Sunday, May 27, 2018

Trinity. 3 to 1 Odds. / Memorial Day (2018-05-27)

27 May 2018   
Trinity Sunday & Memorial Day Weekend
•• Deuteronomy 4:32-34  •• Psalm 33  •• Romans 8:14-17 •• + Matthew 28:16-20 ••

Title:  “Trinity. 3 to 1 Odds. / Memorial Day”

[__01__]      In my senior year of college, I had one, final opportunity – last chance – though at long odds to make the college soccer team.
            I was a longshot. The thoroughbred horse, “Good Magic” – at the Preakness Stakes horse race – was a longshot to win to beat “Justify”. My odds were no better.
            Though a longshot, I thought it was a worthwhile endeavor and I had improved over the past 2 years. I wanted to be part of this team, to make this team.

[__02__]      I bring this up because this is Trinity Sunday. But, in this case the odds are already better than 3 to 1 in our favor.
            By our baptism, and by the sign of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we also become part of one body, one church.

            In a 2009 homily, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI compares the trinity to our spiritual-genome. (Reference: Benedict XVI, Angelus, June 7, 2009)
            Pope Benedict: [In] the Most Holy Trinity … as Jesus introduced us to it … He revealed to us that God is love "not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance" (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his "genome", the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

[__03__]      To be part of God’s mission, to be God’s missionary to our world, to be part of the Trinity, Jesus was called to both a DECISION and a DENIAL.
            That is, as the Son of God and as our Savior, he decided to identify himself, he carried the cross on our behalf, even if – after 3 years of the mission and after Good Friday – it seemed that he had not succeeded.
            Jesus, as the Son of God, humbled himself to die for our sins. But, this involved a denial, a denial of success, comfort, fame, in material terms.

[__04__]      Isn’t it true that our most intimate and loving relationships call us to both DECISION and DENIAL.          We are called, at times, to postpone our own comfort for a greater good, for a relationship.
            As a member of the Trinity, Jesus even had to accept that he would leave – physically – the disciples and that the Holy Spirit would come and finish the mission.
            This is, often, an act of self-denial for you and for me, to recognize that our work – our words – may be incomplete or insufficient.
            But, we pray – as we read in Romans 8:28 – that all things work together for those who love God and are called according to his purpose.
            Trust – or trusting in God – means that we put aside our own agendas and objectives.

[__05__]      Regarding my longshot – long odds – status and so-called candidacy for the soccer team, I did not make the team.  A short time later, I became a report for the college newspaper and was writing about the team, their wins, losses and games.  While this writing job was not what I had tried out for, I did feel connected to and part of the team. It was a moment of both DENIAL and DECISION for me, while accepting a new blessing.

[__06__]        The Trinity reminds us of the beauty of self-denial. 
This weekend, and this coming final Monday of May is also our United States Memorial Day
General Douglas MacArthur – in 1952 ? – in a farewell address both to soldiers and to the student-cadets of U.S. Military Academy at West Point spoke to the military – and to the country – about the important values of DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.
And, on Memorial Day, we give things for those who have defended our country not because they were perfect but because they were prepared and because they understood these values of DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.
General MacArthur summarized what DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY as a code are meant to do – “They build your character. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.”
            For a solider is the “lever which binds together the entire fabric of our system of defense”.
            This does not mean, General MacArthur wrote, that the solider is a warmonger. On the contrary, the solider among all others, prays for peace.
            Do we not also pray for peace?
            The solider among all others, prays for peace, but he must suffer the deepest wounds and scars of war.

