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Posted on 12/12/2018 02:32 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
A Light in Advent: Our Lady of Guadalupe
by Erin Cain
In December 1531, two men in a small village in Mexico each felt the presence of an overwhelming darkness. One, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, was a Spanish missionary who had reached the point of despair in trying to evangelize the native people. He sought to preach the truth of Christ in the face of a native religion that promoted human sacrifice, but his fellow Spaniards had treated the natives so poorly, committing terrible abuses against them, that few Aztecs were willing to listen to the message of Christianity. Zumárraga feared an uprising would be imminent, that barring some kind of miracle, a bloody conflict would result and the people of this land would be lost. He prayed to Our Lady to intervene and braced himself for turmoil.
Meanwhile, an Aztec man in Bishop Zumárraga’s parish, named Juan Diego, faced his own personal difficulty. He and his wife had converted to Christianity together, facing the scorn of their peers; now, Juan Diego’s wife had passed away, and he lived with his uncle Juan Bernardino, also a Christian convert. Juan Diego embraced the Christian religion and faithfully attended Mass despite the tense relations between Spaniards and natives; he lived out his days in quiet sacrifice amid the brewing storm around him.
One day as Juan Diego was walking to Mass, he saw a brilliant light atop Tepeyac hill. He heard angelic music and a voice asking him to ascend. When he reached the top of the hill, he saw a beautiful woman, glowing with light, dressed in traditional Aztec garments. The details of her appearance carried great meaning in Aztec culture: she wore the color of Aztec royalty, her hair was arranged in the style reserved for virgins, and the ribbon around her waist indicated that she was with child. The sight of her filled Juan Diego with joy, and she spoke to him in his native tongue:
She told him she was the perfect and eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and made known to him her desire that a shrine be built there where she could demonstrate her love, her compassion and her protection. “For I am your merciful Mother,” she said, “to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Therefore, go to the dwelling of the bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire.”
But Juan Diego returned home that night to find that his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was deathly ill. Instead of going out the next day to meet the Virgin, Juan Diego stayed home to tend to his dying uncle. When he finally left the house two days later, on December 12, it was not to meet the Virgin but to find a priest to perform the Anointing of the Sick. He took a different path to the church so as to avoid meeting Our Lady along the way:
As he approached Tepeyac hill, Juan Diego remembered his promised appointment with the Virgin. However, aware of his uncle’s condition, he did not want to delay his journey, and so he avoided his usual path in the hope of evading the Virgin. Yet as he rounded the hill he saw the Virgin descend from the top of the hill to greet him. Concerned, she inquired: “My youngest son, what’s going on? Where are you going? Where are you headed?”
Juan Diego, at once surprised, confused, fearful, and embarrassed, told the Virgin of his uncle’s illness and of his new errand, and expressed something of the hopelessness he was then experiencing, saying, “Because in reality for this [death] we were born, we who came to await the task of our death.”
The Virgin listened to Juan Diego’s plea, and when he had finished she spoke to him:
Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your Mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?
The Virgin revealed to Juan Diego a garden filled with Castilian roses, growing amid an arid, dusty environment, and in the winter, no less. She instructed him to gather the flowers in his tilma (a traditional Aztec cloak) and show them to the bishop as the promised sign. He obeyed, and when he met Bishop Zumárraga and let the roses spill out of his tilma, the bishop fell to his knees in awe—not at the flowers, but at the image that had been revealed behind them. On Juan Diego’s tilma was an image of the Virgin as she had appeared to him, dressed in Aztec garments and filled with radiant beauty.
THE CONVERSION OF A NATION
Within seven years, eight million natives were converted to Christianity, and the practice of human sacrifice came to an end. Eight million—and in a land that had previously been so resistant to Christianity, after experiencing great suffering at the hands of Spanish conquerors. Only Our Lady could mend such bitter wounds, and she came personally to comfort her people, to give them a new hope. She showed that she understood the beauty of their culture, and she showed that her Son was the fulfillment of their deepest longings—that because of the Cross, His sacrifice was the only human sacrifice necessary, one perfect sacrifice that was enough to cover all our sins.
