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If you’re searching for an excellent text as a tool for parish evangelization – a plan of action, so to speak, in all ages across cultures, look no further. The initial encounter of the two would-be disciples (Andrew and the other unidentified person, let’s say it’s you) with Jesus begins with the renowned and highly acclaimed prophet pointing them to the lamb of God prompting them to leave him behind. Imaginably, it must have been a poignant scenario as it’s not easy to let go of an inspiring preacher in a heartbeat. At any rate, there’s always someone or something that will bring you to God: a mentor, a shady past, a personal issue or name it.

What are you looking for in 2018? Have you come up with something? or given up before making a move? And the answer is, Teacher! Andrew along with the anonymous fellow says it out loud (italics mine). They are on-the-hunt for someone to teach them about the depths of life, obviously found only in God and the precursor was right on target, Behold!  here is the Lamb of God!

A humble invitation to Come and See is the first step in the risky business of evangelization and not, por favor, the flowery- theological- rhetoric. Invitation means belongingness. In the church, the portable baptismal font enjoys its prominence in the aisle to strongly emphasize communal dimension. If baptism is the entry way to friendship with God and members, it must be revived at the ground level – parish community.


To invite even a familiar friend can be overwhelming and terrifying. Expect that for every ten attempts, be lucky to get an average of two. However, the goal is to spread the word as best we can with no stings attached. Although RSVP’s are none of our business, a 10:2 ratio can be discouraging and devastating. Don’t flinch. Remember the calling of the first followers starts with just two ordinary folks: Andrew and the unnamed individual. Once in a while, I receive calls from parents asking me to help them bring back their unchurched daughter(s) to the fold. It’s not rocket science but there are no shortcuts. Come and See. Invite and Welcome.

Any host of an occasion will make sure that the environment is hospitable enough at creating a welcoming atmosphere. Otherwise, don’t even try. In the parish, I’ve done terrible things in the critical area of hospitality (can’t even begin to tell you) and been embarrassed, not once but several times. It was mostly failed attempts and missed opportunities at welcoming visitors.

No further details have been disclosed about the stay. But the fact that they vividly remembered the exact time – until four in the afternoon, of their first encounter with Christ, it must have been extraordinarily memorable, an experience no words will ever give justice. There was no mention of an attempt to convert (if that meant proselytizing) and I’m glad there was none to allow more room for mystery. Andrew broke the news to his brother Peter ‘We have found the Messiah!’ and in effect, introduced him to the Lord. This led to a chain reaction of what eventually became the 12- member core group that has gone viral ever since. Come and See. Amen



Catholics, practicing and not, will come (depending on timezone – the already and not yet) in droves. Many of them disengaged with the parish grind and anything in between. They’re tied up with family, work, worldly pleasures (not bad at all) and perhaps, find little meaning in church life. Parish Christmas Ads have been in circulation in the greater Marana area and beyond weeks in advance but generated little attention: clicks, likes, reactions and reach…

Unlike other churches, there’s no clearly laid out plan here @ St Christopher for a possible catching up with faith. A simple invitation to take a deep breath would be enough for a small crowd of no more than 300 people. The game plan (if there’s any) is to make them feel welcome with a warm smile and a divine loving embrace, provide a sanctuary, offer a safe space in the privacy of their hearts, enjoy the peace and serenity and the quiet stillness of the moment with little to no pressure of coming back, next week or next year or whenever, whatever…

Christmas is a story of a distant God whose name can’t even be pronounced and yet, fulfilled his promise in the charismatic persona of Jesus Christ, his Son, born in humble circumstances (in a cave), the savior of the world, broke all records by dying on the cross, wishing nothing other than to connect and reconnect and befriend fallen humanity.

There will be a blessing of the infant Jesus as a remarkable symbol of divine love and light among families, relatives, friends and even churches in adverse circumstances. May the helpless new born child wrapped in swaddling clothes be a source of unity, peace and reconciliation among us. Amen.


Today is a double- header. The normal Sunday Mass Times are still in effect while the Christmas Vigil Mass doesn’t start until 5pm. A text message from Google prompted me esta manana @4. Mea culpa. Es confuso y yo tambien.

It’s still Advent and won’t go anywhere without Blessed Mother. In fact, Mary has been trending for the most part of December. The weekday readings predominantly recount the infancy narratives along with the astonishing story of the Annunciation proclaimed today -the shocking announcement of the divine plan of salvation heralded by the ecstatic angel Gabriel, the initial (hesitant) response which could have gone otherwise, the friendly assurance of the messenger letting her know not to worry about anything for God is in complete control of the situation and the final response- the humble reception of the message relying entirely on a power outside her.

