Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time: The Twenty-fifth Anniversary of The Priestly Ordination of Bishop Michael Olson

Photo by Juan Guajardo / NTC

July 9, 2019
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Catholic Church
Keller, Texas

Genesis 32:23-33
Psalm 17
2 Corinthians 11:18-30
Matthew 9:32-38

As I look around this church this evening and see so many people whom I’ve baptized, confirmed, received their wedding vows, anointed and absolved, and ordained, my heart is filled with joy and I realize that thanksgiving brings us together this evening for two reasons.

First, thanksgiving is always the reason for our coming together for the celebration and sacrifice of the Mass because the very name “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving” and it is the only fitting way that we can offer God true worship and thanks for the gift of His Son.

Secondly, the occasion that brings us together is for us to share gratitude and to express thanks for the gift of 25 years of priestly life and ministry granted to me by Christ. As always, the readings that the Church offers us in celebrating the liturgy help us to enter more deeply into these mysteries.

Our first reading from Genesis requires a little context for understanding. It begins with Jacob having sent his wives, children, and belongings ahead of himself to the place where he is going to meet up with his brother Esau. Jacob is unsure of how that meeting with Esau is going to turn out because he had tricked Esau out of the blessing of their father, Isaac.

Esau and Jacob are twins. Esau is born first so that means that the customary rights of inheritance belong to him even though Jacob is born closely behind Esau, grabbing at Esau’s heel. Their father, Isaac is blind in old age. One day, Esau is hungry, and Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s immediate hunger by bartering with him for Isaac’s blessing and inheritance in exchange for a bowl of stew. Esau agrees to the trade and loans Jacob his cloak so that he can fool their father into thinking that Jacob is Esau.

Isaac is blind and biased towards Esau who is clearly his favorite. Esau is Isaac’s favorite. Esau is entertaining and interesting. Jacob is not. In fact, Jacob is a little pushy and grabby. Yet, when Isaac mistakenly blesses Jacob, the blessing is efficacious. To use a more colloquial expression from our own religious tradition, “it counts for Sunday.” It’s a real blessing and the blessing of the birthright has been given to Jacob even though he has grabbed it, in part, through his own manipulation and quick-thinking.

In Isaac, we see a blindness born of a biased system detached from discernment of God’s will. In Esau, we see entitlement endorsed by a biased system detached from discernment of God’s will. In Jacob, we see envy and self-promotion born of the resentment of a biased system detached from discernment of God’s will.

Esau’s entitlement prompts him to squander what is in fact not his to give away in the first place — the blessing of his father that is in fact a grace of God given through Isaac for the sake of the salvation of the world from sin. Jacob’s envy drives him to squander his own identity and integrity to grab the blessing of his father by pretending to be someone he is not. These are the people through whom God has chosen to bring about His plan of salvation.

In my own life as a priest, having entered seminary some 39 years ago, I can tell you that these approaches of Isaac, of Esau, and of Jacob are sadly not uncommon temptations in the formation of priests and seminarians; very human temptations that have brought about much misery for us today. The approach of Isaac: rely on the bias of the system as automated through indirect discourse and reduce formation to blind and passive compliance to a protocol and a matter of wardrobe. The approach of Esau: to recast a vocation as being a piece of apparel that can be worn as reversible or exchanged for another gift at one’s short-sighted convenience. The approach of Jacob: pretend to be someone you’re not through vesture to appease the bias of the system in order to grab the blessing of ordination.

These approaches are temptations born of fear that are steeped in an atmosphere where God, manifested in His truth, is ignored. These also are the people through whom God’s Son has chosen to continue bringing about His plan of salvation.

Truth follows Jacob everywhere he goes until he comes to the place depicted in our first reading this evening. Jacob finds himself in the dark. The truth pounces upon him and initiates a struggle with Jacob and a grappling contest ensues. The struggling continues within the darkness until the break of daylight, when Jacob is wounded and weakened. Jacob seeks a blessing from his opponent at the end of the contest. This time Jacob identifies himself honestly by his own name in order to receive the blessing — a blessing offered at the initiative of God — not a prize of Jacob’s grabbing as was the blessing that he received from Isaac. Jacob has come to the splendor of the truth.

God gives Jacob the new name of Israel which means “having contended with God.” Jacob, now called Israel, becomes the father of God’s chosen people. This is just as a priest is blessed and ordained to be a father of the People of God and to lead them through contending with the truth in the hard-fought grace of conversion and reconciliation with God. Jacob’s call and blessing from God is much like the life and ministry of the priesthood — a grace that is not earned but rather placed within a struggle, and a “contending with God” in a contest of discernment and formation begun at God’s initiative not our own.

