Where the Heart Lies

Sermon delivered on Ash Wednesday (3/1/17).

If you were to ask what Lent means to me, like a good recovering Catholic I would tell you that Lent first and foremost is about eating fish on Fridays. As a child, I never looked forward to giving up meat during Lent because I was a picky eater and didn’t care for fish; now that I am older and slightly less picky, when I browse food blogs and see a good recipe for shrimp or tilapia I think, “This would be really good for Lent”.

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Reclaiming and Resisting

Preached on the Third Sunday after Epiphany. Edited.

I’m not a big fan of the word “unity” these days.

That may sound ridiculous. What’s wrong with unity? What’s wrong with people coming together?

That’s because, more often than not, folks who say they want unity don’t want the hard work that comes with making it a reality. We’ve seen, for example, political leaders and private citizens alike from across the country respond to the phrase “Black Lives Matter!” with “All Lives Matter! Why are you dividing people by race? We need to come together! All lives are important!” Yet we know that historically, Black lives have not mattered, so responding with “all lives matter” seeks to simply erase the trauma and historical experiences of Black people.

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“…to a large degree, the real battle with such oppression, for all of us, begins under the skin.”
– Cherríe Moraga

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment that I began to feel cut off from my brown skin and my Latinidad. Maybe it was in middle school. By then my knowledge of Spanish had begun to fade into the recesses of my memory. I could understand my grandmother when she spoke to me; I could relish every smooth soft sound of every word she spoke. Yet when I tried to make those same sounds come out of my mouth I felt awkward, the syllables tumbling out of my mouth like clunky pieces of metal. I was caught between the desire of wanting to do well in school (read: learn English) and retain the language I grew up speaking. The desire to assimilate unfortunately won out.

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2016 has been a year of reclamation, self-ownership, and renewal for me in ways that I never would have imagined. I rang in the new year with surrounded by my family in my aunt’s home in Puerto Rico. I was a Hindu convert in a family of Roman Catholics. I was a practicing priest and the founder of an affinity group for LGBTQ+ Hindus. As out of place as it seemed on paper, I couldn’t have imagined life any other way.

Then, the rug was pulled from underneath me.

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Sigamos Bailando (Let’s Keep Dancing)

I delivered this sermon yesterday for the Third Sunday of Advent at my parish.

I love to dance. Specifically I love to dance salsa and merengue. I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember. It’s a form of self-care and healing for me, and I’ve spent many nights dancing alone in my bedroom, feet moving across the floor. (It’s not as sad it sounds, I swear.)

This love of dance comes from my family. I was always my mother’s dance partner at our family parties, and from a young age, my dad instilled a love of salsa in me, exposing me to the music giants of the salsa genre, like Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón, and of course, my queen, Celia Cruz. Neither he nor my mom taught me how to ‘properly’ dance salsa, but rather just to move my feet and hips to the music.

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Seeing Over the Crowd

I delivered this sermon yesterday at the parish I am currently interning at. For the readings appointed, including the Gospel reading, click here.

Today’s Gospel reading is one of my favorite stories from the New Testament. The Gospel of Luke tells us that a man named Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, heard Jesus was coming by. He wanted to see Jesus but was unable to do so because he was “short in stature” and couldn’t see over the amount of people surrounding Jesus. I can relate to that a lot because I’m about 5’4” and most people are taller than me. I’m afraid of heights though, so I haven’t tried climbing into a tree to see someone- but  I can relate to the experience of being unable to see Jesus because of a crowd.
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One Month Later

It’s been about a month since I packed up my life into a suitcase (well, the essentials, anyway) and moved away from home.

Boston is almost a new city for me. I dated someone who lived in the area a few years ago, so I did occasionally come to Boston to see him, but I never spent more than about an hour or so in the city before setting off to visit with him in New Hampshire.

Now that I’m here for a year, much of my recent life- aside from going to work and participating in training sessions-  has been centered around settling into my new home.

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Turning a Page

One of my favorite collects out of the Book of Common Prayer is part of the Order for Compline:

“Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (BCP, p. 133)

Right now I am a little weary and in need of some rest, and not just because I started writing this at 10 pm last night while watching coverage of the Democratic National Convention.

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Writing a Rule

I have long been interested in the contemplative traditions of the world’s faiths, Christian monasticism being especially fascinating. There is something appealing to me about the idea of being set apart from the world while also responding deeply to it in a prayerful, compassionate way as monks, nuns, ascetics, and anchorites have done for centuries. When I began returning to my Christian roots this past year, one of the things that again drew me were the lives and teachings of contemplatives, ancient and contemporary; people who emptied themselves, disciplined their daily lives and became enraptured with love of God and neighbor.

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Orlando. Pulse. 50 dead, 53 wounded.

This occurred at a gay club, on Latinx night. Let’s be clear about that. The media, your social circles, your pastors, have probably glossed over this detail. The victims were queer and trans people of color, many of them Puerto Rican like myself. Innocent lives, gunned down in senseless brutality.

Bodies that were queer and brown, just like me.

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Shoes for the Journey

An analogy I’ve often used to talk about my religious seeking is that faith is kind of like a good pair of shoes- you have to find a pair that fits you. For some folks that might not have been raised with religion, it may take some time to find a right pair, or they may never even settle on just one. Others may find that they can fit into their parents’ shoes just fine and wear those, and others may find that they just prefer to go barefoot, and that’s okay, too.

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My Story, My Scars

I had the honor of sitting on a panel for my school’s Queer Student Union a few weeks ago. I was asked to speak as, what else, but a queer person of faith, a perspective that I have shared numerous times by now. I was joined by one of my professors-  a longtime mentor of mine- who is a lesbian rabbi, as well as three other queer students who identify as Muslim, Catholic, and atheist, respectively.

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