Invocation at the Texas State Legislature

Austin, Texas
Most Reverend Michael F. Olson, STD, MA
Bishop of Fort Worth
January 15, 2019

Lord our God, we stand together here in this legislature, mindful of your Providence and love for each human person whom you have created in your image and likeness. We call out to you in our awareness of the responsibility of governance entrusted to these men and women legislators by the People of Texas who in their hearts seek to belong to you and to each other in the order of your goodness.

We ask your blessing upon our representatives as they begin their legislative activity with a renewed sense of mission to preserve the dignity of their fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good. Grant them a spirit of docility and simplicity of heart. May they heed your prophet Isaiah’s call to reason together, intentionally aware of human sinfulness in the light of your mercy and justice and of the fundamental goodness of your creation of the human person. May they be mindful of the vulnerable in our society and equitable in their deliberation. Might their desire for authentic justice be strengthened that the laws that they vote to enact might reflect your wisdom and design for human flourishing.

We pray that you might guard their speech, that all that they say in these chambers might elevate discourse in reflection of your beauty, grandeur, and truth. Might they seek always those aspects of the common good that are immaterial and can be shared together without being diminished in quantity.

Expand their hearts with your love that they might truly desire the common good of all Texans united together and not simply the private interests of a few. We thank you, God, for their sacrifice and generosity to give of their time and talents in service to your people. Protect them and their families and reward their generosity with your generosity. We pray in the confidence of your love.

Prayer of Blessing: Inauguration of Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick

Texas State Capitol, Austin, Texas
January 15, 2019

Blessed are you, Gracious God, Source of all that is true and good and beautiful. You, who delight in all people, we stand in awe before you, believing that the spark of life within each person on earth is the spark of your Divine presence. Through your goodness to us, we live in this great State of Texas – some of us born and nurtured here by your grace and wisdom, some of us called from afar and delivered here through your Mercy and Providence, each and all of us sustained here together in fellowship and solidarity by your justice and love. We give you thanks for the lives of our Governor and Lieutenant Governor and of all of our elected officials. We thank you for their generosity and willingness and that of their families as they offer themselves in public service. May You bless them generously for their selflessness of spirit.

Bless us, as one people, with the fortitude to seek the common good for all members of our towns and cities, of our counties and state, of our nation and world. Deliver us as one people from selfishness and distrust that would foment fear and incite violence within our homes and in our communities. Protect us, as one people, from all who would do us harm through lawlessness and violence. Instill in us, as one people, your spirit of integrity that we might do our part in diligently exercising our own personal responsibility for the betterment of our society.

Bendícenos, como un solo pueblo, con el deseo de libertad y justicia auténticas promovidas por el amor al prójimo y protegida por el estado de derecho. Líbranos como a un solo pueblo de la apatía y el cinismo que nos dividen y ahuyentan a las sombras del aislamiento y la apatía moral. Inculca en nosotros, como un solo pueblo, el espíritu de la compasión que nos incomode en el cuidado de cada persona humana en su realidad social, y no ver la humanidad en el abstracto y en el vacío del idealismo.

Gracious God, we entrust to you our Governor and our Lieutenant Governor, our legislators and our judges. Bless them as our public servants, in their responsibilities of government, with the courage to be humble in their sincere commitment to the unity of action required for the promotion of a just social order. Keep them in sound health in mind and body. Deliver them, as our public servants, from temptation to sin in any way that would do damage to our development as one people in fellowship and solidarity. Instill in them, as our public servants, a spirit of confidence, that they might lead us in deed as well as in word in the direction set by your guidance for a better society marked by the dignity of human flourishing and concern for the poor who live in the margins of our society. Bless them with wisdom and right judgment that they might, through their decisions, strengthen our state in the present moment with an eye toward the future development and peace for generations yet to come. Deliver our public servants from impatience with the complexities of government. Instill in them your virtue of prudence that they might see, judge, and act within the proper balance of eternal values and present needs for the sake of your peace. We ask all of this in your name.