My 25 years of priestly life have involved many struggles and many graces offered by God within these struggles. Priesthood is not for the faint of heart. Many of you who have known me throughout these 25 years know that I seldom have enjoyed the birthright status of Esau in the paternal hearts of some superiors who at times have seemed to me to be abundantly blessed with Isaac’s vision. Yet, God has so blessed me by offering so many of His graces through their generosity and in the struggles with the truth — the truth about myself, the truth about the priesthood, the truth about the Church, and the truth that is fully and gloriously revealed to us in Christ Himself — that God loves us unconditionally and goes to any length to save us. For these graces and their struggles I thank God and those through whom He offered them to me, that I might never forget that they are a gift, and if I should do so, that He might compassionately remind me.

Photo by Ben Torres / NTC

The Greek word for truth is aletheia, its literal meaning is not forgetting. Many have helped me not to forget that the truth about priesthood does not involve the shortsighted passivity and vesture of Esau, but the gritty and receptive perseverance of Jacob who receives his vocation to be Israel through contending with the truth. I have found this to be true throughout these past 25 years of priestly life and ministry. The Lord continues to not let me forget this lesson through you, the members of the Church, who remind me of God’s unconditional love for which we each of us are grateful.

Aletheia. Not forgetting. This means we cannot hide. We cannot hide from the awful fact and summons of the Cross. It also means that we cannot hide from the glory and the promise of the Resurrection.

The Gospel speaks of Christ’s heart being moved by compassion for the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd do not live long and can only survive for a very short period. Sheep without a shepherd are easily manipulated and prone to various dangers. It is easy to survive by convenient narratives and false pretenses, but only for a short time.

Christ the Good Shepherd leads us into the pastures of the truth, verdant with justice and mercy. It is the life of a priest, including my own, ordained unworthily into the image and likeness of Christ the Good Shepherd that requires the entire gift and transformation of self so that the priest’s life not become the proclamation of himself. We priests can only do this through the grace received in the struggle that prompts us to boast of nothing but our weakness. Weakness is the place where Christ gives us this grace, as Saint Paul exemplifies in our second reading today. Weakness is the place where we don’t forget, as Jacob didn’t forget.

I conclude gratefully with a story about one of those people through whom God has not let me forget the truth of the grace of weakness in priestly ministry. Some of you might remember him, Father Baltazar Szarka, “Father B,” who served for many years as the pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi parish in Grapevine.

He was born and raised in Hungary, entered a Cistercian monastery there, was ordained a priest there, survived the Second World War and then was assigned to live in France for further theological studies. While in France, the Communists took over Hungary and shut down the monastery and dispersed and imprisoned the monks. His abbot was able to send word to Father B not to try to return but to find a monastery elsewhere. Providence brought Father B to Texas and to Grapevine where he was assigned temporarily as the pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi parish in 1959 by Bishop Gorman — a temporary assignment in which he served for over 35 years until the mid-1990’s. He was a frequent confessor of mine and of many others. He would consistently give the compassionate penance of praying one Memorare as composed by Saint Bernard, “Remember, Oh Most Gracious Virgin Mary…”

Father B retired from his pastorate and went to live in the Cistercian monastery in Irving after he began to show signs of dementia and when he began not to remember things. Many parishioners would still go to the monastery to see Father B and to consult with him about their problems and to seek his pastoral care. He would listen and counsel them to pray the Memorare as composed by St. Bernard, “Remember, Oh Most Gracious Virgin Mary…”

His health soon worsened to the point where he could no longer receive appropriate care and attention in the monastery and it was required that he live in a full-time care facility with daily visits from the monks and from his former parishioners.

His abbot later shared with me that when he accompanied Father B to the facility and they entered it, they encountered in the hallway a woman who was suffering from dementia and was calling out for help. Father B turned to the abbot and asked, “what is this place?” The abbot told him that it was his new priestly assignment. With that being said, Father B went up to the woman and encouraged her not to be afraid and began to pray the Memorare as composed by St. Bernard, “Remember, Oh Most Gracious Virgin Mary…”

The Greek word for Truth is aletheia. It means not to forget. As priests, we have nothing to boast in but our weakness. It is in that weakness that we receive the grace of not forgetting that our vocation is a gift to live at the hand of God — who is not so much the truth which we grab and cling to as much as the Truth that holds us and uses us as instruments for the salvation of souls. He is the truth that does not forget us even more than He is the truth that we don’t forget.

