24 abr. 2011

Easter Sunday - REFLECTION Sunday´s Gospel

Easter Sunday A

Fr James McTavish, FMVD

Witnesses of the Resurrection

Last night we celebrated the Easter vigil. In one moment we brought the lit Easter candle into the darkness of the Church hall where all the lights had been turned off. One little boy was mesmerised by the Easter light. His eyes lit up when he saw the candle enter the darkness. He was pointing with his finger with an enchanted gesture on his face. That episode helped me very much to enter into the celebration. How great to be able to spot the light in the darkness – “the light shines in the darkness and darkness has never put it out” (John 1,5).

The Lord is risen, the resurrection has occurred but we need eyes of faith to see it. It is interesting that in the Resurrection appearances, not one person recognized the Risen Christ, neither the disciples, neither Mary Magdalene. The Risen Christ reveals himself – through the breaking of the bread (disciples of Emmaus), a personal dialogue (Mary Magdalene) or a miracle (the beloved disciples recognizes Him after they unexpectedly land a big catch). They did not see the bodily Jesus as they did before as now he has a glorious body. How can he be seen then? The women go to the tomb and are told by an angel not to seek the one who is alive among the dead. This is a very wonderful counsel for us too – not to look in the tomb for the Risen Christ! What can that tomb be? Certainly one big tomb, which is very invigting is the tomb of pessimism, the tomb of bad memories, the tomb of rancor (and how many times we waste time there!), the tomb of hopelessness. But Christ is not in the tomb, he is risen, alleluia.

We need to ask for new eyes. Eyes that are capable not to notice only the darkness but that can see the Easter light shining brightly. St Paul in the second reading of today talks about seeking what is above and not what is here below - “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:1-4) How can we seek what is above? One way is to put into practice what the Holy Spirit is asking and not to follow the desires of our flesh, or the wants of the ‘old man’.

When I first met the Verbum Dei community in Sydney Australia, after a few months I got the chance to go to the Philippines to spend time with the Verbum Dei community there. While I was away I lent the Sisters my little car, it was a Daihatsu Charade. A severe hailstorm struck Sydney and damaged property and cars. When I returned to Sydney after the enjoyable Philippines trip I phoned up the Sisters to inquire about my beloved little car. I was worried about it and asked them if the front windscreen had been smashed. I was relived upon hearing that it was not. As I walked to their house to pick up my car I was thanking God that my car had been saved. That was until I saw my car. True enough the front windscreen was intact but the rest of the car was smashed to smithereens! The other windows were broken and it had hundreds of deep dents where the large hailstones had struck it. I started to complain to God. Then I discovered that all cars affected by the storm would get a full insurance rebate so I thanked God once again! One way we can live a risen life is by being more generous especially with what we have.

The Lord is also risen in our relationships, in that relationship that maybe we have taken for granted, in that relationship that maybe is strained or even dead. Here the Lord has resurrected! It reminds me of the Christian art in the catacombs. Sometimes the Lord’s resurrection is symbolized by the phoenix. This mythical bird after its death in fire would rise up again from the ashes. St Clement (the fourth Pope) in his first epistle to the Corinthians cites the phoenix as an emblem of the resurrection. “Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.

Of course the description of St Clement is rather colourful – well he is writing in the second century AD and if he had Google one quick search would have confirmed that the phoenix is actually a mythical creature. Still it is beautiful to cite from early Christian writings and see that the analogy of faith still holds true today. St Clement than asks “Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfill His promise?”

Christ is risen, like the phoenix and death no longer has power over him. We are all called to be witnesses of his resurrection. How can we be witnesses? Well the Church in her wisdom gives us the Octave now, eight days to discover the power of the resurrection. Each day the Liturgy will offer resurrection appearances to reflect on. St Peter stated that Christ appeared only to those “who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10, 41). We too have to eat and drink with the risen Christ. In what sense? Well we can eat ad drink with Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrament of his body and blood, a privileged place to open our eyes of faith, to see his risen presence there. But there is another banquet table where we can eat with him. The table of the Word of God. St Jerome stated “The flesh of the Lord is true food and his blood true drink; this is the true good that is reserved for us in this present life, to nourish ourselves with his flesh and drink his blood, not only in the Eucharist but also in reading sacred Scripture. Indeed, true food and true drink is the word of God which we derive from the Scriptures ” (Cited in Verbum Domini, footnote 191)

So the Scripture is a privileged place to eat and drink with the risen Christ. We need to pray folks! We need to contemplate the Easter mystery and in our prayer to experience the risen Christ. In this way we can truly become witnesses of the resurrection!

