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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflection:


Delighting in God’s Law

This Sunday's Reflection - March 3, 2024
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Our understanding of what God’s Law is may vary, but it obviously refers to the superior order of harmonious workings by which God creates, recreates, and maintains His creation, including us, who have been created in His image and likeness.

Can we, as finite beings, have a full grasp of God’s Law? Hardly so, unless it has been revealed to us by God’s messengers and prophets, and above all, by His only-begotten Son and Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can have an intuitive inkling of what should be in accordance with God’s will, and what not, but even so, we can never have a comprehensive understanding of His Law.

The Jews were given the basic Ten Commandments by Moses, who received God’s inspiration to write them, so that the people might have a general guidance on how to relate to their Creator, and to one another as a people who would reflect God’s will in the world, so that they would also serve as a good example to be imitated by other surrounding nations.

In time, there was an expansion of these basic ten, so that they might more accurately guide the people in their daily lives. Our understanding of what God’s Law is may vary, but it obviously refers to the superior order of harmonious workings by which God creates, recreates, and maintains His creation, including us, who have been created in His image and likeness.

Can we, as finite beings, have a full grasp of God’s Law? Hardly so, unless it has been revealed to us by God’s messengers and prophets, and above all, by His only-begotten Son and Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord.

We can have an intuitive inkling of what should be in accordance with God’s will, and what not, but even so, we can never have a comprehensive understanding of His Law.

The Jews were given the basic Ten Commandments by Moses, who received God’s inspiration to write them, so that the people might have a general guidance on how to relate to their Creator, and to one another as a people who would reflect God’s will in the world, so that they would also serve as a good example to be imitated by other surrounding nations.

In time, there was an expansion of these basic ten, so that they might more accurately guide the people in their daily lives. If we take a look at the Ten Commandments it is easy to realize that their nature is mainly prohibitive. They warn the people about what actions they should avoid doing. By following them strictly, one could become a person who does no harm, but not exactly a person who cares for the others, or who really manifests love for the Creator and their neighbors.

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, He did not refer to any of these ten, but put together two commandments, one found in Leviticus, and the other in Deuteronomy. One refers to loving God with your whole being, and the other to loving your neighbor as yourself.

When Jesus declared that on these two hang all the Law and the Prophets, He meant that it is the Law of Love which really comprises all other commandments. When someone is guided by God’s unconditional love, they are not prone to do anyone harm in any way, and they are constantly driven to compassion, justice, and good works towards those they come in contact with, as an expression of God’s love in their lives.

Recognizing that this Law of Love is the best expression that we, as finite beings, can have of God’s Law is one thing; being guided by it all the time is something else.

Our nature is both spiritual and earthly. And our earthly nature tends to follow our individualized human nature. This nature still adheres to self-preservation instincts in a similar way as animals do, but takes them to a “rationalized” manifestation in our self-centered tendencies, which even try to justify our selfish ways of neglecting others’ needs, and climbing in the social scale at the expense of the suffering and misery of others.

Recognizing that we, by our own means, are inadequate to overcome these tendencies, is actually the first positive step towards overcoming them. We need to realize that we need God’s help in overcoming our sinful nature.

Sin is addictive. It is enslaving. Recognizing its addictive and enslaving nature is already a good beginning. But then we need to recognize that only a higher power, something other than ourselves, can help us out of it.

This is what alcoholics do all the time in their AA meetings and daily practice. Originally they mentioned God as the only one who could help them out of their terrible addiction. Nowadays, they talk about a “higher power”, in case some unbelievers also want to benefit from their program. But which “higher power” could it be, other than God Himself, after all?

The Apostle Paul recognized this fact in himself, as he clearly stated it in his letter to the Romans, when he expressed, “For I delight in the Law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law in my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

May God’s Law always be our greatest delight, but let us also ask our Lord and Savior for help in making His Law of Love rule our lives!


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Conquerors Through Christ's Love

This Sunday's Reflection - February 25, 2024
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It may be true that suffering has the effect of making us more sympathetic towards those who suffer in the world. However, what Jesus’ Way of Love teaches us is that we should always, as bearers of His Good News, give hope to the hopeless, strive to heal the infirm, and restore wholeness of life to the broken ones.

In this view, suffering as such has no merit in itself. We should not seek suffering for its own sake. That makes no sense at all if we believe in an all-loving God. But we must be willing to undergo suffering for the sake of love.

Many who oppose or simply do not follow the Christian faith have objected that an all-loving God could not have delivered His own Son to a shameful and horrible death to save others. The omnipotent God could surely have found another way to save us from our sins. But there is a lot of confusion here.

It is not that God relished in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. If we believe that Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, then God Himself suffered in the person of Jesus Christ. He suffered rejection, betrayal, and physical torment. He suffered a cruel death. But this suffering had a saving purpose. It was not useless. Through His sacrificial death, Christ conquered the powers of evil, and death itself. And He did not conquer them only for Himself, but for all who would follow His Way of Love.

