Friday, May 30, 2008

'I do what I hate"

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church.

2) DC ‘Hood vs. Holy Redeemer, tonight, 6 pm. Last game of the season!
In response to my May 7 post, “Consecrate them in the truth”, Anon wrote the following: “Maybe I’m stuck on semantics, but, my first though when I read ‘so many are burdened by the slavery of sin” was, yahoo! I’m free. Doesn’t being captive or being a slave of something or someone remove the responsibility of one’s actions? I see slavery as a state of existence that is totally out of a person’s control. Sins may be committed, but the slave is not responsible for them. Or, in order not to be held responsible for their sin, does the slave have to hold onto their beliefs, even at the risk of a vicious beating or death? I know we are responsible for our reaction or choice when we are confronted with a sin. I’m wondering if the concept “slavery to sin” is meant to be interpreted in the context that we will always be slaves to sin because of the original sin Adam and Eve committed? Would you mind clarifying the intent? Thanks.”

Thanks, Anon. What you write about the institution of slavery is also true for “slavery of sin”. Once someone is in the slavery of sin in particular ways, then it “is totally out of a person’s control”. On their own, they are powerless over sin. This has been the human condition from the beginning (Adam and Eve, original sin). As St. Paul writes, “I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate…Now if I do what I what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:15, 20).

However, there is a difference: slavery of sin involves a choice on some level on the part of the individual. As the Catechism teaches, “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’ (Rom 6:17). The original choice of someone who is a slave of sin is the choice to disobey (God’s law). The person is not intentionally choosing slavery, but the reality of the choice of evil on any level is that it “leads to” slavery. Whether or not this choice is fully informed or fully free, it is a personal choice on the part of the individual. So, there is moral responsibility (culpability) on the part of the slave of sin. I guess this takes us from ‘yahoo!’ to ‘d’oh!’.

Here are some Scriptural passages which speak to us about the power of sin and that we are set free from the chains of sin by Christ Jesus:

- “Direct my steps according to thy word; and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119)
- “For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins” (Wis 1:4)
- “everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (Jn 8:34)
- “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32)
- “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Trans vs. Con (-substantiation)

In response to a line from my Corpus Christi homily that Protestants believe that the Eucharist is “just a symbol” and “just bread”, “Cynthia BC” wrote the following, “We Lutherans … do NOT believe that the Eucharist is ‘just’ bread or ‘just’ wine. We believe that Christ is truly present in the bread and in the wine”. She then cited the Lutheran Catechism which “references 1 Corinthians to assert that the bread and wine are still present in the Sacrament…1 Cor. 10, 16: The bread which we break. And 1 Cor. 11, 28: Let him so eat of that bread."

We thank Cynthia and welcome her comments on this site. She gives us the opportunity to understand more clearly what the difference between Catholic and Protestant theology on the Eucharist is. As Tom indicated with his comment, the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation is “the doctrine that, at the consecration, the bread and wine undergo a change ("trans-") of substance from bread and wine to Jesus' Body and Blood, so that the consecrated Host is no longer bread and the consecrated cup no longer holds wine.” This belief has been in place since the Apostles and the doctrine has been more clearly defined by the Church in the past 1000 years.

There are many different Protestant theologies on the Eucharist because, well, there are many different Protestant denominations (30,000?). Lutherans follow what Martin Luther (1483-1546) taught: consubstantiation. Again, Tom tells us that “consubstantiation is the doctrine that, at the consecration, Jesus' Body and Blood become really present along with ("con-") the bread and wine, so that the consecrated host remains bread while also being Jesus' true body.” Cynthia references 1 Cor 10:16 and 1 Cor 11:28 to argue that St. Paul believed that the Eucharist was bread and wine along with the Body and Blood of Christ.