I join with you, especially my brother priests, at the altar in thanking God for our shared vocation that is an unearned grace offered to us in our struggle not to forget. I renew my efforts with each and all of you in gratefully responding to this grace, the grace that is wrapped in the struggle with the truth so clearly needed today in the darkness of our culture that prefers the squandering of the complacent entitlement of Esau to the graced, gradual, and hard-fought conversion of Jacob. Finally, as we thank God in the sacrifice of this Mass, in the way that He desires to be thanked, let’s boast together only in our weakness that is made manifest in our contending with God on behalf of His people in a contest that God started through calling us to serve Him as His priests.


Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles - First Solemn Mass of Father David Carvajal

June 29, 2019
Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Acts 12:1-11
Psalm 34:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18
Matthew 16:13-19

The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth possesses in its collection a painting by Nicolas Poussin. The painting depicts the very scene described in our Gospel reading from this Solemnity; Christ entrusts the keys of the Kingdom to Peter. It is entitled The Sacrament of Ordination; it is one of a series of seven paintings by Poussin depicting the sacraments produced. The artist presents this scene from the Gospel as representing Peter’s ordination by Christ. Honestly, upon initially viewing this beautiful work of art, I must state that I was puzzled over the choice of this passage of Scripture to present the Sacrament of Holy Orders. If I were able to draw or paint beyond stick figures, I would have selected the Call of the Apostles, or perhaps the Last Supper, or the Washing of Feet to represent Holy Orders — not the entrusting of the keys to Peter.

Yet in a very profound way, Christ’s entrusting to Peter the keys of the Kingdom is what the Sacrament of Holy Orders brings about — order out of chaos. Just as God created the ordered Universe and all within it out of the primordial chaos of nothingness, and sin brought about disorder through abuse of all that is good, thus Christ restores order (beyond that of the original order of creation) sacramentally through the ministry of His priests in the pastoral care of His people — as priests govern, teach, and sanctify in communion with their bishop and the Successor of Saint Peter, the Pope.

Through the priesthood of the baptized, each one of us shares in the Cross. Saints Peter and Paul shared in the Cross of Jesus; Peter in a very particular way. By his ordination yesterday and his ministry to come, Father David Carvajal will share intimately in the Cross through Christ’s priestly sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation whenever he administers each of the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist and Penance. It is this sacrificial aspect of Father David’s life as a priest that enables him to lead the People of God, the New Israel, from slavery to selfishness and sin towards the freedom of the baptized. It is this sacrificial aspect that motivates a priest to go to the peripheries of society to reach those who otherwise would collapse in fear and confusion. It is this sacrificial aspect of a priest’s life that illuminates a priest with the truth of the Gospel to enlighten those lost in the fog of error. It is this sacrificial aspect that empowers a priest to shepherd people away from the walled-off isolation experienced as part of a mob of individuals towards the Communion offered and shared that makes us the Church, Christ’s Body. As Bishop Konderla spoke to Father David during the Rite of Ordination: “Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate, and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s Cross.”

The keys of Saint Peter are often depicted as being crossed. This is intentional to reveal that the offices of teaching, sanctifying, and governance through servant leadership are fused together in the sacrifice of the Cross as the source of Christ’s bringing about the order of redemption through Faith, Hope, and Charity. The prayer of ordination refers to the 70 wise men that God raised up to assist Moses in governing and bringing His chosen people, Israel, from being a crowd of refugees fleeing slavery to freedom in the promised land. Moses is following the Lord, leading the Lord’s own people through the wilderness, a journey towards the land that has been promised to them, a journey that requires discernment and confident faith in the Lord God. It is in this journey that they have begun as refugees from slavery that they are to become a pilgrim people — God’s chosen and pilgrim people — through faithful trust in God and in God’s chosen agent, Moses.

Moses is asking the Lord for help because he needs it. He recognizes that there are an increasing number of the people who are abandoning their identity as God’s Chosen People, made so by His Covenant with them, and instead turning back in fear to a life of slavery and idolatry. They risk losing their identity as one people — God’s one chosen people. They risk dissipating into an angry mob of individuals, lonely, with no meaning to their lives except the slavery of fear driving them into selfishness and idolatry, tempted to return to Egypt.