What made this conquering possible? Unconditional and sacrificial love. There is no power stronger than this purest form of love. God is love. He is all-powerful because He is all-loving, He does not spare His only-begotten Son (Himself in the dynamic of the Trinity) for the sake of His love for humankind. So, this opens for us all the doors to real and abundant life in His self-giving love.

But as His followers in this loving life-giving way, we must also be willing to make sacrifices. We do not live in God’s fulfilled Kingdom as yet. This Kingdom has been inaugurated by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has already shown us, in His words and deeds, in His way of life, the signs of God’s Kingdom of justice, harmony, healing, and love. But we are not there yet.

Our reconciling mission as the Body of Christ—the Church—is to keep on making these signs visible to the world, so that through the conquering power of love the day may come when we can finally truly state,“Thy Kingdom HAS COME”.

In the meantime, notwithstanding, the opposing forces of evil of this world and the dark spiritual realms are still acting against this saving purpose. And they act with formidable slyness and cruelty. As followers of Christ we need to be aware of this fact. We will encounter great suffering in this world, not only because of our still unredeemed mortal nature, but mainly because of these opposing forces of evil in the world.

Evil cannot be fought with greater evil. It would be like trying to put out a fire by adding more fire. Unfortunately, such an obvious conclusion has still not been reached by the main leaders of the world. And wars and conflicts continue to be waged, even in this 21st century. The only thing that can conquer something is its opposite. The antidote of evil is goodness, or unconditional love. As unpractical as it may seem, this is the only way evil will ever be conquered and defeated in the world.

No unjust evil that we suffer in this world, as St. Paul clearly stated in his Letter to the Romans, can ever separate us from Christ’s love.

Here is what he wrote to the Romans, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loves us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And St. Paul was not speaking in abstract terms, he had been suffering and would suffer all those, and even death, for Christ’s sake.

Oh, that our conviction today might be just half as strong as his!


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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“Lent as Transfigured Disciples” By Mother Miriam, CSM

This Sunday's Reflection - February 18, 2024
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As we journey through a second Lent under the COVID-19 pandemic, the synoptic Gospels’ story of Jesus’ Transfiguration provide a fruitful opportunity for growth as disciples of the living Word and Lord. In the Transfiguration Jesus momentarily shows his true figure. His recognizable human appearance is his emptying of himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5-9). The Transfiguration fills in the implications of Peter’s Confession “You are the Christ.” He is not a new Elijah, nor a new Moses radiant with a borrowed glory. He is the manifestation of the living God himself. But even that statement is too simplistic.

Michael Ramsey gets the balance right between God and man: “The vision of Christ is the transfiguration of man.” If we are not always, continually, exquisitely sensitive to the other person, that statement looks like this: ‘My vision of Christ is my ultimate transfiguration.’ And in so doing, we lose the grace of seeing that the Transfiguration of Christ is just that, the transfiguration of Jesus; and mine only as I become enfolded and incorporated into Christ. In thinking about the “in-Christness” of the Transfiguration, I cannot help but be reminded of Paul’s frequent encouragement of those whom he made disciples: “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has wrought through me to win obedience from the Gentiles” (Rom. 15:17-18).

I am indebted to Reginald Somerset Ward, a great spiritual director in England during the early 20th century, who reflected deeply on this mystery of the Transfiguration and saw two successive phases in the disciples’ growth in knowledge and faith in our Lord. First, there was the gift of knowing who Christ really is, Emmanuel, “God-with-us,” and then came the second gift of the deepening of human faith and knowledge as experience of being with God. The revelation of Christ is by far the more concrete. The experience of God is much more abstract and formless, but very relevant to us as well as Peter, James, and John.

Have you ever used a magnifying glass to burn a hole in a piece of paper or start a fire on a bright, sunny day? Think about the process. The glass focuses a narrow light beam, a form of energy, which by its greatness defies human inspection and is unapproachable by human eyes. If you look directly at the sun, you will be blinded. But the brilliant spot beneath the magnifying glass is, in truth, the actual light of the sun, gathered together and possessing the properties of the sun, and yet so limited that both it and its effects can be observed by human beings without harm, or at least can be controlled so that you don’t get burned! The magnifying glass stands for the Incarnation; the spot of light, God-made-man, Jesus Christ; and the sun, the majesty of the Godhead. Here we have the beginning of an orthodox Christian understanding of the Incarnation.

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Mother Miriam, CSM, is the ninth Mother Superior of the Eastern Province of the Community of Saint Mary.

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A Lamp Shining in a Dark Place

This Sunday's Reflection - February 11, 2024
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Never is the light of a lamp—no matter how faintly it may shine—more welcome and cherished than when it shines alone in a dark place. Light is almost always welcome, except when people do things they would rather not have others see. But when we have several lights making a place bright, no particular light receives our concentrated attention as much as when there is only one light in a dark place.

The prophecies that were communicated to the Israelites throughout the centuries were like a lamp shining amidst their darkened lives. Sometimes the prophets spoke harshly about the injustice and the lack of compassion that those who ruled, and those who followed the rulers were characterized by, but in the prophets’ messages there was always hope of a new kind of relationship with the Creator and with one another—one based on justice, peace, and love—if peoples’ hearts turned to the Lord.