In response to Cynthia and the Lutheran Catechism, I begin with the words spoken by Our Lord about the Eucharist. Christ said at the Last Supper, “this is my body…this is my blood” in referring to the Eucharist. If the Eucharist is bread and wine along with Christ’s Body and Blood, he would have said, “this bread contains my body…this wine contains my blood”. At this moment of instituting the Eucharist, he makes no mention of bread and wine. Also, when he teaches about the Eucharist in John 6, he very clearly defines what the Eucharist is: “my flesh for the life of the world” (v.51). When he uses the word bread, it is a descriptive term only – much like the word “Eucharist”. The substance, as he says over and over in Jn 6:53-57, is flesh and blood. In those verses which are the solemn teaching on the Eucharist, He uses the words ‘flesh’ and ‘blood’ four times but doesn’t use the words ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ once.

In 1 Cor 11, St. Paul reiterates the exact words of the Lord Jesus at the Last Supper: “this is my body”. This is the tradition that he “received from the Lord” and that he “also handed on to you”. If he really believed that the Eucharist is bread and wine along with Christ’s flesh and blood, St. Paul would have handed on the tradition that Jesus said “this bread contains my body”. Jesus never said that and, so, Paul rightly hands on the tradition of “this is my body”. This defines what the Eucharist is; this is the tradition handed on by St. Paul.

We can know that this is the tradition handed on by St. Paul by reading what his successors believed about the Eucharist. Here are some quotes from the early Church Fathers (to see them in full please click on today’s title) who give strong support and evidence for the doctrine of transubstantiation:

Justin Martyr

"We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus" (First Apology 66 [A.D. 151]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

"The bread and the wine of the Eucharist before the holy invocation of the adorable Trinity were simple bread and wine, but the invocation having been made, the bread becomes the body of Christ and the wine the blood of Christ" (Catechetical Lectures 19:7 [A.D. 350]).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Feast of Corpus Christi - homily

Last year during one of our Youth Group meetings, one of our teens said to me, “I just felt God’s presence”. At another meeting, another teen said that she just felt the hand of God on her head. We do a lot of fun stuff at Youth Group and we have a good time. But, once a month we do Eucharistic Adoration; these were two of our teens’ experiences with Adoration. One of our adults who comes to Adoration regularly said that she didn’t think true peace was attainable in this life before she started going to Adoration; she has since found true peace. Adoration is one of the greatest ways for us to honor this glorious feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. So what is Adoration?

Adoration is when the Eucharist is exposed for us to adore and worship. At St. Andrew’s, we have Adoration every Friday from 7-8 pm. At the beginning of the hour, we bring the Eucharist out of the tabernacle and place it on the altar in a vessel called a monstrance. We have silent prayer for a while and then music for meditation and reflection. Then, at the end of the hour, we have the rite of Benediction. When I celebrate Benediction, I bring the monstrance out to the congregation. I place a veil over my hands and give sections of the congregation the solemn blessing with the monstrance.

Now, if we are saying that this Eucharist is the Body of Christ, then it is really the hand of Jesus giving the blessing to his people. We have had kids from our school, teens, and adults all experience this powerful moment with the Eucharist so close during Benediction. It is really Jesus walking through the Church, giving his blessing just like 2000 years ago. Powerful, radical stuff! Our kids and teens love Adoration!

It might be intimidating, though. It’s not just coming to Church on a Friday night; it’s not just praying for an hour (although you don’t have to come for the whole hour; you can just come for a few minutes). What can be most intimidating is coming face-to-face with God. This is what happens with Adoration. And yet, Jesus says, ‘come to me’. ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened…all you who drive by here every day…going to all of your activities…to and from work…bring me all of your worries, your problems, your fears, anxiety, hopes, dreams, joys, sadnesses…bring them all to me…and I will give you rest. I will give you peace that you can’t find anywhere else’.

This is really what we do when we come to Adoration – we dump all of our stuff on Jesus. We say, ‘Lord, take all of this. Help me’. He wants us to bring Him everything we are going through. It is like coming to see a good friend. We come to His house to spend time with Him. This is one of the biggest reasons He has given us the Eucharist, I think; it is so he can be close to us and we can be close to Him.

