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This Sunday and Beyond    Weekly Reflection:

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