Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Good Friday Confessions + "Passion of the Christ"

Good Friday (April 2):

1) Confessions at the Newman Center (2210 F St.) on Good Friday from 12 noon - 2:45 pm and 4:15 pm -6 pm.

2) "Passion of the Christ" movie, 8:30 pm, Marvin Center, Room 302

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Setting the record straight" about Father Murphy

A few people have asked me recently about the reported case in Wisconsin about abusive priest Father Murphy. Please click on the today's title to read an article from the priest who presided over the case as judge and who sets the record straight.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday - homily

“This is my body…this is my blood…shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”.

These are the words we hear at the Consecration at every Mass when bread and wine become the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. In and of themselves, these words are awesome! They also tell us why this all happened….why Christ suffered so much…why He shed so much blood…why He died such a horrific death: so that sins may be forgiven.

The night before He died, He sweat blood in the garden. Sweat blood…so that sins may be forgiven.

The next day, He was whipped over 40 times front and back….and the soldiers used metal hooks at the end of their whips that ripped off his flesh. He was a bloody mess…so that sins may be forgiven.

Then, they mocked Him, spit on Him, and gave Him a crown of thorns that pierced His skull, causing blood to go into his eyes…so that sins may be forgiven.
They gave him a cross to carry…a very heavy cross. He fell three times, one time falling face first into stone pavement and breaking his nose…so that sins may be forgiven.

Then, He hung upon the cross for at least three hours…could barely breathe…could barely speak. And when He spoke, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. Then, He breathed his last…so that sins may be forgiven.
If you don’t have your sins forgiven, then Christ suffered and died in vain…all the blood He shed would be a waste.

I beg you, I beg you, I beg you: go to Confession….so that your sins may be forgiven.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A plea for Confession

Stations of the Cross, tonight, 5:30 pm, Newman Center chapel. Eucharistic Adoration and the opportunity for confession to follow from 6-7 pm. Please join us!

Holy Week schedule:
- NO Bible Study

- Mass (5:30 pm), dinner, discussion ("The Last Seven Words of Christ")

- Adoration, 12:30-10 pm
- Confessions, 8-9:30 pm

Holy Thursday
- NO 12 Mass, NO Theology of the Body
- 6:30 pm, Mass of the Lord's Supper, St Stephen's
- 12 midnight - "Christ in the Garden", NC Chapel

Good Friday
- 12:00 pm -2:45 pm- Confessions (NC, 2nd floor)
- 3:00- Living Stations of the Cross, St Stephen's
- 4:15-6 - Confessions (NC, 2nd floor)
- 6:30 - The Lord's Passion, St Stephen's
- 8:30 - "The Passion of the Christ" movie (Marvin Center)
This Sunday night, I will be making a big plea for GW Catholics to go to Confession, explaining that the reason Christ suffered so much, shed so much blood, and died a horrific death is "so that sins may be forgiven”. It is in Confession that all our sins are forgiven…it is the sacrament of Reconciliation with God and the Church. My plea will be for GW students to honor the events of Holy Week, particularly Christ’s sacrifice, through Confession. Please encourage others to do this!

If you are worried about going to Confession, I understand. I have made it clear that I don’t get angry, judgemental, or condemning in “the box”. I am a minister of God’s Mercy and will offer you mercy. An example which may help solidify this point is a student who came to me for Confession recently after being filled with much trepidation about going. Here is the student’s email after Confession:

“I just wanted to say thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I really do feel spiritually renewed and so so blessed to have received the sacrament of Reconciliation. When I came into your office yesterday, I didn't for one second think that I was going to make a Confession-- until you whipped out your stole that is!...But, I am really grateful that I did-- and I am especially grateful for your patience and encouragement with the whole process, which was very overwhelming for me. Most importantly, however, I want to thank you, because for the first time in many years, I will truly be able to celebrate the gift of our Lord at Easter.”