To remind us all about this radical opportunity to be with Christ, I have made some cards for you. They are magnetic business cards that advertise Adoration and the times we offer it here – Fridays from 7-8 pm and 1st Saturdays from 9-10 am. Please take one card as you leave here this morning and put them on your fridge at home.

I have told you the statistic that 70% of Catholics don’t believe that the Eucharist is for real. They believe that the Eucharist is just a symbol; that it’s just bread. This is what Protestants believe! I think the reason the 70% and Protestants don’t believe in the Eucharist is because they really haven’t heard the teaching, especially from the Gospel we just heard (John 6). Jesus is saying over and over again that the Eucharist is for real. He uses the words ‘flesh’ 5 times and ‘blood’ 4 times in relation to the Eucharist. The people heard him speaking literally and they took him literally. They questioned him about it and then left him, saying, ‘who are you to give us your flesh to eat? What are you talking about? We’re outta here’. The Apostles were confused, too, but stayed with Jesus. The early Christians took this teaching literally and passed it down to us. For 2000 years, we have believed that the Eucharist is truly the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. When the minister says to us at Holy Communion, “the Body of Christ”, and we say, “Amen” (I Believe), we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. Whenever we genuflect in Church, we are saying that Jesus is really present in the tabernacle. Whenever we drive by a Catholic Church and bless ourselves, we are saying that the Eucharist is for real. Whenever we come to Adoration, we are saying the Eucharist is for real. At a youth conference recently with 300 teens adoring Christ, I said to them, “we look like we’re crazy! We look nuts - on our knees worshiping what looks like a piece of bread!” What is the basis for all of this? The basis for this feast, for 2000 years of belief, for Adoration, for all of this– it is four words: THIS IS MY BODY.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Eucharist: Radical, Awesome, C.o.o.l.

Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. All who wish to adore Jesus in the Eucharist are invited! It's a great way to prepare for this Sunday's feast of Corpus Christi.
This Sunday is the solemnity of Corpus Christi (the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ). What a glorious feast!! This year's feast is especially efficacious because Sunday's Gospel is taken from John 6:51-58 in which Jesus emphatically teaches about the Eucharist. This is my favorite passage from all of Scripture.

As I've mentioned here before, I have a written a brochure on the Eucharist with a heavy concentration on John 6. The brochure can be read in full by clicking on today's title. It is in pdf format; you will need to zoom in (to 100%) because the print is small. You have my permission to reproduce and distribute the brochure, especially to youth.

May we all grow in our love and reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"How to Be a Better Catholic" (cont.)

We continue with the section on “How to Be a Better Catholic” from the Daily Roman Missal (6th Edition, 2003).

The Six Precepts of the Church*
The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth of love of God and neighbor:

1) "You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation."
This precept requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration, when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the resurrection of the Lord.

2) "You shall confess your sins at least once a year."
This precept ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness. It is binding only with regard to grave sins.

3) "You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season."
This precept guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.

4) "You shall keep the holy days of obligation"
This precept requires the completion of the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints. It requires, also, abstinence from those works and activities that impede the worship to be owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of works of mercy or the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs of important social service can excuse from this obligation of rest, but the faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life and health.

5) "You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence".
This precept ensures the times of ascesis and penance that prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire freedom of heart and mastery over instincts.

6) "You shall provide for the material needs of the Church"
This precept requires the faithful to contribute to the Church according to their own abilities.

* See Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), # 2041-2043 & 2185

Works of Mercy**
The works of mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor's spiritual and bodily necessities. Giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity; it is also a work of justice pleasing to God.

