On Missionary Discipleship

Pope Frances from Papal Audience, 25 June 2017 by Milagros Belén García.

Pope Frances from Papal Audience, 25 June 2017 by Milagros Belén García.

I had the great privilege of preaching today at Las Mercedes Cathedral in El Progresso, Honduras.

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Jeremiah 20:10-13
Psalm – Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35Reading 2 – Romans 5:12-15
Gospel – Matthew 10:26-33

Good morning!

For those of you who do not know me, I am Deacon Rudy Villarreal of the Diocese of Austin and I am here with Friends of los Niños working with Sister Teresita at COPPROME. I am very happy to be here with you today.

All of the today’s readings speak about discipleship – a missionary discipleship sharing the gift, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading. What is the gift? The gift is the Good News of Jesus. So we have to share the Good News of Jesus. That is what Jesus tells us in the Gospel. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my Father.

This is not some story. Jesus is speaking to all of here and now. But how can we acknowledge Jesus if we are not disciples? We should all be disciples. What is a disciple? Three points. A disciple is someone who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. A disciple is someone who wants to learn more about Jesus. And a disciple is someone who shares the Good News with others. This third point, sharing the Good News, is what Pope Francis calls, “missionary discipleship.” We all have the responsibility to share the Good News, not just the priests, deacons, or consecrated religious brothers and sisters. All of us have the responsibility by virtue of our baptism.

What is the Good News? By the grace and love of God, salvation is offered to everyone through Jesus, who was born a man, who died and rose from the dead. Think about that. By the grace and love of God, salvation is offered to everyone through Jesus.

So then how can we share the Good News if we do not believe in Jesus? Jesus is not some theological idea. Jesus is a real person! Think about the Creed we recite. What sits at the right hand of God the Father is a human being just like you and just like me in every way except sin. Again. What sits at the right hand of God the Father is a human being just like you and just like me in every way except sin.

So it is possible to have a living relationship with Jesus. Pope Francis tells us that every Christian should have a living relationship with Jesus. How? Well, I am a deacon and the majority of all the deacons in the world are married. Before we were married, my wife and I dated. How do people who date behave? They want to everything about each other. They want to spend all their time together. They want to tell the whole world they are in love!

Right? It’s such a shame that some forget that after the wedding. Right? But at one time we couldn’t think about anything other than our girlfriend or boyfriend.

We can learn more about Jesus in a similar way. We can learn more about Jesus. Our Faith offers us many different opportunities to learn more about Jesus. I am sure there are many classes or prayer groups here where you can learn more about Jesus. If there are not any, then ask the pastor if you can help start something. We can spend time with Jesus during our daily prayers. No one needs to hear your prayers. We can say our prayers in private, but sincerely to Jesus. We can come to mass not just on Sunday, but during the week if possible. And we can spend time with Jesus in the adoration chapel. In reality there are many different ways to spend time with Jesus.

All of these ways help us to become better missionary disciples and to share the Good News. But is that an easy path? No! The Psalm tells us that, “For your sake I bear insult,” and the poor profit Jeremiah tell us that God, “test the just.” In reality the way of Jesus is difficult, but if we live our lives with our eyes fixed on the Kingdom of God, then all of our problems will not seem as important. Yes, we have problems and some of them are uglier than others, but our hope should always be in the Kingdom of God. So we should build a living relationship with Jesus, a missionary discipleship where we do not fear acknowledging Jesus before others, and we do not fear sharing the Good News. These are our goals. Right?

Good! Homework! If we want to grow our relationship with Jesus, then we must do homework. After receiving the Eucharist and returning to your seats, ask yourself:

  1. How is my relationship with Jesus?
  2. Then pray, Jesus, help me to know you better.

Got it? Get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, may we come to know and to love Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

En español

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En Discipulado Misionero

Pope Frances from Papal Audience, 25 June 2017 by Milagros Belén García.

Pope Frances from Papal Audience, 25 June 2017 by Milagros Belén García.