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New health care is "profoundly flawed" - US Bishops

WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) – Less than an hour before the President of the United States signed the Senate version of Health Care Reform into law, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, through their President, Cardinal Francis George, issued the following release:

From The Catholic Bishops of the United States:

"For nearly a century, the Catholic bishops of the United States have called for reform of our health care system so that all may have access to the care that recognizes and affirms their human dignity. Christian discipleship means, "working to ensure that all people have access to what makes them fully human and fosters their human dignity" (United States Catechism for Adults, page 454). Included among those elements is the provision of necessary and appropriate health care.

"For too long, this question has gone unaddressed in our country. Often, while many had access to excellent medical treatment, millions of others including expectant mothers, struggling families or those with serious medical or physical problems were left unable to afford the care they needed. As Catholic bishops, we have expressed our support for efforts to address this national and societal shortcoming.

"We have spoken for the poorest and most defenseless among us. Many elements of the health care reform measure signed into law by the President address these concerns and so help to fulfill the duty that we have to each other for the common good. We are bishops, and therefore pastors and teachers. In that role, we applaud the effort to expand health care to all.

"Nevertheless, for whatever good this law achieves or intends, we as Catholic bishops have opposed its passage because there is compelling evidence that it would expand the role of the federal government in funding and facilitating abortion and plans that cover abortion. The statute appropriates billions of dollars in new funding without explicitly prohibiting the use of these funds for abortion, and it provides federal subsidies for health plans covering elective abortions.

"Its failure to preserve the legal status quo that has regulated the government´s relation to abortion, as did the original bill adopted by the House of Representatives last November, could undermine what has been the law of our land for decades and threatens the consensus of the majority of Americans: that federal funds not be used for abortions or plans that cover abortions. Stranger still, the statute forces all those who choose federally subsidized plans that cover abortion to pay for other peoples´ abortions with their own funds. If this new law is intended to prevent people from being complicit in the abortions of others, it is at war with itself.

"We share fully the admirable intention of President Obama expressed in his pending Executive Order, where he states, "it is necessary to establish an adequate enforcement mechanism to ensure that Federal funds are not used for abortion services." However, the fact that an Executive Order is necessary to clarify the legislation points to deficiencies in the statute itself. We do not understand how an Executive Order, no matter how well intentioned, can substitute for statutory provisions.

"The statute is also profoundly flawed because it has failed to include necessary language to provide essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context). As well, many immigrant workers and their families could be left worse off since they will not be allowed to purchase health coverage in the new exchanges to be created, even if they use their own money.

"Many in Congress and the Administration, as well as individuals and groups in the Catholic community, have repeatedly insisted that there is no federal funding for abortion in this statute and that strong conscience protection has been assured. Analyses that are being published separately show this not to be the case, which is why we oppose it in its current form. We and many others will follow the government´s implementation of health care reform and will work to ensure that Congress and the Administration live up to the claims that have contributed to its passage. We believe, finally, that new legislation to address its deficiencies will almost certainly be required.

"As bishops, we wish to recognize the principled actions of the pro-life Members of Congress from both parties, in the House and the Senate, who have worked courageously to create legislation that respects the principles outlined above. They have often been vilified and have worked against great odds.

"As bishops of the Catholic Church, we speak in the name of the Church and for the Catholic faith itself. The Catholic faith is not a partisan agenda, and we take this opportunity to recommit ourselves to working for health care which truly and fully safeguards the life, dignity, conscience and health of all, from the child in the womb to those in their last days on earth."

Monday, March 22, 2010

5th Sunday of Lent - homily

We just heard the story of the woman caught in adultery and the famous line from Jesus, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”. Everyone there puts down their stones. But, you may not know the rest of the story. Someone from the back of the crowd threw a stone that landed near Jesus. Jesus looks around to see who could have thrown it, and then sees who it was and says, “Oh, Mom!”

Unfortunately, many Catholics think they are without sin. Many people have said to me over the years, “I don’t need to go to Confession, it’s not like I’ve killed someone or robbed a bank or anything”. This is an indication of a poorly formed conscience. I don’t blame these people only; it’s the role of the Church to inform people’s consciences. So, tonight, we will go through an examination of conscience just to make sure our consciences are all informed about specific sins. We’ll go through the ten commandments and the seven deadly sins, hitting the most relevant sins. This is the best way to prepare for Confession which you should all do before Easter.