- Feeding the hungry
- Giving drink to the thirsty
- Clothing the naked
- Sheltering the homeless
- Visiting the sick
- Visiting the imprisoned
- Burying the dead

- Counseling the doubtful
- Instructing the ignorant
- Admonishing sinners
- Comforting the afflicted
- Forgiving offenses
- Bearing wrongs patiently
- Praying for the living and the dead

** See CCC, # 2447

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity - homily

I was on a retreat in high school that was pretty intense. At one point during the retreat, we went into our small group to talk about some major stuff – life, family, faith, friends, etc. One of the guys in our group who was a very good friend of mine began to talk about his life. He kept referring to “Bill” in his talk – “Bill” has always been good to me; “Bill” and I get along great; I was asking “Bill” the other day…Finally, the group leader interrupted him by saying, “I’m sorry, but who is Bill?” My buddy who is very funny said, “God. I call God, ‘Bill’”. Needless to say, it helped lighten up the intense mood!

Ever since we have existed, we have wanted to know who God is and what to call Him. For the first thousand years or so, no one knew God’s name. It was until God revealed His name to Moses and the Israelites: “I am who am”, or “Yahweh” in Hebrew. The Jewish people were in such awe of the name of Yahweh that they never said the word. It was only the Jewish priest who would say the name of God once a year. He would go into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement – Yom Kippur – and say the name of Yahweh. When the people heard this, they bowed down with great reverence and respect at hearing the name of God.

Jesus reveals more fully who God is and what His name is – God is Father, Son, and Spirit. We celebrate the Most Holy Trinity today. God has revealed himself fully to us in Christ and asks us to believe in his name. We see the early Christians had tremendous respect for the name of Jesus, continuing the Jewish tradition of honoring the name of God. It took on an even more intense form, as we know from the Acts of the Apostles. In Acts chapter 5, the Apostles are “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name (of Jesus)” (v. 41).

Do we approach God’s name with great reverence and respect? Are we like the Jews and only use His name in regards to worship? Are we like the early Christians who believed so firmly in the name of Jesus as today’s Gospel calls us? Or, do we follow the ways of the world and throw God’s name around like it’s just any other word? One look at today’s TV shows or movies reveals how careless our society is in using the name of God. I find myself constantly whispering a “sorry, Lord” when viewing certain programs. There is even a phrase on internet and cell phone media: “OMG”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always stand for “Oh my Gosh”. Many of us have unfortunately fallen into the secular habit of taking God’s name in vain even when it involves minor frustration or even excitement.

May the Eucharist help us to keep God’s name holy. May the grace of this sacrament help us to return to our Jewish roots in honoring the name of God. When we come to the Eucharist, it’s like we are in the new Holy of Holies; we not only hear God’s name, we see Him under the signs of bread and wine. And, when we see Him, we are encouraged to whisper His name, “My Lord and my God”. This is the phrase that St. Thomas said when he saw the risen Christ. The Church encourages us to whisper “My Lord and my God” when the priest elevates the consecrated host and wine.

Finally, may the Eucharist help us to live Trinitarian lives. May our lives be offerings to the Father, in the Son, and through the Holy Spirit. May we always live our lives in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Please pray for vocations

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. “you could not keep watch with me for one hour?” (Mt 26:40).
Here are some recent questions and comments made by bloggers regarding religious life and vocations:

1) Anon:
The clothing priests wear clearly defines their vocation, but spotting a nun can be much more challenging when they are not wearing their traditional habit. I saw several nuns at the Pope’s mass, but not as many as I anticipated and the only way I knew they were nuns was because of their clothing. When nuns attend a special mass, such as one celebrated by the Pope, do they wear any specific or special vestments?

No, they continue to wear their usual attire, whether that consists of a habit or not. Also, you might have seen a group of men at the Mass who were wearing black clerical garb and looking like priests. Those were seminarians (men who are studying to be priests). Unless they were participating in the Mass, they, too, remained in their usual religious attire.

2) Maryann:
Being a woman, I'm surprised it took me so long to think of us, the other half that keeps the world in balance. “Are we going to have enough nuns?” MSNBC’s Terry Wynn reported on the shortage of nuns shortly after Pope John Paul II’s death in 2005. The article questioned the new Pope’s ability to curtail the decline in the sisterhood. Terry Wynn stated, “The new Pope must address huge challenges as he takes over at the helm of an institution with 1 billion members. He must consider the growth of Islam, the relationship with other Christian denominations, the fall in priestly vocations, and charges of sexual abuse by clergy across the world.” ( I suspect all three issues will be addressed by the pope during his visit to the United States.

Kenneth Jones' Index of Leading Catholic Indicators has some alarming statistics: In 1965, society enjoyed 180,000 sisters as the backbone of the education and health Systems, while in 2002, there were 75,000 sisters, a decrease of more than 50%. If the decrease in numbers is not a reason for concern, the average age of 68 should be. The index predicts that the year 2020 will be enjoying only 40,000 sisters, with only 21,000 of those under the age of 70 ( I personally find this bothersome.

Some reasons for the decrease in numbers may be:- Lack of visibility - nuns are now rarely seen in education and health care institutions, both of which provided wonderful advertising for the calling. The decreased visibility and exposure to nuns presents a challenge, especially to our youth. I suspect some children go through their entire adolescent life without getting to know a nun.- Vatican II’s changes - women now have more opportunities to become involved in the social and ministerial aspects of the church. I would suspect the cost of giving up the opportunity of a family becomes too large.- Society’s expectations vs. Religion’s expectations - “ is it women that see the sisterhood as having unrealistic expectations or is it the church that has unrealistic expectations of nuns? (This same question holds true for the shortage of priests.) I would suspect this question will also be with us for a while.

These are but a few of the interesting thoughts on the decreasing number of nuns, a complicated problem that parallels our shortage of priests.

Interesting thoughts, indeed, but please remember my post from December 6, “More young women are entering convents”, which presented the hopeful situation of particular religious orders experiencing a surge in young vocations. Here is a portion of that post:

"...Over the past five years, Roman Catholic communities around the country have experienced a curious phenomenon: more women, most in their 20s and 30s, are trying on that veil. Convents in Nashville, Tenn.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and New York City all admitted at least 15 entrants over the past year and fielded hundreds of inquiries. One convent is hurriedly raising funds for a new building to house the inflow, and at another a rush of new blood has lowered the median age of its 225 sisters to 36. Catholic centers at universities, including Illinois and Texas A&M, report growing numbers of women entering discernment, or the official period of considering a vocation. Career women seeking more meaning in their lives and empty-nest moms are also finding their way to convent doors...

3) Fran: Prayer for Vocations

Most High Glorious God from whom all good comes. By the power of the Holy Spirit, call more workers into your harvest to follow in the footprints of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, after the example of St. Francis of Assisi according to the Capuchin way of life. Give them the strength to be generous with the fit of themselves. May they see chastity as love, poverty as freedom and obedience as victory, with an apostle's heart to serve you and your people all the days of their life. Amen
- Charles de Foucald: from a leter to a young friend preparing for ordination, 1897

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Please take action!

This past weekend, we heard the pulpit announcement from the Archdiocese of Washington which urged us to get involved with two bills that undermine marriage in Maryland. We heard the call to contact Gov. Martin O’Malley and ask him to veto these bills. We can do this by calling 410-974-3901 or by sending an email through the Maryland Catholic Conference. In order to send an email, please click on today’s title. The email has already been written and can be read below. Please take action!

Two bills that undermine the institution of marriage by granting marriage equivalency to unmarried couples in the health and tax statutes could become law as soon as May 13 unless they are vetoed by Gov. Martin O'Malley. Contact the governor today by clicking the "Take Action" link and ask him to veto SB 566 and SB 597.

SB 566 and SB 597, while well intentioned, are seriously problematic. Under the bills, any two people - same-sex, or of opposite sexes - can gain state recognition as domestic partners if they jointly rent a car, jointly rent an apartment, and sign an affidavit that they are in an "interdependent" relationship. There is no requirement that the affidavit be filed with any agency, or even notarized. Domestic partnerships can be dissolved merely by signing another affidavit. SB 566 and SB 597 allow those domestic partnerships to be treated the same as marriages in parts of the health and tax statutes.

SB 566 grants medical decision-making rights to domestic partners. However, those benefits are already available to ALL couples in Maryland through advance directives and powers of attorney. SB 597 exempts domestic partners and former domestic partners from recordation and transfer taxes.

Please contact Gov. O'Malley immediately and urge him to uphold marriage in Maryland. Ask him to veto SB 566 and SB 597 by clicking the "Take Action" link immediately.

It may be helpful for the governor to receive some printed, hard copies of the message asking him to veto SB 566 and SB 597. If you would like to print and mail your letter, please select the "printed letter" option at the "Take Action" link and send it to: The Honorable Martin O'Malley, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD 21401.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Pentecost - homily

My mother and father met at a wedding in Southern Maryland many years ago. After the wedding, my Dad went out of his way to introduce himself to my Mom and get to know her better during the course of the evening. As my Dad used to tell the story, he was “interested” in a few different women at the time he met my Mom. Well, shortly after they met, he called all of these women and told them that he couldn’t see them anymore. Wow – I’d say he liked my Mom! She kind of liked him, too…! They fell in love, and my sister, brother, and I are all grateful that they did and that it happened the way it did.

This is the story of how my immediate family began. Today, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost which is when our Catholic family began. We celebrate the event when Christ sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and filled them with courage to proclaim their faith in Him, and many came to believe in Jesus. It is the event that started the Catholic Church. So, now when people ask you when the Catholic Church began – a question you hear a lot at parties, I’m sure! – you can tell them that it started at Pentecost in 33 A.D.

From very early on, Catholics have viewed the Church as a mother who gives us life in Christ. The Church is our Mother who not only gives us supernatural life but also nurtures, forms, and shapes us to be people of faith. One of the earliest sayings about the Church as Mother comes from St. Cyprian: “he cannot have God as father who does not have the Church as mother”.

Our own mothers are such beautiful symbols of the Church as mother. Our mothers have given us life. They not only give us natural life, but they nurture, form, and shape us to be the people we are. Mothering is the most important work in the world! Motherhood is a vocation, and the most significant one there is. We all thank God for our mothers and for all of the sacrifices they have made to bring us into the world. We thank God for all our mothers – the Church, the Blessed Mother, and our own mothers. Through our mothers, we are given the gifts of life and eternal life.

In today’s Gospel which is John’s account of Pentecost, Christ breathes on the Apostles, giving them the Spirit. Christ breathes the Spirit of life on them. It is the same Spirit of life that brings us into the world through our mothers. It is the same Spirit of life that brings us into the faith through Mother Church. It is also the Spirit of peace. Christ intends us to have real life and real peace. One of the main reasons he gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins is so that we might have real life and real peace through the Spirit. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is necessary for real life and real peace through the Spirit.

Finally, we come to this Eucharist to give thanks to God for all the blessings He has given us, especially our mothers. We give thanks for our own mothers through whom we have received life on Earth. We give thanks for Mother Church through whom we receive eternal life. May the Spirit help us to appreciate our mothers who have given their lives so that we might have life.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Today's Gospel

1) Eucharistic Adoration, tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church.
2) DC 'Hood game @ Watkins Mill HS, tonight, 7 pm. Go 'Hood!
Today's Gospel (Jn 21:15-19)

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"Consecrate them in the truth"

In today’s Gospel, the prayer of Jesus to the Father continues.

“Holy Father…I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”

Truth is central to the mission of Jesus Christ. Before Pilate, Christ said, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth”. Christ is all about Truth. He says elsewhere in John’s Gospel, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He makes it clear in this Gospel passage that he is the Father’s word, and the Father’s “word is truth”. So, Christ’s prayer is that the Apostles and disciples would be consecrated in Christ and Christ is consecrated in the Father.

What is also clear in Jesus’ prayer to the Father is that the world (sin) hates Christ. It hates, then, the word of the Father. It hates truth. It put Christ on the cross and killed him. Why? Because he spoke the truth. Jesus promised the Apostles that they would receive the same treatment: “if the world hates you, realize that it hated me first…the world hates you” (Jn 15:18-19). The Apostles were hated and were killed in a similar way (all of the Apostles were martyrs except John). A multitude of Christians have been martyred over the past twenty centuries.

The Church continues to be hated and greatly persecuted by the world for proclaiming and defending the truth in the twenty-first century. We see this played out most regularly with regards to its teachings on marriage and life. The Church continues to defend the sanctity of marriage which is under tremendous attack by the secular culture. She continues to defend the sanctity of life in all stages from conception to natural death in a world that views life as disposable. Just as the death of Jesus Christ seems senseless, so, too, does the daily martyrdom of the Catholic Church seem to make no sense. The mission of the two are the same: proclaim the truth in love.

Why does the world hate truth? In my opinion, it’s because of pride. People who live according to the world’s standards want to live as they please; they want to do it their way. They want to live as they want, not as God wants. They want to live according to their own truth. They have heard what God has said (Commandments, Gospel, Church teachings, etc.) and have essentially said, ‘no. I know better than God.’

Now, of course, I am referring to those who truly have heard what God has said and rejected it; I believe these are the people to whom Christ is referring when he refers to the world. It is those, like Satan himself, who have been given the truth and, in their pride, have rejected it. To a lesser extent are their disciples: those who have followed them in the ways of the world. This is probably a much greater number of people and probably the category into which many of our youth fall. Do the disciples of the culture really know the Church and hate it? Do they really know Christ and hate Him? My vast experience with this type of people has been that they really don’t know Christ or the Church and are surprised to hear what either is all about. In short, they are surprised by Truth.

Finally, it is an incredible experience to see someone hear the truth for the first time and respond to it. To see someone react to the truth about God, the Church, or life is among the most powerful experiences in life, in my opinion. It is an experience of seeing someone go from slavery to freedom. The Holy Father spoke so often about this in his visit to the United States because he knows that so many are burdened by the slavery of sin. Coming into the truth means coming into freedom. True freedom provides us the ability not to live as we please but to choose the good. Christ desires each of us to live in freedom. Truth is the vehicle for freedom: “the truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32).

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Feast of the Ascension - homily

“They worshiped, but they doubted”. Why is it that we doubt the things of God more than other things in life? We make acts of faith every day; they are small acts and its faith with a small ‘f’. For example, when we buy a can of Coke, we make an act of faith. We can’t see if it’s Coke or not inside the can, and yet we buy it because we believe it’s Coke. When we drive down a two-lane road, we can’t see what’s going to happen, but we believe that the oncoming car will not veer across the yellow line into our lane. Each night, when we got to sleep, we believe that we will wake up the next morning even though we can’t see what will happen.

Why do we do this? Why do we believe in things every day that we can’t see? Because there are reasons to believe…there is evidence…there is proof. We believe that the can is filled with Coca-Cola because every time we have bought a can of soda with Coco-Cola written on the outside of the can there has been Coke on the inside. We believe that the other cars on the road will obey the traffic laws because that has been our overwhelming experience on the road. We believe that we will wake up from sleep because it has happened every time so far.

God knows that we need to see Him in order to believe. Today’s first reading says that Jesus “presented…many proofs” to the Apostles in the forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension. The most obvious proof of his divinity was the Resurrection. They saw him die, and then they saw him alive again. They ate meals with him and talked with him after his death. Today’s event, the Ascension, is another proof. What a vision it must have been for them to see – Christ being taken up to Heaven…to glory.

But, with God knowing that the disciples need to see him to believe in Him, something happens: He leaves them. He left them! What would happen to their faith in Him if they couldn’t see Him? Two things: one, He sent the Holy Spirit ten days after the Ascension at Pentecost to help them. The Spirit of Christ would give them great faith and courage. Two, He said to them, “I will be with you always until the end of the age”. He is referring primarily to the Eucharist. He is saying, “I will still be with you; I’ll just look a little different’.

Now, they’re many people who doubt when it comes to the things of God, especially the Eucharist. The point about the Apostles is that they continued to worship even though they doubted. Many people stop worshiping -they stop coming to Mass - because they doubt. Jesus knows we need to see to believe in Him in the Eucharist. He has presented many proofs for us that the Eucharist is really His Body and Blood. He taught about the Eucharist in John 6, instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper, and then said in this Gospel that He will be with us until the end of the world.

If, after seeing these reasons to believe, we still doubt, we can look at the proof He offers in the miracles of the Eucharist. In the past 1300 years, our Lord has worked at least four miracles that the Church, His Body, has approved. And, when the Church approves something as a miracle, we can be sure it’s a miracle! He has worked these miracles to give those who need to see almost scientific proof for the same reason He worked miracles 2000 years ago: to help people in their faith…to help people believe in Him.

The main reason why some people doubt the things of God is because they don’t see Him in their lives. At all. They see no reason, no evidence, no proof to believe. We are the ones who need to show them God. We are called to show them that He is real. May the grace of the Eucharist help us to show them God. May they believe as we believe that He is with us always until the end of the world.

Friday, May 02, 2008

"Unbelievable" sportsmanship

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7:30-8:30 pm, SAA Church. Please note special time this week only!
Someone emailed me this article about a recent softball game which included an unprecendented act of sportsmanship.

PORTLAND, Ore. - With two runners on base and a strike against her, Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University uncorked her best swing and did something she had never done, in high school or college. Her first home run cleared the center-field fence. But it appeared to be the shortest of dreams come true when the missed first base, started back to tag it and collapsed with a knee injury.

She crawled back to first but could do no more. The first-base coach said she would be called out if her teammates tried to help her. Or, the umpire said, a pinch runner could be called in, and the homer would count as a single. Then, members of the Central Washington University softball team stunned spectators by carrying Tucholsky around the bases Saturday so the three-run homer would count — an act that contributed to their own elimination from the playoffs.

Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, asked the umpire if she and her teammates could help Tucholsky. The umpire said there was no rule against it.

So Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace put their arms under Tucholsky's legs, and she put her arms over their shoulders. The three headed around the base paths, stopping to let Tucholsky touch each base with her good leg.

"The only thing I remember is that Mallory asked me which leg was the one that hurt," Tucholsky said. "I told her it was my right leg and she said, 'OK, we're going to drop you down gently and you need to touch it with your left leg,' and I said 'OK, thank you very much.'"

"She said, 'You deserve it, you hit it over the fence,' and we all kind of just laughed." "We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.'"

"We didn't know that she was a senior or that this was her first home run," Wallace said Wednesday. "That makes the story more touching than it was. We just wanted to help her."

Holtman said she and Wallace weren't thinking about the playoff spot, and didn't consider the gesture something others wouldn't do. As for Tucholsky, the 5-foot-2 right fielder was focused on her pain. "I really didn't say too much. I was trying to breathe," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday.

"I didn't realize what was going on until I had time to sit down and let the pain relax a little bit," she said. "Then I realized the extent of what I actually did." "I hope I would do the same for her in the same situation," Tucholsky added. As the trio reached home plate, Tucholsky said, the entire Western Oregon team was in tears.

Central Washington coach Gary Frederick, a 14-year coaching veteran, called the act of sportsmanship "unbelievable." For Western Oregon coach Pam Knox, the gesture resolved the dilemma Tucholsky's injury presented."She was going to kill me if we sub and take (the home run) away. But at the same time I was concerned for her. I didn't know what to do," Knox said.

Tucholsky's injury is a possible torn ligament that will sideline her for the rest of the season, and she plans to graduate in the spring with a degree in business. Her home run sent Western Oregon to a 4-2 victory, ending Central Washington's chances of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs.

"In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much," Holtman said. "It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain, and she deserved a home run."