Tuve el gran privilegio de predicar hoy en la Catedral de Las Mercedes en El Progresso, Honduras

Lecturas Del Día

Primera lectura: Jeremías 20, 10-13
Salmo Responsorial: Salmo 68, 8-10. 14 y 17. 33-35
Segunda lectura: Romanos 5, 12-15
Evangelio: Mateo 10, 26-33
http://www.usccb.org/bible/lecturas/062517.cfm

¡Buenos días!

Para aquellos de ustedes que no me conocen, yo soy el diacono Rudy Villarreal de la diócesis de Austin y estoy aquí con el grupo Amigos de los Niños ayudando Sor Teresita en COPPROME. Me da mucha alegría para estar aquí hoy con ustedes.

Todas las lecturas de hoy hablan de discipulado – un discipulado misionero de compartir el don, que nos dice San Pablo en la segunda lectura. ¿Qué es el don? El don es las Buenas Nuevas de Jesús. Entonces tenemos que compartir las Buenas Nuevas de Jesús. Eso es lo que Jesús nos dice en el Evangelio. El quien me reconozca delante de los hombres, yo también lo reconoceré ante mi Padre.

Esto no es sólo una historia. Jesús está hablando a todos nosotros aquí y ahora. ¿Pero cómo podemos reconocer Jesús si no somos discípulos? Todos debemos ser discípulos. ¿Qué es un discípulo? Tres puntos. Un discípulo es alguien que acepta a Jesucristo como señor y salvador. Un discípulo es alguien que quiere aprender más sobre Jesús. Y un discípulo es alguien que comparte las Buenas Nuevas con otros. Este tercer punto, compartir las Buenas Nuevas, que el Papa Francisco llama, “discípulo misionero.” Todos tenemos la responsabilidad a compartir las Buenas Nuevas, no solamente los sacerdotes, los diáconos, o los hermanos y hermanas consagradas. Todos tenemos esa responsabilidad por medio de nuestro bautismo.

¿Y qué es las Buenas Nuevas? Por la gracia y el amor de Dios, la salvación es ofrecida a todos a través de Jesús, que nació hombre, que murió y resucitó de los muertos. Piénselo. Por la gracia y el amor de Dios, la salvación es ofrecida a todos a través de Jesús.

¿Entonces cómo podemos compartir las Buenas Nuevas si no creemos en Jesús? Jesús no es una idea teológica. ¡En verdad Jesús es una persona! Piensa en lo que decimos en el credo. Quien se sienta a la diestra de Dios Padre es un humano como ustedes y como yo en todos los sentidos menos el pecado. Otra vez. Quien se sienta a la diestra de Dios Padre es un humano como ustedes y como yo en todos los sentidos menos el pecado.

Así que es posible que tengamos una relación viva con Jesús. Así nos dice el Papa Francisco que todos los cristianos deben de tener una relación viva con Jesús. ¿Pero cómo? Pues mire, soy un diácono y la mayoría de los diáconos de todo el mundo están casados. Antes de casarnos mi esposa y yo estábamos saliendo. ¿Cómo se comportan las personas cuando están saliendo? Quieren saber todo sobre cada uno. Ellos quieren pasar todos sus tiempos juntos. іQuieren decirle al mundo entero que estamos enamorados!

¿Verdad? Ay, es una pena que muchos olviden eso después de la boda. ¿Verdad? Pero en un momento no pudimos pensar en nada más que nuestra novia o novio.

De manera similar podemos conocer a Jesús. Podemos aprender más acerca de Jesús. Nuestra Fe ofrece todo tipo de oportunidades para aprender más acerca de Jesús. Estoy seguro de que hay clases o grupos de oración aquí donde pueden unirse para aprender más acerca de Jesús. Si no lo hay, pregúntele al pastor si ustedes pueden ayudar a comenzar algo. Podemos pasar más tiempo con Jesús a través de nuestras oraciones diarias. Nadie necesita oír nuestras oraciones. Podemos decirlas en privado, pero sinceramente a Jesús. Podemos venir a la misa no sólo el domingo, pero también durante la semana si es posible. Y podemos pasar tiempo con Jesús en la capilla de la adoración. En realidad, hay muchas maneras diferentes de pasar tiempo con Jesús.

