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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflection:

Not with the Water Only, but with the Water and the Blood

This Sunday and Beyond - April 11, 2021
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Jesus was a great teacher, probably the greatest of teachers ever. What the Christian faith is based on, however, is not solely Jesus’ great teachings, like the ones in the Sermon of the Mount, and His extraordinary parables, which result in a totally renewed vision of the essential spiritual values that humankind must heed.

It is not even based solely on Jesus’ exemplary ministry on earth, a ministry of healing, reconciliation and feeding, of accepting and including, during which He showed His followers that His radical, all-inclusive Way of Love is the only way to abundant life, the way to God’s life.

What our Christian faith promises us is based mainly on Jesus Christ’s victory over the dark powers of the world, whether visible or invisible, including sin and death. Jesus could not be retained by death in the tomb. If that had been the case, we would have had a great spiritual teacher who did great wonders during his lifetime, but nothing else.

But God raised Him from physical death. The dark unjust powers that plotted His mock trial and condemned Him to crucifixion did not have the last word. God’s love did. He who is God’s life in Himself could not remain dead. As paradoxical as it may sound, He willingly underwent this cruel and unjust death in order to defeat its power, not only for Himself, but for us all.

By raising Him from the dead, God has not only shown that His loving power cannot be mocked or defeated, but that true life is a new kind of life, a resurrected life, a life lived in the abundance of God’s unrestricted love; a life that transcends time and space and embraces each and every one of us everywhere and at every time in history.

In 1 John, the writer, referring to our Lord Jesus Christ, clearly states, “this is the one who came by water and blood” ...” not with the water only but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one that testifies, for the Spirit is the truth.”

It is clear that the writer of this letter understands that Jesus came not only for enlightenment, which he received abundantly from the Holy Spirit, made manifest to Him in the waters of His baptism in the Jordan River, but as the Redeemer of the world, as the one who would free us from the dark powers of evil, sin, and death. And the only way to achieve this was through His self-sacrifice on the cross.

He did not reject the unjust and cruel death, the shedding of His own blood, but accepted it as a living sacrifice to do away, through His glorious resurrection, with the power of sin and death upon us all. And the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, testified this to His followers then, as it testifies it now and in all times.

He has left us the two main sacraments that remind us of this great truth: Baptism in water as our weaving into His Body, the Church, and the Holy Eucharist, as our continual nourishment in His life, and our participation in His loving sacrifice.

May we always remember that our resurrected Lord and Savior came not only to enlighten us, but mainly, and above us, to redeem us through His sacrificial death, and let us be faithful partakers in His loving sacrifice.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


An Open-ended Story

This Sunday and Beyond - April 4, 2021
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We are in Year B and the story about Jesus’ resurrection this year is according to St. Mark’s Gospel. This Gospel is considered by scholars to be the first one written, and it is evident that both the writers of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels took a lot of material from this source. Scholars also agree that the last portion that we find in several manuscripts (Mark 16:9-20) was a later addition to the original because the original ending of the Gospel was somehow lost.

Although it is logical to think that the writer must have written a conclusion to his Gospel and that it got lost somehow, the fact is that what we have in the original manuscript is an open-ended story. Could this have been the writer’s original intention?

The narrative of Jesus’ resurrection in this Gospel is brief, but it contains the essential elements that leave us no doubt that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was not left in the tomb, but was risen by His Father and our Father. This was clearly announced to three women when they were intending to perform the duties of anointing the body early on the morning of the first day of the week.

Jesus’ body had not been properly prepared for the burial because the Passover was close at hand, so He had to be put in the tomb in haste. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb at sunrise on Sunday to perform this sacred duty. On the way, they must have felt heart-broken, and also worried about how they would get into the tomb that had been covered by a heavy stone.

Great must have been their amazement to see the stone removed and no Jesus inside, but a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, who announced to them that Jesus had been raised and was going ahead of them to Galilee. They were instructed to pass this extraordinary news to the disciples, but the original manuscript simply ends by stating that they fled from the tomb “for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

This is the most human of reactions before the greatest of mysteries: the victory of life over the dark forces of evil and death. It is something that ought to fill us with the greatest joy, and it does; but at the same time, we human beings are reluctant to accept the extraordinary, that which contradicts the expected outcome, no matter how sad it may be.

This ending does not tell us what the women did later, or what the disciples did. It has no post-resurrection stories as the rest of the Gospels. It just leaves the story here. There is a potential for development, for change of attitudes, for renewal, for turning normal fears and disbeliefs into something positive that makes us participants in Jesus’ resurrected life.

The great thing about such an open-ended story is that it then becomes our story, not just the three women’s story. It goes on throughout the centuries, and we never cease to be amazed by the terrific news of Christ being risen, by His total victory over sin and death. Then, gradually, our initial fears start to fade and are replaced by our tremendous joy of knowing and experiencing that because He lives we also live, that He has conquered eternal life for us.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Hosannas to the Crucified King

This Sunday and Beyond - March 21, 2021
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Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week—the major week of the Christian Year. The stark contrast between the two parts of this liturgy makes it look somewhat “schizophrenic”, but this has been done on purpose by the liturgists who put this celebration together.

Jesus is acclaimed with Hosannas as the Savior, as the one who is to bring the kingdom of David, on his entry to Jerusalem riding a colt--a symbol of humility and peace; and those who welcome him lay down their cloaks on the road and spread out leafy branches as a sign of acknowledgment of a victor.

These people have witnessed or heard about Jesus’ abundant life-giving signs during His ministry throughout Judea, Galilee, and surrounding areas, and have also heard about His life-giving words, and they hope that Jesus becomes their long-expected Messiah, and probably free them from the Roman yoke and the restraining chains of their society. And this is the way they express their joy and hopeful expectations when Jesus comes to take part in the Passover celebrations in Jerusalem.

