….are we embarrassed by our faith?

May 25, 2020

Not too long ago, we would be in a get together at our workplace, hear an inappropriate joke or gossip of another and maybe just stand there and say hahaha…..Nowadays, we receive a soft porn meme or other inappropriate text and we may respond LOL! Many times we do that after starting our day with a prayer or having gone to Sunday Mass or even after daily Mass.

Is our faith one to be hidden within our prayers or within our church? The other day I received, as part of a group chat, a sexually inappropriate meme.  My issue is those participants of the group chat are purported Christian men.  I explained to the organizer I did not mean to be holier than thou, because I am not, but if we do not stand up and make a difference in this world then our faith is for naught.

It is no different than standing around the office with a stupid grin on our face while someone makes an offensive joke or responding LOL! on social media to an inappropriate post.  Political correctness is nothing else than a copout or excuse to have our faith trampled on. Those of us that choose to live by the Christian faith, because no one forced us to, are called to make a difference in this world. We are called to be a light. We are called to bring equilibrium to this upside-down society.

The other day I was online at a retailer and I noticed a curious disclaimer. The website said they had gender-specific bathrooms. It took me a while to figure out they were warning customers their bathrooms actually were specific for men or women!  During this pandemic it was “essential” for us to have access to liquor stores, home improvement stores, and yes, access for abortions. But churches were deemed non-essential.

Frankly I am beyond having to quietly take all this relativism and not being able to stand up for my faith. So to those brothers hamming it up with fake guffaws and LOLs regarding mindless and offensiveness posts and memes, grow a spine. You are either in or you are out. It is hypocritical to have it both ways. Our Lord clearly said He would spit out the lukewarm. (Revelation chapter 3, verse 16)

I have blogged many times before regarding being joyful about our faith. No one likes a dour Christian. A smile goes a lot further than a scowl! My friends know I love a good joke and laughter is the great elixir; we just need to learn when it is time to stand up for our faith. Peter, chapter 5, verse 8, states “Be watchful, your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

If we do not stand up and become leaders in our faith, who will?

Prowling lion

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

 

 


Jesus Christ has risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!

May 14, 2020

Today is the Feast day of St. Matthias, apostle. He was chosen by the 11 to replace Judas Iscariot, the traitor. One of the characteristics the 11 looked for in filling this role is someone that had walked with them during Jesus’ ministry and witnessed the resurrection. They wanted someone that would share the miracle of having met the Risen Lord.

Immediately after our Lord’s resurrection, His apostles and early followers would share the great news with others by exclaiming Jesus Christ has risen! And the believers would say He has risen indeed! This has become the slogan of all Emmaus brothers and sisters because this is what Cleophas and his companion heard from the others in Jerusalem when they went back to recount how they had met the Risen Lord on their way to the town of Emmaus.

This greeting of Jesus Christ has risen, was used by the early church since its’ first centuries, as a way of identifying themselves as followers of Christ. Even during the first 4 centuries of devastating persecutions, this was their greeting to everyone, not just known brothers or sisters.

Imagine, in this politically correct world, if we were to greet others that same way in our day to day life.  What would people’s response be? The other day I asked someone how are you? How many times a day to we get asked that? Maybe not so much now in quarantine but dozens of times in our regular day to day life.  The person responded I am blessed!  What a beautiful habit to create in our lives.  It is a simple response but breathing so much goodwill and I dare say creating wonderment in the other as to why we would respond this way.

You see my brothers and sisters we are called to lead a way of life that is different and sometimes jarring to others. In the early church, people knew who the Christians were because of the way they treated each other and how they treated others.

As we get ready to incorporate ourselves back into society, would it not be wonderful to practice a response to let the world know we are Christians?  How do we show others we too have experienced the Risen Christ? I strongly believe greeting everyone by saying Jesus Christ has risen!, is a wonderful and eye-opening way of spreading the Good News. But if that is too embarrassing for us to say, then how about a simple I am blessed!, to those that ask how we are?

During this difficult time, as we ease back into society, let us come up with a simple but powerful way of showing we are a blessed people because we met the Risen Lord. Of course, this has to be backed up by the way we live our lives but would it not be wonderful to share the Good News of our salvation with such a simple gesture?

Jesus Christ has risen! He has risen indeed! And because of this, we are blessed!

Walk to Emmaus

Were are hearts not on fire?

