Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: the Word incarnate, Christmas

Adoration of the Shepherds by François Boucher (1703-1770), a French painter in the Rococo style

Editor’s note:  No transcribed talks will be posted from now until the last week of January 2017 so that I may spend time with my children, who will all be home for Winter Break.  May all of you have a Blessed Christmas and Joyful New Year. If you have benefited from this site,  you can show your gratitude by making an additional donation to a Carmelite monastery in your neighborhood during this season of giving.

This video was published by Shalom World as part of their Fulfillment of Life Series with Father Robert Barcelos.

Pope Francis concluded his Principles for the Reform of the Curia with this Christmas Message:

A Prayer by Father Matta el Meskin, a modern day monk.

If for us the experience of (your) infancy is so difficult, it is not so for you, O Son of God.  If we stumble along the way that leads to communion with you because of your smallness, you are capable of removing all the obstacles that prevent us from doing this.  We know that you will not be at peace until you find us in your likeness and with this (same) smallness.

Allow us today, O Son of God, to draw near to your heart.  Grant that we may not consider ourselves great in our experiences.  Grant us instead to become small like you, so that we can draw near to you and receive from you abundant humility and meekness. Do not deprive us of your revelation, the epiphany of your infancy in our hearts, so that with it we can heal all our pride and all our arrogance.

We greatly need for you to reveal in us your simplicity, by drawing us, and indeed the Church and the whole world, to yourself.  Our world is weary and exhausted, because everyone is vying to see who is the greatest.  There is a ruthless competition between governments, churches, peoples, within families, from one parish to another:

Who of us is the greatest?  The world is festering with painful wounds because of this great illness: Who is the greatest?  But today we have found in you, O Son of God, our one medicine.  We, and the whole world, will not find salvation or peace unless we go back to encounter you anew in the manger of Bethlehem.  Amen.

Father Jose Luis Ferroni, OCD: the grace of not forgetting

Gospel Mt 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah,
whose mother was Tamar.
Perez became the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab became the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab.
Boaz became the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth.
Obed became the father of Jesse,
Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,
whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
Solomon became the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah,
Abijah the father of Asaph.
Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Uzziah.
Uzziah became the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah.
Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amos,
Amos the father of Josiah.
Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers
at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile,
Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel the father of Abiud.
Abiud became the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor the father of Zadok.
Zadok became the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar became the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.

St. John of the Cross loved to dance with this image of the child Jesus, especially during Advent and Christmas. Photo credit:thespeakroom.org. Ubeda, Spain (Museum of St. John of the Cross)
St. John of the Cross loved to dance with this image of the child Jesus, especially during Advent and Christmas. Photo credit:thespeakroom.org. Ubeda, Spain (Museum of St. John of the Cross)

It is an act of love not to forget.

To do so is to have before us all the good things in love that we have received. It is in this context that we look at today’s gospel reading. Where do we come from? Where do our parents come from? Our ancestors? Our faith? The act of remembering in this Advent Season does us good because it intensifies our vigilance in our waiting for the Nativity of our Lord Jesus in our very lives.

We are called to remember. This story is about grace and blessings, but it is also a story of sin and sinners. It is a story of great sinners and great saints. Even for us, in our own life stories, we have our awesome moments of fidelity to the Lord in joyful service to Him. Yet there are some ugly times of infidelity too, of sin – and we yearn for redemption.

This is our surety because we are in need of salvation. We confess with faith, ‘I am a sinner and You Lord, can save me. You Lord, can pull me out of the water and keep me from drowning.’  And He does. And we go forth in life with joy and hope.

We have been on this road, waiting for our Lord. Let us now take a little pause to look back, so that we may see the road we have walked, which has been full of beauty and grace. The Lord does not let us down; the Lord has been faithful, for God has desired to walk this journey with us by becoming man. This journey of faith and the awaiting for our Lord, when we can see Him face to face is, my brothers and sisters, the Christian way of life.

(SOURCE: Homily, 12/17/2016. San Jose, CA)

Copyright 2016, Fr. Jose Luis Ferroni. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Mercy and Forgiveness

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Matthew 7:1-5:  1 Stop judging, that you may not be judged.b 2For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. 3Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? 5You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

When Pope Francis was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, the president there was well-publicized for her attacks on him. Apparently, she insulted him for his vocal stance in defending the dignity of all, even if it was deemed politically incorrect or taboo to speak out about such things.

