord among Catholics opposed to this change just log on to the comment sections of articles about the move.

You would think we are a faith at war.

This war has many sides, including ardent supporters of Pope Francis who would use his words and actions as tool to beat those who disagree with the Holy Father. We are all the body of Christ.

At times, we all forget the words from St. Paul, “[love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude…”

This is exactly Jesus’ point in today’s Gospel. Jesus is reminding us that pious sanctimony at the exclusion of those on the peripheries in the world is not what God commands.

Jesus returns home to Nazareth, a place where he’s known simply as a carpenter’s son and shocks the people with his words.

Jesus is announcing good news to the poor, the blind, those in captivity, the oppressed and marginalized – the outcasts of the people.

In quoting the prophetic words of Isaiah, he officially launches his public ministry by proclaiming the Scripture passage fulfilled in their hearing.

Boy, to be a fly on the wall in that synagogue?

We’ll hear next week how all heck broke out after he said that and sat down.

His words provoke ire. And turn the townsfolk’s initial welcome of their hometown boy into hostile rejection.

As one bible scholar puts it: “Some speak highly of Jesus, while others are filled with resentment.”

Isn’t that what Pope Francis’ actions are doing to some in our Catholic faith – causing rejection to the Pontiff’s call to all Catholics to lead with mercy?

As a people of faith, we are called to adhere to the command of love, no matter how we feel about Pope Francis and his actions or each other.

We need to lead with mercy with everyone we encounter. Even those whose opinions we disagree with.

After all, “Jesus forgave even those who crucified and scorned him” from the cross.

May God continue to bless us as we step out of the captivity of the sin of division, magnify our gifts as members of the Body of Christ and live as a people of mercy as we "proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." 


Hoy estamos recibiendo una muestra de la misericordia en nuestra historia de salvación. Y la mano de Dios en ella.

Estas son imágenes impactantes y hermosas de la misericordia de Dios para todos nosotros.

Primero, del libro de Nehemías, seguimos a los israelitas fuera de su exilio babilónico con la ayuda de sus libertadores persas que son llamados por Dios para ayudar con la restauración de Israel.  Todo esto sucedió alrededor del año 5 a.C.; Hace 25-cien años.

Cuando los judíos regresan del exilio a su patria, el pueblo le pide a su sacerdote y escriba Esdras que les lea el rollo de la Ley de Moisés.

Al escuchar la ley, se les recuerda lo que Dios llama a hacer a cada uno: dejar de lado nuestros instintos humanos de egoísmo, autodestrucción, ira y odio, y reemplazarlos con el mandato de Dios de amar. Así es como se ve la misericordia.

En sus lágrimas, los israelitas se dan cuenta de que la ley de Dios nunca fue diseñada para condenar a las personas, sino para enseñarles y guiarlas hacia una mejor manera de vivir. Sus lágrimas provienen de la Palabra de Dios convenciendo sus corazones endurecidos a medida que los hace de nuevo.

¿No se nos pide a todos que tengamos esta misma conversión cada vez que venimos a Misa? Como pueblo de Dios, ¿no debería nuestro comportamiento hacia los demás (especialmente hacia los marginados) reflejar la misericordia de Dios para todos nosotros.

Me encanta la primera Carta de San Pablo a los Corintios. Escuchamos partes de ella en muchas bodas: "El amor es paciente, el amor es amable".

La lectura de hoy es la introducción a este importante pasaje de Corintios, una carta de misericordia a una comunidad que no estaba haciendo lo que San Pablo les había instruido originalmente que hicieran. Actuaban por egoísmo y arrogancia el uno hacia el otro, especialmente con los que no tenían.

San Pablo descubre que esta comunidad está marchando por el camino equivocado con su división y rencor. Les escribe una carta empapada de amor para regañar este mal comportamiento (siempre me río de ese hecho cuando se lee en una boda).

San Pablo está usando la analogía del cuerpo para promover la importancia de la unidad y la diversidad en la comunidad corintia.

Hoy San Pablo nos está recordando que cada discípulo de Cristo tiene un lugar en la mesa. Cada discípulo de Cristo tiene un don que compartir con su comunidad. Todos somos parte del Cuerpo de Cristo. No hay cristianos menores.

San Pablo nos recuerda hoy, que nunca caigamos en esa trampa, porque esa trampa no es de Dios. La falta de armonía, la discordia, el rencor no son del Señor. Sólo el amor, la armonía y la paz lo son.

¿A veces caemos en esa trampa en la forma en que actuamos como católicos? ¿A veces pensamos que estamos viviendo vidas cristianas perfectas al condenar a otros que creemos que no lo hacen? ¿Promovemos la unidad o la desunión?

