Ash Wednesday


Mass Readings

Ash Wednesday Readings
February 14, 2018
Reading 1 – Joel 2:12-18
Psalm – Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 12-13, 14 and 17
Reading 2 – 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Gospel – Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Once again we begin our journey from Ash Wednesday, through Lent, through Holy Week, to Easter. Our journey reminds us of our need to be mindful – mindful of the Jesus Christ was born human; who came and lived and walked among us; who suffered and died so that you and I might be saved; and who rose from the dead on Easter. It is that Jesus, the risen Jesus Christ who invites you and invites me each into a personal relationship.

But there are so many things in this world that distract us from having a relationship with Jesus. Maybe, we glance at our phone just for a minute and get so caught up in social media that a whole hour has disappeared. Maybe we sit down in front of the television to catch up on that show everyone is talking about, and suddenly you realize you just binged watched the whole season – the whole season! Maybe you sit down and open that special box of chocolates on the St. Valentine’s day and think, “I’ll have one piece – just one piece,” or crack open that case of beer that’s sitting in the fridge calling your name, or perhaps that bottle of scotch that your friend gave you for Christmas only to look back and see an empty container! “Whoa! Where did that go?”

All of these things are examples of things that distract our relationship with Jesus. And if we have not relationship with Jesus, then it’s easy to take everything and everyone around us for granted. Now is a perfect time to reconcile ourselves against those sins – those excesses in our life. Now is the time to go to the sacrament of reconciliation and lay our sins at the foot of the cross.

Holy Mother Church reminds us that we have access to three ancient, powerful, spiritual exercises to help purify our bodies, our hearts and our minds from all of the things that distract us, and that might contaminate our thinking and our bodies. Any combination is a wonderful sacrifice for our Lenten journeys. They are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But Scripture reminds us today that whatever you do, don’t call attention to it. You’re not trying to win the praise or admiration of those around you. We sacrifice to deepen our relationship with Jesus of Easter morning.

Setting time aside for mindful prayer is important. It’s about being deliberate in the way we pray. Whether you pray a pre-written prayer or you pray spontaneously, if you sacrifice time to pray more during Lent, be mindful about your prayer. Slowly pray those words so that they impact you. It’s not about checking a box. It’s about deepening our relationship with Jesus.

Fasting gives us an opportunity to purify our thinking and our bodies. We can fast from electronics. We can fast from social media. We can fast from television. And we can fast from food. It seems that the medical world is catching up to this ancient biblical secret. Doctors and nutritionists more and more are recommending some form of fasting be incorporated into our diets. Even intermittent fasting has a powerful, healing effect. This is a wonderful opportunity we have here in Lent to try fasting. If for some medical reason you are not sure whether or not you should fast, then talk to you doctor. Tell your doctor you are a Christian and you would like to incorporate fasting in your treatment program. Let them help you design something that works for you. Perhaps by giving up food it might clarify our thought to deepen our relationship with Christ.

Almsgiving is not just about giving money away. It’s really about changing the way we look at our money, our wealth and our possessions. It’s about recognizing that everything I have belongs to God. I am just the steward. That’s why Holy Mother Church calls giving “stewardship” to remind us that what we collect in this world is not only meant for our benefit, but meant to be shared with others for the building up of God’s kingdom. When we give, it’s not about saying I have an extra two bucks so let me put it in the basket, but how will this sacrifice bring into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

This Lenten season is a wonderful opportunity to invite family and friends back to the Church. If they don’t understand what all of this is about, then try to share with them. Help them understand what we are doing and why. They don’t need to turn to some fancy New Age hocus pocus. We have access to three, ancient and powerful spiritual exercises in our own faith tradition.

Holy Mother Church tells us that if we do these spiritual exercises, then we might have an encounter with the risen Jesus Christ, the Jesus of Easter morning, who wants to help us change our lives so that you and I might experience the salvation promised by God.

Homework! As you go through Lent this year, there is one thing I suggest we do:

  1. Every time you do whatever it is you are sacrificing this Lent, ask yourself, “how is this sacrifice drawing me into a stronger relationship with the Jesus.

If we do our exercises, then hopefully we will recognize that we’re not giving up chocolate for the sake of giving up chocolate. No! But that are trying to draw closer to Jesus Christ.

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

Posted in Church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do I Walk the Walk?

One Voice Article - 2017 Catechist Conference Promotion

Mass Readings

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 4, 2018
Reading 1 – Job 7:1-4,6-7
Psalm – Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel – Mark 1:29-39

Once my wife and I hosted a Christmas party for her employer. As is typical, there was an exchange of gifts. In the gift that her boss received was a fake lottery ticket with bold writing: MATCH THREE AND WIN. So, he scratched the first box: $1 million. He, thought, “Ok.” He scratched the second box: $1 million. You see where this is going. He scratched the third box: $1 million. He jumped up and cheered! He was so excited! He did running man in my living room! Bit of a nasty shock for him when he figured out the truth.