Todas estas maneras nos ayudarán a ser mejores discípulos misioneros y nos ayudarán a compartir las Buenas Nuevas. ¿Pero eso significa que nuestro camino será fácil? іNo! Escuchamos en el salmo, “que por ti he sufrido,” y el pobre profeta Jeremías dice que dios, “pone a prueba al justo.” En realmente el camino de Jesús es difícil, pero si vivimos nuestras vidas con los ojos fijos en el reino de Dios, entonces todos nuestros problemas no parecerán tan importantes. Sí, tendremos problemas y algunos más feos que otros, pero nuestra esperanza siempre tiene que estar en el reino de Dios. Así que debemos desarrollar una relación viva con Jesús, un discipulado misionero donde no tenemos miedo de reconocer a Jesús ante los demás, y no tememos compartir las Buenas Nuevas. Esos son nuestros objetivos. ¿Verdad?

¡Bueno, tarea! Si queremos crecer en nuestra relación con Jesús, pues hay tarea. Después de recibir la Eucaristía y regresar a su asiento, pregúntese:

  1. ¿Cómo es mi relación con Jesús?
  2. Entonces ora, Jesús, ayúdame a conocerte mejor.

¿Me entendieron? ¿Van a hacer su tarea? ¡Bueno! A través de la intercesión de la Santísima Virgen María, podamos llegar a conocer ya amar a Jesús. En el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo. +Amén!

In English

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The Body and Blood of Jesus

Pope Francis raises the Eucharist

Pope Francis raises the Eucharist as he celebrates Mass marking the feast of Corpus Christi outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome May 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14B-16A
Psalm – Psalm 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
Gospel – John 6:51-58

 

Happy Father’s Day!

I love being a dad! How about you guys?

I can tell you that becoming a dad changed everything in my life. It gave new meaning to my work and outside activities. I want them to have what I didn’t have when I was a kid. I want my kids to experience what I didn’t get to experience as a child. I want what’s best for my family. Isn’t that what all dads want for their families?

I think that desire of wanting what’s best for our families deeply rooted in us. I believe that desire comes from God’s fingerprint on our hearts. In fact, I believe our desire to give what’s best for our families reflects God the Father. You see, God wants what’s best for us too. He loves you and He loves me so much that he sent his only son. You know the story. After the Fall, there was this separation between humanity and God. God sent many people to try to heal that rift between Him and us, but nothing worked. Ultimately, he sent Jesus to save us. God, creator of everything, loves you and He loves so much that he sent Jesus to save us. Try to absorb that for a second.

And by the grace of God, Jesus offers himself as a sacrifice on the altar of the cross, to use the words of St. Thomas Aquinas, for us. Jesus gave us the Eucharist to share with us his flesh and to share his blood, as we heard in the Gospel, to nourish us on our journey to the Father. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Body and the Blood of Jesus to praise God for the gift of the Eucharist and to give of ourselves in this liturgy by our, “AMEN,” we say we accept the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist.

One of the most painful things for me is when I hear about Catholics who leave the faith because they are not being fed or not being nourished in the Catholic Church. I can’t relate to that point of view. But even more shocking to me than that are the studies which suggest that as many Catholics around the world and indeed many in this church right now do not really believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist! How can we call ourselves Catholic if we don’t believe in the Eucharist? How can we call ourselves Christians if we don’t believe that Jesus Christ is real or that Jesus is really the Son of God?

Experts tell us that perhaps the reason for this problem is that some people have never had a relationship with Jesus. They come to mass and participate with the community, but individually some don’t have a relationship with Jesus. It’s important to have a strong connection to the community, yes like we heard in the second reading today, though we are many, we are one, but it has to start with Jesus. Our most recent popes all agree.

Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “It is necessary to awaken again in believers a full relationship with Christ, mankind’s only Savior.”

Pope Benedict in a beautiful reflection on the Triune God wrote, “it’s important for us to have a relationship with God who has a name and calls us by name … he has a face and he seeks our face. He has a heart and he seeks our heart.”

