Monday, December 26, 2016

Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad

Last week I was in St. Louis for Provincial Council meetings.  It was freezing!! I stayed at the Chaminade Community at Pillar where I usually stay when I am in town.  The house was filled with baked goods and candy....and they kept calling my name.  I was not strong, I definitely gave in on more than one occasion! The meetings were good and pretty stressful.  I did a morning Mass for the boys at Chaminade College Prep and I also had the 5pm Mass at the Parish.  It was great to see so many people and to be able to preside and preach in English!

I returned to Queretaro last Wednesday and the next few days were busy with many things around the community.  Many meetings and homily preps for me.  I had 3 Masses on Christmas Eve and one Mass on Christmas Day.  I played guitar and sang during the homily like I am known to do in the US.  The people really appreciated it.  After the 8pm Mass we celebrated Christmas together in community with a special Cena.  Br. Fermin cooked an excellent stuffed pork tenderloin with salad and macaroni.  There was plenty of wine and tequila to go around.  We had a woman staying with us from Colombia who was a former Marianist Sister.  After a great meal and a few drinks we all took turns dancing with her.  It was a lot of fun.  I was pretty beat after the day and was able to sleep in on Christmas morning. 

The Brothers all began leaving the community to go visit their families.  Right now I am here in Queretaro with one other Brother who will stay here until the 2nd of January.  I will head to Orlando on the 29th to visit my dad and brothers in Orlando.  It's a quick trip just to catch up.  I will also spend some time with a former colleague of mine who lives about an hour from my dad.  So it should be a great time away.  I hope your Christmas was special and that you received the blessings you needed for your life.  So I guess this is the last post for 2016, see you in the New Year!
 Creche in the Chapel
Creche Outside
Creche in the Dining Room
Here is my homily for Christmas:

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Gloria… excelsis Deo
                                                             Gloria….in excelsis Deo 
Good Evening Church! Merry Christmas! Turn to the person next to you and say, Merry Christmas friend! This is a night for family.  This is a night for friends.  This is a night for faith and belief in the impossible.  This is a night for hope.  This is a night we wait for every year because the Christmas story reminds us that God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son.  This story reminds us that God’s promise is stronger than doubt, that God asks the least likely to act on his behalf, and that God comes to us in ordinary ways.  Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus.  Christmas is the reminder for all of us that God is with us, Amen?
Just like we sing certain songs in Church during specific seasons, we also sing Christmas songs and hear the Christmas story presented to us in Scripture each and every Christmas.  For me, it would not be Christmas if I did not hear from the Prophet Isaiah, the letter of Titus, and the Gospel of Luke.  My Christmas tradition was built on these readings and even though I will not hear them in English this year, I celebrate the sentiments of each of these readings in Spanish.  Last year, I was in the Ivory Coast for Christmas.  Everything was in French.  The music and the culture was uplifting.  I am happy to celebrate this Christmas tradition in Spanish, with you, my favorite people, Amen?  And like the angels of long ago, we too sing our praises:
Gloria… excelsis Deo
                                                             Gloria….in excelsis Deo

And so what does the Word of God invite us to ponder during this celebration of the Word become flesh?  The prophet Isaiah paints a picture of hope for a people who were downcast and not full of hope.  The familiar words of the prophet, “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” always reminds me of Christmas and possibilities.  The next lines of the prophet were so beautifully put to music by Handel in his work The Messiah: For unto us a child is born, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.  He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and Prince of peace. When I hear these words I am reminded of Christmas past and my youth, as I sang these words in my high school choir. The Messiah to be born was to be a messenger of peace and hope.  When we walk in the dark times of our lives, we need peace and hope, Amen? Jesus is the light that dispels the darkness.  When we can see clearly, we can do more things.  In the dark it is difficult to have a good perspective on our lives.  Jesus is the light that gives us perspective, and tonight we celebrate his great birth, Amen?

