This is the last time I write these SUNDAY REFLECTIONS. After seven or eight years of writing them, I have found myself repeating many of the same ideas, sentences, images, again and again and sometimes the well just runs dry.
Do you like to hear or read about bad news? Most probably not. There is a sense of paralysis and overbearing burden in our minds and hearts when we see such news on TV or we read about wars and bombings and deaths.
Let me shock you with a question: What happens when you die? Well, I think there is enough mate.rial there to spend hours and hours, days and days, about the subject. And no doubt, you have been part of someone whom you have seen in the actual moment of death.
INTRODUCTION: OBSTACLES!!! And MORE OBSTACLES!! They are always there, in front and behind and to the side. Sometimes we may feel that life is an obstacles race like the ones you see on TV that the runners have to jump over and over until they arrive at the finish line.
If I ask you today a big question, how or what will be the answer? Now here goes the question: WHO ARE THE ANAWIM IN THE BIBLE? Have you come up with the answer? And if so, what kind of an answer? Is it the right one?
Our children and grandchildren are taught at a very early age words which we hope will remain with them always and that those words would be part of their personality as they grow into young men and women and then later into responsible adulthood.
Most of us tackle the theme of Faith with some trepidation. We do believe yet after so many years of expressing that belief in multiple forms, we try to analyze the depth of that Faith and increasingly doubts creep up in our minds.
At the door of Holy Rosary Church the poor knock from day to day. There is a constant flow of people with needs of all kinds. They are the poor who, as Jesus said, (Mat. 26: 17) are always with us.
On this Sunday as well as in the next, the praying assembly will be in the company of the Prophet Amos. Amos is one of those reluctant prophets who are inspired and called to be the voice of Yawheh to the people of Israel in the VII Century before the coming of Jesus.
There are always passages, no doubt, in the Scriptures that have impacted our spiritual life and our concept of God. These become our favorites over time and I am sure you have your own, which resonate with you every time you read them or listen to them on weekdays or Sundays.
In my limited amount of active ministry now I am still able to make the rounds of the Hospitals and AIDS places to visit the sick, bringing them my presence, a blessing and the Sacraments of Anointing and Holy Communion.
INTRODUCTION: THE FAST RACE. THE RAT RACE. We run and run fast to achieve our goals in life. If we do not run faster than our neighbors we run the risk of being left behind. There is an insurmountable amount of energy spent daily in this race of our lives that starts early in the day for most of us and ends late every night. And all to start again the following day, and the next and the next. Christians are at times stuck in this daily activity that never ceases. Life for such people is about jobs, mortgages, rents, bills, children, schools, liabilities, monies, advances, promotions, status, almost as if we want to get there ahead of ourselves.
Then we come to our daily or Sunday Eucharistic celebrations and we are confronted with the words of the Sacred Scriptures that allow us to view life in a different perspective. Jesus, in today's Gospel from Luke (14:1,7-14), utters some cryptic words that makes us stop to think: "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 11). Those words are a great cure for humility which is a constant challenge in our daily lives of go and get it at all costs or arrive at the highest place even if you have to sacrifice
everything and everyone. I remember a quote from baseball's great coach Casey Stengel who said (I am paraphrasing): "... if my mother came to home base with the winning run, I would trip her up." That "winning at all costs" mentality permeates much of our society as people look for satisfaction in things that are purely material
HUMILITY by contrast is not a desirable quality or virtue. It is equated with smallness or cowardice which we think allows others to walk all over us. And nobody likes to be the doormat of everyone. Humility comes from the Latin word HUMUS which means EARTH or the clay beneath us. It is the quality that allows us to be real, to be solidly grounded and to think of ourselves with less importance, surrendering to the ONE who is the source of all the qualities and blessings that we have in life. The humbled person does not need to boast of anything because one acknowledges the power of God over one's life in everything we are or do. A humble person has a modest estimate of himself or herself and willingly submits to God and to others by virtue of divine grace.