[__07__]      Lord – of all of our hopefulness – we pray that your blessed trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – bring both honor and healing to those have denied themselves for our country and that our own efforts of self-sacrifice may remind us that you are always among us, that we may know you and that your will may be done in our lives.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Wake Up Call, Coordination, Confidence (Pentecost, 2018-05-20)

Pentecost Vigil and Pentecost Sunday – 20 May 2018   

Pentecost Vigil •• Genesis 11:1-9  •• Psalm 33  •• Romans 8:22-27 •• + John 7:37-39 ••

Pentecost Sunday •• Acts 2:1-11   •• Psalm 104  •• 1 Corinthians 12:3b-7, 12-13 or Galatians 5:16-25 •• + John 20:19-23 ••

Title:  “Pentecost. Reason, Faith,  Coordination, Confidence   

[__01__]      By the time I was ready to leave home after senior year of high school for college, I knew something – a little bit – about curfews, returning home on time, not staying out too late.
            Nevertheless, after one particular late-arrival incident, my father took me aside and said … you know, someday, staying out too late could really cost you something … the next day, something you need to be present, something or someone whom you do not want to miss.
            In this case, this “correction” or explanation was an appeal by my father not to remind my of my CULPABILITY (or potential blame or guilt) but rather of my COMMITMENTS.
            I wish I could tell you that I have never missed an alarm clock … but, nevertheless, the lesson about commitment was meaningful to me.
            Occasionally, I do need – we all need – a wake up call.
[__02__]      And, I suggest that our real wake-up calls in life are not simply about our “COORDINATION”  mentally or intellectually … but also about our CONFIDENCE, spiritually and personally.
            In this case, I am using the word “COORDINATION” to refer to the things we know by reason, by logic, by science, by intellect.
            And, I am using the word “CONFIDENCE” to refer to what we know by belief, by faith, through God.
            We need wake-up calls to help us in both COORDINATION and CONFIDENCE.  
[__03__]     On  Pentecost Sunday, at the beginning of Acts, chapter 2, we see that the disciples are gathered in one place, they are – naturally – intellectually at least – drawn to each other. They have each experienced the event of Jesus’ Passion and Death.
            They each fear for their own safety and lives for the same reason. So, they are COORDINATED – co-located – and hiding out.
            They disciples were all together for the same reason and with the same REASONING in their mind.
            They are also coordinated in that they do not believe in the Resurrection quite yet. They have been told about it, but they are not quite rejoicing or confident.  They need a wake-up call.
            Their journey will include a wake-up call.

 [__04__]      Our journeys in life, our steps and stages in life – also include wake-up calls.  
            However, we may not want others to know that we need a wake-up call… we may not ourselves admit we need one.
            For example, if I am called to re-examine my life, my assumptions, I do not do this according to scheduled alarms on my phone. Rather, it comes from outside of me, and at moments unexpected, and moments uncomfortable.

[__05__]    In mid-June, the World Cup of Soccer (football) will start in Russia.  And, the teams there are striving for coordination – in passing, shooting, defense, offense, cornerkicks and set plays. Coordination is the goal. Coordination scores goals.
            However, the winning teams are not set apart as high-achievers simply because of coordination in the things that they can see … but also confident about the things that they cannot see.
            They are confident in each other.

[__06__]      The Lord desires – Pentecost Sunday and all the time – not only that we are mentally coordinated with the 10 Commandments and the rules of the game which we can see, but also that we seek a personal, spiritual relationship with Him each day.

[__07__]    Several years ago, I recall that my mother told me that someone reported to her something that my father had said about my mom or the family or something … something that was supposed to make her react with either humor or rage.
            She reacted in neither way to the speaker but simply responded that there was no need for either humor or rage..because she know that the report was completely false:  “your father would never say that.”
            That is not just mental coordination, that’s spiritual confidence.

[__08__]     On Pentecost Sunday, the disciples receive a gift of not only what to say, but also the gift of communicating this in many languages simultaneously. That is awesome coordination !! …but, of course, it is not simply computer-technology.
            But, they are not simply transformed into expert and instantaneous UN United Nations translators.
            They are not uniting the nations by translation, but uniting the nations by their personal transformation.
            Rather, the apostles are speaking in the other’s languages not only because they have memorized what to say …but they also have been given – a gift to know – what God wants them to say and do.
            The Holy Spirit is their translator (coordination) …but also their conscience & confidence. 

