Monthly Archives: January 2019

Body of Priests

By Orlando Hernandez

About 10 years ago, I was working out my new-found faith as a Christian Catholic. At a family party in Florida, the men smoking outside were having a conversation about religion. I was asking some life-long Catholics why they were no longer going to Mass. This man said, “Look at these abuse scandals. I don’t need any priest to tell me what to do, or to ‘show’ me God ! Why do you,” he asked me, “go to Mass?”

I had never read the Letter to the Hebrews. I was still working on the Gospels, but I found myself telling him, “My priest is called Jesus Christ. I go there to be with Him, that’s all. He is the one celebrating the Mass, otherwise, why the heck go?” (I did not know anything about Flannery O’Connor either.)

As some of you know, the key moment of my conversion centered around the Eucharist. I was looking at a Host, raised by the priest, and I was struck by Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. The Living God manifested Himself to me in His full splendor, power, and love. No-one can convince me otherwise. That’s why I go to Mass as often as possible. It is the best thing I do. I have met so many wonderful priests, servants of Jesus. I owe them so much, but I firmly believe that “the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” I believe that, in humility and fully in the power of the Holy Spirit, my priest friends have the right to say in Jesus’ name, “ This is my Body” and “This is my Blood .” But I think they would tell me in all sincerity that it is actually Jesus the High Priest, the Living God, right then and there, who is saying these words.

This is my faith. My faith in the reality of this incredible blast of joy, love, grace, light, wonderment, and so much more that I feel before the Blessed Sacrament. And again I say, this is why I go to Mass as much as possible. Try it out. You might get a BIG surprise.

For the first four weeks in Ordinary Time, we have been reading from the Letter to the Hebrews in our weekday Masses. The author of this Holy Book talks about the High Priesthood of Christ Jesus. Our Lord is compared to Melchizedek, an ancient priest who offers bread and wine, a king of Salem (saalam,shalom,peace). More importantly Jesus is presented as the ultimate, definite, Jewish High Priest, giving as offering for the final atonement for our sins, His own flesh, His own self, His life. He is the prime example for all the men who choose to completely follow Him, to give up just about everything, and go out and be His Apostles, His attendant priests in our Catholic Church.

Our Lord instituted the Eucharist not only so that we could remember and honor His saving sacrifice, but also so that He could be with us in the most intimate, physical, and spiritual way. This can only happen through the men He has chosen over the centuries, an army, a multitude of Apostles who have given the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to Him, and have kept these vows. These men are our champions, our examples, teachers, and bringers of Christ. To do this they gave themselves in a way similar to what it says in Hebrews 10: 5-7 :
“Sacrifice and offeringsYou did not desire but a body You prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings You took no delight. Then I said, as is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

I believe it is this total, humble, selfless surrender to the will of God that gives our Catholic priests the right to celebrate the Eucharist in all Its power and holiness. At the same time, we lay people are not left off that easily. Our Lord suffered His Passion so that we too can approach the Holy of Holiest like those ancient priests. The Temple of His Holy Spirit is now in our hearts. We can find Him there. Do we dare? In our baptism we have been saved, but we have each been declared “priest, prophet, and king/queen”, servants of His Kingdom. Boy, do I feel unworthy of these gifts! But I am not about to reject the gifts of the One I love. No way. I want to please Him. I want to be with Him, and in Him, and He in me. Therefore, to prayer, surrender, and work!

“Brothers and Sisters: Since through the Blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way He opened for us through the veil, that is , His flesh, and since we have ‘a great priest over the house of God’ let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for He who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10: 19-25)

Oh Great High Priest! Guide your Church in the path of righteousness and love. Strengthen us with your Presence. Help us show You to the world. Keep us united in your Mercy. Bring back your children who have strayed. Help us to be instruments of your Good. In gratitude we lift our eyes to You. Amen.

Orlando Hernández

January 28-February 3rd

The feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, one of the last events in Luke’s Infancy Narrative, is celebrated this week on February 2nd. It’s also called Candelmass Day because candles are blessed this day. Candles bring light to the house, Jesus Christ brought light to Simeon and Anna, waiting in the temple representing all who wait for the light that is Christ.

Two saints, Thomas Aquinas and John Bosco, are remembered this week.They couldn’t be more humanly unlike. Thomas Aquinas, a thinker, John Bosco, a doer. Bless them all.

The readings this week show two worlds. Mark’s Gospel takes us to the Sea of Galilee, as Jesus heals and teaches and meets opposition from the scribes and Pharisees. The Letter to the Hebrews tells us to lift our eyes to heaven. Another world awaits us.

