30 December 2012

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Ok, here is an attempt to put into words something that I have thought about and dealt with for many years.  First, however, I must mention that I am sitting here, writing this, eating home-made Cranberry Oatmeal cookies that were made and imported for me from New Mexico!  I also sit here, just having spent a great time with some friends after a day of 3 masses, in three different cities (although Lenorah is more of a spot.)  I'm playing Scramble with Friends and wearing a comfy pair of Green Bay Packer slippers that were gifted to me this Christmas.  That said, I thought it would be good to sit and reflect on family.  Today, we celebrated the feast of the Holy Family, and while the idea of the Holy Family is one which may fill us with joy and warmth, I kept thinking about the nitty gritty, I mean, come on, the baby was in a manger, I can only imagine what Mary must have been thinking and poor Joseph, what a mess!  And yet, in all of that, we see how it is that God's plan seems to bring this simple and miraculous family through what appears to be a moment of high stress.  Not only that, Jesus' wierd uncles arrive (the shepherds), the doting aunts are present too (the angels) and then the family from out of town shows up (you guessed it, the Magi.)  In all of this, however, there is a thread of God that is woven into what would today seem like a complete and utter failure to plan ahead.  But I digress,  as I pray and sit with the Holy Family, there is something going on within me that is almost without words.  As I think about this celebration today, I remember a question that my mother made to me many years ago when I had announced my intention to enter the seminary.  After a moment of awkward silence, she asked if I was ready to "never have a family of my own."  In my youthful ignorance, I quickly replied "yes," and that was that.  Throughout the years, I have carried this question as I continued my journey through seminary, into vows, then diaconate, and priestly ordination and then onto my first assignment and others.  It has been a question that is there but not always recognized, and yet, in moments such as today, I recall that almost haunting question.  Back then, in my zeal to serve the Lord, I could care less about a family, after all, I would be doing God's work, who needed a family!  Today, however, I am humbled at the glory of God as I sit and reflect on the many gifts that God has granted to me.  As I sit here and eat my cookie, I am touched to think that just as God took care of that scene in the manger, and many many others after that, He too has been more than taking care of me through my journey.  And although my house is quiet tonight as I sit here alone with my two dogs, without a family, I sit with the peace of knowing that while there is no wife and kids to fill this house, there are many many brothers, and sisters of mine all around the country, and maybe even the world.  As I sit here and think on the blessings of family, I rest assured that family is not only the immediate group of people with whom I share a common bloodline, but rather, a group of people with whom I form the Body of Christ.  My family, as God has blessed me, is composed of many different people, some closer to me than others, but all securely carried in my heart.  To some I am a Father, to others a friend, to many I am Ricky but no matter what, I love them, and I love you.  And so as I come to the end of this blessed and wonderful day, I write to share with you (not my cookies), but my thoughts, and my love.  Thank you Lord for this, my family.  May God bless you, and as I have said, remember that I love you.  In Christ always, your Fr. Ricky.

24 December 2012

25th of December, the Eleventh day of the Lunar month

Tonight is one of those nights when we gather together as a family, a time when all is forgiven (or at least set aside for the night) when we gather and share with each other.  There is family and food, decorations and presents, and for some, there is Church.  Whether we believe or not, whether we believe the same or not, tonight, we are invited to transcend the differences that sets each of us apart, and to extend a hand to each other, to embrace or welcome my sister, or brother, or uncle or aunt.  We come and in our own way, we bring the best of who we are as we see new faces or become reacquainted with old ones.  We celebrate in the chill of the evening as the different groups come together, this group in the living room, the kids somewhere else, the old folks in the dining room and everyone chatting and having a good time.  Tonight, however, as we come together, we celebrate a reality that is far beyond our understanding.  God becomes man.  Love takes on Flesh.  Christ is BORN!  We celebrate that glorious event of God's reaching out to each and everyone of us in great love, a love that takes on flesh and becomes one of us in all things but sin.  We come together and allow the twinkling of the lights and the warmth of the home, to embrace us in a way that God himself does for each and every one of us.  We come together and in the hug or kiss, the handshake or fist-pump, we feel the warmth of God made man.  In sitting across from each other at dinner or bringing a gift to another, in a gentle smile of a friend and even a foe, we are reminded of the joyous occasion that is God coming to each of us.  Not a mighty warrior or triumphant king, but a gentle baby.  A baby that needs us to care for him even as he grows so as to care for us, a baby that becomes the bread of life, a bread that is to be broken.  We come together and remember that in Jesus the Christ, we are redeemed and that just as a baby is vulnerable and open to our care, so too the redemption that Christ offers.  It is not imposed upon us or forced, but rather in great love, it is offered to us in an invitation over and over again, always with love beyond all telling.  And so as we come together and commemorate the birth of Him who would eventually be broken for us, we are reminded that we have no need to remain broken, because in Him we are made whole, and for that, we proclaim with all of creation, Glory to God in the Highest!  Peace to you and God bless you.  And as always, know that I love you.  Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad.  Fr. Ricky

17 December 2012

Mr. President, you are correct, but not.