As a part of His redeeming work of bringing about order from the chaos of sin, the Lord answers Moses. The Lord raises up 70 wise men. They aren’t wise in education, they aren’t wise in experience, they aren’t wise in technical skills — they are wise in the willingness to trust the Lord and in so doing they receive the grace of God in a portion of His Spirit that He has already given to Moses. These elders are to serve as bridges between the people and God. They are to serve as bridges among the people with each other, uniting them in the mission of the pilgrimage to true and lasting freedom in God, when fear would otherwise drive them apart and surround them with the slavery of self-imposed walls of isolation and disordered self-centeredness.

The movement from chaos to order is too large of a leap for human beings to make in their fallen condition. The movement from slavery to freedom is too large a leap for human beings to make in their fallen condition. The movement from possession by idols to belonging to the Lord is too large of a leap for human beings to make in their fallen condition. The movement requires bridges to pass over into the Promised Land. These chosen elders are bridges and they prefigure priests and their ordained ministry in the life of the Church. A priest is a bridge, a pontifex. As Pope Benedict XVI wrote, “No man on his own, relying on his own power, can put another in touch with God. An essential part of the priest’s grace is the gift, the task of creating this contact…As an act of God’s infinite mercy, he calls some ‘to be’ with Him and to become, through the sacrament of Orders, despite their human poverty, sharers in His own priesthood, ministers of sanctification, stewards of His mysteries, ‘bridges’ to the encounter with Him and of His mediation between God and man and between man and God.”

The vocation and sacramental ministry of a priest requires that he be a bridge — a pontifex like Peter and Paul — in bridging the experience of isolation and loss of identity for so many people today, inside and outside of the Church, into the sense of belonging that God has chosen to give His People through their life and Communion as His Church.

The marrow of Father David’s being a bridge as a priest is anchored in the conversation that Christ initiated with Father David when he first heard Christ’s call to follow Him and when he said “yes” to Christ. Father David’s life, like that of every priest, is an ongoing conversation of prayer that always concludes with the priest saying “yes” to Christ in his ministry. This conversation between Christ and Father David as a priest might be better understood in the light of the conversation between Jesus and Peter that is revealed to us in today’s Gospel. The conversation in the Gospel today is only part of an ongoing conversation that began with Christ’s first call to Peter to follow Him. The conversation intensified when Christ gave Peter the keys of binding and loosing as we hear in today’s Gospel. The conversation continued at the Last Supper with the washing of Peter’s feet and his promised fidelity that ends in futility. The conversation quiets at Calvary. The conversation echoes through the empty tomb, picks up again when Peter is redeemed and confesses his love for Christ three times, and is manifested again in Peter’s witness before Herod as presented in today’s first reading, and culminates in Peter’s martyrdom, the sacrifice and death for love.

Father David’s conversation began with his listening to Christ in prayer. It continued through his listening and saying “yes” through many conversations in seminary formation in college and in his theological formation; it continued in the conversation between him and his bishop in the promises of his ordination to diaconate and to priesthood; and it will continue in his daily prayer life and sacramental and pastoral ministry as a priest for the salvation of the People of God entrusted to his love; it will culminate when the Lord concludes the conversation by calling Father David home and may he hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Finally, it is important to note that in today’s Gospel passage from Matthew, Peter is addressed as Simon bar Jonah. The name “Simon” is derivative of the Hebrew word “shema” which means, “to listen.” As Saint Paul reminds us, “Faith comes through listening.” The point is that the Church, and priests and bishops who are entrusted with authoritative offices in service to Her, are called to listen first and so to recognize that the authority is indeed entrusted to them and belongs to Christ. It also means that all conversion is a gradual endeavor that marks God’s Kingdom. Patient perseverance must characterize our priestly vocation and pastoral ministry in accompanying His people towards the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem.

The gift of rightly ordered authority by Christ to His Church underscores the need for rightly ordered servants who can only become so through the honest simplicity of faith, courageous hope, and just and merciful charity. There is no lasting hope or legitimate charity without first entering through the door of faith. This simplicity of faith begins with listening; it then responds to the heard Word with perseverant service to those most in need.

