Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"Do not be afraid"

Upcoming events
1. Thurs, Feb. 24- FREE Dinner by McFadden's, 5:30 pm, Parish Hall, and raffle for gift certificates.
2. Sat, Feb. 26 - Men's prayer group, 11 am, Parish Hall.
3. Sun, Feb. 27 - Bible Study, 2 pm, rectory basement
4. Sun, Feb. 27 - Discussions on "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory", 6:30 pm & 8:30 pm, Parish Hall.
During my talk this past weekend about my vocation story, I told some stories involving my good buddy, Msgr. Thomas Wells. Fr. Wells has played a huge part in my vocation. He was one of the funniest people I've met, and he was a true believer. Great priest! Tragically, Fr. Wells was murdered in his rectory in 2000.

In our excellent Bible Study discussion on Sunday, we talked quite a bit about fear because of the line from that day's Gospel, "Do not be afraid" (Mt 17:7). Fr. Wells wrote many articles; the following is one of his articles on fear:
November 22, 1998*

I do not know why the Lord puts me in these situations, but He surely does and I might just as well stop asking why. I was at a wedding last Saturday of a nephew. It was a particularly wonderful time for me because it was out of town and I did not have to worry about having to get back for any parish obligations. Anyway, I was making my way through the reception and came across two couples, the men of whom had been friends of my nephew's from grade and high school days, and whom I had sort of known as he was growing up.

Of course they are not married; of course they were taking a few extra days in Florida to see the sights, and of course their living arrangements on the trip were totally contrary to God's law. I did not find this out by prying, but simply by listening to the usual travelers' stories of motels, reservations and so forth. Now I know I should have kept my mouth shut, but...oh well, I'll try again next time.

Actually, the conversation was valuable for me because I think I saw in them what happens when faith is abandoned. They call themselves Catholic, of course, and take great pride in their Catholic education and heritage, but moral decisions that count are not made on the basis of what Christ, Church, or Scripture teach. But what has replaced faith, I believe, is fear. There is a fear of committment; fear of divorce; fear of not having enough money; fear of bringing children up in a messed up world and on and on and on and it all makes perfect sense! I respect their fear.

If God is not an active Father whose Spirit is with me, I must control life and destiny myself, then fear makes all the sense in the world. It is a funny thing, but the one fear they seem not to have is the fear of mortal sin and dying and going to hell. But, of course, a good and loving God would never send anyone to hell, blah, blah, blah...

The example of people living together is common, of course, but the fear that motivates it is a danger in every believer's life. What will neighbors think? Do I dare stand up for the person who is being mocked in the work place? Will I open my mouth when "everyone" assumes that abortion is fine? Of course, we all fall short; but as I flew home on Sunday, I was both sad for these increasingly not so young people whose potential is little by little being drained away because of fear; but I was also a little bit happy because I felt like I had learned just a bit about what life is without faith.
* This is one of many article that Fr Wells wrote for the Sunday bulletin while pastor at my home parish from 1994-99. After his death, my parish collected his articles, and published them in a book, "From the Pastor's Desk".

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Christ can heal you

Here's what on tap at St Stephen's:
1. Men's prayer group - Our first meeting is this Saturday, Feb. 19, 11 am, Parish Hall. Meeting will go for about an hour, and is open to all GW and young adult men. (Women's group - meets Thursdays, 6:30 pm, Newman Center)

2. Bible study - Sundays, basement of rectory, 2-3 pm. We will discuss the readings for that Sunday, and how they apply to GW students and young adults.

3. "One wild ride: my vocation story". I will give a talk after the 5:30 and 7:30 Masses in the Parish Hall this Sunday night about conversion and service. Stories from my college, seminary, and service experiences that are pretty wild!

4. Free dinner - Thursday, Feb. 24, 5:30 pm, Parish Hall. McFadden's restaurant is providing dinner for the first 60 people who show up. Also, we will raffle off more gift certificates!
This past Sunday night, we had discussions on the healing power of Christ. We looked at 3 scenes from the Gospel when Jesus heals others, and compared them to how He can heal us. Here are some things we looked at.

Firstly, the blind man at Jericho (Mk 10:46-52). "What do you want me to do for you" is what Christ asks the man. Why? Jesus knows he wants to see. Like us, he wants the man to state his specific request to show that he believes Jesus can heal him of it. Jesus says the same thing to you and me: 'What do you want me to do for you?'

Secondly, the paralytic man (Mk 2:1-12). The absolute urgency of this man's friends to bring him to Jesus- they remove the roof and lower him down to the Lord! Do we have the same urgency to be healed by Christ? Or, have we resigned ourselves to being paralyzed by certain sins? We might think 'even the Lord can't heal this wound, or get rid of this sin'.

Thirdly, the woman with the hemorrhage (Lk 8:43-48). This woman had suffered for 12 years from hemorrhaging, and "no one had been able to cure her". Then, she simply touches Christ's garment and she is healed "at that moment". The absolute primacy of the healing power of Jesus Christ! He alone can heal us in ways that no one or thing can.

So, what are our wounds? Do they go back 12 years (or more)? Sins, habits, vices? Problems with family or friends? Hatred? Anger? Rejection? Loneliness? Fear? Tragedy? Illness? Ultimately, all wounds are the result of sin, either our own sins or those of others.

How have we tried to heal them? Through other sins? Alcohol or drugs? Through psychology (which can be healing if rooted in Christ)? As more than one psychologist has admitted, 'we don't have the tools that priests do'.

How can Christ heal our wounds? Primarily through His priests in the sacraments (especially Confession, Anointing, and the Eucharist), spiritual direction, and healing ministries; through worship, His Word, prayer, community, friends, family, service, and humor (don't forget: He gave us all our senses of humor).

Christ's healings from the Gospel (and in our lives) are signs of the coming of the Kingdom. Through them, He announces a more radical healing: victory over sin and death through His Passion, Death, and Resurrection. And, just as in the sacraments, He brings about extraordinary grace through ordinary matter (spittle, e.g.).

As we said the other night, when He heals someone internally (forgives sins, e.g.), it is a greater miracle than walking on water or feeding the 5,000. In other words, He can perform a miracle in you or me by healing our internal wounds that would be greater than any external miracle He performed 2000 years ago.

Questions /comments
1. From those who were at the discussions: feedback from the other night, thoughts, comments, questions?
2. From all others: thoughts, comments, questions?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Feast on Truth this Lent*

Contest for gift certificates:
1. $50 - 600 Restaurant at the Watergate (600 New Hampshire Ave, NW). Your name will be entered into the contest for each answer (and example) you give to the questions below. Winning name to be drawn after the 5:30 Mass, 2/13.

2. $50 - Luigino Ristorante (1100 New York Ave.). Your name will be entered into the contest for each answer (and example) you give to the questions below. Winning name to be drawn after the 7:30 Mass, 2/13.
Well, the fun of Lent begins tomorrow (D'oh)! Amid all of your fasting, here's something to feast on for the next 40 days (and beyond): a reflection on Truth. Enjoy!

Truth is fascinating to me. I never thought about Truth growing up, but have fallen in love with It over the past 13 years. It is a concept that is not only downplayed in our society, it is actually attacked.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:38). Truth is what exists, what is real. Here's an example of a truth in math that is unquestionable: 2+2=4. Duh, obvious, you say.

But, what if someone came along and said that "2+2=3 or 5, or whatever you want it to be"? And, what if they really believed it, and even dedicated their lives to arguing against 2+2=4? Would their beliefs and arguments change the truth that 2+2=4?

If that's a foolish example, then let's use some examples of other truths. God exists; God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Jesus Christ is true God and true man; the fullness of Jesus Christ is found in the Catholic Church; all of the Church's teachings on faith and morals are true and necessary for salvation; sex is reserved for marriage; every human life is sacred and begins at conception. Just like 2+2=4, these are all examples of objective truth.

Yet, there are many people who really believe and argue that God doesn't exist; God is whomever you want Him (or Her) to be; Jesus was a good man but not God; it doesn't matter what church you belong to; the Church is outdated and narrow-minded; if it feels good, do it; babies in the womb are not persons. Just like 2+2=3 or 2+2=5, these are examples of the worldly view called "subjective truth". They are not real, and don't change objective truth.

The world is opposed to Christ and all of His followers (see Jn 17:14). The world hates Christ, who is Truth (see Jn 14:6), and all those who follow Truth: "If the world hates you, you must realize that it hated me before it hated you" (Jn 15:18). The world crucified Christ, killed all of the Apostles (except John), and has either physically or personally persectued many Christians for 2000 years; all because they spoke and lived the Truth.

Truth is from God (see 2 Sam 7:28); lies are from the Evil One (see Mt 5:37, 1 Jn 4:1-6). Truth makes us free (see Jn 8:32); lies make us slaves to sin (see Romans 6:16-17). "I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth hear my voice." (Jn 18:38).

Whose side are you on?

*To learn more about Truth, click on the link below.
1. Why is it necessary to believe in the Catholic Church's teachings on faith and morals?
2. Give an example of an objective truth.
3. Give an example of a subjective truth.