The first commandment: “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have any other gods before me”. False gods would include people like boyfriends, girlfriends, celebrities, or things like money. Also, any involvement in the occult, witchcraft, ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readings are serious sins against the first commandment. Even taking horoscopes seriously is a sin.

The second commandment: “thou shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”. People do this a lot more than they realize. OMG…hopefully, this means, “Oh my Goshhhh”, every time. If you say, ‘Oh my God’ regularly, make it a prayer: ‘Oh my God, I love you!”

The third commandment: “Keep holy the Sabbath”. I’m not trying to be funny, but the Sabbath is every Sunday! Some people think the Sabbath is every other Sunday or just once a month. The Christian Sabbath happens every Sunday. To give you further motivation for coming to Mass here and your whole lives every Sunday, the main reason we come to Mass is to receive the Eucharist. Jesus says that we need to receive the Eucharist in order to get to Heaven (John 6). We need to be at Mass to receive the Eucharist. When you have kids and they ask you, “Mommy, Daddy, why do we have to go to Mass every Sunday?”, you can tell them it’s so they will get to Heaven which is the most important thing in life. There’s nothing more important than getting to Heaven, so there’s nothing more important than getting to Mass on Sundays. Kids get it.

Getting drunk is a serious sin against the fifth commandment. It’s a form of killing yourself and the life God gave you. It causes harm to your body which is a temple of the Holy Spirit. The same goes with getting high and using drugs. Any participation in an abortion is grave sin. This would include recommending someone get an abortion, actively taking part in an abortion, voting for a pro-abortion politician, etc. Cutting or any attempt at suicide is grave sin.

The most confessed sins are those against the sixth commandment, “thou shall not commit adultery”. Any sexual act outside of marriage is serious sin…. heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual…any sexual act outside of marriage. Jesus puts unchastity (impure sexual sins) in the same category as murder, adultery, and theft (Mark 7). This is serious sin. The Catechism specifies some of these sins: fornication, pornography, and masturbation. Yes, masturbation is a sin. It abuses the beautiful and sacred gift of sex that God has given us by making it only for pleasure and self-gratification while objectifying people in the process. God makes it clear in the first book of the Bible that sex is for a husband and wife to unite as one flesh and to procreate. Along these lines, contraception is grave sin. Acts of contraception include using birth control pills (which often serve as abortifacients where the baby is conceived and then killed in the mother’s womb), diaphragms, and condoms (which are passed out on occasion on this campus…this both depresses and angers me at the same time). It’s not just the act of contraception that is so dangerous and harmful. It is the mentality. It is a very selfish mentality that says “me first”. That is one way to define all sin (“me first”), but especially with contraception. The person is saying, ‘I want this (sex) but I don’t want that (a kid)’. The Church has warned against the widespread use of contraception for a long time. Pope Paul VI predicted in Humane Vitae (the 1960s) that if contraception became widespread, then we would see the degradation of women increase (which has happened) and morality decrease across the board (which has happened). This was quite prophetic of our former pontiff.

Stealing, lying, cheating on tests, papers and taxes are all grave sins. Coveting what other people have in terms of physical or personal gifts or possessions are sins against the ninth and ten commandments. You should be happy with the life God has given you. There is no one else in the world like you. You are unique. God created you and ‘God don’t make junk’. You are beautiful, intelligent (my gosh, are you all smart), and good. You are good and you are loved.

The seven deadly sins: pride (I believe that pride is the root of all sin…again, this means selfishness, self-centeredness, ‘me first’), anger (the anger that leads to hate), gluttony (over-eating, over-drinking), greed (for money, power, success, popularity, etc.), sloth (laziness), envy, and lust. There are sins against the virtues, too. For example, sins against charity include gossip and being mean to people. Unfortunately, we have a problem within our own community of people being mean to their roommates. That is wrong and anti-Christian.