The Master sends us to those who are most in need, those whom we need to save from the chaos of sin and disordered selfishness and to admit them with His keys into His Kingdom and Household, the Church. They are Christ’s keys and they remain Christ’s keys even as they are entrusted to your priestly ministry through faith. The Church and I repeat the words that Bishop Konderla spoke to you on Friday, the words that every priest has had addressed to him on his ordination day, Father David Carvajal, “Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

Solemnidad de los Santos Pedro y Pablo, Apóstoles - Primera Misa Solemne del Padre David Carvajal

29 de junio de 2019
Iglesia Católica San Francisco Javier
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Hechos 12, 1-11
Salmo 34, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Timoteo 4, 6-8, 17-18
Mateo 16, 13-19

El Museo de Arte Kimbell de Fort Worth posee un cuadro de Nicolás Poussin en su colección. La pintura representa la misma escena descrita en nuestro Evangelio de este domingo; Cristo confía las llaves del Reino a Pedro. La pintura se titula El sacramento de la Ordenación; es uno de los siete cuadros de Poussin que representan los sacramentos. El pintor ofrece esta escena del Evangelio para representar la ordenación de Pedro por Cristo. Sinceramente, al ver inicialmente esta hermosa obra de arte, debo declarar que me sorprendió la elección de este pasaje de las Escrituras para representar el Sacramento de las Órdenes Sagradas. Si yo pudiera dibujar o pintar más allá de figuras de palitos, habría seleccionado la Llamada de los Apóstoles, o quizás la Última Cena o el Lavado de los Pies para representar las Órdenes Sagradas, y no la entrega de las llaves a Pedro.

De una manera muy profunda, esto es lo que el Sacramento de las Órdenes Sagradas trae consigo: establece orden a partir del caos. Así como Dios creó el universo ordenado y todo dentro de él a partir del caos primordial de la nada, y el pecado provocó el desorden mediante el abuso de todo lo que es bueno, así Cristo restablece sacramentalmente el orden (más allá del orden original de la creación) a través del ministerio de Sus sacerdotes en el cuidado pastoral de Su pueblo, ya que los sacerdotes gobiernan, enseñan y santifican.

Por el sacerdocio de los bautizados, cada uno de nosotros comparte en la Cruz a través del Bautismo. San Pedro y San Pablo compartieron en la Cruz de Jesús; especialmente, Pedro, de una manera muy particular. Asimismo, mediante su ordenación de ayer y su futuro ministerio, el Padre David Carvajal compartirá íntimamente en la Cruz a través del sacrificio sacerdotal de Cristo de la expiación y la reconciliación cada vez que administre cada uno de los sacramentos, especialmente la Eucaristía y la Penitencia. Es este aspecto sacrificial de la vida del Padre David como sacerdote lo que le permite guiar al Pueblo de Dios, el Nuevo Israel, desde la esclavitud hasta el egoísmo y del pecado hacia la libertad de los bautizados. Es este aspecto de sacrificio el que motiva a un sacerdote a ir a las periferias de la sociedad para llegar a aquéllos que de otra manera se derrumbarían debido al temor y la confusión. Es este aspecto sacrificial de la vida de un sacerdote lo que ilumina a un sacerdote con la verdad del Evangelio para iluminar a los que están perdidos en la niebla del error. Es este aspecto sacrificial el que permite a un sacerdote apartar a las personas del aislamiento amurallado experimentado como parte de una multitud de individuos hacia la Comunión ofrecida y compartida que nos hace Iglesia: el Cuerpo de Cristo. Como dijo el Obispo Konderla al Padre David en el Rito de la Ordenación: “Comprende lo que realizas, imita lo que conmemoras y conforma tu vida con el misterio de la Cruz del Señor”.

La oración de la ordenación se refiere a los 70 hombres sabios a quienes Dios escogió para ayudar a Moisés a gobernar y llevar a Su pueblo elegido Israel de ser una multitud de refugiados en la esclavitud a la libertad de la tierra prometida. Moisés sigue al Señor y guía al propio Pueblo del Señor a través del desierto, un viaje hacia la tierra que les ha sido prometida, un viaje que requiere discernimiento y confianza en el Señor Dios. Es en este viaje que comienzan como refugiados en la esclavitud que se convertirán en un pueblo peregrino, el pueblo elegido de Dios, a través de la confianza fiel en Dios y en el agente elegido de Dios, Moisés.

Moisés le pide ayuda al Señor porque él la necesita. Él reconoce que hay un número cada vez mayor de personas que abandonan su identidad como el Pueblo Elegido de Dios creada por Su Alianza con ellos, y en lugar de eso, regresan con temor a una vida de esclavitud. Se arriesgan a perder su identidad como un solo pueblo, el pueblo elegido de Dios; se arriesgan a disiparse en una multitud de individuos, solitarios, en una vida sin sentido guiada por la esclavitud del miedo que los lleva al egoísmo y la idolatría.

