By: Rick Hernandez
“…any superior to whom God has given authority over you stands in the place of God: “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (cf. Lk 10:16). Whenever you perform any deed out of obedience, you are fulfilling God’s will. Direct your obedience to God himself, who is listening. Since you cannot see him, you act out of faith in the authority that he has given; and this makes your obedience meritorious. Your obedience is not merely to the person who commands, who is nothing more than an instrument, but to the very authority this person wields.” - St. Peter Julian Eymard
Once a cherub of God, Lucifer, the “bearer of light”, was himself “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty” (Ezekiel 28:12). More perfect that any other created being, Lucifer thought himself wiser than all, and that pride corrupted his wisdom (Ezekiel 28:17). From that corruption, Lucifer rebelled against God, his creator and the one that had his best interest at heart. Lucifer was disobedient to God, thus becoming Satan (a name that means “Adversary”). Lucifer’s disobedience cost him Heaven.
"Pride is the commencement of all sin… and the beginning of pride is when a man departs from God." (Saint Augustine’s commentary on Ecclesiastes 12).
How many times do we think that we “know better” when figures of authority (bosses, leaders, parents, priests) tell us to do something? Or when we receive advice? Or when we are admonished? As with Lucifer, we think we know better but really, how often do we end up with peace from our own machinations and planning? Yet, our worldly wisdom feeds our pride and our pride feeds our rebelliousness. But God is not asking us for rebelliousness, he is asking us for faithfulness and obedience…
“Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Our leaders are to be just, for they are responsible for us. We have to pray for an increase in humility, so that as we grow in wisdom, we can also fend off the arrogance of pride and be good, faithful followers. When we do this, we surrender to our Lord’s Divine Will, and His perfect plan for our good.
“The more we see that any action springs not from the motive of obedience, the more evident is it that it is a temptation of the enemy; for when God sends an inspiration, the very first effect of it is to infuse a spirit of docility.” - Teresa of Avila
Today, as the world is embroiled with the coronavirus pandemic, our leaders, both civil and Ecclesial, are asking us to make sacrifices, to let go of most of our comforts for the good of the whole. We may be tempted to criticize and vent our frustrations instead of lifting up our brethren trough our actions and words.
Let’s take a little time today to look inwards towards our intentions and identify all our prideful and selfish matters. Let’s pray that we can, with the help of God, remove those imperfections. As Saint Teresa of Avila said, let’s pray for humility and docility. Let’s also pray for our Church, our lay people, our brothers and sisters in religious orders, our deacons, our priests, our bishops and our Pope. For all of us, in that order, have increasing responsibility for the rest of us. Let’s surrender our will to our Father’s Divine Will, which only desires what is best for us; for in that obedience that we owe Him and his Church, our Lord takes full responsibility for us. For “If we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him” (Romans 6:8). Remember always that “If God is for us, then who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). Praying for all of us. May our ever-loving Lord grant us peace.
By: Rick Hernandez
“Everyday, let us make a visit of charity to Purgatory, and this act of charity will make us more vigilant and faithful in the service of God." - St. Peter Julian Eymard
For many years, I've heard people try to explain charity. The concept of charity, in modern society, has come to mean giving to the less fortunate, as in, giving money to help the needy. It is important to give monetary support to the poor, but we are called to more. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines "charity" as "the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God". To love as God loves is more than just giving money to the needy.
Let me share a little story.
Not too long ago I was working for a big bank in Jersey City, NJ. Jersey City is that kind of place where the old and the new clash on a daily basis. There are the new, big, hip apartments buildings soaring 40 floors high next to simple and humble brownstone houses from the last two centuries. The rich and the poor mixing, but not always in perfect harmony...
Often, my coworkers and I would go out to lunch in the area, to modern and convenient restaurants available to us. It was easy and fun to do that. Every day I would walk by the little park and the ABC store that were right next to the office and see this man, sitting outside in temperatures around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and bundled up in an old trench coat. The brown bag in his hand hinted at why he was always there, and his "thousand yard" stare gave me pause whenever I saw him. I would always say "Good Morning" to this man, same as I did everyone else I met, almost in automatic mode with no real thought behind it, and I would receive no reaction whatsoever from him. Yet this one day, for some reason I really looked into this man eyes when I said my greeting and I saw him react to me for the first time. He answered back with a greeting of his own; I stopped and asked him his name, "George. George is my name". "Nice to meet you George", and I told him my name. I asked him to make sure to say Hi whenever he saw me around and then I left.
