Mary, Mother of God: Her face speaks peace — Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.

Homily

The Solemnity of the
Blessed Virgin Mary,
Mother of God
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua

Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Miami
1 January 2020


Gospel
Numbers 6:22-27

The LORD said to Moses:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them:
This is how you shall bless the Israelites.
Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you!
The LORD let his face shine upon
you, and be gracious to you!
The LORD look upon you kindly and
give you peace!
So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites,
and I will bless them.

 


 

Dear brothers and sisters:

On the first day of the new year, we have the joy and grace of celebrating the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and at the same time the World Day of Peace. Gathered as a Church to celebrate the Eucharist around Christ, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary and our true peace, we welcome with emotion the words of the ancient blessing that the priests imparted on the people of Israel: The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace! (cf. Nm 6:26).

We have heard, both in the first reading—taken from the Book of Numbers—and in the responsorial Psalm, some expressions that contain the metaphor of the face in reference to God: “The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you!” (Nm 6:25); “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving power among all nations” (Ps 67:1-2, NRSVCE). The face is the expression par excellence of the person, which makes him recognizable; through it, the feelings, thoughts, and intentions of the heart are shown. God, by his nature, is invisible; however, the Bible also applies this image to him. Showing his face is an expression of his benevolence while hiding it indicates his anger and indignation. The Psalms present believers as those who seek the face of God (cf. Ps 27:9; 102:2, NRSVCE) and who aspire to see it in worship: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” (Ps 42:2, NRSVCE).

We begin this year with the deep conviction of our faith that the Lord wants to show us his face and that this is a reason for trust and hope. We trust that this year the Lord will look upon us as we journey and that he’ll gaze upon us with infinite kindness. We know that he’ll never turn his face away from us because he is the faithful one and he loves us dearly. We do not know what will happen in this new year, but we’re sure that the Lord will continue to show us his gentle, loving, welcoming face, assuring us that he is with us. The face of the Lord who is looking upon us will overcome our loneliness.

Biblical history as a whole can be read as a progressive revelation of the face of God, until it reaches its full manifestation in Jesus Christ. “When the fullness of time had come,” the Apostle Paul reminded us today, “God sent his Son” (Gal 4:4). And immediately he adds, “born of a woman, born under the law.” The face of God took on a human face, allowing Himself to be seen and recognized in the son of the Virgin Mary, whom we, therefore, venerate as “Mother of God.” She, who kept in her heart the secret of divine motherhood, was the first to see the face of God made man in the tiny fruit of her womb. The mother has a very special, unique and in some ways exclusive relationship with her newborn child. The first face the child sees is that of the mother, and this look is decisive for his relationship with life, with himself, with others, and with God.

Through her face, Mary “gave Jesus the beautiful experience of knowing what it is to be a Son (…) and sensing “the maternal tenderness of God”. At the same time, in contemplating the face of Mary, “the God-Child learned to listen to the yearnings, the troubles, the joys and the hopes of the people of the promise” (Pope Francis, Homily 1 January 2017). Seeing his mother’s face, Jesus recognized himself to be a son and a brother, as the Son of God and as the brother of all people. The mother’s serene gaze communicates security and peace, giving an awareness of being a person and strengthening the ability to relate to others and to God with maturity and generosity. Today too, the face of the Virgin, Mother of God and our Mother, makes us feel like children of God and brothers and sisters to one another.

The face of Our Lady, whose heart was always full of God’s loving presence, allows us to feel that God is close to us and loves us, it instills in us the certainty that God never leaves our side, and that he cares for us and always forgives us. Our Lady’s face also helps us to look at each other as sisters and brothers. It teaches us to see as she does, and it enables us to have a caring vision that seeks to welcome, to accompany, and to protect. Let’s learn to look at each other under the maternal gaze of Mary. May she help us this year to show a kind and welcoming face to all. Let’s not be afraid to go out and look at our brothers and sisters with Our Lady’s eyes, to let her face be seen in our faces. Her face speaks peace to us and makes us capable of being peacemakers.

Peace has much to do with the face, with our own face and the faces of others. Peace begins with a respectful look that recognizes a real person in the face of the other individual, whatever the color of their skin, their nationality, their language, and their religion may be. In this New Year, may people who see our face have no fear, neither let them feel ignored or rejected, because “mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace” (Pope Francis, World Day of Peace 2020).

Peace is destroyed when we live in faceless, anonymous societies where the law that seems to dominate our coexistence is “every man for himself,” all of us being submerged in the sea of selfishness and indifference. We contribute to peace when we fill our lives and our hearts with faces—with faces that have names and stories, with faces that make our hearts beat with charity and solidarity, that move us with tenderness and goodness.

In many of our countries, injustice and violent repression continue to sow terror and death because we have not learned to recognize human beings who deserve dignity and respect in the faces of others, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. Peace will be possible for our people only through “a patient effort to seek truth and justice, to honor the memory of victims and to open the way, step by step, to a shared hope stronger than the desire for vengeance” (World Day of Peace 2020).

The ancient priestly blessing of Israel concludes with these words: “The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace” (Nm 6:26). The human face of God who imparts his peace to us is Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, at the beginning of this New Year, to prepare ourselves to receive God’s blessing in Christ and to be peacemakers, let us run back to the manger like the shepherds (cf. Lk 2:15-26) and confidently turn our faces to the face of the Mother who carries God in her arms. May she, whose face reflects God’s maternal tenderness, preserve our hearts in peace and help the whole of humanity to walk in the pathways of peace.