[__09__]     On Pentecost Sunday, we also recall that God comes – the Holy Spirit comes – to translate and to complete what we may not be able to say on our own, to give us the desire for repentance – or for forgiveness – that we might not have on our own, to give us a desire for generosity or charity that we might not have on our own.
            The Holy Spirit in this regard is both a transformer with energy and coordination and a translator with confidence and with God’s word, so that our joy might be complete. This joy – this rejoicing in the resurrection – is our wake-up call.     [__fin__]    

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mystery: Denial (2018-05-13, Easter 07 & Mother's Day)

7th SUNDAY of Easter  and Mother’s Day   -- 13 May 2018    •• Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48  •• Psalm 98  •• 1 John 4:7-10  •• + John 15:9-17 ••

Title:  “Mystery”

[__01__]      In a mystery – in something mysterious – we have reason to believe – historically, politically, fictionally – that there is something being denied or some denial … denial causes a disconnection.
          As a result of the denial,
information is withheld, a story is not told fully, we feel we are not getting the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
          On the other hand, “denial” – in the Christian sense and our Lord’s sense - in terms of “restraint” or “sacrifice” - can demonstrate a great truth.
          Now …Jesus did not say this …but this is what we read on T-shirts and refrigerator magnets: “KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.”
          Jesus does not say it that way, but says – “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”
          Denial – or sacrifice – is good news.
[__02__]      This Sunday, we give thanks – gratitude – for the connections made and commitments made by our mothers, grandmothers, godmothers for all those who – in small and great ways – denied themselves for our greater good.
          They denied or at least postponed their own satisfaction for the greater good of their own children and family.
[__03__]      Denial – that is, denial or sacrifice of my own needs – can build community, friendship, and freedom.
          It is a paradox but by learning to “deny” ourselves, to delay our own satisfaction, this is how we truly become free. On the other hand, when we say YES to everything we can become a prisoner to our own desires.
          As Catholics and Christians, we believe that this friendship and freedom is part of the dignity and sanctity of life at all stages, of the dignity of every person.
          We are called to befriend, to care for, to pray for the lives of the unborn person, of the elderly person, of the infirm person, to put their lives before our own.
          This promotes not simply adherence to a commandment but acknowledgement of a community and the friendship and freedom – and right to life –we all desire. Denial = freedom.
          There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)
            “Anyone who would be my disciple must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
[__04__]      I also suggest that denial not only produces “connection” and community … but does so when there is a plan involved.
          To make a good denial – to deny – we need a plan, right?
          This is true also when there is a surprise party or gathering. I cite this as one such example…
[__05__]    We needed a plan. In early October 2010, my mother thought she was going to a party scheduled for her grandson, who was little, who was a newborn, recently baptized and visiting – cross-country - from Los Angeles.
            Anticipating this party, this plan, my mother called up her friends to invite them to celebrate. They did not call her back.
            Denial. Mystery. What was going on?
            But, the party was not a celebration for the visitor and visitors from Hotel-California side of the familybut rather a celebration, a 70th birthday for my mother.
            Fortunately, the people she was inviting were already on the “real” guest list.
[__06__]     In order to have the mystery – to maintain the mystery – we the family (except for my mother) had to connect, talk with each other, agree on certain details… and carefully figure out when and where to have these conversations.
          We had to deny ourselves. My father had to deny himself and was tempted several times to talk about menus and seating.
          Denial – mystery – invites us to be quiet, to silence.
          In everyday things, isn’t it true that we are called a quiet talks with God as well.
          Mystery invites us to a connection – and talk  - with God also. In our mysterious connection with God, we know that God is everywhere… but He also desires to talk with us at specific times and places, such as Sunday Mass and also when we go to sleep at night.
          Mothers, fathers, grandparents, families  - God bless for your efforts to pray – to bend the knee with your children – to pray with them so that they will know God’s love for them is REAL.
[__07__]    The party was a celebration for my mother which she enjoyed very much …but it was also a celebration for all of us to share, a mystery for all of us to manage and enjoy, to be connected in joy.
          Somehow, it was a birthday for all of us – and this was highlighted by the comment of my brother’s daughter – Scarlett – who was 8 years old getting into the car after the music, after the meal, the cake, the games, et cetera et cetera.
          After all that, Scarlett could say aloud for my mother to hear:
          “This is the best day of my entire life.”      
          That was real. It was not a denial. It was not just apparently true. That was real.
          And, it was real and true for my mother to share her day, her gladness with a child and to take her home.
          Jesus also takes us home, and invites us to take him home, to school, to our friends so that we can – mysteriously and really – share his heart, his communion, his friendship and freedom, his sacrifice, his Body and Blood which is laid down and poured out for us each day.   [__fin__

