The Water, the Spirit and the Blood

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“God of everlasting mercy, who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed, that all may grasp and rightly understand in what Font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed.”
This opening Collect of the Second Sunday of Easter (or of Divine Mercy) is the profound prayer of the priest celebrant on behalf of all gathered that all may grasp and rightly understand the mystery of God’s plan of salvation as disciples baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the Water, the Blood, and the Spirit of which St. John eloquently speaks in his first letter. This is the hope of Easter that St. Augustine shared in one of his Easter Octave Sermons. “This is the octave day of your new birth. … When the Lord rose he put off the mortality of the flesh; His risen body was still the same body, but it was no longer subject to death. By His resurrection He consecrated Sunday as the Lord’s day.”

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

As Catholics we are a people of tradition reaching back nearly 2000 years into the font of Sacred Scripture. This is evident in the link between the Gospel on Divine Mercy Sunday and the Sacrament of Confirmation now underway throughout the Diocese of Jackson.
The crucified and resurrected Lord appeared to the 11 disciples huddled in fear in the upper room with his gift of peace and the breath of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation is conferred with the Invocation of the Holy Spirit sealed in Sacred Chrism, and the Lord’s own greeting, “peace be with you.” The Holy Spirit is ceaselessly at work in whom we have been reborn as new creations to serve God’s divine plan of mercy. It is gift and mystery that reconcile and raise up those under the yoke of sin and shame.
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you,” so Jesus instructs his adopted brothers. They rightly could have asked, “where are you sending us, Lord?” Their marching orders were clear, yet shrouded in mystery. Go, preach a Baptism of Repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and make disciples of all the nations while you’re at it. The Baptism of Repentance for the forgiveness of sin is the Font in which we have been washed, our covenant with God renewed on Easter Sunday.
The joy with which St. Augustine addressed the newly baptized at Easter is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and the Lord’s gift of peace. “I speak to you who have just been reborn in baptism, my little children in Christ, you who are the new offspring of the Church, gift of the Father, proof of Mother Church’s fruitfulness. All of you who stand fast in the Lord are a holy seed, a new colony of bees, the very flower of our ministry, and fruit of our toil, my joy and my crown.”
The Water, the Spirit and the Blood are the cord of three strands that cannot be easily undone. The Blood, the third element, was splattered everywhere during the Lord’s passion and along with water flowed from the side of the expired Savior on the Cross. In that moment of divine mercy, we see the flowing waters of Baptism and the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord. For the first time during the Easter season, the Eucharistic Banquet is now open to the newly baptized who can partake fully of the mysteries of God’s love, the fruit of full initiation.
In another lifetime before the pandemic, we were reading about surveys revealing that many Catholics no longer believe in the real presence of the Body and Blood of the Lord under the appearance of bread and wine. This central dogma of our faith has been a stumbling block for many since our Lord’s Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel. (Chapter 6)
The following is taken from the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem to those about to be baptized in the 4th century. “Since Christ himself has declared the bread to be his body, who can have any further doubt? Since he himself has said quite categorically, this is my blood, who would dare to question it and say that it is not his blood? Therefore, it is with complete assurance that we receive the bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. … Do not then regard the Eucharistic elements as ordinary bread and wine. They are in fact the body and blood of the Lord, as he himself declared. Whatever your senses may tell you; be strong in faith.”
As a people of tradition, by God’s grace, may we grasp and rightly understand the length and breath, height and depth of our Easter faith.

El Agua, el Espíritu y la Sangre

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Dios de eterna misericordia, que en el mismo momento de la fiesta pascual enciendes la fe del pueblo que has hecho tuyo, aumenta, te rogamos, la gracia que has concedido, para que todos capten y comprendan correctamente en qué Fuente han sido lavados, por cual Espíritu han renacido, por cuya Sangre han sido redimidos.”
Esta colecta de apertura del segundo domingo de Pascua (o de la Divina Misericordia) es la oración profunda del sacerdote celebrante en nombre de todos los reunidos para que todos puedan captar y comprendan correctamente el misterio del plan de salvación de Dios como discípulos bautizados en la muerte y la resurrección de Jesucristo.