On Sunday evening, most of the major TV networks cut to a live feed of the speech given by President Obama at the Memorial Service for the victims of last Friday’s tragic shooting.  In his remarks, nicely accented with Scripture, he stated that “surely we can do better than this,” referring to the need to take better care of our children.  As his speech came to a close, he read the names of the children who had been killed.  Slowly and deliberately, each name spoke of a future snuffed out by the senseless and aggressive act of violence which has left us all with saddened hearts.  
As I sat after the speech, reflecting on what had been said, I couldn’t help but see a blatant contradiction between the President’s words and his actions.  While he is not directly connected to the death of children, there is today, a push to attain abortifacient drugs and medications to end “unwanted” pregnancies.  As I thought about the words of the President, I was moved to think about the countless innocent who are daily massacred.  Nameless and forgotten, they are brought to a state of dismay as their lives are ended without ever having received even a blink from the same people who so eloquently call for our doing “better.”  The reality is that as we gather more and more, four times in his presidency, to mourn tragic events such as last Friday’s or like in Aurora, CO, we gather with authentic and real grief.  In all of this, however, we must come to terms with a radical truth that many of us have missed, as Pope John Paul II warned some years ago, we have become a culture of death.  As such, life is something that happens but death is a norm that can be chosen, even if we still cringe at gross events such as what we witnessed last Friday.  In truth, we have become a society that accepts death and promotes it through social and legal justifications, “I’m just not ready to have this child.” Or “He deserves to die, he’s a monster!”  More and more the message of life, the message Christ Himself offered, is pushed aside and relegated to the quiet comfort of our homes and churches, and even they aren’t as sacred as once before.  In our time, we have become a people who have willfully chosen to turn away from God, choosing for ourselves false idols that bring temporary comfort and pleasure, but which ultimately lead to our own destruction, pockets of which, we see more unashamedly in events such as those at Newtown.  In his speech, President Obama said that our “first task: caring for our children. It's our first job. If we don't get that right, we don't get anything right. That's how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we're meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we're doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?"  Good question Mr. President, and looking at your mandates and your record, the answer is No.  May we become people of life, that together, in the Life that is given to us by Christ, we may not only safeguard our children, but also pass on to them a truly safe life in which death is no longer part of our choices.  Mr President, lead us in working toward a world where Scripture isn’t just a passing story, but a reality in which we all live!  Lord Jesus, come. As always, God bless you, and know that I love you.  Fr. Ricky

08 December 2012

A Funeral Homily

Death has a particular way of inflicting itself upon us.  When we least expect it, even after a long infirmity, it seems to creep up on us as if a fog creeping in the morning, or a sandstorm ominously approaching from far away.  Death enters, and life is forever changed.  For those who continue living, death has the innate ability to shake us to the core, whether because it reminds us of our own mortality, or because it makes us experience the loss of a dear beloved person.  Whatever it does, death has that not so subtle way of imposing itself upon us, and in a certain way, when death arrives, it takes not only the life of those we love, it forever makes the lives of the living, different.  
Something else that death manages to do when it entangles us in its grasp, is to test our faith and sometimes, to alter our hopes, it is capable of making a dent in our lives that is sometimes not overcome, or it burns memories into our minds of those last moments, or what I should have done differently, regrets are created and at times, because of those memories, we mourn.  Death has a way of doing that quite well. 
And then, just as we believe ourselves to have overcome the shadow of death, maybe a year or two later, we all of a sudden remember it once again, as we remind ourselves that I need to tell dad about this or that thing, only to realize that dad, is gone.  Death is here.
But as Christians, we come together at times of death, and yes, while our faith may be tested by the loss we have experienced, or as our hopes may be altered or changed because of the void in our lives, St. Paul reminds us that after all have passed away, of faith, hope and love, only love remains.  As Christians then, we gather at times of death not only because we must, but because in Christ, and in His love, we have glimpsed the power of His transformative life.  Upon taking Christ into our lives, and as we become heralds of Love having taken on Flesh, we are reminded that while faith and hope may pass, or while the tomb may pretend to contain them as it did Jesus, or as it will all of us, even there, in the cold silence of the dark tomb, love will call upon us, love will call us beyond death, Love will call us to Himself and in Him, we will live! We shall have the life that we shared here on earth, a life that we glimpsed through the sacraments and a life that is felt now, in the love we have for each other.  Because as we gather today, we not only come to celebrate life, we come to acknowledge the life we now share in each other, through Christ.  
We come and recall that in the gentle hug of friend, or the warm hand of our neighbor we experience the touch of Christ, the same Christ whose voice we pray, that those who have preceded us will hear and respond to, the Christ who in his great love has come to each and every one of us.  Christ who in His own victory from the dead, reminds us that our hope is not in vain nor our faith empty, but rather fulfilled in his love in which we are strengthened for the journey, one in which we encounter God’s love on a daily basis, through those around us and in our selves, a journey which will one day appear to give into the cool grip of death, but in reality a journey in which we, through the great love of Christ, will be transformed as our life is changed, not ended.  
And so, we gather here today, and we continue walking into tomorrow, knowing that while there will be sorrow at times, as people as we sit in an empty room for the first time, or maybe six months down the road or at his birthday, we will continue walking with Christ and sharing in his life, trying to understand that in every step, as we await our friend death, we will not fear, but rejoice, because beyond death, God calls us into life.  And so we live, we celebrate and we change, for we too will not end, but be changed, and together, with all the Saints and angels, we will rejoice in Him who is our life.  
As always, know that you are loved,  God bless you and Peace to you! Fr. Ricky

02 December 2012

buy one, get one free! only three easy installments of 23.99!

It feels as though only yesterday we were being bombarded by the different political ads and propaganda!  Vote for me!  Vote for me!  I promise this, I promise that, no new taxes!  Since Thanksgiving, we went from political ads to store ads and great bargains!  Black Friday came early followed by Small Business Saturday, Sunday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday and this and that thing.  Now, we hear on the radio and on TV about the "fiscal cliff,"  a new Boogie Man-esque ordeal that threatens to bring chaos into our midst.  No matter what, the more we stand and listen to this or that thing, and then throw in the dark readings we have been having in our Masses, there is plenty of room to become scared and really worried about what is really happening in our world today.  The apocalyptic readings, attached with some crazy preacher's words of woe can easily send anyone into a fear that may seem inescapable.  At the base of all this, however, there is something that we are invited to consider during this time of Advent.  In all the chaos and noise of this season and this time, we are invited to enter a period of reflection and preparation.  It's not just about the Christmas gifts and decorations, or about the things we will get or do for the holidays, instead, it is about coming to a place of quiet where we are able to sit with Christ and reacquaint ourselves with the one light that transcends all things, His infinite Love!  It is this love that is represented in the lights and glimmer of the ornaments, the hopefulness of the green tree and the merriment of our carols and songs are gentle reminders that it is His Love that calls us to new life, and in celebrating the birth of Christ, we celebrate not only the birth of our Savior, but indeed, the fact that in Jesus, Love Takes on Flesh.  He comes to each and every one of us and invites us to be part of his love, and in that same love, we are brought to new life.  In the simple and vulnerable love of Jesus, we are invited to enter into relationship with God, no longer hidden behind the curtain in the Temple, but now dwelling in our midst.  He, the Bread of Life, is born and is handed to each of us to accept or deny.  He is placed in a manger, a feeding trough, and it's up to us to either accept His life-giving love, or to get lost in the hustle and bustle, and the chaos of life.   In Christ, we are invited to enter a place of reflection and holiness where we strive to become Saints, not just a place where we get by in obeying obligations and fulfilling duties.  Just as a baby enters the life of his family in a most vulernable state, so too does Jesus come into our midst, not as the mighty warrior that had long been expected, but as the baby that we can either choose or not.  Today, as we enter Advent, we are brought to remember that the end will come, but it is up to us whether or not we will hear His voice when He calls, or will we be lost in the chatter of the world.  Its our choice, but in Advent, let us take time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Birth of Love, not just because we have to, but because we know this love and we love Him.  As always, may God bless you and know that you are loved.  Fr. Ricky

27 November 2012

The end is nigh!!!