The season after the Epiphany is the season of Light. What the readings selected for this season bring us is a message of light in our own darkness, beginning with the manifestation of God’s Light to the World—Jesus Christ Our Lord—to the magi from the East, and culminating in the dazzling light of the transfigured and glorified Jesus, manifested to His three closest disciples, as a foretaste of His final glorification after His death and resurrection.

The message of salvation we have received through our faith in Christ Jesus has been handed down to us through the conduit of His first followers, who put it in writing themselves in some cases, and in other cases handed it down to others who put it in writing for us to read nowadays, more than twenty centuries later. But even during the time of Jesus’ first followers the forces of darkness tried to put out the Light, by confusing the first converts, and making them doubt the authenticity of the sources.

At all times there have been those who have doubted the message, and those who have even attacked it ferociously, because they cannot bear the Light in their lives, nor want the Light to reach others.

During Jesus’ time and after His death and glorious resurrection there was a multitude of religions and philosophical trends in the world, and it was common for people to think of a new message simply as some new fad that someone had made up.

This is why the Apostle Peter, in his Second Letter, clearly states, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of His majesty.” And here Peter makes reference to the voice they heard during Jesus’ transfiguration, which he, together with James, and John, were direct witnesses of.

It is evident that we, 21st-century Christians, are not direct witnesses of any of the things that the first followers said and wrote about Jesus. However, their congruence with the Old Testament prophecies, the deep conviction with which they were written, and the transformational power that they have had throughout the centuries, clearly show us they constitute the Lamp that shows us the way to true Life.

It was no mere chance that in the Transfiguration passage Jesus is accompanied by Moses and Elijah, the major representatives of the Law and the Prophets respectively. Jesus is clearly seen as the recapitulation of the Old Covenant, and the dazzling light that shines on His face and garments is the true Light of the world.

Living in the in-between time as we do, when God’s kingdom has been inaugurated, but certainly not fulfilled, we had better, as Peter instructs his readers to do, “be attentive to this (the prophetic message) as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in our hearts.”


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Divinely Compelled

This Sunday's Reflection - February 4, 2024
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It is unquestionable that the knowledge an average person in the world today has is much greater than what even the most learned people had centuries ago. The advancements in modern science, particularly in the realm of informatics, have enabled the common citizens of most parts in the world to have access to all kinds of information, and this was never heard of until recently.

So nowadays people have a much more accurate idea of what the world and the universe is like, and the laws governing this material universe. Even so, although it is undeniable that civilization has brought about a more humane attitude in most people, wars and cruelty are still rampant in many parts of the world, and the present situation is still far from the Christian idea of universal love as the fundamental law that governs our lives.

As much as general knowledge of the world has developed, it is recognized, even by prominent scientists, that it is always incomplete, and we must humbly admit that there is still an enormous gap between the known and the unknown for us humans.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to attain knowledge. God put us in this world so that we would be its stewards, and no good steward can manage the estate properly without knowledge about it and about the best methods and procedures for proper management.

In this respect, God has certainly enabled us, through the use of intelligence, to become better stewards all the time, but there is one point where humanity has mostly failed: in the way we relate to one another and to the rest of creation.

What God has intended, from the very beginning of our creation, is that we base our relationships in mutual love. But the source of this love is God Himself. It is through the love of God that we are given the capacity to love one another, and to love all of God’s creation.

Attempting to know God with our finite minds has always been a failed attempt. The finite cannot know the infinite. It is as simple as that.

We can have glimpses of God’s infinite wisdom and love by observing His creation, and also by observing how the world, despite all the mismanagement that we, as imperfect, self-centered stewards have implemented, moves forward in terms of general prosperity, knowledge, and even ethical principles.

The only way in which we may have a better knowledge of our Creator is by letting His unconditional love become a vital part of our lives. This is what Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to show us in His own life. His way is the Way of Love, and His life is love-centered, instead of self-centered, so much so, that He even gave His own life for the sake of love.

Even in our intimate personal relationships, such as the ones we have in marriage, we become aware of the fact that the more we love the other person, the more we actually get to know the person.

Our relationship with our God is personal, not because the infinite Creator is a person literally speaking, but because this is the only way we, as persons, can relate to Him.

As we are known by God in love, we get to know God, not in an intellectual way, but in a close relationship in which His love becomes manifest in our own lives, and thus, in our relationships with others and the rest of creation.

Knowing something that others do not may make us feel proud, and we may even show contempt towards those who lack this knowledge. Priests and theological nerds may sometimes fall into this dangerous trap and can sometimes even hurt the simple faith of the people.

This happens when, for instance, due to popular religious beliefs, someone comes to a priest with an object they cherish to be blessed. That is not the moment to tell this person that the important thing is that they practice God’s love in their lives, and that the object they bring can do without the blessing, and it makes no difference to God.

Such an attitude will do more harm than good, because, as St. Paul warned in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “knowledge puffs, but love builds up.”


