God Wants to be Known

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

There are different reasons to lead us to know someone else. Sometimes, we want to know someone because they are famous and we admire them. At other times, and under different circumstances, we may get to know people at school, the workplace, or even in the streets-people with whom we may or may not end up cultivating a long term relationship. This desire to know others happens not just intrinsically, but also because deep down we want to be known.

In his infinite love God goes out of Himself in order for us to know him. He shares his life with all creation and especially with the human person. God not only creates but wants also to be known by his human creation. God has always desired the salvation of the human person and therefore chose to reveal himself. He also chose a people to establish a covenant in which they are his people and he is their God. It is in this mutual belonging that God reveals Himself as three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The fullness of the revelation of God takes place in Jesus Christ who shows us the Father and the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus reveals that they are one, and that this oneness is maintained by the bond of love. They know each other and they are in each other. It is in Jesus Christ that we see clearly God proceeding from Himself by allowing his Son to become flesh and by giving the Holy Spirit to all who believe in the one He sent. In revealing Himself, God is saving us and not only allows us to know him, but to receive his very own life. This is the greatest blessing of our lives: the ongoing presence of God. It is a presence that makes Himself known for us to Love Him, Adore Him and to Serve Him.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

Pentecost - A Never Ending Reality

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; 
there are different forms of service but the same Lord; 
there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

This weekend we are celebrating the Solemnity of Pentecost. Through this celebration we are reminded of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. This celebration ought to make us aware of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Church. The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church.

It is easy to forget the unique role of the Holy Spirit. You might argue that if the role of the Holy Spirit is so important, why do we only have one day to celebrate Pentecost? The answer to this objection is easy. Every day in the life of the Church is Pentecost. Pentecost is a neverending reality and celebration in the life of the Church and its members. We are constantly showered by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We could not function as Christians in the world were it not by the constant assistance and presence of the Holy Spirit.

Let us celebrate Pentecost joyfully, knowing that the gifts of hte Holy Spirit are constantly with us. The day of our baptism we all became temples of the Holy Spirit. Let us acknowledge the Holy Spirit presence in our life. Let us constantly think Him for his marvelous presence and precious gifts.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, 0.P

A Sense of Eternity

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? -Acts 1 :11

This question was asked of the apostles while they were looking at Jesus going up to the sky. The apostles were in awe and at the same time puzzled by this event. What is it about looking to the sky that leads us to awe and wonder? Remember the last time you looked at the sky. Especially here in Texas, looking to the sky can be an amazing experience. It gives us a sense of infinity, peace, and beauty. In a word, it gives a sense of eternity. Like the apostles, we enjoy looking at the sky but we know we need to go back to the world. This is precisely why they were asked "why are you standing there looking at the sky".

In this event, the identity of Jesus is reaffirmed once again. It recounts how the same Jesus who suffered, died, and rose, is the same one who was ascending to his Father. At the same time, the promise of the Holy Spirit is recalled for them to go and proclaim the Kingdom of God. The apostles are not going with him but Jesus is returning by giving them the Holy Spirit so they can continue doing God's work on earth. It is not the time for the apostles to go but to stay and continue their mission.

The fulfillment of the mission by the disciples is an essential part for them to enter into what they are seeing while they are looking at the sky: eternity. It is very clear that to enter the Kingdom of God temporality and eternity belong to each other. They are necessary to each other. While looking at the sky, where we get a sense of the Glory of God, it is important not just to remain standing but to remember why we are standing there. We are invited not to forget that we are in the world and that we have a mission, the mission to allow Jesus to return day in and day out through the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit, the same Spirit of Jesus, empowers us with his gifts of wisdom, understanding, strength, knowledge, and of fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2).

On this feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we are allowed to glimpse the Glory of God. In the meantime, while we stand on this earth, we are called to fulfill the mission the Lord has entrusted to us. It is in this fulfilling of the mission that Jesus returns to us. Also, it is in fulfilling this mission that we ascend with Jesus to eternity. We could say then, that Jesus returns so we can ascend!

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

 

 

Love is Central to Our Faith

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.