I was recently saddened by a wedding that I celebrated.  The event itself is not what made me sad, instead, it was the guests.  First of all, I must note that the celebration was outside of mass, and although it still made it difficult, I was at least glad that Jesus didn't have to be present for this, at least not in Eucharistic form.  Getting back to my feelings, I was struck by the lack of participation of the people at the wedding, more particularly, I was saddened by the cell phone usage, the chatter between folks and the ceaseless murmuring between people throughout the celebration.  It almost seemed as though these folks believed that I couldn't see them.  In all of this though, I wasn't so much saddened by the fact that these folks had no interest in the celebration at hand, I was struck by what they proclaimed to me in their lack of interest.  In some ways, the small crowd gathered for this couple was representative of a far greater reality that is affecting more and more of us.  We live our lives unexamined, (here I refer back to the old philosophical maxim, "the unexamined life is not worth living")  We go about our days doing this or doing that, but how often do we stop to become aware of what it is that we are doing, or even more, who it is that we are becoming.  In these last few days, the readings at mass have been rather stark and maybe "end of days ish" this isn't for not reason,  the fact of the matter is that when John was writing his Revelations, the Christian community was undergoing a major reality check.  Only a few years after Christ's Resurrection, the Way was being persecuted like crazy.  All these good folks were all of a sudden having to face the reality of death, and I don't mean a theatrical or movie death, but a real "getting up close and personal with lions" death.  It was an intense period and being Christian was more than just being Baptized, going through CCD to do first Communion and then Confirmation, it was a time when becoming Christian was a life choice, one that could literally cost us our life.  Thankfully, we no longer have to face some of those harsh decisions today, (although persecution still exists).  With this in mind, however, and as we enter the Advent season, maybe we can take some time out of our busy days and reconnect with Him who entered our world not as a migthy conquerer, or a valiant leader, but as a vulnerable infant.  Maybe it's time that we take a moment and face ourselves as we examine our lives and more profoundly, our Christian self.  Who am I in God? How do I live out my faith?  What are my fears?  How is Christ preset in my heart?  What do I need to do to welcome Him?  These are but a few of the questions we must ask ourselves, as the first purple candle begins to illumine our darkness, let come to know Him so that as we celebrate the end of this season, we may not only rejoice in the gift that is Christ, but also celebrate with our lives.  As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr Ricky

17 November 2012

"in the clouds..."

No, the title does not represent my usual state of mind, instead, it is taken from this Sunday's Gospel: "and they will see the 'Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory." (Mk 13:24-32) (http://usccb.org/bible/readings/111812.cfm)  I was particularly struck by this simple and often overlooked phrase because last night, Friday night, I was having to go get some fuel for my car before heading out to hear confessions.  The day had been pretty busy and somewhat difficult but I hadn't yet been able to sit long enough to process all the events that had taken place within the last twenty four hours.  So here I went, off to the Shell station on I-20.  As I was going there from St. Ann's, I took Garfield street.  Part of me looked ahead to the intersection where Garfield meets the train tracks.  There, where only a day before, such tragedy had struck.  For those not aware of what happened: (http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/train-parade-float-accident-in-midland-leaves-4-dead-16-hurt/2012/11/16/2885963c-2ff3-11e2-af17-67abba0676e2_story.html).  Anyway, as I was driving to the gas station, I noticed that the train, which had been eerily still since the accident, was gone.  Somewhat relieved, I decided to continue on my route to the station.  As I approached, however, I noticed that the parade float, an 18 wheeler adapted with chairs for the Veterans and their spouses to sit on, was still there.  As I got closer, I noticed that wreckers had arrived on the scene and that the vehicle was being removed.  For some reason, perhaps because of the lack of processing, I became emotional at seeing everything there.  Because the street was still closed, I had to take an alternate route.  As I went I eventually was able to cross the tracks.  It was at that moment that I looked out my window into the sunset.  As I looked West, I was mesmerized by an array of clouds and sunlight that blanketed the sky.  It was a spectacular sight that filled me with great peace and joy.  What had a few moments before been a somber reminder of a tragedy, was quickly turned into a celebration of God's love.  This is not to say that what happened should be celebrated, on the contrary, mourning and grieving are very necessary, but in that process of expressing the pain of loss, it is also significant that as Christians, we come together not out of necessity or tragedy, but out of love. Here, the beautiful sunset proclaimed to all the glory and wonder of God, even as this scene of devastation was being cleaned up.  Here, the gentle clouds combined with the radiant dying light of the evening sun to produce a reminder of the Glory of God whose love and majesty remain with us even when we are too busy focused on the scenes of our own lives.  This amazing display was a reminder that in the love of God, Christ comes to each of us and invites us, not to avoid the pain that our lives may have, but to recognize something greater than those difficulties we face, the life that is found in Him!  I was so busy focusing on the scene, the memories, my emotion, that I hadn't noticed what was going on above me.  There, in the clouds, was the radiant splendor of God's love.  And isn't that what God invites us to as His beloved children?  A celebration of the life that is found in Him, even in the midst of woe.  There, just beyond the tomb, there is the light that calls us to Himself, a light which calls us out of the tomb and into life, a light that shone all around us last night here in Midland, even as we continue to mourn and grieve.  A light that reminds us that through the waters of Baptism, and because of His death and resurrection, for those who believe, life is changed not ended.  For that, I cannot help but praise Him.  As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.  Fr. Ricky

07 November 2012

Zombies are real, but it's not what I expected!