One of the many things that Pope Francis has said on the subject is, “Being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus.”

Okay, so you think to yourself, “I’m a good person. How do I know if I have a relationship with Jesus?” Well, there might signs – sings only visible to you. This is not a definitive list, but it might help you in your discernment. If you feel empty or if you feel like something is missing in your life, no purpose, no direction, that might suggest a weak relationship with Jesus.

On the other hand, you might experience or those closest to you might notice that that you have more love, joy, peace, or patience in your life. If you feel the fruits of the Holy Spirit growing in you, then it might be evidence that you are developing a relationship with Jesus.

So how do you develop a relationship with Jesus? Well, think about how you build a relationship with anyone. Before I became a dad, I met my wife, Katrina. She’s in Honduras on a mission trip so I’m sure no one will tell her what I’m going to say. I fell hard for her! I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. I wanted to know everything I could about her! I wanted to know what she liked and what she didn’t like.

My brothers and sisters, I suggest to you that building a relationship with Jesus is very similar. If you want to build a relationship with Jesus, then you need to get to know him better. There are many Catholic formation programs that can help you learn more about Jesus. And you should try to spend more time with him. You can spend more time with him in daily personal prayer; in adoration; and in mass both on the weekend and daily if you can. But you don’t have to do it alone.

Bishop Vázquez has given us the Pastoral Plan. It’s like a strategic plan, but it focuses on the spiritual and pastoral needs for our diocese. The Pastoral Plan encourages parishes to create opportunities for people to have an encounter with Jesus, an encounter that causes transformation or a change within us that leads to a relationship with Jesus. The U.S. Bishops have similar programs. One that is going on right now is called Encuentro. Encuentro is a Spanish word that means a meeting or a perhaps a chance meeting. Often the image used is the disciples on the road to Emmaus who had a chance meeting with the risen Jesus Christ. They didn’t plan to meet Jesus, but they did and they were open to the experience.

One of the goals of Encuentro is to help incorporate immigrants, primarily Spanish-speaking immigrants, integrate better into the U.S. Church, but the strategies and lessons dovetail nicely with our Pastoral Plan. So we are being asked to participate in the Encuentro.

Over the next couple of months, we will introduce fellowship opportunities leading up to a parish Encuentro. We encourage everyone to participate. It is our hope that through these fellowship opportunities we will get to know each other a little better and through those relationships we might experience a personal encounter with Jesus Christ – an encounter that might lead to a change; a change that develops into a relationship with Jesus.

The Church believes that if we start to develop a personal relationship with Jesus, then our entire Catholic faith makes so much more sense and we will deepen our appreciation for the body and blood of Jesus present in the Eucharist – the source and summit of our lives.

Homework!

  1. After you receive the Eucharist or come forward to receive a blessing before the Eucharist and you go back to your pews, please include in your prayers a thank you to God for the Eucharist. Say, “thank you, God, for the Eucharist!”
  2. Second, I would like you to ask yourself if you have a personal relationship with Jesus. How do you walk with Jesus in your daily life?

I think by doing our homework we might become better disciples of Jesus and come to a deeper understanding of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Got it? Get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we each come to know and to love Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

 

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!

The Visitation by Karl von Blaas

The Visitation by Karl von Blaas. From the Sammellust gallery, Tiroler Landesmuseum Ferdinandeum, Innsbruck

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to lead a communion service. Here is a copy of my homily from this morning. Peace!

Wednesday 31, 2017

Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mass Readings

Reading 1 – Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Psalm – Isaiah 12:2-3, 4BCD, 5-6
Gospel – Luke 1:39-56

What a beautiful Gospel today! This Gospel story has inspired the Church probably from the beginning. So much Christian art has been inspired by the Visitation. In fact this beautiful story became the central devotion of St. Francis de Sales. The Magnificat is part of the prayer or the Church, part of the Liturgy of the Hours. Every evening, every bishop, priest and deacon, all the consecrated religious brothers and sisters and many lay people pray this as part of Evening prayer. St. Bede of England said it is good that the Church prays this every evening. Hopefully while meditating on this mystery, we will deepen our devotion and as we reflect on our day we deepen our resolve to live a virtuous life.

