Sunday, December 30, 2007

Feast of the Holy Family - homily

December has been a great month here at St. Andrew’s. It really has been impressive to see our parish family make such a good Advent preparing the Birth of Christ. Many people came out for Friday night Adoration, during our Advent series. Also, there were many who used the sacrament of Reconciliation during the month. There should have been a lot more, but I heard many beautiful confessions. Hearing confessions is my favorite part of being a priest, so this has been my favorite month here. Of course, we also had so many people coming out for the Christmas masses, some of our family members who we hadn’t seen for a while. We have a great parish family, and it has definitely been felt this past month. I think it all starts at the top with our spiritual father, Fr. Mike. He is a great shepherd! He is also very cool – when the Redskins won last week, he immediately offered to take my 6 pm Mass tonight so that I could, ahem, watch today's game. Pastor of the year!

It’s fitting that we talk about our parish family on today’s feast of the Holy Family. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the model for all families. Now, the wives who are here are especially promoting this as the model because of the situation between the wife (Mary) and the husband (Joseph) – a perfect wife who has to continually deal with the imperfections of her husband! I can hear you ladies now saying, “That’s what I’m talking about”! And, I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy for Joseph to deal with Mary’s perfection!

The Holy Family is the model for all Christian families because they lived out the virtues on a consistent basis. They lived charity, generosity, kindness, and all the virtues. Underlying all of this was a mutual respect for each other. Mary and Joseph had profound respect for the other and Jesus, and Jesus was respectful and obedient to his parents. This point about respect is highlighted by the Church as well as Scripture. If we read about the family in the Catechism of our Church, we see that respect among family members is among the most important qualities of a Christian family. In our second reading today, St. Paul is stressing that husbands and wives should respect one another, and that children should be respectful of their parents in obedience. I would also add that parents should respect their kids; many parents of teenagers have come to me when problems arise, and I emphasize to them that they remind their teens of the respect and trust they have for them. Respect is to be mutual with all family members.

The families at St. Andrew’s seem to get all of this! You all respect for and love one another! I have seen many examples of this. I have seen families come out and serve the parish together. So many families come to Mass here together which is becoming more of a rarity in our world. Families have fun here together. And, families pray together; we have had many families attend Friday night Adoration together. One of the biggest slogans of the Church regarding families is “the family that prays together stays together”. We have such a great parish family because we have so many great individual families.

Finally, one of our parents recently told me how strict she is with her family's nightly meal. We are equally as firm with our parish family's weekly meal, the Eucharist. We all need to come here every Sunday for our family meal. We are not whole whenever we have empty seats in Church; it’s like having empty chairs at the dinner table. If we know those who take a week or two or maybe more off from coming here, we should invite them to join us every week so that we can be united around the table of the Lord. As we receive our spiritual food – the Body and Blood of our Lord – let us leave here and imitate the love and respect of the Holy Family. In doing so, let us imitate the love and respect of the Most Holy Family – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

Friday, December 28, 2007

"The kingdom of God is like..."

Dec 21 talk – Parables of Jesus - “The kingdom of God is like…”

I. Welcome (to newcomers)
- to Adoration
- to Advent series

II. Parables
- teach about the kingdom of God
- show religious genius
- the most prominent form of Jesus’ teaching
- surprising, mysterious, hidden

- Jesus wants to show that the kingdom is hidden
- “kingdom of God is like…”
- uses ambiguous images
- reveals to Apostles; keeps hidden from people b/c kingdom is hidden
- doesn’t want to make crystal-clear; need faith
“let those who have ears hear”
- know how to interpret parable

- familiar + unfamiliar
- Jesus speaks about the unfamiliar (kingdom) by using familiar images (treasure, pearl, feast, e.g.)
- tries to teach people about something they don’t know by using things they do know
- meets them on their level and raises them up

- conversion
- through some parables, Jesus introduces a new way of thinking
- see things as God sees them
- workers in the vineyard, e.g.
- God’s generosity + mercy
- grace is a gift, not something you earn

- kingdom is here, but is also outstanding
- present and future
- if it’s totally present, Jesus could present it crystal-clear
- but it’s still mysterious

III. Themes / understandings of some parables

- what Heaven is like:

a. buried treasure (Cantalamessa)
b. a great pearl
c. a wedding feast (Cana, Ephesians, Revelation)

- Prodigal Son
- Confession / Reconciliation
- Pope Benedict XVI
- “all I have is yours” (Lk 15:31) – father of prog. son
- is equivalent to what Jesus says in his high-priestly prayer to the Father in Jn 17:10- “all I have is yours and all you have is mine”

- mustard seed
- faith (individual)
- Church

- the unmerciful servant
- forgiveness + God’s forgiveness
- “forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass
against us”
- i.e., if we don’t forgive others, then God won’t forgive us

IV. Parables + Eucharist
- any speak directly about the Eucharist? No
- but, many definitely refer indirectly to it
- treasure hidden in the field

The Eucharist is the greatest treasure on earth

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!

Here is my homily from last night's Vigil Mass:

A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I returned to the rectory after hearing confessions. It was about 5 pm, and I had about a half an hour to relax before the next activity. I turned on the TV, hoping to find some sports on, maybe college basketball. And, there was nothing good on! We have the basic cable service which is now like 800 channels, and nothing good on! Of course, now with the Redskins making a playoff charge (yeah, Skins!), there is plenty of fantastic stuff on these days.

So, I get to the movie channels, and see that “The Nativity Story” is showing. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but I’ve always heard great things about this movie. Now, I was just looking to relax and take a short break from religious stuff. But, then I began to think, ‘you know, I am a priest, I probably should watch this’. It was about halfway over, but what I saw was really powerful. It was a beautiful depiction of the feast we celebrate today. I especially was moved by the wise men who were older men and very much respected for their wisdom. They had come from so far away to worship a baby, a little kid! Then, of course, there’s Mary and Joseph who went through so much to have Jesus born. And, the light that shines down from heaven on the manger scene…oh, if I just ruined the ending to those who haven’t seen the movie, I apologize. It was so powerful that I just lost it. I was balling, saying, ‘Lord, this isn’t fair. I’m just trying to relax here’. The magi really moved me. They had come to worship a kid, “the one who would save his people from their sins”.

Now, I haven’t always been interested in movies like this. Growing up, I would get into “Jesus of Nazareth” during Holy Week but that’s about it. I was raised Catholic, went to Church on Sundays, and attended Catholic schools. But, I never really ‘got it’ about faith. In fact, I was pretty clueless. I didn’t have much of a relationship with God; I only talked to Him when I needed something. Looking back on the first twenty years of my life, there wasn’t really a friendship there with Christ. I knew about Jesus, but I didn’t know Him. It wasn’t until I began to get to know Him that our faith became real to me.

There are some here today who haven’t been to Church in a while. To you I say, welcome. You are always welcome here. There are some who are struggling in their faith, questioning their faith, maybe asking, ‘what’s the point?’ or saying, ‘I can’t relate to any of this’. Wherever we are in our faith, I would suggest looking at your friendship with Christ. That’s where it all starts. The Catholic Church herself says that it’s not about a religion, it’s about a person, Jesus Christ. If there’s no friendship with Christ, then this is all pointless. But, when we get to know Christ, that’s when it becomes personal. That’s when it becomes real. He saves me from my sins. He wants to have a friendship with each one of us.

Many of you know that it started with the Eucharist for me. For whatever reason, I thought for the first twenty years of my life that the Eucharist was just a symbol, just a piece of bread. It wasn’t until I was twenty one that I got it. A priest said to me, “Greg, ‘this is my body’ means this is my body”. It was then that I realized, ‘wow, we really believe this. We really believe that the bread and wine is really Jesus’ Body and Blood’. The Church has believed from day one that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It’s really Him!

One of the first prayers that I said to Jesus when I began my friendship with Him was, “Lord, I am sorry. I didn’t know”. I thought about all of those times I had received Holy Communion and had done who-knows-what the night before. “I’m sorry, Lord”. There are many who feel that they can’t even approach Christ because of things they have done in the past. Nonsense. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus invites us to come to Him, no matter what we’ve done. If there are serious sins from our past, we can go to Confession, and get them cleared up quickly. Our Lord truly wants us to come to Him in friendship.

Now, if this is true about the Eucharist, that the Lord will be in front of us in a few minutes, then we have the same opportunity that the wise men, the shepherd, Mary and Joseph had at the Nativity scene. We will be able to see our Lord who will be born on this altar in a few minutes. Like the wise men, we have “come to worship Him”. Through the eyes of faith, we will worship our Lord and Savior. We will see the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the reason for the season. We will see our Lord, our Savior, our friend, Jesus Christ.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

4th Sunday of Advent - homily

Last week I celebrated Mass at the nursing home on Arcola (Avenue) which I do once a month; it is one of the highlights of my month. I take my Mass kit and vestments down there and celebrate Mass with about twenty of the residents. They are elderly and ill but have a great spirit about them. So, the other day, I was getting ready for Mass. I put on this purple (technically, it’s violet) vestment. As I was doing that, I began to hear some murmurs. Tension seemed to be filling the room. I immediately made a disclaimer, saying, “folks, don’t worry. This is not for the Minnesota Vikings (who wear purple and play the Redskins tonight)!”

Now, I have to something to say that you may not want to hear. I do not pray for the Redskins to win. People come up to me after they lose and blame me for not praying hard enough and congratulate me on a job well done when they win. I don’t pray for them to win but I do pray for no injuries. You see how fruitful that has been this year! I hope the boys win tonight. If they do, three words: WE WANT DALLAS!

