Monday, September 15, 2014

Homily - "You are worth dying for"

Friends of mine have several children.  When their oldest was 12 or 13, she had to go into the hospital for appendicitis.  The first day or so she was there, she was in a ton of pain and complained a lot which is understandable.  She was asking “why?” over and over again, and ultimately, “why is God allowing this?”  Her mom finally answered with a solid Catholic response: “offer it up.  Offer it up for others because Jesus offered up his pain and suffering for others…the whole world.  He offered it up for the salvation of the world.  You can offer up your pain for your friend whose parents are getting divorced or someone else who is in need right now.  Good will come out of that like good came out when Jesus offered up his suffering”.  Her daughter got it.  She didn’t complain anymore.  At 12 or 13, she grasped some meaning about suffering which is probably the greatest mystery for humanity.

Years ago on our fall retreat, we asked the students to spend an hour meditating on a Scripture verse.  Their initial reaction might have been something like, “ohhhh man”.  But, then I explained that the verse (Colossians 1:24) referred to all of their current suffering.  St. Paul says that he “fills up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ”.  What could be lacking in Christ’s suffering?  His sacrifice was perfect but not complete.  We all complete his sufferings as members of his body.  We all have a piece of the cross to carry.  I explained all of this to them, and asked them to meditate on their share in the cross – maybe it was their own parents’ divorce, or a break-up in a relationship, or death of a family member or friend, or illness.  Some of them wanted more than an hour to meditate, and then said that was the best part of the retreat.

We know suffering.  Each one of us has experienced suffering.  We get it.  So, today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one that gets our attention.  Why is the cross exalted, though?  One of the reasons is that it provides meaning to suffering.  The 12 or 13 year old girl went to another level – an elevated or exalted level – when she heard the terse explanation of the Christian meaning of suffering.  Those on the retreat went to another level.  Providing a reason or meaning for suffering exalts the cross. The cross is also exalted because it is the way to glory.  We hear in tonight’s second reading from St. Paul that because Christ humbled himself, God exalted him.  If we share in the cross of Christ, we share in being exalted in glory.

A third reason the cross is exalted is that it is our triumph over sin and death.  The world would say this and all of the Christian meaning of suffering is foolishness.  It would look at the large crucifix in any Catholic church and see it as a sign of defeat.  But, it is a sign of victory! It is on the cross that sin and death went to die.  Christ was lifted up in exaltation like Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole.  Good overcame evil in each, and was for everyone to see and receive.  We continue to lift Christ up on the cross: the crucifix in a room should be the highest object in the room.   

We continue to lift Christ up in the Eucharist.  My favorite part of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” was when Christ is lifted up on the cross.  At the same time, they hearkened back to the Last Supper when he lifted up the Bread of Life.  As Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily at tonight’s earlier Mass, the same flesh and blood that was on the cross is present on the altar at every Mass in the Eucharist.  Awesome!

Finally, Jesus saw each one of us from the cross.  He saw all of our suffering, and said, ‘I’m with you on that’.  A friend of mine became a widow at 27.  She said to me early on, completely distraught, ‘I have no one to talk to.  There are no other 27 year old widows.  No one knows what I’m going through’.  I said, ‘Jesus does.  He experienced every human pain there is.  He know what you’re going through, and you know what He went through’.  That helped her, and it helps us.  He saw us and all of our sins from the cross, and in stretching out his arms was saying, ‘your sins are worth dying for.  You are worth dying for’.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Homily - "Think as God thinks"

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Father Greg, the chaplain of the GW Newman Center which is the Catholic student center on campus.  We do a lot of fun stuff like the Opening BBQ tomorrow (Sept. 1), tons of free food, retreats, etc.  Obviously, we do some serious stuff, too.  One of our main objectives comes from the language of Jesus in the Gospel: "think as God thinks".  He admonishes Peter for thinking as human beings think, not as God thinks.  St Paul encourages us similarly to "not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind".  Many GW Catholics have experienced a renewal of their minds because they start to think as God thinks.

One example would be in the area of self-worth or value.  To think as human beings do would mean to think that your worth is in what you do; you have to prove your worth. College students at every campus prove their worth, but it's especially true at GW.  I've never seen such busy people with all of your classes, internships, jobs, etc.  Then, worth is based on success in career with salary, status, awards, etc.  Success is good, of course, and hard work, too.  But, the mindset of this age is that our worth is based on what we do.

To think as God thinks means to think that your worth is in who you are.  You are a child of God! You are his son or daughter.  That is awesome! And, because He created you, you are good, cuz "God don't make junk".  You reflect His image - His beauty, intellect, etc.  You have tremendous worth because of who you are.  And, you are unique.  At the Newman Center, we celebrate your uniqueness! You are uniquely you( there is no one else in the world like you.  There is one thing that makes you you.  That doesn't always show up on a resume or grade report.