 

Theotokos BAEZ fave
Credit: Desde dentro…

 

 


Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. has served as the Auxiliary Bishop of Managua since May 2009, when he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI. A scripture scholar, a former professor at the Pontifical Theological Faculty Teresianum in Rome and editor of the facultys eponymous academic journal, the bishop currently serves at the good pleasure of the Holy Father Pope Francis in Rome.  Read our profile of Bishop Báez here and search our blog posts concerning the bishop here.

 

This English translation of Bishop Báez's Spanish homily is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and attribution.

 

Quote of the day: 30 December

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.

Matthew 2:13-14


The gospel text that we heard reminds us that Jesus’ family was a family like many of our families today, forced to move to foreign lands to save their lives and survive. As soon as Jesus is born, he suffers opposition from the mighty of this world, as will be the case throughout his life. The servant Messiah, devoid of power, always will be spied upon, persecuted, and harassed by the leaders of religion and politics who are governed by selfishness, ambition, and violence. The powerful are afraid of God’s people and respond to the gifts of God with intimidation and terror.

King Herod, who ruled in Judea, fearing the “king of the Jews” (Mt 2:2), who according to the testimony of the Magi was just born in Bethlehem, decided to take drastic measures to eliminate the child. Those who exercise power like despots in an authoritarian manner always live in fear of losing their power. Ambitious and thirsty for power, Herod is afraid and orders the murder of all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem (Mt 2:16). Like the ancient Pharaoh of Egypt, like the tyrants of today who dominate by repression and the shedding of innocent blood, Herod chooses to kill rather than lose his power and privileges. History repeats itself.

An angel, a messenger of the Lord, appeared in a dream to Joseph and commanded him: “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph promptly obeys, takes Mary and the newborn with him, and goes to Egypt where they experience the dramatic conditions of refugees, characterized by fear, poverty, uncertainty, and discomfort (cf. Mt 2:13-15, 19-23).

Jesus wanted to belong to a family that experienced these difficulties so that no one would feel excluded from God’s loving presence. The flight into Egypt caused by Herod’s threats shows us that God is there wherever people are in danger, wherever they suffer, wherever they are forced to flee, and wherever they experience rejection and abandonment. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph experienced what it means to leave your own land and become immigrants, to have to flee and take refuge in a foreign country. In the midst of such a painful drama, Mary’s maternal heart and Joseph’s attentive heart always held onto the trust that God never would abandon them.

Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua

Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family

 

Rest on the flight into Egypt MERSON Luc Olivier MFA Boston SC370988
Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Luc Olivier Merson (French, 1846–1920)
Oil on canvas, 1879
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gallery Label
Fleeing persecution at the hands of Roman authorities, the Holy Family takes refuge in Egypt. Joseph dozes beside a dying campfire while his donkey grazes on sparse desert grass. At left sleep the Virgin Mary and infant Christ, crowned with a halo of light. They lie in the arms of a sphinx, its eyes turned to the heavens, where the first stars begin to appear. A successful Academic artist, Merson never traveled to North Africa, but his use of archeological detail creates the illusion of an eyewitness account, breathing new life into a time-honored subject.

 

 

This English translation of Bishop Báez's Spanish homily is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission and attribution.

Our Lady of Joy — Homily for The Immaculate Conception | Silvio José Báez, O.C.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Managua

Homily for the Solemnity

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Most Reverend Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua 

 

Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Miami
December 7, 2019


 

Dear brothers and sisters:

Tonight we celebrate the Eucharist on the Solemnity for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which will be followed by the joyful and heartfelt Nicaraguan feast of the Gritería. We Nicaraguans have grown up singing to the Virgin, feeling our hearts pounding with emotion at the cry of “Who causes so much joy? The Conception of Mary!”, turning our gaze to the Mother of the Lord, awaiting Her loving protection, with the certainty shouted at the top of our lungs in churches and in homes in our country: “Mary of Nicaragua, Nicaragua of Mary”.

In tonight’s Gospel, we heard that God sent the angel Gabriel to a house in Nazareth, who upon entering, greeted a young virgin named Mary, saying, “Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The first word that the angel utters is: “Rejoice!” God has chosen Mary to welcome the joy of the Messiah’s salvation in the name of all humanity. She receives from God the proclamation, “Rejoice!” because of the Savior’s coming. God invites her to rejoice even when she is a young woman of scarce resources, belonging to an almost unknown town in Galilee, even when she is part of a people who are subjugated, oppressed and bereft of hope. In this humble young woman of Nazareth, God causes messianic joy to emerge and she, welcoming it, makes it her own to be experienced every day.

Recently the Bishops of Nicaragua stated in this year’s Advent message that “experiencing joy is a challenge for the people who live in Nicaraguan society because we live in a Nicaragua that is ravaged by deep divisions and ruptures, where the abundance of gloomy faces are an eloquent testimony to the deep despair, suffering and sadness that Nicaraguan men and women are going through today.

It’s true. Our Nicaraguan society is bleeding, her heart is wounded, and we have shed tears of sorrow and helplessness; in the people who live on the streets and in the homes of our country and in those of us who live abroad, gloomy faces and troubled hearts abound, expressing sadness, powerlessness, and uncertainty. We can’t deny it. Moreover, we mustn’t deny it, for the joy that the Messiah brings us is born and reborn again and again in the midst of pain and despair.

