Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent: Year C

Homily for 3rd Sunday of Advent Year C

Here we are, the 3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of Joy.
What do we have to be joyful about? How do we become joyous?

I realize that we are still in deep economic problems. Many of us have been working on and off, or are having trouble finding work that will sustain us and our family. I have many friends who have not been able to find work for over a year, I know it is tough. Many in this community have been struggling just to get by.

Let me reassure you, tough times don’t last forever. Even when it looks like everything will fall, God calls us to rejoice. The Prophet Zephaniah calls on the people to rejoice because of their deliverance from their enemies. They are also called to rejoice because God is in their midst as King and Savior. They realized that they were the children of God, his chosen people.
I call on you to rejoice today, because God is in our midst, as King and Savior too!
St. Paul tells us to rejoice always! In fact, he wants to make the point, so he tells us TWICE!   REJOICE!!
So how do we rejoice? John the Baptist tells us to do what God has called us to do.
He calls us to share our abundance with others, even if that abundance is only extra food that we might have. To treat others with the respect they deserve as children of God, making all of us brothers and sisters. To love each other, starting with our own families. There is so much individualism in our world today, especially here in the U.S. We are told by every side of society that I am the most important person, that I need to have these things in order to be happy. But this is not what God calls us to be.
 We are called to be the people God has made us to be. In other words, Be Who You Are.
Know who you are, and what your role is in this world. If you are a teacher, be the best teacher you can be, treat students fairly and with respect. If you are an employer, treat your employees fairly and with respect. If you happen to be a supervisor or manager, don’t oppress those whom you have authority over.  If you are a worker, do your job with joy, knowing that it is God who will ultimately reward you.

When we realize that God is truly in our midst, we have no fear or need to deny our own limitations or boundaries that define our lives. We realize that our identities are rooted in being children of God, we have no trouble admitting that there are those who are before us, or beyond us. By the grace of God, we are who we are. Perhaps we need to be saved from our misunderstand of who we think we are, thinking we are more than who we really are, trying to impress those around us with a false image of who we think we are.
Advent is a time to strip all of that pretense away, and stand honestly and humbly before our God, eager for redemption. I invite you to stand humbly and honestly before God…..and REJOICE!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Trip to Mexico June 2012

Reflections on our trip to Mexico: June 2012

We arrive in the late afternoon, after the flight from San Diego to Guadalajara. Cotija is a small town in the Central Pacific Mexican State of Michoacán. It is famous for its’ cheese, chocolate and immigrant workers who travel to the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world in order to work, and to provide for their families. In fact, my Brother-in-Law was in Germany a few years ago for the World Cup, and ran into a friend from this small town who was working there. It truly is a small world. 

We took a short walk to the Mercado for dinner. Since the airlines don’t serve food on flights under 4 hours, we had not eaten since we had breakfast in the early morning. Dinner consisted of hamburgers and tacos. The hamburgers were very thin, with all the trimmings, including jalapeños!  In-N-Out has nothing on these burgers! After dinner, we had ice cream from a street vendor, then back to the house and to bed!

I am having some dental work done while I am here, a bridge for my molars, if you really want to know. The prices are a 1/3 of what they are in the states, and many times the quality of work is better. We are blessed to have such a dentist here in Cotija.

As I sit here at our kitchen table, sipping coffee and writing these thoughts, I am confused as to what I read in the papers, on social media, such as Facebook, and hear in conversations from average Americans about their opinions of Mexicans (more likely undocumented immigrants, or all immigrants, documented or no.) In the 25 years that I have been travelling in Mexico, I have never been mistreated, never been taken advantage of, or robbed (unless you count the times we have driven through the Capital and been pulled over by traffic cops and had to pay the “mordida” or bribe for a “traffic violation” which was only because we had the wrong set of plates on our car. If you drive in D.F. and you don’t have D.F. plates, be assured you will be pulled over.) Although I did get pulled over once in Guadalajara because I made a left turn without the light. I didn’t read the sign that said left turn with arrow only, but it was a light that looked like some we have in California where you can make a turn after the green arrow goes out but the green light is still on. Cost of my infraction? About 5 bucks, paid right on the spot, yeah it sounds like a “mordida”, but I really did violate the traffic law….live and learn.

Ok, so back to my confusion. It seems that the comments I hear most are that Mexicans are just here illegally and are looking for a handout. They are all lawbreakers! They came into the country illegally! They say they broke the law just by entering illegally. First case in point, from what I understand, the crime of entering the country illegally the first time is a misdemeanor, like that of J-Walking a street, or running a stop sign hardly something to send someone to prison for. The charge for doing it a second time is a Felony, since ignorance of the law cannot be claimed. Those who were brought into the country at a young age by their parents, have not committed ANY crime, since they cannot be held responsible for their parents’ actions.