Gloria… excelsis Deo
                                                             Gloria….in excelsis Deo

The letter of Paul to Titus reminds us that the grace of God appeared in Jesus Christ and because of this we need to give up our old ways that lead us down the paths of destruction.  The way of Jesus is light and grace.  We await his second coming with blessed hope, but we celebrate his first coming with blessed joy, Amen? Blessed hope is the belief in the impossible.  Blessed hope helps me each and every day to get out of bed.  Blessed hope helps me to look at our world with all its violence, abuse, injustice, and greed and say, “hope has the final word.”  This is not the world that God dreams about.  There is an alternative possibility to what we have right now.  God’s answer to violence is peace.  God’s answer to abuse is care.  God’s answer to injustice is justice and mercy.  God’s answer to greed is sharing with one another.  This is the world that Timothy reminds Titus is for us in the birth of Jesus Christ.  This is the world I want to live in.  Turn to the person next to you and say, I want to live in God’s world! Tonight we celebrate being in that world where the powerful God becomes a child.   And with the angels we sing:
Gloria… excelsis Deo
                                                              Gloria….in excelsis Deo
And what would Christmas be without hearing the story of the birth of Jesus? Mary, Joseph, the inn, angels, shepherds, swaddling clothes and a manger.  Thousands of songs have been written and sung over the past two thousand years in every language of the world about each of these important people and things in this story.  These songs tell the story of our faith.  Turn to the person next to you and tell them your favorite Christmas song.  Now don’t you feel good just thinking about that song?  That’s what our faith does.  When we sing our faith in song, it helps us to feel good, to feel connected, to feel at home.  All of these people and characters are important to Luke in telling the story of the birth of Jesus.  Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem for a census and so the Messiah is born in the city of David.  A new king will follow the old king.  Jesus becomes the great King of Israel.  Because there is no room for them in the inn, Mary and Joseph must spend the night in the barn with the animals.  The Son of God is born in a common place, not in a palace with servants but with common surroundings.  Jesus is wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  A manger was a feeding trough for the animals.  Jesus, the Bread of Life, will be food for others.  The angles appear to shepherds and not royalty.  The shepherds were the outcasts of society because they could not fulfill their religious obligations because they were in the fields caring for their sheep.  Good News is first proclaimed to the outcast and marginalized, not the rich and powerful.  The shepherds eventually go and see the baby and his mother and come to believe in him.  The angels tell of the glory of God in the birth of Jesus.  What a remarkable story, Amen?  This is our story.  This is our story of faith.  The story of a God who became like one of us.  The God who became a child and lived among us.  The story of God, Emmanuel, God with us.  This is a story of love, Amen? And so repeat after me, Christmas is about hope.  Christmas is about faith. Christmas is about love.  And with the angels we sing:
                                                          Gloria… excelsis
                                                          Gloria….in excelsis Deo
Feliz Navidad…Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad Prospero Ano y Felicidad

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Image result for our lady of guadalupe

Probably more important than Christmas is the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Even Protestants support the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe because this story is part of the heart and soul of the Mexican people. I celebrated several Masses in honor of OLG and the Brothers were very busy going from factory to factory offering Communion Services to the workers in honor of this woman who captured the mind, heart and soul of the people of Mexico.  One aspect of the Guadalupe story that is vey important is the fact that all people have dignity.  Mary chose Juan Diego, an indigenous man of faith to speak truth to power when she advised him to speak to the Bishop to build a Church in her honor.  The miracle of the tilma, and roses in winter continued to reinforce that with God all things are possible! With that hopeful message,  I celebrated two Masses on the 11th at 7pm and 10pm in anticipation of the Feast Day... and yes if you know me well, the 10pm was well passed my bed time!  The following day I celebrated a solemn Mass at the Chapel at 1pm and two other Masses for workers in neighboring factories and places of employment.  It was a great day to preach about the importance of Mary for our Catholic faith.  Needless to say, all of us were exhausted at the end of the day.  It was one of those days when everyone worked hard and acknowledged our exhaustion but also felt proud for the work we accomplished! I think we made Mary proud!

