Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Nats Mass" covered on TV!

Click HERE to see the story from Channel 7 this past weekend, featuring Fr. Drew Royals, founder of the "Nats Mass".

Monday, September 29, 2014

Homily - "You are good and you are loved"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

We had some excitement at Kogan Plaza on Wednesday as you might have "overheard (at GW)". Four men were preaching in the name of Christ all day with a bullhorn, but they weren't preaching Christ’s love. They were holding up the Bible, but misrepresenting it, misinterpreting it, and misusing it. When I walked up, they were saying Catholics aren't Christians.  Within a few minutes, I was being told that I perform "witchcraft" with the sacraments.  There was a small crowd of students there, most of whom were bewildered and angry.  Some came up to me to join forces, and really to urge me to speak to the men which I did. My first question to them was, "what are you trying to do here?"

What offended me most was not being called a witch or sorcerer or magician or whatever personal attacks they launched. (Btw, the one guy apologized for his personal attacks).  The thing that offended me the most was that they didn't even know you, and they were condemning you.  In twenty plus years of doing youth ministry, I've learned that you have to first establish trust, respect, and love with young people before you can preach to them....before you can reach them.  Those men were there just to preach, not to reach.

The second most offensive part of their "preaching" was that it was faith without reason.  They were unreasonable in their approach (preaching and not reaching), but also in the points they made.  The man on the bullhorn exclaimed, "baptism doesn't save!", while holding a Bible. In our conversation, I pointed out that the Bible says, "whoever is baptized will be saved" (Mk 16:16).  His main point was that we don't need the Church or the sacraments.  I pointed out that Jesus said we need the Eucharist in John 6: "unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (53,54).  To that he said: "you make a good point".

There were about twenty to thirty students gathered around him and me while we discussed these things.  So, while I was focused on talking with him, I was really teaching them....many of whom were Catholic.  One came up to me afterwards and asked, "so, when did Jesus give his power to the Apostles?" Matthew 16, Matthew 18, Luke 10, John 20, and other places, I answered (and had quoted all this to the man).  He then asked, "how did they give it to others?" I said, "they ordained other priests and passed on the power...for 2000 years. It's called Apostolic Succession". He was taking notes at this point, looked up, and said, "Apostolic Succession! That is so cool!".  Yes, it is very cool! So, all that plus the positive media coverage showed that God brought good out of this bad situation.

Tonight's second reading says, "humbly regard others as more important than yourselves". Those men were on Wednesday primarily for themselves, not for you.  They were there to preach just to preach, not preach to reach.  Jesus mentions John in the Gospel; St. John the Baptist preached a tough message.  But, he reached tax collectors and prostitutes. They changed after hearing his preaching.  He preached "tough love".  But, those who heard it knew that he loved them.  What we heard on Wednesday was not tough love; it wasn't love.  It was just...tough.

Finally, I would really like to start a campaign of t-shirts or signs that say, “YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED”.  I have heard that these men come to campus regularly, although Wednesday was the first time in five years that I’ve seen them here.  Let’s be ready the next time they come with signs or shirts.  Students protested with signs the other day, and I wish that I had thought to make a sign saying “YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED” and hold it next to the men.  That is the message to give to young people, especially college students.  That is Christ’s attitude toward you, first and foremost! Everything starts there, and then later we get into more challenging stuff.  I will challenge you this year to say “yes” to Christ.  I will challenge you to say no to premarital sex and drunkenness, but will more emphasize saying yes to chastity, self-control, and virtue…to freedom.  I will encourage you to say yes to Christ!  On Wednesday, all you heard preached was “no”.  Who’s going to choose that? It’s much more attractive to say yes to good than to say no to bad. I will challenge you to say yes to Christ and what’s good because that is what is best for you.  When you love someone, you want what is best for them.  You know that I love you. You know I want what is best for you.

“Have the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus”.  Believe deeply in your hearts and minds what He thinks of you: YOU ARE GOOD AND YOU ARE LOVED.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Cardinal Wuerl to GW Catholics: "you bring hope"

Cardinal Wuerl encourages GW students to wear the cross proudly

By Mark Zimmermann
Catholic Standard
At the Sunday evening Mass on Sept. 14 for George Washington University students, Father Greg Shaffer - the chaplain at the Newman Center there - had a confession to make.

"We don't always have Cardinal Wuerl and Chipotle!" he said, referring to the archbishop of Washington who celebrated the Mass at St. Stephen Martyr Parish, and to the free burritos downstairs at the reception afterward.