The theme of love is at the heart of all this Sunday's readings. The idea of love is central to our faith. To believe is to love, to love God and one another. There is no other possible way to understand the message of Jesus. We cannot skip love and still pretend to call ourselves Christians.

Throughout history people have tried to offer different understandings of the Christian faith, making out of it an ideology, an ethical approach to life, or a syrupy interpretation of God and His relationship with us. In today's second reading, Saint John sets the groundwork for the correct understanding of love. He tells us: In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.

Love, according to Saint John, is not a feeling; it is an action. Love is God himself acting on our behalf. God loves us unconditionally. It does not matter if we are not worthy of God's love, God loved us first. And God's love is neither an idea nor a feeling; God's love is an action manifested in the gift of His only begotten Son. Jesus comes into our world and becomes part of it by becoming fully human. Because of love, the eternal Word becomes human, suffers, and dies in expiation for our sins.

The greatest mysteries of our faith: Incarnation, Birth, Public Ministry, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, can only be explained because of love. Even more, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Church, and the Sacraments are all grounded in the fact that God has loved us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.

As we listen to the Word of God this Sunday, let us be reminded of the fundamental fact that God loves us and we are challenged to imitate that love. By loving one another we will proclaim to the world that we are Christian not only by name but primarily by action; by loving one another as God has loved us. 

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, 0.P.

To Remain ... To Grow

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

"Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." (John 15: 5b)

Faithful discipleship requires the disposition to remain in our Lord Jesus Christ. This remaining is essential for our growth in faith and holi­ness in our daily lives. Nevertheless, as time goes by, to remain might become difficult or burdensome. The disciples of Jesus had moments of discouragement, confusion, and tiredness in their journey with the Lord also. It was difficult for the disciples to remain in Jesus especially when he was rejected and persecuted by some of the authorities of the time. After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples of Jesus became the target of the same rejection and persecution. One might wonder how many times the disciples were discouraged not only by the rejection and persecution but also by the divisions and misunderstandings within the internal life of their own communities. How could someone remain in the Lord under such circumstances?

According to the writings of John, especially today's Gospel and his letter, to remain in the Lord comes from the fact that Jesus remains in us first by giving us the Spirit (1 John 3:21). Jesus takes the initiative to give us the Spirit. Jesus takes the initiative to remain in us, this is why in the gospel he identifies himself as the true vine. The vine is the one who gives life to the branches for them to produce much fruit. In this case the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Notice that the first fruit is love. This leads us to the other aspect of remaining in the Lord: to remain in the Lord means to remain in his love in the way Jesus taught us: "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35). To keep this commandment is essential for the disciple to remain.

For the disciples of Jesus, those from the past and from the present, it is very clear that first, as the branches received life from the vine, we receive life from Jesus; second, times of rejection, persecution, division, and misunderstandings are opportunities for us to remain and grow not only in faith but in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control: and third, all this is possible not because of our own initiative but that of Jesus in giving us his Spirit. For all these we give thanks to the Lord and plead to him that in the midst of all adversities we remain in him.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

 

We are God's Children

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

See what love the Father has bestowed on us
that we may be called the children of God.

The medieval scholastic philosophers and theologians left us a great gift. They showed us the ability and the method to make distinctions. In making distinctions, the finer points of an argument can be made clear. Because of distinctions we are able to better understand the elements of our faith.

In today's second reading, the Apostle John teaches us through a fine distinction. He tells us that we may be called children of God. What is so special about it, you might ask? Aren't we all children of God?

Here comes the point of the distinction. We need to make clear the difference between being creatures of God and children of God. All human being's are God's creatures. He is the source and creator of all there is. Children of God, on the other hand, are just a few among those creatures of God. The term child of God implies a parental relationship with God. We have become children of God through adoption, because there is only one natural child of God, Jesus. Through baptism we have been adopted into the family of God. Through baptism we have developed a relationship with God parallel to the relationship between Jesus and his eternal Father.

In today's second reading the Apostle John is calling our attention to the fact that it was because of love that we may be called children of God. In baptism we have identified ourselves with the Son, Jesus, and the Father loves us because he sees in us what he sees in the Son. It is not by our merits that we have become God's children. God's love has elevated our human condition to a new level through baptism. We are no longer simply God's creatures; we have become children of God. And in being so, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts moving us to acknowledge God as Abba, Father.