JANUARY 28 Mon Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Memorial Pss III
Heb 9:15, 24-28/Mk 3:22-30 (317)

29 Tue Weekday
Heb 10:1-10/Mk 3:31-35 (318)

30 Wed Weekday
Heb 10:11-18/Mk 4:1-20 (319)

31 Thu Saint John Bosco, Priest
Heb 10:19-25/Mk 4:21-25 (320)

FEBRUARY 1 Fri Weekday
Heb 10:32-39/Mk 4:26-34 (321)

2 Sat The Presentation of the Lord
Mal 3:1-4/Heb 2:14-18/Lk 2:22-40 or 2:22-32 (524)

Jer 1:4-5, 17-19/1 Cor 12:31—13:13 or 13:4-13/Lk 4:21-30 (72)

The Conversion of St. Paul

January 25th is the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. It came in a blinding moment, so different than the call of Jesus’ other apostles.

Caravaggio’s dramatic painting of Paul on the flat of his back, arms outstretched, helplessly blind is a vivid picture of humanity before God.

Conversion is God’s work; God alone gives the gift of faith.

The first reading for his feast tell the dramatic story of his conversion. (Acts 22, 3-16)  In the gospel of Matthew,Jesus announces why he was called – to preach the gospel to all nations.(Matthew 16,15-18)

“May the Spirit fill us with that light of faith.”

For St. John Chrysostom  “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what we really are, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue a human being is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words: I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.

“When he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: Rejoice and be glad with me! And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened, he said: I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution. These he called the weapons of righteousness, thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them…

The most important thing of all to Paul was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ.”

May God give us that grace .

Today ends the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

May God give us all that grace.

Extra Ordinary

by Orlando Hernandez

Since January 14 we have been observing “Ordinary Time” in our Liturgy. Fr. Victor Hoagland has been pointing out how most of our Church year takes place in this Ordinary Time, and how this reflects the reality of our lives. Our hours, months, and years are mostly made up of ordinary things and activities. We eat, sleep, get up, brush our teeth, work, interact with those nearest to us, and live in those challenges and blessings that they bring to us. We drive past the same stores and barely see the same winter trees along the way. We wear and wash the same clothes. We each have our own routines.

Fr. Victor tells us that it is especially in those moments that the Presence of the Beloved can be found. In an almost “Buddhist” way, he advises us to be mindful of all the experiences we have, no matter how simple or common. There is great Beauty and Light there.

I have been trying. I see a new loveliness in those bare trees, reaching up to heaven. I am suddenly struck by the flavor of morning cereal. At home, I have been picking up different objects that I walk past every day. I feel them in my hands and actually discover things about them: the material they are made of, a craft-person’s signature, a chip or break (when did it happen?). I remind myself of why I have kept these objects around in the first place. They each hold a blessed, special memory of someone I regard, or love.

Suddenly, these objects become luminous with feeling and meaning, leading me to realize that there’s even more to life than just what is there in front of me. My faith is stirred. I feel the presence of my Creator and Savior in a surprising, and yet familiar way. I hope that you have all experienced something like this at some point during your day or week. We are so loved by this good, wonderful God.

The simple, insipid water that occupies our earthen vessels can be unexpectedly changed into the finest wine by realizing that the Holy Spirit of our Creator is here within and around us. We believe, and for a moment experience this “life to the fullest” that our Lord desires for all of us. It can be so easy. All we have to do is think and say, “Jesus!”. He is the vehicle to this life of adventure and wonder. He is why this “Ordinary Time” can be so special to me.

Our Gospel readings once again begin to relate His story to us. Each weekday we again hear about the deeds of our Lord in the action-filled Gospel of Mark. On Sundays we also continue with His story. I suppose we could say, “here we go again, the same old stories all over.” It is strange, but I really never get sick of hearing them. I know some of these Gospels nearly word for word, and still I find something new, or even better, I re-discover something I had lost. Like a child, I am hungry to hear the same tale again and again!

I have written before about my seven-year old granddaughter, how my relationship with her has given Our Heavenly Father a chance to teach me how much He loves us, His children. For a few years now she has driven me crazy by having me read to her the same children’s book again and again. I try to convince her to try out a different story, but no way! She insists on this slightly worn book. Children lose many things, but this one is still around. I tell her that she knows how to read now, so she can read it to me. Well, not this book, I have to read it. As I read, she goes through the same actions she would undertake as a toddler, pushing a dot on a page so that it will change color on the next, shaking the book, counting the dots, answering questions.