22 abr. 2011

Viernes Santo: Via Crucis

Mirarán al que traspasaron (Zac12, 10)

Para la meditación de hoy quería dejarme guiar por el profeta Zacarías cuando dice “mirarán al que traspasaron”. Ayer tarde en un rato de oración me sorprendía el texto de la liturgia de hoy que leía, pues unía el salmo 45 y 2Co 4,6 al día de hoy en el que veneramos la cruz y contemplamos al crucificado (Is 52 y 53). El Salmo 45,2 dice así: Eres el más hermoso de los hijos de los hombres; y la 2ª de Co 4, 6 dice que en el Cristo resplandece la Gloria de Dios.

Yo me pregunto: ¿Cómo puede ser que la Palabra de Dios llame a un crucificado y a un hombre destrozado el más hermoso de los hombres, o que en él resplandece la Gloria de Dios?

El profeta Isaías prefigura lo que sería la pasión del Cristo (que tan bien reflejada está en película de Mel Gibson). Isaías 52, 13-53, 12:

Como muchos se espantaron de él, porque desfigurado no parecía hombre, no tenía aspecto humano, así asombrará a muchos pueblos, al ver algo inenarrable y contemplar algo inaudito… sin figura, sin belleza… Lo vimos sin aspecto atrayente, despreciado y evitado de los hombres, como un hombre de dolores, acostumbrado a sufrimientos, ante el cual se ocultan los rostros, despreciado y desestimado. Él soportó nuestros sufrimientos y aguantó nuestros dolores; nosotros lo estimamos leproso, herido de Dios y humillado; pero él fue traspasado por nuestras rebeliones, triturado por nuestros crímenes.”

Acaba diciendo: “el Señor cargó sobre él todos nuestros crímenes.

Pero en el Nuevo Testamento vemos la realidad de como lo trataron: - Pedro, su amigo, le negó, y Judas le traicionó. - Sus acusadores le daban bofetadas. - Pilatos lo mandó azotar; y se lo entregó para que lo crucificaran. - Los soldados le ponen la corona de espinas y el manto color púrpura. Y ya en la cruz se repartieron sus ropas.

Esto es el camino de la cruz de Nuestro Señor, esto es lo que hoy contemplamos… y después de esto ¿Cómo se puede decir que en él encontramos la gloria del Hijo de Dios? ¿A caso lo entendemos? Esta es la meditación que he necesitad hacer hoy para captar algo de este misterio.

Para ello me ha ayudado hacer una comparación con el arte y mirar a la pintura moderna y contemporánea: Por ejemplo ¿cómo se puede entender la belleza en cosas como el cubismo, la abstracción, elementos geométricos, pintura imaginativa que deforma la realidad con manchas o espacios ilusorios? Hablando con una artista, me decía que sólo un experto con una sensibilidad y finura grande puede entender en eso una obra maestra cuando una persona de la calle sólo ve en ello un conjunto de líneas y manchas. Yo necesito ser experto en arte para distinguir en lo deforme la belleza de una obra maestra.

Delante de la cruz nos pasa lo mismo. Yo necesito ser experto en el arte de la entrega y del amar para distinguir en el rostro deforme del crucificado la gloria de Dios y la belleza del Amor redentor de Cristo. Necesito amar mucho para entender que en el desgaste de la vida por los demás hay gran belleza. Madre Teresa de Calcuta decía: "Ama, ama y ama y cuando te canses de amar… sigue amando." Y luego añade: "hasta que te duela, pues si duele es buena señal". En nuestra sociedad de la estética, del diseño, de la decoración, nos cuesta entender que en el deterioro de la vida, en el envejecimiento por atender a la familia o incluso en la perdida de la salud por los demás, existe una belleza escondida: JP II lo llamará EL ESPLENDOR DEL AMOR del crucificado.

Estando en Filipinas conocí a un misionero que estuvo trabajando en Camboya. Tenía una mano amputada pero desbordaba de alegría. Me chocó su expresión de ojos grandes y brillantes. Cuando me contó lo que le pasó entendí algo de lo que es el amor entregado gratuitamente. El estaba cerca de lo que llaman campos de muerte, pues están sembrados de minas terrestres** fruto de las guerras que han sufrido. Estas minas no iban a matar a la población, sino sólo a amputar miembros… fijaros la crueldad hasta donde llega que había minas dentro de muñecas o balones de futbol para que los niños las cogieran. Este misionero por evitar que un niño cogiera un balón se abalanzó sobre él y le explotó en la mano.

Si ves el muñón de una mano amputada visualmente es feo, no atrae… lo que dice el profeta Isaías: desfigurado, sin aspecto atrayente… pero cuando descubres el amor entregado que hay detrás descubres la enorme belleza del amor, el esplendor de hasta donde puede llegar la gratuidad y generosidad de una persona por los demás.

