Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Song of the Vineyard

“My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside; he spaded it, cleared it of stones, and planted the choicest vines; within it he built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine press. Then he looked for the crop of grapes, but what it yielded was wild grapes. Now inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard: what more was there to do for my vineyard that I had not done? Why, when I look for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:1-4).

Beloved people of God, the Lord has done great things for us. He gave us all that we need for us to produce sweet and abundant fruits. God gave everything for us; He died on the Cross for us, for our sins, and for our salvation. He gave us the grace, life, wisdom, understanding, and nourishment we need with his Body and Blood. He also gave us the love we need to produce justice and peace. Let us think that the Lord will come today to look for the crops of grapes, what would he find? I am afraid to answer that question. I know that my own sinfulness contributed to some of the sourness of the fruits and that my acts were not enough to make them sweet. I am not authentic enough to produce real grapes because I just pretend to be good at certain times. It is fundamental to recognize our innermost desire of holiness, and why do we possess this desire? We possess it because it was given to all of us. In some people, it is alive and is continuously inviting them to conversion and discernment. In others, this desire for holiness is frozen in the coldness of their hearts because of the pain, hurt, wounds, and memories they have from past injustices done to them. It is a chain of pain that needs to be broken.

As members of the Mystical Body of Christ, we cannot say “this is not my problem” when somebody is acting wrong, unjust, or in an evil way. The truth is that our bad actions affect everyone; in contrast, our good actions help everyone as well as initiate a restoration process that has the power to break the chains that families carry for many generations.

What I am trying to say is that we all have what it takes to be good, loving, forgiving, and holy; all we have to do is help each other. The first step to change the people around us is to realize that we need to change ourselves first. Then, great wisdom will be awakened, and graces will begin to flow like a river to nourish the vines. These graces will also begin to have an effect on others; it will unfreeze their hearts and suddenly, a desire for doing good will appear. All sons and daughters of God were created good, with the capacity to produce sweet and wonderful fruits. However, some of them don’t know this because all they have experienced is the voice of the enemy lying to them. They were deceived and it is our call, our vocation, to bring them the Truth that is Jesus Christ, to remind them how good and wonderful they are in the eyes of God. If our society is not producing good fruits but instead is producing sour and inauthentic fruits, we must stop and reflect. Reflect the fact that I, as a Christian, as a Catholic, and a disciple of Christ am not doing enough.

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection from Fr. Juan Osorno

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal for your mind, so that you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect,” (Romans 12:2).

Nowadays, is easier to conform ourselves to this culture even though we may strongly disagree with some aspects of this generation. We remained silent before evil just because we learned to go with the flow or because is easier or even worst, because we just became totally indifferent before all the immoralities, lack of   values, and the surge of deceiving information that we receive in daily bases. The Lord is inviting us to wake up, reflect, and act in a way that is Good, Pleasing, and Perfect to God. This means to express clearly that we are no longer conforming ourselves to this age, to judge and understand when something is wrong, and to stand firm by expressing our inconformity. Furthermore, making the necessary steps to change it, finally, we are called to action, more specifically to bring back: The Good, The Beauty and the Truth. These are precisely the  three aspects of God, which help us to know if something is from God, if it is, then must be good, or beautiful, or truthful.

To do what is right requires from us to move out of our comfort zone, also,  invites us to transform and purify our conscience and learn intellectually, emotionally and spiritually what is good according to God’s will.

This age is contaminated with evil ideologies and tendencies that are a threat to the dignity of the human being and in a particular way is a direct attack to our families and its unity. We must do whatever it takes to protect the integrity of our families and   to guide them with the truth which is Jesus Christ.

In today’s culture, some have drifted away so far from the truth that is difficult for them to distinguish between the good and the bad, between right and wrong, to the point of not able to discern between life and death. The only way we can help them is bringing them out of their darkness by a loving  invitation to come and experience the amazing love and mercy of God, showing them the light of Christ, his Word, his Commandments, to receive the sanctifying grace through the Sacraments and especially helping them to understand that they are deeply loved by God unconditionally. Once we  experience true love, that only comes from God, then reaching perfection is just one step away, all we have to do is to surrender ourselves to God and His Spirit, then we will be renewed and conformed to God’s will.

Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection from Fr. Juan Osorno

The Sin of Pride

(Sermon by St. John Vianney)

“I give you thanks, O God, that I am not like the rest of men.” (Luke 18:11).

