I can’t wait for Christmas…

It is truly one of my favorite holiday seasons. I love listening to and singing traditional Christmas carols. In addition, I enjoy spending time with my family and exchanging gifts with them. However, I do not enjoy the long lines at the department stores several weeks before December 25th. I am also not a fan of Christmas carols being played on the radio soon after the (U.S.) celebration of Thanksgiving Day. As a Catholic, I am becoming increasingly concerned that the consumerism and commercialism of the final months of the year are negatively impacting the religious significance of Christmas. Hence, I believe that it is crucial that we understand and remember Christmas’ true meaning and that we adequately prepare for it. For us Catholics, the four weeks of Advent help us not only to prepare for Christmas but also provide an overall guide to living a holy life.

Continue reading “The Season of Advent – Preparing and Waiting with Hope”

The Communion of Saints is an article of faith

…of the Catholic Church. The term expresses the communion in holy things shared among God’s holy people and the concept of unity and holiness among the baptized Christians in Christ. Saint Paul’s greeting in his letter to the Colossians (1:2) denotes that Christians were generally called saints or “holy ones and faithful brothers in Christ.” They were addressed as holy ones since they were baptized in Jesus Christ the Holy One, saturated with the Spirit of holiness, and adopted as children of God the Father. Their dying in Christ and rising in Him through the waters of baptism sanctified them, and their faith in Jesus the Lord and their decision to pursue Christ made them participants of the holy mystery of God.

Continue reading “We Are Saints In the Making”

We cherish stories that speak to our realities and to the adversities that we encounter. In numerous ways, they help us perceive life better. For this reason, Jesus told countless timely parables during His day and many of these are well-known and loved today. However, there is a parable that appears out of place in the Gospel according to Matthew (18:21-35). Peter inquired how often he must forgive a person who sins against him, but Jesus’ parable does not address the question of repeated forgiveness. It does, however, point out the significance of forgiveness, as well as of mercy and justice.

Continue reading “Mercy and Justice – Why One Cannot Be Without the Other”

A Transformative Greeting

Greetings on this blessed day!! Whether it be the initial day of the year or any other day, we overflow with joy when we are greeted with well wishes and blessings. Certainly, heartfelt salutations from new and childhood acquaintances, friends and loved ones, and from brothers and sisters in the Faith are cherished and relished greatly. In addition, certain greetings can be transformative. An encounter comes to mind that transpired a little over 2,000 years ago. The Gospel of Luke recounts the following, “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.’” (Luke 1:41-45)

What a blessed and divine moment! Mary’s transformative greeting anointed Elizabeth with the Spirit of Light and Joy. So potent was this encounter that Elizabeth recognized her cousin Mary as the mother of her Lord. She blessed Mary, who, in turn, could have blessed Elizabeth, saying, “Blessed are you, [Elizabeth]. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but [our] heavenly Father.” (Mt 16:17) Indeed, it was by the Holy Spirit’s grace, sent by the Father and the Son, that Elizabeth grasped in her being that Mary was the mother of her Lord and, similarly, comprehended that Mary believed that what was spoken to her by that same Lord would be fulfilled.

Continue reading “How Mary is Mother of God”

One of the most significant childhood lessons that my siblings and I learned was the duty to respect our elders. We learned the importance of remaining quiet and attentive when older people are addressing us, of speaking respectfully and honestly when we are given the opportunity to talk, and of valuing and appreciating our seniors. Our parents also encouraged us to lend a helping hand when the elderly cross the street. On numerous occasions, my siblings and I would help our older neighbors by linking arms with them to cross the street and carrying their grocery bags. These were insightful moments that began instructing me about life. I understood from early on that we must care for one another. Furthermore, I discovered that we may be strong during our younger years, but everyone begins to gradually lose their strengths as they become older.

The Strength of Paul the Apostle

Certainly, physical strength or power is a quality that we value immensely. But our society speaks about other powers as well. Individuals who have the ability to produce, purchase, and put items up for sale unreservedly are said to possess economic power. Other individuals enjoy political power and have the ability to exercise a role in shaping society’s laws and policies. And still others’ social power gives them the capability to influence and persuade other people’s activities, attitudes, or behaviors. Those in our society that possess physical, economic, political or social powers enjoy positions of leadership and are, very often, perceived as intelligent, strong and powerful.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul of Tarsus counted himself among the strongest of his day. However, he was not referring to physical, financial, political, or social strength. They were strong given that they were released from the Mosaic regulations that were still being rigidly observed when they wholeheartedly embraced the Christian life. He stated: “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves; let each of us please our neighbor for the good, for building up. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The insults of those who insult you fall upon me.” (Rom 15:1-3)

Spiritual Strength – Do We Have It?

This passage reminds us that there is another strength we must acquire, develop, and sustain: spiritual strength. Without it, we struggle to know, love, and follow God and His commandments as we ought to. This strength empowers us to glorify the Lord, accomplish His will, and work for the salvation of our souls. Nevertheless, we cannot acquire this strength through our own human efforts, but only through the graces that God offers us in His divine providence.