Nosotros no estamos en un campo de minas, pero en el día a día nuestro amor a los demás se pone a prueba: contradicciones, malos entendidos, cansancio, querer tirar la toalla, falta de paciencia, así es el mundo de las relaciones. Pero hoy estamos delante de la cruz - EL ESPLENDOR DEL AMOR - y no debiéramos quejarnos sino descubrir que es justamente ahí, en la fealdad de los malos entendidos, del rechazo o de la falta de aprecio… cuando podemos hacer resplandecer el esplendor de un NUEVO AMOR, como dirá San Pablo: Un amor paciente, servicial, que no se engríe, no se irrita, no toma en cuenta el mal y no guarda rencor alguno (1Co 13).

**(http://www.icrc.org/web/spa/sitespa0.nsf/htmlall/5TDL2W?OpenDocument&View=defaultBody&style=custo_print).

21 abr. 2011

Jueves Santo

Yo también he sido Judas en algunas ocasiones

Judas aparece en los tres relatos evangélicos de los días previos al Jueves santo, día del amor fraterno -lunes, martes y miércoles-; y no como protagonista, sino en el trasfondo, en contrapunto, descolocado.

1. Judas en casa de Lázaro, Marta y María, en la cena que le ofrecen a Jesús estos tres amigos por el don de la resurrección. Desentona, porque no ha captado que en torno a Jesús todo es gratitud y gratuidad, y hasta el relato de una mujer secando con sus cabellos los pies de su amigo y derramando perfume sobre él se le escapa.

Hay quienes en la Iglesia sólo quieren “gestos útiles y prácticos”, que reporten beneficios (en número y seguidores, en ruido y bullicios, en obras de misericordia reconocidas…). La entrega amorosa de cada día parece que no tiene sentido. Sólo lo que brota del amor tiene sentido en la Iglesia. Para mí, los cientos de miles de cristianos que lavan los pies de Jesús en los pobres del mundo, llena “toda la casa” (la Iglesia) de un extraordinario olor. Lo percibo, lo siento, lo veo, me estimula a dar todo lo que tengo.

2. Judas en la cena de Jesús. Cena que el Maestro ha preparado primorosamente, sin que se le escape un detalle. Lo ha hecho él personalmente, sin delegaciones ni normas preestablecidas en los rituales. Es una cena para amigos y se va a dar él mismo en ella, totalmente: eso es la eucaristía. Pero Judas sólo participa en el ritual, está ausente, sólo el tiempo justo, tiene cosas que hacer, y desaparece sin haberse enterado de lo que ha sucedido. Otros asuntos, en los que tiene puesta su atención, le reclaman. La cena pascual no le ha servido de nada: ni le ha sorprendido, con sus maravillosos detalles, ni le ha cambiado, porque, en realidad, no estaba atento ni sentía necesidad de cambiar.

3. Judas en el relato de la Pasión: traidor decepcionado. Jesús no ha respondido a sus expectativas. Utiliza el beso para señalar a Jesús. Especialista en conducta equívocas, aparentemente buenas, pero dañinas. Obra en la noche, se hace seguir de correveydiles a sueldo, de oportunistas y “mandados”; en realidad es utilizado. Su fin es la frustración, el autoaniquilamiento, la desesperación y la muerte en soledad.

Por eso me da pena Judas. Yo también he sido Judas en algunas ocasiones. Todos podemos reconocernos a veces en Judas. Hay algunos Judas entre nosotros.

Judas no comprende lo gratuito y todo lo quiere justificable. Judas siempre tienen algo más importante que hacer que estar con Jesús y agradecerle su cena, disfrutando de una agradable sobremesa en compañía de los demás.

18 abr. 2011

Palm Sunday


Palm Sunday A (17 April 2011)

Fr James McTavish, FMVD

A love stronger than our contradictions

Today the Church celebrates what is known as Palm Sunday. Why is it called Palm Sunday? Today we commemorate the moment Jesus entered Jerusalem amidst much pomp and ceremony. St John notes that the people “took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” St Mark does not mention palms but instead leafy branches – “many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields” (Mark 11,8). St Matthew records that people “cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road” (Matt 21, 8). Why did they greet him with palms, leafy branches and branches cut from the trees? Well today we tend to greet VIP’s with banners, streamers or even flags. After the wedding of William and Kate I am sure many well wishers will be waving banners and flags to wish them a happy married life together.