Jesus must have foreseen that this would happen, and he made his entry riding on the colt, not because he had a long distance to walk—the distance was short indeed, but because he wanted to give these people the opportunity to acknowledge His Messiahship, but in the way of the suffering servant depicted by the prophet Isaiah, in meekness and self-sacrifice. He knew that coming to Jerusalem would put Him in mortal danger, and a few hours later this would come true for Him.

The second and longest part of the liturgy on this day narrates Jesus’ betrayal, apprehension, unfair and contradictory trial, condemnation, scorn and scourging, crucifixion, and death. So, after the joyous singing of the Hosannas and the waving of the palm fronds that symbolize our welcoming of Christ into our own lives, we listen to and take part in His condemnation and unjust death.

It is not important to determine if the mob that the priests and scribes instigated so they would shout “crucify Him” was made up of most or some of the same people who shouted “Hosannas” before. It is a well-known fact that mobs are easily influenced and can be made to change their minds.

What the liturgy wants to stress, though, is that we are the protagonists of this drama. No matter how reluctant we may be to admit it, although there are times in our lives when we are willing to let Jesus and His radical Way of Love rule over, and we are faithful followers of His self-giving sacrifice, there are also times when we reject Him, leave Him out, and want nothing to do with His unconditional love. During these times, we put the nails back on Him, so to speak.

The good news is that He has not come to condemn but to save. The story does not end with hopelessness and death, but with victory and resurrection, and restoration of broken relationships. The disciples who forsook him were restored, and they later on became the core community that spread the Good News of Salvation to the whole world. As present-day disciples, we may also falter at times, but considering that He has put His faith in us to carry out His salvific mission in our present-day world, let us pray that we do not fail Him, but are also invested with His Holy Spirit to carry it on.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Priests in the Order of Melchizedek

This Sunday and Beyond - March 21, 2021
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The Letter to the Hebrews makes a connection between Jesus Christ as our High Priest and this biblical character who is mentioned briefly in the Book of Genesis, Melchizedek, king and priest of the Highest God, whose name means king of righteousness, and as king of Salem—the former name of Jerusalem—he is also recognized as king of peace.

In the narrative according to Genesis, Abram encounters Melchizedek after winning several battles against some war lords, and this man blesses him with bread and wine. In exchange, Abram gives him a tithe. Although the incident takes up little space in the Book of Genesis and the character is never mentioned again in the book, it does seem to have significance in the Jewish tradition because he is mentioned in Psalm 110, verse 4, in reference to a ruler that would govern according to God’s will, a prototype of the Messiah or Christ. The verse reads: “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind, you are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

What makes this order so significantly different from the Aaronic order of priests?

First of all, historically speaking, Melchizedek is the first High Priest mentioned in Holy Scripture. He antecedes Aaron by several decades. He even antecedes the giving of the Law to Moses. And he does not make use of animal sacrifices but blesses through the use of bread and wine. The fact that no mention is made of his origin may have impinged the psalmist’s mind with the idea that his ordination came directly from God, unlike the High Priests descended from the Aaronic lineage, who were ordained through human intervention.

The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews clearly saw in this character a prefiguration, a prototype of the Christ who offered Himself in sacrifice for our salvation and intercedes on our behalf forever in the heavenly realms. Christ’s sacrifice, unlike that of the Aaronic priests, is totally effective and offers us real forgiveness of our sins and eternal salvation.

Through the use of bread and wine, just like Melchizedek did to Abram, Christ makes us partakers of His eternal blessing. Moreover, the bread and wine that we partake of in the Eucharist make us all partakers in the universal priesthood of the Church. We are all priests, “offering and presenting unto Thee, Oh Lord, ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto Thee”, as Eucharist Prayer One in our Book of Common Prayer so beautifully expresses.

Through this living sacrifice that we offer in our daily lives by doing the good works that God wants us to do to others, we not only get the assurance of His promise of eternal salvation and participation in His ineffable joys, but we also contribute to bring others to the participation in His abundant life-giving love.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Created in Christ for Good Works

This Sunday and Beyond - March 14, 2021
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In the second chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians, which most biblical scholars now ascribe not to Paul himself but to one of his disciples, the writer delves into Paul’s idea of how it is by God’s grace only that we are justified, and not by any works of ours that we can boast of.

This writer views our salvation as something already achieved, through Christ’s self-sacrifice, as a result of God’s infinite love for us all, in spite of the sinful state of death in which we lived before Christ came to our rescue.

In Christ’s death and resurrection, all of us who follow Him by true faith have died to the old sinful self and been raised up with Him and have become heirs of His glory with the Father in heaven.

In all this, it is our heavenly loving Father who takes the initiative, like the father figure in the Parable of the Two Sons, to forgive and restore the lost son who had been lost and dead to abundant life in His legitimate home, which was always meant for him.

Although the parable does not tell us what the redeemed son did afterwards, we can well imagine he worked in the fields with great dedication and joy, knowing how deeply he was loved by his father and how everything really belonged to him as well.

Our Christian faith is based on the profound conviction that our Creator loves us in such an immeasurable way that in spite of the trespasses that our frail human nature makes us incur, He is always willing to forgive us when we turn to Him freely and responsibly and allows us share in His life-giving love shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ through His self-sacrifice.

But love has to show itself in concrete works. It is through the good works done in favor of our fellow human beings, and the whole of creation that we actively share God’s love. Here we clearly understand the rationale of what the writer of the Letter to the Ephesians states when he says, “for we are what He made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

This is possibly one of the best ways to reconcile Paul’s doctrine of “justification through faith only, and not works” with the Apostle James’ idea of “faith without works is dead”. Good works is essentially what God created us for, and when we are restored to His image by His loving grace, the natural response to His infinite love is to show good works in our lives. It is not by making up our minds to do good works and doing them we “earn” heaven; that would be totally presumptuous.