Luego llegamos a mi escritor favorito del Evangelio Lucas. Sí, estamos en el Año de Lucas en la Iglesia Católica, el Evangelio de la Misericordia.

El Papa Francisco ha pedido misericordia en la Iglesia desde que se convirtió en Papa en  el 2013. Sus palabras han causado alarma a algunos católicos. Les preocupa que esté arruinando la Iglesia.

A veces, todos olvidamos las palabras de San Pablo, "[el amor] no es pomposo, no está inflado, no es grosero ..."

Este es exactamente el punto de Jesús en el Evangelio de hoy. Jesús nos está recordando que la santidad piadosa con exclusión de los marginados en el mundo no es lo que Dios ordena.

Jesús regresa a su hogar en Nazaret, un lugar en el que es conocido simplemente como el hijo de un carpintero para la gente del pueblo y los sorprende con sus palabras.

Jesús está anunciando buenas nuevas a los pobres, ciegos, en cautiverio, oprimidos y marginados, los marginados del pueblo.

Al citar las palabras proféticas de Isaías, él lanza oficialmente su ministerio proclamando el pasaje de las Escrituras cumplido, a su audiencia.

Me encantaría ser una mosca en la pared de esa sinagoga.

Escucharemos la próxima semana cómo estalló todo después de que él dijo eso y se sentó.

Sus palabras provocan ira y convierten la bienvenida inicial de sus compañeros de pueblo al chico de su ciudad natal en un rechazo hostil. Deciden expulsar al Mesías de la ciudad e incluso estaban preparados para arrojarlo por un acantilado, pero Jesús escapa a través de las multitudes enojadas.

Como dice un erudito de la Biblia: "Algunos hablan muy bien de Jesús, mientras que otros están llenos de resentimiento.

¿No es eso lo que las acciones del Papa Francisco están haciendo a algunos en nuestra fe católica, causando rechazo al llamado del Pontífice a todos los católicos a mostrar misericordia?

Como pueblo de fe, estamos llamados a adherirnos al mandato del amor, sin importar cómo nos sintamos acerca del Papa Francisco y sus acciones o entre nosotros. Estamos llamados a liderar con misericordia con todos los que encontramos. Incluso aquellos con cuyas opiniones no estamos de acuerdo.

Después de todo, "Jesús perdonó incluso a aquellos que lo crucificaron y lo despreciaron".

Que Dios continúe bendiciéndonos a medida que salimos del cautiverio del pecado de división, magnifiquenos nuestros dones como miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo y vivamos como un pueblo de misericordia mientras nosotros "proclamamos el año de gracia del Señor".

Saturday, January 8, 2022

HOMILY– Baptism of the Lord - Unbroken


           “You are my beloved…; with you I am well pleased.”

         Don’t we all long to hear those words from our creator?

         Jesus heard these words from His Father just before starting His public ministry. No one yet knew what incredible things He would do with His life. But his Father knew (and maybe his mother, too).

Revelation takes time.  Revelation takes time in all of our lives.

In the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we hear:

            “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says the Lord.”

         This weekend we experience Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan.

We are His people, conformed to Christ by our own baptism; washed clean of original sin by Holy water; anointed Priest, Prophet and King with Sacred Chrism oil. We are reborn of water and Spirit.

            But as human beings we can lose our way without faith.  We can fail to live up to our Royal beginnings. We can even turn our backs on Jesus and go about our lives as if the connection to Christ from our own baptism means nothing at all.

But God is always there, giving us signs and wonders to help us feel God’s presence in our lives, waiting to heal our brokenness, waiting to restore us to new life in the Holy Spirit. 

I’d like to talk about another kind of baptism. One that happens in many of our lives: a baptism by fire. We’ve all heard this term. Perhaps no one lived it more than Louis Zamperini.

The book “Unbroken” details his amazing life story.

Louie was born and baptized Catholic to an Italian immigrant family and raised in Southern California.

He was a feisty sort, a rascal, a troublemaker as a lad. But one day he did what he was born to do. He ran. And he never looked back.

He eventually became the world record holder for the high school mile and even ran in the 1936 Berlin Olympics at the age of 19.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Louie enlisted in the Air Corps and was placed on a B-24 Liberator as a bombardier.  The plane was dubbed the “Flying Coffin” because so many would go down in the Pacific.

Louie and his buddies would survive many scrapes with the Japanese over the Pacific; close calls too numerous to count.

He earned the nickname “Lucky Louie” in the newspapers for cheating death so many times.

His amazing journey into Hell would happen on a fateful flight to search for a downed airplane hundreds of miles south of the Hawaiian Islands.  They were flying in the only plane available that day; a relic that had been stripped of its parts for other planes.

