Monday, August 26, 2013

Homily - "I won’t judge you, I will love you"

 Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.
Welcome back to all of you students!   I hope you had a very good summer.  Hard to believe that classes start tomorrow…ready or not, here they come!  A special welcome to all of our new students here – freshmen, transfer, and grad students.  It’s so good to have you all here.  We’re pumped for a great year together.  My name is Father Greg and I’m the chaplain of the Catholic student center at GW – the Newman Center.  The Newman Center is located at 22nd and F…it’s a yellow townhouse which is easy to spot.  You can check out our bulletin and website, and see all that we offer. 

We really try to offer you an experience of the kingdom of God on campus.  In fact, what’s talked about the kingdom in tonight’s readings sounds like the Newman Center.  People come from all over – from all the nations, from the east and the west, the north and south.  They come to “recline at the table” of the Lord.  We do a lot of reclining at table…we do a lot of FREE FOOD! That’s kinda our specialty….especially Chipotle.   All students are welcome at our place: Catholics and non-Catholics, people who have been formed well and people who haven’t, people from all different places or backgrounds, ethnicities, orientations, personalities….ALL ARE WELCOME! Jesus talks about entering through the narrow gate…again, this sounds like Newman!  We have narrow doorways, hallways, and stairways.  We’re so biblical!  Ha, I just hope that you all make yourselves at home at your new “home away from home”.

As your chaplain, I am available 24/7 for you.  To that point, I want you to take your cell phones out and add me as a contact…yes, use your cell phones in Church.  It’s “Father Greg” or just “FG” if you don’t want people to see my name come up, that’s cool.  240.463.9960. Text or call me whenever…some students have called in the middle of the night before.  I’m here for emergencies or just to talk or hang out or smoke a cigar.  Many students take me up on this – by the way, you can put your phones away now! – but some are uncomfortable to do so.  I get it.  It can be intimidating or embarrassing to talk to a priest…especially about your problems.  Well, let me put your mind at ease just a bit and let you know that I have problems, too.

In the language of our Lord who says “the first shall be last, the last shall be first”, I am among the last when it comes to priests.  I’m not just saying this…I have the resume to back it up!  I will tell you the full story next week about how I overslept a morning Mass that I was supposed to celebrate for the parish here….it was an 11 AM Mass.  Wow, pretty tough to do.  And, as you’ll come to know well, I took 12 years to complete seminary when it’s normally 6 years after college.  Yeah, so, I see myself in the lower tier of priests when it comes to holiness, intelligence, theological stuff…among the last of priests.  When you feel like you’re the last of students or Catholics or people, I feel ya.  I have related to many students along these lines the past four years.  Simply put, I am a great sinner…and, I did worse things than you in college!  I won’t judge you, I will love you.

So, what does this whole paradox of Christ mean: “the first shall be last, the last shall be first”?  The example of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, tells us.  This Pope has put the last first.  From the start of his papacy, he has put the poor first.  He has reached out to the poor and needy, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the handicapped, etc. This is such an excellent vision of the kingdom of God.  To God, the last come first. 

Back to the business of texting or calling me.  Let’s say you contact me to talk, and then tell me, “Father, everything is fine, no problems.”  I will probably put you at the end of my line for meetings.  The first will be last.  But, if you come talk to me and are real with me about your problems with family or relationships or whatever, then you come first.  I put the last first.  If you feel like you’re last, then you’re first to God and to me. 

Finally, our community is centered on Jesus in the Eucharist.  We truly believe what the Church teaches – and what catches many GW Catholics off guard – that the Eucharist is really the Body and Blood of Christ.  It is really Him in the flesh.  It is Him who says to those who feel that they are last, “you are first in the Kingdom of God”.

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