The cardinal, who earlier had smiled as he harkened back to the free pizza offered during his first visit to the campus community, thanked the more than 200 students for attending the Mass. "It's always a pleasure and joy to come to this Mass, and see all of you who are here. It means so much, the hope you bring."

During his homily, Cardinal Wuerl noted that Mass commemorated the Exaltation or Triumph of the Cross, and he pointed how displaying the cross on the wall of your room, or wearing it on a necklace, or even making the sign of the cross before meals, offer an important witness of faith in Jesus, who died on the cross and then rose to new life.

"Crosses are a sign of our commitment to Christ," he said. "...We have that sign of God's love for us."

Making the sign of the cross at the dinner table or at a restaurant is a small gesture, but it says a lot, the cardinal added. "(We) remind ourselves and others, that we're proud of who we are, as disciples of Jesus. He calls us to walk with him."

The cardinal noted how Pope Francis has emphasized God's love and mercy. "All of us stand in need of God's love, and stand in need of God's mercy and forgiveness, and it's always there."

Cardinal Wuerl said the cross is also a reminder that "we're supposed to share the Good News with others." The cardinal noted that Jesus taught his disciples that "you're loved by God, and you have the opportunity to share that love with others."

Father Shaffer later said that while free food might attract some students to the Newman Center, "once they're here, they encounter Christ. Our evangelization method is, whatever it takes to get them in the doors." After Communion, he reminded students that the GW Newman Center was sponsoring a combination white water rafting trip and freshmen retreat for the next weekend.

At the GW Newman Center, the priest is assisted by three FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) missionaries, who evangelize on campus and help lead Bible studies and discussion groups there. On average, about 8-10 students become full members of the Catholic Church during the Easter Vigil there, and in recent years, eight young men from George Washington University have entered the seminary, and one young woman is studying to become a nun.

The main reason that so many students attend Mass there is because other students invited them, Father Shaffer said. The Catholic students there, he said, "are apostles on campus. That's the most inspiring thing - they go out," he said.

Cardinal Wuerl sat at a table with six students, joining them for the free burritos after Mass. Afterward, one of the students, Ana Maguey - a native of Mexico City studying for her master's degree in international law - held the small crucifix she wore on her necklace. "The cardinal was reminding us, we should be proud to be Catholic," she said.

She also expressed gratitude for the community of faith and friends at the Newman Center. "It's like you have found your family, even though you are far from home," she said.

Another student who joined the cardinal at the table, Chichi Osuchukwu, said the cardinal's homily "hit home with me." The sophomore pre-med student from Virginia Beach said that her grandmother gave her a rosary, with its familiar beads connected to a small cross, that she carries in her pocket. "It's a reminder Christ is always with me," she said.

Lisa Campbell, a GW senior from Colorado Springs who is studying international business and marketing, said she also appreciated what the cardinal said about the cross. "It's a great message. Wearing the cross on campus is an outward sign of our faith," she said.

She also said that evangelizing - sharing the faith - is the main mission of the Newman Center. "College is hard. A good relationship with Christ makes it better," she said.

Philip Paulson, a freshman mechanical engineering student from Southern California, echoed that point. "It's good to be proud of your faith and show it, and get some kids who stray away to come back," he said.

The cardinal's message about the cross also resonated with Caroline Multerer, a junior from Buffalo studying international affairs. "It's important to wear that proudly (on campus), and make sure it's something you're embodying every day," she said. "It can be easy to waver in your faith. The sign of the cross is something very important to come back to."

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"The things that we love tell us what we are."
- St. Thomas Aquinas

Monday, September 22, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lectio divina for Sunday's Gospel

Workers of the Last Hour
Lectio Divina: 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
By Monsignor Francesco Follo
PARIS, September 19, 2014 (Zenit.org) - Roman Rite - XXV Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A - September 21, 2014
Is 55.6 to 9; Ps 146; 1,20c Fil-27a; Mt 20,1-16.

Ambrosian Rite - Fourth Sunday after the martyrdom of St. John the Precursor
Is 63,19b-64.10; Ps 76; Heb 9.1 to 12; Jn 6.24 to 35

1) An apparent injustice. 
With the parable of the owner of the vineyard, who at different times of the day calls laborers to work for him and in the evening gives to everyone the same wage, a denarius1, provoking protests from those called at the first hour, Jesus helps us to enter into the logic of God whose way of thinking is very different from ours: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways, says the Lord "(Isaiah 55: 8)2. 