Emmaus Meeting Room

Our beloved Emmaus meeting room!

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

 


lastly, the book of judgment was opened….

May 12, 2020

In the seminary, there was a brilliant priest/professor who had the talent of reducing the most difficult concepts to simple terms. He said when we die, either of two things occurs. First, the lights go off.  One option is they stay off.  For those leading an exemplary, Christian life well, it may have been for naught. But the second option is….the light turns back on and we have our Lord standing there ready to greet us!

If, as we believe, the second option happens, then we will be judged on the life we lead.  I for one do not want to stand there and say oh, oh! Then start stuttering and trying to explain to the Lord why I did what I did……. What I want is to hear from Him, well done my good and faithful servant, come and enjoy everlasting life!

In the book of Revelation, John narrates this great contest between Good and evil. He paints a magnificent, surreal depiction of what will happen in the afterlife. He says in Revelation chapter 20:

“I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and 3 cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more. 11 And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

13  and they were judged, every man according to their works.

There is no sugar coating this my brothers and sisters in Christ. We will be judged according to the life we lead.

This brings up another issue involving judgment. In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 1-6 he says: ” 7 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

So when judgment day comes, we will be judged as we judged others during our life…….. If that is not a sobering thought, I do not know what is!

John concludes the book of Revelation: Chapter 21, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”

We are called to live as we wish to be judged at the end of time.

Judgement day

Judgment day. Are we ready?!

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

 

 

 


new normal or better versions of ourselves….?

May 4, 2020

A life in Christ is an ever evolving and self-improving one. As Matthew Kelly says, we are constantly called to become a better version of ourselves.  Our Pastor, Father Manny, in yesterday’s homily, said he did not want to go back to the past normal. The new normal calls us to more than normalcy. We are called to serve the Lord even more than we ever did in the past.

There are many in our faith community stuck in comfortable roles in ministry. Yes, we are doing more than most, but staying in our comfort zone is not enough. During this pandemic, more people are attending daily Mass, albeit remotely. Many have taken up the beautiful discipline of daily devotion to the Rosary. Others have increased their participation in ministries. Yet others have become more giving financially or in serving the poor.

Once we return in some form or fashion to society, we must bring a new and better version of ourselves. We must never be complacent in our service to the Lord and consequently to others. There is always something else to do in the Lord’s vineyard. Luke Chapter 10 verse 2 tells us the harvest is bountiful but the laborers are few.  That means those of us that are laborers for the Lord need to step up our game.

We, as a faith-filled people, have done a wonderful job, with the help of our ministers, in keeping the flock together during this pandemic. Now we have to go and serve those who have not met the Risen Lord.  How do we evangelize during a pandemic?  How do we find ways to serve others not in the flock? How do we prepare ourselves spiritually so that others see joyful servants of the Lord?

Joyful servants…maybe that is the start we need to bring others to the Lord!

1 Peter 3:15

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared joyfully to evangelize everyone who asks you and give the reason for the hope and joy you have. Do this with gentleness, love, respect, and joy.
The Good Shepard
The Good Sheppard, the perfect
example of love and joy!
Deacon Cross

 


our yes and God’s free will….

April 30, 2020

This morning, before our daily Rosary, one of the brothers mentioned earnestly and humbly, our walk is thanks to the Holy Spirit. But in order to have the Holy Spirit grace us with his strength, we have to allow Him into our lives. God has given us the free will to follow Him or not. He is ever-present in our lives but we need to let Him in.

St Augustine tells us God never ceases to provide us with consolations in misfortune. On our journey among the trials and dangers of the world, we receive God’s consolation as long as we accept the same. During these trying times, we are free to trust Him and follow or we have the free will to go it alone. Good luck with that!

In this morning’s Mass, our Parochial Vicar, Father Flores, spoke about a time when his parents gently forced him into the pool when he thought he was not ready. He trusted them. Even though his fear of the water did not instantly disappear, he knew they were always there for him. This reminded me of my own incident when learning how to swim. I was a fairly strong and husky 8 year old when it was time for my mom to take me to the public pool to learn how to swim. Two male instructors were trying to push me into the pool to no avail. I saw my mom leave the stands and come towards me. My initial thought was she would save me from these two guys. Instead, she made me face the water and gently pushed me in! That would not be the last time my mom would gently push me when I needed to be pushed. And all the while trusting her.