El Señor entonces le responde a Moisés. El Señor elige a 70 hombres sabios. No son sabios por su educación, no son sabios por su experiencia, no son sabios por sus habilidades técnicas, son sabios por su disposición sincera a confiar en el Señor, y al hacerlo, reciben la gracia de Dios en una porción de Su Espíritu que ya le ha otorgado a Moisés. Estos ancianos deben servir como puentes entre el pueblo y Dios. Deben servir de puentes entre sí mismos, uniéndolos en la misión de la peregrinación a la libertad verdadera y duradera en Dios, cuando el miedo los separaría y rodearía de la esclavitud de los muros de aislamiento autoimpuestos y el egocentrismo.

Estos hombres elegidos prefiguran a los sacerdotes y su ministerio en la vida de la Iglesia. Un sacerdote es un puente, un pontífex. Como escribió el Papa Benedicto XVI: “Ningún hombre solo, confiando en su propio poder, puede poner a otro en contacto con Dios. Una parte esencial de la gracia del sacerdote es el don, la tarea de crear este contacto ... Como un acto de la infinita misericordia de Dios, llama a algunos a ‘estar’ con Él y convertirse, a través del sacramento de las Órdenes, a pesar de su pobreza humana, en partícipes de su propio sacerdocio, ministros de santificación, administradores de sus misterios, ‘puentes’ para el encuentro con Él y de su mediación entre Dios y el hombre y entre el hombre y Dios".

La vocación y el ministerio sacramental de un sacerdote requieren que él sea un puente, un pontífex como Pedro y Pablo, para aminorar la experiencia de aislamiento y pérdida de identidad de tantas personas hoy día, dentro y fuera de la iglesia, y llevarlas al sentido de pertenencia que Dios ha elegido dar a su pueblo a través de sus vidas y la comunión como Su Iglesia.

La médula del hecho de que el Padre David sea un puente como sacerdote está anclada en la conversación que Cristo inició con el Padre David cuando escuchó por primera vez el llamado de Cristo a seguirlo y cuando él dijo “sí” a Cristo. La vida del Padre David, como la de todo sacerdote, es una conversación constante de oración que concluye siempre con el sacerdote diciendo “sí” a Cristo en su ministerio. Esta conversación entre Cristo y el Padre David como sacerdote podría entenderse mejor a la luz de la conversación entre Jesús y Pedro que se nos revela en el Evangelio de hoy. La conversación en el Evangelio de hoy es sólo una parte de la conversación en curso que comenzó con el primer llamado de Cristo a Pedro para que lo siguiera. La conversación se intensificó cuando Cristo le dio a Pedro las llaves para atar y desatar como escuchamos en el Evangelio. La conversación continuó en la Última Cena con el lavado de los pies de Pedro y su promesa de fidelidad que se negará inútilmente. La conversación se aquieta en el Calvario. La conversación se hace eco por toda la tumba vacía, se reanuda cuando Pedro se redime y confiesa su amor por Cristo tres veces, y se manifiesta nuevamente en el testimonio de Pedro ante Herodes como se nos presenta en la primera lectura de hoy, y culmina en el martirio de Pedro: su sacrificio y muerte por amor. La conversación del Padre David comenzó al escuchar a Cristo en oración. Su conversación siguió al escuchar y decir “sí” a través de muchas conversaciones en su formación del seminario en la universidad y en su formación teológica; su conversación continuó al hablar con su obispo, en las promesas de su ordenación al diaconado y al sacerdocio; y continuará en su vida diaria de oración y en su ministerio sacramental y pastoral como sacerdote para la salvación del Pueblo de Dios que ha sido confiado a su amor; su conversación culminará cuando el Señor concluya la conversación llamando al Padre David a Su casa y escuche al Señor decir: “¡Bien hecho, siervo bueno y fiel!”

Finalmente, es importante tener en cuenta que, en el pasaje del Evangelio de Mateo de hoy, se le llama a Pedro “Simón, hijo de Jonás”. El nombre “Simón” se deriva de la palabra hebrea “shema” — que significa “escuchar”. “Jonás” se refiere al profeta del Antiguo Testamento que precisamente no hizo eso — se negó a escuchar. Como San Pablo nos recuerda, “La fe viene a través de escuchar”. El punto es que la Iglesia, y los sacerdotes y obispos a quienes se les confían cargos autoritativos para servirla, están llamados a escuchar primero y así reconocer que en verdad la autoridad les ha sido confiada y que pertenece a Cristo. Significa también que toda conversión es un esfuerzo gradual que marca el Reino de Dios. La perseverancia paciente debe caracterizar nuestra vocación sacerdotal y nuestro ministerio pastoral al acompañar al Pueblo de Dios hacia la Tierra Prometida de la Nueva Jerusalén.