Here is my homily for the Feast Day

Our Lady of Guadalupe
Good Evening Church! If you are happy to celebrate this great feast of the Virgin, say Amen! Yes, this is a great night indeed, Amen? Tonight we gather as community to celebrate our Mother, the compassionate and tender Virgin who walks with us on our journey.  This is particularly an important feast for all of Mexico, but over the past fifty years, this feast has become important in many countries in Latin America and the United States too.  All over the United States in cities such as Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Boston, Dallas and San Antonio, and in cities in Mexico such as Puebla, Mexico, Guadalajara Monterey, Tijuana, Cuernavaca, Leon, and Queretaro, men and women of faith rejoice in their Mother, Maria de Guadalupe.  Although we may all be different in skin color, language and culture, we share our love for Mary and constantly ask for her protection.  In Mary, our differences cease.  We are her children and she is our mother, Amen? Today we rejoice and celebrate the woman who visits the outsider and the marginalized, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated. We rejoice because we celebrate this woman who shows us how to love, how to learn, how to be persistent, and how with God nothing is impossible, Amen?
And so, I stand here today realizing how awkward it must be for you to hear an American preach about the Guadalupe story which is part of the heart  and soul of Mexico.  Each one of you could probably do a much better job at telling the story and relaying how this story is important for your life and for the people of Mexico.  So, in humility I stand before you and will try to give my “outsiders” perspective on this event, and how this event and the Word of God may inform how we live our lives today and into the future. 
In 1993 I came to Mexico to be part of an immersion experience for Marianist Brothers and Sisters in temporary vows.  There were 10 of us who came to deepen our Marianist commitment and to learn the Guadalupe story.  This three week experience was life changing for me.  I did not really know the Guadalupe story prior to coming to Mexico.  I heard the story told from different people from different points of view.  We went to visit the Basilica and I had a profound experience while walking through the grounds.  Seeing the image in the Basilica was also very touching for me.  What impressed me the most about the Guadalupe story is the Mary asked for help not from the rich and mighty but from the common people.  She appeared to Juan Diego, an indigenous man of faith, and asked him to speak on her behalf to the Bishop.  The lowly speaking to power.  Mary thought enough about Juan Diego to ask him to do this.  She saw something in him that he did not see in himself….isn’t that what mothers do? Amen? In faith, Mary let the voices of the lowly be heard.  She believed in the dignity of Juan Diego even if the larger culture did not think his opinion was worth much.  She consoled Juan Diego when she said to him, Am I not your mother? The Guadalupe story reminds all of us, that everyone is important, that everyone has dignity, and that all of us can be used by God to something important.  No one is excluded from the love of the Virgin, Amen?  This story had a great impact on my life back in 1993 and continues to influence me today.  This story of Mary has nurtured my Marianist vocation.  It has brought me closer to Mary.  And especially since my mother died three years ago, Mary as my Mother is even more important to me today! In the Guadalupe story Mary becomes the mother of flowers, mother of love, mother of fear, mother of knowledge and mother of holy hope that we hear today in the Book of Sirach.   If you believe that Mary is your mother, say Amen!
The Gospel of Saint Luke provides us with an image of what is important to Mary.  Mary is a relational person.  Mary cares about others.  Mary visits.  I really like the story of the Visitation.  It is an encounter between two people who have experienced marvelous things in their life.  It is a story about the importance of being present to one another.  After Mary says yes to God, she goes in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth.  The two women rejoice in the presence of one another.  A young virgin and an old barren woman find themselves pregnant.  Incredible, Amen? With God, nothing is impossible, Amen?  Mary visits with Elizabeth.  I imagine the days were filled with telling stories, sharing joys, sharing fears, asking questions and just supporting one another during this incredible time.  Mary does what Mary does best, she visits and relates with Elizabeth.  In the same way, Mary visited and related to Juan Diego.  She reassured him, she consoled him, and she expressed her love for him.  Mary visits.  That’s what she does.  She shows us the importance of being present to others in joyful and sorrowful times.  And during this feast day we will all have the opportunity to visit with one another.  Families, friends and coworkers will come together to celebrate this great day.  As we spend time with one another, let us remember that when we visit with one another, we do what Mary does best.  We unite our visits with her visit with Elizabeth.  We unite our visits with her visit with Juan Diego.  We unite our visits with the many people in the world who have seen the marvelous deeds of God.  And like Mary we too sing, My soul proclaims the greatness of God, my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. In our visits with one another, may we proclaim the greatness of God, Amen?
So Church, today is a great day, Amen? We celebrate Mary who is our compassionate Mother.  We celebrate Juan Diego who trusted in the Word of God.  We celebrate the Church for recognizing this important event in the history of Mexico.  We celebrate ourselves for having faith in the impossible.  And like Mary and Elizabeth, we celebrate the holy visits that we will have with family, friends, and coworkers, Amen?  And with joyful hearts let us praise Mary as we pray together:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death…Amen

Ven con nosotros al caminar, Santa Maria ven
Ven con nosotros al caminar, Santa Maria ven!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Rejoice: Third Sunday of Advent

As we light the rose colored candle on this third Sunday of Advent we rejoice that the time is near but not yet here!