Lent is calling us back to ponder on God’s infinite love for us, expressed mainly through Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross, and also to put into practice the good works we have been created to show in our lives.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Revisiting God’s Instruction

This Sunday and Beyond - March 7, 2021
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We live in a time when there is a generalized tendency to reject moral precepts as outdated and unnecessary. It looks as if by following one’s heart all the time one could end up doing what is best. But is that really so?

Jesus Himself said He had not come to do away with the Law, but to give it its true fulfillment. And while it is true that He also stated that by following the commands to love God with our whole being and our neighbors as ourselves we would be fulfilling the two greatest commandments of the Law, He by no means implied that God’s instruction to His people was outdated or useless.

Although the Hebrew term Torah was translated into Greek as the equivalent for Law, in fact this term is better translated as instruction or teaching. It was God’s intent to guide His people to a kind of life that would make them “a people of priests and a holy nation”.

Here we can see the spiritual value of God’s commandments. The core of the Torah is the Ten Commandments given to the chosen people through Moses, the main leader of God’s people. If we take a close look at them, we notice that they are meant to be a guide to the people’s relationship with their Creator and Liberator, and with one another. The aim of the first four is to guarantee an intimate relationship with God, through the recognition of His essential goodness and loving care for His people, the commitment to be faithful to Him as the only true God, and to spend quality time with Him on a weekly basis (the Sabbath).

Then come the rest of the commandments that instruct God’s people how to relate to one another in a loving and caring way, starting with the unalienable duty to the persons who gave us life (our parents), and moving to the relationship with all those in the community, valuing and respecting each person as the living image of the common God that has created us all equal.

As Christians, we need to revisit God’s guidance once and again, and even though we recognize that by our own efforts we cannot fulfill God’s instruction (but that it has been only through Christ’s self-sacrifice that the way to redemption has been opened to us) we should not despise this guidance, but ask the Holy Spirit to assist us in fulfilling it.

Paul himself recognizes in his letter to the Romans that the Law is spiritual but that he has a hard time contending with the flesh to fulfill it. That happens to us all, but it does not render God’s instruction useless. It only points out to us how dependent we remain on God’s saving grace through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and how valid God’s commandments are as our main goal to achieve.

The writer of Psalm 19 says that the Lord’s judgments are “more to be desired than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.” So may it be with each of us.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


When Losing Means the Greatest of Gains

This Sunday and Beyond - February 28, 2021
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Fasting as a spiritual discipline is found in practically all religions. Abstaining oneself from food or drink, or in a wider sense perhaps, from the things or habits that we are most addicted to, may be a liberating personal and communal experience.

What happens when you fast? You deprive yourself from your routine food or drink intake. You stretch your body needs, so to speak. You humble yourself before your Creator. You partially empty yourself and make room for something different. Only the empty or almost empty space can take in something new. Cluttered spaces have room for nothing else.
It is mainly for this reason that the spiritual practices of fasting and self-denial are encouraged in religions, especially during certain times of the liturgical year. Lent is the season that reminds us of Jesus’ 40 days of fasting, prayer, and meditation in the wilderness. It is a preparatory period for the major week of the Christian Year, Holy Week, when we enact and live out Christ’s passion, death, and glorious resurrection.

This preparatory period for Jesus has antecedents in the Old Testament. The number 40 is significant in Holy Scripture. God’s people went through the wilderness for 40 years before coming to the promised land. Moses prepared himself through fasting for 40 days before receiving the Law, and so did Elijah before receiving God’s final command.

When we fast or deprive ourselves of certain things to share them with those who are in need, it seems as if our life is being restricted, as if we are losing parts of our lives. In fact, that is the intention. By emptying ourselves of what we routinely value as important or even essential in our lives, we can open space for what is real and valuable in God’s eyes for us. And God always knows best.

When Jesus tells His followers to deny themselves, even to the point of losing their physical lives if needed, He is not thinking of punishing them or giving them an impossible task so they give up on it. He is making the point that unless we get rid of a lot of unnecessary self-gratifying clutter in our lives, God’s loving life cannot take its due place in us -- simply because God’s loving life is utterly selfless and all sharing.

The Lent disciplines seem hard to undertake because they move in a direction that is contrary to our ingrained habits and routines. Nevertheless, by following them properly, in a spirit of humility and openness, we have much to gain, and what we may see as loss is the blessing of getting rid of ballast, so that our lives can soar to the blessed heights where our loving Christ, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, awaits us to share His abundant life with us.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Diversity Is Not Divisiveness

This Sunday and Beyond - February 21, 2021
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In Chapter 9 of the Book of Genesis there is a story about God’s covenant with Noah, his sons, and every living creature that has survived the flood. This covenant is meant to last till the end of times on our planet. It is a covenant of preservation—preservation of God’s wonderful diverse creation, including humankind. The symbol for this covenant is the beautiful multicolored rainbow in the sky.

Creation itself is based on diversity. Scientists now know that all that exists has derived from one primordial undifferentiated source which, through a gradual process of diversification has produced our multivariate universe and eventually, our wonderful planet with its teeming diversity of life forms. They also now recognize the undeniable interconnection that exists in all created forms, living or not living, and there is a trend in the scientific world to acknowledge that there seems to be a purpose permeating all the universe, which manifests in the emergence and preservation of life.

The rainbow is the result of the breaking up of the sun’s light into its diverse components. The white light comprises all these beautiful colors that we see when the rain drops suspended in the sky act as the agents that make this diversification possible. We have all been amazed at its beauty, particularly when the colors are intense, and the rainbow is a complete semicircle. Sometimes we have even been blessed by the appearance of a double rainbow in the sky.

The diversity of creation and its life forms never ceases to delight us. Humankind is also multivariate. But diversity itself can create the illusion of separateness.