El don de la autoridad correctamente ordenada por Cristo a su Iglesia resalta la necesidad de siervos correctamente ordenados que sólo pueden llegar a serlo a través de la simplicidad sincera de la fe, la esperanza valiente y la caridad justa y misericordiosa. No hay esperanza duradera ni caridad legítima sin entrar primero por la puerta de la fe. Esta simplicidad de la fe comienza al escuchar; luego responde a la Palabra escuchada mediante el servicio perseverante a los más necesitados. Los más necesitados son aquéllos a los que el Maestro nos envía para salvarlos del caos del pecado y el egoísmo y para admitirlos con Sus llaves en Su Reino y Hogar, la Iglesia. Padre David Carvajal, “cree lo que lees, enseña lo que crees y practica lo que enseñas”.


Solemnity of Corpus Christi - Opening of The Year of Renewal for The Fiftieth Anniversary of The Diocese of Fort Worth

Photo by Juan Guajardo/NTC

June 23, 2019
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church
Keller, Texas

Genesis 14:18–20
Psalm 110:1–4
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
Luke 9:11b–17

One of the biggest fears of those who follow Jesus is the fear that this might not be true, that we might be wasting our time, that we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment or failure.

I think this fear has grown in the present moment with the current focus placed upon scandal, with the increasingly large gulf between what Christ teaches about marriage and what our contemporary society holds up as marriage imposed upon us by the force of law. We can see snapshots of these fears and accompanying anger on social media with Facebook posts and Twitter wars — with the interaction of faith in the fragmentation of contemporary times. It can feel like our faith has carried us into a risky place, an uncharted wilderness. It can feel that being a faithful Catholic is dangerous to our social standing, our sense of security, and is even a threat to our employment.

This fear is basically where Jesus’ disciples find themselves in today’s Gospel. They are surrounded by a crowd of people, and they want Jesus to dismiss the people because they are in a deserted place and they are afraid that they have nothing to prevent the crowd from becoming hungrier and angrier to the point of becoming a mob. There is a crowd, and we know that crowds depicted in Sacred Scripture indicate a collection of individuals without belonging or purpose. When crowds are depicted as murmuring in the Sacred Scripture it is indicative of faithlessness and facelessness; it is indicative of fear and lack of identity. The disciples want Jesus to send the crowd of individuals away because the disciples know that they have nothing to placate the crowd or to prevent them from becoming an angry mob.

Jesus is not frightened by the perceived bad odds — five loaves and two fishes against five thousand people. He does not dismiss the crowds out of fear. Instead, He takes the lead and takes everyone with Him — including the Apostles — into a deeper relationship with God. Through the taking, the prayer of blessing, the breaking of the bread, and the giving of the bread, Jesus fills the vacuum of the peoples’ hunger, their restlessness, and the dangers of the wilderness with a superabundance of love. The space occupied by fear becomes a coup for God’s presence — and Jesus directs His weak Apostles to dispense His gifts to the crowd.

What does this mean for us today? Well, as the Catholic Church faces increasing scrutiny and pressure to conform to the ideologies of the moment, Christ comes to fill our corresponding fears with Himself. Jesus does this concretely in our lives through the Eucharist — which itself can never be separated from Christ’s Apostles and the bishops, their successors in union with the Successor of Peter. The Eucharist is not a concept. The Eucharist is not merely a symbol. The Eucharist is the very real presence of Christ in the unity of His Body and in the sacrifice of His Blood. The Eucharist is the only and most excellent gift that can save us from our fears and self-destruction by sinful ideology through the selflessness of love.

The temptation for a bishop as a successor of the Apostles for today is the same as the temptation was for the Apostles themselves as recorded in today’s Gospel. That is, when Jesus says, “Give them some food yourselves,” the Apostles initially begin to go to the marketplace fearfully in order to placate the demands of the crowd and to stave off the crowd’s becoming a mob for the time being. It is the Lord that directs the Apostles to have the people sit down in communities of belonging, so as to prevent the anonymity and isolation of a faceless mob. Then, Jesus nourishes them with what they have offered out of their poverty. The marketplace that tempts the successor of the Apostles today is the marketplace of ideas. It is the marketplace of ideas that shills the latest concept or fad to keep the people entertained and placated for a while so that they do not become a mob for the time being. It is the marketplace of ideas that allures us into the ether of the denial of the reality of sin and the even greater reality of Grace. It is the marketplace of ideas that soon becomes a temple of false idols that jealously enslave those that have carved them from abstraction.