Mary bends to meet us right where we are. She pulls our good intentions out from the mess we’ve created—our longings for goodness, truth, and beauty, for justice and righteousness—and leads us to their true fulfillment in her Son. She heals the distortions of our hearts and claims us as her children. She comes as one of us, telling us not to be afraid.
MOTHER OF THE NEW WORLD
Bishop Zumárraga had prayed for a miracle to come, but when it did, it was from a place he didn’t expect, and he didn’t recognize it at first. His prayer for the conversion of the people was answered in a powerful way, but it did not follow the pattern of how other nations had converted to Christianity. In Europe, what had always happened before was that the king would convert and his people would follow. But here in the New World, something even more radical took place: the conversion began at the ground level, with an ordinary man, a humble layperson. Because this conversion happened from the ground up, the faith of the Mexican people became a firm and unshakeable foundation—even through persecutions to come, when the government would oppose Catholicism due to the strong influence it had on the people.
The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has endured through nearly five centuries and incredible circumstances. On November 14, 1924, a bomb was placed within flowers at the base of the image; when it detonated, the altar fell apart, the bronze crucifix atop it was bent and twisted, and windows of neighboring homes were shattered. But the image, at the center of the wreckage, remained perfectly intact. In the eighteenth century, during a cleaning of the frame, nitric acid was accidentally spilled onto the image. This should have destroyed it instantly—nitric acid is highly corrosive—but the only effect was a black spot that can now be seen in the upper right corner of the image. Just the conditions of the arid Mexican climate alone should have been enough to cause the tilma to fray and disintegrate over time. Scientific experiments were performed to see how replicas of the image would hold up in the same conditions, and they all disintegrated within ten years, while the original image is still vibrant as ever. The strength of Our Lady’s image is formidable, and both her image and her message have not faded through the centuries. Through every trial, she has not abandoned her children.
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
Virgin_of_Guadalupe_-_Google_Art_ProjectJuan Diego was likely filled with confusion and sadness as he set out on the morning of December 12. Days earlier, he had met the beautiful Virgin and felt such happiness, but now everything was turned upside down. He was losing the only family member he had left; he felt alone and abandoned. How could he talk to Mary again, in this moment? He couldn’t possibly summon the joyful obedience he’d shown her days before. So he took a different path, intending to avoid her—he wasn’t ready to see her yet.
Juan Diego expected that when he met Mary again, he would be prepared, ready to focus fully on her message without distraction or confusion. Dealing with his uncle’s sickness, he didn’t think he could face Our Lady on a day when he was so overwhelmed with a growing melancholy and other pressing duties. But he didn’t realize that Mary was coming to meet him in his weakest moment, in his greatest despair—to heal him and bring him the comfort that only a mother can give, to carry her Son to him and instill true hope.
We think that we’re not ready to meet God, that we ought to wait until we really have our act together to reach out to Him, so that we can properly greet Him—but it is precisely in those moments that we need Him most. He is the only one who can draw us out of the pit of suffering and sin. Juan Diego went out of his way to avoid Mary, thinking he could not face the Mother of God when he barely understood what the point of living was, when we are all destined to die. He couldn’t bring himself to meet her, so she came to meet him where he was.
We want God to come on our own terms, but instead He comes on His terms: in the womb of a woman, in the midst of a world that is broken and suffering. He is the light amid the darkness, leading us toward a new day in the Kingdom of God if we stay with Him through the dawn. He met Juan Diego on Tepeyac, hidden in the womb of His Mother. Even though Juan Diego couldn’t see Him in the midst of his suffering, He was there. He is carried within each of us when we receive the Eucharist, and He grows quietly in our hearts as we await the birth of His presence into the world.
Life is Advent. Jesus does not arrive in the world by force; He knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks to be let in, asks for us to nurture a light that will eventually overcome the darkness. We spend our lives in wait for that moment, the coming of the day. Its real fulfillment will come after the dark night of death, as we are not made for this world. But we can see a glow if we tend to the flame within us. We see it shining from the hearts of others, too. Zumárraga prayed for a light in the darkness, but when it came, he didn’t see it at first because he was looking in the wrong direction. His prayers were answered, but not in a way he expected; God took him by surprise. Juan Diego, unable to see God in the world, felt a deep hopelessness—but God was present, hidden, and He reached out to meet him, to help him see the promise of the new dawn on its way.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, be our comfort in the midst of the dark night. Help us to welcome your Son into our lives, in whatever surprising way He comes to us. When we stray from the path, come out to meet us where we are; when we can’t see through the darkness, turn our faces to see the light dawning.