I realize this is a ritual that she loves to share with me. Suddenly, in the middle of this “ordinary” activity the extra-ordinary happens; the Light of our amazing, loving God shines all around. I get an insight into the reason for my love of the Liturgy of the Mass. I experience such happiness. Why does He love us like this?

I realize why I love to hear the Gospel stories again and again. This is because it is my Heavenly Papa who is holding me in His arms while He reads them to me.

Orlando Hernández

January 21-27

JANUARY 21 Mon Saint Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
Heb 5:1-10/Mk 2:18-22 (311)

22 Tue USA: Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children
Heb 6:10-20/Mk 2:23-28 (312)

23 Wed Weekday
[USA: Saint Vincent, Deacon and Martyr; USA: Saint Marianne Cope, Virgin]
Heb 7:1-3, 15-17/Mk 3:1-6 (313)

24 Thu Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Heb 7:25—8:6/Mk 3:7-12 (314)

25 Fri The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle
Acts 22:3-16 or 9:1-22/Mk 16:15-18 (519)

26 Sat Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops
2 Tm 1:1-8 or Ti 1:1-5 (520)/Mk 3:20-21 (316)

Neh 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10/1 Cor 12:12-30 or 12:12-14, 27/Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21 (69)

An interesting group of saints this week, starting with St. Agnes (January 21) , the brave young girl martyred at the beginning of the 4th century for going against the state. She’s a reminder of the power of women in our church and a wonderful example of the holiness young people can attain.

The Conversion of St. Paul (January 25) and his two disciples, Timothy and Titus (January 26). What would our church be without them? The Church Unity Octave begins today with prayers that God give a converting grace to the Christians churches that they become the one church Jesus prayed for.

St. Francis de Sales was a great communicator when a fractured Europe needed communication. Would he be interested in the internet today?

St Maryanne Cope was a American nun who, after founding two hospitals in upstate New York, served lepers in Hawaii. She reminds us of the heroic service women religious have given to the church in the United States and in the world.

January 22 is a day of prayer for the legal protection of unborn children. A major issue in society today.

He Came to Nazareth

The gospel readings this week are not just from one gospel, as they usually are. The readings this week after the Epiphany to the Baptism of the Lord ( January 7-12) are from the four gospels and each tells us that Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, manifested himself to all. In Psalm 2 (Monday) God says “I will give you all the nations as an inheritance.” Jesus gives himself to all.

This week each gospel points to the universal mission of Jesus already evident as he ministers to the people of his own time and place. Matthew’s gospel on Monday says he began his ministry in the “Galilee of the Gentiles.” “Great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him.” Gentiles from the Decapolis and beyond the Jordan as well as Jews were already approaching him. Matthew 4,12-17, 24-25)

In the readings from Mark’s Gospel for Tuesday and Wednesday, Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish on the Jewish side of the Sea of Galilee and then sets out on the sea for the other side, the pagan side, to bring the blessings of these signs to them also. (Mark 6)

On Thursday and Friday, there are excerpts from Luke’s Gospel. On Friday Luke recounts the cure of the leper. The leper’s cure promises that Jesus will reach out to all the abandoned throughout the world.

On Saturday, in the reading from John, John the Baptist recognizes that Jesus “is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” Jesus will bring the waters of life to all.

Luke’s reading for Thursday, though, is somewhat puzzling. Jesus goes to Nazareth where he was raised and is rejected, but notice Luke’s reading for that day ends before the account of his rejection: “And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” (Luke 4, 14-22)

That’s the way we would have liked Nazareth to respond to the presence of Jesus when he first came there, but the town rejected him and Jesus never returned, the gospels say.

Do our readings this week offer the promise that Jesus, as the Risen Christ entrusted with the mission to save all, always returns to the hard places and most resistant people?

That means we’re not to give up on the Nazareths of this world that seem too far gone, too faithless, to ever hear the gospel. “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you,” our psalm says.

The Light yet to Come

Christ has come, yet his glory has not yet been revealed. “For we are the children of God, and what we shall become has not yet appeared. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Meanwhile, St. Augustine says,  diligently study him as he appears to us now, as a servant. Follow him in his humanity.

Until he comes, “until this comes to pass, until he gives us the sight of what will completely satisfy us, until we drink our fill of him, the fountain of life — while we wander about, apart from him but strong in faith, while we hunger and thirst for justice, longing with a desire too deep for words for the beautiful vision of God, let us fervently and devotedly celebrate the anniversary of his birth in the form of a servant.