Now, most of what I’ve just gone through are serious sins…grave matter. If they are done with full knowledge (you know they are serious sins) and full consent (you freely choose to do them), then they are mortal sins. Mortal sins break our relationship with God and bring darkness to our souls. Anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin goes to Hell. If we have committed a mortal sin, we need to go to Confession. One of the main reasons Jesus has given us the sacrament of Confession is to keep us out of Hell. Keep in mind that receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is a mortal sin. My reminder at Communion every time is basically saying that we need to be in a state of grace to receive our Lord. If you’re not in a state of grace because of serious sin, please respect the Eucharist and don’t receive until you go to Confession.

Finally, if you are overcome with guilt right now, please think of the woman caught in adultery. She had committed the most serious sin at that time. In just a few moments, Jesus wiped out her serious sin and set her free. She was right with God and the Church in just a matter of moments. Yes, she had been embarrassed. Totally embarrassed. But, that lasted just a few moments. She left there and her sins were wiped out. That is the same opportunity you have with Confession. In just a matter of moments tonight or sometime before Easter, any and all of your sins will be wiped away by Christ through me or another priest. You will be right with God and the Church! You will be freed of your sins and guilt! And, you will hear the words from Christ that the woman heard which express his great and merciful love for you: “I don’t condemn you…go and sin no more”.

Friday, March 12, 2010

"You might know this better"

To all GW students: have a great, fun, and safe Spring Break! Get some much needed rest but remember that “idleness is a devil’s workshop”. So, you’ll want to stay active spiritually, intellectually, and physically. Please pray for us down in South Carolina! See you at the student Masses (7:30 and 10 pm) on Sunday, March 21.
Occasionally, I get emails from GW Catholics about questionable comments made by their professors about Catholic teaching. These comments are not just made in religion classes here; in fact, I have fielded more questions from students about comments made in psychology classes, history classes, etc. This was my experience as a student at the University of Maryland. For example, a professor of communication occasionally brought up Catholic teaching in unflattering (to put it nicely) ways.

I welcome all GW Catholics to contact me if you hear the Church being questioned, attacked, or misrepresented in serious ways by your professors. Here’s the most recent email exchange with a classic comment at the end:

GW Catholic:
I was hoping you could clarify a question that has repeatedly popped up in my… class. My professor keeps referring to catholics believing that the eucharist represents the “bones” of Christ and not the flesh. I thought as catholics we believe the eucharist is in fact Christ's flesh. Who is right?

Fr Greg:
Thanks for the question. Our belief is that the Eucharist truly is the flesh and blood of Christ. This is based primarily on the Last Supper account when Jesus says "this is my body...this is my blood". But, it is augmented by Christ's teaching in John 6 that the bread he will give is his flesh for the life of the world. He uses the word "flesh" several times in John 6 in relation to the Eucharist; he never uses the word "bones".

The Church teaches that "the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained" (Council of Trent, 1551) in the Eucharist. So, Christ is truly, really, and substantially present. One word the Church doesn't use is physical. This is where it gets confusing and maybe where the problem is with your prof.
He's not physically present because it's NOT like we're eating his bones. We don't go up and chomp into his arm or anything at Communion. We don't see bones and we don't taste bones. We see bread and taste bread. So, it is more of a spiritual presence but it's REAL! If he was physically present, we would see flesh and blood and taste it. The consecration of bread and wine comes about in a spiritual way but REAL. Again, if it was physical, we would see a change. (btw, there is one documented miracle of the Eucharist becoming physical flesh and can see human flesh and blood).

The early Church fought against the heresy your prof is suggesting that we believe. I forget the name of it, but it may just be cannibalism. That's basically what he's saying that we believe. It's not cannibalism because Christ died "once and for all". It's His Risen Body and Blood that we receive in the Eucharist. The Church has believed this from the beginning.

Lastly, if you're ever talking to your prof, he might try to use the arguments that the Protestant Reformers used. They argued that if Christ is spiritually present in the Eucharist, then the Eucharist is only a symbol. They pointed to the Fathers of the Church who said Christ is "spiritually" present in the Eucharist (the Fathers did this in condemning the heresy that he's physically present...that we're eating bones). They said spiritual but REAL. They never wavered in their belief that Christ is really present in the Eucharist. The Reformers did; they separated "spiritual" and "real" while the Church never has.