And now, for a little self-revelation...(not that writing a blog isn't pretty revealing)  For some time now, I have luxuriated in cultivating an irrational fear of ZOMBIES!  As silly as it seems, I have become fearful of these fictional creations and have even done zombie checks or considered zombie escape routes, you know, the usual stuff.  As I have fed these fears by watching such shows as The Walking Dead and The Jersey Shore (not really... Bazinga!), I have slowly created imaginary scenarios in which, I usually don't come out triumphant.  Either way, I recognize that the fear of Zombies is both irrational and a luxury of which I can pretend to partake.  This fear, however, is completely fictional, it is more of a hobby than an actual phobia or fear, it is something that takes up my time as I go from one meeting to another or from one event to the next.  Recently though, I have come face to face with the Zombie Apocalypse  and it's nothing like I thought it would be.  To begin, this particular zombie was not trying to eat my brains, nor was he after a bite of flesh, instead, the zombie that sat in my office was someone that I had known for many years.  A person that I have grown to admire and respect, a person whose family seemed perfect and in tact, and yet, here he was, right in front of me, my old friend, and yet, a zombie.  In between bouts of lucidity, my friend pleaded with me to help him escape the horror which he was living, and yet, in the next breath, the zombie manifested itself desperate not for flesh, or brains, but for the next hit.  Right before my eyes, I saw the horrible effects of this monster that possess my friend, pushing him down and revealing itself for what it is, a soul-less, self centered zombie that pursued its next hit with the ferocity of a fictional zombie running after a real life remnant of the human race.  As I sat there, slowly realizing what I was witnessing, I didn't know what to do.  The Zombie Apocalypse was happening right in my office and I had no idea how to respond!  Zombies aside, and fears aside, I quickly turned to Christ and the Holy Spirit to guide me in this time.  With the calmness of someone moving away from a zombie, I started to breathe slowly and in a measured fashion, and although he was right across from my desk, it wasn't my brain but my heart that went out to him.  Here, in front of me, was a modern day leper, a child of God who had gone astray.  Just a few weeks ago I proclaimed and preached about my good friend Bartimeus, and now, here he was, not in the midst of a crowd, but in the midst of the zombie, the drug, the addiction.  Here he sat, right in front of me calling out "HAVE PITY ON ME!"
As much as would like to say that I sprang into action like a Christ-like zombie fighting warrior, I have to admit that for the first time, I didn't know what to do, or how to pretend that I knew what to do.  At this moment, my friend was in true need of help and this zombie could see right through anything I could through its way.  This morning, as I sit and write this post, I am humbled at the call to help this young man, and while I cannot know where he will end up, I pray that in the little that I have been able to offer, he will find the peace he needs.  He has agreed to enter a rehab program, but what then?  I have offered to continue walking with him throughout this ordeal, and in Christ, I hope that the damage that has been created, both in him and in his family, will find the healing that is necessary.  Unfortunately, like in the movies, this zombie has damaged everything around it, and reconstruction  will be difficult, but in the end, I guess that in Christ, even the darkness of the zombie apocalypse or of the tomb, can be overcome.  And also in Christ, I and in truth, we are called upon to fight this apocolypse that is happening in so many of our homes.  I don't have the solution, but I can't help but believe, because I have experienced it myself, that ultimately, it will take great love anc courage which can only come from Christ, to battle not only this apocolypse, but all those that are so easily taking over many of those we love.  Pray for me as I do for you.
As always, know that you are loved.  God bless you.   Fr. Rick

02 November 2012

No one mourns the wicked...

I saw a picture today of a dear friend of mine in her Halloween costume, and she was all green!  Seeing the picture, I was reminded of the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.  Seeing her, reminded me of the song from the recent Broadway musical "Wicked." The song states: No one mourns the wicked... no one cries because their gone, no one lays a lily on their grave...  As I hum this or sing out the parts I remember, I think of the day we celebrate today, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos, or Undas.  It is a day in which we gather to commemorate those whose lives have ended.  It is also a day to take some time and pray for those whose lives were less than stellar, those who died alone or abandoned, and quite frankly, all the dead.  It is a time to take a moment for reflection on our own mortality and to remember that as children of God, through the waters of Baptism, we are each granted eternal life, but we also recognize that because of the choices we make in our free will, some will have to face a time of purging as we prepare to join the Heavenly choirs.  Today, we call upon God to grant eternal rest upon the dead, and to let perpetual light shine upon them.  We celebrate and remember that one day, we too will need the prayers of the living as we journey beyond this life and that perhaps, as we pray for all the dead, even the wicked become participants in the mercy of God where life is found.  May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace.  As always, I love you, God bless you and Memento Mori.  Fr. Rick

29 October 2012

I want to see.

Throughout the entirety of last week, I sat with a dear friend as I listened to his words and pondered the depth of his wisdom.  I listened as he spoke with great faith and moved in great confidence.  Throughout my time with him, I couldn't help but be amazed at the great courage he showed and the persistence with which he spoke out.  For those of you who don't know him, his name is Batrimeus, he is the son of Timeus and while he is blind, he showed me just how clearly he can see.  
Now, before you go off and tell everyone just how crazy I am (I'm not, I've been tested), take a moment to hear me out.  You see, for as long as I can remember, I have known Bartimeus, or at least since a wise Spiritual Director of mine told me to sit with him.  "Wait with him on that curb," my Spiritual Director said, "and see what happens, who comes around."  And sure enough, wouldn't you know it, after hours and hours of waiting, Jesus came around.  Not only did he come around though, he came and then the unexpected happened  or at least I believed it to be unexpected.  Bartimeus started yelling at the top of his lungs, crying out into every direction, hoping that his plea wouldn't fall on deaf ears, and then it happened, the crowd became eerily quiet after it had tried to silence Barti, (that's what I call him) and then some people started telling him to get up, Jesus was calling,  and lo and behold, Barti sprang up, threw his cloak aside and went to Jesus.  I was mesmerized to see how Bartimeus went straight to Jesus, "but how?" I asked myself, "he's blind!"  He did it though and everyone was amazed at what transpired, because just ask quickly as Bartimeus had sprang up, he had regained his sight.  The entire crowd was awestruck at this event, but there's something more that was amazing.  You see, as I trailed behind Bartimeus, I was able to hear Jesus as he spoke with great love with Barti.  Jesus asked him what he wanted and Barti spoke clearly, "I want to see."  And see he did, but what struck me the most is that Jesus didn't just give Bartimeus his vision back, he gave him something far more healing.  Jesus spoke of Bartimeus being saved, and that is what struck me the most.  
And so it is, in Jesus we are not only able to see with our eyes, but truly we are able to see with the heart that God has given us, the same heart onto which God smiled when he declared us humans to be "very good."  I can't begin to imagine just how Bartimeus had the fortitude or courage to do what he did, or how he even found his way to Jesus, but I have no doubt that in all the time he had sat in a world of darkness, he had been able to attune his heart to the voice of his shepherd, of our shepherd, and just like the sheep that Jesus speaks of, Bartimeus was able to respond and follow as soon as he heard that voice, but there's more, not only did Barti have a faith that knew the voice of God, he also had a disposition to put that faith into action, I believe that is what gave him the ability to spring up and go to Jesus.  Thinking about all this, it makes me wonder where I am, how is my faith made strong in the silence?  Am I able to attune my own heart to that of Jesus, or do I stray and listen to other voices?  And am I as willing to respond when God calls, or do I lolly gag on this or that little thing, do I trip over my own cloak?  Either way, my good friend Barti has reminded me that for all that I know and love God, there is still far more to do, I pray that each of us, in our own way, are able to grow in knowing and loving God, that we may each respond when necessary and above all, that our faith may help us see even when the way is unclear.  As always, know that you are loved. God bless you.  Fr. Rick