The Virgin Mary, the first recipient of Messianic joy, reveals to us the secret of this joy, which is possible to experience even in the midst of the night of helplessness and anguish. In today’s Gospel, the angel, after inviting Mary to rejoice, went on to say to her: “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). It is a very short phrase, but it expresses in synthesis the foundation of our faith and hope. This is the secret of Christian joy: God is in our midst as a powerful Savior. Mary rejoices because she is the bearer of Emmanuel, of ‘God with us’, and this presence causes her to exult with joy. This certainty allows us, like Mary, to sing and exult with joy. She lived with this joy that no one could take away from her, neither poverty, nor the darkness of faith, nor the pain of her son’s crucifixion. The Most Pure Virgin Mary is “Our Lady of Joy”. “The Lord is with you”: this is the secret of the Virgin’s joy and of our joy, for as St. Paul says: “If God is for us, who can be against us”? (Rom 8:31). Let us rejoice, the Lord is with you, Nicaragua! The Lord is with us, dear Nicaraguan sisters and brothers!

Without joy we remain paralyzed, slaves of our sorrows, weakened by the problems of life and the challenges of the times, unable to dream and build a better world. Our Lady teaches us that true joy does not belong exclusively to the realm of affections and feelings, but is rooted in the experience of faith and trust in the Lord’s love. To be happy or sad is a matter of faith when all is said and done. In her prayer of the Magnificat, Mary once again reveals to us the secret of her joy: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior because he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant” (Lk 1:48).

From her littleness and poverty, she contemplates the greatness of God who has gazed upon her with love. Despite her problems, which were not insignificant, she lives with joy because she trusts completely in the Lord and feels loved and cared for by Him. God fulfills all her longings. She needs nothing other than God to live with joy, to be joyful. Our Lady teaches us something as simple as letting ourselves be looked upon by God, always trusting in him; feeling welcomed and enfolded in his tenderness, cared for with a love that is attentive and caring, as we are continually forgiven with mercy. This fundamental feeling that is at the root of faith, by infusing us with joy, gives us a new capacity to overcome with faith the most painful and difficult moments; it makes us able to act with mercy towards others, serving and caring for one another; and, it also gives us the strength and creativity to imagine and build a new society founded on freedom, social justice and respect for human dignity. When we are sad, none of this can be done.

Our Lady of Joy is also the Mother of Joy. At the birth of her son, a great joy is announced to the shepherds: “he announced to them a great joy: to them is born this day in the city of David the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:11). Mary not only gives birth to her son Jesus, but she also gives birth to a new joy, which never ends and of which we can always partake, on the condition that we live in communion with her son Jesus, the Messiah who has brought us joy, by “doing what he tells us” (Jn 2:5), as the Virgin at Cana in Galilee advised to do. Let there be no doubt. To think and act according to Jesus’ standards; to incarnate the Gospel in our personal and social life; always seeking and accepting God’s will, even at the cost of sacrifices and often without understanding everything that is happening to us, that is the pathway of joy. Let’s not fall into the temptation to think that those who ignore or reject God, those who live locked up in their egotism and trample on the dignity of other human beings, are living a joyful life. No. That is not the pathway of joy.

The perfect joy to which we are called follows a different trail and Mary, Our Lady of joy, assures us that it is possible to follow this path when we accept our littleness with serenity and abandon ourselves with trust into God’s hands. It is precisely the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception that gives us the certainty that this joy is possible, for the loving will of a God who has always desired to give us perfect joy has been revealed in Mary, molding each of us in the image of His Son. She, the All Beautiful One, is that beautiful and luminous first fruit of the redemption of Christ, who in the Immaculate Conception of his Mother, the one “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), has brought forth the seed of the joy of a new world in the midst of the history of sorrow and the sin of humanity.

 

Immaculate Conception - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo PRADO
The Immaculate Conception
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696-1770)
Oil on canvas, 1767-1769
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Gallery label (excerpt)
This majestic image was part of a cycle of seven altarpieces commissioned in 1767 for the new royal church of San Pascual Bailón at Aranjuez, founded by Charles III in the same year. The symbols in the altarpiece refer to the virtues and significance of the Virgin. Read more here. Copyright © Museo Nacional del Prado. Used by permission.

 

Quote of the day: 25 November

CEREMONY OF BEATIFICATION

JOSÉ MANYANET Y VIVES

DANIEL BROTTIER

ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY

HOMILY OF ST. JOHN PAUL II
excerpts

St. Peter’s Basilica
Sunday 25 November 1984

 

Almost a contemporary of Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Elizabeth of the Trinity had a profound experience of the presence of God, which she matured in a remarkable manner in just a few years of life in Carmel.

In her, we acknowledge a being who is filled with natural gifts: she was intelligent and sensitive, an accomplished pianist, appreciated by her friends, and delicate in the affection she bore toward her family. Here she blossomed in the silence of contemplation, beaming from the happiness of a total forgetfulness of self; without reserve, she welcomed the gift of God, the grace of baptism and reconciliation; she admirably received the eucharistic presence of Christ. To an exceptional degree, she is aware of the communion offered to every creature by the Lord.

