Tag Archives: José Antonio Pagola

Mission prayer

Yesterday we had a meeting of about 45 Dulce Nombre parishioners who will go out to villages in the parish for our week of mission in October.

Padre German asked me to do a presentation on Mission in Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium, which I have uploaded here (only in Spanish).

He did a presentation on Mission and Mercy in the same apostolic letter of Pope Francis. He also shared this prayer, adapted from José Antonio Pagola.

Señor, ayúdanos a salir,
“Del resentimiento a una lectura positiva de la crisis,
De una iglesia que interviene ‘desde fuera’ a una Iglesia que camina,
De una iglesia ‘lugar de salvación’ a una iglesia ‘signo de salvación’,
Del esquema de la oferta y la demanda a la dinámica del diálogo,
De la imposición de un sistema religioso a la propuesta de la fe,
De la conservación de la comunidad constituida a la misión,
De la repetición de la herencia a la creatividad”.

Lord, help us leave
From resentment to a positive reading of the crisis,
From a Church which intervenes “from the outside” to a Church which walks,
From a Church as “place of salvation” to a Church which is “sign of salvation,”
From a framework of supply and demand to the dynamic of dialogue,
From the imposition of a religious system to a proposal of faith,
From the conservation of the established community to mission,
From the repetition of the inheritance to creativity.

Quite a radical prayer – but. I believe, in the spirit of Pope Francis.


A Kingdom wage

My thoughts are not your thoughts
and your ways are not my ways,
says the Lord.
Isaiah 55: 8

Jesus wouldn’t make it in a dog-eat-dog business world. Today’s Gospel, Matthew 20: 1-16) proves it.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like the owner of a vineyard. He needs to get the crop harvested today and so he goes out and hires workers for the normal daily wage.

These aren’t enough and so he goes out to the market place four more times and finds men idle. The lazy bums, some might say.

He asks the last group why they were standing around idle all day. “No one hired us,” they say.

Then he pays all of them the daily wage, the money needed to buy what they need for their families. Their lives depend on finding work.

Those who worked all day complained.

But, as Gustavo Gutiérrez explains in Sharing the Word through the Liturgical Year,

… the workers of the eleventh hour have the same right to work as the first laborers and the right for them and their families to live from that work.

I never really understood this parable of Jesus until I spent a few days in Houston twenty four years ago.

Each day I passed a corner several times and saw men standing around idle. It didn’t matter when I passed; there were almost always men there.

Once, as I passed, a pickup stopped by the corner and the men ran out to talk to the driver. Soon several jumped into the truck as the driver sped off.

They were day laborers, seeking a job for the day. They were not lazy bums standing on a street corner. They were men hoping to find a way to earn some money.

That’s the situation of people all over the world. Some seek a job for even one day – to earn some money for the family. I have been approached a number of times and asked if I had a job for a person. Even some university graduates ask me from time to time if I know of a job.

In God’s Reign, everyone would have a job with a decent wage. All would have what they need to sustain their families.

But also, in God’s Reign all would be welcomed – even the tax collector Matthew whose feast is celebrated today.

The owner of the vineyard asks, “Are you envious because I am generous?”

As José Antonio Pagola writes in Following the Footsteps of Jesus,

All our notions are overturned when we are faced with the free and unfathomable love of God. That is why it shocks us when it seems that Jesus bypassed the pious who are loaded with merits and goes precisely to those who are not entitled to any reward from God — sinner who do not observe the Law or prostitutes forbidden to enter the temple.

God is just and generous. God’s Reign is overflowing with justice and generosity.

With God, we are called to live aware of the generosity and abundance of God – not in a world defined by scarcity where each one of us looks out only for our own salvation and physical existence.

God calls us to something more.


Sweet hope

You have filled your people with sweet hope,
by prompting them to repent…
Wisdom 12: 19 

 It sometimes feels as if our world is overwhelmed with violence, with war, with poverty, and oppression and there is nothing we can do.

We sometimes want instant solutions that make things right overnight. We are like the servants in today’s parable of the wheat and weeds (Matthew 13: 24-30) who want to get rid of the weeds – once and for all.

But God works differently, slowly, quietly, in subtle ways. God works like leaven.

As José Pagola comments, in Following in the Footsteps of Jesus:

 The kingdom of God comes about like the leaven that a woman “hides” in the dough so that the whole mass gets fertilized. That’s how God acts. He does not come from the outside to impose his power like the emperor of Rome, but to transform human life from within in a silent and hidden manner.

This is the way God acts: he does not impose, but transforms; does not dominate, but attracts. Thus, those who work with him in his project must act like leaven by bringing in his truth, his justice and his love in a humble way, but with transforming power.

We are called to be the leaven in the dough, helping God’s love become present in our world.

In this way, we can become grains of God’s hope in a world that so needs to see God working among us, planting hope and prompting us to repent of all that keeps this from happening.


Resurrection faith

The Harrowing of Hell Spanish Chapel Santa Maria Novella Florence

The Harrowing of Hell

Good Friday is all too real in a world where violence and sin reign, where the poor suffer. But there words of José Antonio Pagola point to the faith that sustains us:

“At the heart of our faith there is a crucified man whom God has proven right. At the heart of the church there is a victim to whom God has done justice. A crucified life, inspired by and lived in the spirit of Jesus, will not end in failure but in resurrection

“… It is not a senseless venture to live with concern for those who suffer, to reach out to the most needy, to help the helpless; it means journeying to the mystery of a God who will resurrect our lives forever.