We cannot yet contemplate the fact that he was begotten by the Father before the dawn, so let us hold on to the fact that he was born of the Virgin in the night. We do not yet understand how his name endures before the sun, so let us acknowledge his tabernacle placed in the sun.

Since we do not, as yet, gaze upon the Only Son inseparably united with His Father, let us remember the Bridegroom coming out of his bride-chamber. Since we are not yet ready for the banquet of our Father, let us acknowledge the manger of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christmas Light and Song

by Orlando Hernandez

In our home we put up this image of Mary and Jesus across from our front door. Over the door there is a window that lets in the low, December sun from the front porch. This Christmas season, on the porch light we set up a big, transparent plastic star, that we light up at night. But in the morning, as the sun’s rays are refracted by the star and enter through the window this wonderful effect is created over the picture of the Mother and Child. People have told us that it is “miraculous”, “ a sign”, “ a gift from God”. It has certainly filled me with delight and gratitude. I took it as an “omen” that this would be the best Christmas ever. It wasn’t quite so.

The artist did not seem to intend for us to smile at this picture. If you look carefully at the expressions of the Mother and Child, they look deadly serious. The Christ Child seems to be a few months old. They were probably living in Egypt at he time, migrants, refugees from the crazy violence of humanity. What do these stern looks tell us?

Around this time, on a typically bleak, rainy December morning, I walked past a car with a recently purchased “natural” Christmas tree on its roof. I was disturbed by the image. It reminded me of a dead deer tied to the roof of a hunter’s car. I thought of this lovely young fir tree, already six feet tall, full of life and potential, suddenly killed by the chain-saw, destined in a few weeks to be cast out on the curb to be picked up by the garbage truck. Then I also imagined it full of decorations and light, Christmas standards playing in the background, brightening up a home, a sign of unity, family, and most of all, a sign of our Lord Jesus Himself, born among us, bathing our lives with the Divine Light of His Message, and then crucified by us, buried in a cave, limp, wet, and lifeless.

Let’s not forget He resurrected, ascended into His Glory, and invites us to share in His Eternal Life.
I guess I was in this mood after reading the
Christmas message from Fr. Rick Frechette CP, who is also a medical doctor and, as far as I am concerned, a mystic. He has been working in Haiti for more than 20 years, starting from nothing and helping courageous Haitian citizens to heal the sick, shelter the orphans, educate the poor, help the people to sustain themselves, and very importantly, bury the dead with dignity and prayer.
Fr. Rick’s letter was titled “Christmas When Darkness Seems Darker.” He starts by quoting the poem “Anthem”, by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bell that still can ring,
Sing the song that still can sing.
There’s a crack in everything-
That’s how the light gets in.

They have such a bell in their Mission. They rescued it nine years ago from he ruins of a church after the devastating earthquake that killed some 150,000 human beings. Fr. Rick goes on to talk about the political violence that took place at the end of November of last year in the La Saline section of Port au Prince:
“We worked daily in La Saline, with the help of the Sisters of Mother Theresa, to help refugees (mostly young mothers and their children), also to recover and bury the dead, and to rescue the wounded, the old, the disabled that were not able to flee.” Fr. Rick goes on to describe the grief-stricken women rolling up the tin roofs from the ashes of their burned homes, to put them on their heads and carry them to a new home. Where?
Fr. Rick writes:
“By what deep light in their souls, did they rise from their knees to their feet in those ashes?
A light coming through the deepest cracks of broken hearts.
By what soulful music in their hearts, did they take their first steps, weeping loudly,
turning their backs to what was just yesterday their whole life,
to walk toward an unknown tomorrow?
The poem ‘Anthem’ speaks of the mighty spirit of these women,
and of the ancient Christian wisdom that the very place of death is also the very place of rising again.
The bitter place of burial is the very place of resurrection.
The crack in the earth that serves as a tomb, blasts forth the glorious light of Rising eternally.
Yes, there is a crack in everything.
That’s exactly where to be, where to serve, where to wait for the light.
It is worth the wait.”

If you want to learn more about Fr. Rick’s work in Haiti and how the organization that he started has grown so beautifully, you can go to their very elegant website: “St Luke Foundation for Haiti”. Fr. Rick’s letter is there in it’s entirety. If you have any dollars left after all this Christmas spending you certainly can help this good cause. They even offer opportunities for volunteering. Check it out.
The website is full of hope and light. The light that shines through the cracks. The light that breaks into prismatic colors, emanating from the Glory of God.

Orlando Hernandez