Hans Urs and Mano Negra

Today I got to read Morning Prayer with my daughter. It was amazing. She fell asleep as we chanted psalms. In honor of this occasion, I wanted to offer you a piece from the book Prayer by Hans Urs Von Balthasar. Enjoy and reflect.

Sincerely yours,

Austin

p. 38

It is possible for us to hear the word of God because God’s world is open to us. Most Christians do not realize that this is by no means a matter of course, but a miracle of the Father’s utterly free love. Every day it should astonish us anew, just as a lover is transported in bliss through the answering love of the woman he loves. Only more so: for however exalted the beloved woman may be, she is still only human; the love between them is human, rooted in the lovers’ nature. Whereas here it is God, the Eternal, the Wholly Other, he who has no need whatsoever of creaturely love, who owes this intimacy to none of his creatures, who opens himself and gives himself to us. He gives himself to us by inviting us, lifting us up and ennobling us so that we may participate in his own divine nature. It is easily said; we are used to the words; but through hearing and contemplating the words we should unaccustom ourselves to them so that we can once more become aware of the gigantic implications of God addressing us. The word which God addresses to us is a word of love: he utters it in a loud, manly voice in broad daylight, almost menacing, causing man to start out of his dreams and take notice of what he hears—yet it is also a word whispered in the night, soft and alluring, beyond comprehension, a mystery incredible even to the strongest faith, which no creature, however long he lives, will fathom.

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Zaqueo was a wee little man…

So, this isn’t reflection on the Sunday school song. Enjoy and see you next week.

Propio 26
San Lucas 19:1-10

La semana pasada, vimos a Jesús contándonos de una parábola sobre un cobrador de impuestos y un fariseo. Esta semana, Jesús no cuenta la parábola pero está en medio del cuento. Por dos semanas seguidas, habíamos tenido el encuentro con un cobrador de impuestos, pero hoy, el cobrador tiene nombre—Zaqueo.

Es difícil decirles exactamente el papel de los cobradores de impuestos en la época de Jesús. Creo que no tienen análogo en nuestra época. La gente odiaban a los cobradores de impuestos porque ellos trabajaban para los Romanos, quienes exigían mucho de los judíos. Pero los cobradores eran judíos también, y oprimía su pueblo aún más que los Romanos, porque cobraban más de lo que los Romanos requerían. Cada cobrador pudiera fijar su propio precio, y la gente sufrían mucho debajo de esta opresión. A lo mejor, podemos compararles con los coyotes que trabajan en la frontera y roban a su propia gente mientras ganan por un sistema injusto.

Zaqueo era un cobrador de impuestos, y además, el jefe de todos los cobradores, pero no sabemos si el era un hombre bueno u malo, de hecho, su pasado no tiene significado para nosotros. Este punto es muy importante porque cuando encontramos a Cristo Jesús, siempre tenemos la posibilidad recomenzar, es decir, arrepentirnos y girarnos hacia la luz. Zaqueo hace esto a plena vista de su pueblo. Como cada uno de nosotros, tenía la posibilidad de esconderse debajo de las excusas cuando Jesús atravesó su ciudad. Pudiera decir, “Soy demasiado pequeño, hay demasiada gente”, o cualquier otra excusa que le prevenía encontrar Jesús en el camino. Pero él no puso excusas. Subió en el árbol, escuchó la voz de Jesús, y respondió cuando Jesús le dijo que iba a quedarse en su casa esa noche.

Su conversión de vida era total. El dijo en frente de todo su pueblo que daría la mitad de sus posesiones a los pobres y de lo que quedaba, daría cuatro veces más de la cantidad que él robó a su pueblo. No está hablando de dar el diezmo, no está ofreciendo un poquito de su ser: esta ofreciendo a Jesús y a su pueblo, toda su vida, todas sus posesiones, todo su presente y futuro. Jesús le dice que en hacer esto, el es verdaderamente hijo de Abrahán; que él esta reunido con su pueblo y con la voluntad de Dios.

Imagínensen como respondería el pueblo. Muchos probablemente le vieron como un traidor y no querrían absolverle de su pasado pecaminoso. Otros quedaron sorprendidos del gran cambio en la vida de Zaqueo. Quizás otros pensaban que si un pecador tan famoso como él podía encontrar el perdón de Dios, que sus pasados no fueran tan potentes como pensaban.

El ejemplo de Zaqueo nos muestra que cada uno de nosotros, tenemos una oportunidad, que ni siquiera pasado tenemos, que desde este momento vivimos para Dios. De veras, esta semana yo vi como muchos de ustedes ya están viviendo esta nueva vida. Están dando todo de sus seres al trabajo de Dios, están invirtiendo sus esfuerzos, sus almas y sus vidas en servir a esta comunidad y a nuestro Dios. Jesús nos dice que no importa nuestro ayer, sino nuestro presente. Desde el fondo de mi corazón, yo quiero decir gracias a todos ustedes que están viviendo la vida Cristiana con todo sus seres. A través de sus ejemplos, estoy aprendiendo a como dar todo mi vida a Dios y a ustedes.