Third Sunday of Advent
Morning Church.  If you are happy to be here, say Amen! Today we celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent.  We light the pink candle as a sign of us rejoicing in the midst of the journey.  We have one more week to celebrate Advent, but we can rejoice that we are almost finished, Amen?  Today the Word of God presents us with three words for us to think about during our Advent journey: Rejoice, Patience and Unexpected.  What are those three words? Rejoice, Patience and Unexpected.  Now turn to the person next to you and tell them those words: Rejoice, Patience and Unexpected.  Excellent Church, you are listening!!!
The prophet Isaiah reminds us to rejoice! Isaiah reminds us that even though everything may not be as we want it to be, Gods promise to us is that our life will be abundant.  In God’s vision for our world there will be plentiful, rejoicing, abundance, singing and dancing.  The weak will be made strong, the lost will be found, the blind will see, the lame will leap, the deaf will hear, the mute will sing and sorrow will turn into joy and gladness.  This is the promise of the future and yet we may see glimpses of this in the present day.  In God’s plan, all shall be well.  That is Good News, Amen? So, even though all is not one hundred percent well right now, it does not mean that we have to wait to rejoice.  We can rejoice right now, Amen? We rejoice in the promise.  We rejoice in the hope.  We rejoice that our God cares enough about us that He shares this vision with us.  And so too we rejoice this third Sunday of Advent.  We are not yet at Christmas, but we can rejoice right now.  We can rejoice that we have prayed, sacrificed, read Scripture and helped others during these past three weeks in anticipation of Christmas.  Our lives may not be perfect right now, but we can still rejoice, Amen?  Turn to the person next to you and say: Rejoice!
In the letter of Saint James, the author uses the image of a farmer waiting for the produce of the harvest.  The farmer waits with anticipation for the harvest and does not do anything prematurely to hurry along the harvest.  The farmer patiently waits.  We too must patiently wait.  We may want something right now.  We may want Christmas to come tomorrow.  But, we must wait for the right time and season.  Patience is difficult, Amen?  And in today’s world of technology patience is even more difficult because we want things and answers right away.  Patience is a discipline and teaches us humility.   Patience helps us make our hearts firm as Saint James tells us today.  When our hearts are firm we can endure all sorts of trials, Amen?  In many ways, patience reminds us that we are not in charge, and that can be difficult, Amen? As the farmer waits for the harvest, so too we wait for the Day of the Lord.  Patience is part of the journey.  Close your eyes right now and ask the Lord to give you more patience.  Open your eyes and turn to the person next to you and say: I am going to try and be more patient!
And finally the Gospel reminds us that sometimes we do not receive what we may want or desire but we receive the unexpected.  For the Jews, the coming of the Messiah meant that he was going to liberate them from the bondage of foreign rule and restore Israel to former greatness.  But Scripture always pointed to the Messiah as the one who came to serve and not be served, as the one who brought peace and not war, as the one who brought others to a deeper relationship with God.  The people had certain expectations of the Messiah.  John the Baptist had certain expectations of the Messiah, and Jesus did not meet his expectations.  Jesus was different.  Jesus was not what the people expected.  Jesus reminded the people of all the things he had accomplished.  The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the poor have good news preached to them.  These are the works of the Messiah, not military power! I am sure we have all had experiences of the unexpected in our own lives, Amen? It is not what we expected but that does not mean that it was bad, just different.  This Messiah is different and we come to realize that when we celebrate Christmas and we honor a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.  Now that is really unexpected, Amen? So maybe today, something unexpected may happen to you.  Think about Jesus when it happens!
So we celebrate this Third Sunday with words like Rejoice, Patience and Unexpected.  We are one week away from the celebration of Christmas.  It is so close and yet so far from us. In a world of instant gratification it is difficult to be patient and wait.  There is still work to do, but we can rejoice today, Amen?

First Communion

On Saturday, December 10th we celebrated First Communion for over 100 children.  We held the Mass outside of the Chapel because our Chapel can usually hold between 200-250 people.  In Mexico, they also have godparents for Communion.  So, figure 100 children, 2 godparents and 2 parents, then add in grandmothers sisters, brothers, cousins and friends and you have about 700 people gathered for this event!  All went well and the children did very well...its always the parents that are the trouble at these any culture!

One of my altar servers who received First Communion

Here's my homily for the day...and yes, I played guitar during the homily!