Today we dare to introduce to the world this cloistered religious who led a “life hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3) because she is a witness who is bursting with the joy that is rooted and grounded in love (cf. Eph 3:17).

She celebrates the splendor of God because she knows that in her innermost self she is inhabited by the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in whom she recognizes the reality of love that is infinitely living.

Elizabeth herself also knew physical and moral suffering. United to Christ crucified, she offered herself totally, completing in her flesh the Passion of the Lord (cf. Col 1:24), always assured of being loved and of being able to love. In peace, she donates the gift of her wounded life.

To our disoriented humanity that no longer knows how to find God or that disfigures Him, that seeks out some word on which to build its hope, Elizabeth gives the witness of a perfect opening to the Word of God, which she assimilated to the point of truly making it the nourishment of her reflection and prayer, to the point of finding therein all her reasons to live and to consecrate herself to the praise of His glory.

And this contemplative, far from isolating herself, knew how to communicate the wealth of her mystical experience to her sisters and to those close to her. Her message spreads today with a prophetic power.

We call upon her: disciple of Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross, may she inspire and sustain all the family of Carmel; may she help many men and women, in the lay or consecrated life, to receive and share the “streams of infinity charity” that she collected “at the fountain of life” (Letter 191).

 

Beatification-banner large
Banner commissioned for the beatification of Elizabeth of the Trinity, 25 November 1984 | Credit: Discalced Carmelite Order (used by permission)

 

 

Read the full text of Saint John Paul II’s homily in French here and in Italian here.

 

Translations from the French are the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission. Dedicated to the Benedictines of the former St. Pius X Abbey at Pevely, Missouri sine qua non.

 

Quote of the day: 17 November

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord”. Carmelite life [for Raphael Kalinowski] began when he had already turned 42 years old. In the silence of recollection and contemplation another “movement” is hidden. The movement of which St. Paul speaks: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:13-14).

This “movement” of the human spirit, the movement that leads upwards, has its own particular intensity. The intensity of renunciation which is the source of singular creativity in the Holy Spirit. “I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord … in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him. . . I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings. . . Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”(Phil 3, 8.10.12).

Ordained a priest, Raphael Kalinowski set to work in the vineyard of Christ. He was appreciated as a confessor and spiritual director. He instructed souls in the sublime science of love for God, for Christ, for Our Lady, for the Church, and for others. He devoted many hours to this humble apostolate. Always recollected, always united with God, a man of prayer, obedient, always ready for renunciation, fasting, and mortification.

Saint John Paul II

Homily, Rite of Canonization (excerpts)
St. Raphael Kalinowski
Sunday, 17 November 1991

 

Rafael-Kalinowski_1897 (2)
Saint Raphael of St. Joseph Kalinowski, photo taken 30 March 1897 | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

Quote of the day: 4 November

Celebration of the Word
in Honor of St. John of the Cross
Homily of St. John Paul II (excerpts)

 


Brothers and sisters: in my own words I wanted to pay a tribute of gratitude to Saint John of the Cross, theologian and mystic, poet and artist, a “heavenly and divine man”— as Saint Teresa of Jesus called him—a friend of the poor and a wise spiritual director of souls. He is the father and spiritual teacher of the entire Teresian Carmel, the forger of that living faith that shines in the most eminent children of Carmel: Thérèse of Lisieux, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Rafael Kalinowski, Edith Stein.

I ask the daughters of John of the Cross, the Discalced Carmelite nuns: may you know how to live the contemplative essence of that pure love that is eminently fruitful for the Church (cf. Spiritual Canticle, 29, 2-3). I recommend to his sons, the Discalced Carmelite friars, faithful guardians of this convent, who operate the Spirituality Center dedicated to the Saint, fidelity to his doctrine and dedication to the spiritual direction of souls, as well as to the study and deepening of spiritual theology.

For all the children of Spain and this noble land of Segovia, as a guarantee of ecclesial revitalization, I leave these beautiful slogans of Saint John of the Cross that have universal appeal: clairvoyance in intelligence to live the faith: “One human thought alone is worth more than the entire world, hence God alone is worthy of it.”(Sayings of light and love, 35). Courage in the will to exercise charity: “where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love” (Letter 26, to M. María de la Encarnación). A solid and enthusiastic faith, that constantly moves us truly to love God and man; because at the end of life, “when evening comes, you will be examined in love” (Sayings of light and love, 60).

 

Segovia_-_Convento_de_los_Carmelitas_Descalzos,_Capilla_de_San_Juan_de_la_Cruz,_Sepulcro_del_santo_1
Tomb of St. John of the Cross | Zarateman / Wikimedia Commons

 

Read the original text of Saint John Paul II’s homily here

This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

Quote of the day: 15 October

But what disorder in the way I write! Really, it’s as though the work were done by one who doesn’t know what she’s doing. The fault is yours, Sisters, because you are the ones who ordered me to write this. Read it as best you can, for I am writing it as best I can. And if you find that it is all wrong, burn it. Time is necessary to do the work well, and I have so little as you see, for eight days must have gone by in which I haven’t written anything. So I forget what I have said and also what I was going to say. Now it is wrong for me to ask you to avoid doing what I have just finished doing, that is, making excuses. For I see that not making excuses for oneself is a habit characteristic of high perfection, and very meritorious; it gives great edification. And although I have often taught it to you, and by God’s goodness you practice it, His Majesty has never given it to me.