Posted on 12/9/2018 05:14 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
Posted on 12/9/2018 04:17 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
Posted on 12/8/2018 15:51 PM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
“About forty local people joined us at Gumno. Crickets chirped loudly and mosquitos flitted around our faces as we kneeled in the red clay. We prayed and waited, and suddenly Our Lady appeared in front of us.
Some of the people had asked us if they could touch Our Lady, and when we presented their request, she said that whoever wanted to could approach her. One by one, we took their hands and guided them to touch Our Lady’s dress. The experience was strange for us visionaries—it was difficult to comprehend that only we could see Our Lady.
From our perspective, guiding people to touch her was like leading the blind. Their reactions were lovely, especially the children. It seemed that most felt something. A few reported a sensation like “electricity” and others were overcome with emotion. But as more people touched Our Lady, I noticed black spots forming on her dress, and the spots congealed into a large, coal-colored stain. I cried at the sight of it.
“Her dress!” yelled Marija, also crying. The stains, said Our Lady, represented sins that had never been confessed. She suddenly vanished.
After praying for a while, we stood in the darkness and told the people what we saw. They were nearly as upset as we were. Someone suggested that everyone there should go to confession, and the next day repentant villagers inundated the priests.
My cousin, Vlado, just a little boy, was among those who touched Our Lady’s dress. When I told him about the stains, he exclaimed, “But I washed my hands, Mirjana! They were clean! I promise!” Anytime I saw him after that, I smiled and said, “Have you washed your hands lately, Vlado?”
During these daily encounters, Our Lady emphasized things like prayer, fasting, confession, reading the Bible and going to Mass. Later, people identified these as Our Lady’s “main messages”—or, as Fr. Jozo called them, her “five stones,” an allusion to the story of David and Goliath.
She was not asking us to pray or fast just for the sake of it. The fruit of living our faith, she said, was love. As she said in one of her messages, “I come to you as a mother, who, above all, loves her children. My children, I want to teach you to love.”
Our Lady’s ethereal beauty captivated us from the very beginning. One day during an apparition, we asked a childish question. “How is it possible that you are so beautiful?” Our Lady gently smiled. “I am beautiful because I love,” she said. “If you want to be beautiful, then love.”
Posted on 12/2/2018 03:16 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
Advent looks forward to God bringing about change in our lives and in our world. Are we going to welcome this change in our lives or will we resist? During this season, we need to ponder whether we are striving to travel light during our short earthly life. Will we be like those passengers stuck holding their earthly baggage, unable to check-in our anxieties and earthly securities? Or will we have the confidence in God to let go of our selfish desires by opening ourselves to God in prayer, fasting from our insatiable appetite to accumulate, and giving generously to the poor? What are some of the excess things in our home that we can bring to our thrift store? Can we shave a few minutes of sitting in front of TV or our phones and spend instead in front of the Blessed Sacrament in our adoration chapel? Instead of brooding over grievances against our family or friends, can we surrender those burdens to a priest at penance service or confession? Just as the pilot of our airplane waited patiently, Our Lord waits for us to surrender to his will to take us to our next destination.
Posted on 11/19/2018 03:13 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
With our lives being so busy and preoccupied with things of this world, we need to be reminded of the scripture verses, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mk 12:29-31) A good question to ask ourselves is, ‘Have we shown gratitude to the Heavenly Father for all that we have received’? The Eucharist is also known as ‘thanksgiving.’ Have we in the past found time to go hunting, shopping, or recreation but complained that we don’t have time to give thanks to God in the Holy Eucharist? We may choose other priorities over Holy Mass, so we use the excuse that the priest is boring, the music is unexciting, and time is inconvenient to not attend. But the sacrifice of the Mass is not about our convenience, entertainment, or what’s in it for us; it’s all about giving God our heartfelt thanksgiving.
