Sunday, October 18, 2009

29th Sunday - homily

I first entered the seminary right out of college…literally the next day. I finished my summer classes at the University of Maryland and then drove up to the seminary. Not long after I arrived, the rector of the seminary welcomed me. He said, “Greg, you are the last man to arrive this year. We have a tradition that the last man to arrive is the cantor at the Opening Mass”. I replied, “Um, Monsignor, I can’t sing”. He told me not to worry. He said even more emphatically, “Monsignor, I can’t sing. This is going to be really bad”. He said that everyone knows the tradition and I shouldn’t sweat it. But, I did sweat it. A lot. I didn’t sleep that first night in the seminary..not worried about being with 150 holy men after working in a bar…not worried about preparing to be a priest…but about singing in front of a crowd of people at Mass. I walked back into the rector’s office the next day. There were several other seminarians there. I made my point one final time: “Monsignor, please don’t make me sing. I didn’t sleep last night. I can’t sing!” He started laughing; so did the other guys. He then said, “gotcha!” When I realized it was all a joke, I said to myself, “Oh, thank God!” After that, I was totally relaxed being there. ‘Celibacy? No problem! I don’t have to sing at the Opening Mass.’

I was ordained a priest in 2006 and have been the GW Newman Center chaplain since July. It has been a busy three and a half months! We fixed up the Newman Center in July and August, giving it a facelift with new exterior paint, flagstone, and landscaping. Our hope was to make the Center more attractive and inviting to the students. It appears that that has happened because we have had more students come through our doors this year, thanks be to God. But, with more students coming to our social and spiritual events, our costs are going up. We need your help. We need your “timely help”, as today’s second reading says. The second collection is for the Newman Center; please help us out. Your contributions will help us pay for social events like Tuesday dinners, spiritual programs like retreats, and our rising monthly bills. On behalf of the students, I am grateful for your generous and timely help.

Speaking of the students, your sons and daughters, they are great! I know that word is overused, but it totally fits in the context of today’s Gospel. Jesus says that whoever wants to be great will be a servant. Your kids are great because they serve. This is true of many GW students, but especially those at the Newman Center. This past summer, some of them helped me just about every day in fixing up the Newman Center. Then, at the Opening BBQ, you should have seen them: greeting and welcoming the 300 students who attended…for 4 straight hours! They did it with a smile the whole time. Every Tuesday, they cook for about 75 students. They help out at local food kitchens. They gave up a weekend in September to lead the Freshmen Retreat. They serve regularly as liturgical ministers at Mass. They are all over the place serving others. They are great!

Yes, students, you are great, but please remember that your parents are the greatest. They are the greatest among us. They have served you since day one. They have given up so much for you. They have sacrificed their time, effort, energy, and money to give you so much. Everything you have has come about through your parents. They have served you and taught you to serve others. Love means sacrifice; they have loved you from day one.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, whenever we come to the Eucharist, we remember all that Christ sacrificed for us. He is the Greatest of all because He is the servant of all. He came down from His throne in Heaven for this (pointing to the Crucifix). He sacrificed everything for you and for me. Before we leave Church today, let each one of us say from our hearts, “thank you, Jesus”. Hopefully we will pray this during Holy Communion. Something like, “thank you, Lord, for giving me your life. Help me to give you mine”. Before your parents go home today, students, please say, “thank you, Mom and Dad”. They have shown you and taught you so much about love…and about God’s love. Every week I tell you that God loves each and every one of you. As much as your parents love you and serve you, God loves you even more! He has infinite love for you. May you and all of us here know the intense love God has for us in our lives.

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