The palm is a Hebrew symbol of joy. The book of Leviticus records that branches of palm were used “to make merry in front of God” (Lev 23, 40). The palm was the symbol used to welcome a King. But Jesus will have none of it. He does not accede to popular demands – as the King of heaven and earth he could have entered in a magnificent chariot, guarded by the Archangels with cherubs flying around playing the harp, violin or even bagpipes. Instead he chooses another way. How does he enter? On a colt. This is in accord with the prophecy of Zechariah, “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). Jesus chooses a humble way. It is exactly as St Paul tells us in the second reading of today about Jesus, “Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness” (See Phil 2:6-11). This self-emptying of Christ is known as the kenosis.

Sometimes when we are praised we easily revel in the glory. Supposedly when Mother Theresa was being accoladed by the crowds in Rome she commented that she did not what the fuss was for as she was just the donkey. It is quite a humorous idea of the donkey carrying Jesus taking all the glory. With the crowds cheering and waving perhaps the colt was tempted to respond “thank you, thank you!” When we are doing may things and achieving things it is important not to forget God’s grace. What do we have that we have not first received? As St Paul would say “I am what I am by the grace of God.”

Jesus does not root himself in the opinion of the crowds. His stability comes from his relationship with the Father. How often we are affected by what others say and do. We become like a small boat, tossed about on the ocean at the mercy of the prevailing tides of opinion of others. Jesus will live his whole Passion rooted not in the reaction of man but rooted in the love of God. On this Palm Sunday the crowd welcome him, shouting “Hosanna” (which is Hebrew for O Lord, grant salvation). But today we also read the Passion narrative. The crowd who once loved him are now shouting “Crucify him! Crucify him!” It seems that there is here a great contradiction.

A contradiction is when one goes against (contra) what one has said (diction). Another word is inconsistency. St Paul said “Each one must do as already determined.” It reminds us not to simply act on impulse but to try to be coherent or integrated in our thoughts, words and actions. One man I met recently expressed his perplexity over the contradictions in his life – he is an investment banker earning a lot of money. He is also sensitive to the poor. He gave a big charitable donation recently of $25,000 to an orphanage then later he found himself in a restaurant telling his friends about it as he ordered a bottle of wine for $250. But how often in front of the Lord we make resolutions and then don’t keep them – a resolution to fast, to pray more, to love him more. But in Jesus there is no contradiction. He comes to love us until the very end and to give his life out of love for us. He is the protagonist of the show not merely a passive victim. He declares that no one takes his life from him. Instead he gives it up of his own free will.

He will go to his Passion to be mocked, scourged and put to death and will bear it all meekly. As the first reading today tells us “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. (See Isaiah 50:4-7) St. John Chrysostom said that there is nothing that gives greater edification to others, and draws souls more powerfully to God, than the meekness of the man who, when treated with derision, contempt, and insult, seeks not revenge, but bears all with a peaceful and placid countenance.

Let us ask the grace to walk with Jesus as we enter Holy Week. We can greet him today waving the palm of thanksgiving for all he has done and is doing in our lives. His grace is working powerfully in us. But may I also be aware of my contradictions, when I pass from my “Hosanna” to “crucify him!” Let us be repentant for the sufferings our contradictions cause to those around us. And may we not lose heart in our weakness but draw strength from Christ, who loved us and give his life for us. Amen.

10 abr. 2011

Cuaresma V, REFLEXION Evangelio Semanal

Cristo: la plenitud de la vida

P. Luis J. Tamayo

Hoy acabamos el recorrido catequético de los evangelios de los 5 domingos de Cuaresma 2011. Hoy, finalmente se desvela el alcance del poder salvador del Jesús que vimos en los dos primeros evangelios de las Tentaciones y la Transfiguración. Los dos primeros evangelios eran necesarios. Era necesario descubrir que Jesús es hombre como nosotros, pero, a la vez, era necesario reafirmar su ser Dios. Como verdadero Dios nos abre el camino por el cual nuestra humanidad puede ser transformada/transfigurada y alcanzar las cotas más altas de la grandeza humana. Sólo por que Él es verdadero hombre y verdadero Dios, puede salvarnos de la mediocridad, puede elevar nuestra humanidad a la autentica dignidad divina que nos constituye, ¿cómo? liberándonos de las ataduras del corazón, de la ceguera de la mentira que anida en la mente y de las ataduras de la voluntad (ver también los evangelios de los dos últimos domingos).