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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The Knowledge that God's Love Gives

This Sunday's Reflection - January 28, 2024
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It is unquestionable that the knowledge an average person in the world today has is much greater than what even the most learned people had centuries ago. The advancements in modern science, particularly in the realm of informatics, have enabled the common citizens of most parts in the world to have access to all kinds of information, and this was never heard of until recently.

So nowadays people have a much more accurate idea of what the world and the universe is like, and the laws governing this material universe. Even so, although it is undeniable that civilization has brought about a more humane attitude in most people, wars and cruelty are still rampant in many parts of the world, and the present situation is still far from the Christian idea of universal love as the fundamental law that governs our lives.

As much as general knowledge of the world has developed, it is recognized, even by prominent scientists, that it is always incomplete, and we must humbly admit that there is still an enormous gap between the known and the unknown for us humans.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to attain knowledge. God put us in this world so that we would be its stewards, and no good steward can manage the estate properly without knowledge about it and about the best methods and procedures for proper management.

In this respect, God has certainly enabled us, through the use of intelligence, to become better stewards all the time, but there is one point where humanity has mostly failed: in the way we relate to one another and to the rest of creation.

What God has intended, from the very beginning of our creation, is that we base our relationships in mutual love. But the source of this love is God Himself. It is through the love of God that we are given the capacity to love one another, and to love all of God’s creation.

Attempting to know God with our finite minds has always been a failed attempt. The finite cannot know the infinite. It is as simple as that.

We can have glimpses of God’s infinite wisdom and love by observing His creation, and also by observing how the world, despite all the mismanagement that we, as imperfect, self-centered stewards have implemented, moves forward in terms of general prosperity, knowledge, and even ethical principles.

The only way in which we may have a better knowledge of our Creator is by letting His unconditional love become a vital part of our lives. This is what Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, came to show us in His own life. His way is the Way of Love, and His life is love-centered, instead of self-centered, so much so, that He even gave His own life for the sake of love.

Even in our intimate personal relationships, such as the ones we have in marriage, we become aware of the fact that the more we love the other person, the more we actually get to know the person.

Our relationship with our God is personal, not because the infinite Creator is a person literally speaking, but because this is the only way we, as persons, can relate to Him.

As we are known by God in love, we get to know God, not in an intellectual way, but in a close relationship in which His love becomes manifest in our own lives, and thus, in our relationships with others and the rest of creation.

Knowing something that others do not may make us feel proud, and we may even show contempt towards those who lack this knowledge. Priests and theological nerds may sometimes fall into this dangerous trap and can sometimes even hurt the simple faith of the people.

This happens when, for instance, due to popular religious beliefs, someone comes to a priest with an object they cherish to be blessed. That is not the moment to tell this person that the important thing is that they practice God’s love in their lives, and that the object they bring can do without the blessing, and it makes no difference to God.

Such an attitude will do more harm than good, because, as St. Paul warned in his First Letter to the Corinthians, “knowledge puffs, but love builds up.”


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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The Worst Form of Slavery

This Sunday's Reflection - January 21, 2024
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Slavery as a sanctioned institution is, of course, something of the past that we human beings must feel ashamed of.

There has recently been a trend to revisit the parts of the history of this continent and this nation, where it was common for white people to own black slaves from Africa, as a way to increase our awareness of past injustice, in the hopes that this will prevent such unjust relationships among people to occur again.

As a counterpart, there are also those historians who have pointed out the thousands of white people who were taken as slaves, particularly by the Muslims in past centuries.

Whether white or black, the possession of one person by another is not in accordance with contemporary ethical standards, and in essence it contradicts the Christian principle of the love of neighbor as oneself.

Unfortunately, there are still people in the world that suffer modern forms of slavery, such as the sexual slavery of children, teenagers, and young adults of both sexes. These are illegal, of course, but there are still parts of the world where unscrupulous people profit from such horrible practices.

In Jesus’ time slavery was a common practice. Slaves were obtained as a result of wars, or simply as a result of people not being able to pay their debts to others. There were ways of being redeemed from slavery, especially in the latter case, but not everyone was able to pay for their liberation or find a generous person who would do so for them.

In his preaching Jesus always emphasized that truth would make us free. When Jesus referred to freedom, He did not necessarily mean the state of freedom from slavery. He preached to the masses, in which there were surely a great number of servants or slaves.

Jesus was not trying to promote a slaves’ revolt so that all slaves and servants would be free. He clearly went beyond the mere concept of human bondage, and though we can be sure that Jesus would have preferred that no person would treat another as their possession, He was referring mainly to our freedom from the powers of evil, sin, and death, the one that would make us free to willingly do God’s will in our lives.

Trying to read what someone wrote in past centuries with the eyes of our contemporary perspective is a great mistake. This can lead to undue criticism of people who were simply the sons and daughters of their time, and did not have the means to undo the fabric of the socio-political system they lived in.

St. Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians talks about slaves and slavery. Some critics have called him a defender of slavery, but we must understand the role of slavery as a fundamental productive force of his time, and also what he really meant by his words, which should not simply be taken at face value.