But when we come to listen to the Gospel proclaimed, we are not tourists. We do not come simply to admire and remark, “Isn’t that a lovely story!” No! Jesus proclaimed the Gospel to us including this story to challenge the way we live our lives, not to entertain us! In what ways do we proclaim God’s greatness for the blessings in our lives?

How many of us or how many of our family and friends waste a lot of time thinking about what they don’t have? Wouldn’t it be nice to drive a car like that! Or wouldn’t it be nice to have a house like theirs? Or wouldn’t it be nice to travel like they do? These types of questions could be a sign that we are experiencing non-spiritual desolation to be more specific. We might feel down or a little depressed or anxious. There’s no shame in experiencing desolation. It’s a normal part of life, but we are most vulnerable when we experience desolation. We are most vulnerable when we are down. That’s when the enemy will strike! He will kick us when we are down.

The enemy will amplify these thoughts and if we’re not careful, we will act on these thoughts. These feelings might drive people to have affairs or cheat at business. You might try to convince yourself that what you’ve done is not so bad. There are people who do worse out there. But what separates these acts of desolation from “those people” out there is only as thick as a veil.

You see, it was out of this kind of desolation that a man accosted a young girl on a train in Oregon simply because she was Muslim. Three non-Muslim men stood up to defend her and it was this same desolation that drove the man to pull a knife killing two of these men and sending a third to the hospital. It is out of this same desolation that causes terrorists to pervert the name of God and plant that bomb at a concert in Manchester killing and wounding innocent people. This same desolation is at the heart of recent terrorist attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt a couple of days ago and against innocent Muslims in Baghdad in yesterday who were gathered at a popular ice cream parlor.

Desolation is marked by an emptiness; a dryness. This not of God. How do we overcome it? How can we protect ourselves from acting out of desolation?

We can overcome desolation by reflecting on God’s blessings in our lives. One of the beautiful gifts that St. Ignatius gave us was the Daily Examen Prayer. It is a form of the examination of conscience. St. Ignatius encourages us to pray the Examen Prayer every day! But unlike the examination of conscience, you don’t just consider the things you’ve done wrong every day. Of course we all need to reflect on our lives. How can we call ourselves disciples if we don’t reflect on our lives and commit to do better? But in the Examen Prayer you also look for ways that God blessed you that day.

Before St. Ignatius was a saint, as he was recovering from injuries after a battle, he read the lives of the saints because it was one of the only books his sister-in-law had in the house. As he read the lives of the saints, he was struck by a saint, I can’t remember who it was – maybe it was St. Francis, who on a walk one day stopped to look at a dormant tree. He knew by spring that tree would explode with new life and he thought how marvelous the Lord is! St. Ignatius was struck by this idea and came to understand that the blessings most of us receive will never be as extraordinary as Mary, but rather, our blessings will come out of the ordinary and the mundane.

When we do the Daily Examen Prayer, we try to think about those moments in our lives when God blessed us. Our blessing might simply be appreciating God’s creation all around us especially this time of year! Everything looks so lush and green because of all the rain we’ve had this month! Can you imagine? I wonder how different this world would be if we all stopped each night before bed and thought about the little ways God blessed us and we asked forgiveness the little ways we messed up.

Maybe if we stopped each day to think about how truly blessed we all really are, then we too would cry out for the greatness God in all our languages – in Arabic, allahu akbar, or Hebrew, Elohim gadol, or in English, my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!

Home work!

  1. After you receive the Eucharist or a blessing, first, thank God for the gift of Jesus Christ. Then I would like you to think about all the ways God has touched your life – how God has blessed your life, maybe through your family or friends, your career, etc. How has God blessed your life.
  2. In these days leading up to Pentecost, I want you to pray thanks to God for all the blessings in your lives!

Got it? Get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, may we come to know the mercy and the love of Jesus! In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

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