Once we accept the Lord’s calling us, we then must trust in Him as well.  The same way I was thrust into the pool when I thought I was not ready, we have been thrust into this time of social distancing and quarantine. It has to be a very difficult time for those who have not accepted the Risen Lord as their savior. For us that have accepted Him, we must trust, even though this is an uncertain journey. But a journey it is. As with every journey with the Lord, we are called to trust in Him and to journey joyfully.

In last Sunday’s homily, our Pastor Father Manny, told us of the importance of living joyfully in the Lord as an example of Christianity to others. “Un triste Cristiano es un Cristiano triste” he said. More or less, the translation of this is: a sad Christian is truly a sad sight.

The same joy the early followers felt after the resurrection, is the joy we are called to feel and share with others. These dark times call for the light of Christ. If we do not shine that joyful light then who will?

Here I am Lord! Are you with Him as well?

Jesus Christ has Risen. He has Risen Indeed!

Claro Que Si!

This song, “Here I am Lord” is my personal “Calling” anthem. I pray you enjoy it as well!

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge

 

 


examples of faith in difficult times…..

April 23, 2020

During this time of uncertainty, it is important for us to become familiar with others who traveled through similar times and how their faith in the Risen Lord got them through it.

The saints have always given us a road map to true happiness and to salvation. One of the many great saints is the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. What many do not know is that their co-founder was named St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier was so in love with the Risen Lord he wanted to take the Good News to those who never heard of it. He chose what at that time was the farthest known land without Christianity. In 1552 St. Francis Xavier went to evangelize in Japan. It did not matter to him not knowing the language or the customs. He was taking the gift of the Risen Lord! A few years later he went to India to do the same. Only 35 years after having left Japan, in 1587, there were 200,000 converts to Catholicism.

This burgeoning Catholic community became a perceived threat to the Japanese Emperor. As many did before him and after him, he thought by making an example of these Christians by killing them, he would end Christianity. On Feb­ruary 5, 1597, twenty-six Christians were publicly crucified at Nagasaki. Their Catholic leader, St. Paul Miki, was front and center crucified on the cross.

In 1854, approximately 250 years after the mass crucifixions, Commodore Perry, from England, forced entry to Japan to explore it.  He learned the Catholic faith, after 250 years of persecution, was not dead. Missionary priests, accompanying the commodore,  found 20,000 Catholics practicing their religion in secret under the threat of death.

250 years without priests, without churches, without sacraments and in secret under the penalty of death! They met in secret, reading the gospel, praying one day they would once again experience the sacraments.  Over 20 generations kept the faith alive!

Here is another example of steadfast faith in our Risen Lord. This time in the Middle East. The young priest had just left his church, where he was the pastor, hopping into his car, turning the keys in the ignition, and pushing the accelerator as he had so many times before. Only this time, as he began the familiar journey to visit his parishioners at their homes, he immediately sensed something was different.

Right away, an explosion ripped through the car, violently shaking the vehicle and—at the same time—engulfing it in flames.

He was totally confused, and he could not see anymore and felt intense heat. The young pastor’s name is Father Josef. Though disoriented and in shock, he could hear a woman’s hysterical voice piercing his ears. This man is dying! She screamed.

This is it. Pastor Josef resolved. I am dying. Except miraculously, he did not. Instead, against all odds, Father Josef was able to exit the rapidly burning vehicle. His sight returned in time for him to see the wreckage engulfed in flames.

Every part of his car was destroyed and damaged, except for his seat. He had no scratches. The car was in flames, but he was not burnedHe found pieces of glass in his hair. Nothing else touched him, he did not even shed a drop of blood.

The young pastor was dumbfounded by how his life had been spared. He immediately credited his survival to the hand of the Lord. He stated God gave him additional time. He put his stamp on his ministry, God told him, now we continue together. God saved him that day for a reason, but he could not figure it out.

You see for the next 7 years he, and most Catholic pastors in that area, lost most of their parishioners to war and displacement from their homes. He had very few parishioners left to minister to.

Seven years later, as the Isis Caliphate began falling apart, Muslims in his area began coming to Christ in surprising numbers. It was then that Pastor Josef understood why God wanted him to stay in Baghdad. When someone asks him why he remained in Baghdad, he explains, he wanted to be with his flock and suffer where they suffer and be there if they ever came back. And come back they did.