HUMILITY is one of the foundation stones of a healthy spiritual life. HUMILITY is knowing the TRUTH about ourselves. ''La humildad is la verdad", St. Theresa of Avila writes (Humility is truth). It implies an attitude of surrendering one's life to ONE who is our life, our source, and our blessing. No wonder the "discovering of the fulfillment of God's will" is necessary for Christian perfection. This discovery is the daily task of the Christian. It is tantamount to what Jesus said and did "to fulfill the Will of the Father". It is what Mary said to the Angel: "Let it be done as you say." It is what the Saints achieved in their perfection.
But in order to learn TRUE HUMILITY one must first look to God, who in Jesus took on human flesh and assumed the entire human condition with all its weaknesses and dependencies. The Gospels make it clear that Jesus came among us in surrender and service. Paul says that Jesus emptied himself of his divine status to serve the needs of all and was the Servant of all, accepting even an act of humility: his death on the cross.
Jesus' humility demands that his disciples, ourselves, do the same. And here we can see how his doctrine contrasts with the wisdom of the world that encourages WINNING and being FIRST at all costs, fosters aggression, assertiveness and ambition of the self, like "being a self made man".
Therefore, paraphrasing today's Gospel, we could ask ourselves: when was the last time you sought out the lowest place, or volunteered to SERVE, like in a ministry to the most needy and dispossessed who come asking for help every day from the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at Holy Rosary? When was the last time you offered to do that? If I have not become a humble SERVANT to others, will Jesus recognize me and claim me as one of his own. These are, indeed, heavy thoughts.
May the peace of Christ be always with you,
Will we be saved? Will we go to Heaven? Ah, those are big questions for which at this moment or at any moment we simply do not have an answer, even if our non-Catholic friends tell us again and again that they know they are saved. In Catholic Theology salvation is a GRACE from God, indeed, but it is also a process of allowing that Grace of God to take over our lives until we can say with St. Paul: "I no longer live but it is Christ who lives in me" (Gal. 2, 20). And therefore that requires time; it is a journey, of sometimes ups and downs, of failures and successes, walking in the light of the Lord who wants all to be saved. It is not I was saved on Jan. 21, at 4:00 p.m. as some proclaim. It is a journey, it is a process during that journey and process "we work out with fear and trembling" as St. Paul says in his Letter to the Philippians (2: 12), a process, a journey, not a moment in time. But God's Grace is always there to sustain us during the process of perfection.
The image that Jesus uses in the Gospel of Luke of entering through the narrow door could be somewhat disheartening. Most scholars affirm that the narrow door refers to Jesus himself, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. However a mere superficial acquaintance of Jesus is not sufficient to achieve such a goal. One needs a commitment both to the person of Jesus as the Son of God and to the Doctrine he has left for us as a legacy of the Father. That is only secured by an active faith that is truly lived from day to day and from year to year. His mission was to be sent by God the Father to save us from damnation but also to teach us about the way to relate to God and to one another. His gospel of Good News may seem easy to read but requires an adherence to Him, to His doctrine, and to the Deposit of Faith as it is held in the Catholic Church, the very continuation of the Mission of the Father after Jesus went to be at his right hand with his Ascension. Humility, surrender, fidelity, the truth of God, justice, a witness to others, a Christ-like life, will allow our entrance through the narrow door.
No doubt the teaching about the narrow door stunned many of his listeners and especially the experts in the Law of Moses who had everything down to the last iota in their concept of fidelity to God. In that way Jesus is a revolutionary who taught new concepts about God and religion and no doubt shook the regularly accepted categories of salvation. The Jews thought that by being the sons of Abraham and knowing the letter of the law would be sufficient for their salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of God. Non Jews certainly will be excluded from the Kingdom. But Jesus comes to extend the parameters of God's salvific concerns, stating one time that even prostitutes and public sinners like tax collectors will precede them into the kingdom of heaven. That must have been surely a shock for all those who heard him.
