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Like a traumatic rerun from last summer, our community is again threatened by another raging wildfire. Over 80,000 acres have burned, numerous homes charred to rubble, and the end is still far from certain. Natural disasters such as these forces us to remember just how little in control we truly are. We like to think of ourselves as masters of the universe but our grasp on the reins hangs by a pinky. Life can change in an instant: an electrical spark in an outlet here, an intoxicated driver that veers into our lane there, or in our current dilemma, one pretty lightning bolt in a groove of trees and everything is different.  We must ask ourselves in moments such as these, "What is the foundation of my life?" In the Gospel reading today, Jesus offers us something all together more solid. 
I want to tell you the tale of two rebellions. The first one happened 245 years ago; the second happened 2600 years ago. One was right and just; the other was wrong and unjust. Each occurred against an authority figure, as all rebellions do. The question we must ask ourselves is why the former was correct and the latter gravely wrong. It all has do with whom we are fighting against. 
Our youth group just finished an eight-day, grueling, whirlwind pilgrimage of all 21 Catholic Missions (thank you to all who helped raise the $7,000, making the trip possible). They saw with their own eyes the tenacity and grit of the early Franciscan priests who founded these centers of evangelization, which was then the frontier of the known world. On the 5th day of the pilgrimage, we found ourselves at Mission San Carlos, a few blocks away from the famous Carmel Beach. Taking an old piece of driftwood that we found on the sand, we created a makeshift altar. Over 400 years prior, on that exact same shoreline, the first Mass ever offered in California took place in 1602. The weight of history was not lost upon us. Even though the homes that surrounded the beach was valued in the multimillions of dollars, the wealthiest people there were not the owner of those homes. Rather, the truly rich, where on the beach beginning an ancient ritual: "In the name of Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit..." 
In the chaos of the world, fathers play a pivotal roll. When the storms rage, as we see in the Gospel reading, true godly men, like our Lord remain unbothered, even to the point of taking a lovely nap: "A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion." (Cf. Mark 4:35-36) How so? Because Christ is our example and guide. Not the world. Christ is our foundation; not more money, honor, power, or pleasure. 
We all deal with pain. Regardless how we may appear on the outside, we all carry tremendous wounds, gangrene, broken, pus-pouring, wounds that fester from within. We face this pain, in what I call, the "Three P's." We can either (1) PROTECT the pain, which manifests itself as our addictions to alcohol, drugs, over-eating, promiscuity, pornography, relentless shopping, you name it. The goal here to pretend it does not exist. (2) We also PROJECT the pain. Because we're hurt, we hurt those around us, especially those we love the most. Bullies exemplify this tactic. They cause pain in others to hide their pain, as if to distract themselves and others from seeing who they truly are. The last "P" is the better way. We can (3) PURIFY this pain. Here, we face the trauma head-on. We bring it out into the light in humility, confessing our faults,  and removing our masks. This, my dear family, is the harder path that Jesus Christ lays out for us. 
Why do we always seem to look for happiness in all the wrong places? Whether it's wealth, honor, power, or pleasure the end result is the same -- an empty heart. Is it any wonder why the magic number of wealth, honor, power, and pleasure is always "more"? My pride never gets full; it is a blackhole, an endless pit, a great abyss that can never be satisfied. The great celebration the Church commemorates this Sunday is the surprising and unexpected answer to happiness we've all been searching for. Look closely, however, otherwise your eyes will miss it.  P.S. One of our beloved parishioners received his First Holy Communion that morning. Many of his family are Spanish speakers, so the first portion of the homily is given in Spanish. English begins at minute 10:51    
Holy Trinity Sunday

Holy Trinity Sunday


"What are you?" If we take the default answer of the world, we're nothing more than upright, walking monkeys. Smart, yes but you and I are simply better looking, smarter primates. We're the product an accident of the cosmos that evolved over billions of years. If that is true, then why not live my life trying to amass the traditional classic substitutes for God--money, honor, power and pleasure. After all, I'm just a monkey; these are my glorified bananas. However, if we answer the question in the Christian way, our lives suddenly taken on a decisive new meaning and heavenly direction.   How to explain the Trinity: On the Trinity: God is love:  
Don't believe the first lie. God's law does not stop us from living our best lives. We wrongly believe that somehow if I embrace the fullness of the Christian life, I will be less. Only in open rebellion--we can think to ourselves--can we finally flourish. The Holy Spirit leads us to the first truth. 
As beautiful as our lives can be, there's something greater that lies beyond. As we heard in the Second Reading today, St. Paul reminds the Christians in the city of Ephesus, "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones" (Ephesians 1:17). This "hope" of which he eloquently speaks is Heaven -- where Jesus ascends to. Our Lord returns to the Father's house. Not only that, Christ leaves us the key to the front door. Through his death and resurrection, in fact of all of Salvation History, has won us the privilege to this celestial mansion which is ours for the taking. All we have to do is stay focused on the prize; don't get distracted by the world. Something greater awaits us. 