Homily for The Midnight Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral

December 25, 2018
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 9:1-6
Psalm 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14

There is a proverb that says, “You become what you love.” In the Garden of Eden and thereafter, the world loved darkness and became dark. The human intellect became dark with error and falsehood; the human will became dark with lust and anger; the human character became dark with sin and vice. Yet, God loved us and so He became one of us in Jesus that we might through His free gift of freedom love light and become light and one with Him. This is what we celebrate tonight at Christmas.

Today is born our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord. He is given the name Emmanuel, the name that means “God is with us.” He is given that name by Joseph who belongs to Him as His foster father; He is given that name by Mary who belongs to Him as His Mother. Yet, the world as represented by Caesar Augustus, to whom He does not belong, rejects Him and chooses to regard Him not by His name but by the darkness of a number—the darkness of the census. The darkness that the world loves is a darkness that prefers to enumerate in the places where God prefers to call by name; these places where God calls humanity to name and to be named. It is not coincidental that the prince of darkness, the prince of this world, is known by a number (666) and not by a name. It is poignant when we consider that in the not too distant history of the world, the Nazis dehumanized the Jews by tattooing a number on them and removing from them the human dignity of having a name. There is belonging in the gift of a name, there is possession in the ascribing of a number. Numbers are added, multiplied, divided and subtracted. Names reveal and conceal the mystery of a person, a person to be known and not a person to be used. The world that loves darkness rejects the Divine gift of humanity, the gift that is made known by the luminous intimacy of a name, Emmanuel—“God is with us”.

Jesus is born that we might love the light and that in the light we might receive again the redeemed gift of our full humanity lost by the sin of our first parents in Eden. Jesus is born that we might know Him and in knowing Him might belong to Him that we might truly know each other and love and belong to each other beyond the temptation of quantifying each other by a number. Jesus is born that we might truly love God by first being loved by Him and not simply love the number of things that we ascribe to Him only from the distance of ingratitude.

Jesus is born as the light of the world that He might free us from our burdens and burden us with His freedom. As we heard in our first reading from Isaiah, “For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.” Christ frees us from the burden of anonymity. He frees us from the burden of ignorance and fear. He frees us from the burden of violence and rage. He frees us from the burden of autonomy and compulsivity. He frees us from the burden of apathy and isolation.

Jesus, the light of the world, burdens us with His freedom to respond to God’s call to each of us to belong and to show that belonging by each of our actions. As we heard in our second reading taken from Saint Paul’s Letter to Titus, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.” This is a burden Christ imposes upon us. He burdens us with His freedom to do as we should and not as we simply prefer. He burdens us with His freedom from godlessness by giving us knowledge of the truth. He frees us with His burden of justice and beauty. He frees us with His burden of mercy and forgiveness. He frees us with the burden of belonging to God and others—a burden that requires sacrifice on our part. He frees us with the burden of the Cross—the burden of love.

We witness the burden of His freedom in the love shared selflessly between husband and wife belonging to each other in marriage tenderly committed to fidelity, permanence, and openness to God’s gift of children despite the darkness of such problems as unemployment and sickness. We witness and share the burden of His freedom in the love that a mother offers in carrying her child belonging in her body and enduring the burdens of childbirth despite the darkness of its pains. We witness the burden of His freedom in the love of a father dedicating his life in the protection and formation of his children as belonging to a family despite the darkness of fatigue and worry. We witness the burden of His freedom in the selflessly chaste and obedient life of a priest in service as a pastor belonging to Christ and His Church despite the darkness of temptation to ignore the wolf and to become only a hired hand. We witness the burden of His freedom in the inclusion and generosity that we manifest for the vulnerable and marginalized in our society despite the darkness to quantify and dismiss them as only an abstract problem. The light that shines in the manger of Bethlehem surrounded by Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and angels, and even the animals—is the inconvenient light of unconditional love. God loves us and becomes one of us in the Holy Child of Bethlehem—willing that we should be saved by the fullness of His humanity. God is swaddled in our human condition that our human condition might become redeemed humanity—freed from burdens and burdened by authentic freedom. He is born that we might truly be free that we might be burdened in the love of God and of each other. Today is born our savior, Jesus Christ the Lord.