Distinctions, it is all about distinction. We are God's children, the ones called by name, the ones predestined to dwell in the house of the Father. And as the Apostle John reminds us today: We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, 0.P.

The New Life of the Risen Lord

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 
Then he said to them, 
"Why are you troubled? 
And why do questions arise in your hearts? 
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. 
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have."

-Luke 24: 37-39

The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ was a moment of transition from death to life. The disciples and followers of Jesus also went through a transition in their own journey of faith. We could say that the disciples also experienced death in their own lives. We could say their faith at some point was also dead. Still, with the Resurrection of our Lord, they also came back to life. Meanwhile, during the time of transition, the disciples were troubled and questions arouse in their hearts. The transition was so complex that they were not even able to recognize the Lord. When they saw him, they thought it was a ghost.

Transitions are a part of our lives. They can happen so suddenly that at times we are not aware of them. For this reason, transitions lead us to face the unknown and we have to deal with a great amount of uncertainty. Transitions bring fear. For this reason, transitions are difficult and even painful. Nevertheless, they are necessary for us to arrive to a new place in our lives. Transitions happen at a personal level, for example when someone is moving from single life to married life. They also happen at institutional levels. This is the case for parishes for example when a new pastor arrives. The congregation as well as the new pastor go into transition. After seven months of serving as Pastor at Holy Rosary, I am very grateful to all our parishioners for embracing and enduring during this time of transition. I also want to take this opportunity to ask for forgiveness if I have hurt anyone in any way during this time of transition. I want to assure everyone that it has never been my intention to cause pain or disappointment. Please know that I pray every day for the healing and reconciliation of our community of faith; most especially, I pray for the mission of the Church taking place in our parish: to preach the Gospel! 

After every transition-like that from death to life-there is also Resurrection. Tis is my hope and the hope of the Dominican Friars as well as many parishioners, that Holy Rosary will be filled with the new life that the Risen Lord offers to us in abundance.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

Shalom - A Manifestation of Divine Grace

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."

Three times we hear in today's Gospel reading the words of Jesus wishing his disciples that peace be with them. In Hebrew, the word peace, shalom, means much more than our understanding of peace. For us peace only implies a state of lack of violence or the peace of the cemeteries. In the mentality of the Old and New Testament the word shalom is most commonly used to refer to a state of affairs, one of well-being, tranquility, prosperity, and security­-circumstances unblemished by any sort of defect. Shalom is a blessing, a manifestation of divine grace.

The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. We call it peace but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies. In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight-a rich state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as the Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights. Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.

When Jesus wishes peace to his disciples he is opening to them a world of fulfillment; fulfillment of their earthly and spiritual expectations. Peace-Shalom-is what ought to be at the heart of every Christian's life and community. As baptized Christians we discover the peace that Jesus wishes us as a goal and as a challenge; as a goal because, the life of every Christian ought to strive to be complete at a human and at a spiritual level. As a challenge, because we know that shalom is what Jesus is expecting each of us to realize in our lives and in the world.

May the peace of Christ always reign in our hearts and may we learn to follow the example of the Master in sharing that peace with one another.

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P.

He ls Risen!

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Christians, to the Paschal Victim Offer your thankful praises! 
A Lamb the sheep redeems; Christ, who only is sinless, Reconciles sinners to the Father ...

The Sequence Victimae Paschali Laudes invites all Christians to "Offer your thankful praises." Thankful praises to Jesus, the Lamb, for giving his life on the Cross. Thankful praises to Jesus, the Lamb, for he has reconciled the world to the Father. Thankful praises to Jesus, the Lamb, for restoring the image and likeness of God in every person. Thankful praises to Jesus, the Lamb, for offering new life and new beginnings.

Easter Season is a time to praise the Lord Jesus in thanksgiving for his work of redemption. Easter is the time to understand what Jesus the Lord has done for us and continues doing in our favor today. We are invited to look back to our places of death and see how they have come back to life. We are invited to look back to our places of darkness and see the light in them. Looking back to those places, we become more aware of the mystery of resurrection.