When we make the white light go through a prism, we obtain the full spectrum of colors of the rainbow. But placing an inverted prism on the other side will make these separate colors recombine into the white light again. The lesson we should learn from this well-known experiment is that no matter how diverse creation is, the essential unity is always there.

For us Christians, the essential source and origin of all that exists is God. We humans and all that exists in the universe have our origin in our loving Father, and that is an essential truth we should never forget.

God created each of us humans in his likeness and image, which includes the free power of being creative, and an essential individuality that makes each of us unique. So great is this free power, that it enables us to deny our common source and act as if we were totally separate entities, with egotistic intents that make us believe we are the center of the universe and that everything and everyone else is subordinated to our interests. This is no longer diversity but divisiveness. Such divisiveness has been and still is the main cause of the evil in this world.

In the long run, the individuals that fall prey to this illusion, and those who let themselves be led by such “leaders” end up being the unhappiest persons on earth, and suffer the real death we should all fear, that of being separated from the unifying source of life, the Creator Himself.

Our Creator has deliberately made us free, not with the intent to make us fail and confuse diversity with divisiveness, but to make us responsibly choose and make the right decisions. This is known as temptation. Without it there is no real spiritual growth and maturity. When we are not faced with the need to distinguish between the right perception of our unique nature and the danger of believing that we are separate from the rest, we cannot grow as humans, and we are a poor reflection of the divine. Every time we come out victors in this choice, we grow closer in reflecting our Creator’s nature, which is essentially our own.

Jesus is given an assurance of His divine affiliation and God’s love for Him in His Baptism at the Jordan River. He certainly needs this reassuring statement and the power of the Spirit for the special salvific mission God has entrusted Him with. But He also needs the growth and maturity that can only be attained by the inner meditation on His nature and purpose. His unique individuality as a human being that incarnates the Creator’s image in such a perfect way also gives Him unusual possibilities that may be tempting indeed. What if He chooses to follow His own way for the purposes that He considers best for Himself?

But no, He chose rightly. The tempter was utterly defeated. He was surrounded by the diverse creation in the wilderness, including the beasts. Diversity reminded Him of our essential unity in God, and God’s messengers, the angels, who always heed the ones who follow God’s plans, who served Him.

Lent is a season for spiritual disciplines, aiming to spiritual growth. May we also be tempted by our uniqueness in the diversity of creation, so that by consciously choosing to be faithful to the essential unity, we defeat the notions of divisiveness that separate us from one another, from the rest of creation, from ourselves and from our God.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


A Still Small Voice

This Sunday and Beyond - February 14, 2021
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Movies and TV series will have us believe that the manifestation of transcendent powers is always accompanied by flashing lights, deafening noises, tremors, strong winds or the like. In fact, this resonates with some Bible passages, particularly those that refer to Moses and the way God manifested to him in the sacred mountain. These divine manifestations are known as theophanies.

One passage in the Second Book of Kings presents a totally different perspective though. It refers to Elijah’s encounter with God at Mount Horeb, another name for Mount Sinai, the mountain where Moses was given the Law for God’s people. In this account, the writer deliberately preludes Elijah’s actual encounter with God with the phenomena that usually signaled theophanies. There was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but the writer specifically states that God was not present in any of these. And then there is a still small voice, or a sound of sheer silence, as some other translations render the expression.

This still small voice is what clearly makes Elijah recognize God’s presence. He immediately covers his face reverently and waits for God’s instructions to him. God speaks to him within this sheer silence.
This last Sunday after Epiphany brings us the Gospel passage of Jesus’ transfiguration. The three synoptic gospels tell this story, and our church lectionaries always end this season with this account. It is the culmination of Jesus’ manifestation or revelation as the divine Son.

We might think that Jesus’ transfiguration is more in line with the usual theophanies, especially because of the dazzling glorious light that was manifested in Jesus. It may be. But we need to remember that this was mostly a private event. It was meant for the innermost circle of disciples, the three that accompanied Him on special occasions. There was a vision of Moses and Elijah, the greatest representatives of the Law and the Prophets, who had also had theophanies on the Sacred Mount, and had been given divine instructions to follow. And there was the divine voice that repeated what Jesus had heard on His baptism, plus a clear injunction to these three disciples, “Listen to Him”.

Being in the glorious presence of the divine is an overwhelming experience. It can give rise to rash reactions, as it did in the case of Peter. He simply expressed his desire to remain in that blissful state for as long as possible. But this was just a moment to be cherished and remembered. They had a taste of Jesus’ glory and mission. The presence of Moses and Elijah and their conversation about what Jesus had to undergo was the indication that Jesus was the recapitulation and fulfillment of Holy Scripture. He was the Word made flesh, and His voice needed to be heeded.

Although the transfiguration of Jesus has often been interpreted as a foretaste of His glorious Resurrection, it can also be seen as the presence that always is and we fail to see. The transfiguration was much more about the disciples than about Jesus. It was their inner eyes and ears that needed to be transformed to see and hear the truth about the identity of the one they had been following.

Likewise, we, His present-day followers, need to be transformed to perceive God’s constant presence in us and in all others. And in a world that is characterized by so many blinding artificial lights, so much noise and misleading voices, and other phenomena that try to emulate and feign the authentic theophanies, it becomes imperative that we make a pause in our frantic daily turmoil, and turn to the still small voice, to the sound of sheer silence within, so we can perceive Our Lord’s Presence and heed His voice.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Urged To Share The Good News

This Sunday and Beyond - February 7, 2021
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In Chapter 9 of his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks about the obligation he feels to proclaim the Gospel he himself received from Christ. Such is the force he feels compelling him to share the Good News of salvation, that he exclaims, “woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!” He does not conceive the task as something of his own will, but as a commission he has been entrusted with.