The plane would crash in the ocean. Louie, one of the pilots and the tail gunner were the only ones to survive out of a crew of 11. 

But not before a miracle occurred in the waters of the Pacific when somehow he got free of a “spaghetti, snarl of wires” entangling his legs as the plane sank.

He passed out as he was being dragging to the bottom of the ocean only to awaken in the dark with the wires gone.

Louie and the two others would be stranded on a pair of life rafts surrounded by hungry sharks, circling and rubbing their dorsal fins on the sides and bottom of the boats.

The men prayed like they had never prayed before.

Louie and the pilot would survive for 47 days at sea in a life raft containing little food, little water and little hope. The third man died when he ran out of hope on the 33rd day. 

As they buried their colleague at sea, Louie and his pilot friend “Phil” were as far from salvation as the day they’d crashed.

No human beings had ever survived more than 34 days stranded at sea in a lifeboat.

But Louie and “Phil,” another Catholic from Indiana, survived on water from rare rain squalls and the occasional fish, albatross and even a shark.

 “One morning, they woke to a strange stillness. The rise and fall of the raft had ceased, and it sat virtually motionless . . . It was an experience of transcendence. Phil watched the sky, whispering that it looked like a pearl. Then they fell into reverent silence. . . . Such beauty, (Louie) thought, was too perfect to have come about by mere chance. That day in the Pacific was, to him, a gift crafted deliberately, compassionately, for him and Phil (by his Creator).”

In a moment of prayer once in a raging storm with 30-foot swells Louie promised God, “Bring me home alive, and I’ll seek you and serve you.”

Eventually they were rescued, but by the Japanese, and sent to a series of prison camps where they endured years of starvation, harsh beatings, and physical and psychological torture.

Louie was a big target in the prison camps due to his fame as an Olympic athlete. But Louie survived it all. The Japanese would never break him.  

In the first prison camp on what was called “Execution Island,” Louie encountered a first; a compassionate Japanese soldier concerned about his well-being.

The guard asked him, “You Christian?”

Louie hadn’t been in a church since a bad experience with a priest as a boy, but replied, “yes.” 

The guard said, “Me Christian.”

The Guard gave him hard candy and served as his protector at a time his fellow guards were starving and beating Louie and his friend “Phil.”

The Japanese even tried to use the former Olympic star as a propaganda tool, but Louie refused to betray his country.

One day, the men were led down to a river near their prison camp for the first time and told to take a bath. As they washed clean in the waters, an American plane flew overheard flashing a Morse Code message with it red lights: “The war is over.”  The men cheered and celebrated for the first time in Japan.

Louie and his pilot buddy were freed from the camps, emaciated, sick and on wobbly legs. 

After rehabbing in the Pacific, the men were able to go home. 

His family rejoiced at the return of their beloved son. They were well pleased to see Louie was “unbroken” from the experience. That was the exact thought Louie’s mother had as she sat smiling at him in the family home in Torrance, California, on the day of his return.

 Even when we think we are unbroken, we’re broken without Christ’s love and grace in our lives.

   A few months after his return home, Louie started drinking heavily. It was the only way to escape the ghosts of his prison camp tormentors.

As Louie drank, he developed a plan to go back to Japan, to find and kill his tormenters, especially one Japanese soldier he called “The Bird.” This plan would consume his every waking and dreaming thought.

The anger inside boiled to a fever pitch, affecting his relationships with his family and his new wife.  He even woke up from one dream about strangling “The Bird”… with his hands around his wife’s throat choking her.

Unbroken from war, Louie was a broken mess of post-traumatic stress and addiction.

Then in late 1949 his wife asked Louie to join her to see a young, new evangelist who was holding a Christian revival in Los Angeles.

Louie said, “no way.” But his wife’s persistence finally won out.

As Louie sat inside the big tent listening to Billy Graham, something happened.  As Louie heard the fiery preacher read scripture and weave it into the lives of his audience, Louie felt suddenly wide awake. God had gone to work and was healing this broken man.

As he looked back on his war experience, Louie saw the hand of God saving him time and time again; from the plane crash and tangle of wires; from the 47 days at sea, dying on a life raft, starving and delirious; from the brutal torture and abuse in Japanese prison camps when he was beaten nearly to death dozens of times.

On that night, Louie went home with his wife, dumped all his booze down the drain and never touched alcohol again.

“The next morning, he woke feeling cleansed. For the first time in five years, the Bird hadn’t come into his dreams. The Bird would never come again… That morning, he believed, he was a new creation.”  He was reborn, washed clean from his horrifying experience.

Louie Zamperini died in 2014 at the age of 97, unbroken, washed clean of all hatred, anger, and vengeance from his war experiences, by the waters of his own baptism and the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.