We know all of this, but tend to lose sight of it.  I know this because I've seen it play out at almost every funeral I've celebrated as a priest.  During eulogies, what's said is not what the person did in his or her life.  It's who he or she was.  Even with some very successful people who have died, the focus is always on who they were.

So, when St Paul refers to the "renewal of your mind", he means get back to the way you know is right. It's like being in the ocean and getting pulled by the undercurrent.  You don't realize how much you're getting pulled until you stand up, and then try to get back to where you were.  The college culture is the undercurrent and can take you away from who you are.  We are here to bring you back to who you are if you get pulled away.  We will remind you of your identity and worth as a child of God, and that He and we love you for who you are, not what you do.

Finally, the biggest source of renewal among GW Catholics in the past five years has been with the Eucharist.  We talk about the Real Presence all the time, that it really is the Body and Blood of Christ.  It's really Him! Students have responded: Sunday Mass attendance has quadrupled in the past five years, thanks be to God.  Also, more students are coming to daily Mass and Adoration than ever before.  They come to "put on the mind of Christ" and to think as God thinks.  When we ask God what He thinks of us, He often sums it up in one phrase: "you are good and you are loved".

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Homily - "The keys to the kingdom"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nats Mass!

from Sunday's Washington Post:

Fans who stream into the Navy Yard district before Nats games are now greeted with increasingly varied entertainment choices, from Yards Park for fresh air and views of the Anacostia River to the Fairgrounds for frat-rock music and adult refreshments to a variety of neighborhood restaurants and taverns, with more to come.

On Sunday afternoons this summer, they’ve had another option: a Catholic church service. Or, as the local St. Vincent de Paul church calls it, “Nats Mass.”

“For me, it was kind of a no-brainer,” said Rev. Andrew Royals, 34, a Montgomery County native who became the pastor at the South Capitol Street church about two years ago. “On game days we had thousands of people walking right in front of our church. I was like, ‘Well, I’m sure some of these people would like to go to church.’…And we thought there’s no reason people can’t do both.”
And thus, Nats Mass was launched in May, a noon service that runs about 40 or 45 minutes, getting attendees out the door in plenty of time for a 1:35 first pitch.

The first session, a trial run that wasn’t publicized, attracted a crowd of five. But then the church – which is located at the corner of South Capitol and M streets – put up a sign touting the Nats Mass service. It publicized the service on Facebook. It used the #NatsMass hashtag on Twitter. And the crowd has grown at each successive mass.

Royals is expecting between 75 and 100 people for Sunday’s service, the seventh of nine scheduled Nats masses this season. By next season, he hopes to reach the church’s capacity, which is about 150. The church has long held an 8 a.m. Sunday mass for regular parishioners, and it recently added a Sunday evening mass for the younger demographic, but Royals expects that Nats Mass will eventually be the parish’s biggest event of the week.

“We’re shattering attendance records each Sunday,” he said. “That’s what gives me hope. I’m pretty sure at some point I’m going to start mass one Sunday, and I’m going to look out and see a church filled with Nats fans.”

How could he tell? Well, for one thing, the Nats fans typically wear red casual baseball gear – “we kind of lighten the strictures up a little bit,” Royals joked, when asked about the dress code.

There are other things that make Nats Mass unique. Royals tries to keep the service a tad briefer than normal, so anxious fans don’t get distracted by the approaching gametime. And he will include references to baseball or to the Washington nine in his homilies – “it makes it easy when you know that everyone has something in common even beyond our religion,” he said. Baseball “kind of gives you an extra set of things that we can all relate to.”

And then there are the games themselves. Royals accompanied a group of churchgoers to a Sunday matinee against Milwaukee after a Nats Mass in July; the home team recorded a walk-off win. In fact, the Nats are 5-1 thus far after Nats Mass services. Playoff schedules, of course, are weeks away, but Royals said he might add an extra Nats Mass if there are any Sunday postseason games at home, “so people can come and actually pray for a win.”

Before launching the baseball-linked service, Royals consulted with several priests and neighboring pastors; everyone he asked had positive feedback. Three months later, that hasn’t changed.

“If I don’t start this Nats Mass, somebody else is going to,” he remembered thinking. “I think it’s a winner for the parish, and it’s a winner for the fans, and hopefully it’s a winner for the Nats.”

Friday, August 15, 2014

Solemn feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary


Celebrated every year on August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary commemorates the death of Mary and her bodily assumption into Heaven, before her body could begin to decay--a foretaste of our own bodily resurrection at the end of time. Because it signifies the Blessed Virgin's passing into eternal life, it is the most important of all Marian feasts and a Holy Day of Obligation.

Quick Facts:
 Date: August 15.
 Type of Feast: Solemnity; Holy Day of Obligation. (For more details, see Is Assumption a Holy Day of Obligation?
 Readings: Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab; Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Luke 1:39-56 (full text here)
 Prayers: The Hail Mary
 Other Names for the Feast: The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; The Assumption of Mary Into Heaven; The Dormition of the Theotokos; The Falling Asleep of the Blessed Virgin Mary
History of the Assumption:
The Feast of the Assumption is a very old feast of the Church, celebrated universally by the sixth century. The feast was originally celebrated in the East, where it is known as the Feast of the Dormition, a word which means "the falling asleep." The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary's body was assumed into Heaven dates from the fourth century, in a document entitled "The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God." The document is written in the voice of the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and recounts the death, laying in the tomb, and assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Tradition variously places Mary's death at Jerusalem or at Ephesus, where John was living.

A Required Belief:
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII, exercising papal infallibility, declared in Munificentissimus Deus that it is a dogma of the Church "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory." As a dogma, the Assumption is a required belief of all Catholics; anyone who publicly dissents from the dogma, Pope Pius declared, "has fallen away completely from the divine and Catholic Faith."

While the Eastern Orthodox believe in the Dormition, they object to the papal definition of the dogma, seeing it as unnecessary, since belief in Mary's bodily assumption, tradition holds, goes back to apostolic times.

Pope Pius XII, in the text explaining his definition of the dogma of the Assumption, refers repeatedly to the Blessed Virgin's death before her Assumption, and the consistent tradition in both the East and the West holds that Mary did die before she was assumed into Heaven. However, since the definition of the Assumption is silent on this question, Catholics can legitimately believe that Mary did not die before the Assumption. (For more details on this question, see Did the Virgin Mary Die Before Her Assumption?.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

This will make you smile

Here's something from the internet that will make you smile.  It's greatly needed with all of the increasingly sad news we see daily.  It's a short video that is really cool and positive with a great message at the end. 

Son Buys Mom Her Dream Car (And Surprises Her With It)


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"All this gravely offends God and humanity" - Pope Francis

The situation in Iraq is becoming increasingly more dire each day, as the article from indicates.   Cardinal Wuerl will be celebrating the 12:10 Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral on the Solemnity of the Assumption this Friday, August 15, for peace, religious freedom, and toleration.  Please pray to the Lord for peace in Iraq and the Middle East through the intercession of the Queen of Peace.

The Holy Father is pleading with the world:

“Dear brothers and sisters: The news reports coming from Iraq leave us in dismay and disbelief...thousands of people, Children dying of hunger and thirst in their flight; women abducted; violence of every kind; destruction of historical, cultural and religious patrimonies...All this gravely offends God and humanity.”
This might surprise you, but the Holy See is also not opposed to military intervention by the United States in Iraq. In fact, some officials seem to suggest that military action might be the correct action to prevent a potential genocide from occurring.

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, who serves as the Pope Francis' ambassador to Baghdad, told Vatican radio that American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [ISIS] could not be stopped.”

Additionally, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s envoy to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.”

As much as we wish we could simply walk away from this troubled country, the United States bears a lot of responsibility for how things have unfolded in Iraq.

Perhaps we were naïve in 2003 when we invaded Iraq and attempted to establish a new democracy. It seems we were also naïve a decade later, hoping we could abandon the country to the newly formed government without leaving behind any military presence.

As the violent and radical Islamic regime known as ISIS spreads across portions of Iraq, Christians face certain death if they refuse to renounce Jesus Christ.

And so over 100,000 Christians have fled their homeland “horrified and panicked” with “nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said Patriarch Louis Sako, head of the Chaldean Catholic Church.

Patriarch Sako appealed to Western nations to intervene:
“To summarize the situation of the Christian villages around Mosul up to the borders of Kurdistan Region: the churches are deserted and desecrated; five bishops are out of their bishoprics, the priests and nuns left their missions and institutions leaving everything behind, the families have fled with their children abandoning everything else! The level of disaster is extreme.

“The position of the American president Obama only to give military assistance to protect Erbil is disappointing. The talks about dividing Iraq are threatening. The Americans are not up to a rapid solution to give hope specifically as they are not going to attack the ISIS in Mosul and in the Nineveh Plain.”
Our Catholic bishops in the United States have called upon all Catholics to join together on August 17 to pray for peace.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Happy Feast Day, Dominicans!

"Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword; wear humility rather than fine clothes." - St. Dominic

Dominican House of Studies

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Unusual pro-life video


You'll really love this unusual pro-life video...

When you watch it, you'll understand why Planned Parenthood workers panicked and called 911.

Four police cars arrived. And what did they find?
Just dozens of young men peacefully praying the rosary to end abortion.
Police officer: "I just want to let you know that we got a call..."
"But you're completely within your rights to continue what you're doing for as long as you want. And if you need help, give us a call."
The pro-life rally was one of the highlights for the boys attending the TFP Call to Chivalry camp in Pennsylvania.