It is for these whom I am most confused. Raised in the U.S., in our schools, our churches, our communities, they know no other country, would be absolutely lost in their country of origin, and when they do get deported, they usually wind up working for drug cartels because of their language skills (usually it is because they have no means of support in Mexico).

It would behoove the Untied States to incorporate these young people into our society, giving them the chance to prove themselves and show they can be productive to our country. It would also go a long way to show that we see them as PERSONS, with dignity that is God Given. Every person SHOULD be treated as a child of God, because that’s who we are, children of God, made in His image to love and serve Him and one another.

We are planning a trip to Sahuayo, Michoacán tomorrow to shop for some shoes for Natalie. Sahuayo is where Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio is from. For those who do not recognize that name, he is the 13 year old martyr in the Cristero Wars of Mexico in the 1920’s when the Government of Plutarco Calles tried to destroy the Catholic Church in Mexico. His story and the story of the Cristero Movement can be seen in the movie For Greater Glory, starring Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria. I plan to take my camera to try and capture some of the places where these events took place, the Presidential palace and the Cathedral for sure.

I went to St. James the Apostle Church in Sahuayo, Michoacán.  Inside there are pictures and statues of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, yet, like all other Catholic Churches, no matter their name, point to Jesus Christ and his mission in salvation history. This is what we are here for, to glorify God by our work, and to point others to Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega of our faith.

Sahuayo is a large city compared to Cotija. It has a number of commercial centers, super markets, car dealerships, movie theater complex, even a Sam’s Club (ok, it’s not Sam’s, but it is their Mexican affiliate company). It also has what most bigger cities have too; traffic, sometimes lots of it. Sahuayo also has a lot of entrepreneurs, many some would call them street vendors, but they are working for themselves, knowing that the livelihood of their families depend on them. Sometimes there are success stories, big success stories like Carlos Slim, owner of TelCel, is one of the riches men in the world….started off like every other entrepreneur, from the bottom and worked his way up. Or Eduardo Verastagui, Mexican Novela Star who came to the U.S. to work in the Industry, didn’t like what he saw in where and how the Industry was portraying Latino males, and decided to start his own production company; he started as a shoe shine boy in Monterrey, Mexico.

The nice thing about spending a vacation in your own house is that there is no itinerary to follow. If you don’t want to get up early in order to catch the bus to have the tour of city/monuments/places where wars were fought/etc….you don’t have to. Besides, you have access to a car and you can drive there yourself when you want to.  We have been here a week now, and have only gone to Sahuayo to do a little shopping. We might take a trip to one of the local lakes in the mountains, but if we don’t, no big deal….we’re are vacation!!

June 24th: Solemnity of Saint John the Baptist. Here in Cotija, this is a big feast day, with a week full of celebrations culminating with a big fiesta in San Juan del Barrio, just outside of Cotija. It was raining slightly when we left to go, and we decided to drive the Suburban, since Martha isn’t feeling good because of her dental surgery a few days ago. I am glad we decided to take the truck and not the scooter, because by the time we arrived, it was POURING rain! There was no parking anyway for cars, since many arrived earlier in the day, we ended up turning around and going back home. So now, it’s an afternoon of watching movies because we don’t get a T.V. signal and it’s too expensive to get cable service for two weeks only, not to mention that we don’t get internet either, but a neighbor has wifi, and I go down there a couple times a week to check email and such with my own laptop.

Went to the Plaza this evening to watch the people and talk with friends. The Plaza was full of people when a kind of silence fell over the crowd, then all of the sudden everyone starting shouting and running in all different directions. A storm cloud had burst and drenched the Plaza and everyone in it. We were sitting under a large shade tree, so we didn’t initially get wet, but we did have to run across the street to the ice cream shop before the rain started to filter down through the tree.
When we arrived home, the thunder and lightening really started their work. It got very intense, and as I fell asleep I could hear Julie Andrews in my head singing My Favorite Things

What trip to Cotija is complete without a side trip to Tocumbo, Michoacán? Tocumbo is the Ice Cream Capital of the World. If you don’t believe it, just look for their monument of a giant Globe with an Ice Cream on it when you drive into town! Seriously, Tocumbo has some of the best ice cream in Mexico, if not the World. The paletas (ice cream on a stick, that is made with either water or cream), and is made with way more than 31 flavors! All of the ingredients are natural and fresh, sometimes you cannot get certain flavors because they are not in season. The prices are right too, they run a little under a dollar a piece, and worth every centavo!