Saint Teresa of Avila

The Way of Perfection, Chap. 15

 

 

inaguración por Juan Pablo II-1
Saint John Paul II blessed the monument of St. Teresa next to the Gate of Alcazar during his visit to Avila for the closing of the fourth centenary jubilee year of her death, 1 November 1982. During his homily at the Mass, he said, “I have come here today to Avila to adore the Wisdom of God.” | Photo credit: Teresa de la rueca a la pluma

 

 

Teresa of Avila, St. 1985, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, translated from the Spanish by Kavanaugh, K; Rodriguez, O, ICS Publications, Washington DC.

Quote of the day: 25 September

Josefa_Naval_Girbés,_Leiga_e_Terciária_Carmelita_Descalça
Josefa Naval Girbés | Image credit: Discalced Carmelites

 

The Church intones a canticle of jubilation and praise to Christ for the beatification of Josefa Naval Girbés, a virgin, and a laywoman who dedicated her life to the apostolate in her native village Algemesi in the archdiocese of Valencia, Spain. A simple woman who was docile to the breath of the Spirit, throughout the course of her long life she reached the summit of Christian perfection, dedicated to the service of her neighbor, in times that were easy for no one in the 19th century, during which she lived and developed her intense apostolic activity…

A singular characteristic of Josefa was her secular status. She, who filled cloistered convents with her disciples, remained unmarried in the world, living the evangelical principles and being an example of Christian virtues for all those sons and daughters of the Church who “are by baptism made one body with Christ and… carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world” (Lumen Gentium, 31).

Saint John Paul II

Homily for the Beatification of Six Servants of God
Saint Peter’s Square, 25 September 1988

Quote of the day: 24 July

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil; for you are with me.
(Psalm 23:4)


With these words, these three daughters of Carmel could address the Good Shepherd when it was time for them to give their lives for the faith in the divine Spouse of their souls. Yes, “I fear no evil.” Not even death. Love is greater than death and “You are with me.” You, the crucified Spouse! You, Christ, my strength!

Saint John Paul II
Homily, Rite of Beatification
Sr. María Pilar de San Francisco de Borja
Sr. María Ángeles de San José
Sr. Teresa del Niño Jesús 

29 March 1987

 

Guadalajara_portrait
The Discalced Carmelite martyrs from the Carmel of Guadalajara, Spain: Teresa, María Pilar, and María Ángeles

 

Elijah: Fear and Hope

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

Homily of H.E. Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Parish of San Anthony of Mount Tabor, Managua
12th August 2018


Today’s first reading (1 Kings 19:4-8) tells us about the prophet Elijah, who one day is filled with fear and goes to the desert because, disappointed in himself, in religion, and in the society in which he lives, he wants to die: “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors’” (1 Kg 19:4).

The previous verse tells us why Elijah decides to go to the desert and wants to die: “He was afraid; he got up and fled for his life” (1 Kg 19:3). He had made a great effort for years to show the people the true face of God; he had committed himself completely so that the people of Israel would keep the faith intact against the religion of the false god Baal and defend the poor against the acts of violence and injustice of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, the royal couple who ruled at that time.

Elijah was a great prophet, a man of God, and a giant of the faith.

After having defeated the false prophets of the queen, unmasking the religious deceptions of the royal couple with which they dominated the people, and having denounced the great acts of injustice they committed, the queen had persecuted him and threatened to kill him. The prophet is afraid and runs away. Nelson Mandela said that “the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Even the great men of God can suffer moments of crisis and fear, as in this case with the prophet Elijah, who flees in fear before the threats and persecution of the powerful Phoenician queen Jezebel who ruled at that time in Israel. A prophet of God was running away from a soulless woman, whose will was supposed to be the law; who was the manipulator of religion; she who was the unjust and violent one. The prophet is afraid and flees to the desert.

 

Leighton, Frederic, 1830-1896; Elijah in the Wilderness
Elijah in the Wilderness
Frederic Leighton (British, 1830–1896)
Oil on canvas, 1877-78
Walker Art Gallery

 

The prophet’s crisis, however, becomes a moment of grace because God approaches him in the desert and feeds him, giving him new strength to live.

Elijah goes to the desert, lies down and goes to sleep. He’s just waiting to die. The fact that Elijah lies down and wishes for death shows the drama of the moment he is experiencing: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors” (1 Kings 19:4).

Like so many other believers in the Bible, Elijah complains before God and goes on about the weariness of his life, the fatigue of the struggle, the temptation to make the final withdrawal. All that remains is to throw in the towel; everything has been useless. He has probably experienced that his prophetic ministry and his efforts to fight against Baalism and against the injustice of the system in Israel have proved to be of little value.

In reality, nothing has changed and now his life is threatened.

And further, now Elijah is afraid. The powerful queen has intimidated him and threatened to take his life. To dominate others, fear is the most effective instrument. It is the preferred weapon of oppressors. Fear leads Elijah not only to run away but also to fall asleep. Falling asleep is to remain unconscious, in a certain way: it’s an escape from reality.

However, when things turn dark; when what’s transpired becomes indecipherable and the future, uncertain: that’s when we have to be wide awake. We must not turn off the light of conscience and discernment, for that is when we must be more clear-headed than ever. Poor Elijah. Defeated. Full of fear, running away from Queen Jezebel, running away from reality, and running away from himself.