Easter season is a time for new beginnings. After the passion and death of Jesus, the disciples had an encounter with the Risen Lord. It was a new beginning for them! It was also a new beginning for the entire human history, especially with the birth of the Church after Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit. It is also a new beginning for us because the Risen Lord is still breathing his Holy Spirit on us to give us understanding and courage to continue his mission: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." (Mark 16:15)

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

Religious Empathy

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Every year as we arrive to the days of Holy Week, my mind and my heart begin to reminisce about the years I spent in southern Spain, mainly in the cities of Granada and Seville. In those two cities, like in most of Spain, Holy Week has a very special definition. It is a time in which popular religiosity manifests itself in a multitude of forms, many of which are alien to us. Processions and an the manifold events which surround them control the life during those days. For someone who has not been raised within that culture, all these manifestations of popular religiosity might be dismissed as folklore or idolatrous superstition. It is difficult to explain to a visitor the public manifestation of religious emotions and heartfelt devotion. People's eyes are filled with tears at the sight of the statue of the bleeding Nazarene or a sad Sorrowful Mother. Religious empathy creates a religious environment where faith is manifested through the emotions of the common people.

For us who live far away from these places and immersed in secular culture which has radically purged most of the public manifestations of religious emotions and signs, the sole mention of this kind of religiosity might sound alien and maybe challenging. Do they really have a meaning in our modern world? Have we lost something while purging our culture of religious emotions and empathy? Has the concept of the individualization and privatization of our religious life deprived us of any major and essential reality?

In my opinion, those questions must be responded to with a positive answer. Our modern secular culture has deprived us of the religious richness of public expressions of popular religiosity. In its letter to the world bishops, Placuit Deo, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith warns about two new old-forms of heresy, fruits of our modern culture. They are described with the following words: On one hand, individualism centered on the autonomous subject tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.[3] ln this vision, the figure of Christ appears as a model that inspires generous actions with his words and his gestures, rather than as He who transforms the human condition by incorporating us into a new existence, reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit (cf 2 Cor 5:19; Eph 2:18). On the other hand, a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal, and renew our relationships with others and with the created world. In this perspective, it becomes difficult to understand the meaning of the Incarnation of the Word, by which He was made a member of the human family, assuming our flesh and our history, for us and for our salvation ... Both the individualistic and the merely interior visions of salvation contradict the sacramental economy through which God willed to save the human person.

The text of the letter is very rich and enlightening. I encourage all of you to read it during this coming week. It is simple to find. Just google Placuit Deo, and you will find the full text of the letter. 

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P

The Art of Dying

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One of the most difficult experiences is to communicate to someone that he or she is about to die. Once, I was ministering to a patient who had been diagnose with pulmo-nary fibrosis, and the doctors had just told him that he would have at them most six months to live. In our conversation, he was troubled with the reality of death. He said to me, "You know, people teach you how to walk, how to read, 1 how to drive a car, how to do things, but nobody teaches you how to die."

Death troubles us! This was so even for Jesus himself who knew what kind of death he was about to undergo, death on a Cross: "l am troubled now. Yet what should l say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? But it was for this purpose that 1 came to this hour. Father, glorify your name." (John 12:27-28) As for Jesus, our nearness to death is a moment in which we are invited to take a look at the purpose of our lives. For Jesus, this purpose is very clear, "Father, glorify your name."

This glorification of the name of the Father does not just happen at the moment of death, but all throughout our lives. "Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me." John 12: 24-26)

In this sense, the purpose of our lives is to serve Jesus, the Lord. Serving Jesus implies learning to die to oneself when His mission requires it for us to give much fruit. Living. Serving Jesus brings fullness of life. Learning to die on this world and to the things of this world prepares us for eternal life.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

Our Hunger for Love

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

"God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ-by grace you have been saved-,raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus."

We all hunger for love! Even when we are not willing to acknowledge it, because we are so full of ourselves and believe in our self-sufficiency, we still hunger for love. Our need for love is so deeply ingrained in us, that at times we try to find it no matter what. We want to be loved. We want to experience the warmth and intimacy that surrounds us when we know that we are being loved. That is why the experience of falling in love is so important at some stages of our life. We need not to be young in order to search for love. At every age we all feel the need to feel and surround our lives with love.