Hope this didn't confuse you too much and it actually helped. Bottom line is that he's misrepresenting what Catholics believe and suggesting that we believe in something heretical. Feel free to send him my way so I can ask him to get it right! Great job!

GW Catholic:
Thanks a bunch! That made complete sense and I will be sure to describe to him what you've said after class. The Prof has done a good job trying to stick with Catholic facts as best he can (He's Jewish) but his main "source" that he brings up a lot is "Angels and Demons." Its funny because I answered a question he asked the class about the primacy of the papacy and his response was, "wow that sound like something from Angels and Demons."… Anyway, he then asked me if I was Catholic and when I said yes he quickly changed tone. Now whenever he is a little unclear on Catholic "stuff" he finds me and goes "you might know this better..."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Nuns can be funny"

1) "The Light is on for You" - Confessions tonight, 8-9:30 pm, Newman Center, 2nd floor.

2) Eucharistic Adoration, today, 12:30 -10 pm. Please come by to adore our Lord in the Eucharist.
A friend sent me a youtube video with a comedic nun who is hilarious. Her act is called, "Late Night Catechism". It is really funny; I was laughing out loud! She weaves in some solid catechesis as well. It's a good break for you students from all of the stress of your mid-terms. I'm praying for you!

To view the video, please click on today's title.

Monday, March 08, 2010

3rd Sunday of Lent - homily

“Obey your thirst”. This is the slogan of the soft drink, Sprite. Obey your thirst. For what do you thirst? Now, if you gave up Sprite or some other drink for Lent and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘come on, Father, back off’, I apologize. I know this will be hard for you, but please bear with me…! Actually, a good buddy of mine gave up alcohol for Lent and is having a hard time with it, as he does every year. Well, at least the first week of Lent. The day after Ash Wednesday, I asked him how it was going. He said, “38 more days!” I was thinking to myself, ‘he’s not gonna make it’. For what do you thirst? For what do college students thirst? Well, other than beer…for what did you thirst when you came to GW? Success, achievement, love, friendship, fun…all these things. My hope is that if you came thirsty for these things, you will leave thirsty for something else: the waters of eternal life.

This was the experience of the woman at the well (reading from 3rd Sunday, Year A). She came to the well looking for drinking water. She’s totally normal, looking for something good and normal. She encounters our Lord and begins a conversation with Him. He offers her something different than drinking water: the waters of eternal life. This sounds attractive and beautiful to us. The way that Jesus said it to her got her right away. It must have sounded especially attractive to her because she immediately responded to his offer with, “Sir, give me this water”. She came to the well thirsty for drinking water but, in the course of this conversation, she realized her real thirst…for Christ and eternal life. I don’t know how long this conversation lasted – maybe half an hour, maybe an hour – but it changed her life. She had an encounter with Christ and it changed her heart. It helped that Jesus revealed things about her that showed he knew her very well. She responded by believing that He is the Christ and going back to her town and telling everyone about Him.

We have some GW students her tonight who have also realized their real thirst and are obeying their thirst. They are a group of nine students who are preparing to become Catholic at Easter. They came to GW like all of you, thirsty for the things I mentioned earlier. They have realized their real thirst is for Christ. Some are thirsty for the waters of eternal life through Baptism. All are hungry and thirsy for the Eucharist. All are preparing to receive the Holy Spirit in Confirmation so they can join the Church’s mission of evangelization. They want to be like the woman at the well who went out and converted a whole town after her encounter with Christ. A whole town! Can you imagine converting your whole dorm? That would be amazing, but remember that you evangelize every time you come to Mass. It’s a great witness to Christ when you choose to come here. It takes a lot of courage to choose to go to Mass in college because you know that your friends will make comments and jokes: ‘oh, you’re a churchgoer’. You are evangelizing others, so great job!