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Signs. Sacraments (2018-05-06, 6th Sun. Easter)

6th SUNDAY of Easter 
6 May 2018    •• Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48  •• Psalm 98  •• 1 John 4:7-10  •• + John 15:9-17 ••

Title:  “Signs, Sacraments”

[__01__]      Welcome – girls and boys – a special welcome to our young sisters and brothers who received the Sacrament of 1st Holy Communion on April 22nd and your classmates who are part of your First Communion journey.
            Holy Communion is a sacrament which means a special sacred or holy mystery. One these 7 sacred mysteries of the church.
[__02__]   When we hear the word sacrament – sacrament is a big religion- vocabulary word – I suggest we think of a sacrament as a sign – SIGN. 
            A sign. We receive signs, signals.
            For example, if you recall – during the winter – not so long ago, “signs” were necessary due to snow and ice and bad weather. Some people think snow is good weather, but they do not live around here. Follow the signs to Utah or Vermont.
            On a snowy – blizzard – day, every teacher of the school and every student of the school must be told whether or not there will be class. So, signs were sent out. Click [SEND].
            The “sign” was a message – words, email, text, voice mail – telling us whether the school is open, closed, delayed opening or some other status.
            In this case, you or I would be at home waiting for this message, this sign, this indication. We can read the SIGN. The sign tells us where to go, what to do.
[__03__]      The sign is visible. We can see it. But the school is invisible. We cannot see it.
            This is also an official Catholic definition of a sacrament, from the Catechism, that a sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality:  a visible sign of something we cannot see.
 [__04__]      Jesus Christ, our Lord, gave us 7 special signs – the sacraments – to SHOW + TELL us of his love.
            For example, Holy Communion – First Holy Communion is 1 of the 7 holy signs or sacraments.
            And, every sacrament is a SIGN of unity, even if we cannot see the unity.
            We might even say that the SIGN on a snow day from school is a sign of unity. It’s not exactly “sacramental”or religious but the SIGN is given so that for everyone’s safety … we will either come to school at a very specific time, or stay home…or maybe leave early.
            Everyone is supposed to read the sign, follow the sign. Signs bring unity … even if we cannot observe – or judge or evaluate - what everyone else is doing or feeling.
            Sometimes, we do not know what is on another person’s mind or heart – “or on his or plate”.  [Sometimes, unity is mysterious.  Sacraments are also, by the way, mysteries of our faith.]
[__05__]      And, Holy Communion is also given to us for unity… not only for our individual nourishment and health but so that we are all nourished and strengthened together…and that by receiving Jesus we also become more and like Jesus, united to him each day. He is united to us – his disciples - because he sacrifices his life, dies for us.
            And, even when the original disciples get lost or get sad or get anxious or scared, Jesus is still watching over them, trying unite them to bring them back to him, to show them a sign.
[__06__]   Sometimes, I am asked his question:   do you remember Puerto Rico? When I was about 11 months or 13 months old, my mother traveled on a plane to visit a good friend in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I traveled with my mother on this trip, my father was unable to go that at that time.
            Being the only child of the family at the time, I imagine this was a special trip for my mother and a special trip for me. And, it seems whenever anybody goes to Puerto Rico or talks about Puerto Rico – and certainly after last year’s Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, my mother reminds me of this trip.
            She often asks me if I remember the trip. I was ONE ! I remember nothing.
            The only sign I have is that you – Mom – are telling me about the trip, about the journey.
[__05__]      This is the sign to the disciples, that Jesus was searching for them, when they were not searching for him, that he was dying for them, for their sins, even before they understood their offense or sins, that Jesus wanted to forgive them, even before they asked.
            That he loves us so much and teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.  UNITY.
            He invites us to pray for this unity, this peace so that we can be united to him in love and be united to others – to others whom we can see … even to love others whom we may not always understand, for whom we may need an extra sign of God’s love and unity with us, so that we can lay down our lives in sacrifice also.