21 October 2012

Something Different... ¡Español!

Me alegre cuando me dijeron, vamos a la casa del Señor

Tantas veces he oído, y cantado este verso del canto bien conocido que resuena tan a menudo en nuestras parroquias o celebraciones.  Pero nunca había tomado un momento para reflexionar sobre que significa este canto tan simple, pero tan poderoso.  Al mirarlo, parece solo expresar la alegría del autor, vamos a la casa del Señor.  Pero que si vemos esta frase come Jesús nos invita, como niños?  El significado de este verso empieza a cambiar.  No solo nos llega la importancia de ir a la casa del Señor, sino que también comenzamos a pensar de lo que cuesta ir a esa casa, lo largo que puede ser el camino, y los obstáculos que tal vez tengamos que sobrepasar.  Tal vez, para un adulto, el viaje no sea tan difícil o trabajoso, pero para un niño, se dificulta mas.  Requiere un cambio total de visión, significa una jornada a un lugar diferente y aparte de mi casa, y provoca una vulnerabilidad que me llama a confiar totalmente en aquellos que me llevan. Y a la vez, nos llena de alegría porque vamos a la casa del Señor, a donde nos encontramos con aquel quien nos llama en su gran amor, allí, es la casa del Señor, allí llegamos a ver y conocemos a Dios que nos inspira una nueva visión de lo que es ser Hijo o Hija.  
Al llegar a la casa del Señor, llegamos a un lugar de alegría y paz, pero no siempre es fácil el camino.  En tomar la decisión de ir a la casa del Señor nos encomendamos a otros, y esperamos que en nuestra jornada no solo llegaremos, pero que aquellos en quienes hemos confiado no nos desviaran del camino.  Como niños, nuestra jornada de Cristianos significa una entrega al AENOR, y una dedicación al caminar hacia su casa, a través del camino muchas veces desconocido.  Pero caminamos reconociendo que al final, tendremos esa alegría y ese descanso, llegaremos a un lugar donde reina la paz.  La jornada, por mas fácil o mas difícil que haya sido, termina, y juntos, regocijamos.  Así que al ser invitados a la casa del Señor, nos alegramos, no solo por la invitación, sino por la hermosa realidad que al llegar, no somos los mismos. En verdad, nuestra transformación ocurre en el amor infinito de Dios que vamos conociendo al recorrer nuestro camino, y allí, en Dios es donde encontramos la vida, donde encontramos un amor que nos alegra no solo por haber entrado a la casa del Señor, sino por haber encontrado la vida que Dios nos tiene preparada.  Y allí, cantamos con los santos y los ángeles, “Que alegría cuando me dijeron, vamos a la casa del Señor.”

Buen Camino.

Padre Ricardo

14 October 2012

Sunday's Homily, or something of the sort

This past Thursday, October 11th, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.  For those not familiar with this event, it is commonly known as Vatican II and is often primarily recognized for having introduced the mass in the vernacular or common language, and for having turned the altars around.  Mass in English and the priest facing the people was only one change that resulted from this momentous event in the Church’s life.  There were 16 documents produced, ranging from the liturgy to our relations with other churches.  
This past Thursday, in conjunction with the anniversary of Vatican II, the Church also began the year of faith which will accompany us until November 23 of next year.  
But all this may be perhaps nothing more than a happy memory or another church thing to do, or at least it may seem that way.  In actuality, the Year of Faith, is a time for us to enter into a sincere and honest reflection of not just the faith, this vague and distant idea that the priest have to worry about, but a moment in which we pause and reflect on who I am as a part of the Church, and if the Church’s mission is to evangelize, how I participate in that.  It is a moment to reconnect with our own faith or to help it grow. 
 So what do Year of Faith and Vatican II have to do with today’s readings?  Well, you see, we enter this year of faith as a people of faith, but we are also being called upon to enter as intentional people.  People willing to participate, not just in church events, but in authentic and honest self-reflection.  We are called to reflect on who I am and who God is in my life.  What does faith mean to me and how do I live out the faith every day?
And just in case we’re still not sure of how to “self-reflect,” we see in the Gospel today this young man who lived his faith in such a way that at least exteriorly, he could be held in high regard as a model Jew.  But when asked to go beyond the exterior, when enjoined upon by Jesus to enter a more profound and spiritual faith, when asked to be more vulnerable, he saddened and walked away.  Even after Jesus looks at him with love, he is unable to respond, he is unable to take the “leaf of faith,” unsure about really trusting God who calls.   
Going back to the second Vatican Council, we see the response of John XXIII to this same invitation, to enter into a place where he, and the Church, where we become open, vulnerable to the movements of the Spirit.  In declaring that a council would be convened, John XXIII, invited the Church to self-reflect, and in effect, to enter into a more profound relationship with Christ.  His response was a yes to the conversion that we are each constantly in need of, because of sin or other factors, we need to draw closer to Christ, to look at our riches and to be able to heed the call to follow HIM.  Instead of hearing his voice, and missing out on the love with which he calls.  There was great fear when John XXIII called the Council, but ultimately, that is our own journey, one in which we are open to the movements of the Holy Spirit, where we are compelled by that same Spirit to move and very often to move into the unknown, in faith.  And so we must ask ourselves, and perhaps it’s a good starting point for the Year of Faith, where am I like the young man?  Am I too rich to follow Jesus, or am I able to walk in faith into the unknown, believing and trusting that even there, in the mystery of tomorrow, God is already at work?  
This year of faith is a time to do just that, to look at ourselves, at our lives and at our relationship with Christ and to heed God’s call that in doing so, we may not only grow in faith, but also in God’s life-giving love that can call us beyond even fear and death.  Let us be people of life that unlike the young man, are able to listen and respond with an interior faith.  Let us be people that walk into the heart of God, where hope enkindles that Spirit that has guided many others, that same loving Spirit, with which Christ spoke.  May we, together, be people walking in Christ, along the narrow way, and not those who stand to the side as they watch the camel go through the eye of the needle.  May we see the Church, us, rest in Christ, for he calls with love.  And we respond in faith.  As always, know that you are loved.  Fr Rick