My hope is that you all are having the experience of the woman at the well. You have come to GW thirsty for other things but have had an encounter with Christ which has revealed your real thirst. We can encounter Christ in the Eucharist, in Confession, in prayer, etc. It changes our lives when we have such an encounter with Him as it changed the life of the woman at the well. We realize that our real thirst is for Him and for eternal life. As St. Augustine (who did much partying before he realized his real thirst) said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him”.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, we obey our thirst for the Eucharist. We satisfy our hunger and thirst; that’s why we are here. Also, we remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross when he said, “I thirst”. For what does Jesus thirst? When he said, “I thirst”, the people there brought him something to drink. He wasn’t talking about physical thirst. He was saying, “I thirst for souls. I thirst for hearts. I thirst for love. Your hearts thirst for me. Obey your thirst”.

Friday, March 05, 2010

"Pope in HD"

Tonight at Newman Center: "Stations, Adoration, Burritos".

Stations of the Cross (5:30 pm), Adoration (6 pm), Chipotle burritos - vegetarian (7 pm). Please join us!!
Two tidbits of info about how the Vatican is going even more digital:

1) You might have seen recently how the Pope is encouraging priests to blog and use other digital tools. How cool! To view the article, please click on today's post.

2) And, "Pope in HD" from

A new agreement between Sony and the Vatican Television Center will make high definition images of the Pope available by October, according to the director of the Vatican press office.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, who also directs Vatican TV, announced the development in a statement today. Vatican TV is purchasing a mobile unit from Sony that allows for television filming in high definition.

Father Lombardi said the deal is part of Vatican TV's intention to stay abreast of technological developments, and that HD is the new "frontier of television production."

"It is consolidating rapidly and increasingly there are more channels that broadcast in high definition," he noted. "Therefore, it has seemed necessary to be in conditions to produce to the measure of the highest standards, to be protected from the risk of the diffusion of events related to the activity of the Pope and of the Holy See, in the very near future, being delegated to others."

The Knights of Columbus will help finance the new mobile unit.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

"Boy, was I bored!"

Confessions tonight, 8-9:30 pm, Newman Center. "The Light is on for You"

Last night, we had a couple of discussions at the Newman Center. The first one was on service and the second one on faith. The latter discussion was about making a comeback in faith with students who are trying to do just that. I told my story of how my Catholic faith was awakened in college. The basic point of my talk was that faith is a's something we receive. God is the source of our faith, so if we want to make a "comeback" in faith, we need to go to Him more...we need to receive more of His Grace in order for our faith to grow. As Catholics, that primarily means coming to the sacraments more, especially the Eucharist.

I finished my story by talking about the priest who was instrumental in my "comeback", Fr. Wells. I gave them each a copy of his book, "From the Pastor's Desk", which is a collection of his reflections (it was done by people after he was killed in 2000). Here is one of his brilliant reflections, which is related to what we discussed last night:

"Grace of Frequent Confession" (June 21, 1998)

"During a period of about four or five years, I served as a confessor to a convent of about twenty sisters. This meant that every two weeks, I would go across town for a couple of hours to hear the confessions of those who chose to take advantage of the sacrament on that particular day. How does one put this politely? Well, let me say only that these women took their vocations very seriously and, happily, they had little 'serious matter' to confess. In other words, on more than a few afternoons, with the sun shining warmly into the room where he sat, Father had to be gently called back to full awareness of what he was doing. Boy, was I bored! And then, as God would have it, something happened. Since I was there for four or five years and, therefore, heard the same sisters' confessions regularly over that time, I began to notice changes in the sisters. Without even their fully noticing, these individuals, in ways unique to their spiritual journeys, showed the grace of the sacrament in their lives. Impatience with this or that sister began to fade; stubbornness in the face of authority became a bit less challenging, or frustration with the girls in the school showed itself only after just a bit more provocation.