First Communion

Deo gratias, Aleluya
                                                                 Deo gratias, Aleluya 

Good Afternoon Church! God is good, Amen? We gather here today to celebrate a sacrament that unites all of us.  We gather today to celebrate the First Communion of over one hundred of our children.  That is Good News, Amen? If the boys and girls are excited about receiving Communion today, Say amen nice and loud…Amen! Yes, today is an emotional day because today these boy and girls will be more fully part of our community.  There is a responsibility in being a parent, and there is a responsibility in being a member of the community.  The Word of God reminds us today that we are all part of the Body of Christ, that each one has a gift to offer at the service of the community, and that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that if we believe in him that we will have eternal life.  Turn to the person next to you and say, this is Good News!
Saint Paul reminded the Romans that all in the community are united in the Body of Christ.  Each member is important, but each member does not have the same gifts.  Some have the gift of prophecy, others the gift of service, and others the gift of preaching.  Each person needs to use their gifts for the building up of the community.  The same is true today in our community in Queretaro.  All of us gathered here today have gifts from God.  Do you use your gifts from God to build up the Church? Parents, do you encourage your children to use their gifts to honor God?  Did your children learn to do this because they saw you using your gifts to build up the Church?  Today we are telling these young people that they are now more fully part of the Body of Christ.  While receiving Communion is special, it is not the end of the journey.  It is only the beginning.  I receive Communion so that it can help me be a better person and to use my gifts to support the community.  Everyone should think of Communion this way: I receive Communion so that I can give back to my community.  Repeat after me, I receive Communion so that I can give back to my community.  Every time we receive Communion we are close to Jesus and close to one another.  It is Communion that unites us in our faith.  So, if Communion is so important, why do so few people receive Communion each week? Maybe today, as we support and witness our boys and girls receive their First Communion, each of us may think about our own life and desire to receive Communion with great love, honor and respect, Amen?
Deo gratias, Aleluya
                                                                Deo gratias, Aleluya
 In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells the people that he is the Bread of Life.  That he is the bread come down from heaven.  If we eat of his flesh and drink of his blood then we shall live forever.  Who wants to receive eternal life here?  I do!  All of us here get hungry from time to time, Amen? We might eat every three or four hours only to be hungry again.  We will always be physically hungry.  Jesus tells us that with him, we will not be spiritually hungry.  When we receive Jesus in Communion, we will be satisfied.  We will be nourished.  We will be well fed spiritually by his presence in the Eucharist.  So if we know that when we are physically hungry that we need to eat, why don’t we do something when we are spiritually hungry?  Every Sunday we have the opportunity to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.  Every Sunday we have an opportunity to be spiritually nourished.  I would think that people would be running to Church each Sunday and saying, I’m going to receive Jesus, I’m going to receive Jesus.  As Catholics, we have a precious gift in the Sacrament of the Eucharist and yet so many Catholics do not receive this gift each Sunday.  Jesus said, I am the Bread of Life, all who come to me shall not hunger.  Today our young people are going to receive Jesus for the first time and hopefully this will not be the last time they receive Jesus.  And so parents, let me ask you something.  Would you not go to any lengths to make sure that your child is safe and cared for?  Do you hope the best for your children? If so, then providing spiritual nourishment for your children is your responsibility as a parent. Your children will grow physically, mentally and emotionally over the years and you will make sure that they grow in these areas of importance.  But your children also need to grow spiritually.  Going to Mass and receiving Jesus each and every week will help them, and you, grow spiritually over the years.  We all have one life to live, but our eyes should be fixed on the prize of eternal life, Amen? Turn to the person next to you and say, I am working for eternal life!
 So today is an important day for all of us, Amen?  It’s important for the children who will receive Jesus for the first time.  It’s important for the parents who help their children grow physically and spiritually.  It’s important for the community because now we have more participants in the Eucharist and more people who can share their gifts with the community.  It’s important to Jesus because now over one hundred young people will be closer to him as they eat his body and drink his blood.  It is an important day for everyone, Amen?  And so with great gratitude we sing;

                                                                Deo gratias, Aleluya
                                                                Deo gratias, Aleluya

Second Sunday of Advent

Image result for second sunday of advent 2016

We celebrated the Second Sunday of Advent with great care.  During that same week I heard Confessions on Wednesday and Thursday for 2 hours each night.  I was exhausted after listening and trying to translate as best I could.  We also celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception where our Lay Marianists renewed their consecration before a packed Church.  It was a very busy week all in all!