08 October 2012

Respect Life, Become Gospel People

Yesterday, Sunday, October 7th, was Respect Life Sunday, and across the country, if not the world, bishops, priests, deacons and countless others spoke on this matter.  In Midland, there was a Life Chain that formed between Illinois and Ohio Streets along a busy stretch of Andrews Highway. Other cities had similar displays in support of life.  Hearing about Respect Life Sunday, however, can sometimes produce or arouse one or several misconceptions connected to such a name.  Respect Life is not just about anti-abortion, it is about the dignity of every human being from conception to natural death.  It is a recognition that beyond creed or belief, every one of us is a Beloved child of God. It is a plea to come face to face with our brother, or our sister and recognize each other not as Muslim or Jew, Catholic or Protestant, but indeed, as Brother and Sister.  Respect Life  is about being able to recognize who we are in God's eyes and to stand arm in arm as we work for the defense of those whose voices will not, or cannot be heard.  All too often, sensitive issues in our society are either politicized or glossed over with a delicacy that refuses to recognize the urgency of the situation we face.  Today, we are invited to think about this urgency as we regard life and living conditions for many or the lack thereof.  You see, more and more, life, and in fact, each of us, is losing the God-given dignity and importance that is granted us beyond even political borders.  More and more, there is a loss of our image as beloved children of God which in turn has serious consequences, including a breakdown of the family, a loss of childhood at a quicker pace, and all too often, an anger about what "I can do with my own body!"  And as choices take on more severe realities, the dignity of the human self is being diminished, slowly chipping away with every new "option" that is brought to market.  Increasingly,  instead of possessing an understanding of who we are in God's eyes, we fall victim to the latest trends and fashions, to the latest thing that "makes my life easier," without thinking how it may affect others.  We are seduced by the latest medical procedures and have no trouble in justifying our "choices."  Life is much more, MUST be much more than just one or the other issue, and I would dare say, that issue isn't even the correct term to be used.  Rather, life is about a gift that each of us is freely given, the gift of Creator God whose infinite and overflowing love calls us into being.  A gift of ever-redeeming love offered to us through Christ's own sacrifice, it is a gift that the Spirit grants us each day as we face new and ever increasing challenges in our lives, a gift that sanctifies us and strengthens us to keep walking with heads held high and our hearts firmly rooted in God.  And so, as we commemorate Respect Life, we are not called to "fight" against one thing or another, but to become Gospel People.  People who know and love God and who live in love, not just for those we care for, but for all.  It is about being able to root out those evils, that can so easily help us rationalize our own destruction, by living the Gospel message that will always bring us into life. It is about living no longer for ourselves, but for and in Christ, because ultimately,  it will be there, in the love of God, that we will not only find our home, but indeed, where life will be respected and granted.  As always, know that you are loved.  Fr. Rick

31 August 2012

Hello, my name is __________, and I'm a hypocrite.

Recently, there have been numerous events and issues in our Country that have demanded that we pay attention.  Whether Chik-fil-a or political candidates, the fact of the matter is that more and more we are being pulled every which way by a constant barrage of media.  I believe that in this frenzy of talking heads and "analysts," we are forgetting a very important and crucial aspect of who we are.  Instead of placing all our trust in one talking head or another, we are enjoined this weekend to trust in what God is doing in our midst.  More and more, the call of Moses, as we hear it this Sunday, is a call to the basics.  In reality, the call that Moses places upon the Israelites, is a call to remember whence they came from, and who they are.  It is a call for each and every one of us to remember where we have each come from and who we are.  Not in the false light that this or that corporation places onto us as they try to figure out how best to take our money, but the light that is revealed to us in Christ.  A light that cannot and will not be conquered, and a light that calls us every moment of every day to come home.  This light, which is Christ, invites us to turn from the daily deluge of noise which can so easily distract us from that which really matters, that which really brings us life, CHRIST!  After all, the Pharisaical dilemma is not that they have too much power, or wealth, instead, their problem is that in their power and wealth, they have allowed those things to overwhelm their sense of who God truly is, so much so that when God is standing before them, they merely devise a plan to question Him in order to trap and condemn Him.  Today, we are called upon to look beyond those things that are meaningless, and to focus on what really matters, God with us, Emmanuel.  When we start doing that, we will then begin to not only live a life that is less cluttered and more God-filled, but we will truly start living, and those talking heads, they will become nothing more than a passing noise, empty and gone.  Be at peace and know that I love you.   Pray for me as I do for you.  

Fr. Rick

07 August 2012

Rock the Desert, good music, fun times, a little Catholic bashing too.

