Monday, March 9, 2009

Here and now

Christ at the Home of Martha and Mary, by Jan Vermeer

We had our Fraternity (of Communion and Liberation) Lent Retreat this weekend, and we were so blessed to have Fr. Roberto come, yet again, to do it for us. Here is a transcript of the homily he gave at Mass Saturday evening (thanks to Jeff and Chandra for taping, transcribing, and editing):

Readings: Gn 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18 (sacrifice of Issac), Ps 116:10, 15, 16-17, 18-19, Rom 8:31b-34, Mk 9:2-10 (Transfiguration):

We might all be in circumstances like the one of Abraham, where God is asking of us something that is—we would say—incredible, absurd. We are in front of something that surpasses our imagination, thoughts, words, comprehension.

He is in front of a promise. He is in front of his son, and the son is the fruit of a promise… and God is asking him not to trust the fruit, but to trust the source of the fruit, to trust Himself, God Himself. And we might be in these circumstances, where God is asking something, he's asking for a “yes,” given directly to Him.

We are at the beginning of Lent, where this “yes” has to become flesh in our lives. And that's why the Church invites us to, to say a “yes” that… that is not just said with our lips, but it's said with everything – words, thoughts, actions, charity. It is the beginning of seeing our death and resurrection. It is the beginning of seeing something greater in our lives, in our daily lives. It is the beginning of seeing Him in our daily lives. It is the beginning of reality.

Now, I learned a few months ago what a “reality check” is. It was not a very good experience, and they said, “OK, that is a reality check.” Thank you. But, what Peter, James, and John had is the real reality check. That is, there is something in front of us that we are asked to recognize. We are asked to see. We are asked to see. And there are circumstances where we are in front of the law and the prophets, and we are understanding, in the sense that we are embracing them. There are circumstances that the Lord wants us to go through where we can say exactly the same words, "It's good for us to be here." It is an experience.

This experience started at a certain point. It’s the Baptism. And, inasmuch as we say “yes” to Christ—“yes” to anything that He proposes—we will also be able to recognize. And St. Paul is also expressing this in a wonderful way in the Gospel; no, sorry, in the Romans... where he says, "What can separate us from the love of Christ?" I am in front of you. Is this a separation between you and Christ, or between me and Christ? Or, I may be in front of a terrible thing. Is this a separation? No, it is not. It is His embrace.

Two months ago, a friend in our community said, "I went to the doctor because I had a problem, and the doctor said that (she's 28-years-old) and the doctor said that I might have multiple sclerosis." And everybody was silent. And she said, "I don’t know why the Lord is proposing this, but I know it is Him, and so I am happy because He is proposing something to me. Something nobody wants. I don't want it. But I know He is the one proposing something great in my life. I want to understand it better, and I need you. I need the Church, in order to understand it better. In order to understand my life. In order to understand how to love. In order to say ‘yes’ in this circumstance. I need you. I need you saying ‘yes,’ so that I can say ‘yes’."

That's why Peter, and James, and John were there, full of wonder, in front of what was happening. This is the experience of being in front of a man who says “yes”. Every time that each of us says, sincerely, “yes” to Christ, it is a new Transfiguration. There is a reality that we were not seeing before, but it is actually there. And we thought they were dead. We thought that Moses, or the prophets, was something of the past. We thought that Christ's love was something of the past, when ... maybe when I was young, or maybe when, when something good happened… but now, now it's dead, now it's passed. But every time that we say “yes” to Christ, the Transfiguration happens again. Because the Lord makes us to see, makes us to be here, and to be in front of the Eucharist in a new way. With a new “yes”, and a “yes” that is made of flesh and blood – that is His flesh and blood and our flesh and blood.

He is asking us to say a new “yes,” in the beginning and during this journey of Lent. We might go through very different circumstances. The first one is a very tragic one. The one in the Gospel is an incredible one. Christ that shows His risen face – even before the Resurrection. Peter would say this is… this is our destiny. This is what we are created for. And Christ, at a certain point, says, "This will be for everybody, but you will need the experience of the cross first. My cross."

So, the Lord might propose a cross for us, so that the Church can experience the Resurrection again. Maybe the Lord is asking you to carry a cross. Maybe the Lord is asking you to renounce all the fruits that you have seen, and maybe you are taking it. And He's asking a new start, a new “yes,” a new relationship with Him, directly with Him – in the Church, through the sacraments. Asking ourselves what is the meaning of being baptized, and so this change of nature, this “evolution,” as the Pope calls it, entered into human history—the greatest evolution—when a person becomes a new person. And it is not even through the “yes” of the person, but it is because of the “yes” of the Church. And we might have so many things, and Christ is asking us to say a new “yes” to Him, a new love.

But, this is the land of the living. These are the ones that are alive. Those who are alive have no fear. And maybe the Lord is asking something like that lady. (The name is Paige; you can say a prayer for her.) She is saying “yes,” through the Church, and offering it for the Church. We might ask to be like Abraham in front of something terrible. We might be like St. Paul that sees this community and says, "Do you understand that everything is embraced by Christ?" Do you understand that it's all one embrace? All that is happening to you is Christ that is saying, "I love you. With all my heart, with all my life, I give my life for you." Every time we come at Mass.

And so we are asked to answer; we are here in order to help the Church say “yes” again, anew, in whatever circumstances we might be through. The Transfiguration is part of our being Christians, because He is here.

The priest says words. He gives voice to Christ at a certain point during the celebration and performs a miracle. Every priest performs a miracle, saying Mass. And we are here because we want—we need—that miracle. We need a God who gives His life again – for me, for you. And when we say "amen” – and "amen" means “I am totally with you,” completely, 100%, it is a communion. I will receive the communion. I will receive You, and I … I am with you, 100%. I am with the Church, 100%. Like a baby who is 100% with the mother, even if he or she doesn’t understand completely what the mother and the father are saying. But I am with you.

This is what we are asked to do. To say a new “yes”. To be here in front of the sacraments, in front of the Eucharist, saying, “yes,” again. Following the Church, with all of our gifts that the Lord is giving. So that this Communion can become a witness for the whole world.

If twelve men made the greatest revolution in history, how much this parish can do. If everybody says “yes” with his or her heart, there will be another revolution in the world. Saints that are witnessing a presence. This is the path of Lent. This is what is proposed to us. To say “yes” to holiness. To say “yes” to Christ who is here, here and now.

* Fr. Roberto's homily

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."