Ok, a few pages ago I was talking about how Cotija has many people hear who are bilingual. Here is a town that is a good 1500 miles from the U.S. Border, yet has some of their street signs in both English and Spanish. Now I am not saying that this should be the case in the U.S., this is just an isolated case where the city government sees the reality of their lives with the many people from the U.S. who come to visit.
 But since I brought it up, I do recall driving through Mexico City and listening to the NBC radio network that broadcasts from Mexico City for the English speaking workers that call Mexico City home, and there are many of them that do. Being bilingual is not a handicap, it is an advantage.

As I prepare to take our daughter to the airport tomorrow, (she has an anime expo to attend to this weekend and needed to get home before we leave on Sunday), I started to reflect on just how blessed I have been in my life. People might think we are rich, our bank account says otherwise. We have, however, been able to travel to many parts of the world and our two youngest have been on their own adventures with, and without us. I have been to places that I never thought I would have been able to go. I grew up in a middle class/ low to middle income family in the suburbs of Los Angeles, we weren’t poor, but when the other kids were wearing Levi 501’s, I was wearing JCPenney blue jeans. Not that there is anything wrong with JCPenney blue jeans, but it wasn’t the fad of the day. Which brings me to the point of this day’s reflection; whatever I have, whatever I have acquired, whatever I am able to do in this life, is nothing compared to the deeper understanding and wisdom that I have gained in the last few years. God has brought me through many trials and pains, given me unspeakable joy and shown me what my life’s calling is (at least it is what I have discerned that God has called me to this, and it is continually being confirmed). Being open to what God wants to show me, wants me to discover, wants me to share with others, is the greatest experience of my life. I am so proud to have been able to know so many people who have influenced my life, starting with my Mom and Dad, whom without I obviously wouldn’t be blogging!

So I took Natalie to the airport in Guadalajara this morning, a 2 ½ hour drive each way even using the toll roads. Actually today, the way the traffic was running, had I not taken the toll roads it would have been at least 3 hours each way.  The toll roads here in Mexico are really nice, you can cruise easily at 75, though most cars do 85, even though he limit is 70 for the most part. The roads themselves are very well maintained, rivaling many of the interstates we have in the U.S. although not as many lanes, most toll roads are 4 lanes,

2 each direction, but the directions are clear and they save a ton of time when traveling long distances. I took advantage of my trip to the airport and made a reservation at the hotel for Saturday, since our flight leaves at 7:15 a.m., I did not want to be driving on the roads (toll or not) at 2 in the morning, that’s just not safe anywhere you might be. We will also take advantage of our short time in Guadalajara by having dinner at a famous restaurant there called the Santo Coyote, or The Coyote Saint. Martha ate there when was in Mexico earlier this year and says that I must try it. I even recommended it to a friend of mine, Scott French, who mentioned he was coming down to cover a Chivas Soccer match. I usually don’t recommend some place unless I have been there, but in the 25+ years of marriage with my wife, I have learned that her recommendations are much better then mine.  So today, in essence, was spent on the road, driving in a foreign land that is not so foreign to me in fact, the more time I spend with people who are not from the U.S.A., the more I realize that I shouldn’t be making comparisons with them to the U.S. the system by which we make comparisons should be overhauled, we should be looking into the hearts of people, not their economic status. We should be looking into their minds, not their living spaces. The more I see of this world, the more I realize that it would be a better place for all if we truly did live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Visit to a Winery

We live very close to the wine country here in Temecula, California. In fact, we have many of the workers from the wineries as customers in our Taco Shop, even a number of the owners come in to eat. On the way home today, I stopped at the Robert Renzoni Winery to shoot some pictures of the emerging vines and the landscape around the vines. There was no "wine tasting", at least not today. There is something very pacific about walking among the vines, something that soothes the soul. It was overcast, and a bit cool, but nonetheless I shot a number of photos of vines, flowers, rows of vines against the surrounding landscape of hills.

I got to thinking about the vines and how they grow, and what there purpose was. Obviously, their purpose is to be crushed, processed and fermented into wine; reds, whites and roses. Then to be enjoyed among friends and family at the dinner table, or between lovers sitting in front of a fireplace during a rainstorm, and some wine is used for a different kind of dinner, a different kind of feast. Some wine is used by local churches in their celebrations, the Catholic Church uses certain types of wine for their Masses.

Wine; fruit of the earth, brought to its current state by human hands,in the Mass, becomes the Blood of Christ for us to drink and thus recall what Jesus told his Apostles that when ever we eat this bread and drink this cup, we remember Jesus and His sacrifice for our sins.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My First Reflection at Communion Service

So today, I was able to deliver my first reflection at our Communion Service at Church this morning. The readings were from Jeremiah and the Gospel according to Luke. The theme of the readings was that of fidelity to the Lord, and how we lose that fidelity sometimes, but God is always calling us back to Holiness.