How about for us? Again the question: Will we be saved? Will we go to Heaven? Again the concept of discipleship will be at the core of our identity. Who we are as Christians and as Catholics will have a bearing in us as we prepare ourselves, from day to day, from year to year to receive the generous offer of Grace and Glory God wishes to impart to us. In the end everything is a GIFT as St. Paul says. That is also the last line of the famous novel by the French Catholic author George Bernanos (1888-1948), in his book Diary of a Country Priest. After all the trials and errors and suffering and addiction to alcohol, the priest dies in the room an ex-priest had lent him out of charity. The priest's last word at the end of the novel, as he lies dying, is to trust in the mercy of God because ALL IS GRACE. This year we celebrate the JUBILEE OF MERCY. Appropriate, indeed.
May that mercy and that peace of God be ours at the end of our life,
He was announced and prophesized from of old as the Messiah, the King of Peace. Jesus was that and more. He would disappoint many who saw in him a new and great possibility of ghting o the colonial aggressor, the Ro- mans. But Jesus was very secure in his own identity and he would have none of it. He would ee the crowds who wanted to make him King and he would endeavor to be a Preacher and a Teacher di erent from the Rabbis everyone knew. He was bringing a new concept of Religion and of relating to God the Father, and by no mere observance of the letter of the law but by having hearts that were pure and open to the presence of God in their lives. This God was personal and He was interested in their own personal lives wishing to possess them completely.
This Jesus did speak of peace and harmony and love. But this was not a mere empty platitude. Love of God and love of neighbor and even love of enemies demanded a new set of categories in the religious mind open to all the possibilities of God's Grace and enabling the soul to surrender humbly to Him as an act of humility and of dependence. And therefore, this sweet Jesus who preached LOVE was also the Jesus that preached WAR, war against the self, war against the enticements of Satan, war against a holy mediocrity that just wants to get along without making any waves.
But in life one cannot go on forever placating everyone so that everyone will be your friend and one will be loved by everyone. This Jesus also says that the demands of DISCIPLESHIP could be very high on account of his per- son or his doctrine or both. And he drops this bomb amongst his friends and disciples saying "I have come to establish re on this earth...(v.49). I have come to bring division" (v. 51) even among family members, parents, children, in-laws. WHY? Wouldn't it be better to have with us the old sweet Jesus, a lover of children, just preaching about love? Why this re? Why this division?
God's TRUTH is very hard on families. There is no wiggle room around it or in it. TRUTH and especially the Truth of God, demands an adherence that sometimes people are not willing to make. And therefore persons will look for compromises or to take the middle of the road so as not to be EDGY. But one must be edgy and have a solid backbone in certain areas of our life and of our faith and the truth of that needs to be spoken. We do not want to become perfect examples of ino ensive Christianity. It is like a LAMP that cannot be hid- den. In fact the opposite is true: IT HAS TO SHINE, our words will shine, in charity, before all. That will cause division even among family members. That was the division Jesus was speaking about in this Sunday's Gospel.
DISCIPLESHIP has high collateral damage: Friends, family, acquaintanc- es will leave your side. That is ne. We have a saying in Spanish: Es mejor estar solo que mal acompañado! (who needs bad company? It is better to be alone.) The world in which we move will not help. The Christian has to learn to be COUNTER CULTURAL. There nothing new in it. It has happened before through the centuries and will continue to happen again in the future. But the possession and the service to the TRUTH OF GOD should free us with the knowledge that Jesus has walked the same path. His surrender to the TRUTH and the WILL of his Father was an act of total perfection and union with God. So we must ignite the earth with the re of his Truth.
May the Peace of Christ be with you always,
What do you treasure most in life? That could be a question all of us could ask ourselves in our daily reflections. And I am sure everything that we do is consciously or unconsciously directed toward this entity we have taken our time in delineating for ourselves and for our families. Sometimes we speak of prioritizing our value system so that we do not put the cart before the horse as the saying goes. There are goals one endeavors to follow and to aspire to and our happiness as human beings depends most of the time on the achievement of these solid and life giving goals. Yes, priorities do help all to stay focused on what is important and highly valued.