The Lord directs us instead, and in a particular way, through my ministry as your bishop as shared with my priests, to avoid the charm of the marketplace of ideas and to embrace instead the Lord’s nourishment and sustenance in His Real Presence received not as an ideal, but as the reality of His love and sacrifice.

Saint Paul exemplifies the life and ministry of an apostle and of a bishop as a successor of the Apostles most brilliantly in his first epistle to the Corinthians, which we have just proclaimed today. Saint Paul addresses the Corinthians who have become divided over personal preferences and customs. They have become fractured over economic status involving power and influence within the community and the Church. Saint Paul exhorts them simply, “I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’” Christ, taken, blessed, broken, and given. The four verbs that mark every Eucharist. The four verbs that mark the life of Christ and His Church. The four verbs that mark through full sacramental initiation the life of every member of the Catholic Church.

My vocation as your bishop is not to placate you or to appease your preferences, or my preferences for that matter. It is to hand on what I have received to you, namely: that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” Christ, taken, blessed, broken, and given. The four verbs that mark every Eucharist. The four verbs that mark the life of Christ and His Church. The four verbs that mark through full sacramental initiation the life of every member of the Catholic Church.

What has been handed on includes Christ Himself and what He authentically teaches through the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Anything else is pablum. Nothing else will suffice. The bishop, like Saint Paul, passes on what he has received and reminds the faithful of Christ’s centrality — especially when we are tempted to give into fears and try to buy something else to satiate us instead of being nourished with and by Christ Himself.

Today we have a Eucharistic procession with the Blessed Sacrament. Why, a procession, you may ask? Because we are a people who need to be reminded more than we need to be informed about the meaning of the reality of what we do each and every Sunday. It’s not just something reserved for within the four walls of this church building as much as the world would like to confine our religious liberty to the abstract walls of worship on Sunday. The Eucharist is neither a hobby nor a prop. The Eucharist and the teaching of the Church are given for the world. It is given for our lives, our homes, our streets, and our world. We, who have received Christ by taking and eating His Body and taking and drinking His Blood, are now to accompany Him out to the world on His mission of evangelization to the places where we live: our homes, jobs, schools, streets, stores, families, friends, strangers, neighborhoods, cities, state, country, and world. We do not carry Him in the monstrance where we prefer to go; we follow Him where He desires to lead us. He leads us into the world with the fullness of the truth in the selflessness of love and we will be rejected for it.

The vessel that we use for carrying the Blessed Sacrament in procession is called a monstrance (it comes from the Latin word monstrare, meaning to show). So, in the procession, we are showing to all who participate the real presence of Christ. It is Christ who wants to show them — show us — that He journeys with us on His way; He walks with us. Jesus wants to be shown to the whole world and He entrusts us with this mission and we are privileged to share in it.

Let us be the true and living monstrance that shows Christ to our streets and homes and jobs and neighborhood and world. As we have received Him into us, let us become Him, to paraphrase Saint Augustine. As we have seen Him, so let us show Him to others. Let us offer our bodies for the sake of the life the world as Jesus gave up His body; let us shed our blood for the sake of the life of the world as Jesus shed His blood. Let us show the world by what we say and do that Christ dwells in us who have eaten His Body and drunk His Blood. Let us ask Christ to inspire many young men to lay down their lives with Him in the intimacy of the priestly vocation united to His sacrifice of the Eucharist — the most excellent sacrifice of love — of a value so far exceeding any of the tinsel huckstered by the marketplace of ideas. Let us pray for the renewal of married life that husbands and wives in their unity of wedlock can reveal Christ’s love for His Body, the Church. Let us pray that we might renew our diocese after 50 years and stay with Christ and follow Him with prophetic clarity and ministerial charity in the reality of His sacrificial love.

As we proceed to the taking, blessing, breaking, and giving of the Bread today, and continue with 40 Hours of staying with Him in Adoration, Jesus comforts us with His presence. In the Eucharist, we find that Christ comes to us especially in our fears, no matter how big the crowd of individuals or how loud the keyboards of the social media opposition to the teachings of Christ and the nature of His Church. In the Eucharist, we see that our fear of Jesus’ absence is unfounded, because in the Eucharist — given to us through the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church and the ministry of priests — Christ is with us. Let us stay with Him.