1 A denarius was enough to provide living for a day to a family. The master does not think only for the workers, but also to those they have at home. He knows that if a man does not work the all day, the whole family will not eat. 
If those who have worked only one hour received as much as had been agreed with the workers that has been working since six in the morning, then the latter who worked eleven hours more and have borne the burden and heat of the day, expect at least three times as much. When they see that they are paid only the agreed amount of money they vent their disappointment and their discontent, because they were certain "that they would receive more" (Mt 20:10), They consider the master unfair.
The Gospel says that they murmur (Matthew 20:11): " You treat those who have worked only one hour in the same way you treat us? ". Take note that they mutter; they do not tell their dissatisfaction openly, they speak behind him. This is the way of those who whispers, who are "behind the backs" or have always something to say.
Jesus takes aim at the foreman who is yelling and complaining more and replays, "Friend, (letterarly." My dear colleague “using a tone of good-natured scolding) is that not what we had agreed? “"Yes." "Do I take something off of what was said?", "No". "So, what do you want from me? Take what is yours and go. Am I not allowed to do what I want of what is mine? ". Was the owner unfair or has he been generous? The owner is not really unfair (he gave what had been agreed) but he is generous. The master does not take anything from anyone.
2 This is the first reading of today Mass. The Gospel tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.
3 The hours of the day, called in the ancient way (third, sixth, ninth ..., make us think about the prayer of the Church spread throughout the day. This too is a daily call. This too is the work required and capable of tilling the vineyard so that the fruits mature.
This parable is comforting because it assures us from the beginning that humanity is the vine, the passion, the preferred field of God, who care for it and goes out five times3 to look for workers.
The critical point of the story is at the time of pay: God, the Lord of the vineyard begins from the workers of the eleventh hour and to those who have worked only one hour gives a salary equal to that agreed with those who had sweated for twelve hours.
The workers who had been hired first, instead of being happy to have worked for a good Master, feel sorry for this apparent injustice that, on the contrary, is a more generous justice. In fact, He
gives everyone what he has promised, but recognizes for those who arrived last but have worked with the same hope, the right to enjoy like the others of that Kingdom for which they have worked until sunset. 
If the first lesson of the parable is to remember that God deals with care with the humanity represented by the vineyard, the second is that being called to this collaboration is already the first reward. To be able to work in the vineyard of the Lord, to put oneself at his service and to collaborate with his work, is in itself an inestimable reward which repays the toil. This teaching is understood only by those who love the Lord and His kingdom. Those who work only for their interest will never realize the value of this great treasure.
The money mentioned in the parable is not so much the money that allows us to live for a day, it is God who gives himself for us to live in the everlasting day. God cannot give less than all. He acts with justice and charity that only we humans consider two different realities. We carefully distinguish a rightful act from an act of love. Right for us is "what is due to another" while merciful is what is given because of goodness. The first seems to exclude the other. But God is not so: in him justice and charity coincide; there is no right action that is not also an act of mercy and forgiveness and, at the same time, there is no merciful action that is not perfectly just.
God’s thinking is really far from our logical one. It is really different from ours the acting way of God, who invites us to understand and observe the true spirit of the law to give it fulfillment in loving those in need. "Fulfillment of the law is love," writes St. Paul (Rom 13:10).Our justice will be more perfect as it is animated by love for God and neighbor. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Homily - "You are worth dying for"

Friends of mine have several children.  When their oldest was 12 or 13, she had to go into the hospital for appendicitis.  The first day or so she was there, she was in a ton of pain and complained a lot which is understandable.  She was asking “why?” over and over again, and ultimately, “why is God allowing this?”  Her mom finally answered with a solid Catholic response: “offer it up.  Offer it up for others because Jesus offered up his pain and suffering for others…the whole world.  He offered it up for the salvation of the world.  You can offer up your pain for your friend whose parents are getting divorced or someone else who is in need right now.  Good will come out of that like good came out when Jesus offered up his suffering”.  Her daughter got it.  She didn’t complain anymore.  At 12 or 13, she grasped some meaning about suffering which is probably the greatest mystery for humanity.

Years ago on our fall retreat, we asked the students to spend an hour meditating on a Scripture verse.  Their initial reaction might have been something like, “ohhhh man”.  But, then I explained that the verse (Colossians 1:24) referred to all of their current suffering.  St. Paul says that he “fills up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ”.  What could be lacking in Christ’s suffering?  His sacrifice was perfect but not complete.  We all complete his sufferings as members of his body.  We all have a piece of the cross to carry.  I explained all of this to them, and asked them to meditate on their share in the cross – maybe it was their own parents’ divorce, or a break-up in a relationship, or death of a family member or friend, or illness.  Some of them wanted more than an hour to meditate, and then said that was the best part of the retreat.