Always remember, you and I are created for greater things. The boring, superficial, lackluster, droning message that we hear from the world that tells us that happiness will be found in the selfish pursuit of more wealth, more honor, more power, more pleasure is a lie. If you want true joy, Jesus tells how in today's Gospel reading. I must warn you, if you choose to follow this path, it will be like paddle boarding against a roaring river. Choose it anyway. 
Have you ever felt the desire to stop practicing your faith, to drift quietly away from the Lord like a dried leaf that falls into a running stream, only to be whisked away by the humdrum muddle that makes up our lives? Every Christian has, if we're honest. It may not even be a conscious decision but simply begins as a small act, maybe a white lie, a postponed prayer here or there that never happens, or one Sunday Mass missed; it begins as a trickle but suddenly metastasizes into a tsunami. To us, therefore, weak in the flesh,  Jesus reminds us powerfully in the Gospel reading this Sunday: "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing." -John 15:5
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the greatest event that has ever happened in the history of the universe. Nothing more amazing has or ever will happen than the empty tomb. Pope Benedict XVI captured this fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion perfectly: "The Resurrection of the Son of man was utterly different... an entirely new form of life, no longer subject to the law of dying and becoming a new dimension of human existence, an evolutionary leap, a new possibility of human existence is attained that affects everyone and opens up a future, a new kind of future, for mankind. Christ’s Resurrection is either a universal event, or it is nothing." As followers of Jesus, we are his witnesses.
Last Friday evening I was called to the home of a long time parishioner: "Father, she has taken a turn for the worst. She doesn't have much time," said the familiar voice over the phone. "I'm on my way." Driving up to the house, the long driveway was packed with cars. I found a dirt patch alongside the road to park my car beneath a mature pine tree. The setting sun was low enough on the horizon, casting a warm glow on the house, as I gathered my belongings: holy water, blessed oil, priest stole, and prayer book. The family immediately lead me to the room where she was. My heart sank. Gone was the lively, talkative, laughing woman I had gotten to know over the years as her pastor. Instead, she laid quietly in her bed, slowly breathing in and out; out and in. Her adult children began to fill the room around me, as we gazed silently at this mother, wife, and friend. A wave of sadness began to cascade, roaring louder and louder as if a landslide of boulders was barreling towards us. That was until I remembered--Jesus lives. 
One of the worst things to hear from someone is "Shame on you!" Whatever the cause, shame strikes to the heart of who we are. It is a dreadful emotion felt only in relationship to someone when a bond is ruptured, severed, or damaged. Shame makes us feel unworthy and hideously unloved. Maybe that's why we always turn our eyes away? Not Jesus. He looks squarely at us. He strikes the source of our guilt and imparts to his first priests in the Gospel reading: " “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” Jesus gives the Church the liberating antidote-- we call it the Sacrament of Confession. 
At 3pm on Good Friday, Jesus let out his last breath. His dead corpse was still nailed to the cross. It makes you wonder, where did his spirit go? The Apostles Creed which we recite in the beginning of the holy rosary gives us the answer in a short but reviling line: "He descended into Hell." Which begs another query, what was he doing there? If we are to live the joy we have in the Resurrection, we must first contemplate the events before Our Lord burst out of the tomb that Sunday morning.
The Easter Vigil is not for the faint of heart. It's called the "Mother of all vigils" due to its length and ancient rites, going all the way back to the early Church. It's on this night new adult Christians are baptized and reborn into eternity. I told the soon-to-be Christians: You are about to enter into the greatest story ever told. Never forget. 
Knowing he was about to be arrested and killed, Jesus gave humanity his two greatest gifts at the Last Supper. Everything was leading up to this moment. All the lessons he taught his disciples was now coming to a grand finale. Pay attention; these gifts were paid with blood.
We all want to be happy. The question becomes, "How do we achieve it?" If you've been listening to my sermons over these last few years, you know my answer: RELATIONSHIP. Happiness is not a something (money, power, pleasure, beauty) but a someoneContrary to what the world shoves down our throats,. Happiness is only found in love. The faster we realize this, the sooner the happiness will come. This Palm Sunday, Jesus shows us the secret to successful relationships. If you're like me, you won't like his answer. 
What do you see when you gaze upon a crucifix? Do you see your fear of rejection? It's there. Do you see your fear of loneliness? That's there to. Do you see your fear of pain and death? How about your fear of being laughed at? How about your fear of failure? It's all there. The deepest fears of our lives are all nailed on the cross with Jesus. We want to hide the our shame but Our Lord says no. Confront it all. Bare it all, he tells us. Our darkest, pus-ridden wounds will be the very means of our salvation on that cross.  
For most weddings, the bride is the star of the "show." Her dress, the hair, her very tear-soaked eyes capture the attention of all those seated in the pews. As she marches down the aisle towards her future husband, she notices something strange about his attire--he's wearing sweatpants! She explodes in anger; and rightly so. His clothing fails to capture the immensity of the moment. As human beings, the externals have power. They reveal the often invisible realities of the most important. The love between two people in the covenant of marriage cannot be seen, so we wear fancy dresses and suits to convey it. A police officers wears a uniform and a badge to show his invisible authority to give us speeding tickets. The beauty of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris casts our eyes upwards to the majesty of the invisible God. 
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