Posted on 11/11/2018 04:41 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
The season of Fall and the changing of the colors of the tree leaves before they fall to the ground remind us of the shortness of our lives here on earth and how we depart this earth empty handed. The poor widow tossed into the collection basket the sign of her independence; her trust and dependence were on God. Her example of faith is grounded in the love of God. She teaches us that dependence on God can lead us to a life of simplicity, joy, and gratitude.
Posted on 11/9/2018 11:19 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
Nov. 9, 2018: Dedication of
St. John Lateran
By Deacon Greg Kandra
This is one of the more unusual feasts on the church calendar. It doesn’t commemorate a saint, or a biblical event. It celebrates a building. Specifically, the Lateran Basilica, in Rome. It’s the oldest of the four major basilicas in Rome, and as such serves as the official “home” of the pope – the seat of the bishop of Rome. St. Peter’s gets all the attention, but it’s the Lateran that is really the “pope’s church.”
A few years ago, my wife and I got to visit Rome and see the Lateran. You’ll find some remarkable objects – above the altar there are relics of St. Peter and St. Paul. There is also wood that is said to come from the table of the Last Supper.
But one of the most striking spots is actually outside the church. If you go to the square across the street, you’ll see a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, with his arms outstretched. It commemorates an important moment in church history: the Lateran is where Francis went to ask the pope for permission to start a religious order. And if you remember the story, his inspiration was a voice that he heard in prayer, a voice that told Francis “Rebuild my church.”
Well, if you step back from the statue of Francis and stand behind it, and look at it from a particular angle, between St. Francis’s outstretched arms you see the Lateran Basilica. He appears to be holding it up with his hands.
It’s a great image – and a great lesson.
A church building is brick and mortar, wood and glass. But – ultimately – it is supported by the arms and the labor of those who love it.
Ultimately, it is people.
It is you. It is me.
“You are God’s building,” Paul writes to the Corinthians. “You are the temple of God and the Spirit dwells in you.”
And it is up to us to keep the spirit – and to spread it – and to help it to dwell in others.
This Sunday, we’re marking “Stewardship Sunday” or “Commitment Sunday.” You’ll be seeing a short movie about that at the end of mass. I think it shows in a beautiful way how our arms support this church – how we all, together, lift it up to God. And how we then become God’s building, His dwelling place. Indeed, when we receive the Eucharist, as we will in a few moments, we become living tabernacles.
And it all begins here, in this tabernacle, this temple of God.
Many of you may remember Gene Flood, a longtime parishioner here. Gene was an important part of this parish’s history: he was the first baby baptized in this church. And nearly eight decades later, at his funeral here, his casket was sprinkled with holy water from the same font in which he was baptized. It was a beautiful reminder of how we mark so much of our sacramental lives within these walls. From baptisms to funerals and a thousand moments in between.
We are church. But this church, in ways large and small, is us. It is where we measure and mark our lives. And it becomes a part of us.
But there is one part that cannot be emphasized enough.
In his autobiography, Thomas Merton wrote, “I thought churches were simply places where people got together and sang a few hymns…and yet now I tell you, it is the Sacrament…Christ living in our midst…it is He alone who holds our world together.”
That is what this is really all about. That’s why we are here. That’s why we have the youth programs and the choir and RCIA and pastoral care and all the things that stewardship supports. It is to ensure that this sacrament, Christ living in our midst, continues to hold our world together through all that the parish does, all our ministers do, all that we do, together.
We do it because of this: the One who draws us to this sacred place. The One who nourishes our hopes, and who calms our fears, and who makes of each of us – with all our flaws and imperfections – his tabernacle.
It is all because of Christ in the Eucharist.
Remember that. Cherish that. And celebrate it.
Because when all is said and done, that is really what we are supporting. And it is, by the grace of God, where and how we will find our salvation.
Our prayer should be that we do that with joy, and with zeal and — like that statue of St. Francis shows — with open arms and open hearts.
Posted on 11/4/2018 01:23 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)
Posted on 11/2/2018 10:15 AM (Homilies of Father Paul Yi)