Isn’t it funny how we’re so eager to share any kinds of news? But when it comes to sharing our faith, so many of us are afraid to talk. In fact, society tells us we shouldn’t talk politics or religion, right? But that’s exactly what Scripture is challenging us today to do.

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of last week’s message. What did we learn last week? We learned that Jesus Christ has been given all authority and all power. The challenge of the readings last week, I believe, is how do we live out missionary discipleship? How do we live lives in witness to the authority of Jesus Christ?

What’s a disciple? Three things: a disciple accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior; a disciple seeks to learn more about Jesus; and a disciple goes out to share the good news of Jesus Christ, to become what Pope Francis calls a missionary disciple.

Today’s readings builds on this idea from last week. The Psalm tells us the Lord heals the brokenhearted. We heard a reading from Job, but we know how that story ends. God restores Job and he lives a long life to see his children and his grandchildren and even his great grandchildren. In today’s Gospel, we see Jesus performing many more miracles. He heals and he cures.

But Jesus doesn’t heal for the sake of healing. No! Jesus is trying to connect with the people so that they will open up to him, so that they might receive the Good News and be saved. Then Jesus says, “Let us go on to nearby villages.”

Look what happens when he heals Simon’s mother-in-law. After she’s healed, she gets up and serves them. After he’s healed and cured, Jesus says let’s go out to the nearby villages. The Gospel is trying to tell us that our right response to the healing power of Jesus is to go out and share the Good News.

My brothers and sisters, that’s our great challenge too! But we don’t need new miracles. The miracle already happened! Jesus came into this world and walked among us. That’s what Christmas is all about. He taught and he preached. Jesus allowed himself to be tortured and crucified for you and for me. What’s my response, then, to God’s saving action in my life? What is the fruit of God’s work in my life?

What is the fruit of God’s work in our own lives? Do I walk the walk, or do I just talk the talk? Ask me, “What can I do?” I’m so glad you asked! This is a great time to talk about what we can do as we prepare for Lent.

You know when you fly on an airplane, they say in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will drop down. You need to put the mask on yourself before you help someone else. Discipleship is very similar. I need to work on myself as I’m reaching out to other people. How do I do that?

Do I come to confession? You see, in confession, I cannot just glibly say, “I’m sorry.” No! I need to list my sins. I say them! I need to own them! Then I ask for forgiveness. Do I receive the healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

I need to come to mass – often – not just on the weekends. I should try to go to daily mass at least once during the week either here or at a church near where you work. You see at mass, we are nourished by the Word of God and then we come forward to receive the body, the blood, the soul and the divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist. So that fully nourished, I can go out there and share a message of hope in a dark world.

That’s what Paul is talking about in Corinthians. His fruit is that he made himself a slave to the Kingdom of God to save as many people as possible. That is our challenge too – to bear fruit through our missionary discipleship.

How? First, I need to be able to more openly share my faith with my family and friends. For example, when we eat, do I make the sign of the cross and pray before meals – even in restaurants. Do I walk the walk? I can discuss the homily I heard in mass with my family and friends. I can invite friends and family to come to mass and to come to parish activities like the upcoming Knights of Columbus fish fry. You don’t have to be Catholic to participate. Why not invite people to come.

I can also help people who are missionaries, people who go out into the world to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. I can help them with my prayers. I can help them with some money. Maybe I can even go on a mission trip too. What do missionaries do? There’s all kinds of missionaries who do all sorts of things.

Let’s talk about some things that we at Friends of Los Niños do. We like to share the love of Jesus Christ in Honduras especially with children through various projects and especially through the orphanage we where we spend most of our time. Let me share with you a story about that orphanage. One morning a child was brought to the orphanage after spending the whole night next to the bodies of his dead parents. It was a drug deal gone wrong. Sr. Teresita, the nun who started the orphanage, tried to show him the boys dormitory where he would be staying and tried to get him to unpack his things. But he said, “NO. Today is my birthday. My dad is coming to pick me up and he’s going to bring a big cake.” Later in the day when he started getting a little restless, Sister asked him if he wanted to go take a nap. He yelled out, “NO. Today is my birthday. My dad is coming to pick me up and he is going to bring a big cake.” Near the end of the day when his dad didn’t come, his eyes got really big and he said, “My dad isn’t coming, is he?”