This Sunday's Gospel from Luke (12: 32-48) connects us with these values of higher order we wish to pursue. Luke in his narrative calls them TREASURES. Where are our treasures? What ARE our treasures? Jesus utters these words: "Wherever your treasure is there your heart will be" (v. 34). Usually when we speak of TREASURES we speak of gold or other precious metals one finds or one buys. There are gems and jewelry to be possessed and admired and at times lost or stolen because they are valuable. SAFES have been invented to guard such treasures and even that, experience and history tells us, has not been enough to secure what people guard as their great treasures.
But a treasure can also describe something else even more beautiful or more perfect: A child is a treasure, a wife, a husband, a friend are treasures. Even in the Old Testament we read the axiom that "whoever has found a friend has found a treasure" (Sirach 6: 14). But a treasure is surely the presence of each one here in this community as we minister to one another in love. Their very presence at a Sunday Eucharist is a source of blessings and an inspiration for each of us as we depend on all members to be faithful to share the same values that we hold dear as individuals or as a family, and we come together and find them here again and again. It is in this treasure of presence and affirmation of our Catholic Faith, Sunday after Sunday, that we TREASURE one another and celebrate as community of Faith, Love, and Worship.
From the very beginning of Creation, the sacred author has manifested our very value as God's creation. Our Father God, Creator of the universe, the Bible says, saw everything that was created and pronounced it GOOD (Genesis 1: 33). In the second reading of this Sunday we see St. Paul extolling the beauty of the descendants of Abraham and Sarah in the Faith that the Apostle Paul treasures. This connection with the divine is truly a GIFT from God who has shown great MAGNANIMITY even after the fall of our parents, Adam and Eve, and even after His COVENANT of love was broken again and again by our ancestors and by us, our God is always there FAITHFUL to His Promises. We are indeed the TREASURES He seeks after to possess completely.
And so, we come back to the very question: What is YOUR treasure? We may answer differently but we must acknowledge that the ultimate attestation that we are God's precious TREASURES is the fact that God sent us His Only Begotten Son Jesus, our Redeemer, our Brother, so that in Him we may have the fullness of life, hope, and happiness in this life and in the life to come. He reminds us that we are temples of God, that we must respect one another, that we must serve all, especially the children who model the kingdom for us and the poor that Jesus loved and to whom he offered his kingdom. We honor and preserve the TREASURE of God in us by being faithful servants and true disciples of His Son.
May the RICH PEACE of God abide with you always
"Mataiotes mataiotetos, kai panta mataiotes." How many times our professor of
Sacred Scriptures, fifty years ago, repeated this axiom in Greek so that our hard
heads as student seminarians would start to comprehend something very deep,
at the core of the Wisdom Books of the Hebrew Scriptures. Yes, we learned it and to
this day it still comes to my mind as we read from the Book of Ecclesiastes in
this Sunday’s First Reading (1:2- 2: 21-13), the words of Qoheleth: "Vanity of vanities,
everything is vanity." Sometimes it takes long years to arrive at certain wisdom
that the sacred author synthesized in those words so filled with deep meaning.
We may think we are invincible and we can conquer the world only to have
this world put us back in our place where we belong. It is that desire of excelling
and accumulating, of feeling powerful and rich that so many persons seek day
after day only to have such reality come down crashing like a deck of cards on
us and we are reminded that indeed only a few things are real and worth having in
life. The rest is just VANITY.
Sometimes even the violent elements of nature as we have seen a few weeks
ago in Oklahoma bring us to this state. The survivors of this violence of nature
often testify, even right after the very destruction of their own most prized possessions,
that THINGS can be replaced. It is OUR LIFE that cannot be replaced
and therefore the survivors are happy to be alive after the total destruction and
impelled by some force of nature or of God's Spirit to affirm: We will stay and we
will rebuild again!!! The VANITIES of life we all can do without. It is the faith in
God, the hope for a future, the presence of the family, the belief in the support of
a community that will enable the human spirit to rise up literally from the heap
of destruction and to keep excelling at being truly human.