Ya hemos dicho que la práctica cuaresmal a la que nos invita la Iglesia en este tiempo es “el vencerse a sí mismo” para lograr superarse e ir alcanzando esa inagotable grandeza para la que hemos sido creados. Si uno puede crecer y ser cada día mejor, ¿por qué me lo voy a negar? Pero hay que decir que ‘vencerse’ y crecer sólo es posible cuando uno queda sostenido por la gracia divina, los puños de poco sirven. Nuestra humanidad sólo es elevada a su verdadera grandeza por el encuentro personal con Jesús en la oración perseverante; el sentido pleno de vivir sólo es dado por Jesús cuando uno escucha su Palabra como hoy en el Evangelio le dice a Lázaro: “Sal fuera de tu sepulcro, de tus ataduras”.

Hoy Jesús nos enseña que Él es capaz de ayudarnos a soltar las ataduras que encadenan nuestra voluntad. Cuantas veces experimentamos todos que acabamos haciendo lo que no queremos, y lo que queremos no lo hacemos. Dirá San Pablo en Rm7, 14: “Realmente mi proceder no lo comprendo; pues no hago lo que quiero, sino que hago lo que aborrezco… Pues bien se yo que nada bueno habita en mi, es decir, en mi carne; en efecto, querer el bien lo tengo a mi alcance, más no el realizarlo, puesto que no hago el bien que quiero, sino que obro el mal que no quiero. Y si hago el mal que no quiero, no soy yo quien obra, sino el pecado que habita en mi”.

Cuantas veces nos quedamos paralizados por las ataduras de la pereza, de la desmotivación… Ayer tuve una convivencia con los catequistas de la parroquia y del colegio… Lo habíamos preparado con mucho amor para todos. Uno de ellos al final del día, ya de regreso a Madrid, me daba las gracias por el día y me decía: ‘Como ayer me enteré de que menganito y fulanito no venían me dio mucha pereza el venir, ayer estaba pensando el tirar la toalla. Pero es que ahora no me arrepiento, sino que estoy super agradecido”. Cuantas veces nos ha pasado esto a todos! Nos falta voluntad para decidir por nosotros mismos… pero eso es una atadura que no nos deja vivir y disfrutar de muchas cosas en la vida. Vivir atado a lo que digan o hagan los demás es la atadura de Lázaro. Me impide vivir mi vida, para vivir según lo que otros dicen.

En el matrimonio muchas veces pasa que uno no sabe expresar sus apetencias por miedo y acaba siempre haciendo lo que el otro dice, y muchas veces en contra de su voluntad. Esto acaba por matar la relación, esta es la muerte de Lázaro. No os habéis preguntado ¿por qué la opinión de los demás, a veces, pesa tanto en nosotros y acabamos viviendo según lo que los demás nos dictan? Uno puede decir que es libre… pero cuantas veces la moda dicta lo que he de vestir o las marcas que he de llevar.

Puede pasarnos que estamos cenando con un grupo de amigos o familia y quieres irte a casa y no sabes cortar; o necesitas irte y no sabes decir que no… no sabes poner límites… eso es una atadura en la voluntad que no nos deja vivir.

¿Cómo salir de este sepulcro? San Pablo continúa diciendo en Rm7, 24: “¡Pobre de mi! ¿Quién me librará de este cuerpo que me lleva a la muerte? ¡Gracias sena dadas a Jesucristo!”.

Es Jesús quien viene a mis ataduras y me dice: Sal fuera! Rompe con esa atadura! Por eso es vital el encuentro con Él a través del sacramento de la reconciliación, a través de la oración asidua, a través de la perseverante dirección espiritual. Buscar luz, buscar liberar las ataduras de la voluntad por aquellos medios que me da la Iglesia en donde tengo garantizada la gracia de Cristo que trabaja junto con mi voluntad.

¿Qué ataduras tienes? ¿Las hablas y buscas luz? ¿Buscas la fuerza de la gracia en Jesús a través de los sacerdotes?

Para terminar esta serie de 5 catequesis entendemos por que era necesario profesar nuestra fe en Jesús como verdadero hombre y Dios (dos primeros domingos) para luego ver como el libera nuestro corazón, mente y voluntad, para hacernos hombres más plenos.

En la Samaritana, vemos como sólo Jesús por su divinidad unida a su humanidad puede abrirnos el camino escondido en la fragilidad de nuestro corazón a la fuente del Verdadero amor divino y darle al corazón del hombre su verdadera grandeza, y hacerle descubrir que no necesita colmar su sed en los pozos del egoísmo que no colman la sed. (Jesús transforma el corazón del hombre)

En el ciego de nacimiento, vemos como sólo Jesús por su divinidad unida a su humanidad puede abrirnos el camino de la ceguera de la soberbia a la verdadera luz de la humildad, y hacernos descubrir que no necesitamos mantenernos en el orgullo que sólo nos lleva la ofuscación de nuestra mente. (Jesús transforma la mente del hombre)

En Lázaro, vemos como sólo Jesús por su divinidad unida a su humanidad puede desatarnos las ataduras de la voluntad a una libertad mayor de la opinión de los otros, para poder decidir yo por mi mismo y aprender a disfrutar de la vida. (Jesús transforma la voluntad del hombre)

REFLECTION Sunday´s Gospel


5th Sunday Lent A (10 April 2011)

Fr James McTavish, FMVD

“Come out from the tomb!”