Over the next six months, I would daily stop on the way to work to say Hi to George. We would speak for a few moments, and little by little I learned about him and his life. Often, I would buy lunch and we would break bread together in the park. George was a lawyer, graduated from a very well known and respected school of law, and the son of a very well-known and famous lawyer. George married his college sweetheart with opposition from both his and her families and moved to Jersey City to get away from all the bickering in the families. In time, George built a thriving law practice and prepared to finally start a family. After trying for a long time, they finally got pregnant! Their happiness was short-lived as his wife was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. Within a couple of months, both mom and unborn child passed unto the glory of our Lord. The bickering from the two families got worse. George descended into an incredible depression and turned to alcohol to suppress his pain. Soon after, his law practice failed. George lost his business, his cars, his home, and spent all his time and money on alcohol. Soon he was homeless, sleeping behind the Government Hall, one block from where I met him. He had spent years living like this, isolated from the world that he believed was causing him pain, trying to be invisible yet unable to let it all go.
At the beginning I did not say too much in my interactions with George. What I tried to do was to be there, present for him, and I prayed. Little by little, our meetings were changing both of us. I noticed I was more aware of everyone I met. I learned the importance of looking at everyone in the eye and how dignifying it is for someone when you spend a few seconds addressing them directly, as if they are the only person in the world at that moment. I felt I was getting more patient, and more willing to listen, because I understood that people feel validated when they are heard, which acknowledges their inherent value as sons and daughters of God. On George’s side, he was drinking less frequently and started standing straighter, speaking vividly and with more clarity. He started trying to get to the shelter at night and wash his clothes. His sense of humor was returning. Eventually, as George's heart started healing, he started talking about returning home. The pain was still there, but there was a sense of longing to share his pain with the other ones that could understand it, his family.
One day, George was not at his usual spot. I did not find him that day nor any other day after that. I prayed that as his heart was healing, that he would go back to his family and heal those wounds too. After another two months, my assignment at the bank was over and I returned home to Tampa. I have never seen George again, yet this dear man will forever be in my heart. I think about him often.
Like Father Eymard said, visiting purgatory (sitting down with the ones suffering) changes us for the better. It makes us into a better likeness of Christ and helps us build on our charity, the real charity. I sometimes think that the one with the real charity in my story was George. He was the one in pain, the one that had lost everything, yet he was the one that took the time to also be with me, to emerge from his difficult position in life to engage with me, to teach me to care, to love as Christ did. He took my gift of charity and gave it back, through Christ, tenfold.
Father Eymard took care of the poor and indigent in Paris. Mother Teresa took care of the sick and dying in Calcutta. Both of them rested in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in order to increase their charity, their love. Let us take the opportunity, as we start this Lenten period, to do likewise, to increase in our love (caritas) so that we can go out into the world, share of ourselves and truly love. May you also find your George.
By: Rick Hernandez
“How kind is our Sacramental Jesus! He welcomes you at any hour of the day or night. His Love never knows rest. He is always most gentle towards you. When you visit Him, He forgets your sins and speaks only of His joy, His tenderness, and His Love. By the reception He gives to you, one would think He has need of you to make Him happy.” – St. Peter Julian Eymard
I have always been a bit of an anthologist, a collector of stories. Some of my most cherished childhood memories revolve around the times when we had visitors to our household. Even as a young child, I loved to sit at the table and listen to the interactions between my parents and their guests, mainly, because these always came with great retelling of the stories of their lives. Some of these tales were light and funny, some were heavy and sad. Sometimes, deep questions were posed; other times, strong feelings were conveyed and allayed. On occasion, great personal insight was shown and relayed. But beyond all that, what moved me the most, was that these were stories that celebrated their experiences. They LIVED through these experiences, learned from them, and were now sharing those lessons with us. There were always laughs to be had and tears to be shed when the heart was willing to accept these gifts. Through the retelling of these stories, these dear friends brought us into their intimate circle, and passed down their hard-learned wisdom to us. They were sharing their life, and by that, they were also sharing who they were. At those moments, we were receiving their gifts of self, time, presence, acknowledgement, and love. As a child, being able to participate at this table, acknowledged my dignity as a member of the family.
When I am at the Eucharistic banquet that is the Mass, I am once again as that young child, watching attentively at this reunion of the elders. In the Liturgy of the Word, the ones that came before us break open their life stories, shared with us through Scripture. In fact, the Word Himself, our Lord, breaks open and shares the stories of His public life, as a gift of Grace and Wisdom to the ones truly present, that we may grow ever closer to Him who loves us so dearly. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Christ, our Lord, raises us to His table and gives us our true dignity as members of this family, the family of God.