My homilies for the Second Sunday of Advent and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception follow:

Second Sunday of Advent
Morning Church! Advent greetings! Prepare the way of the Lord! We hear these words in the Gospel and we say these words every Advent.  Prepare the way of the Lord.  What is the way of the Lord?  Is the way of the Lord my way?  Is the way of the Lord the popular way?  Is the way of the Lord a way that leads to life? Is the way of the Lord a way I want to follow?  All of these are great questions for us to ponder on this Second Sunday of Advent, Amen?  So how do we know the ways of the Lord?  The Word of God gives us a few clues this Sunday.  Turn to the person next to you and say, I want to know the way of the Lord!
The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the way of the Lord is filled with possibilities.  God’s way is the ways of peace and justice.  The prophet says that the Messiah will have the spirit rest on him and he will be filled with wisdom, understanding, counsel, strength, knowledge and fear of the Lord.  The Messiah will judge with justice and he will be clothed with justice and mercy on his waist and on his hips.  These same qualities are what we all receive on the day of our Confirmation.  So, in fact, we all do share in the way of the Lord, Amen?  The prophet continues to tell us that with God all things are possible, even common enemies can come together in peace.  The wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the calf and the lion, the cow and the bear, the child and the cobra can all live together in peace with one another.  That is a great vision for the way of the Lord, Amen?  So, how do we take this Word into our hearts and into our homes?  Well, if your family is like my family, I would imagine that there are enemies within your families.  The Prophet Isaiah says that if these common enemies can live in peace, then all should be able to live in peace.  Maybe this weekend, if you have an enemy in your family, in this community, at work, you may want to extend a branch of peace to them.  The way of the Lord is filled with possibilities.  It is much easier to extend a hand of peace then it is to live with an enemy.  The way of the Lord is possibility, justice and peace.  Will you live the way of the Lord today? Repeat after me…. Prepare the way of the Lord!
Saint Paul tells the Romans that the way of the Lord has to do with endurance, encouragement, hope, and welcoming others.  Endurance in remaining steadfast to the faith, encouragement in helping others when they feel weak in the faith, hope that what God says can happen will happen, and welcoming new members into the community.  All of these virtues are a manifestation of who God is….God endures, God encourages, God is hopeful, and God always welcomes.  So, have you endured in your faith?  Do you encourage others to grow deeper in their faith? Are you a sign of hope for the world? Do you extend your hand and welcome new members to this community?  These are all the way of the Lord.  Saint Paul wrote this letter to the Romans many years ago, but this same letter could be written to this community here in Queretaro in the year 2016.  Will you let this Advent season help you follow the way of the Lord?  Repeat after me…Prepare the way of the Lord!
And finally, the Gospel today tells us that the way of the Lord is about repentance.  Today we are introduced to John the Baptist who preached about returning to God, turning away from sin, and following the path of goodness and light.  John is the voice that cried out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord.  If we are to prepare the way of the Lord, the first place to start is with our own lives.  We must look at our lives and honestly access if our actions and thoughts produce good fruit or not.  The way of the Lord is about change.  It is about becoming more like God and becoming more loving to our sisters and brothers.  Repentance is a very important way for each of us to reflect on our lives and change what needs to be changed.  Sometimes the way of the Lord may be a gradual change, and sometimes it means a quick and rapid change.  For what do you need to repent? In our baptism our sin was forgiven, but we all know that all of us sin from time to time, Amen? During this season of Advent, what sin do you need to repent from in order to produce good fruit?  Turn to the person next to you and say, the way of the Lord is about repentance.  Repeat after me, Prepare the way of the Lord!
And so this Sunday we are asked to prepare the way of the Lord.  It starts with ourselves with repentance and then it extends to others when we act as God acts: full of possibility, seeking peace and justice, encouraging and welcoming others and uniting others in peace and harmony.  There are so many possibilities for each of us, all we have to do is to prepare the way of the Lord, Amen?  As we enter into this weekend, let our hearts and minds be open to the possibilities of God present and active among us.  Do you want to follow the Lord?  Then repeat after me, Prepare the way of the Lord!!! Amen?
Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
                                                                Ave, Ave, Maria