Maybe it’s just me and maybe this is a bit dramatic, but when I hear today’s Gospel, I think, ‘what a mess!’ We just heard Matthew’s narrative of the birth of Jesus and it’s not what we would expect to hear about how the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace came into the world. There’s talk of divorce among Jesus’ parents. Mary is pregnant from someone other than Joseph. And, an angel has to get involved so that Joseph won’t split.

Of course, Mary and Jesus live God’s Plan perfectly and Joseph is obedient to God through the angel, but this doesn’t sound like the perfect plan. It’s a mess which is the human condition. This would continue throughout Jesus’ life. When he was twelve, he was separated from his parents for three days. As an adult, he was widely rejected by his people and even one of his Apostles. His death was a mess, too; he literally became a bloody mess. Even the four Gospel accounts are not lined up perfectly and have several inconsistencies.

So, what is going on here? First, if everything in and around Jesus’ life was perfect, if everything has worked out perfectly, then we would raise some red flags. We wouldn’t be able to identify with that and would doubt it. The imperfections actually show us that it probably did happen the way it has been reported. We can identify with the imperfections. Second, God enters into the mess. He is not above it; He actually comes right in the midst of it. In his birth, He comes into the mess. In his death, he becomes the mess; he becomes sin which is our mess.

We all come here tonight thinking of the mess in our homes. There is much food to cook, many presents to wrap, and many family gatherings to attend. Christmas can be a real mess! On a deeper level, we have the mess of family problems, conflicts, and tensions. As we consider and deal with all of this mess during Christmas, let us think that God wants to enter into our mess. He wants to be in the midst of it so that he can clean up our mess.

In a very real way, we have the same situation in the Eucharist that those who witnessed the Birth of Christ had two thousand years ago. Jesus will be “born” on this altar in a few minutes. He will come into our mess, and get right in the middle of it. As we receive our Lord today, let us receive his peace amid our mess and stress. May each one of us know his peace, joy, love, and hope throughout the Christmas season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Young Adult activities

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Tonight is the final night of our series on “The Person of Christ”. The hour will include live music and a reflection on the parables of Jesus. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!

2) Fr. Mike and I will be offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Church confessionals tomorrow (12/22) from 4-5 pm and Monday (12/24) from 10 am – 12 noon.
Bethany M. asked, “Does Saint Andrews have any activities aimed at Catholics in their 20s? I was looking through the site and couldn't find a section for twenty-somes but was hopeful that I was just not seeing what was there. If Saint Andrews doesn't, does the diocese?Thanks.”

Thank you, Bethany! I recently sent an email to our Young Adults (20s and 30s) about upcoming YA events at St Andrew’s; the (applicable) info is below. Also, Fran posted the number for the YA coordinator for the Archdiocese. Finally, St. John the Baptist parish in Silver Spring offers regular events for their YAs; you can contact the coordinator of their group, Dennis, at 301-622-1122.

1) Coed flag football, Saturdays, 11 am, athletic field

2) Live music + prayer – Dec 21, 7 pm, Church
We do Adoration every Friday night, but are doing it in a special way during Advent. We will have live music for part of the hour, and I will offer a brief reflection. One parishioner wrote about Adoration recently that it is "Amazing, Inspiring, Beautiful, Powerful, Awesome, Life Altering.... Go! You will be so happy you did." It is AWESOME!
Drinks at a local establishment afterwards are on me for anyone who comes to Adoration (even for just a few minutes)!

3) Mount 2008, Feb 8-10. This is a retreat at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg (Md.) for high school and college age students. It's about 1500 who attend from all over the country. There will be music, talks, Mass, Adoration, Confessions, prayer, workshops, etc. It is an AWESOME weekend! The cost is $55 (St A's can help if cost is a problem). I can send registration forms to anyone who's interested.

4) Red Cross in need of blood
One of our YAs wrote the following to me the other day: "Red Cross is in bad need of blood donations right now. Think you could pass the word on and get some more people to stop by donor centers soon to drop off a pint? There's one really close by in Rockville that's easy to get to. And even those who gave the double batch of cells in August are free to donate now."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Miracles of Christ

Parish Penance Service - tonight, 7:30 pm, SAA Church
The service will include readings, a homily, and a public examination of conscience. Then, there will be several (visiting!) priests here to hear individual confessions. Please encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity to receive God's Mercy, and pray for a good turnout of St A's parishioners!
Here are my notes from Friday night's reflection on the miracles of Christ:

I. Welcome (to newcomers)
- to Adoration
- to Advent series
- Ed Becker

II. Defining a miracle
- an event in which a change in the laws of nature is picked up by our senses
- can be scientifically measured & recorded
- doesn’t take faith to acknowledge that it happened; everyone can see

- e.g.: Jesus turns water into wine

III. We need faith to “see as” a miracle
- faith leads to “miracle” OR miracle leads to faith
- Jesus didn’t do miracles just to show his power; if so, would have done them 24/7
- Did them to help people in their faith

- faith: see reality as it is
- faith w/ miracles: see the Christ who is in your midst

- faith of people who witnessed miracles??
faith in the miracles / signs OR faith in Jesus (saw Jesus as wonder-worker only, not Messiah)
- one day: King- five days later, Crucify Him!

IV. Miracles are signs of
1) the Kingdom ; they prepare us for the Kingdom
- present Kingdom (kingdom is near) AND
future kingdom (down payment / glimpse of God’s glory)

2) personal authority of Jesus
- He’s the One who works the miracle
- his identity is unavoidable; know the kingdom of God is among you(in Jesus)

V. Example – cure of a paralytic
“they were all amazed and praised God and were filled with awe” (Lk 5)

1) awareness and acknowledgement of the kingdom in Jesus
2) awareness of his authority

VI. Are the sacraments miracles?
- technically no
- miracles are like the sacraments - point to a deeper reality
- but differ from the sacr. in that changes are not picked up by the senses
- bread still looks like bread; wine looks like wine (sacr.)

- water looks like wine (miracle)

- sacraments – supernatural change takes place (transubstantiation, e.g.)
- miracles – natural change takes place

VII. Modern miracles (Eucharist)
- Jesus continues to help our faith

1) In 1263 - Orvieto, Italy
- a German priest who doubted the Real Presence saw drops of blood seep from the Eucharist onto the altar and corporal
- Pope Urban IV was in the town next to the priest; the priest took the corporal to the Pope who declared it a miracle (a miracle itself?, knowing how long the modern Church takes to declare a miracle!)
-The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.

2) 1730, Italy
- thieves broke into the deserted Church of St. Francis, took the golden ciborium which contained the consecrated Host, and dumped the Hosts in a poor box
- priests found the Hosts two days later in the rarely used, dusty poor box; hosts covered by cobwebs
- hosts were carefully cleaned and placed back in tabernacle; priests expected hosts to deteriorate which bread would normally do
- over 250 years later, Hosts are still completely in tact, shiny, fresh, and maintained the scent of unleavened hosts
- other unconsecrated hosts have been placed in the tabernacle and have decayed and been disfigured

- St Peter’s YG at this miracle
– 50 teens on their knees“greatest reverence of the Eucharist I’ve ever seen” (YG priest)

- helps our faith in the Real Presence

Sunday, December 16, 2007

3rd Sunday of Advent - meditation

The following are excerpts from a meditation by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Pontifical Household preacher, as found on

The most complete text in which Jesus reflects on his relationship to John the Baptist is the Gospel passage that the liturgy has us read next Sunday at Mass. John, in prison, sends his disciples to ask Jesus: "Are you the one who must come or should we wait for another?" (Matthew 11:2-6; Luke 7:19-23).

The preaching of the Rabbi of Nazareth whom he himself had baptized and presented to Israel seems to John to go in a very different direction from the fiery one that he had expected. More than the imminent judgment of God, he preaches the mercy that is present, offered to all, righteous and sinners.

The most significant part of the whole text is the praise that Jesus offers of John after he had answered the question posed by John's disciples: "Why then did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet [...]. Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent are taking it by force. All the prophets and the law prophesied up to the time of John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah, the one who is to come. Whoever has ears ought to hear" (Matthew 11:11-15).

One thing is made plain by these words: Between the mission of John the Baptist and that of Jesus something so decisive has happened that it constitutes a parting of the waters, so to speak, between two epochs. The focus of history has shifted: That which is important is not in a more or less imminent future but "here and now," that kingdom that is already operative in Christ. Between John's preaching and the preaching of Jesus there is a qualitative leap: The littlest one of the new order is superior to the greatest one of the old order.

The occurrence of this epochal turning point is confirmed in many other contexts in the Gospel. We only need recall such words of Jesus as: "Behold, there is one here greater than Jonah. [...] Behold, there is one here greater than Solomon!" (Matthew 12:41-42). "Blessed are your eyes because they see and your ears because they hear. Truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see and did not see it, and longed to hear what you hear and did not hear it!" (Matthew 13:16-17). All of the so-called parables of the kingdom -- one thinks of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price -- at bottom express the same idea, always in a new and different way: With Jesus, history's decisive hour has struck, in his presence the decision that determines salvation imposes itself.

It was this claim that brought Bultmann's disciples to break with the master. Bultmann included Jesus in Judaism, making him a premise of Christianity but not yet a Christian; he attributed the great turning point to the faith of the post-Easter community. Bornkamm and Conzelmann realized the impossibility of this thesis: The "epochal turning point" already happened in Jesus' preaching. John belonged to the premises and the preparation, but with Jesus we are already in the time of fulfillment.