He cares for our stories too! We are called to share our experiences with Him in this celebration as well, to unite them in love, as part of our offering, to the offering of Our Lord in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. And then we are sent to share the good news! If we are, to a certain extent, the sum of all of our experiences (including the ones we glean from others), then when we offer those up to our brothers and sisters daily, we are truly emulating Jesus, who gives us everything He is, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
So, next time a dear one sits with us, and starts sharing of who they are in their story, let’s listen well and with a willing heart, for that may be a great gift for us. May we, at that and every moment, truly be Christ to one another.
By: Rick Hernandez
A few months ago, during a team building exercise at the office, we were asked whether we had a main goal to accomplish at work. The answers from our very large and very heterogeneous group were varied and ranged from wanting to do "good for our patients" to wanting to "climb the corporate ladder". I noticed that the people answering had one thing in common, that is, they knew their answers right away. They knew what they wanted to accomplish at work. After this question, the group leader asked us whether we had a main goal in life. To my surprise, most of the co-workers struggled with their answers, some starting with "If I have to have a goal it would be..." or "I don't really know, I guess it would be...".
The point of the exercise was to invite us to think about how work is part of life, and life is what we live. Reality is that we tend to separate our work from everything else, almost like a different world. We invest fully a third of our time at work, but it tends to be disconnected from the rest of our lives...
Later I started to think about my own life, how I'm a husband, father, son, brother, friend, mentor, mentee, teacher, student, and I asked myself the same questions... What is my goal in life, at work, on the street, and at home? Do I have a main, all-encompassing goal to the way I live my life, one that applies to all that I am and am called to be here on this Earth? I prayed for a while and eventually the answer came: “To accept the love God has for me and share it with everyone, through who I am and what I do.” At the end of the day, isn't this what our God commands us to do? To accept His love, we plug into the source, our Lord Jesus Christ. Participating in His feast, the Eucharistic banquet, the Holy Mass, we recharge our hearts with the faith, hope and charity we require to perform our daily chores and jump-start the relationship with our brothers and sisters.
We are children of God, not just some of the time, but all of the time. We are Church, not just on Sundays, but every day. We are sent-disciples, not just at church, but everywhere. We are called to constantly and consistently be in relationship with our Lord, and to show His love to others, that they may get closer to God through seeing His love for us. Let us then, unite the separate aspects of our lives to Him who loves us, that we may achieve the consistency required to be His true disciples, apostles of His love, everywhere we go.
By: Rick Hernandez
Every year without fail, I meet people that are having a difficult time with the holiday season. Some can verbalize what is difficult for them, but I find that most cannot even tell you why they have such a hard time. Through experience, I have come to understand that, in most cases, their struggle is with loneliness.
Sometimes people struggle because they are away from home and family, driven away by their life circumstances, difficulty of relationships, or hurt and resentment. Sometimes they struggle because they’ve lost someone close to them, be it the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship, and have yet to process the change and recover from the experience. Sometimes they struggle because they just never had someone that was close to them in the first place. The longing to be someone of importance to somebody is heavy in their hearts and minds, and their sense of self-worth is often tied to these feelings. I know this very well, for I have also been trapped in this web of complicated feelings, and after years of praying, God allowed me to understand two things about loneliness.
One -- In order to defeat loneliness, we need a solid relationship with God. We are social beings. We are created in the image of God and we know He is a God of relationship and community. This is evident in His very nature, for He is the Holy Trinity, three in one: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. As He is community and relationship, so are we called to be. In order to share from our cup, the cup must be filled, and we get to fill our cup from our relationship with God. “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows” (Ps 23:5). From this overflowing cup, we can offer love to others without fear, for we are not alone. “I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Two -- We need to let go of our expectations and fears. Some of us live in these cages of our own making, cages that keep us from reaching out to others. We keep ourselves separate from own brothers and sisters, but long for acknowledgement and companionship. This just does not work. Destroy the cages! Let go of fears and expectations. “Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). If we make the effort to love our brothers and sisters, with God’s help, we can win the fight against loneliness. Doing this may be difficult but…
“No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor 10:13).
It is with hope for all of us that I am filled with excitement this holiday season! May this time of reflection bring us the gift of understanding the great love God has for us. May His overwhelming love fill our cups, that we may share His overflowing goodness with everyone, and that by doing so, we may mend old relationships and create new ones. May our hearts all be united in Him who loves us infinitely. We are not alone!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
By: Rick Hernandez
During our latest family trip to Puerto Rico, we attended Mass in a humble building, the Chapel of our Lady of Mercy in San Juan. There, a Spaniard Passionist priest gifted us with one of the most amazing homilies I have ever listened to, celebrating the Feast of Christ the King. Amongst many other things, Father recited the following words:
“For you Lord have a crown that is not made of gold,
and neither are your vestments made of silk.
Your throne is the Cross,
and your castle is but the heart of man.”