Entonces, seguiremos el ejemplo de Zaqueo esta semana. Dejaremos las excusas y nuestros pasados para convertirnos en un pueblo de hoy que siempre busca a Cristo y la conversión de la vida que viene a través del encuentro con él. Y Con el auxilio de Dios, empezaremos ya!

Día de los Muertos

Life over Death

Tonight we are getting together at La Capilla to celebrate All Souls Day or Día de los Muertosas it is known in Mexico. There is a long non-Christian tradition associated with this feast day, but as most things pagan which the church blesses and incorporates into its life, it is currently a way for us to reflect upon the grand themes of life and death. We are taking this opportunity to both remember loved ones recently and long passed from this earthly sojurn and to proclaim solidarity with all who profess the ultimate triumph of life over death. Our community has really rallied to make this celebration happen, and as I write this, I am unsure of just how amazing it may be. Last Sunday many of our members stayed after church to make small wooden crosses that will represent all those who have died crossing the Mexico-U.S. border this year. These crosses will line our Stations of the Cross path and we are planning to read the names of each person who lost their life in this way. At the same time, we also made prayer flags that we will hang from the rafters of the church for those closest to us who have died, and we have included felt and drawn objects of their favorite food or some token of remembrance that reminds us of them. Our celebration will begin tonight with hanging these flags and with placing pictures of loved ones on altarcitos (little altars) within the church. We will then gather outside in front of the cemetery to celebrate the Eucharist before walking the cross-lined path up to the party which will be filled with tamales, pan de muertos and chocolate. Needless to say, I’m excited.

In all the planning and build up to this event, I am struck by how important the action of remembering is to us humans, and I think particularly Christians. Our loved ones which we remember are never truly gone from us, the faceless dead who are lost in the political battles over immigration will not be forgotten, and all this remembering serves to proclaim our fundamental remembrance, namely, that life is stronger than death. Jesus’ final words to his disciples before his own death were replete with remembrance language, and I believe that this was no accident. I am finding that remembering is the most powerful form of re-membering, that is, of bringing us back into a communal mindset that simultaneously values our individual experience and points beyond to our eternal and greater cosmic community. May we always remember these connections in our daily lives by practicing how-to do so on feast days such as this.

Día de los Muertos Sermon Text

Here is the sermon from last night. If you don’t know Spanish, use this as an opportunity to grow.

Nos reunimos aquí en frente de este panteón para celebrar la vida. ¿Suena un poquito extraño, no? Por eso lo repito, Estamos aquí esta noche para celebrar la vida, con nuestras caras dirigidas a ella, sin miedo y sin engañarnos que la muerte existe. Mira las tumbas aquí, son recuerdos de humanos vivos que andaban por la tierra, que jugaban con sus amigos, y que amaban a sus familiares. Aunque no les vemos en cuerpo ahora, les conocemos a través del misterio de la resurrección de Cristo Jesús ENTRE los muertos. Jesucristo es la vida, y nadie puede encontrarle sin recibir nueva vida. Es lo que celebramos en el bautismo, es lo que recordamos en la Pascua, y es lo que anunciamos cada vez que compartimos su cuerpo y sangre en la Santa Comunión. Todo lo que hacemos como la iglesia sirve para aumentar y proclamar el hecho que La vida es mas poderoso que la muerte y que nada puede separarnos del amor de Dios que tenemos en Cristo Jesús.

Tomen un momento para mirar a sus compañeros que están aquí esta noche. Nosotros todos moriremos al mundo que vemos ahora, pero la promesa de Cristo es que la vida es mas que esta, es decir, la vida es para siempre. ¡No para nunca! Lo que creemos en Jesús es que su vida, nos da vida, y que mientras el vive, nosotros también tenemos la plena vida en él.

No quiero decir que la muerte es fácil encontrar. Las cruces que están por allá nos da recuerdo que esta vida terrenal no es siempre justa y que parte de nuestra responsabilidad como vivos en Cristo es luchar siempre por la justicia entre pueblos y personas. Esta misa es dedicada especialmente a la memoria de Willie Nava-Tomás, y su muerte fue un golpe muy difícil para toda esta comunidad. La muerte nos duele todos, es verdad, y despedirnos de nuestros familiares fallecidos nos cuesta mucho trabajo. Pero este dolor no siempre puede controlarnos. El dolor existe si, pero no puede esclavizarnos. Porque sabemos que la muerte no tiene la última palabra. Jesús, quien es La Verdadera Palabra de Dios, la tiene y su respuesta en la cara de la muerte es Vida. Luz en la oscuridad. Vida que destruye la muerte. Vida que crece más y más entre nosotros cuando reconocemos y compartimos esta realidad con otros.