It is out of our human experience and need for love that we come to discover and appreciate the most important love in our lives: the love of God. The greatest difference between human and divine love is that human love sometimes is the result of our own efforts. However, divine love comes to us freely, without us having to work or merit for it. God's love is given to us as a gift even before we were able to realize that we were being loved. And God loves us unconditionally. There are not prior requisites to being loved by God.

How strong and committed is God's love? In our personal experience we know at times of the fickleness of human love. Love sometimes professed with strong words and promises of eternal commitment fizzle in sad cases as mist under the sun. God's love toward us is a different kind. In today's Gospel reading the apostle John portrays the kind of love God has for us: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." God's love for us moved him to surrender his own Son's life for our salvation. The person of Jesus is therefore the sure sign of God's committed love for us.

Let us open our lives to the love of God presented in the person of Jesus. This Lenten season ought to be a time to rediscover that we are being loved with an unconditional love, which is offered to us without merits from our part. Let us not be afraid to accept God's love. Once we allow that love to surround us, we will come to discover what real love is; a love that lasts forever, a love which is stronger than death.

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P

Diocesan Services Fund (DSF)

My dear friends in Christ,

Pope Francis has urged all of us to not fall into indifference, but to become active instruments of mercy. Our Holy Father asks us to reflect on the life of Christ who is our model for corporal works of mercy. Through the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) we are able to be instruments of mercy to thousands in our Archdiocese who are sick, poor, imprisoned, elderly or facing a crisis in their lives, such as the one caused for so many by Hurricane Harvey.

During and after this devastating storm, many of you were instruments of mercy to your neighbors, friends, and even strangers, offering comfort and compassion. l know many of you rolled up your sleeves and helped people rebuild their homes and businesses. I am proud of all of you for being God's hands to perform gestures of great love and compassion. Supported by DSF, Catholic Charities served as the Archdiocese's major disaster response organization, serving more than 15,000 people in the immediate aftermath of the storm. They are still at work offering long-term recovery services. San Jose Clinic, also supported by DSF, provided medical care to over 1,800 people.

The day-to-day operations of DSF also need our support, and a few of the programs highlighted this year are Pro-Life Activities, Apostleship of the Sea and the Office of Vocations. Many of you may not be familiar with the mission of the Apostleship of the Sea, but it has been a vital ministry of our Archdiocese for more than a half century. Some 300,000 seafarers come into the Port of Houston each year and 60% are Catholic. They bring 80% of our goods that we consume into our city. Offering the sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Communion along with pastoral counseling and compassionate support for those who often spend months at a time at sea, often more than two months, is part of our responsibility to welcome the stranger.

The mission of Pro-Life Activities is to protect the most vulnerable among us, recognizing the dignity of each human person from the unborn child, to the elderly at the end of their lives, to the prisoner on death row. Human life above all belongs to God and we should make every effort to defend it. This Office is offering a new program scheduled to launch this year, cal1ed Jerome's Hope, which will assist parents who have received a difficult pregnancy diagnosis or who have lost a baby and need counseling and pastoral direction. It is because of your DSF contributions that we are able to respond to needs like these and compassionately help those who are searching for answers, healing and hope.

When he was Pope, Saint John Paul II, wrote a document called Pastores Dabo Vobis (in English I Will Give You Shepherds). This message helped to shape programs for priestly formation and vocational discernment. Our local Office of Vocations fulfills part of this important vision of increasing the number of men who are discerning to be our future shepherds. Through the celebration of the sacraments and pastoral ministry, these fishers of men become instruments of mercy for all of us.

I thank you for your gracious commitment to the DSF. With gratitude to God for your faithful discipleship and praying for God's abundant blessing upon you, I am

Your faithful Shepherd,

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Daniel Cardinal DiNardo Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

Fear Had Taken Them Over

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and Jed them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white.