Here is the paragraph that, if taken in a shallow way, and interpreted according to contemporary viewpoints, can lead us to a grave misunderstanding of Paul’s real intentions.

“Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of human masters.”

Is Paul favoring the institution of slavery, as some might mistakenly infer from the beginning sentences? Or is he opposing it as could be inferred from the last sentence? Neither. Paul’s main concern here is not the institution of slavery. That was taken from granted in his time. He even says, “even if you can gain your freedom”, so it seems that he thought that should always be a good goal to achieve.

But his concern here is the worst form of slavery. He is warning against becoming “slaves of human masters”, but not in a literal sense. His injunction to the new converts is to follow Christ and His liberating way of life, which is none other than the Way of Love. This is what we must all gladly and willingly become slaves for.

Christ has freed us from all false human doctrine that can lead us back to the way of fear and darkness, which is the worst form of slavery ever. Let us not be trapped by it.


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Glorifying God in Our Bodies

This Sunday's Reflection - January 14, 2024
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Photo by Tamra Raven
Even if we may not agree with some of the tenets of the new spiritualities that have arisen in the last few decades, one positive thing we need to acknowledge about them is the concept of the sacredness of the body, including the body of the earth.

Jewish spirituality never divorced the bodily part of our nature from its spiritual part. In the story of Genesis, we read about the Creator of the Universe giving rise to this material world, and every time that He created something He said that “it was good.”

Human beings (represented in Adam, and his feminine counterpart, Eve) were created from the body of the earth (the word Adam itself comes from the Hebrew adamah, which means ground). Hebrew spirituality is not binary in the sense of separating the spiritual from the material, and giving more prominence to the latter.

Jesus’ movement was primarily a movement born in the bosom of Jewish spirituality. The belief in the resurrection (which evolved later in the Jewish thought and cannot be found in the earlier Old Testament writings) clearly referred to a resurrected body, not a disembodied entity.

In St. Paul’s letters we can find the idea of a resurrected body, which he calls “a glorified body” as a new type of body which cannot decay or be corrupted. Nevertheless, it is still a body, and not a disembodied essence, as some later Christian writers have put forward. St. Paul himself sometimes talks about this present corruptible body as being something that we should not overvalue, and there are instances in which talks about the “flesh” as something that hinders the Spirit.

What St. Paul wants to stress in such instances is that if we become the slaves of our natural instincts only, and do not train ourselves to master them through the spiritual disciplines, we can become like mere animals, and we can easily be overcome by the sinful tendencies that instincts may lead us to.

But St. Paul also understands the sacredness of this present human body which is an integral part of our being. In his First Letter to the Corinthians, he warns gravely against the sin of fornication, presenting the argument in this way: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!”

Even if he is aware that these temporal physical bodies will be destroyed, he declares them to be “temples of the Holy Spirit within us, which we have from God and are not our own.”

As St. Paul clearly states, “we were bought with a price” (Christ’s self-giving at the cross), so it is indeed proper and our duty that we glorify God in our bodies.


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Being Anointed by God to Do Good

This Sunday's Reflection - January 7, 2024
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We Christians believe in a purposeful world. Contrary to what atheists proclaim about the universe and our place in the universe—as the result of random forces with no ultimate goal in the plane of existence—we believe in a universe whose ultimate goal is abundant life, and whose ultimate guidance is God’s infinite and unconditional love.

God’s love is shown in the intrinsic goodness of creation—in spite of what we may see as flaws and defects from our limited human perspective—but above all, in His plan of redemption for us and the whole of creation through His incarnate Son, who gave himself in loving sacrifice so as to show us how to live the only true abundant life worth living—a life lived in mutual loving care and, consequently, in harmony with our Creator’s purpose.

One thing that Jesus’ disciples may have had a hard time understanding at first was that His redeeming love extended to include not only those of the House of Israel, but the whole world. Though His first followers were Jews and followers of Judaism, and even Jesus Himself expressed to a pagan woman that He had come first to offer salvation to the Jews, in His Great Commission Jesus clearly sends out His disciples to baptize people in all nations, to teach them what they had received from Him, so that salvation could reach the ends of the world.

This is what Peter eventually managed to understand when he was commanded by God in a vision to go to a Roman family of believers in the New Way, and ended up baptizing them all in Jesus’ name at their request. He then clearly understood that “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.”

Showing no partiality should never be understood as condoning every evil. There is a dangerous trend to equate inclusiveness to the condoning of every kind of behavior, no matter how contrary to God’s love it may be. We Christians believe in the forgiveness of sins by God’s unbounded love and grace, and we are constantly reminded of the need to forgive others too.

Forgiveness, however, makes no sense if there is no true repentance. What good can forgiveness do if those who do evil do nothing to change their ways and continue to live sinful lives? Our God is a loving God, but there is always a clear loving purpose in all He does. We cannot be reconciled and continue to live in an unreconciled way at the same time. That simply makes no sense at all.