We continue our Lenten journey. On our way we have encountered the thirsty Samaritan woman, the blind man and today we will meet Lazarus who has been dead for four days. Jesus is the living water who can quench thirst, the Light who illuminates the blindness we have and today Jesus announces himself as the resurrection and the Life: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (See John 11, 1-45).

Lazarus has been lying in the tomb for 4 days and his sisters are concerned that by now he will be smelling badly. Sometimes when something in us is dead it can smell bad such as when we have a bad attitude towards someone – “the one who does not love remains in death” said St John in one of his letters. It reminds me of the world’s most famous perfume; the seven dwarves. A man wanted to impress his wife on their anniversary. He bought the most famous perfume in the world for $1000. When his wife put it on her eyes started to water from the overpowering stench. The husband ran back to the market ready to throttle the perfume seller. The perfume seller took the perfume and smelled it. “Yes,” he said “there is a problem with the seven dwarves...one of them died.” In our spiritual life sometimes relationships can die, we can cut a person off from the land of the living. Jesus comes to save us from spiritual death. Why do I say spiritual death? Because for sure we will all die physically one day, even if a miracle can extend life for a while, or for up to 70 years (80 for those who are strong says the psalmist).

To really believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life can be shown in the way we live. Oftentimes we encounter men and women with a lively faith in God’s power and it shows in the way they live. Two examples come to mind – one is Oscar Romero and the other is Sophie Scholl. Oscar Romero was an Archbishop in El Salvador. He spoke out strongly against human rights abuses of his people. He received death threats but he stated “If I am killed I will rise up in the Salvadorean people.” He was assassinated while celebrating the Eucharist but his memory and courage lived on in the people. He believed in the words of Jesus “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

Another example is a young German girl called Sophie Scholl. During World War II she was a college student in Nazi Germany. She opposed the regime, and detested the killing of mentally challenged children who were being euthanased by the Nazis. She also condemned the killing of Jews and the horrors of war. With her brother they were distributing anti-Nazi propaganda and were caught. She was interrogated but held firm to her convictions. Her life has been made into an excellent film called “The last days of Sophie Scholl.” She held on to her faith in God and put all her trust in him. It made me think about my own life – do I have courage to stand up for what I believe in? Even when I will be misunderstood, criticised and may have to die to my image in front of others. This type of death, although not physical, is actually very “painful”. To die to wanting to react back when someone criticises you, to die to the temptation to seek revenge, to die to the desire to cut that person off from my existence. Why am I so afraid of death if in fact I believe in the resurrection?

St Paul in the second reading of today (Romans 8, 8-11) reminds us that w are not to live in the flesh (which is to live in death) but instead we are to live in the Spirit, which is to be fully alive. As St Irenaeus said “the glory of God is many fully alive.” God will indeed bring us back to life. What hope do we have for those parts in our heart that are not fully alive like the dead dwarves, bad attitudes or the sinful habits? We are reassured “If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you.” (Rom 8, 11) We must not be afraid to suffer as often it is here that God is working powerfully in us, changing our darkness into light and our death into life.

Jesus walks by our lives once again today and commands to each one of us “Lazarus, come out!” It can be to come out of our laziness, our self pity, our complaints – whatever causes death in us, whatever kills off our joy. It is healthy to ask “What is my tomb?” Where do we take refuge and close ourselves from life? It can be the tomb of the past, of previous failures, of harsh comments that we have put more trust in rather than seeking refuge in the love of God. We can be buried alive in a tomb of excuses, wrapped up in bandages of fear and anxiety. Jesus stands in front of our tomb today and announces “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Believe in me. Come out of your tomb.” Jesus in his love for us calls us back to life. We are called today to continue and persevere on this journey towards the fullness of life. We must not be afraid of our sin which kills us but place our trust in Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life. Amen.

3 abr. 2011

Esta podía ser mi historia de vocación... a ver que te parece!

IV Domingo de Cuaresma


¿Por qué no ves la viga que está en tu ojo?
P. Luis J. Tamayo

Seguimos haciendo el recorrido a lo largo de los cinco evangelios de la Cuaresma 2011: Vimos en los dos primeros evangelios de las Tentaciones y la Transfiguración, la dimensión humana y divina de nuestro Salvador. Él es el Cristo, el que viene a liberarnos de las ataduras del corazón (lo vimos el domingo pasado en la Samaritana) y de la ceguera de la mentira (lo vemos hoy en el ciego de nacimiento).