In his book "Jesus of Nazareth," the Holy Father confirms this conclusion of the most serious and up-to-date exegesis. He writes: "For such a radical collision to occur, provoking the radical step of handing Jesus over to the Romans, something dramatic must have been said or done. The great and stirring events come right at the beginning; the nascent Church could only slowly come to appreciate their full significance, which she came to grasp as, in 'remembering' them, she gradually thought through and reflected on these events [...]. No, the greatness, the dramatic newness, comes directly from Jesus; within the faith and life of the community it is further developed, but not created. In fact, the 'community' would not have even emerged or survived at all unless some extraordinary reality had preceded it."[2]

In Luke's theology it is evident that Jesus occupies the "center of time." With his coming he divided history in two parts, creating an absolute "before" and "after." Today it is becoming common practice, especially in the secular media, to abandon the traditional way of dating events "before Christ" or "after Christ" ("ante Christum natum e post Christum natum") in favor of the more neutral formula of "before the common era" and "common era." It was a decision motivated by a desire not to offend the sensibilities of people and other religions who do not use Christian chronology; in that regard it should be respected, but for Christians there is no question of the decisive role that Christ's coming plays in the religious history of humanity.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Parish Penance Service

1) Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!! Tonight we will have live music (Ed Becker) for part of the hour, and I will offer a brief reflection on the miracles of Christ. You might have seen the recent comment from Fran:

"Adoration is Amazing, Inspiring, Beautiful, Powerful, Awesome, Life Altering...Go! You will be so happy you did".

Please invite 2-3 family members or friends.

2) Parish Penance Service - Tues, Dec 18, 7:30 pm, SAA Church.

The service will include readings, a homily, and a public examination of conscience. Then, there will be several (visiting!) priests here to hear individual confessions. Please encourage others to take advantage of this opportunity to receive God's Mercy, and pray for a good turnout of St A's parishioners!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What a night!

What a night last Friday was! We had Adoration before and after the 7:30 Mass (for the Immaculate Conception), with a good-sized crowd showing up well before Mass and many who stayed well after Mass. Live music (by our 6 pm group, "Apostles Lips") was a powerful and welcomed addition to our Adoration experience. It also allowed me the opportunity to offer the sacrament of Reconciliation of which several people took advantage. I've heard that my reflection (on the titles of Jesus) went over well; the notes from the reflection are below.

This Friday night we will continue with the Advent series during Adoration; my reflection will be on the miracles of Christ. Ed Becker will provide the live music; I have played his CDs during Adoration before, and at least a few people have given positive feedback about his music. It will be another great treat to have him!

We will probably follow the same format as last week (minus the break for Mass) - exposition @ 7 pm, music, reflection, quiet prayer, opportunity for confession, music, and benediction. The plan is to finish @ 8ish, but it may go a bit past that, especially if confessions go for a while. Please come for at least a few minutes, and invite 2-3 friends or family members to join us. It's a great way to prepare for the coming of Christ together!

Advent Series: Person of Christ

Dec 7: Titles of Jesus

I. Welcome
- to Adoration (every Friday)
- to series

II. Informal titles
- friend, teacher, healer

III. Tonight – some of the formal titles
- Christ / Messiah
- Son of Man
- Son of God

IV. Jesus as “Christ”
- “Christ” very much in line with “messiah”
Christ: “anointed”
Messiah: God’s anointed one

- did Jesus think of himself as the messiah?
- he was profoundly conscious of being Messiah
One theologian (Wright) – if there was one thing that Jesus was conscious of, it was that he was the messiah

Mt 16:16ff
- Peter: “you are the Christ”
- not revealed by man, but by Father
- Peter exalted for using this title for Jesus

Paul uses ‘Christ’ constantly in his writings
- from day one
- indicated that Jesus took title himself

V. Jesus as “Son of Man”
- Jesus’s most common way to refer to himself
- as Jesus relates to us

- Mt 16:16ff
– “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve”
- Jesus is the servant of man

- why did God become man?
St Athanasius: “the Son of God became man so that we might become God”

- title has background in Judaism
- Daniel 7:14- Daniel’s vision of one like a “Son of Man” in glory
- compared to John’s vision in apocalyptic literature

-Christ is servant of man, but also judge of all mankind
Mk 14:62 – “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven”

VI. Jesus as “Son of God”
- Son of Man (his relation to us), Son of God (his relation to Father)

- Resurrection is the main clue that he is Son of God
- the question for St Paul and for us
- if raised from dead, he is the Son of God
- the Father is the One who raised the Son from the dead

- Christ refers to himself as “the Son” in relation to God the Father
1) Mt 11: 25-27
“No one knows the Father but the Son…”

2) Mk 12:1-12
-parable of the wicked tenants; implies that Jesus is the son of the king (Father)

- very strong words from Jesus: many thought they were blasphemy
- No one ever called God ‘Father’
- from total abstinence (OT) to total evidence (Jesus)
- new revelation about God: he has one Son, a man

- Jesus is unique Son of God
- Jews believed they were all sons of God
- Jn 5 & 15: Jesus claims to be unique Son of God

- vertical relationship w/ Father: Son of God
- horizontal rel’ship w/ us: Son of Man
- Cross
- fully human, fully divine

VII. Adoration: we are saying to the host in the monstrance:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”

Monday, December 10, 2007

Please pray for Fr. Andrew Royals, a young priest of the Archdiocese of Washington who is in the hospital with heart problems. Thank you!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Advent, 2nd Sunday - homily

I have good news and bad news for you. The good news is that I made a five day retreat last week in New Jersey and it was excellent. The bad news, for your sake, is that it was silent. I didn’t talk to anyone for a week, and now I have some catching up to do! It was a very good week; tough, but good. I was with the Hermits of Bethlehem; it was a priest, religious brothers and sisters. They come together every morning for Mass, and then spend the rest of the day in their tiny little houses which are called hermitages. They do this in silence.

I can live this way for about a week, tops; they do it every day. I was wondering how they do it, but then thought about how sometimes, there are certain passages or lines from Scripture that we think, ‘wow, I would love to meditate on that all day’. And, that’s what the hermits do. They meditate on the Word of God all day, every day. In solitude and in silence. And, believe me, the Word comes alive. God speaks to us in silence. It was a great week, but I’m happy to be back.

But, we were roughin’ it! It wasn’t the diet of John the Baptist – locusts and wild honey – but it was close. We did have a “desert day” which was bread and water only. Yes, St. John the Baptist lived a tough life. Some would say he lived tough love. This scene from the Gospel is an example of that. He is calling out the Pharisees and Sadducees because he doesn’t see any signs of their repentance. Basically, he is calling them out for merely going through the motions of religious rituals. He is saying, ‘guys, get ready! The time is now. Christ is coming! Repent; turn away from sin and turn your hearts to God. Prepare, for the kingdom of God is at hand!’

This prompts the question for each one of us: do I only go through the motions as a Catholic Christian, or have I given my heart to Christ? This is an especially good time to ask ourselves that question as we attend many of our religious rituals during the Advent and Christmas seasons. Are there signs of my repentance, where I’m turning away from sin and turning toward Christ? If so, what are the signs?

One of the most common signs of repentance is prayer – not just formal prayer, but praying to Christ from our heart during the day. Also, good works in our parish, community, and families which are above and beyond the call of duty show that we’ve given our hearts to Christ. Living the virtues is another sign of our repentance.

Every time we go to the Eucharist or Confession, we give evidence of our repentance. We are obligated to come to Mass every Sunday, but there are other ways we can go to the Eucharist which involve a choice to be with Christ; for example, Friday night Adoration. We have Adoration every Friday night here, and during Advent, we are giving a series of reflections on the person of Christ during Adoration. We had a great night this past Friday: I gave a reflection on the titles of Christ and we had live music. There was a nice crowd here who seemed to really enjoy it. The next two Fridays we will focus on the parables and miracles of Christ.

Going to Confession is an obvious (and maybe the greatest) sign of our repentance. On December 18, we will have a Parish Penance Service. There will be visiting priests – VISITING PRIESTS! – here who will be offering the sacrament of Reconciliation. It will be a powerful way for us to turn away from sin and toward our Lord.

There are people in our lives who live tough love: St. John the Baptist, maybe our parents, teachers, clergy, friends. But, it is love. Love is wanting what’s best for the other. St. John the Baptist truly wanted what’s best for the religious leaders and others. If he didn’t care about or love them, he wouldn’t have said a word. But, he knew that it would be best for them to repent, to change their lives, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord. It is best for all of us to repent, to prepare, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Monday, December 03, 2007

On retreat

I'm on silent retreat (shhh!) this week at a hermitage. Please pray for me as I will pray for you!

Advent series: the person of Christ

Friday nights, 7 pm, SAA Church during Eucharistic Adoration with live music.

Dec 7: “Who is this Jesus?”
Exploring the titles of Jesus

Dec 14: “They were all amazed”
Defining the miracles of Jesus

Dec 21: “The kingdom of God is like…”
Understanding the parables of Jesus

Sunday, December 02, 2007

First Sunday of Advent - homily

Today’s Gospel seems very timely for the week we just had which was a very tough week. Jesus’s line about “if the master of the house had known…when the thief was coming” speaks directly to the situation with Sean Taylor of the Redskins. Also, there was a good, young man from St John’s High School who died this past week, Carl Waclawik. These are two young men who died suddenly. Our hope is that they were prepared. Jesus says to us, “you also must be prepared”. It can happen at any time, folks.

Our hope is that Sean and Carl lived with Jesus, died with Jesus, and will live forever with Christ in his Kingdom.