Mary’s humble acceptance of God’s timeless invitation and the keeping of things close in her heart has become the hallmark of discipleship. She represents the hidden, the invisible, the often-ignored and taken for granted inner life without which any minister would run around empty and easily fall prey to the greatest showman ever – the devil. Spending time in silence with God is a requirement of faith, the enduring force that holds life together. It’s not surprising that the Ad “Putting Christ back at Christmas” is hitting the IoT by storm which gives any church leader enough reasons to rant about the widespread commercialism. Mary is the exemplar of things unseen, unpublished, behind the scenes, off-camera, the stuff that go unnoticed but a necessary component. A professional player once shared in an interview that the most excited part of the game is the preparation.

In the sacred writings, Mary shows us the indispensable value of receptivity – a spiritual discipline that freely puts oneself on the receiving end, doing nothing at all in order to ponder the depths of things. This is a spiritual exercise that’s easily overlooked as unnecessary in the scheme of things. An engaged couple preparing for marriage didn’t mind coming to the office weekly and in fact, surprised me, Father, if seminary formation took you over a decade of preparation, then a year, even 6 months is a drop in the bucket. Amen.


The gradual shift from a penitential tone to a festive atmosphere overwhelmingly on display in the church environment signals the joy and warmth of the upcoming feast as it draws near. Noticeably, the sanctuary is inundated with red poinsettias with a handful of whitesh-yellowish hue. A slightly elevated empty wooden crib laid at the foot of the altar has finally found a place and right next to it is a garbage bound casita found by accident in the stack. The richly decorated fresh Christmas tree along with the enormously adorned images and statues of the Blessed Mother (La Inmaculada Concepcion y Maria Santisima Virgen de Guadalupe) with an Old Pueblo motif, and wreathes decked on walls are meant to heighten the awareness of the birth of Christ as it comes closer.

It’s not that we suddenly got rid of John the Baptist’s draconian persona. His relentless style is much revered, not to mention, the countless lives transformed in ways beyond words. While we learned a great deal about him particularly, repentance and simplicity last week, the focus (if ever there was any) has (drastically) changed at least from my vantage point.

The third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday is marked by a deep sense of gladness emanating from the religious dimension of the celebration itself, that is, the story of a God who became flesh in Jesus Christ without diminishing his divine and human natures. The joy of the approaching feast has been directly connected with the fulfillment of the Emmanuel God-with-us-in-human-form prophecies of Isaiah. The sacred symbol of trees, the lights, the candles in frontyards, the crèche, gift-giving, family get-togethers, church gatherings excessively heavy on feasting carried out meaningfully with extraordinary excitement and effort define the spirit of Christmas. What makes Christmas different from the other seasons is that it sets the joyful tone primarily in our dealings with everyone for the entire year. Isaiah nails it again with the words, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul (Isa 61:10).” (ONCE MORE WITH FEELING) along with Paul’s eternal lines, “Rejoice always (1 Thess 5:16)…God is the source of our joy such that we can’t live without. He is the invisible force that feeds our inner lives which makes the warmth of our smile contagious, our persona endearing. Even the endless list of religious prohibitions and regulations (sort of, delayed gratification) understood correctly don’t seem obstacles at all but closely associated with gladness the season brings.

This year, advent outreach (works of charity) has been placed in the limelight, the focal point of service. Earlier on Advent, the HS Confirmation organized a food and clothing drive and handed out @Rillito last week. A parishioner made two hundred sandwiches to be brought to Tucson’s Casa Maria Catholic Worker. A couple has expressed interest as well. Amen.