Being baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity implies that we receive a new name by adoption—we are inserted into God’s family, and He gives us His own name. Just as when someone is adopted by a family that person receives the name of the family, we receive the name of God’s family at baptism.

Being baptized literally means being “immersed”. We are immersed into God’s very being at baptism, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and from that moment on we are marked as Christ’s own forever.

As we said at the beginning, we believe in a purposeful world. So baptism has a purpose for us. It is all very well to know that just as when Jesus was baptized He heard God’s voice telling Him that He was “His son, the Beloved, with whom He was well pleased.”, we are also God’s beloved and He wants us to know this every single moment of our lives.

But being God’s beloved son and daughter has some implications. It means that we are called to act as such in our lives.

When Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit and power at His baptism in the Jordan, He did not simply lie down in blissful joy for the great blessing and privilege He had been given. According to the Book of Acts, Peter clearly states that Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”

When we are baptized God is with us. His Holy Spirit anoints us with power, and just as Jesus did, we are urged to go about doing good and healing all who are oppressed by the powers of evil—whether evil worldly powers, or evil powers from the spiritual realms. He who empowers us will enable us, but we must make it our purpose to set out to do good.


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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To Tremble with Glee

This Sunday's Reflection - December 31, 2023
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The Cherry Tree Carol has roots in medieval mystery plays and, ultimately, an apocryphal story about the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, in which a cherry tree bows low so that Mary can gather cherries from its branches. The carol has many variants, both in text and tune. Many Anglicans will be familiar with the arrangement by David Wilcocks. The Cherry Tree Carol I know and love is an Appalachian folk version by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. This version, uniquely, ends with Joseph asking the unborn Jesus when his birthday will be, with Jesus responding, from his mother’s womb, thus:

The sixth day of January
My birthday will be,
When the stars in the elements
Shall tremble with glee.


“When the stars in the elements shall tremble with glee.” It is a striking image, isn’t it? Stars, like little children, trembling with glee. They can hardly contain their excitement, their little bodies move and pulse with joy. And it is this image — of the stars trembling with glee at the birth of the Lord Jesus — that has prompted these reflections, which I offer on the Tenth Day of Christmas.

“The stars in the elements shall tremble with glee.” We are not accustomed to thinking of stars in this way. Views from the Webb Space Telescope may fill us with awe, but we do not imagine the stars as capable of anything analogous. But what, really, do we know of the stars? They, too, are creatures — why should they not “tremble with glee” at the Nativity of their Lord, or respond in some analogously appropriate way? After all, when the Lord laid the foundations of the earth, “the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). And day and night “the heavens declare the glory of God,”


Although they have no words or language, and their voices are not heard,
Their sound has gone out into all lands,
and their message to the ends of the world.
(Ps. 19:1, 3–4)


Must we understand all this language to be merely figurative?

Dante spoke of “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Paradiso 33.145). In speaking thus, he included himself among the creatures moved by the Lord. He wrote:

… my desire and will were moved already —
like a wheel revolving uniformly — by
the Love that moves the sun and the other stars.
(Par. 33.143–45)


If our very desires and our wills are moved by the God who is Love, then why should we imagine the movement Love causes in the stars to be constrained to movements describable by astrophysics? Is it only human creatures who cry out, in the presence of that Love, “did not our hearts burn within us” (Luke 24:32)? Might not the stars, too, burn for Love?

David Bentley Hart has written in his dreamlike Roland in Moonlight (reviewed on Covenant) of a longing “for a world that speaks,” “for a world that feels … that’s conscious and alive” (p. 53). In context, Hart — or, rather, his dog Roland (did I mention the work is dreamlike?) — is describing his “great uncle” Aloysius’s pagan beliefs, which he interprets as a response to the modern view of the cosmos as dead matter. But I think we can also say (as Hart would surely agree) that the picture of “a world that speaks, a world that feels … that’s conscious and alive” — is one closely akin to that of the Bible. Holy Scripture, we have seen, understands the whole created order as revelatory, as filled with the glory of God; a world in which every creature is at least potentially responsive (in its own way) to its Creator. Night and day, “the heavens declare the glory of God.” “The morning stars sang together” at the creation of the world. The psalmist calls on every creature to rejoice in the coming of the Lord:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
let the field be joyful and all that is therein. Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the LORD when he comes,
when he comes to judge the earth.
(Psalm 96:11–12)


In the biblical imagination, the world is full of the speech of non-human creatures. The serpent speaks. The angels speak. Balaam’s donkey protests (Num. 22:21–34). The mountains and the hills are on the verge of singing, and the trees of the fields about to burst into applause (Isa. 55:12). And, if necessary, even the stones will shout out, in praise of Christ their coming King (Luke 19:40). If this is so, might not the stars indeed tremble with glee at the birth of the Lord?

But what do we know of the stars? What matters in the end of these speculations is how we ourselves respond to the coming of our Lord. Whether we tremble before this magnum mysterium(“great mystery”) of the birth of the Lord. Whether our hearts burn within us.

Christopher Yoder
(The Rev. Christopher Yoder serves as rector of All Souls’ Episcopal Church in Oklahoma City. He is a contributor to Living Church’s Covenant blog. Fr. Carlos is on vacation this week.)