One of the most important books I ever read was Viktor Frankl's "Man's
Search for Meaning," published in 1946 chronicling his experiences as a concentration
camp inmate in Auschwitz during World War II. It has been categorized as
one of the ten most influential books in the United States. In it Mr. Frankl wrestles
with the idea of suffering and deprivation but also with the opportunity it
presents to rise above the human foibles encountered and build a positive experience
out of the destruction human forces had heaped upon him. In brief, what
remains in the human spirit in the midst of such deprivation is his own inner
strength of character, his own freedom that rises beyond the depravity and deformity
and bitterness of human beings. It might be something we all will never
experience in our lives, but it tells of the inner quality of a person and of the value
we put on the things of this world or on persons and their qualities of worth.
For us Catholics, that is elevated exponentially on account of the worth imparted
to us by the Son of God, Jesus, who has elevated our nature to the rank of being
adopted children of God. That Fatherhood of God, of us all, the sense of humans
being almost divine, was the cause of deep joy to the point of shedding tears for
This thought process of Qoheleth has been interpreted by many as pessimistic.
But truly it is realistic and would keep humans grounded and even dependent
on this God who is our Father and source of everything we are and do. His
advice is not to make us negative and depressed but may contribute to have an
authentic value system that is necessary to keep the practice of religion REAL.
Even mystics of the likes of St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross would
advise the spiritual soul to practice the prayer of surrender to God. It is in that
complete surrender, as Jesus did to his Father, that we will have our ultimate
value before God. It was what St. Paul preached, that in living Christ day by day
he, Paul, would no longer count but Christ would: It is not I who lives but Christ
living in me (Galatians 2: 20), quite an inspired ideal for all of us.
MATAIOTES, ETIÓ MAKRIÁ!!--VANITY, GO AWAY!!
May God's Peace be with you,
How do you talk to God? That might be the question for all of us to contemplate as we listen to the Readings for this Sunday’s Liturgy. They are all about entering into this conversation with this being we call God. Abraham (Genesis 18: 20-32) has his own familial and intimate way in which he even haggles with God about the number to be saved from his wrath. Paul in the Second Reading (Colossians 2: 12-14) affirms the life and the prayer of those in the Christian community of Colossae in Greece which are guided by the Spirit of forgiveness. St. Luke in the Gospel (11: 1-13) gives us the short version of Jesus' prayer, The Our Father.
If we can glean one thing from both the Old and the New Testament it is the fact of having this God YAHWEH very proximate to his people. From the very first pages of the Book of Genesis the sacred author wants to present to the people the notion of God that is very close to who they are and what they do. God takes a walk in the Garden of Paradise and talks to Adam and enters a conversation that is self revelatory and that shows a great amount of tenderness even after the first parents have disobeyed the orders of the eating of the forbidden fruit. Adam and Eve are expelled from the idyllic creation of the Garden of Paradise but from that time they will be embarking, along with all their descendants, in the journey of striving to be faithful to the covenants the people of God would swear to uphold only to be broken again and again. This God never leaves the conversation as his self-revelation progresses through generations. His presence and his promise of love and fidelity for the people of God (for us) remain unchanged. He will be their God and our God forever.
It is in the fullness of time that the Son of God, Jesus, is sent to the world to give the fullest expression of the conversation God wants to have with all, collectively and individually. And so in our time of history we can ask ourselves that initial question: How do I talk to God? I have a suspicion that the answer to this question is varied because if there one thing that spiritual directors often times stress is the fact that our God respects our very own personality, our own psychological condition, even as this changes from time to time. Our God never forces the issue of relationship even though through the entire revelation of salvation history one can detect the enormous desire of this God to establish this solid relationship of love and fidelity with mankind to the point of sending His Son Jesus to testify with his words and life the unconditional love of God for us. His love is extreme to the point of offering the Son's death so that our conversation with Him will be whole and with all human failures be erased and our INTIMATE PROXIMITY with God as we talk with Him will be something real and life giving for us.