Fourteen times, the then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio requested to meet with her in private, and fourteen times, he was denied. Eleven times, she was outside of Argentina during the annual Te Deum and Mass in an effort to avoid him. And yet, after he was elected pope, instead of granting her a new protocol visit, he received her for a personal, two-hour lunch, without press, without pomp, without rancor. Oscar Wilde said, ‘Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.’ I doubt that was the motivation of Pope Francis. Nevertheless, his authenticity, as can been seen during those times that encounter and the conversations were captured, is evident.

You see the genuineness and humanity of those moments. He laughed with her. He didn’t see her as a political figure who proposed laws that were opposed to Christian values. He didn’t see her through that lens. He saw her as a human being; sure, with her flaws, but nevertheless, loved by the Lord. That’s where he met her and delighted in her presence with utmost freedom. Although he was strong about what was right the other times, he still loved the person that was wrong.

Mahatmi Gandhi said, ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ We think the opposite: forgiveness is a sign of weakness. Actually, the reverse is the truth. Paul Boese said, ‘Forgiveness does not change the past, but it definitely enlarges the future.’ Desmond Tutu said, ‘Without forgiveness, there is no future.’ Yet we know that forgiveness is easier said than done in experience. C.S. Lewis put it so well when he writes, ‘Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.’ That’s a different story, isn’t it?

We can make up all kinds of excuses why we shouldn’t forgive, but in order for us to do so, we must know what forgiveness is not. Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgetting may be a result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. It is not a question of surrendering our right to justice. If someone has done you wrong – for example, they’ve wrecked your car – yes, you forgive them, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to pay the bill.

Forgiveness does not necessitate the need to continue to be friends. It doesn’t necessitate reconciliation with the person who hurt you. Sometimes, a respectful distance is what is necessary. Forgiveness does not mean that we have to put up with unacceptable behavior. It does not mean excusing, condoning, or minimizing the wrong that was done. And it does not mean that we won’t have negative feelings toward the person who has hurt us.

Isn’t that good to know? That makes forgiveness easier to work with. That makes forgiveness more of a possibility so that we can allow the Lord to bring about change in our lives. It puts the commandment in our grasp. You see the wisdom of the commandment, which is no longer burdensome, but a blessing. Why? As one author, Lewis B. Smedes says, ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that the prisoner was you.’ That’s why.

People think, ‘But I could never let them off the hook,’ but the reality is if we don’t let offenders off the hook, we are the ones who are hooked – not them. We are hooked to them, and the pains that were caused in the past. That will cause even more suffering for us, for you. You don’t forgive someone merely because they deserve it, because they’ve apologized, because they’ve amended their lives, or because they’ve fulfilled some expectation of yours. You forgive because you deserve it. You deserve to be free, and God doesn’t want anybody to take that dignity away from you.

To refuse to forgive those who have hurt us allows them to continue hurting us long after they have moved on with their lives, and we’re still holding on to theirs, paralyzed from being able to move on with ours. Yet forgiveness is not a one-shot deal. I just don’t say a prayer, or pray during one Mass to forgive and it’s all over like a magic wand. No, it doesn’t happen that way.

Forgiveness is a process. We must revisit the emotional core of the past honestly, to acknowledge the hurt and the hate that has resulted, so that as the wounds come to the surface, they may be exposed to the light and allow God’s love heal us. In his writing on forgiveness, C.S. Lewis explains, ‘You have to look steadily at the sin in its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice. Yet you must also make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in yourself, every wish to humiliate or repay the person.’

It’s not easy to forgive a single great injury, but how are we to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life; to keep on forgiving the alcoholic parent, or the manipulative brother, the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son, the annoying brother, the controlling sister. How can we do it? C.S. Lewis responds, ‘I think only by remembering where we stand.’

We must mean what we say, ‘forgive us our trespasses as’ – in the measure that I forgive those who have trespassed against me – for the Lord says, ‘the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.’ We are offered forgiveness in no other terms. To refuse it, is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. Ouch! Talk about being held accountable. In the face of one of life’s greatest challenges, we ask for the grace to be enabled to spread Christ’s fragrance of forgiveness, in the way that only God can help us to do.

SOURCE: Segovia Homily, Spain Pilgrimage 2014- transcribed by TL

Copyright 2016, Fr. Robert Barcelos. All Rights Reserved

‘Arm yourselves with the armor of faith and the sword of truth.  Pray for the grace to forgive and to ask for forgiveness – and for the healing of wounded bodies and souls.’