En unos pocos minutos, vamos a comulgar juntos y compartir los dones de Dios que nos da recuerdo vivo de esto. En este día especialmente, celebramos que no estamos solos aquí, que los santos y nuestros antepasados, y todos los muertos están en la mesa con nosotros celebrando esta nueva vida. Con ellos regocijemos que Cristo está siempre en medio de nosotros y oremos por la vida que nunca pare. Hacer esto nos da el verdadero pan de cada día.

 

All Saints and Apocalypse Ponies

I recently was privileged enough to spend a weekend with young adults from St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, Houston, TX. During our retreat, I got to reconnect with some old friends and one of them shared a youtube link with me that renders the four horses of the Apocalypse as My Little Ponies. You can watch it here. After viewing this (several times I might add), I have been reflecting on how this spoof of the Apocalypse connects with John’s version in Revelation and lo and behold! today of all days we get in the Daily Office readings, the four riders coming into the world after the first four seals are broken. If you read the passage and compare it with the video, I think you’ll find some important differences. However, many people, both Christians and non-Christians, are only acquainted (oftentimes negatively) with the fantastical vision of John put forth in Revelation through various liberally-twisted “rapture” narratives and scenarios. Usually in these narratives, the people who God hates are the people the authors or the preachers hate, and the “pure” are delivered from the evil clutches of said group into a heaven whose markers are often cleanliness and tidiness rather than gospel inclusiveness. I am curious about what you readers might think about this dynamic and would love for you to share any experiences you might have had pertaining to the topic (unless of course you wish to unleash death pony upon me a sinner (then you should send me a video post)).

But what really caught me in the readings for today was a portion of the Parable of the Sower. With the image of the martyrs underneath the altar of the Lamb in Revelation crying out for justice, I couldn’t help but imagine how this cry for justice is one of the marks of sainthood. The justice that the saints cry for is one borne of the justice that is often overlooked in the Biblical record. It is a justice that flows forth from the several relationships we either tend or mismanage upon this earth. As the seed of justice, truth and love is scattered freely throughout creation, we humans can choose to choke it, to ignore it, or to make a home for it in the rich soil of our hearts. The unifying principle for me is that a saint is one who, more often than not, chooses to tend it—who chooses to tend their own “soul soil” in the hopes that the fruit that it bears will provide nourishment for others. I give thanks for all those who have gone before us who gave themselves over to that mighty work and pray with them on this day, that we may together move toward that day when there truly may be justice AND peace on this earth.

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To walk a mile, you gotta take a first step

If you are reading this I would like to welcome you to what we hope will be a forum for ideas Episcopalian and creative. A big thanks to William Allen for his help and input. Don’t be bashful about letting us know what you think about this blog. We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

 

Yours always,

 

The Rev. Austin K. Rios

Halloween is here

Episcopalians often get slammed for not being big on prayer. Perhaps this is because for many, prayer is strictly defined as something extemporaneous with the words “Lord, Father God, we just want to…” as a neccessary intro to some request from the deity. Under this definition, it is true, most Episcopalians might wince and tend to distance themselves from this image of prayer (although in true Anglican style, we will still share a meal with those who find this language attractive).

One of the great resources of our tradition is the Daily Office, which comes from the monastic tradition and aids in developing the “discipline” of prayer. The Office is a format in which local prayer can be joined to a global prayer; the format of the prayers are held in common throughout the communion, but local concerns are lifted up as the need arises. For example, today as I prayed the office, I could be assured that many, many others were reading the same words as I, albeit in their own time zone and at their own pace and language, but we all shared the common language of the Office. As I prayed for the needs and concerns of La Capilla, and my own family, others added their own personal intercessions. We all read the same readings about the building of the Second Temple, and about the scroll with seven seals, and about why Jesus speaks in parables. However we all interpret these texts based on our local experience (as well as our understanding of tradition and reason). While most of the faithful do well to pray once daily, monastic communities like the Benedictine Order of the Holy Crosspray a fuller office (Matins, Eucharist, Diurnum, Vespers, Compline) on a daily basis.

I personally struggle with the discipline of prayer probably as much as anyone. Regularity is my challenge, but when I attend to the Office, I find that the rest of my life comes into focus. Creating the habit of prayer is difficult at first, but in my limited experience, it is well worth the initial effort. In the past, one had to wrestle with various books (Book of Common Prayer, Breviary, Daily Office book, Bible), but with internet access, we can now access all the information online. Nothing will ever supplant the communal praying of the Office, but when personal prayer is the only option, this can be a handy resource for feeding your soul and remembering the larger body that exists beyond.

Blessings this Halloween/All Hallow’s Eve, and remember don’t be scared of prayer!

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