And to lead us into a CONVERSATION that is real, proximate, intimate, life giving, fulfilling, Jesus, the first LOGOS, the first word of the ONE who initiates the conversation, says to us: When you wish to pray, say, Our Father Who are in Heaven.... We who are privileged to have those words must do our part in the conversation, knowing that we will not mess it up or say the wrong thing, but that the right words are said and that those words are pleasing to the Father because they have been taught to us by the Father's Son. We are indeed blessed to have such WORDS and such PRAYER.
The disciples of Jesus wanted to know how he talked to God and he tells them. Like a child with a parent. Like a Son to a loving Father, Jesus talking to God is the direct expression of a profoundly intimate relationship. Not an exclusive relationship that shuts out all others. Jesus' conversation with God is one that affirms the universal embrace of the divine parenthood as well as the universal brotherhood and sisterhood of all. His Father is OUR Father. He asks for our daily bread and for the forgiveness of our sins. We only have to honor the words and meaning of this prayer conversation with God by imbuing with this spirit all the relationships we have in the world. How does my manner of living, of giving, of acting, reflect this divine parentage? The Lord's Prayer is indeed a blessing to pray and a daily challenge to measure
our lives in the very lines Jesus gives to pray and to live.
Do you talk to God? How often during the day? Even if it is just to be present to Him and let Him be present to you? Throughout the week we strive to be aware for what we have prayed: That Our Father God be praised, that we may be fed, that we may forgive as we are forgiven, and that our earth may become, through God's grace and our efforts, a reflection of Heaven. AMEN.
May God's peace be with you always,
ONLY ONE THING IS NECESSARY. We have read and heard it again and again
and still our life is filled with multiple tasks, chores, responsibilities of homes, family,
children, school, work, that cannot be avoided. Anyone who has been involved in
preparing a celebration or giving a party knows that there are a million details that
go into it. Women especially have this extra sense of being able to do amazing things
during these family celebrations or events that require multitasking at a very high
level. And we all know that if these women do not get some extra help it will be almost
an impossible task to do and to do it well alone. I know that our DOMINICAN
GALAS in May would be impossible to bring to great fruition without the wonderful
and generous work of the women who take care of a million details which go into
these celebrations. And everyone has to do 100% of the different facets of the responsibilities
assigned otherwise the organism does not function. That is why we (and the
women of the church especially) are able to understand Martha's plea in the narrative
of the Gospel from St. Luke for this Sunday (10: 38-42). Jesus was taking advantage
of his good friends Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, who lived just outside of Jerusalem.
I am sure their home for Jesus was a respite from the tiring and indefatigable
ministry of preaching and healing through the dusty roads of Galilee. In his friends'
home he could rest, wash, and relax from the work of the day. Naturally, Jesus is not
only a friend. He is also a teacher filled with God's wisdom and the opportunity is not
lost on Mary, who by the feet of Jesus sits in awe, inquires, learns, and takes in what
comes from the mouth of Jesus.
The plea of her sister Martha, busy at work with the details of hospitality, resonates
with us well: "Master, are you not concerned that my sister has left me to do the house
tasks alone? Tell her to help me" (v. 40). The Lord's reply is a touch of attention to her
and to all of us: "Martha, Martha, You are anxious and upset about many things, ONLY
ONE THING IS NECESSARY" (v. 41). The response cuts to the very essence of who we
are and what we do. Most of our life revolves around a HYPERACTIVITY that never
ceases and as a result of it our very life is drained from our selves, our measure of
stress from day to day hits the roof and spiritually we find ourselves almost empty.
Have you had that feeling? I had, at least when I was more involved in the ministry
that now age and a radical surgery for cancer have limited.
Spiritual directors speak about WASTING TIME WITH GOD. In reality it is not a
WASTE in the most common sense we use. But the ability and the need to CREATE A
SPACE where one draws closer to God which ultimately is the only reality that matters
IS NECESSARY. One needs to find this space amidst the baggage that accumulates
in our life. This space is not found automatically or spontaneously. It requires
planning, structure, discipline to sort out the clutter that has invaded our minds and
soul. No wonder we are spiritually exhausted. This TIME or SPACE requires attentive
listening to the inner voice that we all have. It requires a structure that is faithful and
constant, to the extent that, at times, everything else must wait. Even children could
understand (unless they are too small) that this is Mom's time, or Dad's time when
one for five, ten, fifteen minutes a day, is able to lift the deeper longings of our soul to
this God who understands, listens, loves, guides, heals, and fills our life with meaning.