I had always heard that the sacramental grace of confession is that we are gradually given the help to turn away from habitual sin. These sisters, already close to God, showed me how grace, over time, gently turns us away from all that is not of God. What is true for religious women can, of course, be true for any of us; and interestingly, I also see it here at Lourdes. As you know, we hear confessions daily from 11:30 to noon. Because confession is so avaailable, we get so many people from the offices nearby. Most go behind the screen so, in one sense, I have no idea who they are; but as with those sisters, it is fascinating (and inspiring) to hear the spiritual journeys of individuals. And unlike the sisters, some begin that journey after years away from confession. Habits of sin, I have come to believe, are addictive in some ways and, therefore, are hard to break. One of the reasons I have come to love hearing confessions is that it is such a thrill to hear of the gradual victory over the addiction of habits of sin. We are tough and stubborn - almost like sidewalk concrete - but given an opening in ourselves, grace can gradually destroy the hardness of sin.

St. Paul says that faith is the ability to believe in things unseen. So many Catholics seem to have lost faith in the Sacrament of Penance. The act of confesing sins can be, of course, tough. It is true, certainly, that venial sins are forgiven through receiving communion, for example; and therefore, there is no obligation, in the strict sense, to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance unless there is serious sin. Obligation is one thing; opportunity is another. What a tremendous gift that promises that, in time and with God's grace, we can gradually move away from those petty habits of sin that so impede us from living the life of Christ. May God continue to draw people back to regular use of this wonderful Sacrament of Reconciliation."

Monday, March 01, 2010

2nd Sunday of Lent - homily

“This is my chosen son. Listen to him”. We hear the Father speak in today’s Gospel! It must have been one of the most powerful moments in an already amazing scene at the Transfiguration. “This is my chosen son. Listen to him”. How? How do we listen to Christ? How do we hear God speaking to us. In my travels of discernment, I have found 4 ways that God speaks to us: prayer, Scripture, other people, and our experiences.

God can speak to us in prayer, not like I’m speaking now, but to our hearts and minds. It’s a really good idea to have a spiritual director – a priest or religious – who can help us to know if that voice in prayer is our own, God’s, or another voice all together. God speaks to us through Scripture and we’ll see what He is saying to us through the readings in a moment. He can speak to us through other people; that’s why it’s so important to be around holy people who are open to the Holy Spirit. The final way is through our experiences. The world doesn’t believe that things happen for a reason. It believes in “coincidences”. We don’t believe in coincidences; we believe in “God’s incidents”.

So, what is God saying to us through today’s readings? He is saying many things, but one thing is that He is in covenant with us. He has always been in covenant with us. Abraham is the beginning, Christ is the end, and we all are in the middle of the covenant with God. Each one of you is in the middle of the covenant with God! When I say that Christ is the end, I mean that He is the fulfillment of the covenant. The new covenant fulfills the old one. Christ is the fulfillment of the old law and the prophets, too. That’s why Moses and Elijah are represented at the Transfiguration. Moses represents the law and Elijah the prophets.

In the new covenant, all people are in covenant with God. As God’s people in covenant with Him, we have not always been faithful. Especially now, we see so many people are not faithful to God, His law, and His covenant. And yet despite our unfaithfulness, God has remained faithful. Even now, in the midst of a world of great sin and unfaithfulness, God remains faithful to us. We know this because of something that St. Paul writes in one of his letters: “where sin abounds, grace abounds more”.

The greatest sign that God is faithful to us is His Son, Jesus Christ. God sends His Son to us to redeem us from our sin, from our unfaithfulness. This is what is referred to in the scene of the Transfiguration: what Jesus will “accomplish” in Jerusalem. This word “accomplish” is significant because it shows us that Christ’s suffering is something that He will do…for us. It is his work of redemption…his work of salvation. It is also a word that we will hear on Good Friday: “It is accomplished. Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit”.

Finally, whenever we come to Mass, we remember what Jesus accomplished on the Cross for us. The amazing thing is that through our remembrance and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ becomes truly present on the altar in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the sign for us today of God’s faithfulness to us in our covenant with Him. We will see and receive this sign in a few minutes. When I elevate the Eucharist tonight, may each one of hear these words from the Father: “This is my chosen son. Listen to him”.