As the Pharisee, we too can be filled with pride, and begin to think that we are better than others. This terrible sin invades the heart, may oppress us and overshadow the light and the dignity we possess as sons and daughters of God. Pride is the origin of all addictions, and causes all evil that happens and will happen until the end of time. Some show their pride because they believe to have a  lot of talents, others because of their possessions, position, influence, power, recognition, and others. What is worse is that they feel very proud about it. Instead, we should be terrified and tremble before God’s judgement. Beloved, for one act of pride that lasts just a moment, we bring to our lives an unending suffering, sadness, anguish, rejection, anxiety, and pain; not only to us but also to the people we love. The more the sin of pride dominates a person, the more righteous the person feels, the proud believes to do and say everything perfect and without fault. In contrast, we can take a look at Jesus and everything he  did to expiate the sin of pride: He was born to a humble family, and at the end of his life he emptied himself completely to the point of death, and death on the Cross. Jesus taught his Disciples. When they were questioning who was the greatest among them, he took a jar of water and a towel and washed their feet. He wanted to make it very clear that whoever wanted to be first, must serve the others. Pride blocks the action of God’s grace, in contrast, humility brings about grace, blessings, love, and virtues. Beloved, how can we know if we are acting with pride? Very simple, the feeling of our hearts will unmask the truth. When we feel that we are better than others, when we think that we have the right to judge, when instead of acting in thanksgiving we began to act with entitlement … we must know that    we are acting with pride when we reject God’s commandments making excuses and arguments like if we know better than anyone.  Lord, help us to overcome the sin of pride with your grace and your love, teach us with your Spirit how to live in humility.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Let it be done for you as you wish.” I recall the days of my youth and being told and conditioned to believe and consider a better life – a life that would be easier, wealthier – all about me. I would often hear my friends speak of one day owning a big house, having a fancy job and getting a fast car.  Their hopes and dreams became what I would wish for the most.  As children, we often played the game: “what if you had three wishes; what would you wish for?” My response was always the same. I would wish for riches and power and for three more wishes so I could have more riches and more power and more wishes. As I matured in my spirituality, I came to realize that these are the means, the ways, the methods, that the Devil distracts us, separates us and lures us away from the beautiful presence and face of God. That getting us to want more stuff, to desire more things, to seek greater status is the way that Satan draws our attention away from the sacred gaze that Christ has on our hearts and that our eyes should have on his Holy Cross and his Sacred Heart. What if you could really wish upon a star; what would you ask for? Would it bring you true happiness? The kind that satisfies your deep longing for true joy; the kind that never fades away.  Or would you wish you had three more wishes? What if you find yourself the victor of a wishbone tug of war; what would you wish for? Would you ask for a long life, a better family, that awesome paying job? Would that truly make you happy; would you thank God that your wish came true? What about your yearly wish when you close your eyes and blow out candles; do you wish for something that will bring you closer to Christ; would he raise his voice in joyfulness and say, “O blessed child of my Father – great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Jesus said, “whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” May your wish draw you closer to Christ, help you to bear good and holy fruit and give endless glory to God our Father.  May you live happily ever after.  God’s peace and blessings always, Fr. Ivan

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side…”  The image of a boat is use throughout Scripture to indicate how God assists his people to journey from one state of life to another. A state of life that remains under the watchful and gentle care of the One who invites us to seek him, to long for him, to come to him, to find him graciously waiting for us on the other side. Those who choose to embark on the journey will find themselves forever transformed. They will find themselves in a new place, with a new beginning, with an endless opportunity to commune with God. Consider how Noah and his family traveled with God’s creatures in a boat and with the help of God’s grace they survived the great flood. After the long and difficult journey, they found themselves in a land freed from the devastation of sin; a place cleansed from evil – a new day, a new beginning, a new life, a better place. Or consider the moment Jesus called the disciples from their boat, from their livelihood, from their family. Their lives were transformed from ordinary, simple   fisherman to great fishers of men. Or consider when the disciples found themselves on a boat being tossed about in a violent storm. Jesus met them along the way and transformed their fears, their doubts, their frustration, their distress into a place of peace. Or consider how Jesus would often teach the great crowds from a boat piercing their hearts with his words, his preaching, his teaching.  He melted their stony hearts then fed the hungry, cured the sick, restored their dignity, brought them to a better place. Or consider how after hearing the sad news of John the Baptist’s death, Jesus went away in a boat by himself to a deserted place. As he floats along the water, he goes to the Father; he shares his grief.  The journey transforms his current situation.  He grieves, he cries, he prayers, he is strengthened; he continues his own journey to the Cross. The boat is symbolic of our journey.  At times we may encounter a violent storm or an endless sunny day. We may encounter a flood or a smooth sailing along the way. We may even find ourselves in unfamiliar waters or waters that are gentle, calm, reflective, healing.  In either case, the trip is worth taking because what awaits us on the other side is a loving smile, a welcome home, the kiss of peace, our loving Father.  May His peace be with you always. 