 

BAEZ - We must not turn off the light IGsize

 

The biblical story tells us that Elijah was awakened and fed by God, because God doesn’t want anyone to be asleep and fearful. Precisely at the moment of the greatest darkness and fatigue is when the prophet turns to hear the word of the Lord through an angel, saying two times: “Get up and eat” (1 Kings 19:5).  After eating the first time, Elijah goes back to sleep. Sometimes the crisis is so great and the discouragement is so strong that it is difficult to get up and walk.

God is not overcome by our weakness

God insists for the second time in feeding him: “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you” (1 Kings 19:7). God doesn’t want us to feel fearful, neither does he want us to sleep. That is why he feeds the prophet, as he feeds all of us when we feel fallen, frustrated, and hopeless. God makes the boundary seem like it becomes a new horizon; what is experienced as death is transformed into the beginning of a new life.

 

Leighton, Frederic, 1830-1896; Elijah in the Wilderness
That kind of effective nutrition to recover strength and hope, only God can provide.

 

God offered Elijah—through his messenger—frugal and simple food: a pilgrim’s meal (“a cake baked on hot stones” and “a jar of water”, 1 Kings 19:6). At that moment you don’t need a succulent feast, but effective nutrition. That kind of effective nutrition to recover strength and hope, only God can provide. Elijah ate and “he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8).

Before eating, the prophet’s flight was headed toward death; after being fed in the desert, that miraculous meal takes him to Mount Horeb or Sinai, where Moses met the Lord, where Israel first made a covenant with its God. God began everything on that mountain. Elijah goes to that mountainwhere the whole history of the covenant startedto begin again, renewed by God’s strength, and to be able to continue as a man, as a believer, and as a prophet.

 

 

SONY DSC
God began everything on that mountain. | Phillip Marsh / Flickr

 

We who are living in the current drama of our society know about the injustice and arrogance of the powerful, the manipulation of religion, violent repression, and the use of fear as a form of domination. All of these shady schemes are opposed to God’s plan.

Elijah fought against all of this. He gave everything. In the end, in self-imposed exile, escaping to protect himself from the death threats of Queen Jezebel, he falls down, tired and hopeless, in the desert. He was tempted not to keep fighting, dreaming, and hoping. It can happen to anyone.

 

BAEZ - Elijah was tempted not to keep fighting TWsize

 

The biblical text, however, gives us the certainty that God’s nourishment allows us to come out of our unconscious state and overcome fearnot letting anyone deprive us of hopeto keep moving forward to build a freer and more democratic country. The bread that God gives us in the desert is more powerful than the wiles and threats of the shadowy structures of oppression and death.

We have the right to dream of a Nicaragua without rulers who oppress the people, where the dignity and rights of every person are respected, where we put off particular interests to share our goods and concerns in peace and justice, and where dissent from power is not a crime.

 

BAEZ - I dream of a Nicararagua

 

Today, too, we need a bread that is mysterious and effective, that allows us to walk with strength and hope.

That bread is Jesus, who today has told us: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:51). Jesus offers to nourish us so as to give us strength, light, hope, and the breath of life that come from the same God, the creator of life.

If Jesus nourishes us with his love and kindness, with his light and with his strength, nothing can take away our joy and hope. In our interior, in the depths of our heart, God feeds us with his Son, the Bread come down from heaven.

 

Divine Liturgy Eucharistic Prayer St Petersburg Theological Academy Flickr
In our interior,
in the depths of our heart,
God feeds us with his Son,
the Bread come down from heaven
Saint-Petersburg Theological Academy / Flickr

 

We have heard Jesus today who told us: “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” The Father mysteriously draws us to Jesus; he makes Jesus attractive to us. And if Jesus presents himself again to us—attractive, fascinating, familiar in the depths of our being—we are attracted to the good, the beautiful, the noble; we will prefer honesty instead of corruption, truth instead of lies, peace rather than violence.

If Jesus makes us attractive, we will be fascinating and attractive, which does good for the human person—which builds a better world.

 


Ocupa INSS protest 20jun13
† Silvio José Baez, O.C.D. is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua; when he speaks of the “current drama of our society” he refers to the regime of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The Organization of American States commissioned a Group of Independent Experts to study the violence that occurred during the first six weeks of protests in 2018 after the government announced cutbacks to Social Security pensions. The official report was clear-cut: the Ortega-Murillo police and paramilitary forces committed crimes against humanity. However, the grievances of the people are not recent; in this photo, the youth turned out to support older adults when Social Security pension cutbacks were first announced in June 2013. The sign says, “in Ortega and Murillo’s government, senior citizens have no rights.” Learn more about the 2013 protests here. Learn more about the 2018 unrest and the challenges for the Catholic Church in Nicaragua here. Listen to Bishop Báez deliver this homily in Spanish at San Antonio en Monte Tabor parish here.| Jorge Mejía Peralta / Flickr

 

This English translation is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.

Quote of the day: 12 June

APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO POLAND
EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II

In a particular way, I wish to greet the Discalced Carmelite Fathers of Górka in Wadowice. We are meeting on an exceptional occasion: 27 August this year marks the centenary of the consecration of the Church of Saint Joseph, at the Convent founded by Saint Raphael Kalinowski. As I did as a young man, I now return in spirit to that place of particular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which had such a great influence on the spirituality of the Wadowice area. I myself received many graces there, and today I wish to thank the Lord for them.