The disciples were scandalized. Jesus had announced to them that they were going up to Jerusalem where he would be rejected by the nation's religious leaders, abused, condemned to death and resurrect after three days. There was too much in those words for them to understand. So far they felt everything was under control. And now Jesus was shaking their confidence. This is the background to the reading of today's gospel. Insecurity and fear had taken them over.

Jesus needs to intervene, he needs to restore confidence among his disciples. And so he takes the three initial disciples with him up a high mountain. And it is there that he manifests to them the real purpose of his passion, death and resurrection. They are not going to be the end. There is more to come, a most glorious future. And he transforms himself in their presence. He shows them his real glory and the glory they are called to participate in.

We also know what it means to face rejection suffering and even death. And we are also afraid; afraid of the uncertainty of the future, afraid of the possibility of rejection, suffering and death. As we move into this Lenten season, Jesus offers us hope and consolation. He knows that we, like the disciples at times, find ourselves looking for answers and hope. Answers, because at times, we seem to encounter darkness and doubt in our lives, and we need answers to questions that seem to be riddled with confusion. And hope, because darkness prevents us from making sense of our and others' lives.

The transfiguration of Jesus reminds us of what the last goal of our life will be: the total identification with the risen Lord in the kingdom of God. Our crosses, which at times seem to be meaningless, acquire their difficult to identify purpose, to share in the life and glory of the risen Christ. It is a difficult lesson to learn at times. We like the disciples will have to witness to the cross before arriving to the full knowledge of our lives meaning and purpose. There is no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday!

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P.

Lent: Time to Empty Oneself

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Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

A newly ordained priest was very excited about celebrating his first season of Lent as a priest. He was preparing the liturgies and homilies very diligently. This priest was serving in the United States but he was from another country. A few days before Ash Wednesday, his mother fell gravely ill. His mother was advanced in age and her health was weak. After some thought, he decided to go back to his country and help his mother hoping to get back soon to the US and celebrate Lent with his parishioners. While the priest was taking care of his mother, things got more complicated. She had a heart attack. The doctors helped her to come back. The doctors spent all night doing procedures on her to keep her alive. Early in the morning, after all the procedures, she was back. At that point, the priest anointed her. The priest realized that he needed to stay with her to help her in her recovery.

The priest spent the whole season of Lent taking care of her, helping her to take care of her basic needs. She recovered some more and the priest was able to return to his parish in the US just in time for Holy Week. Reflecting back, the priest recognized that initially he was disappointed he was not able to celebrate Lent in full as a priest with his parishioners. Nevertheless, taking care of his mother was one of the most meaningful religious experiences he ever had. While he was taking care of his mother he was able to get to know her better and to appreciate what she had done in life for her family, includ­ing her son, the priest. He was also able to be touched by the suffering and vulnerability of elderly people, especially women. Most importantly, through the whole experience, the priest had the opportunity of emptying himself from his own expectations about Lent. He understood that the religious practices are important and that they help us to grow. Nevertheless, Lent is about something deeper, the willingness to empty oneself for the benefit of others. Just as Christ did, "Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for tr1e sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God" (1 Peter 3: 18a). Only then is when Lent becomes a life changing experience.

The Lord gives us opportunities, like the one given to the priest, for us to empty ourselves in our daily lives. The Church invites us to empty oneself for the benefit of others through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. One of the ways our Parish is also giving us that opportunity is by becoming a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul society and volunteering to serve the poor. We heard their invitation last week and we heard how this service is a life changing experience. Please consider this opportunity. Now it is up to us, if this season of Lent is just one more in our lives, or if it is the one season that will change our lives for the rest of our existence. 

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

Everything for the Glory of God

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

"Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, 
do everything for the glory of God."

In this week's second reading, Saint Paul invites us to do everything for the glory of God. Though this invitation might seem to be very tame, it has deep implications. It questions the deep reason behind all our actions. What are the real motivations behind our daily behaviors?

That we live in a self-centered and hedonistic society is evident to all of us. Our culture does not foster generosity and self-giving attitudes. Preoccupation with self-advancement, sexual and sensual gratification, and the creation of false human idols-sports, politics, and the arts-drum the behavior of the masses. The greater glory of God seems to be far away from the minds of most of those with whom we live our lives.