There are no words – no words to help a child like that! All we can do is wrap him in a huge bear hug and tell him he is loved. We use the money we raise, especially from our monthly sponsorships, to pay for his care at the orphanage and to pay for his education so that his life might bear fruit – so that his life doesn’t meet the end of a drug dealer’s gun.

Missionary work doesn’t have to be something extraordinary. It starts with people like you and me living our lives of faith openly. People who are willing to share the Good News of Jesus Christ by our word and example. Hopefully through the way we live our lives, someone might have an encounter with Jesus, an encounter that leads to transformation, transformation that leads to salvation.

Homework! Oh yes, even on this Super Bowl Sunday, we all have homework! There are two things I ask you to consider. After you come forward to receive the Eucharist or to receive a blessing and return to your place to pray:

First, ask yourself before God, “How do I live a life of missionary discipleship? How do I walk the walk?”

Second, ask yourself, “During this upcoming season of Lent, how can I sacrifice my time, talents, and treasure to support the missionary work of the Church?”

I think if we do our homework, it will help us develop our sense of discipleships so that we can go out into the world and share the Good News!

Do you got it? Do you get it? Good! Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, may we all come to love and to serve Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. +Amen!

To learn more about our work at Friends of los Niños, check out our website at

There are three ways you can help us out:

  1. Pray for our missionary work
  2. Sponsor a child
  3. Come with us on a missionary trip
Posted in Church, Friends of los Ninos | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Witnessing to the Authority of Jesus

Image of Jesus driving out demons. A scared person is seen leaning over in struggle as a demon is forced out of him

Mass Readings

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 28, 2018
Reading 1 – Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm – Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 7-9
Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
Gospel – Mark 1:21-28

If you were to enter into your search browser today’s gospel, Mark 1:21-28 and the word “authority”, you would see a whole list of commentaries on Scripture from all kinds of different preachers. You’d see one written by a Baptist preacher. You would probably see several from evangelical preachers. You’d find Anglican and Catholic commentaries. If you were to survey those commentaries, they would agree on this point: that today’s Gospel tells us that all authority and power has been given to Jesus Christ. Well duh! Right?

I am a disciple of Jesus. We are all disciples of Jesus. That means we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We want to learn more about Jesus, and we want to go out into the world to share the Good News – to be what Pope Francis describes as missionary disciples. So I believe it! I believe Jesus has authority. I believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of our first reading in Deuteronomy about one who would come after Moses.

So why, if we all believe Jesus has authority, does Holy Mother Church give us these readings today? They aren’t trying to fill up pages between Christmas and Lent. No! Holy Mother Church is challenging us with today’s readings. How do we live a life in witness to the faith?

What are some of the reasons they do that? I’m overwhelmed by stories from my own children and in stories I’ve heard from other youth here are St. John Vianney over the last several years, about the number of aggressively atheist teachers they encounter. They’re aggressive because they don’t keep their opinions to themselves. NO. They try to work their idea that God does not exist into any lesson – it could be math, science, language arts, Spanish – it doesn’t matter. They are going to work that in.

That plus social media, the content we get through television and streaming services, and pornography bombard people in an effort to desensitize us and to confuse our understanding of right from wrong. They do that by making the individual the center of the universe. You can do anything you want as long as it doesn’t bother me, right? The culture trains us to harden our hearts, like we heard in the Psalm. What’s a parent to do? How do we keep our children engaged. I think there are many things we could try. Let’s talk about three.

First, we need to remind ourselves that we are not alone. Our faith teaches us that we are a community, so we should be able to share with each other and to lean on one another for help. “Have you gone through this before?” “How did you handle that?” “Let me bounce this idea off of you.” We need to be comfortable to share with one another. Don’t be nervous and think you’re the only one going through it. Don’t think someone is going to say, “I knew you were weird!” No one is going to say that and if they do, shame on them! If you’re new to the parish, that’s ok. Come to one of our social events like the upcoming Mardi Gras casino night or the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry. Those are great opportunities to start to build relationships within the parish so we can share with one another.

We can also look to the wisdom in our own families. So many families are blessed to have grandparents and even great grandparents with them still. We need to turn to our family and ask their opinions and at a minimum ask them to pray for us. I can’t tell you how many times when my grandmother was alive and I would call her and say, “Welita! Would you light a candle for me or would you light a candle for my family?” Remember, you are not alone.

Catholic schools also give us an opportunity to bridge the gap between confirmation and adulthood. I’m not saying that Catholic school children don’t get into mischief. As a kid, I got into quite a bit of mischief while attending Catholic schools. So that’s not what I’m saying. What’s the difference then One of the difference is that our Catholic schools do a really good job at exposing our youth to the radical love of God and they remind our children that no matter what they do, or whatever is going on in their lives or at home, they-are-loved. That’s a powerful, countercultural message. Maybe if some of the youth involved in the shootings this week had had that connection to the love and hope of Jesus, maybe some tragedies could have been avoided.