I guess that we all have our Martha moment and also our Mary moments. There
is never going to be one or the other. The wisdom is to be able to balance our life in
such a way that one will not hurt the other. Yes, to WASTE TIME WITH GOD is a
necessary goal for everyone, out of the need to have some clarity of purpose, to accept
the grace and the invitation of God of being still and silent so that amidst the cacophony
of our lives and of the world, we may be able to LISTEN to the voice of God
speaking in our hearts; TO BE PRESENT TO GOD AND ALLOW HIM TO BE PRESENT
TO US. That is Prayer after all. This naturally presupposes letting go of anger,
resentments, self interests, hedonistic attitudes, so that the terrain is made a fertile
ground for that voice of God to permeate our very being.
ONLY ONE THING IS NECESSARY. Leave behind the rest of the baggage. Be
STILL and SILENT for God.
May His Peace be with you always,
Words have a way of conveying great meanings but some words are very special
and convey a depth of meaning that enrich not only our lexicon but also our very
souls. There is a word that I specially like when the concept appears in the Scriptures
and especially in the Gospels. Such a word is MAGNANIMITY. This is a word
we rarely use in our regular contact with one another or in conversations. Magnanimity
comes from two Latin words: MAGNUM and ANIMA. We know what is magnum:
great or large. ANIMA is also from the Latin word for the soul and therefore a magnanimous
person is one who has a large soul, so to speak, a little more than just having
a big heart that we so often use. Again, it is not in use in our regular conversation but
you get the idea of what I am trying to say around this wonderful word.
I was thinking of such a word when I was reading the Scriptures for this Sunday.
In Moses (Deut. 30: 10-14) God extended his generosity and magnanimity to the
people of Israel, as he reminds them, again and again, of the great wonders God has
worked with them and for them in the sojourn of forty years in the desert, since they
were freed from the oppression of the Pharaoh in Egypt. In the Gospel of Matthew
this Sunday (Mat. 10: 25-37) we see the incarnation of the virtue of MAGNANIMITY
in the healing and in the action of the Good Samaritan who stops and comes to the
rescue of a wounded man, robbed and beaten on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
One needs to have a Large Soul to be prompted almost naturally to aid a stranger, a
foreigner, since he is a foreigner himself, coming from the idol contaminated race and
land of Samaria. But this Samaritan traveler, stops, cares to the extreme, bandages the
wounds of the man attacked by robbers, places him on his own animal, and takes
him to the nearest inn. And even pays the innkeeper for the wounded man, offering
to pay more on his way back if his expenses are higher. Now, that is a MAN WITH A
LARGE SOUL, there is a man of MAGNANIMITY. No wonder Jesus declared him as
a MODEL of a good neighbor.
Will we be disposed to act likewise? Will we be willing to go the extra mile when
the circumstances require it? Will we be willing to offer that hospitality and place of
welcome by our words or actions? It is tough. We see the poor, the vulnerable, the
broken every day in our office when the St. Vincent de Paul Society members come,
day after day, to help those who have called asking for help for rent, for medicines,
for electricity. They are the poor among us. And they are many. At times we do not
do well with them. We are all products of our upbringing, categories, our biases. But
they are always there, reminding us of what is essential, and that we are all just passing
through and on our way to our final destination. They allow us to practice many
virtues. We should thank them instead of turning our backs on them. In all these instances,
we are invited to have a large heart, MAGNANIMITY of soul. I think all of
us are called to excel in that virtue that Jesus placed before us in the Parable of the
Jesus calls all to unexpected and unmeasured degrees of generosity that help and
serve simply because help and service are needed. Such generosity and magnanimity
look to the person in need rather than to the ethnicity or deservedness or ability
to reciprocate our favor. A truly magnanimous and generous person is able to suspend
judgment, and just see the broken Christ in front of us, difficult many times but not
impossible. God's Grace is also there for the asking. A magnanimous person looks beyond
past faults or offenses received in family or friends, through betrayal of feelings
of love and trust. We often carry a big load of past faults by people who have offended
us, and we carry in our souls the sin of unforgiveness. It is a heavy load to carry.