Continue reading “Spiritual Strength for the Present Spiritual War”

“Give me liberty or give me death!” With these notable words articulated in a 1775 speech, Patrick Henry expressed the immense desire he possessed for freedom. This statement summed up the plea that ultimately impelled the Virginia House of Burgesses to mobilize for military action. A few weeks later, the American Revolution marked the beginning of the intense struggle in which thirteen of Great Britain’s North American colonies eventually obtained their independence. Today, the 4th of July celebrates the United States of America’s Day of Independence as it recalls when this country declared its independence from Great Britain. Freedom is a value of great importance. Having the ability to enjoy political autonomy and to do what one pleases at will is treasured by the citizens of a nation that enjoys being a free society. Who does not cherish the power to exercise the faculty of choice in political, social, and financial matters? Nevertheless, the notions that some of us have about the essence of freedom are at times faulty or misguided.

Continue reading “What True Freedom Really Looks Like”

Reflecting on the Leadership of Moses and Joshua

If we desire to see improvement as Christian leaders today, we need to return to the Old Testament. Several of its books will challenge us to revisit our notions about leadership. Let’s turn to the book of Exodus, which narrates the Hebrews’ experience of enslavement in Egypt. It was amid this era that Moses was born and that he went into exile for killing an Egyptian. Sometime later, Moses encountered God in a burning bush, discovered God’s plan to save Israel, and learned God’s name. The LORD God elected him to liberate and save Israel.

When we reflect on Moses’ leadership, we naturally think about ancient Israel’s freedom. Truly, there is a deficiency in a kind of leadership today among Christian leaders that the Exodus event suggests with urgency. Today, we need to cultivate among those in the Christian ministry field and within our parishes a Mosaic leadership that is capable of freeing and liberating our brothers and sisters from their sinful circumstances and from the oppressive structures that surround them. Indeed, true leadership frees people, empowers them to grow, and facilitates their social and spiritual advancement.

Continue reading “Why We Need More Leaders Like Moses and Joshua”

I remember a time when I desperately wanted to share a humorous story with a good friend of mine about something that had just transpired at work. A few days later, I had the opportunity to tell him what occurred and attempted as much as possible to hold back my laughter as the story progressed. Finally, when I arrived at the punch line and concluded the story, I bursted out laughing. As I laughed for about a minute, I glanced at my friend and noticed that he was not. He looked at me strangely and said, “I don’t get it. Why is this so funny to you?” I responded, “You really don’t get it? Don’t you have a sense of humor?” And he replied, “I do, but I do not know why this story is so funny to you. I guess I just had to be there to appreciate it.”

Blessed Are Those Who Believe

It is difficult for someone to treasure an experience that happened if he or she was not there to personally observe and undergo it. For this reason, Thomas the Apostle did not believe the other apostles when they said, “We have seen the Lord.” (Jn 20:25) He doubted. Similarly, many of us have doubted God’s presence. Thomas’ response, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe,” is analogous to a popular saying that many people use today, particularly in the United States: “I have to see it to believe it.” Sadly, there are many Catholics and non-Catholics alike that still say this today regarding the presence of God. Many still are reluctant to believe God is present because they cannot see Him. Some continue to say that they have to see God to believe in God.

Thomas the Apostle distrusted the apostles’ testimony. However, Jesus visited them a week later when Thomas was with them. Upon seeing Jesus and hearing Him say, “Put your finger here [Thomas] and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe,” (Jn 20:27) Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus then said, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29) These last words of Jesus ring especially true when we speak about the Church’s teaching on the Holy Eucharist.

Continue reading “Believing in the Bread of Life”

Waiting for the Holy Spirit to Empower Us

Sacred Scripture tells us that while meeting with His disciples, our Lord Jesus Christ instructed them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which [they had] heard [him] speak…” He also informed them, “you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4, 8) It should not surprise us that Jesus gave such a specific command. His first departure following His passion and crucifixion caused at least two of His disciples to leave the main group of Apostles in Jerusalem. Christ’s conversation with the disciples heading to Emmaus reveals how temptations of doubt, disillusion, depression, and discouragement can grow exponentially when disciples of Christ separate themselves from the gathered community of Faith.

On that occasion of the Ascension, Jesus instructed them to remain in Jerusalem and to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power to descend upon them. This was necessary given that the Spirit of God is the primordial witness of the Son of God’s life and mission. Indeed, the Holy Spirit accompanied Jesus Christ at all times from the moment of His conception until He ascended into Heaven; they shared in the same mission of salvation. Hence, the Spirit of God will descend upon Christ’s disciples to empower them for a divine purpose.

Continue reading “Giving Witness in the Spirit after Pentecost”

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

We know how tough departures can be. Saying “so long” or “farewell” to a loved one whom we may not see again can sometimes be a bittersweet, melancholic, heartbreaking, or even traumatic experience. These last adieus are certainly ingrained in our memory and our loved ones’ final words and actions become treasurable and unforgettable.

These experiences allow us to relate to the early disciples’ difficulty in saying goodbye to our Lord. When the appropriate time arrived, Jesus said to them, “I did not tell you this from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I told you this, grief has filled your hearts. But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:4b-7) The thought of Jesus departing to return to His Heavenly Father filled the disciples with misery and mourning even after He emphasized its necessity…

Continue reading “Ascending with Jesus Christ”