John the Baptizer is trending on Advent. This saintly figure which represents the stern side of religious belief strikingly dominates the season. The fact that there was no confusion about his role desiring nothing but making God’s presence felt, he deserves much respect. Arguably, his lifestyle was beyond repute. He was a no non-sense guy. Sunday obligation was non-negotiable. For him, there’s no ifs and buts. Excuses are unacceptable. It’s either all or nothing. The message is urgent and disturbing evidently echoing Isaiah 40 “…a voice crying out in the wilderness…prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths…” Love him or hate him, you cannot ignore him. As a preacher, he had an enormous following and to this day, you bet, versions of him are still in existence across the globe. He was profoundly influential. He drew significant number of people (busy or not) from all over the place. Religiously devout parents who diligently with grit and determination raise their kids in the church have my respect and support than those who do nothing but give kids the freedom to choose which religion speaks more to them. With so much clout, he could have easily lured his followers he was the promised Messiah, the One they’ve been waiting for ages but no, he said, “One mightier than I is coming after me.” He vehemently denied it and shockingly, diverted everyone’s attention perhaps, to the dismay of many. There was no doubt it was the right thing to do. His role to direct our focus on Christ was exceedingly clear. By pointing his curious and serious followers to the more powerful, he occupies a significant part in the immediate preparation of the birth of the Emmanuel.

Repentance described as a lifetime process of going back and forth with God and not simply a 12- step program, was all he wanted from his hearers. It is as easy as making a short deliberate trip to the church for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and as difficult as not making plans at all.

If I have a choice, I’d wait until early next year, on the first few weeks of January for John the Baptizer’s grand entrance. I find it odd to talk about him in a congregation whose minds are heavily preoccupied with clothes to wear on parties, decors to hang, gifts to shop and presents to wrap. Outrageous shopping deals would probably make better sense and be more enticing than the harsh pointed words (avoid at all cost on Christmas please). I’d rather go on the safe side, non-invasive in anyone’s privacy and personal lives rather than increase the tension. Perdon. I don’t have the liberty. His words can never be more timely. Immersed in a world that places so much attention on the self, highly valuing the individual and personal suggesting nothing else exists except the visible reality, John the Baptist sits with us in the waiting room. Amen.








The parable of the talents is an extraordinary display of God entrusting us the wealth of his kingdom. The fact that the text has been placed in the 25th chapter of Matthew, towards the end of the gospel, powerfully depicts the religious conduct of a follower while awaiting the final judgment.

Talents are substantial amount of money which in this context are highly symbolic of God’s precious gifts. They are provided at our disposal for the benefit of his kingdom, with no excuses come the time of reckoning. The slaves handled it differently. Since the first two doubled it God applauded, promoted them to greater responsibilities and invited them to come share in his joy. What was commended wasn’t simply the successful outcome but the effort exerted which involved great risks.

Because a significant section has been devoted to the slothful, wicked and lazy third servant, this must have been the focus of the episode. Playing safe, out of fear of losing an extremely large sum of money may have been the right thing to do back then but doesn’t contribute (no offense taken) to the edification of the kingdom. This leads us to that if we are lukewarm and disengaged and make all the excuses in the world giving everyone the impression church’s mission is unimaginably difficult, God will make a harsh condemnation on us as never heard before. If we presume things would go well in the end without us having any part in it, God will stunningly rebuke and severely punish us for not sharing the perennial gifts of kindness, generosity, hospitality and love.

Understandably, many of us are probably left with more questions than answers such as where and how to begin. The truth is, we have everything at our disposal to start somewhere. And that there is no excuse for doing nothing at all. Everything we do in the church involves great risks of failure, limits of role, and of being misconstrued, etc. However, we can never go wrong with works of charity such as prioritizing the excluded in society. No act of kindness ends up in failure.

A week before the end of the liturgical season, shaped and fashioned by the Matthean community with a huge emphasis on the institutional church, the parable of the talents leaves us once again with an open-ended question, whether to do something with the talent or bury it. It’s up to you but if I were you, invest on it even if it’s risky or you’ll be sorry. Amen.


Pilgrimage has come to an end. It was short but deeply moving. I had a fresh understanding of faith both as a series of creeds (belongingness) and a personal divine encounter (friendship).

As the Amsterdam bound aircraft leaves the ground, fades and disappears in the air, I pray for peace in decades of unresolved conflict…for reconciliation between Muslims and Jews however that works, whether it means learning to co-exist…for as long it doesn’t go to the next life.

It is tempting to stay longer as the holy ground prides itself as the closest place to heaven and the Dead Sea being the lowest place on earth. Much as I wish to spend more time, I have to go. Everything is expensive from food, clothing, oil/gas, let alone faith.

What matters most is what anyone intends to do following the humbling experience with an elusive reality. As for me, that remains to be seen.

As a souvenir, I bought a Jerusalem Cross. It is silver (budget friendly), not gold or diamond and relatively small as a reflection of the size and quality of my faith.

I’ll terribly miss the group I was honored and privileged to travel with…

This is a Holy Land…