This is part of my training for becoming a deacon. We are allowed to bring a reflection on the readings, at a non-Mass service, such as a Communion Service. It's called a reflection, but it's very close to a "homily", but we can't call it that (wink wink).

The view from behind the altar while serving is something I am still getting used to. At first, I thought I would be too self conscience about what I was doing, or not doing, but as time passed in the first Mass, I started losing myself in the mystery of the Mass itself. Now it is a balancing act in that I need to be very aware of the movement of the priests, deacons, readers, etc. but still I am overjoyed by being part of the Mass, if only assisting at this time.

I look out upon the parishioners, and  I see a multitude of different faces, each filled with a different expression, each there for different reasons, yet all faces are the same face (the face of Christ) and all are there for the same reasons (to worship Christ). I hope to be able to have the view from behind the altar for many years to come. I pray for the grace and wisdom to be able to help and lead those who are seeking Christ. I pray for humbleness (with my family, it's pretty easy....they keep me humble :-0), and I thank God for calling me into this vocation of the diaconate.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Couple Wins Suit, Doc Didn't Suggest Aborting Baby With Down Syndrome |

Couple Wins Suit, Doc Didn't Suggest Aborting Baby With Down Syndrome |

What a truly mixed up world we live in, when a couple can sue and win a "wrongful birth" lawsuit. It shouldn't be illegal to be born. I know many couples with Down Syndrome children, and they didn't get any extra financial help when their children were born. In fact, a good friend of ours was told her child had Downs and that she had time to abort. She told the doctor to "take a hike" (nicely of course), her son is beautiful and a joy to be around. His siblings love him very much, and the marriage of the parents is stronger than ever.

I hope and pray that this Mom and Dad's attitude and heart will change with the continued growth of their daughter. I pray that they never tell her that she was a mistake, but if they can't find it in their hearts to love this precious gift of grace from God, please give her up for adoption so that someone will give her the love and care she needs, she deserves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Obama: Killing Afghans as serious as killing Americans

Obama: Killing Afghans as serious as killing Americans

As I read this, I was amazed that we are still in Afganistan. There has been more than enough bloodshed in this "war". A war, in my opinion, should have never been waged to begin with. Americans were killed with guns that we supplied to the Taliban back when they were fighting the Russian Occupation.

This begs the question as to where real peace will come from.  I appreciate your comments.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Our Travels

My wife and I are my no means rich, but we have been blessed with the opportunity to travel to various locations on this blue marble in space. Having said that, let me begin by saying that my wife was born in Michoacan, Mexico and we have traveled to her home town almost every year that we have been married, which will be 26 in November of this year. 25+ years of traveling to Mexico might sound dull or repetitive, but I assure you it is not. We have been in almost every state in Mexico, from Baja California Norte (Tijuana), to Quintana Roo (Cancun).

The people of Mexico are its true treasure. I have never been mistreated anywhere in my travels, on the contrary, I have been welcomed with open arms in every place I have traveled. But Mexico holds a certain spell on me, from the Mercados in Tijuana, where we would buy pinatas to the blue waters of the Caribbean in Cancun where we went scuba diving one year, Mexico is magical. I could spend years exploring its towns and villages and still not find all of her treasures.

My wife and I have had the pleasure of taking a couple of pilgrimages to Rome and Israel, with side trips to Greece and Turkey. The best part of all our trips have been the people we have met. From shop keepers to waitstaff at restaurants, we have been treated well.

I got to thinking about that tonight and wondered why we were treated so well. I believe it is perhaps that in our travels, we don't play the "ugly American" to those with whom we interact. People are the same all over the world, we all want to be treated with the respect we deserve as children of God, made in His image. Another thing that I think helped was trying to communicate with the "natives" in their language. Even if they know you have no clue what you are saying, it's the trying that counts. When they get that big smile on their face and start laughing, you don't know if they are laughing at you or with you, then you realize that they are laughing because you took the time to communicate with them.

I think we could use more of the "un-ugly American" ideals here in the USA when we are interacting with those living here.

New to blogging

O.K. I have broken down and will see what this internet thing is all about. I think it is just a fad and will fade away soon, but I was wrong about Television too. Seriously, I am new to blogging, so I am just throwing this out to see how it works. A little about myself.

I am in my final year of formation for the Diaconate in the Roman Catholic Church, with the Grace of God I will be ordained in November of 2012. This has been a wonderful journey that has been a lifetime in the making, but that is for another time and another post.

I will attempt to bring pertinent themes to this blog, hopefully people will read them and comment, good or bad.