Deacon Charles Seagren, OCDS: Lent – Listen to Him

Matthew 17:1-9 The Transfiguration of Jesus.

1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.

4Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.

7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”

8And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

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

Listen to Him


Listen to Him.

It’s not easy to listen
even if the Voice does come from a cloud
up on Mount Tabor.

It’s easier to get busy and put up three tents
or fall to the ground in fear
or talk among ourselves:
what does He mean?

Listen to Him.

Listening is more than just hearing.
It’s not the idle listening of everyday life
with the TV in the background.
It’s not to nod your head while your eyes glaze over.

Listening to Jesus is to pay attention,
to try to understand, and to follow.
Listening is to be a disciple.

We see it in Abram
when God asks Him to leave his home and family
and go who knows where.
God doesn’t tell him.

But Abram pulls up his tent pegs and goes anyway.
He becomes Abraham our father in faith.
That’s spiritual life:
we leave behind what holds us back
and go somewhere we don’t know yet.

And we see it in Peter James and John
when Jesus passes by on the seashore
and says, Come, follow Me
and they go.

They leave their nets behind.
And they will need that reminder
for the great test of His trial and crucifixion and death:
Listen to Him.



Father Robert Barcelos, OCD: Jesus, savior of the world

God’s Love is stronger than any evil in the world, once and for all. That doesn’t mean free will cannot be taken. That doesn’t mean bad things are not going to still happen to good people. That doesn’t mean that the laws of life are not going to run their natural course. That doesn’t mean that there will be no natural disasters, accidents, failures, pain, or suffering. It doesn’t mean that. But it does mean that the door, which gives us access to victory amidst every crisis, has been opened. It means that God’s Love entered into the world to provide the remedy to heal every heart.

Father Sophrony explains the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension, and then proceeds to the mission of the Spirit. He writes, “The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came down to earth to glorify this Love.” What Love? Jesus who came, who was crucified, and who conquered. Jesus Incarnate is our incarnation. In the cross and resurrection, Jesus came, was crucified, and yet He conquered. As Fulton Sheen said, “He was born to die”  – to give His life for us on the Cross.

No other religion speaks like this. A lot of religions have things in common, like values and virtues on a natural level like be charitable and loving. Christianity has a lot in common with world religions in the human level.

But when it comes to the vertical, supernatural level, Christianity is unprecedented. And utterly unique.

Father Sophrony explains, ‘The Holy Spirit came down upon earth to glorify this Love of Christ and to guide the faithful into all truth,’ as Jesus says in John 16. The Holy Spirit came to bear eternal witness — He came to bear eternal witness to the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.  Finally, Father Sophrony says, “The Holy Spirit came to bear witness to Christ as the Savior of the whole world.”

Father Sophrony quotes from Corinthians II 6:13 and Chapter 3 when he speaks about Christ’s endless enlargement, this “unlimited horizon.” Saint Paul says, “The Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” And then Paul continues, “We behold Jesus’s face unveiled, unlike Moses in the temple.”

In the New Covenant, we have full access, so we unveil our faces to behold His Face, and in doing so, we are transfigured, transformed, and metamorphosed, from one degree of glory to another – through the Spirit who is living within us. That’s the endless enlargement brought about by this Love.

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

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”