 Good evening Church! Are you ready to celebrate? Turn to the person next to you and say: Any day we celebrate Mary is a good day! Yes, Church, today we celebrate Mary in the title Immaculate Conception.  The readings help us understand who Mary is for us as a people of faith.  She is the one who chooses good over evil, the one who exists for the praise and glory of God, and the one who said yes to God.  Yes, Mary did all of these things in her life and they make her special and loved by all of us, but these things are not exclusively reserved for Mary.  We are all called to choose good over evil, to praise God with our lives, and to say yes to God when we are asked to do something.  Mary shows us how to respond to God.  She shows us how to live our lives in good times and bad times.  She shows us how to say yes even when we do not know all the details.  For this we honor Mary this day, Amen? Repeat after me, Nothing is impossible for God
The Book of Genesis recalls the story of temptation and choosing evil over good.  The story is old, but is very real in everyday life.  Every day we are presented with choices.  And once we reach the age of reason, we know good from bad, Amen?  So if we know good from bad, why do we continue to choose bad things in our life? Herein lies the concept of sin.  We know what is right.  We know what is good, and still we choose what is not right and what is not good.  That is sin.  The Church provides us with this image so that we can look at Mary as the one who always chose good over bad.  In her Immaculate Conception she was able to only choose the good.  I want to choose the good in my life and I find it hard.  Do you find it hard?  Say Amen if you know what I mean! Mary is the new Eve.  Eve chose sin.  Eve chose the bad.  Mary chose grace.  Mary chose the good.  Turn to the person next to you and say, chose the Good.  And so repeat after me, Nothing is impossible for God.
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
                                                                  Ave, Ave, Maria
 In the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians he encourages the community to remember that “we exist for the praise of his glory”.  God gave us the gift of life.  What we make of our life is our gift back to God.  Everything we do in life should praise our God the Creator.  Mary realized the preciousness of her life and how God had smiled upon her.  She sang her Magnificat as a response to the goodness of God.  Her life became a song of praise to God who had done mighty things for her.  And so I wonder, what song would you sing to God for the gift of your life?  Would it be a song of praise?  A song of hope?  A song of gratitude? A song of gratitude?  Or would it be a song of lament? A song of despair?   A song of anger?  A song of complaint?  We all get one life.  Mary chose to live her life in praise even when she encountered hardship, despair and obstacles.  What will you choose?  Mary chose praise.  Will you chose praise?  Repeat after me, Nothing is impossible for God.
The Gospel reading reminds us that this young woman, who did not know many things in life, said yes to God.  Like many of us when presented with a difficult decision, Mary said to the angel, “How can this be?”  I am sure all of us have said this phrase at least once in our own lives, Amen?  How can this be? Or in other words, Why me? Because of her belief in God, Mary did not let fear, or the unknown, prevent her from saying yes to God. 
And Mary said yes….and the world changed.  I wonder how many times the world could have changed even more if you and I said yes more often to God? Saying yes is an act of faith.  Saying yes unites us to Mary in a very special way.  Mary was given a special purpose, but all of us have a special purpose in our life.  Saying yes helps us to discover that purpose.  We do not need to know all the answers in order to make a decision in faith, Amen?  All of us are called to discover our special purpose in this world.  In our families, our faith community, our religious community and our world.  Mary, Woman of Faith, shows us the way to discovering our special purpose.  And so repeat after me, Nothing is impossible for God. 
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
                                                                    Ave, Ave, Maria
 So, we celebrate this great feast of Mary this night.  Tonight we also witness and celebrate the renewal of consecration of our Lay Marianists.  Like Mary, these men and women try to choose good over evil, try to live their life in praise of God, and try to say yes to God with their lives.  They too realize that Nothing is impossible for God. By living their life as a Lay Marianist, they are trying to discover their special purpose in life.  They are not perfect….believe me I know! But they are on the journey.  Maybe they have even said in their own life before making their consecration, How can this be?  But, they did respond to the call of God and Mary.  Maybe God might be calling you to consider making this special consecration that unites the vowed Marianist Brothers and the Lay Marianists in a very special relationship.  Maybe God is inviting you to say yes to this invitation?  Tonight as they renew their consecration maybe you may wonder if this too could be you some day. 
We have much to celebrate tonight, Amen? United with Mary we choose good, praise our God and say Yes to Gods will, Amen? Turn to the person next to you and say, Nothing is impossible for God.  Do you believe it?  In a loud voice say, I believe…Amen?
Ave, Ave, Ave Maria
                                                                    Ave, Ave, Maria