Ya sabemos que la práctica cuaresmal a la que nos invita la Iglesia en este tiempo es “el vencerse a sí mismo” para lograr superarse, madurar como personas y crecer en nuestra identidad de cristianos con el ejemplo. Vencerse no sólo a base de puños sino mediante la colaboración a la gracia que de Cristo recibimos. La sabiduría popular nos enseña: A Dios rogando y con el mazo dando.

Os cuento una historia: Diariamente, ellos llamaban al "tonto del pueblo" al bar donde se reunían y le ofrecían escoger entre dos monedas:- Una grande de 400 reales y... otra pequeña, de 2.000 reales. Él siempre escogía la más grande y menos valiosa, lo que era motivo de risas para todos. Cierto día, alguien que observaba al grupo le llamó aparte y le preguntó si todavía no había percibido que la moneda más grande valía menos. - "Lo sé", respondió, "no soy tan bobo. La grande vale cinco veces menos, pero el día que escoja la otra, el juego se acaba y no voy a ganar más dinero." ¿Quién es realmente el ciego?

Esto mismo es lo que le pasó al ciego y a los fariseos de la lectura de hoy del evangelio de Juan 9,1-38. Juan, en su relato, juega con una ironía, aquellos quienes podían ver, no verían ni a Jesús y hasta dudaban si el ciego al que interrogaban era realmente el que se encontraba siempre al borde del camino. En el fondo eran ciegos. Aún teniendo capacidad de visión no querían reconocer ni al Mesías ni sus obras.

El tema de Cuaresma de hoy es vencer toda tentación de quedarse en la ceguera de la mentira que el orgullo ejerce sobre nosotros.

Os pongo un ejemplo muy sencillo que el otro día me contaban. Un niño, jugando en casa rompió sin querer un plato antiguo de la abuela. La madre montó en cólera, obviamente le echo todas las culpas al niño… La madre tenía toda la razón… la culpa era del niño puesto que no debía de jugar. Pero, ahora seamos sinceros, entremos en la verdad, salgamos de la ceguera de la mentira. ¿No es propio de los niños jugar? ¿quién no ha roto un plato en su vida? El orgullo nos ofusca la mente. La verdad es que la culpa es de la madre que si tanto aprecio tenía al plato lo dejó al alcance del niño. Es muy fácil echar la culpa fuera, es muy difícil reconocer la propia culpa. Es muy fácil justificarse en el orgullo de que siempre tengo razón, es muy difícil admitir con humildad que yo puedo estar equivocado. Todos, de una forma u otra, sufrimos de la ceguera del orgullo, es decir, no quiero ver mi parte, y siempre prefiero poner la culpa fuera…

Jesús lo expresa muy clarito “¿Por qué miras la paja que hay en el ojo de tu hermano y no ves la viga que está en el tuyo?” (Lc 6, 37-42) Estamos ciegos en nuestro orgullo y no lo vemos. Sólo podemos vencer la tentación de la ceguera en el encuentro con Jesús.

El evangelio de hoy (Juan 9,1-38) “Le preguntan al ciego cómo habla adquirido la vista.
Él

les contestó:
«Me puso barro en los ojos, me lavé, y veo.»
… Y volvieron a preguntarle al ciego:
«Y tú, ¿qué dices del que te ha abierto los ojos?»
Él contestó:
«Que es un profeta.»
… Jesús lo encontró
y le dijo:
«¿Crees tú en el Hijo del hombre?»
Él contestó:
«¿Y quién es, Señor, para que crea en él?»
Jesús le dijo:
«Lo estás viendo: el que te está hablando, ése es.»
Él dijo:
-«Creo, Señor.»
Y se postró ante él.

La posibilidad de abrir los ojos a la verdad es gracia de Dios, es el don de la humildad que Jesús da a quien lo busca. Santa Teresa de Ávila dice: humildad es andar en verdad. Lo vemos de nuevo en la parábola del publicano y el fariseo de Lucas 18, 9-14. El fariseo se presenta delante de Dios en sus méritos… soy mejor que el de al lado, mira todo lo que hago. Sin embargo el pecador, reconoce con humildad que no es perfecto que necesita de la misericordia de Dios. Uno anda en la mentira el segundo en la verdad.

Vamos a pedirle a Dios la gracia de andar en verdad, de ser capaces de ponernos en los zapatos del otro y antes de juzgar a nadie y apuntar sus errores, ser capaz de mirar mis errores y lo que yo necesito cambiar.