When we hear about studies and surveys of what people most worry about or are afraid of, death is one of those things. I think that one major reason people are worried about death is that we are worried about judgement. When we talk about judgement, we talk about particular judgement which will occur at the end of each of our lives. We also talk about final judgement which will occur at the end of the world, at the second coming of Christ. If we prepare for judgement, we will be less worried about it.

One of the things that also makes the list of people’s biggest worries is public speaking. Many people are more worried about speaking in public than death! And yet, if people practice their speeches or talks, they will be less worried about them. If they prepare, they will be less worried. There’s also the example of preparing for a thief or burglar. If we prepare our home with the proper security, then we will be less worried about a break-in. In the same way, if we prepare for judgement, we will be less worried about it.

Jesus talks about judgement in today’s Gospel. I’d like to point out three things he says. First, he says that the people who lived “in Noah’s days” gave no thought to things like judgement. They gave no thought to impending catastrophe, like a flood. That was their bigger sin; it was bigger than any carrying on they were doing with eating or drinking. Second, Jesus says to the Apostles and to us, don’t do the same thing! Don’t get so busy that you give no thought to judgement. Third, those who are “taken” are those who are prepared, those who are vigilant. We want to among those who are taken to the kingdom. We want to be among those who are prepared.

How do we prepare for judgement? We stay close to Jesus. Two specific ways to prepare for judgement are the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Most Holy Eucharist. When we go to Confession, it’s like we start judgement now. We go before the priest who is acting in the person of Christ the Judge. The priest judges our actions but also offers mercy to us, the penitents. Rather than waiting for one big judgement at the end of our lives, we take it incrementally every time we go to Confession.

If we stay close to the Eucharist, then we will not be worried about judgement. If we stay close to the Eucharist, then we live lives of Grace which gets us to Heaven; we stay close to Jesus and in close friendship with Him. That’s what this is all about.

We hope that Sean and Carl stayed close to Jesus and were prepared. We hope that we, too, stay close to Jesus, that we are prepared, that we are vigilant, and that we are among those who will be taken to eternal life.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Feast of St Andrew, Apostle

1) DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew / St John the Baptist parishes, 7:30 tonight, Wheaton HS. Go ‘Hood!

2) Eucharistic Adoration, 7-8 pm tonight, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Happy Feast Day, St Andrew Apostle parish!! The following is an article from about our patron saint:

Andrew was St. Peter’s brother, and was called with him. "As [Jesus] was walking by the sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is now called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him" (Matthew 4:18-20).

John the Evangelist presents Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptist. When Jesus walked by one day, John said, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Andrew and another disciple followed Jesus. "Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day" (John 1:38-39a).

Little else is said about Andrew in the Gospels. Before the multiplication of the loaves, it was Andrew who spoke up about the boy who had the barley loaves and fishes (see John 6:8-9). When the Gentiles went to see Jesus, they came to Philip, but Philip then had recourse to Andrew (see John 12:20-22).

Legend has it that Andrew preached the Good News in what is now modern Greece and Turkey and was crucified at Patras.

As in the case of all the apostles except Peter and John, the Gospels give us little about the holiness of Andrew. He was an apostle. That is enough. He was called personally by Jesus to proclaim the Good News, to heal with Jesus' power and to share his life and death. Holiness today is no different. It is a gift that includes a call to be concerned about the Kingdom, an outgoing attitude that wants nothing more than to share the riches of Christ with all people.

“...[T]he Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word’” (Acts 6:2-4).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Evil is all around us"

This is obviously a very difficult day for all Washington Redskins fans. I'm sure that there are many sports teams who have a familial quality to them, but it seems even more so with the Skins. So, when one of our players dies, it's like a family member dying. Life seems to stop, or at least everything else seems to pale in comparison with the tragedy of the loss of a loved one. And, Sean Taylor was loved.

We don't know yet what exactly happened on Monday morning or the days, weeks, and maybe even years leading up to it, but it is a tragedy. A young man who appeared to be changing his life dies at the age of 24. He showed so much promise in professional and personal ways. He was arguably the MVP of the Redskins; his absence in the past 2 1/2 games has played a major factor in those games resulting in losses. He changed many of the games he played in and probably had the most intimidating presence of any football player on the planet.

The readings at Mass this morning seem to lead in to this, so I told the students and adults who were there that nothing lasts forever in this world except for Jesus. As massive as the Temple in Jerusalem was, it was destroyed. As dominating as the Roman Empire was, it collapsed. As powerful as Sean Taylor was, he died. Only Christ lives forever. It is my great hope that Sean lived with Christ and died with Christ. "I hope he went to Church on Sunday" (the old line from Fr Wells).

It has been great to see the Redskins and their fans turn to prayer in such a strong way. I hope that continues...that we all continue to pray for the Taylor family. Also, we pray for those responsible for his death, and try to forgive them. But, in our grief, let us not get lazy in our theology and blame God for this - "God had other plans for Sean" was a quote I've seen already. Sean Taylor died because someone chose to kill him. God didn't kill him nor did He cause him to die. Sean's death is a part of God's passive will (in which He allows evil), not His active will.

One final thing for all of us to remember, which is another quote from FW: "evil is all around us". We are reminded of this every day, but especially when a direct act of evil takes the life of someone we love.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christ the King - homily

Who is the greatest king? We can look back through history to see great kings who have reigned during different genres and times. I’ll throw out a few examples…the King of…Pop (Michael Jackson)! The King of Swat (Babe Ruth). Of course, the King, himself (Elvis Presley). Even fast food has a king- Burger King! This one might reign supreme because I was reading an article that said the average American purchases fast food sixteen days a month. Home of the Whopper! Anyway, in the United States, we have unofficial kings; other countries have official kings who we read about and have studied.

When does Christ become a king? It’s not at birth – he is born in a stable, in a manger. He’s not a king growing up – he lives a very poor life. It’s not until his final hours that he is treated as a king; and this was done in mocking fashion. He is sarcastically called, “King of the Jews”. His throne is a cross. His crown is made out of thorns. And yet, this is where Christ actually begins his kingship. St Paul reminds us that is through the “blood of the cross” that Christ brings about our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins, thus making him our King.

When we are talking about kings, we are talking about power. If we add up all of the power of all of the kings who have ever lived – official and unofficial – it still doesn’t add up to the power of Christ. No king has the power Christ has: power over death. Power over sin. He is King of the Universe, King of the living and the dead. He is the King of Kings. He has power over all things. He uses his power for us, not against us.

An example of this is from today’s Gospel. While the soldiers and religious leaders are mocking Jesus, they are acknowledging his power. They say to him three times, “save yourself”. These are similar to the three temptations of Satan in the desert. Jesus can save himself in the blink of an eye. But, he uses his power to save us, not himself.

Is Christ the king of our lives? Is there another person or thing who has power over or against us? For our young people, it might be popularity or acceptance. For the adults, it could be success or wealth. For all of us, it might be a bad habit that actually controls us. These things have power against us. Christ’s power is for us. We truly share in his power and kingship. In fact, anyone who is baptized in Christ is baptized as a king.

How do we approach Christ as King? Do we reject and mock him as king like the soldiers and Jewish leaders did? Or, do we believe in him as our king like the criminal next to him who said, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom”. If we show that same faith in Christ as our king, we will ultimately hear the same words from our Lord: “Today you will be with me in paradise”. This is a promise that he gives to no one else in the Gospel – not to any of the Apostles or disciples…not even his mother!

We hear almost the same thing from Christ in John 6:53 about the Eucharist. He says, “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. As we receive our King today in Holy Communion – and those who receive in the hand are to make a throne for our king – let us hear him say to our hearts what he said to the criminal next to him: “today you will be with me in paradise”.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A timely reflection

1)Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All those who wish to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament are invited!!

2)DC ‘Hood vs. St Andrew / St John the Baptist parishes, Fri., Nov 30, 7:30 pm, Wheaton High School. Go ‘Hood!
The following is a reflection (11/27/94) by Msgr. Thomas Wells from the book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”:

“TBS gives thanks to Clint Eastwood…Parental discretion advised.” I believe these lines faithfully quote part of a widely shown Thanksgiving week advertisement on TV and lets us know to whom the owners of Turner broadcasting, at least, give thanks during this wonderful holiday weekend. In the days leading up to Thanksgiving you may have noticed the Postal Service announcement that either this year or next, they will cease to reproduce Nativity scenes on postage stamps at Christmas. This, I suppose, is because mail delivery has become so efficient that divine help is no longer necessary to enhance service. We have begun what offense avoiding merchants safely call, “the holiday season,” and judging by the parking lot at Montgomery Mall this weekend, our response has been early and fervent. And, oh yes, this is the first Sunday of Advent.

Folks, ours is an increasingly and in some ways, militantly, secular age. TBS can announce an all-day barrage of Eastwood movies by confusing the movie star with God and probably not even realize their blasphemy. How many even spend time at all asking the question, “Thank who?” as they celebrate the fourth Thursday of November? Let us not be naïve; those who have given so much time to eliminating any reference to the birthday of the Lord from school holiday celebrations have been enormously successful. Many children of supposedly Christian heritage have no knowledge of any seasonal story beyond that of Santa.

In the first reading from the Mass of Friday of the first week of Advent, the Prophet Isaiah (Is 29:17-24) says, “Out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” Certainly our age, as much as that of the prophets, is one of gloom and darkness, but the Advent message will not allow us to lose hope. For any who keep focused on Christ, there will be sureness of vision. But even more importantly, for those of us who have been baptized into Christ, there is a reminder that we – His Church, his people – are empowered by the Spirit to be His light that shines in the fog and gloom of secular unhappiness. It is not enough for us simply to protect ourselves from the darkness of unbelief, but also we must ask Him to use us to light the way for those lost in the darkness of the world’s deceiving message.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazing Confirmandi!

On Sunday night, Bishop Holley celebrated the sacrament of Confirmation during the 6 pm Mass. What a night it was! There were over sixty confirmandi, mostly made up of our eighth grade students. As usual, His Excellency took his time with each person while sealing them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, caking on the chrism oil and looking intently at each young man or woman. This made an enormous impression on our students with whom I spoke yesterday about Sunday night. One of the kids said that "time stood still" as she was up there with the bishop.

The students made quite an impression on the bishop, as well. As he was leaving, Bishop Holley made the point that this is an extraordinary group of students. He cited his ten years of working with those to be confirmed, seeming to rank this group among the best. He said, "they get it". I understand this to mean that they get it about Christ; they get it that He is real and relevant to their lives. Their answers to the bishop's questions reveal that they don't just have the knowledge of Christ in their minds, they have Him in their hearts.

I gave them (and their parents) major "props" yesterday in their religion classes. But, I also acknowledged in a significant way their religion teacher, Mrs. Regan. I told them that I have been in a lot of schools the past fifteen years, and I think Mrs. Regan is one of the best, if not the best, junior high religion teachers that I've known. It's not just what she teaches, but how she teaches: with profound love.

Now, here's the really amazing part. Yesterday, Mrs. Regan asked her students to write down some of their thoughts about Sunday night. Five minutes or so later, she asked them to share with the class what they wrote. Here are the powerful words of one of them:

"The Holy Spirit's Gift"

Your Spirit came upon me
In streams of candlelight
With a moment of silence
Making everything feel right
Words were whispered softly
Solemn promise made
A Confirmandi's wish
Granted all a daze
7 spirits all rushed through
I had so much time with you
November 18th was the night
I finished my baptismal rite
As now an adult of the church
I must say
The Holy Spirit came on me
Completing me in every way

Sunday, November 18, 2007

33rd Sunday - commentary

The following is a commentary on today's readings by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, as provided by

This Sunday's Gospel is one of the famous discourses on the end of the world, which are characteristic of the end of the liturgical year. It seems that in one of the first Christian communities, that of Thessalonica, there were believers who drew mistaken conclusions from these discourses of Christ. They thought that it was useless to weary themselves, to work or do anything since everything was about to come to an end. They thought it better to take each day as it came and not commit themselves to long-term projects and only to do the minimum to get by.

St. Paul responds to them in the second reading: "We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food." At the beginning of the passage, St. Paul recalls the rule that he had given to the Christians in Thessalonica: "If anyone will not work, let him not eat."

This was a novelty for the men of that time. The culture to which they belonged looked down upon manual labor; it was regarded as degrading and as something to be left to slaves and the uneducated. But the Bible has a different vision. From the very first page it presents God as working for six days and resting on the seventh day. And all of this happens in the Bible before sin is spoken of. Work, therefore, is part of man's original nature and is not something that results from guilt and punishment. Manual labor is just as dignified as intellectual and spiritual labor. Jesus himself dedicates 17 years to the former -- supposing he began to work around 13 -- and only a few years to the latter.

A layman has written: "What sense and what value does our ordinary work as laypeople have before God? It is true that we laypeople also do a lot of charity work, engage in the apostolate, and volunteer work; but we must give most of our time and energies to ordinary jobs. If this sort of work has no value for heaven, we will have very little for eternity. No one we have asked about this has been able to give us satisfactory answers. They say: "Offer it all to God!" but is this enough?

My reply: No, the value of our work is not only conferred on it by the "good intention" we put into it or the morning offering we make to God; it also has a value in itself, as a participation in God's creative and redemptive work and as service to our brothers. We read in one of the Vatican II documents, in "Gaudium et Spes," that it is by "his labor [that] a man ordinarily supports himself and his family, is joined to his fellow men and serves them, and can exercise genuine charity and be a partner in the work of bringing divine creation to perfection. Indeed, we hold that through labor offered to God man is associated with the redemptive work of Jesus Christ" (No. 67).

The work that one does is not as important as that for which he does it. This re-establishes a certain parity, beneath distinctions -- which are sometimes unjust and scandalous -- in position and pay. A person who has done the most humble jobs in life can be of greater "value" than those people who hold positions of great prestige.

It was said that work is a participation in the creative action of God and in the redemptive action of Christ and that it is a source of personal and social growth, but we know that it is also weariness, sweat and pain. It can ennoble but it can also empty and wear down. The secret is to put one's heart into what one's hands do. It is not so much the amount or type of work done that tires us out, as much as it is the lack of enthusiasm and motivation. To the earthly motivations for work, faith adds eternal motivations: "Our works," the Book of Revelation says, "will follow us" (14:13).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ice Skating Benefit for Life

The following is from a friend of mine, Tod Sloan, who is inviting individuals and families to participate in an ice skating benefit sponsored by Life Force, Inc.:

Announcing ...The 3rd Annual Christmas Ice Skating Benefit

You are invited to join us for the popular CHRISTMAS ICE SKATING BENEFIT set this year for Saturday, December 1st, from 5:30–8:00 pm. It will be held at the Rockville Ice Arena, 50 Southlawn Ct., Rockville, MD ( This is the same location as last year. There is no charge for admission and we'll have a whole rink to ourselves.

Bring the whole family and if you can’t make it, send the kids! I know there are car pools forming. Non-skaters are welcome. There is a full service restaurant/snack bar/Starbucks, The Village Grill. This will be open and is on the premises. Santa will also be making a visit (but maybe not on skates)! This event will bring new meaning to our rallying cry, skate for your life!

ANY monetary donations will be accepted with ALL proceeds going to our local St. Catherine Laboure Gabriel Project (, Wheaton, MD, 301-946-4815) and local Birthright (, Wheaton, MD, 301-946-3339) and Project Rachel (, 301-982-2008) organizations. Gabriel Project assists women and families facing crisis pregnancies by providing practical, emotional and spiritual support. After the baby is born, they continue to help as long as there is a need and stay in touch their mothers indefinitely. Birthright is an inter-denominational crisis pregnancy center. They give free pregnancy tests, plus non-judgmental and confidential guidance to woman. After a pregnancy test, they do as much follow up, to include material aids, with the woman as she desires. Project Rachel is a post-abortion healing ministry that offers compassionate help to men and women who have experienced emotional and or spiritual pain after abortion. This is available regardless of his or her faith background.

Please respond by November 30th to or (301) 438-8447 with number of skaters in your family or extended family so we can get a head count. Bring your own skates if you have them. Otherwise, skates can be rented at the rink. Ice skate rentals and number of skaters on the ice is limited so please respond and get there on time. Last year, we did max out with the number of skaters on the ice. For now, feel free to send this invite to other friends and family. Our goal is to have as many families as possible. Merry Christmas!

For a family donation whether you skate or not, make check payable to: Life Force Inc.

c/o Mary Sloan, 2307 Pondside Ter, Silver Spring, MD 20906.

Note “Christmas Ice Skating Benefit” in the memo field.

Friday, November 16, 2007

General absolution??

1) Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited.

2) DC ‘Hood vs. SE parishes, tonight, 7:30 pm. The ‘Hood will take on a team consisting of players from nine parishes from Southeast Washington. Go ‘Hood!!

3) Parish penance service: Tues, Dec. 18, 7:30 pm, SAA Church.
‘Yet another Anon’ wrote:
“I recently went to confession for the first time in many years. I had no problems being honest about what I had been doing in that time (hadn't been to Mass in as long as I hadn't been to confession), and the priest I confessed to was really wonderful and very kind. I think the "face to face" setting made things easier to discuss than with the privacy screen (I've always hated that thing). The priest asked me some questions to help probe my memory for any additional sins, but it was done very gently. I wasn't lectured, didn't get yelled at, and the penance (20 Hail Marys) was a lot less than I expected (or deserved). The priest welcomed me back to the church and I walked out of there feeling much lighter and happier than I had in eons. So very glad I decided to bite the bullet and go!”

Great story! I’ve always been encouraged and inspired by stories like these. I have another story about Confession that may not be as uplifting but is good for us to know about. At last weekend’s youth group retreat, I celebrated a Penance Service and gave our teens an opportunity for individual confessions. Several of them went (that was inspiring) but some didn’t. When I was talking with some of them later that night, a couple of them initiated a discussion on Penance. They indicated that they have experienced Penance at their school or (another) parish differently than the way we did at the retreat.

The teens explained that at these other Penance Services, they were invited to write their sins on a piece of paper. Then, they take the papers to a grill and burn them. I have seen this done before but always in the context of individual confessions. They told me that they didn’t go to Confession (earlier that day on the retreat) because it is much easier to just write their sins down and burn them than to say them to a priest. ‘Of course’, I said, ‘but what about absolution of your sins?’ They responded by saying that the priest gave a general absolution to everyone as they held up their pieces of paper and before they burned them.

This was a tough pill for me to swallow because of I know of what the teens (through no fault of their own) are being deprived: true healing and freedom that comes with individual confession. Yes, it’s easier for everyone involved (penitents and priests), but the teens really haven’t gotten their sins “off their chests”. I have been thinking about this and how crazy it would be if we treated reconciliation with our friends this way. Can you imagine writing the sin you had committed against your best friend on a piece of paper, and then handing it to them? Your friend might think that was as bad as the sin itself! While I know that some people confess their sins against others on emails, text messages, and letters, we all know that the best way to reconcile is by going to that person face-to-face, telling them what we did wrong, and saying that we’re sorry. When they forgive us, we walk away knowing that we’re forgiven. That brings great peace and begins the healing process. Anything short of that and we still carry the burden of those sins with us.

In this type of situation, the true peace of Reconciliation is missed. So, the Church has laid out strict guidelines for general absolution (which our Archbishop does not grant). It is to be a rare occurrence – for example, in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. One of the key points in the following canons of Church law is that, if general absolution is given, grave sins need to be confessed privately to a priest as soon as possible (one month, per the Church). I’m guessing that our teens have never been told this because they didn’t mention it in our conversation. Please pray for the priests and teachers in our schools!

Can. 961
§1 General absolution, without prior individual confession, cannot be given to a number of penitents together, unless:

1° danger of death threatens and there is not time for the priest or priests to hear the confessions of the individual penitents;

2° there exists a grave necessity, that is, given the number of penitents, there are not enough confessors available properly to hear the individual confessions within an appropriate time, so that without fault of their own the penitents are deprived of the sacramental grace or of holy communion for a lengthy period of time. A sufficient necessity is not, however, considered to exist when confessors cannot be available merely because of a great gathering of penitents, such as can occur on some major feastday or pilgrimage.

§2 It is for the diocesan Bishop to judge whether the conditions required in §1, n. 2° are present; mindful of the criteria agreed with the other members of the Episcopal Conference, he can determine the cases of such necessity.

Can. 962
§1 For a member of Christ's faithful to benefit validly from a sacramental absolution given to a number of people simultaneously, it is required not only that he or she be properly disposed, but be also at the same time personally resolved to confess in due time each of the grave sins which cannot for the moment be thus confessed.

§2 Christ's faithful are to be instructed about the requirements set out in §1, as far as possible even on the occasion of general absolution being received. An exhortation that each person should make an act of contrition is to precede a general absolution, even in the case of danger of death if there is time.

Can. 963 Without prejudice to the obligation mentioned in can. 989, a person whose grave sins are forgiven by a general absolution, is as soon as possible, when the opportunity occurs, to make an individual confession before receiving another general absolution, unless a just reason intervenes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Prayer: "putting on the mind of Christ"

1)Thanks to Eileen Mooney and all who helped plan Friday night’s concert. One blogger said, “What a wonderful evening Friday's adoration was. Thanks to whoever booked the Cowan's celebration. What a gifted family, not to mention the turnout of observers. Keep coming back, our Lord is awesome and healing!”

2)Thanks to all who prayed for last weekend’s youth group retreat. Thanks be to God and your prayers, it was a fruitful weekend!
Speaking of prayer, an anonymous blogger wrote the following:

“I have a hard time believing in intercessory prayer. It's obvious that God does not grant all prayers; He does for us what we need and not necessarily on a time line that we like. Like the parent who refuses to give the kid a candy bar but gives a carrot instead. The child's prayer was not granted, but something was done for the child that was good for him. So what role does praying for a certain thing play in all this? It seems like the role of prayer is to discern how God is acting in our lives, not to get God to act in a certain way.”

I think it’s important that when we discuss the things of prayer it is with the understanding that prayer is a habit that one develops, with the help of the Holy Spirit. Christian prayer is a way of life and not just isolated moments when we ask God things. As I told the teens this past weekend, I used to only “pray” when I needed something - a passing grade on a test that I didn’t study for, for example. I also explained that there was no real relationship there between me and Christ at that time. There was no real prayer going on.

If prayer becomes a way of life and a habit in our lives, then we begin to see things differently. The Holy Spirit helps us to see things as God sees them. So, then, when specific things arise for which we would like to pray, we begin to see them as God sees them. Since God is love, we can say that we begin to see these things through the lens of love. One definition of love is to want what’s best for the other. So, when we begin to take certain things to prayer and consider what we should ask for specifically, we are trying to see what’s best for whoever is involved.

Here’s an example: some of our seniors have asked me to pray that they get into specific colleges to which they are applying. The temptation is to pray that they get into the most prestigious and successful schools out there. But, if I really want what’s best for them, I will pray that they get into the schools that God wills them to get into. That will be best for them. One teen did ask me to “pray that I get into the school I’m supposed to go to”.

So, yes, prayer in general means to discern how God is acting in our lives and what His Will is. Praying for specific things is asking that God’s Will be done (we say “thy will be done” in the Lord’s prayer) in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we pray. Prayer, then, unites us with the mind and heart of God.

Finally, Fr. Wells (who experienced much dryness in prayer, but prayed faithfully every day) once wrote: “There are many reasons why people do not pray. One of them of course, is what has been called “practical atheism”, acting as if God does not exist, no matter what a person might say he believes. But, believers, too, often give up on prayer. Their problem, though, concerns what they expect to get out of prayer. In a society that is so preoccupied with feelings, many expect that prayer will result in feeling close to God. In fact, though, the great fruit of prayer is virtue. Putting ourselves into the presence of God opens us to the power of the Spirit that orders our priorities to see as Jesus sees and to desire what He desires…Prayer gives us the grace to move beyond preoccupation with self and, little by little, to put on the mind of Christ.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

32nd Sunday - homily

“He is a God not of the dead but of the living”.

I had two experiences last week that speak to this. The first was on a convocation of all the priests of the Archdiocese. Fr. Mike and I went down to Cambridge, Maryland for three days with over two hundred priests for fellowship, prayer, and conferences. It was a great opportunity to be with our brother priests! It hit me that there is a great spirit among these priests. Some people might think that there isn’t much liveliness among priests, but there is great life in this fraternity.

The second experience was on the youth group retreat this past weekend. We took about a dozen teens down to Mattaponi retreat center and had a great weekend! These are really good kids. It hit me there, too, that these teens have a great spirit about them. I told them that they are signs to us adults that God is a living God. If they believed in a God of the dead, then they would be walking around sulking and all sad and stuff. But, they exude great joy and happiness, and this shows us that they believe in a God of the living not the dead.

Today’s readings speak to us about life, especially eternal life. The questions for all of us are, ‘do we believe in eternal life? Do we believe in life after death? Do we believe in the resurrection?’ Unfortunately and for whatever reason, the Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death. They ask Jesus about it and if there is marriage in Heaven. Jesus says that there are some things in this life that point to eternal life. Marriage between a man and a woman is one of them; it points to our marriage with God in Heaven.

Marriage between a man and a woman is only for this life; in Heaven, we will be married to God. We will be united with true happiness and peace and joy. We will be in union with the deepest desires of our hearts. We are all looking for happiness and peace, and in Heaven we will find them in their fullness. I told the teens at the retreat that this is the reason that they went on the retreat – because they are looking for something more, they are looking for happiness and peace. They are looking for God.

Like our teens, are we witnesses to a living God? Do our lives point to eternal life? We see great witnesses in the seven brothers and mother in the first reading. They believed so firmly in eternal life that they were ready to die for what they believed, confident that there was life after death. Are we witnesses to eternal life? Do others see through our happiness and joy that God is a God of the living, not the dead?

The greatest sign on earth that God is a living God is the Eucharist. In fact, Jesus says in John 6 that the Eucharist is “living bread come down from heaven”. This is nor dead bread or bread only. It is living bread. There is something there that has life. The more we go the Eucharist, the more we experience and receive life. Hopefully, we go out from this place and be living signs to others of eternal life and that He is a God the living.

Finally, Jesus says in John 6 that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. This is not just a blueprint on how to get to Heaven. This means that in a few minutes we will have eternal life dwelling within us. As we receive our living God today, let us be signs to others that He is a God not of the dead but of the living.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"On the pastoral care of homosexual persons"

1) Live concert at St Andrew's tonight! Jim and Michele Cowan, a father and daughter who travel across the country glorifying God through music are playing live during Eucharistic Adoration in the SAA Church tonight at 7 pm. The Cowans have invited us to "come join us in worship and in adoration of our Lord, as we gather around His glorious presence in the Blessed Sacrament". There are no tickets or admission fees, but we will take up a free will offering for the Cowans.

2) Youth group retreat this weekend. Please pray for the 16 teens and 3 adults who will be on retreat this weekend.
Responding to my Aug. 29 post, “Homosexuality and Hope”, Anon wrote the following: “I thought the church's opinion was that the church didn't know why people were gay and that being gay was not the problem, that the actions of homosexuality were. Can I ask why you didn't bring up church teaching and church documents?”

Thanks, Anon. In my post, I explained that the Church doesn’t know definitively why some people are homosexual and I referenced the Catechism on that point. The main point of the post was that the Church is studying the genesis of homosexuality, and finding that the overwhelming evidence points to environmental factors rather than genetic factors.

But, I appreciate your comment because it gives us a chance to read a letter by then-Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), "On the pastoral care of homosexual persons". Along with Archbishop Alberto Bovone, His Holiness wrote the letter in 1985 as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. To view the letter in full, please click on the title of this post.

3. …In the discussion which followed the publication of the (Congregation's "Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics" of December 29, 1975), however, an overly benign interpretation was given to the homosexual condition itself, some going so far as to call it neutral, or even good. Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.

Therefore special concern and pastoral attention should be directed toward those who have this condition, lest they be led to believe that the living out of this orientation in homosexual activity is a morally acceptable option. It is not…

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered…

12. What, then, are homosexual persons to do who seek to follow the Lord? Fundamentally, they are called to enact the will of God in their life by joining whatever sufferings and difficulties they experience in virtue of their condition to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross. That Cross, for the believer, is a fruitful sacrifice since from that death come life and redemption…

Just as the Cross was central to the expression of God's redemptive love for us in Jesus, so the conformity of the self-denial of homosexual men and women with the sacrifice of the Lord will constitute for them a source of self-giving which will save them from a way of life which constantly threatens to destroy them.

Christians who are homosexual are called, as all of us are, to a chaste life. As they dedicate their lives to understanding the nature of God's personal call to them, they will be able to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance more faithfully and receive the Lord's grace so freely offered there in order to convert their lives more fully to his Way.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Live concert this Friday, etc.

1) Fr Mike and I will be away this week at a convocation with all of the priests of the Archdiocese. It's a chance for all of us priests to get together for a few days and enjoy some fellowship, prayer, and conferences. Please pray for priests!

2) Live concert at St Andrew's! Jim and Michele Cowan, a father and daughter who travel across the country glorifying God through music are playing live during Eucharistic Adoration in the SAA Church this Friday at 7 pm. The Cowans have invited us to "come join us in worship and in adoration of our Lord, as we gather around His glorious presence in the Blessed Sacrament". There are no tickets or admission fees, but we will take up a free will offering for the Cowans.

3) DC Hood vs. St Andrew's / St John the Baptist, Nov 30, 7:30 pm. The site of the game has changed to WHEATON HS, 12601 Dalewood Drive, Wheaton, MD 20906 (it was previously advertized as being at Kennedy HS).

4) Youth group retreat this weekend. Please pray for the 16 teens and 3 adults who will be on retreat this weekend. The theme will be, "I have called you friends" (Jn 15:15).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

31st Sunday - homily

I am preparing a couple for marriage who are friends of a friend. I recently did with them what I do for all couples in marriage prep: interview them separately by going through a questionnaire. When I got to the questions about practicing our Catholic faith with the man, he candidly revealed to me that he really struggles with the whole question of who Jesus Christ is. He said something that we normally hear from people of non-Christian religions: Jesus was a great teacher and prophet, but I don’t think that he is the Son of God.

I began to talk about the resurrection because that is the main event when it comes to knowing that Jesus is the Son of God. I used the famous quote from CS Lewis: “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, he is a liar and a blasphemer”. When I said that, the man was clearly affected, and said, “Gee, I never thought about it like that”. The point being that Jesus said he would rise, and if I didn’t he is a liar. Also, he called God, ‘Father’; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then he is just a man and not God’s Son. This man seems to be right where he needs to be: seeking to see who Jesus is.

Zacchaeus is in the exact same point in today’s Gospel. Scripture says that this rich tax collector was “seeking to see who Jesus was”. Whatever is going on in Zacchaeus’ life, whatever led him to climb a tree to see Jesus, he is truly intrigued by the person of Christ. Hopefully, we are all that point or at least have had Zacchaeus moments where we are seeking to see who Jesus is. The question of who Jesus is one of the most important, if not the most important, questions in our lives.

The study of the person of Jesus Christ is called Christology. It is one of the most fascinating subjects. It is ultimately dealing with a mystery: Christ is one divine person with two natures. Christ is fully human and fully divine. This “hypostatic union” is a mystery – two distinct natures in one divine person. And yet, we can approach the person of Christ and gain some real insights about God an ourselves. For example, Christ reveals the Father and He reveals man.

Anyone who sees Christ sees the Father. He or she sees the Father’s love, sees the Father’s mercy in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The Son reveals to us who the Father is and offers us everything the Father has given Him. Anyone who knows Christ knows the Father. Also, anyone who sees Christ sees themselves. In other words, when we get to know Christ, we get to know ourselves. It is in Christ that we are most ourselves. Whenever we are Christ-like – when we are kind or generous or forgiving or loving – that’s when we see who we are and what we truly desire to be. We have all been created through Christ; he gave us our hearts. Our hearts truly desire him. It’s what St Augustine once said, “our hearts are truly restless until they rest in Him”. That’s exactly what’s going on with Zacchaeus, with the young groom-to-be, and with each one of us.

My hope is to go deeper into the person of Christ with a series of reflections in Advent during Friday night Adoration. I would like to offer a few reflections on who Jesus is; we’ll advertise it the same way that we’ve advertised the concert this Friday night during Adoration: as a flyer in the bulletin.

Finally, Zacchaeus seeks Christ but Christ seeks Zacchaeus, too and enters his house. We will have the same opportunity to welcome Salvation into our houses in a few minutes with the Eucharist. Jesus will enter our hearts and bodies and souls in the Eucharist. Let us welcome Him, let us welcome Salvation as Zacchaeus did: let us welcome Him with joy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

All Souls Day

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All those who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
Yesterday, we celebrated all the saints in Heaven (Church triumphant) as well as the saints on Earth (Church militant). Today the universal Church prays for all souls in Purgatory (Church suffering). The following write-up about All Souls Day comes from

The Church has encouraged prayer for the dead from the earliest times as an act of Christian charity. "If we had no care for the dead," Augustine noted, "we would not be in the habit of praying for them." Yet pre-Christian rites for the deceased kept such a strong hold on the superstitious imagination that a liturgical commemoration was not observed until the early Middle Ages, when monastic communities began to mark an annual day of prayer for the departed members.

In the middle of the 11th century, St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny (France), decreed that all Cluniac monasteries offer special prayers and sing the Office for the Dead on November 2, the day after the feast of All Saints. The custom spread from Cluny and was finally adopted throughout the Roman Church.

The theological underpinning of the feast is the acknowledgment of human frailty. Since few people achieve perfection in this life but, rather, go to the grave still scarred with traces of sinfulness, some period of purification seems necessary before a soul comes face-to-face with God. The Council of Trent affirmed this purgatory state and insisted that the prayers of the living can speed the process of purification.

Superstition still clung to the observance. Medieval popular belief held that the souls in purgatory could appear on this day in the form of witches, toads or will-o’-the-wisps. Graveside food offerings supposedly eased the rest of the dead.Observances of a more religious nature have survived. These include public processions or private visits to cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers and lights. This feast is observed with great fervor in Mexico.

Whether or not one should pray for the dead is one of the great arguments which divide Christians. Appalled by the abuse of indulgences in the Church of his day, Martin Luther rejected the concept of purgatory. Yet prayer for a loved one is, for the believer, a way of erasing any distance, even death. In prayer we stand in God's presence in the company of someone we love, even if that person has gone before us into death.

“We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell—or even a ‘hell for a short time.’ It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound—or ounce—of flesh.... St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted” (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Feast of All Saints

Today is the solemnity of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation. The remaining Mass at St. Andrew's is at 7:30 pm.

The following is a homily excerpt for November 1st by Fr. Tommy Lane (who I know from MSM seminary):

The day before All Saints is called Halloween in the secular world. The name is Christian, Halloween means the eve of All Hallows, the eve of All Saints, but that is the only Christian element in it. All the rest that accompanies Halloween is of pagan origin so it goes back to the time before Christianity. It was a pagan Celtic feast. They believed that after sunset on Samhain, which we now called Halloween, the spirits of the dead and evil spirits roamed the skies seeking to harm humans, especially if the dead had been harmed by them. To protect themselves people disguised themselves by dressing up in costumes and carried lights inside in turnips. In order to turn a pagan feast into a Christian feast the Church placed the feast of All Saints on 1st November, to coincide with the pagan celebration. Children have fun on Halloween now and it is OK but it would be a pity if children did not know the Christian feast at this time, the feast of All Saints.

So if your children are celebrating Halloween and know nothing about All Saints, please explain All Saints to them. We are Christians now, so let us not celebrate as pagans. The Church has tried to turn a pagan celebration into a Christian celebration. Is the reverse happening again now? Let us celebrate All Saints.

This homily was delivered when (Fr Lane) was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween definitions

Someone just sent me these "Halloween definitions". Please say a prayer today that our children will enjoy a safe Halloween.

Coffin: What you do when you get a piece of popcorn stuck in your throat.

Frankenstein: Hot dog and a mug of beer.

Goblin: How you eat the Snickers bars you got for Halloween.

Invisible Man: What a guy becomes when there's housework to be done.

Jack O' Lantern: An Irish Pumpkin.

Jack the Ripper: What Jack does to his lottery tickets after losing each week.

Mummy: The person who kisses the boo-boo after you scrape your knee.

Pumpkin Patch: What a pumpkin wears when trying to quit smoking.

Vampire Bat: What Dracula hits a baseball with.

Zombie: What you look like before that first cup of morning coffee.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What does a person of fatih look like?

Anon wrote the following:

“ I have spent a good deal of time thinking about what a person of faith looks like. Is he the person who goes to Mass each Sunday and then goes home to watch the Skins play, spending more time pondering the great plays of the day than what he heard and/or experienced earlier in church? Is it the person who might miss Mass to be in service to another in need, with the understanding that in missing Mass he sacrificed something personally important? Is it the person who begins and ends each day in prayers of thanksgiving? Is it the person who is too spent from his giving to spend time in prayer? Ultimately, I have come to an understanding that works for me. I think when I am living my life with faith, I am inspired to create something (anything) good. The good can be small or grand in scale, but it is good purely for good’s sake. When I do “good” for anything else, I quickly find that my life is out of balance and my faith grows thin…”

We had another great discussion in our St A’s Bible Study group last night. Bible Study meets every Monday night in the rectory basement from 7-8 pm to discuss the Sunday readings. It is a great group! It is an extraordinary gift for me to hear the Gospel through the experiences of these men and women of deep faith, and to listen to their insights and questions. One of the things that came out of last night’s rich discussion was along the lines of what Anon has written, “what does a person of faith look like”?

Someone asked about what we can do when someone we know well – a family member, especially – has ceased going to Church or only goes a few times a year. The overwhelming consensus of the group was that we can’t judge them like the Pharisee judged the publican in the Gospel parable. We can simply lead by example and pray for them. We are, most likely, not the one to teach them through our words because Jesus has said we are prophets in every town (family?) but our own.

We compared the Pharisee and the publican some more, pointing out that the Pharisee was all about external faith (keeping the law, i.e.) while the publican had internal faith. Then, someone gave a profound insight about the rituals (Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, e.g.) which we celebrate: she said that if there is nothing going on internally for us during the external rituals, then they are pointless. I would say that she gets the point of Jesus’ parable!

At some point and maybe even still now, some of us “go through the motions” only when we come to Mass. This does not include those who are truly seeking to have something happen internally, but are struggling in their faith. This includes people like me who used to go to Mass and think about the Redskins game plan or other such nonsense during the ritual. Of course, it is good that people in this situation come faithfully to Mass – just like it was good that the Pharisee observed the external laws so faithfully. And, they most likely aren’t as culpable of hypocrisy as the Pharisee was because they probably don’t know as much about the external rituals and laws as he did.

But, and this is the challenge of the parable, a person of faith most likely looks like the publican who “stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner.'” (Lk 18:13). My point to the Bible Study group last night was that the publican ‘gets it’. No matter what awful things he might have done in his life, he finally gets it: he is humbly on his knees, speaking to God honestly from his heart, and asking for mercy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Gospel commentary - 30th Sunday

The following is a commentary on today's Gospel by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, and comes from

This Sunday's Gospel is the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Those who attend Mass this Sunday will hear a commentary more or less of this type.

The Pharisee represents the conservative who feels himself in line with God and man, and looks with contempt on his neighbor. The publican is the person who has committed an error, but he recognizes it and humbly asks God for forgiveness. The latter doesn't think of saving himself on his own merits, but rather through the mercy of God. The preference of Jesus between these two is clear, as the last line of the parable indicates: The latter returns to his house justified, that is, forgiven and reconciled with God; the Pharisee returns home just as he left it -- preserving his sense of righteousness, but losing God's.

Hearing this commentary, and repeating it here, leaves me dissatisfied. It's not because it is mistaken, but it doesn't respond to our modern times. Jesus told these parables to those who were listening to him in the moment. In a culture charged with faith and religious practice like that of Galilee and Judea of his time, hypocrisy consisted in flaunting the observance of the law and of holiness, because these were the things that brought applause.

In our secularized and permissive culture, values have changed. What is admired and opens the path to success is the contrary of that other time: It is the rejection of traditional moral norms, independence, the liberty of the individual. For the Pharisees the key word was "observance" of the norms; for many, today, the key word is "transgression." To say that an author, a book or a show is a "transgressor" is to give it one of the most desired compliments of today.

In other words, today we should turn the terms around to get at the original intention. The publicans of yesterday are the new Pharisees of today! Today the publican, the transgressor, says to God: "I thank you Lord, because I am not one of those believing Pharisees, hypocritical and intolerant, that worry about fasting, but in real life are worse than we are." Paradoxically, it seems as if there are those who pray like this: "I thank you, Lord, because I'm an atheist!"

Rochefoucauld said that hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. Today it is frequently the tribute that virtue pays to vice. This is shown, in fact, especially among youth, who show themselves worse and more shameless than they are, so as not to appear less than others.

A practical conclusion, valid as much in the traditional interpretation alluded to at the beginning, as in the development given here, is this one: Very few -- perhaps no one -- are always in the role of the Pharisee or always in the role of the publican, that is, righteous in everything or sinners in everything. Most of us have a little of both in us. The worst thing would be to act like the publican in our daily lives and like the Pharisee in church. The publicans were sinners, men without scruple, who put money and business above everything else. The Pharisees, on the contrary, were, very austere and attentive to the law in their daily lives. We thus seem like the publican in daily life and the Pharisee in the temple, if, like the publican we are sinners, and like the Pharisee, we believe ourselves just.

If we must resign ourselves to being a little of both, then let us be the opposite of what we have just described: Pharisees in daily life and publicans in church! Like the Pharisee, we must try in daily life to not be thieves and unjust, but to follow God's commandments and pay our dues; like the publican, when we are before God, we must recognize that the little that we have done is entirely God's own gift, and let us implore, for ourselves and for all, God's mercy.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Power shining forth in weakness

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited!!
The following is a letter written by St. Augustine which comes from yesterday’s Office of Readings (Liturgy of the Hours). It seems like a nice follow-up to a) Sunday’s Gospel and b) Wednesday’s post (and all of our discussions about why God allows his followers to suffer).

You may still want to ask why the Apostle (St. Paul) said: We do not know what it is right to pray for, because, surely, we cannot believe that either he or those to whom he wrote did not know the Lord’s Prayer.

He showed that he himself shared this uncertainty. Did he know what it was right to pray for when he was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to bruise him, so that he might not be puffed up by the greatness of what was revealed to him? Three times he asked the Lord to take it away from him, which showed that he did not know what he should ask for in prayer. At last, he heard the Lord’s answer, explaining why the prayer of so great a man was not granted, and why it was not expedient for it to be granted: My grace is sufficient for you, for power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

In the kind of affliction, then, which can bring either good or ill, we do not know what it is right to pray for; yet, because it is difficult, troublesome, and against the grain for us, weak as we are, we do what every human would do, we pray that it might be taken away from us. We owe, however, at least this much in our duty to God: if he does not take it away, we must not imagine that we are being forgotten by him but, because of our loving endurance of evil, must await greater blessings in its place. In this way, power shines forth more perfectly in weakness.

These words are written to prevent us from having too great of an opinion of ourselves if our prayer is granted, when we are impatient in asking for something that it would be better not to receive; and to prevent us from being dejected, and distrustful of God’s mercy toward us, if our prayer is not granted, when we ask for something that would bring us greater affliction, or completely ruin us through the corrupting influence of prosperity. In these cases we do not know what it is right to ask for in prayer.

Therefore, if something happens that we did not pray for, we must have no doubt at all that what God wants is more expedient than what we wanted ourselves. Our great Mediator gave us an example of this. After he had said: Father, if it is possible, let this cup be taken away from me, he immediately added, Yet not what I will, but you will, Father, so transforming the human will that was his through his taking a human nature. As a consequence, and rightly so, through the obedience of one man the many are made righteous.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The greatest way to imitate Christ

Anon wrote the following:

“There is a book coming out about Mother Teresa that is a compilation of correspondence from her to her confessors and others spanning 60-plus years. The letters (if authentic) show that for most of her life she lived in a state of constant spiritual pain because she did not feel the presence of God and even doubted the existence of God and heaven. The book claims that she described herself as living in utter darkness. I know that prior to this it was known that she experienced periods of spiritual crisis, but this book apparently says that it was present throughout most of her adult life. What do we make of this? Occasionally on this blog people talk about spiritual struggle and the answer generally is: you must be open, you must sin less, you must confess your sins, you must pray, you must listen for God, you must give to others. Mother Teresa did those things probably more than any of us can imagine. Why would God torture her?”

I met Mother Teresa twice and have read many of her writings and teachings. I can say with great confidence that she not only taught others to live with joy but she lived it herself and experienced real joy. It was the joy of Christ. Does this mean that she was always laughing and carrying on with people? No, but it does mean that she whatever crosses she endured in her life, she experienced real joy because she was found worthy to imitate Christ in such a great way.

I use two of her quotes all the time along these lines:

“ The best way to imitate Christ is through suffering”
“Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most”

I really don’t think that she read this in a book somewhere. As far as I know, these are two original quotes (with some help from the Holy Spirit). She learned this through her own experience. It was through her own trials, but also through the pains of those she served for over fifty years. She might have witnessed more suffering on a daily basis than anyone who’s ever lived; she amassed much wisdom about the value of suffering.

Why would God allow her to experience such darkness? It’s really the same question of why He would allow His own Son to experience such suffering. The answer to both of these questions is focused on identifying with the experience of the poor who are highly favored by God. The poor - Christ, the Blessed Mother, Mother Teresa, the saints, etc. – have a great dependence on and need for God, much like children do. God has great love and trust for people like MT that, in their great anguish, they will call out to Him all the more which is what she did for so many years. She acknowledged this trust when she said, “ I know God will not give me more than I can handle…I just wish He didn’t trust me so much”.

My take on all of this stuff from the new book (and I don’t know how much is accurate) is that she is speaking mainly for all those she served all those years. She once said that the greatest human pains are rejection and loneliness. Christ felt these in the garden on Holy Thursday; she said he was in greater pain that night than on Good Friday. She linked that pain to the men and women she served in Calcutta whose families had left them to die at train stations. Again, the Father allowed Christ to experience such pain so that he could identify with all those who have been abandoned, rejected, hurt, etc., and so they can identify with him.

I don’t doubt that MT experienced real spiritual darkness. But, I do think that she witnessed their darkness and pain for so long that she took it on herself. One last quote that she probably said to herself as much as she said to others which shows that, at the end of the day, her faith was rock-solid: “Don’t ever get so sad that you lose sight of the Resurrection”. No matter how much she suffered in this life, we believe she is enjoying the fruit of her faith in the Resurrection: eternal life.