This week we celebrate Catholic schools week and it’s a great opportunity for families to reassess the role Catholic education plays in the lives of our families. Go out in the Narthex, get some information and maybe sign up for a campus tour. This is a good time to not only compare the academics, but also the non-academic benefits of a Catholic education.

The third thing we can do and this is perhaps more challenging is to reflect on our own discipleship. Do I live a life in witness to the authority of Jesus? Do my family and friends see me come to church, but behave completely different outside? For example, do I come here and say, “all are welcome”, but at lunch or dinner, do I disparage the poor, the immigrant or the refugee? If there’s one strength our youth have its sniffing out hypocrisy – especially in the parents – never among their friends – but especially in the parents. Right? So we need to challenge ourselves. How do I live my faith?

Do my family and friends hear me talk about the struggle of living my everyday life with my faith? Do I let them see me fall down and by the grace of God pick myself back up? Do my kids hear me say to my wife, “I’m sorry,” even when I’m not sure what I did wrong this time? Do my family and friends see me go to confession because in confession I don’t just glibly say, “I’m sorry.” I have list my sins. I say it! I have to own it! Then I ask for forgiveness. A friend of mine reminded me just this week about the healing power of the Act of Contrition. The next time you go, I encourage you to pray that prayer mindfully, especially that first line: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you. Do my family and friends see me avail myself of the great healing power in the sacrament of reconciliation? Do they see me come to mass where I am nourished by the Word of God and then I come to receive the body, the blood, the soul and the divinity of Jesus in the Eucharist so that after mass I go out into the world that denies the authority of Jesus?

Maybe if I live my life of discipleship better, people might have an encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s the challenge of today’s Gospel. If I live my life that way, maybe some family and friends will say, “What’s going on over there? You’ve got a lot on your plate, but you don’t seemed stressed or unhappy. Tell me what that’s about.” That’s your opportunity to share. You can say, look, authority out there is all about me. It’s about my power, my money. If I want more money, then I need get more authority and more power. That’s the rat race. But the rat race will never satisfy you. That only creates anxiety, the anxiety we heard about in First Corinthians. How do I treat that anxiety? Maybe after work one day I just go out with my buddies and get hammered. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll buy some pot. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll watch pornography to help me relax. But it’s a lie! None of those things can fill the hole inside! Only the radical love of Jesus Christ can fill that hole! We want to help people have an experience of God’s love so that they realize that God says to us, “I love you so much and want you to be with me forever that I allowed my son to sacrifice himself for you.” That’s how Jesus exercises his authority – not for himself, but for you and for me. That’s the challenge of our Gospel today. Do I live my life in witness to the authority of Jesus so that others might have an encounter; an encounter that leads to transformation; transformation that might bring our babies home.

That has to be the way that I start preaching to my family, not on my authority – not because I’m Deacon Rudy – but by the authority of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior I live of a life of faith and love. Amen? Amen! That’s how we start facilitating an encounter with Jesus. Because the world offers them a different image. Do whatever you want now. But it’s an empty promise that leads to anxiety – That’s my opportunity. You see, the way authority is exercised in the world out there – all too often it’s about wealth and power. How do I get ahead in the world? But the authority of Jesus is based on radical love.

Homework! There are two things I ask of us to consider as we prepare for Lent. Perhaps we can try these exercises from now through the end of Lent. Maybe come here for the Stations of the Cross on Friday night, then go the Knights of Columbus fish fry, and add these two exercises to your prayer.

  1. First, ask yourself in your prayer, “How do I live my faith? Do my family and friends see me live out my faith or is my faith life the best kept secret in the house?” If it’s a secret, then part two of that is to ask for the grace to share your faith.
  2. Second, lift up in prayer by name any of your family and friends who have fallen away from the faith. Maybe say something like, “Loving Father, I lift up to you my son X, my goddaughter Y and my uncle Z. Wash them in the blood of Jesus. Protect them and bring them home.”

Maybe if we do these two exercises, they might help us hone our discipleship so that we can witness to the authority of Jesus in our everyday life.

Do you got it? Do you get it? Are you going to do it? Good! Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, may we all come to know and to serve Jesus. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

To listen to the homily recorded during mass, click here. If for some reason the link does not work or stops working, in your browser search for St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Round Rock, Texas, and click the link. Once there, in the search bar type “homilies” which should take you to a list of all the homily recordings archived on our website. Peace!


Posted in Church | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Homilies | 1 Comment