At the same time, Paul recognizes the total freedom that being a follower of Christ entails. Christ has come to restore us to God’s image, and this image presupposes that the Creator, who is totally free, has also endowed us with total freedom of choice.

The issue of free will has often been discussed by believers and unbelievers. The main problem with the understanding of this freedom is that we tend to forget that there can be no real freedom without right discernment and responsibility. A world in which individuals feel they are free to do as they please, without being held accountable for the consequences of their acts is not a free world, but a chaotic world. It is a world that would look very much like what is described in Genesis before God’s breath or Spirit blew upon the waters of Creation to bring order and beauty out of the primordial chaos. Only, what was normal and expected at that point because it was at the beginning of time, would now be totally absurd and undesirable.

The misuse of freedom by humans is what has brought about most of the past and present evils in society, and even in nature. The Good News that Jesus proclaimed is precisely about a total reversal of this situation. It is about following a radical Way of Love as our rule of life. When unconditional love is practiced, abundant life ensues. It is not about restricting freedom of choice or becoming other people’s slaves. It is about basing our choices on the supreme law of love. This is what real freedom is all about.

To make his point clear, the Apostle Paul states how he has made himself “a slave to all” despite his complete freedom with respect to all. The reason why he does it is to win the different classes of people he proclaims the Good News to (Jews, Gentiles, weak converts) for Christ’s Gospel, adapting his way of preaching accordingly, without losing the essential salvific message for all.

Proclaiming Christ’s Gospel of justice, peace, harmony, restoration, and abundant life in God’s love, is not something we, his followers, should consider as a personal choice. If we understand our freedom rightly, the way God has given it to us, we should also be aware of the urgency to share this Good News with all. This is the Great Commission we have been entrusted with -- and “woe to us” if we do not heed it.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Knowing or Loving?

This Sunday and Beyond - January 31, 2021
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In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul the Apostle addresses the problem of eating or not eating the food offered to idols. He is aware that for some converts who are really convinced of the futility of idols, eating, or not eating food offered to them does not make any difference. But he is also aware that not all new converts have such a strong conviction. As he states it, their conscience may still be weak, and seeing others do this may encourage them to eat this food as if it were really a way of worshiping idols. Thinking that because they have the real “knowledge” they can do what they want, those who do not take the weak into account are really destroying those for whom Christ has died. They may have the “knowledge”, but they certainly lack the love.

As Paul puts it, “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by Him.”

All earthly knowledge is incomplete, as science has proved by having to change its “truths” in the course of time. No one can claim to know everything. People who have common sense will always acknowledge the incompleteness of their knowledge. Only God’s love, which is unconditional and all-encompassing, can be equated to the real knowledge, the one that “comes from above”.

The Hebrew language uses the same verb for “knowing” and “having sexual intercourse with”. That is why some translators who want to keep the flavor of the original use of the verb know in this sense, as when Mary says to Gabriel after the archangel announces that she would conceive in her womb, “How shall this be seeing I know not a man?” There is great wisdom in this. Only when people have close contact and can put themselves in the others’ shoes, experience what they experience, feel what they feel, can they say they really know a person. This knowledge implies love for that person. It is like a shadow of God’s way of knowing, which is based on love.

This is the kind of knowledge that enabled Jesus to have the authority to push the forces of evil back and make abundant life manifest itself in his healing acts. It was not a mere knowledge of natural or supernatural forces, as some would like to imply. It was the powerful manifestation of the force of love that restores the harmony of all that the person is, as God’s image on earth. His teachings were based on the law of love. His deeds were always prompted by this love. And though he was probably as well versed in Scriptures as the scribes of his time, people noticed the difference. They realized that He said and did things based on a different authority, the knowledge that comes from above, which is God’s all-knowledgeable love.

If we want to follow in Jesus’ steps, and continue the teachings of the apostles, like St. Paul, we will do well to consider that knowledge is good and convenient, i.e. knowledge of the laws of nature, of the different sciences, languages, etc. But it is also essential to realize that this kind of knowledge is always limited, and that by itself it will not make God’s kingdom come. The spread of a more unconditional kind of love that imitates Christ’s love for all is what will make this world a better place. Let us strive for its growth in our own lives and the lives of those we can influence by our loving words and deeds. Then real “knowledge from above” will become manifest in our lives.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


A Generous Response to God's Call

This Sunday and Beyond - January 24, 2021
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In his first letter to the Corinthians, a document that most scholars unmistakably ascribe to St. Paul, the Apostle talks about the converts’ response to God’s call.

A great difference between other religions and both Judaism and Christianity is the fact that most religions make emphasis in the quest of the divine by human beings. The divinity remains in inaccessible realms, waiting for humans to search for the divine and ascend to higher dimensions through their own efforts.

Though both Judaism and Christianity recognize that God is beyond all human understanding, there is an initiative by God to call His people to covenants, to offer them redemption from their trespasses. This is like a downward movement from God to humanity, His revelation or epiphany. In the Old Testament this is especially apparent in God’s call to Abraham, to Moses, to Samuel and the rest of the prophets.

This downward movement of the divinity reaches its climax in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, true man, and true God. This is God’s self-emptying to reveal Himself to humankind in human flesh. His incarnation is the perfect epiphany, the perfect manifestation of God’s selfless love in the space-time continuum of human history, as Jesus’ Way of Love for all.

As part of God’s salvific plan for humankind and the restoration of the whole of creation, Jesus calls others to follow Him in this mission, so that it can be taken to the ends of the earth until the ends of time. Unlike what was customary in Judaism, where those who wanted to become a teacher’s disciples had to work hard towards being admitted as such, it is Jesus who calls simple fishermen to follow Him so that, as he states, they can become “fishers of men”. We can only imagine how enthralled these disciples must have felt to have been called by a teacher who did not even question their preparation or humble origins, but simply invited them to follow Him. Such a generous call could not but invite a generous response.