How can we create around ourselves an environment which will empower us to give priority to this goal? Some people might think that isolation might be the solution. But isolation negates our role as witnesses to the Gospel in the world. Jesus himself told us that we were in the world but not of the world. This dichotomy challenges us to live with the inner tension of being immersed in the world but not belonging to the world. It takes a mature faith to be able to withstand the forces of the world and its culture which try to engulf us. As in the day of Saint Paul, it is not easy to live a Christian life which aims to do everything for the glory of God.

It is up to each one of us to develop that mature faith. God grants us the graces to live a Christian life, but it is up to each one of us to create that inner personal culture of faith which would enable us to live our lives for the greater glory of God. Faith education plays a very important role in this process. In the same way in which we con­stantly update ourselves in our professional fields, it is fundamental we do so at the level of our faith formation. Let us make the best of the opportunities offered to us to grow in our faith. Only through a mature faith will we be able to live as Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught his followers: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloria!

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P.

Preach the Gospel!

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! - I Cor 9:16

When I was in my early twenties, I started to read the Bible with certain regularity. At the time, I was living in Colombia in the midst of a very complicated political situation. There was a lot of social unrest. Every time I read the Bible, I would find hope and healing. That was a moment of abundant grace in my life. This reading of the Bible and the situation of my country moved me to grow in the understanding and practice of my faith. Soon after that, I started to attend Bible classes. I was not confirmed yet, so I also decided to seek faith formation. In the midst of this search, I was also looking for a Church where the preaching would help me to grow in faith and especially in hope.

One day, I decided to go to Parroquia de Santo Domingo, the Dominican parish in my hometown. That day, the homily of the priest really spoke to my heart. At the end of Mass, the priest also announced that the confirmation classes were about to start. I was very happy because I had found the two things I was looking for in just one place.

The priest who celebrated the Mass that day was Luis Carlos Perea, O.P. He was known as Padre Perea. He was very joyful, very passionate about God's love for us, and a very good Dominican. I started to attend mass frequently. Padre Perea and I became friends. Later on, he asked me to help him with First Communion classes since he did not have enough teachers. I accepted even though I was a little hesitant since it was my first time teaching religious classes in a Church setting.

One day, Padre Perea and I were having coffee, and he asked me if I would like to be a Dominican. When I heard this question something happened inside me. For me, it was like the whole world had stopped. I said to him that I had never thought about it. He asked me if I would like to think about it to which I said I would. Since then, I never stopped thinking about being a Dominican. Later on, with the help and guidance of Padre Perea, I decided to join the Order.

As in my personal vocation story, there are many other stories that help to highlight how essential the mission of preaching the Gospel is. This is precisely what St. Paul is reminding us in his letter today. It is very clear that the mission of preaching the Gospel is to open the hearts of the people of God to receive inspiration, healing, and conversion. It is through the mission of preaching that God makes his way in to move the hearts of his people to new opportunities and new decisions to respond to His Holy Will.

In a parish like ours, the mission of Preaching the Gospel, is not just the responsibility of the priest but of every member. Have you ever wonder how God is calling you to participate in the mission of preaching the Gospel? If not, would you like to think about it?

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P

Times of Many Voices

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

The people were astonished at his teaching, 
for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

The listeners of Jesus were astonished because he taught them as one having authority. His words were not grounded on others' authority but on himself. He spoke in the name of the Father and his message resounded in their hearts.

Though people were astonished, that did not mean that they liked his message, because his message challenged many of their religious and devotional traditions. The Sadducees did not like when he spoke of resurrection and angels. The Pharisees did not like what he had to say about their mechanical following of the letter of the Mosaic Law and their judging of other people's lives. Jesus' words were at times harsh to listen to and even harsher to accept. His teachings were forcing people to expand their understanding of who God was and how God loved us. Jesus' words of truth brought many to hate him and produce his violent death.

We live in times of many voices; voices that try to redefine for us the meaning of truth, of who we are and how we are supposed to lead our lives. Amidst the noise of these many voices, it is not easy at times to recognize the voice of Jesus, the one who spoke with authority. How to discern among the many voices? How to listen to the voice of the Master?