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The Mystery That Is Now Disclosed

This Sunday's Reflection - December 24, 2023
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God’s incarnation appears to us Christians as one of the great mysteries of our faith. It is the great mystery of an infinite being—unconstrained by space or time, incomprehensible by the human mind—becoming a human being in the person of a vulnerable baby being born from a woman in the humblest of conditions, and ultimately giving Himself in loving sacrifice at the hands of unrighteous men, and suffering the cruelest form of death on a cross.

This is what theologians have called the kenosis, a Greek work meaning emptying. The idea is that in the act of incarnation God emptied Himself of His divine glory and came down to the level of humanity, being constrained by time and space, experiencing and suffering all that human beings suffer, and even dying in a brutally cruel way.

For many at the time of Jesus this was not only incomprehensible, but even blasphemous. To say that the divine could become human was not and is still not acceptable for the Jews (or the Muslims). In pagan religions there was the idea of the demigods, who were engendered by a divine being and a mortal human, but these were humans with some supernatural attributes, and were not seen as real incarnations of the divine.

But as great as this mystery of incarnation is, it does not seem to be the mystery that St. Paul refers to in his letter to the Romans, when he writes, “and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed,…”

This mystery that Paul says was kept secret for long ages and is now disclosed is closely linked to Jesus’ proclamation itself, according to him. What may St. Paul be referring to?

It seems obvious that to know this, we need to focus our attention first and foremost in what Jesus’ proclamation was mainly about.

What Jesus spoke about and what his deeds pointed to during his time on this planet has to do with giving Himself in loving care for all. He never spoke or did anything for personal gain, not even to obtain personal fame or recognition. The signs of God’s Kingdom that He gave when he healed or brought someone back to life, or fed hungry multitudes, were all driven by a pure loving intention, and were all life-restoring and life-giving acts.

This is what his followers heard and saw Him do. This is what He taught, and if He ever had harsh words for some, it was not out of hatred for any particular person or group of persons, but to show them how wrong and conducive to real death their way was, so that they could change their ways and be saved.

What Jesus taught His disciples and what He also teaches us today, through the things His true followers wrote for all generations to follow, is that His incarnation of God’s loving will is also the aim and goal of our own lives.

God emptied Himself once of His divinity to show humanity, in the person of Jesus Christ, what the Way of His unconditional love is. But Jesus was restored to His original glory—the one He had always had with the Father—once His mission on earth was fulfilled.

In the same way, we need to empty ourselves—not of the divine glory we do not posses, but of the misleading self-centeredness that part of our human nature leads us to—so we can stop believing that we can be our own gods, and also rule over others to satisfy our whims. By so doing, we will be opening our minds and hearts to Christ’s Way of Love in our own lives, and then we will become one in intention and will with the only true and abundant life: the love-giving life that never ends.

When we celebrate God’s incarnation in a few days, let us be joyous, and grateful to God for His willingness to become Emmanuel—God with us, and let us also strive to make it possible that He may become incarnate in each of us—not literally like in the case of Mary, but in intention and will—so that ultimately one day He may become all in all, as has always been His desire from the beginning of creation.


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Do We Have Reasons to Rejoice?

This Sunday's Reflection - December 17, 2023
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Rose Sunday or Gaudete Sunday is here this week. It is the third Sunday of Advent, and the word rejoice or joy appears in all the readings assigned for this Sunday. The liturgical color also reminds us of the joyful expectation whose end—at least in the perspective of God made flesh in history—is drawing near as the Christmas celebration approaches.

But as we look at the world around us, the wars, the conflicts, the injustice, the lack of compassion, the hunger and poverty that plagues so many countries—and even close to home—the homeless and mentally derailed people who roam our own cities, we may wonder if we have reasons to rejoice.

Even if we are lucky enough to be among the well-to-do in this world, at this very moment we may have close relatives or friends undergoing painful diseases, or even dying.

The actual world we live in looks more like the world of Job after he was allowed by God to be tested by Satan than like God’s Kingdom of love and peace. And we may wonder, was it much better for the prophet Isaiah, or for the Apostle Paul, or even the writer of the fourth gospel?

Definitely not.

The prophets never had a smooth time. They were slandered, misunderstood, and mistreated. They did not prophesy to have a more comfortable life, but because they could simply not keep silent when God called them to speak in His name.

We all know how much St. Paul had to suffer after he was called by our Lord to evangelize the Gentiles. He suffered slanders, whippings, shipwrecks, prison, and finally death for relentlessly announcing the truth of Jesus’ Way of Love.

John the Evangelist is believed to have died of a natural death, but even he was deported and confined to an island, and had to suffer much for spreading the Good News of Salvation to all the nations.

No, the world at the time of Isaiah, and at the time after Jesus’ ascension did not look like a rose bed—even if we call this Sunday “rose Sunday”. They were convoluted times, full of suffering people, oppressed people, people who had lost all hope. And yet, Isaiah and St. Paul rejoiced and encouraged their contemporaries to rejoice.