This past weekend, many people of different ages gathered at Rock the Desert.  From our parish, there was a large group that attended the event, even set up tents.  In the midst of all the good music and fun, I was perplexed to hear that on Saturday evening, one of the speakers started to bash Catholics and Catholicism, reminding everyone of our need to be saved.   I was bothered to hear this, not only because as a priest I have dedicated my life to Christ and often interact with pastors and ministers of other denominations, but also because in a time when society facilitates the creation of “us” and “them” attitudes, a festival such as RTD, should be an event in which people come together in understanding and united in their beliefs, diverse as they may be.  Instead, through ignorant and false rhetoric, people such as this speaker are given authority and permission to continue to perpetuate misinformed ideas about “those” people.  Ideas that can often lead to such tragic events as what we most recently saw in Milwaukee, at the Sikh Temple, or ideas that can create further division and ignorance.  Instead of continuing to create a divisive atmosphere that can lead to xenophobia, maybe we should begin to reach out to our neighbor in an earnest attempt to understand who they are and what they are all about.  This means that tolerance is not an option, nor is distance, rather, it is about reaching beyond the things that make us different, and uniting to share with my neighbor as a fellow human being.  More and more, it has to be about bridging the gaps that may divide us, and taking the time to discover that “they” are just as human as I or we.  And so it is that in reaching out, beyond the Catholic, the Christian the this or that, we not only come to be a better people, but perhaps, it can be said that we become more human and better children of God.  

09 June 2012

Most Holy Bod and Blood of Christ

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.  It is a fancy and long title in which one can easily lose interest or lose one’s train of thought.  There can be no doubt, that this is a mystical and joyous celebration of Christ entering our lives in a very real and profound manner, especially in the Eucharist.  This celebration, however, is far more than just a recognition of Christ in the Eucharist.  In many ways, the solemnity we live today is one in which we are reminded once again of God’s immense and everlasting love for each and every one of us.  And in the Eucharist, we are shown once again the power that God’s transformative love has in our lives.  Think about it, in the very simple gifts of bread and wine, Christ is revealed to us!  In the very simple gifts we bring, we encounter God, we encounter Him who is our salvation, Him who is our very life!  As we come together, this year, however, I cannot help but bring to mind some of the challenges that we are facing in our society today.  In many ways, the different dilemmas that we are facing today, are blatant proclamations attempting to convince us that we are human beings are nothing more than one vote, one choice, one this, one that.  More and more, we are being told that this very real presence of Christ can be Him or not depending on what safeguards our sensibilities, and worse, today, as the dark cloud of the HHS mandate looms over us, we are being told by the government itself just when and where we can believe.  Thinking about this, also reminds me of our many brothers and sisters who in their own ways have given up their very lives for the defense of Christ present in the Eucharist, and it calls me to an honest reflection of who I am, and in what I believe.  No!  This is not just a cookie and wine!  No!  This is not just something that happens in Church!  No!  You will not tell me what is moral and what is not!  Truth is not optional and life is not a choice!  Life is precisely what the Eucharist is, Christ!  And in our daily journeys we are called to live so as to become our prayer, so as to become what we believe, so as to become Him in whom we believe.  Only then, will the world know who Christ is, because after having received His Most Holy Body and Blood, we bring Him into the world, beyond our churches and there, His Truth, His Life and His Love will prevail, even in the face of those who long ago turned away!  God bless you  and as always, know that I love you.  Fr. Rick

14 April 2012

Divine Mercy Sunday

I sit alone in my office today and reflect on the week past.  As I do, I recall the striking moments of celebration at recalling the Resurrection of our Dear Lord.  His glorious new life calls each of us forth from darkness into a new reality that is often beyond our understanding or belief.  The Resurrected One, however, is more than just calling us into life from his throne on high.  He is inviting each and every one of us to recall the great love and mercy that is out poured upon us in our daily living.  As Risen people, we are called to do more than just remember Christ's Resurrection, we are to make it real in our daily living through the life that we participate in and in the blessings we share with others.  This is Divine Mercy, a gift that is freely given to each of us out God's great love, a love that can even break the bonds of death.  In this celebration of Divine Mercy, we are also called upon to be mercy for those around us that need a real touch of Him who is Mercy, Christ.  In reflecting on what Divine Mercy means in today's world, I keep coming back to the thought that mercy is becoming more and more aware of the significance of Christ's Resurrection in my life, and allowing that knowledge and love to overflow from ourselves, not because we MUST do so, but because we cannot help but do so.  In knowing the Resurrected one more and more, our hearts yearn to know and love Him more, and out of this love, we cannot help but call other to the same love we have known in Christ.  It is truly an "oozing" onto others as we know Him.  It is proclaiming to the world that He is Risen, and in his Divine Mercy, I now live!  May we each live, love and know Him more and more as we proclaim God's Diving Mercy in the cry of joy "Alleluia, Christ is Risen!"  God bless you all and know that I love you.  Fr. Rick

31 March 2012

Palm Sunday on Friday of the Fifth week of Lent

May the Peace and joy, the love and blessing of Christ be with you!  
I have been allowing this entry to percolate throughout the day as I reflected on what I wanted to share.  Today, I sat with the thought of having celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday with a group of 150 inmates in the Eden Detention Center.  It was a powerful moment to enter the gates of the center, and to hear the loud click as the gate shut behind me.  Slowly, I entered a world that is both foreign and new to me.  After the initial formalities of signing in, going through the X-ray and having our ID's taken up, Deacon and I were escorted through the facility to where the simple metal chapel is. Upon entering, I was amazed to see that so many men had come for mass, I was even more touched to see that there was a full band that had come together for the celebration!  The place was abuzz because for the first time in many years, the inmates were to participate  in the mass in their native language, Spanish.   The celebration itself was beautiful in its own rite and while there were few men who received communion, every one of them participated to the best of their ability.  Today, I have also had the opportunity to watch the movie "Of God's and Men," again.  This is a film about seven Trappist monks in Algiers who were kidnapped and killed by terrorist in the mid-nineties.  After much persuasion and threats, the monks had decided to listen to God's call as they continued to serve in the monastery where they were.  This refusal to leave eventually cost them their lives, but in reality, they had long ago decided to give those lives up for the sake of Christ.  
I write about these two incidents because in some ways, the readings for Passion Sunday are about discipleship and our call to follow Christ even when the road ahead is filled with uncertainty.  Unlike Judas, who believed himself able to manipulate God, discipleship is about Peter, and being willing to constantly turn toward God even in the face of death and destruction, clumsiness and denial.  Discipleship is being able to follow the Master and to be open the His call even if it seems to end at Golgotha.  It is precisely about trusting that God's call will  not lead me astray, but rather, to a place where life and love will prevail, even in the midst of fear or for those prisoners, behind bars.  My thought throughout today was about the ability to give up my life for the sake of the Kingdom, not only in service as a priest, but as a faithful witness to a love that calls me beyond the cross, beyond the tomb, to the glorious moment where new life prevails, the Resurrection!  Discipleship is having the courage, if not the understanding, the continue following the Master, our Master, even as he Himself takes up His cross.  Discipleship is being able to encounter God's love, not only in the bluebonnet covered fields of Texas, but also within the scary and institutional walls of a prison.  May we each continue to follow our Master, and from Him, may we be filled with love so as to proclaim that Christ is Risen, not just in good times, but always!  As always, remember that I love you and may God bless you.  Fr. Rick