When we come together as a Community of Faith we are invited by the Lord Jesus to
be free of such heaviness. After all, it is not life giving, quite the contrary it poisons
the very relationship we deem most important in our life: Our relationship with God.
Problems, difficulties, obstacles, betrayals, bad company, injustices committed
against us in our jobs, disappointments with family or friends, may put a damper on
your magnanimous and generous heart and your outpouring of unconditional love. It
is to be expected. Nasty people, evil structures, bad situations, and faulty genes make
LOVE difficult but not unnatural. Every single person is an occasion of grace for us, an
invitation to fulfill our natural instinct to love, to be loved, to help and be helped, to
connect at the base with our fellow human beings. That is to be A GOOD SAMARITAN.
May God's Peace be with you always,
HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR GOD? Or, WHAT IS THE FACE OF GOD FOR YOU LIKE? Or, WHAT KIND OF A GOD IS THE GOD YOU BELIEVE IN? Around those questions we could have a full dissertation and in depth discussion and still come up with just a glimpse of this supreme reality in our life that we call GOD, We are aware that our concept, our image of God is formed from many sources: Our parents, our family, our teachers, from insights from a friend, a priest, a religious sister or brother, a thought that has been imprinted in our minds upon reading a special book, from an experience of faith or tradition .... Many are indeed these fonts that, step by step, have configured for us the
IMAGE that we now have and feel comfortable possessing while addressing the most intimate and personal needs of our soul.
In trying to comprehend and approach the reality of God, since there are no words to define Him, we naturally, as human beings, tend to use anthropomorphic images that are consonant with our reality as human beings. Also, as thinkers, we borrow from the great thinkers and philosophers, especially of ancient times, Aristotle and Plato, who gave us an entry into a reality that has been said to be inexpressible, incomprehensible, invisible, and ungraspable. Their philosophical concepts of PERSON, NATURE, SUBSTANCE, RELATIONS, PROCESSIONS etc., are words with a specific meaning in our reality, which help us in some way to visualize this IMAGE of God.
Ultimately, though, we cannot even start to comprehend this divine mystery. The heavens and its wonders, the universe and all its beauty, the perfection we see in nature, the origin of everything that is created, all will help our reason to give an answer to the eternal question of WHO CREATED THE UNIVERSE. But we must find the eternal answers about life by going to a different level. It is the level of FAITH. And that Faith will certainly illumine many of the obscurities and difficulties which otherwise would remain insoluble.
Our God is revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures in many ways, most of them offering an image of proximity to the people of Israel that this God-Yahweh had chosen as the people he would protect and lead and from whom, in the fullness of time, he would send his only Son, to be born of David's line of the Virgin Mary. This God revealed Himself as creator, leader, warrior, consoler, forgiver, companion, savior, guide, Lord, king but also as a parent who will take care of his children, the people of Israel, commanding them to be faithful to the Covenant they had sworn to keep.
This Covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, was broken many times But this God, will not be outdone in generosity and forgiveness to those who showed a repentant heart. And again, the fullness of life will be promised which in time will be realized in the VERY LIFE OF GOD, given to us in the person of Jesus who embodies those FEATURES of the revealed God and makes it PERSONAL for us. This Lord and King also will dispense immense MATERNAL LOVE, as we see by the images of today's First Reading (Isaiah 66: 10-14). Elsewhere in Isaiah we are given a great image of the Father's love for us: "Even if a mother forgets the children of her womb, I will never forget you," (Is. 49: 15). A loving God who is our Father who loves us with the tenderness of a Mother.
What might be your favorite FACE of God? Only you know.
May the FACE of God and his Peace be the first thing we see when we depart from this earthly life,