 

St Joseph Convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars Wadowice
A statue of St. Raphael Kalinowski stands in front of St. Joseph Convent of the Discalced Carmelite Friars in Wadowice, Poland | Tulio Bertorini / Flickr

 

I am pleased that I was able to beatify, together with one hundred and eight martyrs, Blessed Father Alfons Maria Mazurek, a pupil and later a worthy teacher in the minor seminary attached to the Convent. I had the opportunity to meet personally this witness of Christ who in 1944, as prior of the convent of Czerna, confirmed his fidelity to God by a martyr’s death.

 

Alphonsus Mary Mazurek-870x1024 (2)
Detail of a portrait of Blessed Alphonsus Mary Mazurek displayed in the Basilica of St. Anne in Lubartów, Poland, where Blessed Alphonsus Mary was born. See the complete portrait here.

 

I kneel in veneration before his relics, which rest in the Church of Saint Joseph, and I give thanks to God for the gift of the life, martyrdom and holiness of this great Religious.

Saint John Paul II
Wadowice, 16 June 1999
Homily excerpts

 

Deep within, Mary had learned to listen to the heartbeat of her Son, and that in turn taught her, throughout her life, to discover God’s heartbeat in history. 

Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
From the homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

BAEZ 8Sep18 Tweet
Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D. is the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua

Quote of the day: 3 April

Óleo_conmemorativo_de_la_Beatificación_de_Santa_Teresa_de_Los_Andes,_Parque_O'Higgins_de_Santiago
Commemorative oil painting of Teresa of Jesus of the Andes that was used to create the banner for the Mass of Beatification in Santiago, 3 April 1987 during Saint John Paul II’s apostolic journey to Chile | Philippus2011 / WikimediaCommons

This is her message: happiness is in God alone; only God is infinite joy.

The Church today proclaims Sister Teresa de los Andes to be Blessed and, as of this day, she venerates her and invokes her with this title.

Blessed, blissful, happy, is the person who has made the Gospel’s beatitudes the center of her life; that she has lived them with heroic intensity.

In this way, our Blessed, having put into practice the beatitudes, incarnated in her life the most perfect example of holiness that is Christ. Indeed, Teresa of the Andes radiates the happiness of poverty of spirit, the goodness and meekness of her heart, the hidden suffering with which God purifies and sanctifies his chosen ones. She hungers and thirsts for justice, loves God intensely and wants God to be loved and known by all. God made her merciful in her total immolation for priests and for the conversion of sinners; peaceful and conciliatory, she sowed understanding and dialogue all around her. She reflects, above all, the bliss of purity of heart. Indeed, she gave herself totally to Christ and Jesus opened her eyes to the contemplation of his mysteries.

God also permitted her in advance to taste the sublime joy of living beforehand on earth the bliss and joyfulness of communion with God in the service of others.

This is her message: happiness is in God alone; only God is infinite joy. Young people of Chile, youth of Latin America, discover in Sister Teresa the joy of living the Christian faith to its very extreme! Take her as a model!

Saint John Paul II

Homily, Mass of Beatification of Sister Teresa of the Andes (excerpts)
Parque O’Higgins, Santiago de Chile
Friday 3 April 1987

Beatification Teresa de los Andes 1987 Blessing
Saint John Paul II waves farewell to the faithful at the conclusion of the Mass of Beatification of Teresa of Jesus of the Andes in Parque O’Higgins, Santiago, Chile, 3 April 1987 | Photo: Santuario Teresa de los Andes

Explore Saint John Paul II’s 1987 Apostolic Journey to Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina here

English translation of St. John Paul II's homily is the blogger's own work; do not reproduce without permission.

Quote of the Day: 21 March

God made the light of his Son, Jesus Christ, to shine admirably in her

Light of Christ for the whole Chilean Church, Sister Teresa of the Andes, Teresa of Jesus, is the Discalced Carmelite nun and the firstfruit of holiness of the Teresian Carmel of Latin America, who today is incorporated into the number of the Saints of the universal Church.

As we heard in the first reading from the book of Samuel, the figure of Teresa stands out not because of “his appearance or his great stature”. “The Lord sees not as man sees,” the scripture tells us; “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. For this reason, in her young life of just over 19 years, in her 11 months as a Carmelite, God made the light of his Son, Jesus Christ, to shine admirably in her, so that she serves as a beacon and guide with the radiance of the divine to a world that seems to have become blinded.

The life of Blessed Teresa cries quietly from the cloister:

“Sólo Dios basta — God alone is enough!

To a secularized society that lives with its back turned on God, this Chilean Carmelite, who with lively joy is presented as a model of the perennial youth of the Gospel, offers the limpid testimony of an existence that proclaims to the men and women of today that loving, adoring, and serving God are the greatness and joy, the freedom and the full realization of the human creature. The life of Blessed Teresa cries quietly from the cloister: “Sólo Dios basta — God alone is enough!”

And she especially cries out to young people, hungry for truth and in search of a light that gives meaning to their lives. To young people who are hounded by continuous messages and stimuli of an eroticized culture, and a society that confuses genuine love, which is giving, with the hedonistic use of the other person, this young virgin of the Andes today proclaims the beauty and bliss that emanate from pure hearts.