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“The LORD is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth.” Have you ever felt so alone even though there seemed to be so much going on around you – a world filled with noisy music, fast paced traffic, hurried moments and busied with tons of conversations and yet in the midst of so much activity, you remain invisible to a crowded world that remains silent to your call for assistance, or your cry for help, or remains distant to your soundless screams? Have you ever felt so hopeless that even God couldn’t reach you or so helpless that God couldn’t help you? Life at times can be overwhelming, family can at times be exhausting, relationships can become burdensome and work can simply become pointless and unsatisfying. What do you do when there seems to be no easy solution to your problem, no apparent relief or end in sight, all seems helpless, hopeless and useless and the situation just gets worse? Where do you go for help? Who do you turn to? Please don’t give up. God is always there for us. God is always there for you. We just need to run to him and ask for a loving embrace, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to bend. In urgent moments, such as those when no  one seems to care or understand us or you encounter those desperate moments brought about by anxiety, trouble or loss or you suffer those difficult moments that lead to darkness, despair, depression, discouragement or desolation, we need to look for God especially in moments of great need. In a moment of crisis, I sought the Lord in great solitude. I asked the Lord to hold me as a mother holds her child; as a father holds his son. I ask God to set his gaze upon my heart and to set my gaze upon his. In profound silence I heard a voice say, “what do you know – what do you know?” I understood I was being asked to consider what knowledge I possessed that was absolute and unchanging. After a brief moment of reflection I said, “Lord, I know you love me and have forgiven me and that you have never abandoned me or given up on me and that you have and will always provide for me.” The Lord responded, “good.” I was asked to never forget what l know especially in moments of distress for God’s grace will get us through it for we are loved, cared for and never alone. This is a great source of consolation, comfort and peace so never forget what you know.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” What a loving invitation our gracious Lord offers to Solomon and also extends to each of us. Surely we can ask God for anything we want to and we do. We ask for fame and fortune, for status and comfort, for ease and tranquility, for long life and posterity, for a big house and fancy car, to hit the jackpot and to win the lottery. We ask God for so many things – so many things that occupy our space, they consume our time, they keep us very busy. But will the things we asked for bring us peace? Not the temporary peace that we seek in difficult moments but the kind of peace that lasts through every moment. The kind of peace that lasts forever, the peace that will bring us into the Kingdom, the peace that will bring us eternal rest, the peace that only God can give. Do the things we ask for bring lasting joy, God’s grace, true happiness? We do ask for so many things. But the things that God is most pleased to give us are the things that would truly make us happy, make us free, bring us peace. God is most happy to provide the things that will draw us closer to him and keep us in his heart for all eternity. So what shall we ask for? I think how happy God was to receive Solomon’s response. How it must have been a sweet fragrance, an aroma of goodwill when Solomon’s response reached God’s ears. He didn’t ask for materialism or more time or even harm to his enemies or to those who made life difficult for him. Rather, he asked for a heart – a discerning heart, a heart that understood the difference in living a life in harmony with God’s will as opposed to those things that lead us in a wrong path – that lead us away from God’s grace, God’s will, God’s peace. At times we are weak and we allow the world to dissuade us from truly being happy.  We allow others to encourage us to fill our lives with so many things that fade and lead us astray. So what should we ask for? If you want to be truly happy and at peace ask for an understanding heart.  It will be sweet music to God’s ear. 