St. Paul, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, followed in Jesus’ footsteps in inviting others to follow our Savior’s path of redemptive love. As Paul clearly states, there is no precondition to follow Jesus and no one must change their social condition to become a follower. The only condition that Christ’s generous call requires is to follow His commandments, and that translates into loving God with our whole being, and loving others as we love ourselves.

We have been bought out of the slavery of sin and death by a high price, Jesus’ self-giving of Himself on the cross, as Paul clearly points out. So let our generous response be our commitment to spreading the Good News of our regained freedom in our words and deeds.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Keep the Light Shining

This Sunday and Beyond - January 17, 2021
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The Season after the Epiphany of our Lord is about how Jesus, the Light of the World, is made known to others at different moments of His earthly ministry. But it is also about how Jesus makes it clear to His followers how this Light is meant to shine for the world, not only in His person, but in all those who choose to become His disciples.

Being Light means, above all, being one who can dispel the darkness of ignorance, selfishness, and lack of love that so much abounded in Jesus’ world and in our present world. Quoting those who have given witness to the Light, like the prophets in Holy Scripture, can be of help in casting out the darkness, but it is mainly through our own personal and communal lives that people can better see the Light, and that could be the best incentive to follow Jesus’ Way of Love.

In his first letter of the Corinthians, one of the letters that scholars agree is unquestionably written by Paul, the Apostle reminds his addressees of all the blessings that Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the cross has brought them, and how thanks to this high price paid by Our Lord, they are now sanctified and justified in His name and the Spirit of God. He also makes it clear that, by becoming one with Christ in our baptism, our own bodies are members of Christ Himself, and temples of the Holy Spirit. That reminder should serve as a shield against falling back into the darkness, letting our Light be snuffed out.

In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, there is a story of Jesus meeting Nathanael, one of His followers. At first, Nathanael did not believe that Jesus could be the Christ, simply because He came from Nazareth, a town that is not even mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures. When Jesus mentions that Nathanael had been under the fig tree before, when He was obviously not physically there to see him, Nathanael changes his mind and proclaims Him the Son of God. Then Jesus says something to him that we should all pay close attention to. He says that he will see greater things and that the heaven will be opened to him, and he will see the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

In other words, Jesus is telling Nathanael that he will receive the Light, total illumination, a full communion with the Creator and the whole of creation. That is the glorious destiny that Jesus has promised for the followers of His Way of Love. His Light is to become our Light, and this our Light is to shine bright to cast out the thick darkness of our world.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Becoming What We Are Meant to Be through God’s Grace

This Sunday and Beyond - January 10, 2021
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The First Sunday after Epiphany brings us to the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the River Jordan. The account of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John is present in the three synoptical gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) before the beginning of his earthly ministry. John’s gospel does not depict the act but refers to it in the words of John the Baptist, when he mentions he saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Him like a dove.

In the depiction made by the three synoptical gospels, the ending is always presented in similar words: “and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased’.”

This statement made by the Father to the Son is celebrated within the season after the Epiphany of Our Lord as the one that distinctly marks Jesus’ divine affiliation. In fact, the first part of the statement will be heard again at the scene of the transfiguration but addressed to the three disciples that Jesus takes to the mount. Therefore, we can affirm that the season after Epiphany opens and closes with the same statement that reveals Jesus’ true nature to Himself and those who decide to follow Him.

Understanding and believing that Jesus is God’s beloved Son in whom He is well pleased is a premise for the Christian faith. If we do not believe this, we may be among those who consider Jesus as a great spiritual teacher, but not among the ones who firmly confess He is God’s Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit, true man, and true God.

However, our faith does not stop there. This is only the premise of what the mystery of the Holy Trinity involves. God’s plan of salvation for all is revealed through Jesus Christ as God incarnate, but this belief involves much more than the mere acceptance of His divine affiliation. In the scene of the transfiguration God repeats the phrase about Jesus being His beloved Son, but adds, “Listen to Him!”.

Listening to Jesus implies following His Way of Love. Jesus’ Way of Love is an inclusive way, a graceful way, a love that is freely offered to all. It is not the result of some merit of ours. What Jesus offers us is a partaking of His divine affiliation through His self-giving life. By coming into the world as one of us, and giving Himself for the life of the world, He takes us to the Father as true sons and daughters, as the beloved ones of the Father too.

Our affiliation as God’s true children is the result of His boundless love. Our baptism is the covenant by which this becomes possible. In the waters of baptism, we are buried in Jesus’ death and reborn to His resurrected life. The voice He heard speaks to each of us then, calling us beloved children in which God is well pleased.

When hearing these words, we are assured of God’s unconditional love for each of us. The response to such love cannot be other than love. Love for God and for the others, for the whole of Creation. This is summed up in our Baptismal Covenant. We respond to God’s graceful and loving initiative by committing ourselves to be bearers of His love to the world.

By our generous response to His all-encompassing love, we begin to be transformed into what we have always been meant to be, God’s beloved children, in whom He is well pleased.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


An Episode of the Christmas Season: Jesus the Refugee

This Sunday and Beyond - January 03, 2021
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When we look at the narratives that Matthew’s Gospel brings us about the first years of Jesus on earth, we immediately notice how unsettling these events were and how much pain, suffering and uncertainty they brought to Jesus and His parents.

After the visit of the Magi King Herod, full of rage for having been tricked by these foreign visitors who foresaw his evil intentions, orders what has become known as the atrocious killing of the innocent children in all the region of Bethlehem. Joseph is warned about this killing in a dream by an angel and he, Mary and Jesus flee to Egypt where they remain until the death of Herod.