In the Catholic Church we have the advantage to know whom to listen to and how to listen. We know, as part of the content of our faith, that Jesus gave to Peter and the other Apostles the power to bind and loose, the power of the keys. And our faith tells us that these powers are passed onto their successors.

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These powers connote the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. We are not left alone. The voice of the Master still reaches us through the voice of the Bishop of Rome and the College of Bishops. And they do speak with clarity and ;authority. We might not always like what they tell us; but at the end we have to be able to put to the side the cafeteria approach to the Church. It is not about liking or disliking. It is about listening to the voice and obeying it.

- fr. Alberto Rodriguez, O.P.

I am Calling You!

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

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Simon, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Simon and his brother Andrew were casting their nets into the sea while James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John were in a boat mending their nets. They were doing their regular daily work when the Lord saw them. Then the Lord called them to follow him and become fishers of men. It is interesting to see how the extraordinary of the Kingdom of God unfolds within the ordinary routines and activities of our lives.

It is within their own circumstances that Jesus cal1ed Simon, Andrew, James, and John to participate in the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. After hearing the call, they left their nets and James and John left their father along with the hired men. In order to follow Jesus, they had to leave someone or something behind.

In our daily lives, we need attentive listening to be able to hear Jesus' call and the freedom and willingness to follow him and fulfill the mission to which he is calling us. What is the Lord calling me to today? What do I need to let go of to follow him and proclaim the Kingdom of God? We are invited to ponder these two questions individually and as a parish.

The mission statement of Holy Parish says that "we strive to live and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ." This is at the very heart of our parish. This is the call we have received. We respond to this mission by participating in the liturgy, the sacraments, and all the other ministries. A good number of parishioners are already taking part on this call We are grateful for their generosity. Still, the Lord is calling others. For this reason, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to take a look at our different ministries and consider enrolling in one of them. This is one of the concrete ways we respond to the call.

As for the first disciples, responding to Jesus' call is a Life changing experience. We might need to leave something or someone behind, we might need to do some changes in our ordinary lives but be sure that only then, the extraordinary of the Kingdom of God will come.

-fr. Jorge Rátiva, O.P.

 

Planting the Seeds of Vocations

Dear Parishioners & Visitors,

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"Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, 'What are you looking for?'They said to him, 'Rabbi, where are you staying?' He said to them, 'Come, and you will see.' So they; went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day."

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are fundamental to the healthy development and future of the Church in the United States. Sadly, we are presently encountering a crisis. Though we in our parish do not experience the brunt of this situation, we have to look into the future and ask ourselves: what are we doing in order to secure the proper ministerial assistance for our parish community?

Vocations can not only be a concern for bishops and provincials. Vocations are born and fostered in the safe space of our families. It is the parental invitation that plants the seeds of vocations in the hearts of the younger generation. Parental encouragement is fundamental. The parents within our communities need to question themselves: how would I react if one of my children wanted to become a priest or religious? Sadly, I believe that for some parents it is more important to create an attitude which encourages success and status in the minds of their children. In my experience, I have encountered a number of young men who were afraid to pose to their parents a question regarding a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. There is a fear of disappointing them; of not fulfilling their expectations. Is this the attitude prevailing within our families? Though it is always important to encourage our children to be their best in preparing for their future, this should never preclude the possibility of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

Young Samuel in this Sunday's first reading was unable to recognize the voice of God. It took the advice of Eli, who played a parental role in his life, to help him recognize the call as the call from God. Only then was he able to respond and accept the call. It is primarily the role of the parents to teach their children to discern the voice of God in their lives. We live in a world where the voices are many and confusing and many of them do not attempt to lead us to love and serve God. The parents, as the first teachers of their children, play a unique and privileged role in the religious formation of their children.

It is also important to realize the power of prayer regarding vocations. We, as a parish community, need to constantly pray for vocations. Jesus himself told his disciples to pray to the Father for more workers for the harvest. Our prayers pave the way for more vocations. Our prayers united to the intercession of the Blessed Mother will help us foster and support more vocations within the hearts of our families.

-fr. Alberto Rodriguez, 0.P.