Morning Prayer — Encuentro V

Photo from V Encuentro Nacional Facebook page.

September 21, 2018
V Encuentro Nacional
Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center
Grapevine, Texas

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Christ is the source of our encouragement in the midst of our sufferings. “For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.” Discouragement is never from God. St. Paul reminds the Corinthian community and us this morning that our obligation is to encourage each other out of authentic compassion. True encouragement comes to us in the fullness of the Gospel that sin and death do not have the last word. True encouragement is that the last Word has been spoken by God the Father. He has spoken the last Word as the first Word, one and the same. The Word that is first and the Word that is last is the Word made flesh—His Son, Jesus Christ—Who fully reveals the compassion of the Father to us through His loving obedience on the Cross—a compassion that we can receive only through the action of the Holy Spirit, freely offered to us as Grace. This is truly encouragement in the face of sufferings especially when those sufferings have in no small measure been inflicted upon ourselves through sin—the cause of all discouragement.

Our feast that we celebrate today offers us an example of an Apostle who suffered such discouragement and received true encouragement through Christ. Before he became the Apostle Matthew, he was first the tax collector Matthew. Christ directly called Matthew to follow Him. It was an invitation made to Matthew while Matthew was in the midst of sin, sitting at the tax collector’s table. It was an invitation that then was further extended by Christ at the dinner table of Matthew. It is an invitation that then culminates with Matthew’s presence at Christ’s table—the banquet of the Last Supper—the Banquet of the Mass—the Banquet of the Cross—Meal and Sacrifice.

The Gospel of Matthew begins and ends with encouragement. The Gospel of Matthew begins and ends with God’s promise that God is with us-I am with you: expressed first in the announcement of the angel of the Lord to Joseph in a dream that the unborn Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us (Matt 1:23). Then at the very end of the gospel when the resurrected Jesus promises his disciples that he “will be with [them] always until the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). There is no other encouragement.

The stewardship of that encouragement is our shared responsibility as the Church centered upon Christ. Matthew’s gospel is also the only gospel of the four Gospels that uses the word church (ekklesia). The term ekklesia (church) occurs in two pivotal sections of the gospel. In Matthew 16:18, as Jesus gives the keys of authority to Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus says that he “will build my church” upon the rock of Peter’s often crumbling and stumbling faith, and that the forces of chaos will not overcome it. Secondly in chapter 18, in the midst of the discourse on community life and the church—Jesus brings the image of the church to bear in how discipline in the community is to be fostered (cf. Matt 18:17). The entire church centered upon Christ is to offer accountability on these matters that affect our life of communion. It is an accountability that is just and merciful, it is an accountability that is demanding and compassionate, it is an accountability that is true—measured only by the Cross of Jesus Christ.

Cristo viene a Mateo y lo llama en medio del pecado de Mateo. Ese es el lugar donde él nos llama también. Como San Pablo escribe a los romanos, " pero donde el pecado abundó, sobre abundó la gracia". La mesa del recaudador de impuestos era la tabla de connivencia egoísta con un sistema maligno que despersonalizaba a pueblo y fomentaba el cinismo y el desánimo sobre la vida humana. Fue un lugar de gran escándalo para el pueblo judío. Mateo fue capaz de hacerse parte de tal Sistema por el bien de la ganancia egoísta-para la codicia y el soberbio. Mateo daría cuenta de los impuestos recaudados para el Imperio, de modo que el César consiguió lo que quería y Mateo podía tomar lo que quería—la tiranía seductora del egoísmo. Es la iniciativa de Cristo la que llama a Mateo de esa tiranía, ya que es la iniciativa compasiva de Cristo que nos libera de la misma tiranía. Durante estos días—Jesús viene de nuevo a nosotros y nos llamará a todos y cada uno de nosotros en las mesas donde nos reunimos. Jesucristo nos ofrece un encuentro con él que nos ofrecerá un aliento duradero mientras nos llama desde las mesas de interés propio a su mesa—la mesa del altar, la mesa de la Cruz. Este es el lugar donde nos encontramos con Cristo, la fuente de nuestro aliento en medio de nuestros sufrimientos.