And for me, these few words implanted a strong image of the majesty of our King, readily apparent for those who want to see.
Jesus himself said, “…my Kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). We know that His Kingdom is not based on earthly things, but… Is it just a Kingdom in Heaven? No. Father was emphatic that the Kingdom of Our Lord is here, right now, in our hearts, in our minds, in how we live and what we do.
We are called to replace the thorns of His Crown with our actions of love and compassion, to turn them into a crown of gold and jewels. We are called to tend to our brothers and sisters, the poor, to clothe them, to feed them, to care for them, thus turning His ripped linen garments into pure vestments of silk. We are called to sit at the foot of His throne, the Cross, and there receive the commission to go out into the world as apostles of Christ; commissioned to live our faith and to love others, to proclaim the Word of God by our actions, thus turning His wooden Cross into a golden throne.
We can see, that as the world tempts us to turn away from God, our hearts are to be the fortresses of the Kingdom, the strong outposts of the faith. When we stand firm in our belief, when we live the love we receive from our Lord, then we become His castles, His battlements, His outposts, the safe places for our brothers and sisters. The Mass becomes our place of gathering, our town-hall, where we are community. The Eucharist is then our sustainment, our bread and wine, the feast of the Lord where we are nourished. If we are willing to see, we are literally the Kingdom of God, here, now, loved by our King.
Oh, how Majestic a King you are my Lord! There in your Throne of Wood, with your Crown of Thorns, wearing your love, pouring out from your wounds! How can we serve you Lord? How can we learn to love the way you love us? Please, open our eyes to your World. Please increase our faith, hope and charity that we may be as you see us, your children and the princes and princesses of your Kingdom. Amen.
By: Rick Hernandez
“At Nazareth Joseph's days were filled with work which necessarily took him away at times from his Infant God. During these hours Mary replaced him, but when evening brought him home again, he would pass the entire night in adoration, never tiring, only too happy for the chance to contemplate the hidden riches of Jesus' divinity. For he pierced the rough garments the Child wore, until his faith touched the Sacred Heart. In profound adoration he united himself to the special grace of each one of the events in the life of Jesus. He adored our Lord in His hidden life and in His Passion and Death; he adored in advance the Eucharistic Christ in His tabernacles: there was nothing that our Lord could hide from Saint Joseph. Among the graces which Jesus gave to His foster-father (and He flooded him with the graces attached to every one of His mysteries) is that special to an adorer of the Blessed Sacrament. That is the one we must ask of St. Joseph. Have confidence, strong confidence in him. Take him as the patron and the model of your life of adoration." - St. Peter Julian Eymard
When people ask me about my father, I often respond with, “I am the son of a preacher man”, echoing the famous song. But my father was not always a preacher man. Before he became a Catholic missionary, he was a factory worker. As a child, I remember him getting ready to go to work early every morning. I missed him very much whenever he was away, but it was always a big deal for me and my siblings whenever my dad arrived from work at the end of the day, gifting us with the stories of his life. His stories were always engaging, for he had a way to make the mundane sound interesting and at the same time taught us about life, about selflessness and about sacrifice. In our little domestic church, our humble home, Dad was our Saint Joseph.
When we think about adoration, we might picture Mother Mary with the child Jesus, but we know that Joseph was there as well. Joseph watched over them, provided for them, and protected them from the world as they both, Jesus and Mary, grew into the wisdom they required to perform their work in this world. If Mary’s fiat was the beginning of the work of redemption, then Joseph’s fiat was the one that maintained it.
“We do not want only to adore, serve and love Jesus-Eucharist, but also to make him known, adored, served and loved by all hearts” (St. Peter Julian Eymard). Joseph adored, but he also always worked. I can picture him caring for Jesus and Mary when they were sick. I can imagine Joseph doing his carpentry job, providing for the holy family the same way my father did for ours, and I can also imagine the times when Joseph came back home at the end of the day to share in the love of his family. If Mother Mary was the first tabernacle, then Saint Joseph was the first sanctuary lamp, showering light over his charges, watching and announcing to us that we should pay attention because “there is something greater here” (Mt 12:6). And all that Joseph did was in private, hidden. All his love and sacrifice were witnessed only by Jesus and Mary, and “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:12).
That is still the job with our families today. Fathers are called to protect the “pearls of great value” (Mt 13:46) that are our charges. We know that in our families we transcend our solitary value, and by our actions there, we can enrich the Kingdom of God. As fathers, we are to do this, in the background, in humility, but with love and confidence, that His Kingdom may come and that our work and sacrifice may allow us to meet our loved ones in Heaven, for “we hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy” (Heb 10:23).
We are Ivonne Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.