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

Éste es el Agua, la Sangre y el Espíritu de los que habla San Juan, elocuentemente en su primera carta. Esta es la esperanza de la Pascua que compartió San Agustín en uno de sus Sermones de la Octava de Pascua. “Este es el día de la octava de tu nuevo nacimiento. … Cuando el Señor resucitó, se despojó de la mortalidad de la carne; su cuerpo resucitado seguía siendo el mismo cuerpo, pero ya no estaba sujeto a la muerte. Por su resurrección, El consagró el domingo como el día del Señor.”
Como católicos somos un pueblo de una tradición que se remonta a casi 2000 años en la fuente de la Sagrada Escritura. Esto es evidente en el vínculo entre el Evangelio del Domingo de la Divina Misericordia y el Sacramento de la Confirmación ahora en curso en toda la Diócesis de Jackson.
El Señor crucificado y resucitado se apareció en el aposento alto, con su don de paz y el soplo del Espíritu Santo, a los 11 discípulos, acurrucados por miedo. La Confirmación se confiere con la Invocación del Espíritu Santo sellada en el Sagrado Crisma, y el propio saludo del Señor, “la paz sea contigo”. El Espíritu Santo está trabajando incesantemente en quien hemos renacido como nuevas creaciones para servir al plan divino de misericordia de Dios. Es un don y un misterio que reconcilia y levanta a los que están bajo el yugo del pecado y la vergüenza.
“Como el Padre me envió a mí, así también yo os envío”, así instruye Jesús a sus hermanos adoptivos. Ellos, con razón, podrían haber preguntado ¿a dónde nos envías, Señor? Sus órdenes de marcha eran claras, pero envueltas en misterio. Vaya, predique un Bautismo de arrepentimiento para el perdón de los pecados y haga discípulos de todas las naciones. El Bautismo de Arrepentimiento para el perdón de los pecados es la Fuente en la que hemos sido lavados, nuestra alianza con Dios renovada el Domingo de Resurrección.
La alegría con la que san Agustín se dirigió a los recién bautizados en Pascua es fruto del Espíritu Santo y un don de la paz del Señor. “Les hablo a ustedes que acaban de renacer en el bautismo, mis hijitos en Cristo, ustedes que son la nueva descendencia de la Iglesia, don del Padre, prueba de la fecundidad de la Madre Iglesia. Todos ustedes que están firmes en el Señor son una semilla santa, una nueva colonia de abejas, la flor misma de nuestro ministerio y el fruto de nuestro trabajo, mi gozo y mi corona.”
El Agua, el Espíritu y la Sangre son el cordón de tres hilos que no se pueden deshacer fácilmente. La sangre, el tercer elemento, se esparció por todas partes durante la pasión del Señor y junto con el agua fluyó del costado del salvador muerto en la cruz. En ese momento de la divina misericordia, vemos las aguas fluidas del Bautismo y el Sacramento del Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor. Por primera vez durante el tiempo pascual, el banquete eucarístico está ahora abierto a los recién bautizados que pueden participar plenamente de los misterios del amor de Dios, fruto de la plena iniciación.
En la vida antes de la pandemia, leíamos sobre encuestas que revelaban que muchos católicos ya no creen en la presencia real del Cuerpo y la Sangre del Señor bajo la apariencia del pan y el vino. Este dogma central de nuestra fe ha sido un obstáculo para muchos desde el Discurso del Pan de Vida de nuestro Señor en el Evangelio de Juan. (Capítulo 6)
Lo siguiente está tomado de las Conferencias Catequéticas de San Cirilo de Jerusalén a los que están a punto de ser bautizados en el siglo IV. “Ya que Cristo mismo ha declarado que el pan es su cuerpo, ¿quién puede tener más dudas? Como él mismo ha dicho de manera bastante categórica, esta es mi sangre, ¿quién se atrevería a cuestionarlo y decir que no es su sangre? Por lo tanto, recibimos con total seguridad el pan y el vino como el cuerpo y la sangre de Cristo. … No consideres entonces los elementos eucarísticos como pan y vino ordinarios. De hecho, son el cuerpo y la sangre del Señor, como él mismo declaró. Lo que sea que te digan tus sentidos; sé fuerte en la fe“.
Como pueblo de tradición, y por la gracia de Dios, debemos asirnos y comprendamos correctamente la duración, el aliento, la altura y la profundidad de nuestra fe Pascual.

Latest COVID-19 vaccine can be used in good conscience

By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON – In a new video, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine reiterated that use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine “can be used in good moral conscience.”
“There’s no moral need to turn down a vaccine, including the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is morally acceptable to use,” Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, said in a two-minute video posted on YouTube March 4.
The bishop cited an earlier Vatican statement that “has made clear that all the COVID vaccines recognized as clinically safe and effective can be used in good conscience.”
He also repeated comments that he made in a March 2 statement in conjunction with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, that if a choice of vaccines is available “we recommend that you pick one with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines.”
“Pfizer and Moderna’s connection is more remote than that of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” he said.
“What’s most important is that people get vaccinated,” Bishop Rhoades continued. “It can be an act of charity that serves the common good. At the same time, as we bishops have already done, it’s really important for us to encourage development of vaccines that do not use abortion-derived cell lines. This is very important for the future.”
The Johnson & Johnson Jansen one-shot COVID-19 is the third vaccine that has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In their original statement, the prelates concluded, that “while we should continue to insist that pharmaceutical companies stop using abortion-derived cell lines, given the world-wide suffering that this pandemic is causing, we affirm again that being vaccinated can be an act of charity that serves the common good.”