Happy Advent!

Image result for first sunday of advent

Happy Advent to all!  We began our Advent with an Advent Retreat which focused on four words of Advent: Hope, Waiting, Rejoice and Patience.  We had most of the morning for personal reflection on each of these words.  We were then invited to share with one another on three levels:
A) Personal
B) Communal
C) Province/Society of Mary (in honor of the Bicentennial)

After a great sharing from all of us, we sang some traditional Advent songs and then sat in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes.  We concluded our retreat with a festive meal.  It was a great way to begin the season!

Here's my homily for the First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent
Morning Church! A Happy Advent to all of you! Yes, we begin the holy season of Advent today in order to prepare ourselves for the great mystery of faith on Christmas, that God became one of us! We are in a new season and a new liturgical year.  The weather is getting colder and the days are getting shorter.  There is change in the air.  The Church gives us these seasons so that we can change, so that we can be better disciples, so that we can renew our love for Jesus Christ.  If you are happy to welcome the season of Advent, say Amen! The Word of God today invites us to think about three themes: Stay Awake, Be Prepared and Walk in the Light.  What are the themes? Stay Awake, Be Prepared and Walk in the Light.
At night, after a full day of work, I am pretty tired.  Around 9pm I start to get sleepy because I usually go to bed around 10pm because I wake up at 5am.  Sometimes it is easy to stay awake until 10pm and other times I have to fight my body to stay awake.  Also, sometimes it is hard to stay awake if we are not actively engaged in a class, a presentation, or a homily, Amen? The Word of God today reminds us to Stay Awake! Paul tells the Romans to “awake from sleep” and that “night is over” and to “refrain from things of the night”.  The Gospel reminds us that we do not know the day nor the hour.  We need to stay awake to our faith.  It is easy to sometimes be bored with faith, Church, life.  The season of Advent says to us in a loud voice, WAKE UP!!! Don’t sleep walk through your faith and don’t sleep walk through your life.  Be awake and alert and attentive! As a child I always wanted to stay up later at night because I thought I was going to miss something if I went to bed.  That is the same desire that we should have with our faith.  We want to stay awake because maybe we may miss something.  Turn to the person next to you and say, Stay Awake!!!
The second theme today is: Be Prepared.  The Gospel reminds us that in the demands of everyday life may appear to interfere with knowing the signs of the Day of the Lord.  As we notice signs in nature we also must notice signs of God in our midst.  Matthew states that, “if the master of the house had known the hour of the night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.”  The Master of the house, and we, need to be prepared.  So how do we prepare?  I think we keep to the disciplines of our faith: prayer, works of mercy, reading the Word of God, participating in Mass and the sacraments, and caring for the needs of others.  If we do these things, then we will be prepared.  All of these spiritual disciplines help us to be focused on God and others, and that is our command…Love one another as I have loved you.  So during these four weeks of Advent, make a commitment to spend time each day in prayer, read the daily readings, attend Mass each Sunday, help a person in need and thank God each night before you go to bed for your life and the blessings that you received.  If you do this during Advent, you will be prepared, Amen?
And finally, the last theme is : Walk in the Light.  What is the last theme?  Walk in the Light. The prophet Isaiah tells the people that in the day of the Lord that all nations will be untied together, that we will move from war to peace, that there will be an end to violence when we walk in the light.  When we do the things of God, then we become a beacon of light for all.  When we walk on the path of light, all shall be well.  Paul tells the Romans to “put on the armor of light”.  It is not easy to be a faithful disciple, Amen? There is darkness in the world, and some of that darkness tries to confuse us.  We are people of the light.  When we bring our lives into the light we can see more clearly where we need to change.  Advent is about living our life in the light and not in the darkness.  We can walk in the light when we are awake and when we are prepared, Amen?  I love that imagery of armor.  Soldiers wear armor for protection when they go into battle.  Paul reminds us that even though we may not be at war in the literal sense, that life can be difficult and people of faith need protection against the things of darkness.  Putting on the armor of light protects us and keeps us safe for the Day of the Lord.  So, how is your armor? Is it protecting you and allowing you to walk in the light…or do you need some new armor?  Are you ready for the battle that comes for people of faith?
So people of God, today is the first Sunday of Advent.  We light the first candle on the wreath.  We begin to think about Christmas and vacation.  But, it is much more than a pretty wreath and time off.  We are preparing ourselves for the great mystery of the incarnation, where God becomes one of us.  In order for us to celebrate well, we cannot sleep walk through our days, we must Stay awake.  In order for us to celebrate well, we must be prepared and live our lives as if each day might be our last and so we pray, help others, read Scripture, and make changes in our lives.  In order for us to celebrate well, we must put on the armor of light and walk in the light and avoid things of the darkness.  Advent is a time for us to reflect and make changes in our lives.  And like our brothers and sisters in the early Church, we say, Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha! Are you ready to begin this four week journey? Come on Church, in a loud voice repeat after me, I am ready Lord….I am ready Lord…Amen?