Monday, June 09, 2008


I am often touched and challenged by the homilies that Padre Fausto Milla gives at the Sunday Mass at the church of San Martín in my neighborhood in Santa Rosa. Many priests here are fairly political in their preaching; some are pedantic; and almost all speak at length. It is not unusual to have a homily last thirty to sixty minutes!

Padre Fausto usually preaches on Sundays for 30 to 50 minutes, but is never pedantic. He almost always combines a deep spirituality, a deep piety, with poignant political analysis. This week was no exception.

Preaching on the call of Matthew (Matthew 9: 9-13), he spoke of God’s love, God’s forgiveness, God’s reaching out to all of us – sinners, failing in love. As he spoke he walked down the aisle and occasionally would hug someone or touch them on the shoulder. He contrasted God's forgiveness to the Pharisees who condemned Jesus for eating with publicans and sinners. The Pharisees were right, he noted, for critiquing tax collected who collaborated with the Roman empire. But some of them didn’t recognize their own weaknesses and sins and so Jesus was very forthright in calling them “broods of vipers” and “whitened sepulchers.”

At this point he paused to reflect critically on the visit to Honduras this past week of John Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State in the US State Department. Recalling that Negroponte means “Black Bridge,” Padre Fausto recalled that Negroponte had been US ambassador to Honduras in the 1980s (1981-1985). During Negroponte’s time as ambassador, the US supported Honduras as it formed oppressive military groups that assassinated, tortured, and disappeared Hondurans. Padre Fausto recalled that he himself had been abducted by the military during this time but had been released. He also mentioned that after the Salvadoran and Honduran forces had killed scores of Salvadoran refugees trying to flee into Honduras near La Virtud, Honduras, he and some US journalists went to the site the day after the massacre. Negroponte’s helicopter had also arrived there. Yet Negroponte did not speak out forthrightly about these and other human rights abuses. In fact, during this time the US covertly supported the Nicaraguan contras (with bases in Honduras) and openly supported the Salvadoran government – both of which brutally killed civilians. And now Negroponte was again in Honduras – for what reason Padre Fausto didn’t know.

Later in his homily he spoke of the importance of recognizing one’s sinfulness – something that some Pharisees failed to do. He then told the story of a married couple in a parish where he once served. They never missed Sunday Mass. But the young man came to him and told him that while away for a long trip he had sinned and now a young woman was pregnant. What should he do? He didn’t want to leave the woman and child abandoned. He decided that he and his wife should take in the child – which his wife agreed to. But what should he say when people asked him about this baby who suddenly appeared in his home? With Padre Fausto’s advice, he decided to confess openly – at Sunday Mass – what he had done. And so he sought forgiveness and reconciliation within the Christian community.

Padre Fausto said many other things but there was one insight that was central to the rest of his homily. At Mass the prayers are in the plural – we pray, we ask forgiveness, we praise God. We pray “Our Father.” It is not about me – but about the community. It’s not about my will, my daily bread: "Give us this day our daily bread." And so, as he remarked to a few of us after Mass, this is revolutionary – promoting the community and meeting the needs of others and not the individualism which capitalism foments.

Again, Padre Fausto gave me something more to think and prayer about.

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