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” Scripture reminds us that, “the good seed are the children of the kingdom” and “the weeds are the children of the evil one.”  Which are you?  Are you a grain of wheat or are you a weed? Can you be trusted to make a good judgement without pride, prejudice, emotion or opinion?  I think how often I have misjudged a person, a situation, or something I thought I understood only to find out I was wrong – how often I misspoke, missed the mark, misjudged.  How do we respond in such moments and circumstances when we didn’t have the correct answer or the solution to the problem?  When we got in the way of letting the truth be revealed or we led someone in the wrong direction?  Did we say oops? Did we have the courage to say I am sorry or the strength to admit we were wrong?  We need humility to realize we can at times be blind, that we misjudge appearances, that at times we are unable to see the real truth. We really aren’t good judges of character, of people, of situations, of ourselves.  How many times have we misjudged distances, outcomes, conversations, time? Did you ever take an umbrella with you when it looked like rain only to experience sunshine throughout the day or decided not to take the umbrella only to experience a torrential down pour?  We are right some of the times, but not always.  If we could so simply misjudge a book by its cover, a gift by its wrapping, a person by their appearance – how easy would it be to misjudge ourselves, our abilities, our limitations, our senses, our perceptions, our judgments?  How easy would it be to misjudge if you are a grain of wheat or a bad seed? We might think that we are stronger than we really are, smarter than all the rest, better at what we do, faster than everyone else – only to find out we’re not.  We may conversely have a negative view of ourselves, be hard on ourselves, have a low self-image of ourselves and negate the true worth of our gifts, abilities, our life – only to find out that we are so wrong.  Only to find out that God really loves us very much. So don’t be a judge. Rather, be a saint and pray for the rest of us. “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Fr. Ivan

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest.” Starting a garden is a lot of work. But with patience, with perseverance, with the help of God’s grace it becomes a labor of love. What a privilege it is to share in the beauty of God’s creation. I love the image of God as the Gardener and we the garden. I contemplate how God cares for us and cultivates the beauty of his creation within us – weeding it, pruning it, watering it. When creation permits God to be its gardener, it remains beautiful, fragrant, fruitful. But when creation rejects God’s grace the fruit becomes sour, bitter, rotten, distasteful, no good, ugly. The Master Gardener is ever so patient, merciful and kind. He recreates; he brings forth a Mystical Rose – so full of grace, so sweet a blossom, without stain, beauty to the eyes of one’s heart. He calls his sweet rose Mary. Her heart is a beautiful garden of God’s love. A new Eden where God chooses to dwell. A place to take in the goodness of his creation and rest in it. Mary is the new Eve – faithful to God’s Word, obedient to his call, lowly in his sight. Our Beloved Mother is ever so open to allowing God to plant the seed of his love into the soil of her heart. She remains forever attentive to his loving instruction and perpetually receptive to God’s grace as he cultivates the seed of our salvation deep inside of her. The soil in Mary’s heart is good soil, holy soil, responsive soil – ever so vulnerable to God, ever so lowly, so helpless, so defenseless to the grace and the outpouring of God’s Spirit. She allows God to be God. She permits God to be the Gardener of her heart. And through the grace of God’s love she brings forth the Blessed Fruit of her Womb; ever so innocent, ever so beautiful, ever so sweet – what a beautiful flower it is. Jesus also shows us how to permit God to cultivate the woundedness within our own hearts. He shares the grace and benefits of permitting God to till the soil within our own hearts so that his word may be planted deep within us and the seeds of God’s love can become efficacious in our lives. Let us learn from Jesus – let us learn from Mary to remain open, available, attentive, receptive, and vulnerable to God – the Gardner of our souls.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” Humility is a tough lesson to learn. At times, it comes in the form of feeling submissive or powerless. Other times, it comes in the form of humiliation or mockery. We are embarrassed at how others may view us. Will they look at us or treat us differently?  We think we know it all, and we don’t. We believed with all our heart and conviction that we were right, only to find out we were wrong. We thought that we were doing something good, but it was at the expense of others. We worked so hard on that project only to find out that no one cares or it wasn’t needed or it wasn’t what was asked for. How humiliating. How embarrassing. How foolish you must have looked. Now you are considered weak, a know it all, a failure. Do you think God looks at you that way? God looks at you and sees his child.  When we are weak, God makes us strong. When we are wrong, he gently corrects us. When we are down, he lifts us up. When we are humiliated, he comforts us. When we are lost, he finds us. When we are submissive and powerless, he perfects his love in us. I love Jesus’ invitation to learn from him. What can we learn from Jesus? To be meek and humble of heart. Jesus who is God, Lord and King surrenders it all to the Father. He surrenders it all for you and me. He abandons his opinions, his desire to be right, his concern of how others view him, his feelings of how he is treated, or what they think of him. Nothing affects his relationship with the Father. He does not let pride get in his way.  If we want to get to the Father’s heart then we need to learn from Jesus. Learn to humble ourselves and ask forgiveness when we hurt others, to admit we were wrong, to turn the other cheek, to restrain our mouths and offer a blessing instead. We need to learn meekness and realize and accept our faults, our failures, our shortcomings, our inabilities. We need to learn the love of God. Jesus taught us how to pray. Let us then pray: Jesus meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.