In December, the prelates addressed concerns over what then were the newly approved BioNTech and Moderna vaccines because “an abortion-derived cell line was used for testing them,” but “not used in their production.” They noted then that cell lines used were derived from fetuses aborted in the 1970s.
However, they said March 2, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine raises “additional moral concerns” because it was “developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.”
In their more recent statement, the bishops also quoted the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which judged that “when ethically irreproachable COVID-19 vaccines are not available … it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process.”
They added that “if one can choose among equally safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should be chosen. Therefore, if one has the ability to choose a vaccine, Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccines should be chosen over Johnson & Johnson’s.”
Bishop Robert P. Deeley of Portland, Maine, added his voice March 4 to those who concurred with the USCCB statement.
“When it is your turn to receive a vaccine, you can receive the one that is offered to you without moral reservation,” he said in a March 4 statement.
“As Catholics we are called to serve humanity in caring for one another. Consider the fact that, during this pandemic, receiving a vaccine is not just for one’s own health, but for the health and safety of those around you,” Bishop Deeley said.
Other bishops also have weighed in on the issue.
Bishop Alfred A. Schlert of Allentown, Pennsylvania, cautioned that he believed the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine “is morally compromised … and should not be accepted by Catholics if other choices are available.”
He said in a brief statement in March 4 issue of The AD Times, the diocesan newspaper, that other vaccines that have been developed are more morally acceptable.
The diocese cited the position of the USCCB about the vaccine in the report, saying that if a choice of vaccines was available, then the one that is least objectionable should be chosen.
In addition, four medical organizations March 2 issued a statement on the availability of the various vaccines and conscience protection.
The medical organizations urged that individual conscience be respected when administering any of the vaccines.
Joining the American College of Pediatricians in the statement were the Catholic Medical Association, the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the National Association of Catholic Nurses.
The American College of Pediatricians is a separate entity from the larger American Academy of Pediatrics.
The statement noted that the coronavirus pandemic has challenged the U.S. for more than a year and that “the availability of vaccines provides a sliver of hope but also raises many questions.”
“Issues our society must address include prioritizing equitable vaccine distribution and the potential for coercive mandates on vaccine use,” the statement said.
The organizations stressed that the people facing the greatest medical risk and those directly involved in caring for ill people should be at the top of the list for being vaccinated. The groups also urged that vaccines be made available to smaller independent hospitals and clinics serving in underserved and rural communities.
In addition, the statement said, “Governments must respect an individual’s right to accept or decline a vaccine.”
“There is no justifiable moral obligation to accept vaccination. If a vaccine has been developed, tested or produced with technology that an individual deems morally unacceptable, such as the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines, vaccine refusal is morally acceptable,” the statement said without naming any of the three vaccines approved for use in the United States.
At the same time, the organizations said, people choosing not to be vaccinated must commit “to take necessary precautions to lessen disease transmission.”
Coerced vaccination must be avoided in order to protect individual conscience rights, the statement continued. “Respect for conscience rights is always of primary importance,” it said.

St. Joseph, a guide in the path of life

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
On Dec. 8, 2020 Pope Francis decreed that the year ahead in the Catholic world would be dedicated as the Year of St. Joseph. Fully steeped in the tradition of the Church the Holy Father was commemorating the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Pius IX who raised up St. Joseph as “Patron of the Catholic Church.”

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

Through the years Venerable Pius XII proposed him as “Patron of Workers” and St. John Paul II as “Guardian of the Redeemer.” St. Joseph is universally invoked as the “patron of a happy death.”
Patris Corde “With a Father’s Heart” is the loveable title of Pope Francis’ letter to the Catholic Church for this year long tribute. Peering deeply into the sacred scriptures, reflecting on the church’s tradition, and responding to the challenges and crises of our times, especially the world-wide pandemic, it is the desire of the Holy Father in this letter to offer a path forward through the lens of St. Joseph’s life.
The chapter headings of this inspiring letter unfold a timeless teaching about this remarkable man, the guardian of the Redeemer. He is a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a creatively courageous father, a working father, and a father in the shadows (out of the limelight).
With the world still reeling from the pandemic, Pope Francis raises up countless women and men who serve in the manner of St. Joseph. “People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history. Doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone… How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all. Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.”
We can say with certainty that just as God had prepared Mary of Nazareth throughout her young life to be the virgin mother of the Savior, so too God had prepared St. Joseph to accept the unimaginable events crashing in on him that would have overwhelmed a lesser man of faith and courage.
The sacred scriptures provide a window into rich inner life of his faith that is recorded as a series of dreams guiding him to accept Mary into his home as his wife, to flee into Egypt, and eventually to return to Nazareth after the death of King Herod. Faith, courage, obedience, trust, perseverance, prayerfulness, compassion, faithfulness, chastity, the list of virtues born of faith in God, could go on and on to describe the foster-father of Jesus.
Cardinal Herbert Vaughan, the founder of the Mill Hill Josephite missionaries in England from which the American Josephites emerged in 1893, wielded considerable influence with Pope Pius IX to declare in 1870 St. Joseph’s universal patronage. (The Josephites continue to serve as pastors at Holy Family in Natchez.)
Cardinal Vaughan wrote profoundly that St. Joseph was a man for all times and seasons. “If you labor for your bread; if you have a family to support; if you endure privation and suffering; if your heart is searched by trials at home; if you are assailed by some importune temptations; if your faith is sorely tested, and your hope seems lost in darkness and disappointment; if you have yet to learn to love and serve Jesus and Mary as you ought, Joseph is your model, your teacher, and your father.”
At the conclusion of “Patris Corde” Pope Francis offers the following prayer for our edification and conversion, especially at this time when we anticipate the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19 in the heart of Lent.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.

San José, guía en el camino de la vida

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
El 8 de diciembre de 2020, el Papa Francisco decretó que el próximo año en el mundo católico se dedicaría como el Año de San José. Totalmente impregnado de la tradición de la Iglesia, el Santo Padre estaba conmemorando el 150 aniversario de la declaración de Pío IX, quien levantó a San José como “Patrón de la Iglesia Católica.”

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

A través de los años, el Venerable Pío XII propuso a San José como “Patrón de los Trabajadores,” San Juan Pablo II como “Guardián del Redentor, y es invocado universalmente como el “patrón de una muerte feliz”.
Patris Corde “Con un corazón de padre” es el adorable título que da la carta del Papa Francisco a la Iglesia Católica para el tributo de este año. Profundizando en las Sagradas Escrituras, reflexionando sobre la tradición de la Iglesia y respondiendo a los desafíos y crisis de nuestro tiempo, especialmente a la pandemia mundial, es el deseo del Santo Padre en esta carta de ofrecer un camino hacia adelante a través del lente de la vida de San José.
Los títulos de los capítulos de esta inspiradora carta desarrollan una enseñanza atemporal sobre este hombre extraordinario, el guardián del Redentor. Es un padre amado, un padre tierno y amoroso, un padre obediente, un padre que acepta, un padre creativamente valiente, un padre trabajador y un padre en las sombras (fuera del centro de atención).
Con el mundo todavía tambaleándose por la pandemia, el Papa Francisco enaltece a innumerables mujeres y hombres que sirven a la manera de San José.
“Personas que no aparecen en los titulares de periódicos y revistas, ni en los últimos programas de televisión, pero que en estos mismos días seguramente están dando forma a los hechos decisivos de nuestra historia. Médicos, enfermeras, tenderos y trabajadores de supermercados, personal de limpieza, cuidadores, trabajadores del transporte, hombres y mujeres que trabajan para brindar servicios esenciales y seguridad pública, voluntarios, sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas, y tantos otros. Todos ellos entendieron que nadie se salva solo… ¿Cuántas personas diariamente ejercitan la paciencia y ofrecen esperanza, cuidando que no se propague el pánico, sino la responsabilidad compartida? ¿Cuántos padres, madres, abuelos y maestros están mostrando a nuestros hijos, en pequeñas formas cotidianas, cómo aceptar y afrontar una crisis ajustando sus rutinas, mirando hacia el futuro y fomentando la práctica de la oración?, ¿Cuántos están orando, haciendo sacrificios e intercediendo por el bien de todos? Cada uno de nosotros puede descubrir en José, el hombre que pasa desapercibido, una presencia cotidiana, discreta y oculta, un intercesor, un apoyo y un guía en tiempos de angustia. San José nos recuerda que quienes aparecen ocultos o en las sombras pueden jugar un papel incomparable en la historia de la salvación. A todos debemos una palabra de reconocimiento y gratitud.”
Podemos decir con certeza que, así como Dios había preparado a María de Nazaret a lo largo de su joven vida para ser la madre virgen del Salvador, así también Dios había preparado a San José para aceptar los acontecimientos inimaginables que se estrellaron sobre él y que habrían abrumado un hombre de menor fe y coraje.
Las sagradas escrituras brindan una ventana a la rica vida interior de su fe, que se registra como una serie de sueños que lo guían a aceptar a María en su hogar como esposa, a huir a Egipto y a finalmente, regresar a Nazaret después de la muerte del rey Herodes. La fe, el coraje, la obediencia, la confianza, la perseverancia, la oración, la compasión, la fidelidad, la castidad son unas en la lista de virtudes, nacidas de la fe en Dios, que podría continuar para describir al padre adoptivo de Jesús.
El cardenal Herbert Vaughan, fundador de los misioneros Josefitas de Mill Hill en Inglaterra de donde surgieron los Josefitas estadounidenses en 1893, ejerció una influencia considerable al Papa Pío IX para declarar en 1870 el patrocinio universal de San José. (Los Josefitas continúan sirviendo como pastores en Holy Family en Natchez.)
El cardenal Vaughan escribió profundamente que San José era un hombre para todos los tiempos y estaciones. “Si trabajas por tu pan; si tienes una familia que mantener; si soportas privaciones y sufrimientos; si su corazón es examinado por juicios en casa; si te asaltan algunas tentaciones inoportunas; si su fe es duramente probada y su esperanza parece perdida en las tinieblas y la desilusión; si todavía tienes que aprender a amar y servir a Jesús y María como debes, José es tu modelo, tu maestro y tu padre.”
Al concluir la “Patris Corde”, el Papa Francisco ofrece la siguiente oración por nuestra edificación y conversión, especialmente en este momento en que anticipamos la Solemnidad de San José el próximo 19 de marzo, justo en el corazón de la Cuaresma.
Salve, guardián del Redentor,
Esposo de la Santísima Virgen María.
A ti Dios confió a su único Hijo;
en ti María puso su confianza;
contigo Cristo se hizo hombre.
Bendito José, también para nosotros,
Muéstrate como padre
y guíanos por el camino de la vida.
Obtén para nosotros gracia, misericordia y valor,
y defiéndenos de todo mal. Amén.

Fire and ice

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction,
Ice is great and will suffice.

– “Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost (American Poet 1874-1963)

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Emerging out of an extraordinary ice storm event we would not disagree with Robert Frost that “for destruction ice is great and will suffice.” We are accustomed to naming hurricanes; can we ascribe a name to the silent merciless grip of ice? Lacking the equipment and materials, most of us in the region were powerless to fight back against the devastation of the storm. This was true city wide and on my neighborhood block.

An eerie silence endured day after day, a silence that is natural on frozen tundra, and in desert environments. The pandemic for nearly a year has restricted; the ice for most of the week prohibited our comings and goings. Those who lost power and/or water suffered doubly, and those who lost their lives payed the ultimate price. In our churches, we went from live streaming in the early stages of the pandemic, to limited congregations in recent memory, and back to live streaming on Ash Wednesday. It’s like the twilight zone. But, is there a way that this weather event can draw us deeper into the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed on the First Sunday of Lent?

He is the Way and the Truth for us who foiled the temptations of the ancient adversary in the desert for forty days. Our season of conversion is now underway and we prayed in last Sunday’s opening oration that “we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.”

Back to Frost, who in his poem shifts to the spiritual realm when he links the consuming power of fire with desire burning out of control, and the destructive power of ice with rampant hate. From the Preface of the First Sunday of Lent, the priest proclaimed that Jesus “by overturning all of the snares of the ancient serpent, taught us to cast out the leaven of malice.” This is the destructive hate of a frozen heart and mind, hardened by sin and powerless to move in any direction. But, water is also life-giving, both in the countless ways as we manage our daily activities, and likewise in the realm of the spiritual where we endeavor to follow the Lord faithfully.

In fact, the Perseverance Rover that recently landed on Mars will scour the planet’s surface in the search for traces of water, past or present, as the indicator of life. St. Paul wrote incisively to his congregation in Rome. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:4)

The waters of Baptism call upon the power of God through faith to give us a new way of seeing, We are not powerless and moribund in the assault of sin and destructive behavior; rather, in the waters of baptism we can be washed clean time and again to see the Lord always beckoning us forward on the path of new life.

Last Sunday’s first reading recalled the events in the time of Noe (Noah) who, quarantined in the arc for more than 40 days, floated upon the waters until they receded. From a floating zoo into the light of day had to be genuine liberation. St. Peter in last Sunday’s second reading reflected upon those whom the arc sheltered from the flood waters. “This prefigures Baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1Pt 3:21)

The first covenant in the Old Testament was an unbreakable bond between God and all of creation, especially humanity, and the rainbow was its forever sign. Throughout Israel’s history the covenant revealed God’s loving faithfulness, (hesed). Abraham and Sarah and their family were given the promise. God formed a people with Moses and the Israelites on Mount Horeb and the Ten Commandments solidified the covenant. The promise came to David that his lineage will never end, and it now comes full circle in the life-giving death and resurrection of the Lord.

The new covenant in his blood is an unbreakable bond that neither fire nor ice, nor a pandemic, are capable of destroying. Through faith and baptism we belong to Jesus Christ and may this Lent be a time when we turn away from sin and embrace the gospel of forgiveness and reconciliation with renewed faith, hope and love.

Hielo y fuego

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Algunos dicen que el mundo terminará en fuego;
Algunos dicen en hielo.
Por lo que he probado de deseo
Sostengo con los que favorecen el fuego.
Pero si tuviera que morir dos veces
Creo que sé lo suficiente sobre el odio
Para decir eso por destrucción
El hielo es genial y será suficiente.

– “Fire and Ice” (Hielo y Fuego) de Robert Frost (poeta estadounidense 1874-1963)

Al salir de una tormenta de hielo extraordinaria, no estaríamos en desacuerdo con Robert Frost en que “para la destrucción, el hielo es genial y será suficiente”. Estamos acostumbrados a nombrar a los huracanes; ¿Podemos atribuir un nombre al silencioso y despiadado agarre del hielo? Al carecer del equipo y los materiales, la mayoría de nosotros en la región fuimos impotentes para luchar contra la devastación de la tormenta. Esto fue cierto en toda la ciudad y en la cuadra de mi vecindario.
Un silencio inquietante soportado día tras día, un silencio que es natural en la tundra helada y en los entornos desérticos. La pandemia nos ha restringido durante casi un año; el hielo, durante la mayor parte de la semana, prohibió nuestras idas y venidas. Aquellos que perdieron la energía y / o el agua sufrieron el doble, y los que perdieron la vida pagaron el precio más alto. En nuestras iglesias, pasamos de la transmisión en vivo, en las primeras etapas de la pandemia, a congregaciones limitadas, en la reciente memoria y de nuevo a la transmisión en vivo del Miércoles de Ceniza. Es como la zona del crepúsculo.
Pero ¿hay alguna manera en que este evento meteorológico pueda llevarnos más profundamente al Reino de Dios que Jesús proclamó el primer domingo de Cuaresma?
Él es el Camino y la Verdad para nosotros que frustramos las tentaciones del antiguo adversario en el desierto durante cuarenta días. Nuestra temporada de conversión ya está en marcha y oramos en la oración de apertura del domingo pasado para que “podamos crecer en la comprensión de las riquezas escondidas en Cristo”.
Volvamos a Frost, quien en su poema cambia al reino espiritual cuando vincula el poder consumidor del fuego con el deseo quemando fuera de control y el poder destructivo del hielo con un odio desenfrenado. En el prefacio del primer domingo de Cuaresma, el sacerdote proclama que Jesús “al derribar todos los lazos de la serpiente antigua, nos enseñó a echar fuera la levadura de la malicia”. Este es el odio destructivo de un corazón y una mente congelados, endurecidos por el pecado e impotentes para moverse en cualquier dirección. Pero el agua también da vida, tanto en las innumerables formas en que administramos nuestras actividades diarias, como en el ámbito de lo espiritual, en el que nos esforzamos por seguir al Señor fielmente.
De hecho, el Perseverance Rover (Robot Perseverancia) que aterrizó recientemente en Marte recorrerá la superficie del planeta en busca de rastros de agua, pasados o presentes, como indicador de vida. San Pablo escribió incisivamente a su congregación en Roma. “Pues por el bautismo fuimos sepultados con Cristo, y morimos para ser resucitados y vivir una vida nueva, así como Cristo fue resucitado por el glorioso poder del Padre.” (Romanos 6:4)
Las aguas del Bautismo invocan el poder de Dios a través de la fe para darnos una nueva forma de ver. No somos impotentes y moribundos en el asalto del pecado y la conducta destructiva; más bien, en las aguas del bautismo, podemos ser lavados una y otra vez para ver al Señor siempre llamándonos hacia adelante en el camino de la nueva vida.
La primera lectura del domingo pasado recordó los eventos en la época de Noé, quien, en el Arca durante más de 40 días, flotó sobre las aguas hasta que éstas retrocedieron. De un zoológico flotante a la luz del día tuvo que haber una auténtica liberación. San Pedro, en la segunda lectura del domingo pasado, reflexionó sobre aquellos a quienes el Arca protegió de las inundaciones. “Y aquella agua representaba el agua del bautismo, por medio del cual somos ahora salvados. El bautismo no consiste en limpiar el cuerpo, sino en pedirle a Dios una conciencia limpia; y nos salva por la resurrección de Jesucristo. (1Pe 3:21)
El primer pacto en el Antiguo Testamento fue un vínculo inquebrantable entre Dios y toda la creación, especialmente la humanidad, y el arco iris fue su signo para siempre. A lo largo de la historia de Israel, el pacto reveló la fidelidad amorosa de Dios, (hesed). Abraham, Sara y su familia recibieron la promesa. Dios formó un pueblo con Moisés y los israelitas en el monte Horeb y los Diez Mandamientos solidificaron el pacto. David recibió la promesa de que su linaje nunca terminará, y ahora se completa el círculo en la muerte vivificante y la resurrección del Señor.
El nuevo pacto en su sangre es un vínculo inquebrantable que ni el fuego, ni el hielo, ni una pandemia son capaces de destruir. A través de la fe y el bautismo, pertenecemos a Jesucristo, y que esta Cuaresma sea un momento en el que nos alejemos del pecado y abracemos el evangelio del perdón y la reconciliación con fe, esperanza y amor renovados.

Unite us to the Lord’s Cross

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
“Reform our lives and believe in the Gospel, remembering that we are dust and unto dust we shall return.” The admonitions with the distribution of ashes are a sobering reminder that this world presents many roadblocks on the path to life. We always hear one or the other as the ashes are placed upon us. Reform or remember!

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

Through the years I have often wished that we could combine the options in order to enter more fully into the death and resurrection of the Lord who reveals the wisdom of God in the Cross. Sin, sickness, suffering and death have cast a shadow over the human condition since the fall from grace, but it has been intensified over the past year through the pandemic. Enormous hurt and undying heart have been on display each day. Is this the paradox of the Cross, and an invitation to see with the eyes of faith that every day the Lenten call to pray, to fast, and to give alms drive the efforts of many?

This year’s journey through Lent can immerse us in the paradox of the Cross, and the power of the resurrection, perhaps in a way that we never have known. With St. Paul we proclaim to the world that “the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God. To those who are called, Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1Cor 1:18ff)

In his message on the world day of prayer for the sick this week for the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, Pope Francis speaks to the rhythm of dying and rising at the foot of the Cross. “The experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless … Sickness raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith.”

In his world-wide gaze, Pope Francis repeatedly has called for a more just social order because “the current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner.”

This is the agony of the Cross in our sin and suffering afflicted world. Yet, the Good News of Jesus Christ does not end in hopelessness but in the power of God in the words of our Holy Father.

“The pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbor. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbors and members of our one human family … Such closeness is a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering. As Christians, we experience that closeness as a sign of the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, who draws near with compassion to every man and woman wounded by sin.” This is the living icon of the presence of God in our world, and the view from eternity for all disciples baptized into the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

“Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies it produces much fruit.” (John 12:24) It is never easy to die to sin and selfishness, but may our prayer, fasting and almsgiving unite us to the Lord’s Cross and resurrection as we allow the Gospel to turn ashes into grains of faith, hope and love during this Lent and always. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Nos una a la Cruz del Señor

Por Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
”Conviértete y cree en el Evangelio. Acuérdate que eres polvo y en polvo te convertirás.” Las advertencias con la distribución de cenizas son un recordatorio aleccionador de que este mundo presenta muchos obstáculos en el camino hacia la vida. Siempre escuchamos una u otra de estas admoniciones cuando depositan las cenizas sobre nosotros. ¡Reforma o Recuerda!

Obispo Joseph R. Kopacz

A lo largo de los años a menudo he deseado que pudiéramos combinar las opciones para entrar más plenamente en la muerte y resurrección del Señor que revela la sabiduría de Dios en la Cruz. El pecado, la enfermedad, el sufrimiento y la muerte han ensombrecido la condición humana desde la caída de la gracia, pero se ha intensificado durante el año pasado a través de la pandemia. Cada día ha mostrado un enorme dolor y un corazón imperecedero. ¿Es ésta la paradoja de la Cruz y una invitación a ver con los ojos de la fe el llamado cuaresmal a orar, ayunar y dar limosna, que cada día impulsa el esfuerzo de muchos?
El viaje de este año por la Cuaresma puede sumergirnos en la paradoja de la cruz y el poder de la resurrección, quizás de una manera que nunca habíamos conocido. Con San Pablo proclamamos al mundo que “El mensaje de la muerte de Cristo en la cruz parece una tontería a los que van a la perdición; pero este mensaje es poder de Dios para los que vamos a la salvación. Como dice la Escritura:
«Haré que los sabios pierdan su sabiduría y que desaparezca la inteligencia de los inteligentes.»” (1Cor 1:18 en adelante)
En su mensaje sobre la jornada mundial de oración por los enfermos de esta semana por la fiesta de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, el Papa Francisco habla sobre el ritmo de morir y resucitar al pie de la Cruz. “Con la experiencia de la enfermedad caemos en cuenta de nuestra propia vulnerabilidad y de la innata necesidad de los demás. Nos hace sentir, con mayor claridad, que somos criaturas dependientes de Dios. Cuando estamos enfermos, el miedo e incluso el desconcierto pueden apoderarse de nuestras mentes y corazones; nos encontramos impotentes … La enfermedad plantea la cuestión del sentido de la vida, que presentamos ante Dios con fe.”
En su mirada mundial, el Papa Francisco ha pedido repetidamente un orden social más justo porque “la pandemia actual ha exacerbado las desigualdades en nuestros sistemas de salud y ha puesto de manifiesto las ineficiencias en la atención a los enfermos. Las personas de edad avanzada, débiles y vulnerables no siempre tienen acceso a la atención de salud de manera equitativa.”
Esta es la agonía de la Cruz en nuestro mundo afligido por el pecado y el sufrimiento. Sin embargo, la Buena Nueva de Jesucristo no termina en la desesperanza sino en el poder de Dios en las palabras de nuestro Santo Padre.
“La pandemia también ha destacado la dedicación y generosidad del personal de salud, voluntarios, personal de apoyo, sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas, todos los cuales han tratado, ayudado, consolado y servido a muchos de los enfermos y sus familias con profesionalismo, dedicación, responsabilidad y amor al prójimo sin egoísmo. Una multitud silenciosa de hombres y mujeres, optaron por no mirar hacia otro lado, sino, por compartir el sufrimiento de los pacientes, a quienes veían como vecinos y miembros de nuestra única familia humana … Tal cercanía es un bálsamo precioso que brinda apoyo y consuelo al enfermo en su sufrimiento. Como cristianos, experimentamos esa cercanía como signo del amor de Jesucristo, el Buen Samaritano, que se acerca con compasión a todo hombre y mujer heridos por el pecado.”
Este es el icono viviente de la presencia de Dios en nuestro mundo, y la visión desde la eternidad de todos los discípulos bautizados en la muerte y resurrección del Señor Jesús.
“Les aseguro que, si el grano de trigo al caer en tierra no muere, queda él solo; pero si muere, da abundante cosecha.“ (Juan 12:24) Nunca es fácil morir al pecado y al egoísmo, pero que nuestra oración, ayuno y limosna nos una a la Cruz del Señor y a la resurrección mientras permitimos que el Evangelio convierta las cenizas en granos de fe, esperanza y amor durante esta Cuaresma y siempre. “El amor del Señor no tiene fin, ni se han agotado sus bondades. Cada mañana se renuevan; ¡qué grande es su fidelidad!” (Lamentaciones 3:22-23)

Witnesses on behalf of life

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
On this past Sunday of the Word of God, the third Sunday in Ordinary time each year, we heard the summons of the Lord Jesus to his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, James and John, a call that is ever ancient and ever new. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand; reform your lives and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:14-20) Events unfold rapidly in the Gospel of Mark.
In the space of half of the first chapter, the reader is blessed to know that the Good News is about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is then baptized, tempted in the desert, and propelled into daily life announcing the Kingdom of God. This Good News is revealed at the Lord’s baptism when the voice from heaven lovingly proclaims, “you are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz

Reforming one’s life is about hearing the Lord, following him along the path of life, turning away from sin, and allowing him to transform our hearts and minds. This is the work of lifetime, but the call to holiness of life is daily.
The heart of the Good News is that we embrace our own identity as beloved daughters and sons of God, the crown of creation, made in the image and likeness of our creator. “If God is for us, who or what can be against us,” as St. Paul who was grasped by Christ, boldly writes. (Romans 8:31)
As the church began to grow and spread throughout the ancient world, the early Christians, in the face of martyrdom, but with minds and hearts transformed, witnessed to an astounding new way of living. Indeed, they preached the Good News to the poor, fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, cared for the sick and the dying, buried the dead, shunned violence, and rejected the Roman customs of infanticide and abortion. While worshipping the Lord who called them from darkness into his marvelous light, they also witnessed to a profound respect for life that grew organically form faith in their crucified and risen Lord.
In every generation then, the disciples of the Lord, the church, proclaim this Good News of salvation, the gift for time and eternity. Against the backdrop of so many violent protests throughout 2020, culminating with the protest that morphed into the disgraceful assault on the hallowed halls of government, today, January 29, marks the anniversary of the March for Life. Faithful pilgrims on behalf of life have marched peacefully for nearly five decades, 100s of thousands each year. Thank you, Pro-Life activists, for your witness on behalf of life, and these days, for your witness to the integrity of the first amendment of our constitution, upholding the right to assemble peacefully. America, please take notice on both counts. In conclusion, the 2021 statement for the March for Life to be held virtually, portrays a profound and comprehensive respect for life.
“The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life. In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different. The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually. We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC this year. These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected. We are profoundly grateful for the countless women, men, and families who sacrifice to come out in such great numbers each year as a witness for life – and we look forward to being together in person next year. As for this year’s march, we look forward to being with you virtually. “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.”