A Carmelite never forgets

In her tender love for Christ, Teresa finds the essence of the Christian message: to love, to suffer, to pray, and to serve. In her family, she learned to love God above all things. And in feeling herself to be the exclusive possession of her Creator, her love for her neighbor becomes even more intense and definitive. This is stated in one of her letters: “When I love, it is forever. A Carmelite never forgets. From her small cell, she accompanies the souls that she loved in the world.”

Her enkindled love leads Teresa to desire to suffer with Jesus and like Jesus: “To suffer and love, like the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” she tells us. She wants to be an immaculate host offered in continuous and silent sacrifice for sinners. “We are co-redeemers of the world,” she will say later, “and the redemption of souls is not accomplished without a cross.”

The Carmelite is the priest’s sister

The young Chilean saint was eminently a contemplative soul. For long hours at the tabernacle and before the cross that had a prominent place in her cell, she prays and worships, pleads and atones for the redemption of the world, animating the apostolate of missionaries with the power of the Spirit and, especially, that of priests. “The Carmelite,” she will tell us, “is the priest’s sister.”

However, being contemplative like Mary of Bethany does not exempt Teresa from serving like Martha. In a world where one shamelessly struggles to excel, to possess, and to dominate, she teaches us that happiness is in being the last and the servant of all, following the example of Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for the redemption of many.

We are co-redeemers of the world

Now, from eternity, Saint Teresa of the Andes continues interceding as an advocate for an endless number of brothers and sisters. She who found her heaven on earth espoused to Jesus, now contemplates him without veils or shadows, and from her immediate closeness, she intercedes for those who seek the light of Christ.

Saint John Paul II

Excerpts from his homily for the Mass of Canonization of Teresa of Jesus of the Andes and Claudine Thévenet
21 March 1993

TERESA ANDES - Santuario Auco Church IGsize
Perdóname | Santuario Santa Teresa de los Andes | Claudio Quezada Ibáñez / Flickr

See more photos from Claudio Quezada’s Flickr album from the Santuario here

Quote of the day: 1 March

“Munire digneris me, Domine Iesu Christe…, signo sacratissimae Crucis tuae: ac concedere digneris mihi… ut, sicut hanc Crucem, Sanctorum tuorum reliquiis refertam, ante pectus meum teneo, sic semper mente retineam et memoriam passionis, et sanctorum victorias Martyrum: this is the prayer recited by the Bishop as he puts on the pectoral cross. Today I make of this invocation the prayer of the entire Church in Poland which, bearing for a thousand years the marks of the Passion of Christ, is constantly regenerated by the seed of the blood of the martyrs and draws life from the memory of their victory on earth.

Saint John Paul II
Homily for the Beatification of the 108 Polish Martyrs
Warsaw, Sunday, 13 June 1999

Alphonsus Maria Mazurek_564x389
Blessed Alphonsus Maria Mazurek was born in 1891 at Baranowka, near Lubartow, Poland. He entered the Order of Discalced Carmelites in 1908, taking the religious name Alphonsus Mary of the Holy Spirit. He was ordained a priest and appointed as a professor, while dedicating himself to the education of youth. Afterwards he served in his Order as prior and bursar. In 1944, after having been arrested by the troops that had invaded his country, he was shot by the Gestapo on 28th August at Nawojowa Gora, near Krzeszowice. He was beatified by John Paul II on 13th June 1999, among the 108 Blessed Polish martyrs. | Photo credit: Discalced Carmelite Order

 

“Deign Thou, O Lord Jesus Christ, to guard me from all the snares of every enemy, by the sign of Thy most holy Cross: and deign Thou to grant to me, Thy unworthy servant, that as I hold before my breast this Cross with the relics of Thy Saints within it, so may I ever keep in mind the memory of the Passion, and the holy victorious Martyrs.”

Quote of the day: 8 February

But no apostolic cause was dearer to the heart of this great man of faith than that of the unity and harmony within the Church. It was as if he had always before his mind the prayer of Jesus, on the night before his Sacrifice on the Cross: “That they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us”.

Today the Church solemnly recalls with love and gratitude all his efforts to resist threats of disunity and to encourage the clergy and faithful to maintain unity with the See of Peter and the universal Church. His success in this, as in all his many undertakings, was undoubtedly due to the intense charity and prayer which characterized his daily life, his close communion with Christ and his love for the Church as the visible Body of Christ on earth.

Saint John Paul II
Homily for the Beatification of Kuriakose Elias Chavara
8 February 1986, Kottayam

 

BAEZ - We must build bridges
The word of God came, then, over John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He is not the announcer who carries the announcement, it is the announcement who carries him, impels him, launches him onward: and he crossed the whole region of the Jordan. The word of God is always in flight in search of men and women, simple and true, to create new beginnings and processes. Straightening, smoothing, filling in empty spaces … This young and austere prophet paints a harsh and difficult landscape, which has the hard and violent features of history: all violence, exclusion, and injustice are a ravine that needs to be filled… We must build bridges with mercy, ask for forgiveness, repairing the damage caused. We have to smooth out the rough edges in our relationships.

Excerpt from a homily for the Second Sunday of Advent by Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D., Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Managua, Nicaragua. Translation by @carmelitequotes. Listen to the full audio of the Bishop Báez’s homily here.

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