“… To follow the crucified one until we share in the resurrection with him is finally to give our lives, our time, our efforts, and perhaps our health for the sake of love.”

José Antonio Pagola, Following in the Footsteps

The fresco of the Harrowing of Hell  is from The Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella, Florence.


The great temptation

The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is always the temptations of Jesus in the desert.

What is the greatest temptation for Jesus? I think it’s giving up on his mission as Son of God who has come to call us to live the Reign of God.

It’s settling for cheap substitutes for the Reign of God.

And for us, it’s very much the same.

Instead of multiplying bread for the hungry, we turn stones into bread for our own satisfaction.

Instead of showing forth the glory of God in caring for the sick, we seek grand spectacles that will make people look to us for easy salvation.

Instead of accompanying and identifying with the lowly, we seek control by identifying with the rich and powerful.

We forth our dignity as daughters and sons of God, as creatures held in God’s loving arms, and want to be like gods.

We give up our mission, our identity for a dream or, rather, an illusion.

José Antonio Pagola puts it well:

Our great temptation today is to change everything into bread. To reduce the horizon of our lives more and more to the mere satisfaction of our desires, making obsession with ever greater well-being and indiscriminate and limitless consumption almost the only ideals in our lives.

Jesus’ call can help us be more aware that man does not live by the good life alone. Human beings also need to cultivate the spirit, know love and friendship, develop solidarity with those who are suffering, listen responsibly to their consciences, be open to the ultimate Mystery of life with hope.

This Lent is for me a time to renew my mission and not settle for cheap imitations, to open myself to the will of God and not hold on to a desire to control.

Lent is a time to remember that I am not a god, the center of the universe; I am a child of God, who loves us.

That is my prayer and my hope for this Lent.

The full translated text of Pagola’s commentary can be found here. Rebel Girl translates his commentaries every week. The Spanish originals can be found here.


Your wounds shall quickly be healed

All of us are wounded.

 There are parts of our lives that cause us deep pain or shame, parts that make us feel less than human.

 Sometimes the wounds come from without – injustice, sickness, war, insults.

 But sometimes the wounds come from within. José A Pagola, in Following in the Footsteps of Jesus (page 91), puts it well:

 We live our lives trying to hide our failings in order to pretend before others and ourselves to have a perfection we do not possess.

Psychologists tell us that this tendency is a defense mechanism to maintain our self-respect when faced with the possible superiority of others. What we lack is a real self-affirmation that comes from a life of dignity.

 But Isaiah promised a wounded people (Isaiah 58:8) that

your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.

 When I read today’s reading from Isaiah 58: 7-10, I was struck by his insight that our wounds will be quickly healed when you

Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.

 It’s not mere prayer or silence that will bring healing – but going out to the poor. Our good deeds will bring light and healing

As Jesus tells us in the Gospel (Matthew 5: 16)

your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.

 When we feel wounded, weary, small, God offers a way out. Recognizing his love and light shining in the darkness of our lives, we are called out of ourselves – to recognize the darkness around us and respond in love.

 I have experienced this in my own life. I feel most alive here when I am in contact with the poor, when I am with them.

 This is nothing heroic – unless heroism is seen in a downward mobility, relying on the power of God as we accompany other wounded people, be they the poor, the sick, the dying, the depressed.

 Then, accompanying the poor and struggling for justice, we shall, as Isaiah tells us (58:10), experience something of God’s love and light:

then shall your light shall rise for you in the darkness, and your gloom shall be like noon.







The spirit that moves us

José Antonio Pagola, reflecting on today’s Gospel in Following in the Footsteps of Jesus, asks a important question: “What is the ‘spirit’ that animates us today as followers of Jesus?”

Today we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. When he went down into the Jordan River, the Spirit came upon Jesus and the Father affirmed Him as His beloved Son.

Ravenna baptistry

Ravenna baptistry

Then Jesus went up out of the river and proceeded to live his mission.

As today’s first reading, Isaiah 42: 1-7, notes: he was called for the victory of justice.

We, as followers of this Jesus, are also “called to the victory of justice.”

This justice – also translated as righteousness – is not simply a clamoring for rights in the streets, making a lot of noise. It is a call for a right relationship with God and with all people – and, I’d add, with all creation. It is both holiness and social justice, loving God and neighbor.

What is the spirit that moves us in our lives? Is it the spirit of demanding my rights, shouting out against others who “sin,” proclaiming a triumphal church?

Or is it the spirit of solidarity with the poor of the earth? Is it like the solidarity of God who became flesh in Jesus?

Yes, we are called to the victory of justice, but in a way that loves and respects others, not breaking the bruised reed, and that goes about “doing good,” that announces the Good News of peace, as Peter told Cornelius in Acts 10: 34-38.

Is this Spirit of Love, Peace, Justice, and doing good what animates us?

That’s a good question for the beginning of what the Church calls “ordinary time.”