Monday, August 29, 2011

22nd Sunday - homily

I welcome all of you back to GW and hope that had a great summer! To all of our new students here, I especially welcome you. I am Father Greg Shaffer, the chaplain of the Newman Center which is the Catholic student center on campus. It is located at 22nd and F, a yellow townhouse behind the Smith Center. It is the "home away from home" for many of our 3,000 GW Catholics.

We have a couple dozen student leaders who are putting together a lot of cool things this year. They are all fired up like Jeremiah. You will learn quickly that we specialize in free food. Jesus first, food second. Every Tuesday we have a free home-cooked meal at 6 pm which rocks; Mass at 5:30 before the dinner. This Saturday, we'll have free Chipotle at our Opening BBQ. Just about every other Sunday, we'll have food down in the Parish Hall after the 7:30 pm Mass. We have retreats, Adoration, service opportunities, parties, Catechism classes, and Bible studies led by our Focus missionaries. The missionaries will be outside after Mass to introduce themselves to you and sign you up for Bible study. Last year, these Bible studies were very popular among students. So, check out Focus and check out the Newman Center as you start your new year.

You probably have already made goals for the year - academic, personal, physical, social, etc. I hope you have spiritual goals, as well. Let me suggest a good spiritual goal for you this year: pray every day for at least five minutes. This is not including Grace before meals and the rote prayers you say in bed at night. The goal is to have a conversation with Christ every day for at least five minutes. If you can do more, great.

Now, this goal is rooted in what St Paul writes in tonight's second reading and which is flushed out by Jesus in the Gospel. St. Paul writes to the Romans and all of you as you start this new year, "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind". What a great line! The first part you probably get - don't just go along with the college crowd in terms of how you act and think. But, the second part is a bit more challenging to comprehend. Jesus helps us to understand when He says to Peter and all of us that we shouldn't think as human beings do but as God does. How are we transformed by the renewal of our minds? By thinking as God thinks! So, St. Paul’s line means do not think as human beings do, but as God does. We come to think as God thinks through prayer.

One form of prayer which you may know about is called “Lectio Divina”. This is when we pray over a passage or phrase or even a word of Scripture for a period of time. I think that Focus does this sometimes in their Bible studies. Let’s say that you spend this week praying over this Gospel passage. What would happen is that you would begin to think as God thinks suffering. In this passage, Jesus tells the disciples that He will suffer much…and even be killed. Now, we know that this happened to our Lord, but at this point, the Apostles didn’t know it and this was the first time they heard anything about it. Peter, as the leader, thought he was speaking correctly when he rebuked Jesus and said that this won’t happen: “God forbid, Lord” (bad idea, Pete). Christ slams Peter who He calls "Satan" for thinking about suffering as human beings do only. We can’t fault Peter because this is the way that we approach suffering. We try to avoid pain and suffering at all costs. In college, there is a fair amount of suffering: stress and anxiety, loneliness, homesickness, isolation, rejection, depression, or failure. You or your friends might try to avoid these or other kinds of suffering through the party scene, drunkenness, drugs, sex, gossip, slander, anger, pornography, etc. Christ tells us that we shouldn’t try to avoid our crosses. He didn’t! He took His up and says that if we’re going to follow Him we need to take up our own crosses. This is what God thinks about suffering. Human beings say to avoid crosses; God says to take them up.

So, when we pray over this passage, we are transformed in relation to suffering. Thinking the way that God thinks about suffering transforms us by the renewal of our minds. It’s a very effective way to pray…to think as God thinks…to be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

I want to close with the best way to pray…the best way to know what God is thinking. We have a chapel at the Newman Center with the Blessed Sacrament present….the Eucharist is there… Jesus is in the house at 2210 F St. Go talk to Him. Spend your five minutes a day there in prayer. Praying in the presence of the Lord is the best way to pray…the best way to know what God is thinking. The saints say that when we pray, we put on the mind of Christ. Come and spend time with Him this year in prayer, that you may be transformed by the renewal of your minds, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

No comments: