Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

Photo credit: Lorelei Low, OCDS

Mysticism is grounded in the Passion of Christ. In His Passion, He takes possession of all people. Fulton Sheen said, when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He mystically went into the heart of every human being that would ever live, and He took a part of our hearts with Him, so that our hearts would be incomplete until they are united to His Heart.

St. Augustine says, ‘Our hearts are restless until we rest in Him.’ Only in Christ can we fully discover ourselves. He is the Fullness of God, who fully reveals Man to us.

When Jesus takes possession of us, that does not mean that He imposes His Love. God is so amazing, in His humility and despite His great power. He is all-powerful, except for one thing: He does not interfere with our free will.

Love could not be otherwise. Because Love, by its nature, has to respect and reverence the other. Love does not micromanage, control, or manipulate. Love respects the other; it can only invite, can only welcome, can only say, “Follow me!” but can never order.

Love is a two-way street; it’s reciprocal and dynamic; it’s an exchange and dialogue. God is all-powerful, except for one thing – He will not interfere with free will.

Though by His Passion, He symbolically takes possession of all people, that doesn’t mean that our salvation is guaranteed. It means that His Love is unconditionally offered to all people, without limits. He offers His love unconditionally to all people, without exception. Nobody is excluded, except for one condition: that we recognize that we are sick and in need of a healing physician, who is Christ Himself.

The only condition is humility. Know that you can’t save yourself. That’s all it takes. Know you cannot save yourself; you are not your own savior. Don’t be like Eve in the garden, who thought she was going to become her own God – to discern what was good and evil, right and wrong, truth and lies – for herself. That’s the number one deception, the backbone of all lies and sins: pride.

Humility is the only thing that saves. Humility is the root that bears the fruit of love. Humility opens us the gift of Love. Without humility, we cannot receive the gift of Love— we’re closed!

Father Sophrony’s explains, “The cross, the resurrection, and the ascension of Jesus are the supra-cosmic victory of unqualified Love.” The supra-cosmic victory of unqualified Love. In other words, God’s Love is so unconditional, that when Jesus was crucified on the Cross, in Him, that sacrifice was all-encompassing of the entire cosmos, and that sacrifice brought victory. God’s victory prevails over every evil in every reality.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

Christ and the Pauper, Andrey Mironov 2009

Pope Francis asks to whole Church in our vocation and charism of love, to “go out to the peripheries.”

When you and I go into to the homes of families who are poor, not only financially, but broken by a complex labyrinth of suffering from generation to generation, often with knots of suffering, that is beyond our capacity to untie, we just have to love them. And in the process of being there to love them, you will absorb a lot. And if you’re a really sensitive soul, you’ll absorb more, for we absorb what is in our environment. We absorb that suffering, but without sin.

When, for example, Jesus came out to sinners, when he forgave people caught in sin, when he reached out to touch sinners, with compassion and mercy, he immersed Himself in the dirt! Pope Francis says, he wishes that “shepherds would smell like the sheep.” He prefers a bruised, beat-up Church, because it’s been out on the streets, rather than a Church that “healthy” but is self-preserved behind its own security and comfort zone.

Jesus got his hands dirty, helping people. And I’m sure He stank! Have you ever had a homeless person sitting next to you? They smell like urine and it reeks sometimes!

So when you are with the people, you ‘smell’ like them, not just physically but also spiritually. We absorb our surroundings, like Jesus on the Cross, who out of solidarity with broken humanity and suffering, took everything upon himself, except for the sin.

Not the sin. That, we don’t compromise with. Love the sinner, but we do not touch the sin. In other words, we don’t condone it, we don’t accept it, and we don’t embrace it. The sin, that part is off-limits. And that’s how Jesus was, in his whole mission of His Sacred Humanity, He became like us in everything, except sin.

Sin is very, very, real. Christianity is not all about sin, but about freedom; yet sin is very, very, real. And for that reason, Christ had to go on the Cross. That’s how real sin is. Christianity is not like other religions, think of Hinduism, and all the different incarnations of the deities of Hinduism, Vishnu and Krishna, and all the rest, and it’s not like our religion. The Hindu gods, you don’t see them suffering in the place of their people. You don’t see any resemblance to a God suffering for the people.

In addition, the Mystery of Christ is a historical event. Other religions like Hinduism, are a spirituality associated with a distinctive Oriental style of mythology. Similarly, the Greeks and the Romans had their own mythology- the Pantheon.

The radical nature of Christianity comes in, where the mystery, became event and history. God didn’t just come to show us how to meditate, to avoid all suffering— He entered into the suffering! So we don’t see The Deified One, in the lotus position, transcending all human suffering, and escaping this world; you see Him entering into the core of human brokenness and taking it upon Himself in order to liberate us.

What Jesus did for us is radical! Jesus is not simply a deified man – He’s The Deity made man. Not a simply a godly man, but God-made-man. Emmanuel with us, embracing us, getting messy in our midst, in order to lift us up to God’s glory. Amazing. Amazing! 

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christ’s passion, His free gift

In Christ Our Way and Our Life, the theology of Father Sophrony, a holy man who comes from the Eastern Christian Greek Orthodox tradition, is explained. Father Sophrony grounds the whole mystical experience of God in “the mystery of Christ.” Entering into the mystery of what it means to be loved by God is the source of Christian mysticism.

Father Sophrony grounds the magnificent realities, the magnanimous truth of who we are, in what Christ accomplished. His Word is truth and everything about it is possible because of who He is and what He did. God’s work is not something that we can produce on our own, nothing that we can ever earn by our performance, nothing we deserve by being ‘good enough.’

What He gives us is nothing that we are, by ourselves, worthy of. It’s all free gift. It’s all sheer grace – amazing grace.

Father Sophrony says, “Christ suffering in the flesh, inherited and took possession of all people.”  In Christ’s Passion, He came and He took, as it were, possession of all people.

Reflect on that a bit. In Christ’s Passion, He takes possession of all people. Remember when Jesus said, “When I am raised up” — like when Moses raised up the serpent, on the staff — “When in the Son of Man is raised up, I will draw all people to myself.”

Jesus became like us, mystically speaking – in His sacred humanity, his human body absorbed the suffering of every human being ever to live. He absorbed the sins of all people, from Adam to the end; in His pure humanity, in His innocence – and He became like us.

As High Priest, He humbled himself to wash our feet, and He became like us in all things but sin. He identified with every aspect of  our human weakness; he became so in touch with our vulnerability as human beings and as broken persons.

He entered into all vulnerabilities of all mankind, in every aspect of brokenness except for voluntary sin.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”


Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: back to Galilee


When we talk about going to Galilee, and that place of the first love in our hearts, sometimes a song can bring us back. We all know that on a human level; it doesn’t take a religious person to experience that — music has power. You hear a song, and it was associated with a particular time or moment in your life, it immediately takes you back somewhere – a visit, a vacation, or a family trip.

It could even be a personal, emotional and interior experience of growth. But if that experience is associated with some song, then the moment we hear it, even  after ten or twenty years later, immediately, the song brings us back to that period.  Music can bring us back to our first love.

When I was first coming back to the Church, I remember often hearing the song, “Pescador de Hombres.” I was discovering Jesus, and turning my life around to Him. Everything was changing in my life, by God’s grace. I remember – that song used to pull so strong on my heartstrings.

Another song was, “Here I am, Lord.” I remember hearing that when I had barely just come back to church. I had been away from God, I had been anti-organized religion, anti-Catholicism, and didn’t believe Christ was real, nor did I believe anything about what Christianity said about Him.

I was totally away from anything that had to do with Church life and following Christ. I grew up as a baptized cradle-Catholic, and I would go to church every Sunday as a cultural Catholic, but I was going through the motions, and just going because I had to.

And as I was making my baby steps back to Church, He shared His Love with me, in a way I never experienced before.

When I became a teenager, I left the Church, but as I came back in my own terms, Jesus shared His Love with me. When a song like “Pescador”  or “Here I am Lord,” came on, I could just feel Him pulling out my heart – big time! I would think, “whoa-whoa-whoa-whoa-what’s-going-on!

There was this revolution happening.

I felt like, “Whoa! You are going way too fast here, Lord! whoa-whoa-whoa! Hold up, wait a minute!”  For me, these songs, just bring me back to that Galilee, that first love. Songs like that can expand the heart and broaden the horizon of who we are, in the love of God.

In talking about this “horizon of the Love of God,” the “face of God,” Saint Augustine says says that “the further we penetrate into the splendor of Divine Love, the more beautiful it is to pursue our search.”  The deeper we go, the deeper we should want to go.

In other words, the discovery of God’s face is never ending. The further we penetrate into the splendor of divine love, the more beautiful it is to pursue our search, so that the greater the love grows, the further we will seek the One who has been found.


SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: back to Galilee

In name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.  

My God, I believe, I hope, and I love You. I ask pardon for all those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love You. 

My Lord and my God Jesus Christ, I thank You, for giving Yourself for us, and being forever present, in your all-encompassing sacrifice through the Eucharist, that we may have life in the Spirit, through Your Heart as Risen Christ. May we drink from the brimming heart of your joy, which is the wellspring of living waters. And be filled, to the full, with Your life, Your light, and Your love for Your glory, and our true good. In Your most Holy Name Jesus, You who live and reign, forever and ever, Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us. 

In his Easter homily, the Holy Father Pope Francis concludes by saying, “The Gospel is very clear. We need to go back there, to Galilee, to see Jesus Risen, and to become witnesses of his Resurrection.” This is not to go back in time. This is not a kind of nostalgia. This is returning to our First Love in order to receive the fire that Jesus has kindled in the world, and to bring that fire to all people, to the ends of the earth. “Go back to Galilee, without fear.”

The Gospel, at its core, of course is Christ, but as Christ communicates Himself to us, the implication of the Gospel is that it calls us to the fullness of authentic human living. That’s what the Gospel represents. It is not simply about the forgiveness of sins. The forgiveness of sins is a means to an end. We need to be forgiven, in order to be set free. But freedom is the gift. Forgiveness is a means— a necessary, unavoidable, indispensable, means — but the fruit of the gift is freedom. This freedom is the fullness of authentic human living.

His person, Jesus exhibits what that freedom means. By His example, His words, and His deeds, Jesus amplifies and makes visible what human life is ultimately about. He alone could express it, because He is the author of it.

One Orthodox study Bible provides commentaries to the Scriptures that represents Patristic spirituality and theology— the teaching of the Church Fathers of the early centuries of Christianity. In it, we find the words, “As we behold Him, we become what we were created to be.”  As we behold Him we become what we were created to be. 

God is infinite. Therefore, growing in His image and glory has no limits. We shall ever see God more clearly and ever be transformed into His likeness. The theme of transformation or transfiguration, the metamorphosis that St. Paul talks about, when reflecting on Jesus on Tabor, this metamorphosis is very prevalent in the Christian East — the Greek Fathers, the Syrian Fathers, and the Egyptian Fathers.

But it’s also found among the Western Church Fathers, saints, and mystics. For example, St. Augustine points out that the discovery of God’s face – the image of God –is never-ending. The more we discover God’s face, “The further we penetrate into the splendor of Divine Love…” as St. Augustine would say.

SOURCE: New Mexico Retreat, 2017, “First Love Exodus”

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Photo credit: Lorelei Low, OCDS, San Francisco

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Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Christmas 2017 Homily

Baby Jesus, Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Granada, 16th Century. This is the statue that St. John of the Cross danced and celebrated Christmas with in Granada. Photo Credit: Prophet Elijah Media/The Speakroom

“God is often manifest where we need Him most…”

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Christmas Homily 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD

Copyright 2017, Father Robert Barcelos, OCD.  All Rights Reserved


Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and the Newness of God

The Virgin Holding the Sleeping Child With St. John and Two Angels by Bernardino Luini

During a 2013 sermon Pope Francis explores the theme of expanding our hearts. He says, “Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives.”

Let us not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. In other words, the God that I know, that I love, that I adore, that I worship— is a dynamic God. He’s a God who is ever creative, and full of surprises. He’s never dull, never boring, He’s not a God of reruns— like old TV shows — He’s a God of newness, everlasting newness. A God of infinite youth.  And we are to not be closed to the newness that God wants to bring into our lives. God always wants to bring something new.

Pope Francis says let us not close our hearts. Let us not lose confidence. Let us never give up.  There are no situations which God cannot change, if only we open ourselves to Him, as in Mary’s “Yes” during the Annunciation. It only took a single “yes” to open up Paradise. And that “yes” allowed Mary to be the dwelling place of Paradise-in-person – Christ incarnate.

Pope Francis continues, “Let the Risen Jesus enter your life.” Let the Risen Jesus enter your life. He is Life. And He will give you the strength to live as he would have you do.

In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis, says, “The Christ is the Eternal Gospel, and His riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is…”  — I love this expression—  “… He is forever young.

The youthfulness of Christ is inexhaustible and the constant source of newness for us is that we’re to be forever young in our hearts. Everything else and our bodies are going to breakdown, but our hearts are to be forever young. 

Then Pope Francis quotes St. John of The Cross, “The thicket of God’s wisdom and knowledge is so deep and so broad that the soul, however much it has come to know of it, can always penetrate deeper within it.”

We can always go deeper. So as St. John Paul II called us at the turn of the millennium, to “launch out into the deep.” We must never cease launch out into the deep. We can always go deeper because there will always be new depths.

And hopefully our hearts will always burn brighter, and always burn with more fire.

Pope Francis continues with this idea of freshness when he says, “He [Christ] is always able to renew our lives, and our communities, and even if the Christian message has known periods of darkness and ecclesial weakness, it will never grow old.”

There’s always going to be a perennial youthfulness and power in the Gospel. We’ve heard it before, a thousand times, the Gospel is always fresh, and new. Similarly, in referring to God as Beauty, St. Augustine said: “O Beauty ever ancient, and ever new. Late have I loved You.” God is Beauty ever ancient and ever new. 

Pope Francis continues, “Jesus can also break through the dull categories within which we would enclose him.” We want to put Jesus and God in a little box that we’re comfortable with, and we want to try to be able to figure everything all out. Jesus wants to get out of all of our boxes, to knock our socks off, and expand our horizons.

Pope Francis says, “He constantly amazes us by His divine creativity” — this is Spirit-laced language.  He continues, that we must “return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel…” and the focus of the Gospel is God, and not us. In other words, as St. John says in his letter, it’s not that we have loved God; God has first loved us. The focus of the Gospel is God’s initiative, God coming down from Heaven.

It’s not our seeking and looking for Him, it’s Him seeking and looking for us! And God expresses that there is no extreme that He will not take — by becoming Incarnate in order to rescue us. He does this to the point of the scandal of the Creator entering into his own creation and taking on our own weakness!

He was born in poor circumstances, not in a palace, but in utter poverty. The scandal of the Incarnation is that God is so humble, that he would become so small and take on all our vulnerability to the point of becoming an infant. There is nothing like this.

Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Advent and our First Love Exodus

Sunset at Mt. St. Josephs Monastery. San Jose, CA. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

As I was driving, I was so struck and breath-taken by the vastness of the sky, which was just so magnificently broad and wide and it looked majestic. It reminded me of— how God wants us to expand our hearts, how infinite God is, and how our faith, in terms of our confidence in God, is meant to be limitless. We have to widen our hearts, not limit our faith to what we see in ourselves, but to what we see in Him, and therefore, allow our lives to be expanded.

We have to rekindle of our first love, our spiritual exodus. This spiritual journey is an eternal newness” — an expression Pope Francis uses in [the Apostolic Exhortation] The Joy of The Gospel. “An eternal newness,” an expression of Love’s inexhaustible fountain.

Pope Francis, says, “a disciple of Jesus has a heart opened to his unlimited horizons.” To his unlimited horizons. In other words, what is possible for us is more than what we see in ourselves. What is possible for us is more than our own potential!  It’s God’s potential in us. And potential, potencia, comes from the Latin word for the word potential, which means “power.” This power in us is more than our own strength- it’s the strength of God. It’s the Spirit of God. It’s His potentialAnd so we have to allow our hearts to expand to unlimited horizons based on what we see in His Heart. That is a key becoming more captivated and charmed by Christ – attracted to Christ.

Pope Francis calls the church to evangelize by pointing to a horizon of beauty. And the beauty is Christ!

Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian Orthodox Christian in the 19th-century, said that the ultimate, and only beauty in the world (“only” speaking of the essential and ultimate beauty) is Christ.

He is the Infinite Marvel. He alone is He who is most beautiful. He is this horizon of beauty.  And this is how we understand the Gospel, because the Gospel is Christ. He is the Message and the Messenger. Christ is the Gospel. Pope Francis refers to Him in The Joy of the Gospel as “the source of authentic personal fulfillment.”

Jesus is Love’s inexhaustible fountain. He is the source of authentic personal fulfillment. He is Who we are made for. Jesus is who and what we long and wait for.


Father Jose Luis Ferroni, OCD: The Feast Day of Saint John of the Cross

The Sepulcre of Saint John of the Cross. Segovia, Spain. Photo credit: thespeakroom.org

On December 14, 1591, at the age of 49, Saint John of the Cross passed to Heaven and joined with the choirs of angels to sing the mercies of the Lord.

In the months before his death, Saint John headed  for the monastery of La Peñuela, which belonged to the Province of Andalucia. It was a simple community. He arrived in August and during this time, the community worked in the fields tilling chick peas (garbanzo beans). John spent many hours in his cell, likely using his time to revise The Living Flame of Love, or making copies of The Spiritual Canticle.

After about a month in La Peñuela, he began to experience small episodes of fever. As the fever intensified, the superior thought it best to take him to the monastery in Ubeda, where he could be placed under the care of a doctor. St. John himself thought that his stay in Ubeda would be short and that he would be back in La Peñuela, to his assigned monastery.

He arrived in Ubeda on the evening of September 28, 1591. The community was small, simple, and deprived of many commodities. The attending doctor, Amobrosio de Villarreal, diagnosed St. John of the Cross as having a cellulitis infection diffused in his right leg. The illness caused him extreme pain. The pain intensified as the infection spread from his leg to the foot, but the Saint patiently dealt with this excruciating pain with serenity.

The doctor treated the infection by performing surgery and cauterization to prevent further infections, procedures that only added to the anguish and pain, to say the least. Yet the doctor attested to the peacefulness in which John bore his medical treatment. Saint John did not have rest from his pain, except for a small cord that hung from the ceiling to his bed; he would clutch it with his hands to distract himself from the pain in order to speak to visitors.

The treatment, needless to say, did not work. The early weeks of December were for John, days to prepare for death. In the last hours of his life, eyewitnesses recount how  St. John of the Cross directed his gaze of faith on the Love of the Lord. The friars gathered in his cell and recited the prayers of dying, in which John devotedly responded. At about midnight on the clock church, Brother Francisco Garcia, the bell toller, came out of John’s cell to toll the bell for Matins. As he finished ringing the bell, St. John gave his last breath on earth.

A painting in the Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org
A painting in the Museum of Saint John of the Cross, Ubeda, Spain. Photo Credit:thespeakroom.org

It is said that in his final hours, Our Holy Father St. John of the Cross asked for three graces which the Lord granted: 1) the grace to die where nobody knew of him so that neither in life, nor in death should anyone honor him. This was the grace to be small and unnoticed. 2) He asked that he would die without ecclesiastical honors (such as a prelate or superior) in order to exercise humility. 3) Finally, he asked that the Lord grant him a purgatory while on earth.

A friend of St. John of the Cross, Ana del Mercado Y Penyalosa, obtained from the Provincial, Nicolas Doria, permission to bring the body from Ubeda to Segovia. Nine months after the Saint’s death, Ana and her brother enacted the transfer. Almost two years later, the coffin was opened, only to find St. John incorrupt.

The body finally arrived in Segovia on May 1593 for its final resting place in a niche on the wall near the altar of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The remains of the Saint continued to call pilgrims from all parts of Spain, as they were experiencing healings and various miracles. Around the body, witnesses recalled smelling sweet fragrance.  After the death of the Provincial Nicolas Doria, the new provincial moved the remains out of the wall and placed it in a large urn in the shape of sarcophagus in the center nave for the proper veneration of all.

Pope John Paul II, who wrote his doctoral thesis on St. John of the Cross, visited his body in Segovia on November 4, 1982. In 1993, he named Saint John of the Cross patron of all Poets.

Saint John of the Cross, pray for us.

(SOURCE: Homily, Solemnity of Saint John of the Cross, 12/14/2016. San Jose, CA)

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