11 March 2012

the money changers in our midst

This was supposed to be a reflection on the Third Sunday of Lent, but as it turns out, there is something far greater than just one Sunday at play in my meditations and prayers.  As I imagined Jesus going up to His beloved Temple and being compelled by His love for God to undo the great sin that had taken root at the Temple in the form of the money changers, I kept wondering about the modern day money changers and God-manipulators.  Obviously, the easy targets become those who use the name of the Lord to get their own, but this is too easy.  Instead, I thought about the Commandments and their proclamation of a life that is deeply rooted in God.  Many people believe that these Commandments are "must- dos" that God imposes on us from on high.  In actuality, I believe they are humble proclamations of one who knows God's love.  Having this in mind, the question then arises, who are the money changers, or rather, who are those people who look at God and mock Him and His followers?  At the moment, one major player in this, includes those who are trying to impose on our religious liberties.  Ironically enough, its those who are manipulating a truth for their own gain.  In calling it a "choice," there are those who would rather see to the death of millions of unnamed but unforgotten babies (called fetuses) instead of reaching a point where we understand the beauty and sacredness of humanity and the delicacy of sex.  Instead, they fill the minds of many people as they proclaim these crimes to be necessary and a part of our modern world, and as they impose the payment for these crimes on those faithful men and women who try to proclaim the Good News of Christ with their lives. As such, I truly believe that we are called upon today to take on the zeal of Jesus as He overturned the tables, we are called upon to profess our faith and to do so with the knowledge that we are God's beloved children.  No longer must these money changers be allowed to deface God, as His children, and in our faithful living, may we be witnesses to a truth far greater than any government or any unjust law, a Truth in whom is our life, a Truth who is way, a Truth whom we love, a Truth to be lived beyond this, the Third Sunday of Lent!  Peace to you and God bless you.  Love you. Fr Rick

24 February 2012

1 Lent...

Ok, so here goes another one.  As I start this season of Lent, it's strange to think of the changes that I have experienced in just a few short months.  Language in the Missal has changed, my family has changed, my life and even my assignment.  All in all, it can almost be enough to leave my head spinning and somewhat out of control.  And that's precisely what this time of Let is all about, as Jesus goes into the desert in this Sunday's readings, we see Him not only going on retreat, but invititing us to do so also.  Of course, we don't have the luxury of leaving our family and responsibilities while the angels tend to us, but we do have the capacity for growth in our very real (and usually busy) daily lives.  It is in the daily events of our lives, especially those mundane and routine events, that God sometimes speaks to us, or at least, where He surprises us the most when we realize that He has been there all along.  So I enter this new Church season having given up a few things, but also having made the conscious effort to allow myself to see God here, now, in an amazing way.  The fact is that we very often live in the desert (especially here in West Texas) and all we have to do, is let God do His thing, and let us be ministered to by his love.  Peace and blessings to you.  Love you, Fr.  Rick

04 February 2012

Walk into the possibilities!

I just finished celebrating mass tonight at St. Ann's Parish in Midland, Texas.  It was quite a unique experience since this was the first time I ever really celebrated a Sunday mass here.  And on top of that, I sang the mass parts!  As I celebrated today, I was particularly touched by the beauty and elegance of the mass, but also by the power it possesses.  As we come together, we, the community, are reminded that the communion we share is food for the journey, and witness to a moment in which past, present and future stand in the midst of Christ, Emmanuel!  The readings this week remind us of poor Job and his sufferings, but they are also contrasted by Paul and his yearning heart that proclaims to the world the Good News of God's love.  In the Gospel we see also the possibilities of allowing God's transformative and saving love to enter our being.  Upon doing so, we undergo transformation and are never the same, and even when we sit with Job, we sit in confidence that even in this moment, God is acting and I will be alright.  So as I go home for the day, I go hoping that my journey may be one of walking into the possibilities that God has in store, even if Job is right there with me!  Be blessed and know that I love you all.  Peace.  Fr. Rick.

31 January 2012

Be still and know that you are loved!

I haven't written in a while, and although there have been many things going on since this Advent season when I last wrote, there has been one event that has particularly touched my heart.  Since I have been in Midland, just a little over three months, there have been four or five teen suicides that have shaken the community.  Although I have not personally been involved with any of the families or the teens, it has been especially sad to read about each suicide when it happens.  Yesterday, I was casually looking in my local news site and noticed a bulletin that told of another suicide.  My heart sank and I paused a moment to pray for the young man, his family, and those affected by this tragedy.  Since then, I have been thinking about these different suicides and the last effect that they have had and will have on the community at large and more importantly, on the Body of Christ, each and every one of us that is an adopted child of God.  As a minister, I think of the appropriate pastoral response to these suicides, but as a brother, an uncle, and a friend, I think more what can drive someone to such extreme measures.  Although I cannot propose a solution, I cannot help but wonder if one thing would be to be able to look into our brothers' or sisters' eyes and to tell them "I Love YOU!"  I don't mean texting them, or posting it on their wall, but actually looking into their eyes, recalling the love of God as I have experienced it and letting them know that they are loved, not only because I love them, but because they are indeed worthy of love!!!  I fear that more and more, many of us have forgotten the importance of human contact. In an act of love and truth, may we be able to take the time, not only to recognize God in our lives, but to express that love to others.  Sometimes, all we need is to be reminded that we are loved.  Peace to you and God bless you, and I LOVE YOU!  Fr. Rick.