So, the child Jesus, together with His parents, must escape to a foreign land, and they need to make a living there, in a place where they probably do not know a soul, where they have different customs and a different religion, where they worship other gods. They become refugees. Foreign people in a land where they feel alien and are received as alien. Second-class people. The Gospel does not give us any details about how their life went by in this place and time, but we are all familiar with the condition of refugees and how hard it can be.

Today’s world is full of refugees. People from different parts of the world literally need to flee from their places of origin, flee from death and war, from oppression and discrimination, from famine and subhuman conditions. And their fate in the countries where they move to is not always favorable.

Matthew’s narrative should be a good reminder to all that the one we call our Savior shared this condition together with His family. And that should prompt us to realize that by becoming fully human, Jesus’ life was, even in His early years, hazardous, full of dangers and suffering, uncertainty, and fleeting moments.

He and his parents did return to the land of Israel. His mission had to start out with His own people, in His native land. They went to live in Nazareth, in Galilee of the Gentiles, a place with no worldly significance, but the Evangelist uses a play of words here to signify that by being called a Nazarene (from Nazareth) He was also a ‘Nazorean’, which means ‘preserver’. In this sense, Jesus and his followers are considered the real remnants of the original Israel as the people of God.

By becoming a refugee in His early years, Jesus also reminds us that the Son of God was an alien, just as so many people are alien in different countries nowadays. That should make us change our own attitude towards aliens and make us realize that we are all called to welcome aliens, because the image of the living God is imprinted in their faces as it is in ours.

In a deeper sense, we Christians are all called to be aliens in this world. We are not to follow the fads or conform to this world but oppose all that is contrary to God’s reconciling love for the world. True Christians have always been countercultural, and in this sense, they are more like refugees than those who follow the dictates of the world.

Jesus the child was also Jesus the refugee. His human nature chose to incarnate that condition as well. He exalted it in His own human person, and so must we, in every refugee, in our own selves.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Emmanuel—God with Us

This Sunday and Beyond - December 27, 2020
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Christmas is the Season that proclaims the salvific mystery of God’s incarnation. God made flesh. God born into this world as a baby boy.

He who created all that is, He who cannot be known or even conceived by the human mind, He who transcends all human or superhuman concepts, has now come to live with humankind, not as a superhero, not as a Greek demi-god, but as a real human being, subject to all the limitations of human nature. It is God’s self-emptying. He whose Glory surpasses all we could ever conceive, has come down to earth in human flesh.

And what could be the purpose of God’s self-emptying and incarnation?

Could it be God’s curiosity or need to experience what we human beings feel throughout our mortal lives? If we believe in an omniscient God, then the thought that there is anything about our lives that He does not know is inconceivable. But there is clearly a purpose in incarnation, and it has to do with God’s unconditional love for us all.

Throughout the history of Israel, God manifested Himself mainly as God for us. He carried out wondrous deeds of salvation for the Israelites, delivering them from the hands of their enemies and leading them through His prophets to the right way of living. He gave them commandments so that their lives could be in a more harmonious relationship with their God, with one another and the whole of Creation. But the people always thought of God as a transcendent being, one that took care of their needs but was always beyond their reach.

Eventually, prophets like Isaiah began to glimpse a time when God would not only do wondrous deeds of salvation for His people, but would come to live among them, in their midst, and he called this child to be born Emmanuel, which means God with us. He was probably thinking about a king who would carry out God’s will with so much faithfulness that he would practically make God’s presence be felt among His people. New Testament writers later interpreted this as a reference to Jesus Christ Himself.

The coming of God the Son to this world happened at the place and time that God saw fit. New Testament writers call it in the fullness of time. He inaugurated a new era for this world. He made God’s unconditional love for us and all of Creation tangible as never before. He showed us His Way of Love in His own human person and prepared His followers to carry out the salvific reconciliatory mission throughout the times, until God can become all in all.

God’s incarnation has nothing to do with any merits of ours. The world where He incarnated was not neat and righteous. Just as it is today, it was a world full of mess, confusion, and conflict. It was out of sheer grace that God became Emmanuel, not to please Himself in a world of solace, but to share His self-giving love with us all, and He relentlessly continues to do so till this very day.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Preparing Christ's Dwelling Place within Us

This Sunday and Beyond - December 20, 2020
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The Collect for this Fourth Sunday of Advent urges us to purify our conscience ‘that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself’.

The thought that comes to our mind when we speak of a mansion is a lavish home with fine premises and decorations. It may have been the intention of the person writing this prayer to stress the fact that our God deserves the absolute best inside us to be offered to Him as His dwelling place within us. Even so, the Old Testament shows us that God’s preferred dwelling place was a moving tent, and Jesus clearly stated that ‘the son of man had no place to recline his head’.

It was only later in the history of Israel that a magnificent temple was built as a symbol of God’s presence, but the prophets and Jesus himself had a clear notion that God did not need a fixed building as a dwelling place, since the whole world is His.
Our God has no needs. It is us who have a constant need of Him, and He is always trying to find the way to dwell with us, because His love for us is greater than our human understanding.

When God approached Mary through Gabriel to make the mystery of His incarnation possible, He was clearly not looking for a woman of high social standing or prestige. God was looking for a tent where He would be welcomed, where the encounter between the human and the divine would take place in the humblest of ways, with total acceptance.

The angel’s greeting to Mary is clear: God is with you! He does not refer to a future event, but to an ever-present reality. God is always with each of us. It is us who often try to run away from Him. God is certainly not looking for “mansions” in an earthly sense to make a dwelling with us. He is always inviting us to open the tents of our hearts to His constant presence, so that He can be on the move with us, and guide us all along the way, as He did with the Israelites in the desert.

The initiative is always His, but we need to make room for Him in the tents of our lives. A clean, roomy, and open tent will do. The mystery of His incarnation was made possible thanks to God’s self-emptying with the cooperation of a young maiden with a total willingness to obey His will for her. But His incarnation is a continuing and ever-present reality in each of us now. He wants to keep on living with us, among us, in us. Let us do our part by cleaning, making room and opening wide for Him the tents of our lives.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Rejoice always!