REFLECTION Sunday´s Gospel

4th Sunday of Lent A (3 April 2011)

Fr James McTavish, FMVD

“Walk in the light”

This week we went to visit our community in Cebu because a religious brother was celebrating his perpetual vows. It was a joyful moment to see how the Lord has been faithful to hi over the years and inspiring to see also our brother committing himself to follow Christ in poverty, chastity and obedience. During the remainder of the week I also celebrated a baptism of a little child. After baptizing the child with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit comes the so called explanatory rites – anointing with chrism, clothing with white garment and finally the lighting of the candles. The candles are lit from the Easter candle which burns throughout the celebration. The priest says these words “Parents and godparents, this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. She is to walk always as a child of the light. May she keep the flame of faith alive in her heart. When the Lord comes, may she go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.”

The symbol of light features prominently in today’s readings. In the second reading from St Paul we hear “Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light” (Eph 5, 8-14). In baptism we receive the light of Christ, and we need his light to help us to grow as Christians. Think of a flower. It needs light to blossom. How can we receive light? I remember the psalmist when he says “your Word is a light unto my path and a lamp for my feet.” In the middle of darkness of personal confusion and perplexity it is comforting and encouraging to listen to the words of Jesus that fill us with light and strength. It helped me also to go on a Way of the Cross when I was visiting Cebu. It was at night and the stations of the cross are set on a hillside so the terrain is undulating and uneven in places. It was only possible to walk because of the torches, lanterns and candles we brought with us. It made me think of the exhortations of Jesus in the Gospel of John “The light will be among you only a little while. Walk while you have the light, so that darkness may not overcome you” (John 12:35). Light is an important theme in John’s gospel and especially in the account of Jesus healing the blind man (John 9, 1-41).

Jesus and his disciples are walking along and see a man blind from birth. The disciples wonder if this is a punishment for sin from God. Jesus teaches them that it is not the cause of sin, but rather a chance for God’s works to be shown through the man. Jesus spits on the ground, making mud with his saliva and puts it on the man’s eyes, telling him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam (which means sent). It is interesting that Jesus does not cure the man in one instant but also expects the collaboration of the blind man. The blind man does his part – he goes and washes and comes back able to see. We too are called to collaborate with God in his works. In Lent, God gives us three remedies – prayer, fasting and almsgiving and if we pursue these it will lead to inner healing. So the first lesson from the Gospel today is that God wants our participation in his redemptive work.

It is interesting that the story of the blind man's healing takes exactly two verses; the controversy surrounding the cure, 39 verses! This speaks volumes to us. If you want to be faithful to the Lord, expect some resistance. The man once blind sticks to his experience of faith. He is questioned and interrogated yet he holds firm – he put clay on my eyes and now I can see. The Pharisees attack him in many ways but he remains firm. They challenge the man saying that Jesus could not be from God because he performed this miracle on a Sabbath. They appeal to established religious convictions but the man declares that Jesus is a prophet. Like the Pharisees, am I fixed in my ideas about other people and blind to their goodness? Do I ask the Lord to enlighten the areas of darkness within me? Do I refuse to look at those areas of darkness within me?

The Pharisees don’t believe he was born blind so they question his parents. The parents are afraid and tell them to question their son themselves. Why were they afraid? Because if they acknowledged him as the Christ, they would be expelled from the synagogue. Sometimes it happens to us – we do not speak the truth in community because we are afraid of the other – they may ostracize us from the community, ex-communicate us by not talking to us! And sometimes we ex-communicate others too when we deem them not worthy! Is there someone you have excommunicated?

The blind man is so courageous. He challenges the Pharisees telling them that if Jesus was a sinner he would not have been able to cure him. So what happens? The Pharisees kick him out of the synagogue! But Jesus finds him immediately and reassures him that When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, he found him and said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, the one speaking with you is he.” He said “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him. Maybe the man once blind worshipped him by singing that line from Amazing Grace – “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me, I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see.”

What lessons can we take home from the readings today? Walk while we have the light – to put into practice what the Lord is telling us. Not to change track when opposition comes! St Ignatius reminds us not to change plans in moments of desolation. Even when the Pharisees have the logic and reason it is important to turn to Jesus. Also the story today teaches us not to be like the Pharisees – blinded by pride and jealousy to the good works of God in the life of others.

Let us be joyful this day, and ask the Lord to open our eyes to see the light of his presence. Like the prayer for sight of Origen, an early Christian African scholar and theologian, and one of the most distinguished writers of the early Church “May the Lord Jesus touch our eyes, as he did those of the blind. Then we shall begin to see in visible things those which are invisible.” And may we walk while we have the light. Amen.