Pastor Josef’s brush with death convinced him of one thing. He knew, looking back, God was with him each moment, even though he could not understand why he was going through that perceived darkness without parishioners to lead. God never left his side.

We need to also realize that God has not left our side.

We are very blessed to live where we live. When we look back one day we will better understand why we went through what we are going through today. And will realize our Risen Lord never left our side.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, one of the many lessons of this pandemic is that we nay have been leading very routine lives without being thankful for all our blessings. Our routines have been suddenly taken away and that may be a good thing.

During this time let us look at the rays of sunshine and not the clouds. Let us focus on the positives and not the negatives. Let us be more contemplative in our prayers, enjoying the quiet time. Read more, pray more, when we get back to some type of normal let us always be thankful for our many blessings.

In the Walk to Emmaus reading in Luke, when it was getting dark and the two men were walking in fear, the Lord was walking with them. The Lord never left their side and they asked each other was not our heart burning with love?

The Lord is with us during these difficult times. When we close our eyes in prayer, trusting in Him, will we too say our heart is burning with His love?

Jesus, I trust in you.

martyrs_of_japan

A depiction of St. Paul Miki and his companions crucified

Iraq Church

Father Josef’s church, 7 years after the bombing

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge


the quiet heroes…nuns in Cuba

April 14, 2020

I mentioned the very emotional trip I experienced to visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity in one of my previous posts. One of the many surprises I had while at the Basilica, was experiencing first hand the unassuming, but important work, done by Catholic nuns throughout the island.  In Santiago, living on the grounds of the Basilica, is a small group of nuns from Saint Mother Theresa’s order, The Missionaries of Charity. There are over 4,500 nuns in that order operating 517 missions in 100 countries. And where more appropriate for the Missionaries of Charity to work than at the Basilica of Our lady of Charity!

There are groups of nuns in the poorest sections all over Cuba. In Camaguey, the central part of the island, you find the Sisters of the Merciful Jesus, founded in Poland by Saint Faustina. In Havana, you have the Discalced Carmelites in contemplative prayer. Their order has been in Havana since 1702. All of these nuns are living in marginalized areas rampant with hunger and disease. This Coronavirus pandemic is nothing new to any of these groups since in Cuba they are used to dealing with cholera, malaria, and dengue, just to name a few.

When at the Basilica, these nuns of Charity spend their days in the most rural areas in the mountains serving people living in boxes, or under trees or in caves, if they are lucky. Materially they live with very meager means and totally on donations, on a day to day basis. But each one of them has a sense of joy for being able to serve the poorest of the poor; just like Saint Mother Theresa did in the slums of Calcutta.

Through Emmaus retreats, now being held all over the island of Cuba, men and women are flocking to their area parishes to find ways to help. These nuns are no longer alone in serving the poorest of the poor. Now you routinely see men and women in their white Cristo en Cuba Emmaus polos, proudly wearing them and proudly serving along with the sisters.

Cristo En Cuba is a Miami based, not-for-profit foundation created to evangelize and serve in Christs’ name in Cuba through Emmaus retreats. To date, over 1,000 men and women in Cuba have experienced the Cristo En Cuba Emmaus retreats. Another 1,000 would have experienced the retreats this year before this pandemic. Nevertheless, the foundation is poised to do great things by bringing the Good News to people starving for the Good News!

In transparency, I am a board member of the Cristo En Cuba Foundation and was a team member at their first Emmaus retreat in Camaguey, Cuba.  I then had the blessing of serving with my wife as retreat leaders for the first Cristo En Cuba Emmaus retreat in Havana.

If anyone is interested in helping this remarkable cause email me at: chefjorge@thestuffedcuban.com or call the Cristo En Cuba Foundation at: 305-587-1743.

Every Sunday night at 11pm, the Pastor of the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity, Father Rogelio Puerta, hosts a Zoom prayer meeting. Please join us at:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8K7_eYuHDlMBOpNJi2YRJA/

Here are pictures of these amazing nuns serving in Santiago, Camaguey, and Havana. I also included pictures of the Basilica of Our Lady of Charity.

And please, follow my blog in order to be notified of future posts!

Sisters of CharitiesNuns in HavanaDivine Mercy in CamagueyCaridad del Cobre 3

Caridad del Cobre 1Caridad del Cobre Inside

Deacon CrossDeacon Jorge


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