And do they tell us what is there to rejoice for? Certainly.

Isaiah speaks about the new creation that God is about to make. In this new creation there will be no more injustice, or people dying at a young age, and weeping and distress will be no more. It will be a creation which all creatures will live in harmony, and no creatures will hurt or destroy. The image Isaiah uses is one of great poetic beauty: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”

Isaiah’s main reason for rejoicing is the sure hope of the new creation, so it has a future outlook, but the rejoicing is already a present reality.

St. Paul, however, sets the rejoicing in a present—or even an atemporal—perspective. He calls his readers in the First Letter to the Thessalonians to rejoice always. He is aware of how hard it is for these new converts to face the reality that surrounds them, especially now that they have embraced this New Way, and encourages them to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And then he adds, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

This clearly shows that the rejoicing Paul is depicting has nothing to do with a “do not worry, be happy” superficiality in these converts. He is calling them to stay firm on the right path, but, above all, to let the Spirit kindle their lives with authentic joy.

If only we pondered on Paul’s words and put them into practice today!


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Paving the Way for the Lord

This Sunday's Reflection - December 10, 2023
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The theme of the Second Sunday of Advent is always the preaching of the prophets, calling us to repentance, and encouraging us to prepare the way for our salvation.

Repenting—or turning to God—is not a passive state of being at all. It must start with an overwhelming feeling of regret for our past actions, thoughts, words, or non-actions, accompanied by a sense of self-inadequacy in God’s sight, but it cannot remain there. It must necessarily spur us to a deep transformation of our lives, so that all the harm we have done—whenever possible—is compensated for, and our lives from that moment on become a better version of they are meant to be: God’s image and likeness.

This is what the repentance the prophets called the people to really meant. And John the Baptizer was a faithful follower of this prophetic call. So much so that Mark the Evangelist begins his Gospel with the words of the prophet Isaiah referring to God’s messenger calling the people to prepare the way of the Lord, and then he immediately introduces John the Baptizer and his proclamation of a baptism of repentance.

The fruits of true repentance as a way of preparing the way for the coming of God’s Reign of Love into the world are depicted in beautiful poetic images by the writer of Psalm 85: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring forth from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.”

This powerful image reminds us of two lovers expressing their mutual feelings in their intimate exchange of tenderness, and it is a proper image indeed. It is in our authentic human relationships that our transformation into better versions of God’s image is truly shown.

Isaiah also uses a beautiful and tender image to show what God’s relationship to His people will be when He comes to live with them: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs in His arms, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.”

And in his Second Letter the Apostle Peter reassures his readers that what they see as a “delay” in Christ’s coming to restore all things to God is nothing but His great mercy and His intent to include all in His new resurrected life. Peter states, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”

And he then addresses his readers with the following injunction—which is as valid for us today as it was for those he wrote it for: “Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by Him at peace, without spot or blemish, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.”


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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Awaiting in Fruitfulness

This Sunday's Reflection - December 3, 2023
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The first four weeks of the Church Year—the Advent Season—are usually associated with the idea of waiting, expecting, getting ready for what is to come.

The coming of Jesus Christ our Lord--into the world as God incarnate (if we look at Advent from a past-time perspective), into our lives here and now (if we see Advent from a present-time standpoint), and as the King of kings and Lord or lords in the end times (if we use an eschatological viewpoint)--is undoubtedly the subject of this first season of the Church Year.

As in every waiting time for an event, there is always a need to make preparations for what is expected. We have our money or pass ready when we are waiting for the bus. We clean and declutter our houses when we are expecting a visitor to come and stay with us. We mentally review what we are going to say while we wait for a job or other type of interview.

These are only a few examples. Practically no waiting time in this life is inert time—a time when we simply do nothing and just wait for things to occur. Even if there is no outer physical activity, there is usually a lot of mental activity going on.

Advent is meant to be the most active waiting time ever. At least, it should be.

It should be a time of the year when we actively engage in the study of Scriptures and in the prayerful reflection of them. It should be a time when we do more prayer than usual. But it should also be a time when we deeply examine our lives and get rid of all that hinders our fruitful encounter with Christ and with one another, and with the rest of creation. It is a time for making the decluttering of our lives a number-one priority.

This is the perfect time to ask ourselves, “what is in the way of having a loving relation with my Creator and with His beloved Son, our Lord?” And it is also the best time to ponder on how we can be reconciled with those we have been estranged from, due to the hardness of our hearts, and our lack of reconciling will.

The waiting character of Advent should by no means prevent us from putting into practice Jesus’ Way of Love in our lives through active loving service to those in need. On the contrary, this should constitute the best preparation we can ever have to receive Jesus in our hearts, in our whole lives, and to be ready also for the time when His reign of love becomes all in all.

This is precisely what Paul refers to in his First Letter to the Corinthians, when, at the beginning of the letter he states, “for in every way you have been enriched in Him (Christ), in speech and knowledge of every kind—just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gifts as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”


Fr. Carlos Expósito, Rector

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