This Sunday and Beyond - December 13, 2020
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In the First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians—the document that several scholars agree was the first New Testament writing—he urges them to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances. And the reason for this requirement is clear: “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

The Third Sunday in Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, a Latin word that means rejoice, precisely because the words of the introit in the Roman mass are taken from this Epistle of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, beginning with the word Rejoice. The color for this Sunday is rose, and flowers are used at the altar. It is like a break in the more solemn tone of Advent, giving way to the deep feeling of true joy that the certitude of this hopeful wait brings us amid our tribulations and uncertainties.

Our modern world is full of lures that push us towards the attainment of material satisfactions. The level of sophistication of these attractions has risen considerably in the last decades. The ones that have better financial means can attain more of these, and so life centers in competing with one another for better gains. But the fact is that there is a never-ending vicious circle of wanting more. And no true joy is ever achieved.

Talking about rejoicing in our present situation may sound like an irony. There has been and there is still a lot of suffering this year. However, it is not hard to imagine that the recipients of Paul’s letter were not in a much more favorable situation. These were new converts. People who had given up their pagan religion and embraced the faith of Jesus’ Way of Love. But this had a cost. It severed their bonds with their well-established communities, even with family members. It brought them conflict and suffering — even persecution.

Only constant prayer and a deep feeling of thankfulness for the peace and grace that their unshakable faith in Christ’s redeeming power brought them, could keep them going. And this great faith is always expressed in authentic joy. But this is a joy to be shared. Losing the bonds of their previous pagan worship had to be replaced by the strong bonds of the Christian church, the holy assembly. That is why Paul commands them to greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss and to read the letter to all of them.

Today we Christians also need to pray unceasingly, and give thanks to God in all circumstances, because our true joy does not come from passing favorable conditions, but from the deep conviction that our God is a loving God, the God that gave Himself for us so that we can have an abundance of selfless eternal life shared with all. And we need to stand together, encourage one another, share and multiply this authentic joy, and shout it from the top of the mountains if need be: Rejoice, always rejoice!

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


Living in the Hope of Renewal

This Sunday and Beyond - December 6, 2020
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According to scholars, the Second Letter attributed to the Apostle Peter was probably written by someone appealing to Petrine authority after the year 125 A.D. It is commonly thought to be the last New Testament document.

At that time, there were those who no longer believed in Christ’s second coming and emphasized the “already” at the expense of the “not yet”. But in his letter the writer wants to make clear that even though it may take longer than expected, this glorious coming of our Savior, with the passing out of the old and the consummation of the new creation, is an integral part of our Christian faith.

The writer of 2 Peter is convinced that what some see as the Lord’s tardiness is due to His willingness to enable all to repent and be saved, because His all-encompassing loving nature would not want anyone to be lost.

He admonishes all the faithful to live every day in hopeful expectation of the coming of this new creation, keeping the faith and doing the loving works God expects us to do, so as to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, whose glory is both for now and for the coming new creation.

This message is as valid and relevant to us today as it was when it was written. As we prepare for the coming of our Savior into our lives during this Advent Season, we should not forget that, as Christians, our ultimate hope is a renewed creation, one in which, like the psalmist says in this Sunday’s psalm, “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other”.

Our watch-keeping then, is not to be a passive one. We should strive towards the coming of this new creation. We should work towards it. We should make it happen. Our help in making this possible, though, is not in our own strength, as we may be misled to think. Our only help is in the Lord.

Praying and working together, led by the Holy Spirit, and united as the different and unique members of Christ’s Body, the Church Universal, we will live our personal and communal lives as if it were always Advent, always hopefully expecting, and always ready to be transformed into His ever-renewing creation.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector


No Idle Wait

This Sunday and Beyond - November 29, 2020
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Advent is said to be the time of hopeful wait. The Word Advent itself is derived from a Latin root meaning coming. It is a time of getting ready for He that is coming to our lives.

It can be looked at from three different perspectives.

A past or historical perspective: Advent is seen as the preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the great mystery of God’s incarnation on earth in the baby Jesus. From this perspective, we prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate this wonderful mystery once more in our lives, and to reflect on its significance for our lives and the life of the world.

A present perspective: Advent is seen as a way to prepare ourselves for a new beginning, a new way of being that is a better reflection of God’s image in our lives. In this sense, we prepare ourselves through the reading of Scripture, meditation and prayer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to let Christ be born in our lives and take hold of them, be our guide and ruler.

A future perspective: Advent is seen as a time of preparation for the accomplishment of God’s will in this world. We get ready for the end of times, so to speak, even when we have no notion of when it will take place. We carry on our lives in the present with the sure hope of our glorious, resurrected life in the future. To this end, aided by the Holy Spirit, we do our best to follow Jesus’ Way of Love at all times, spurned by the hope of a new wonderful world that not even in our dreams we can get a glimpse of.
It is not hard to realize that these three perspectives are inextricably intertwined and even though our focus can be one of the three at a given moment, the Advent Season considers the three of them at the same level of relevance. The first week of Advent this year, for instance, focuses on the future perspective or the end times.

Whichever the focus may be, however, one thing is always clear. As Christians we are called to live in God’s eternal Advent, because our lives are always about what we hope for with certainty, even though it is not still present. Such is the genuine Christian hope. And the wait needs to be fruitful, filled with loving activity.

It is as if we were awaiting the most extraordinary guest into the homes of our lives. We need to get rid of the clutter, the dirt, the useless stuff, and clean up and adorn, and make adequate space for our favorite guest to stay. No time to be idle. There is a lot to be done while we hopefully and prayerfully wait.

Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector