Monday, September 07, 2009

23rd Sunday - homily

For those of you who I haven’t met yet, I am Fr Greg (Shaffer), the new chaplain of the Newman Center, the Catholic Student Center here at GW which is located at 22nd and F Streets. I am psyched to be here and to be your chaplain and am excited about our year together. When I was in college, I had many good times and have a bunch of stories that you’ll hear this year. One of my best stories was when I went out to California with buddies of mine one year around Halloween. We went out to a club one night there and hit the dance floor. Oh yeah! I was out there groovin’ and everything until, all of sudden, the dance floor cleared. I started to make my way back to my friends, but they were saying, “No, Shaffer, stay out there, man”. I was like, “why? What’s up?” Then, I see all of these people in really nice Halloween costumes coming out…it was a Halloween costume contest!

The others had really nice costumes; I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts! They awarded the prizes based on crowd noise. The emcee came out and asked each participant who they were: “I am Batman”…”I am Catwoman”, those before me said. Then, he gets to me, and asked, “who are you?” Taking the microphone by hand, I yelled, “I’m the guy from the East Coast! See my white legs!” The crowd went nuts…I got third place!

Yes, I had many good times in college. But, it was also in college that I realized how clueless I was about our Catholic faith. I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school, and Church every Sunday. But, what I learned must have gone in one ear and out the other; it never really registered. I became good friends with a priest, Fr Wells, who was brilliant and a TON of fun. I remember talking with him one day in his office about faith and said to him, “Well, you know, Father, the Eucharist is just a symbol”. He said, “WHAT?!” I said, “it’s a symbol?” (real shakily). Now, Fr Wells completely believed that the Eucharist is truly the Body and Blood of Christ…that a change really takes place in the bread and wine at every Mass. He replied to me, “Greg, this is my body means this is my body”.

When he said that, something happened. I thought, “what? We really believe that?”So, I began to go to Mass more often – during the week – to hear the words I had heard so many times. It just hit me: this is for real! My faith became real: the Mass, Confession, the Cross…all of it. I finally got it; it’s like tonight’s first reading: “here is your God”.

That conversation changed my life. Fr Wells opened my ears. It’s very much like Jesus opening the ears of the deaf man in tonight’s Gospel. This event changed his life. He rejoiced that he could finally hear! In much the same way, I have rejoiced ever since Fr Wells opened my ears that day in his office.

It is my great hope that we at the Newman Center can help open the ears of any of you who are like I was in college: spiritually and theologically deaf. We will offer some stuff this year that will really help you hear what God is saying to you. For example, if you come to Mass every Sunday and have trouble understanding the readings, we will offer Bible Study on Monday nights. We’ll talk about the readings and see how they speak to college students. Also, if you’re having trouble hearing God speak to you in your life in general, we will offer a few retreats. A retreat is a profound way to get away, enter into quiet, and hear the voice of God.

It is my great hope that I can help open your ears of faith. Just as a priest was there to open my ears, I am here to help open yours. I am here to help you. I am here to serve you. I became celibate so that I can give my whole life to you: give you all of my time, energy, and love. 24 hours a day. Let me know how I can help you.

Through the Eucharist, may God open the ears of all of us. May we hear Him speaking to us this year. Above all, may we hear with our ears and know in our hearts this year how much God loves us. May each and every one of you know God’s love this year.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Fr. Greg - God Bless you in your new ministry at GWU. We'll pray for you and for your success at reaching out to the Catholic students at GWU who have yet to discover the rich friendships they can develop through participation in the Newman Center programs...
Parents of a GWU Junior...