We know suffering.  Each one of us has experienced suffering.  We get it.  So, today’s feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is one that gets our attention.  Why is the cross exalted, though?  One of the reasons is that it provides meaning to suffering.  The 12 or 13 year old girl went to another level – an elevated or exalted level – when she heard the terse explanation of the Christian meaning of suffering.  Those on the retreat went to another level.  Providing a reason or meaning for suffering exalts the cross. The cross is also exalted because it is the way to glory.  We hear in tonight’s second reading from St. Paul that because Christ humbled himself, God exalted him.  If we share in the cross of Christ, we share in being exalted in glory.

A third reason the cross is exalted is that it is our triumph over sin and death.  The world would say this and all of the Christian meaning of suffering is foolishness.  It would look at the large crucifix in any Catholic church and see it as a sign of defeat.  But, it is a sign of victory! It is on the cross that sin and death went to die.  Christ was lifted up in exaltation like Moses lifted up the serpent on a pole.  Good overcame evil in each, and was for everyone to see and receive.  We continue to lift Christ up on the cross: the crucifix in a room should be the highest object in the room.   

We continue to lift Christ up in the Eucharist.  My favorite part of the movie, “The Passion of the Christ” was when Christ is lifted up on the cross.  At the same time, they hearkened back to the Last Supper when he lifted up the Bread of Life.  As Cardinal Wuerl said in his homily at tonight’s earlier Mass, the same flesh and blood that was on the cross is present on the altar at every Mass in the Eucharist.  Awesome!

Finally, Jesus saw each one of us from the cross.  He saw all of our suffering, and said, ‘I’m with you on that’.  A friend of mine became a widow at 27.  She said to me early on, completely distraught, ‘I have no one to talk to.  There are no other 27 year old widows.  No one knows what I’m going through’.  I said, ‘Jesus does.  He experienced every human pain there is.  He know what you’re going through, and you know what He went through’.  That helped her, and it helps us.  He saw us and all of our sins from the cross, and in stretching out his arms was saying, ‘your sins are worth dying for.  You are worth dying for’.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Homily - "Think as God thinks"

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Father Greg, the chaplain of the GW Newman Center which is the Catholic student center on campus.  We do a lot of fun stuff like the Opening BBQ tomorrow (Sept. 1), tons of free food, retreats, etc.  Obviously, we do some serious stuff, too.  One of our main objectives comes from the language of Jesus in the Gospel: "think as God thinks".  He admonishes Peter for thinking as human beings think, not as God thinks.  St Paul encourages us similarly to "not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind".  Many GW Catholics have experienced a renewal of their minds because they start to think as God thinks.

One example would be in the area of self-worth or value.  To think as human beings do would mean to think that your worth is in what you do; you have to prove your worth. College students at every campus prove their worth, but it's especially true at GW.  I've never seen such busy people with all of your classes, internships, jobs, etc.  Then, worth is based on success in career with salary, status, awards, etc.  Success is good, of course, and hard work, too.  But, the mindset of this age is that our worth is based on what we do.

To think as God thinks means to think that your worth is in who you are.  You are a child of God! You are his son or daughter.  That is awesome! And, because He created you, you are good, cuz "God don't make junk".  You reflect His image - His beauty, intellect, etc.  You have tremendous worth because of who you are.  And, you are unique.  At the Newman Center, we celebrate your uniqueness! You are uniquely you( there is no one else in the world like you.  There is one thing that makes you you.  That doesn't always show up on a resume or grade report.

We know all of this, but tend to lose sight of it.  I know this because I've seen it play out at almost every funeral I've celebrated as a priest.  During eulogies, what's said is not what the person did in his or her life.  It's who he or she was.  Even with some very successful people who have died, the focus is always on who they were.

So, when St Paul refers to the "renewal of your mind", he means get back to the way you know is right. It's like being in the ocean and getting pulled by the undercurrent.  You don't realize how much you're getting pulled until you stand up, and then try to get back to where you were.  The college culture is the undercurrent and can take you away from who you are.  We are here to bring you back to who you are if you get pulled away.  We will remind you of your identity and worth as a child of God, and that He and we love you for who you are, not what you do.

Finally, the biggest source of renewal among GW Catholics in the past five years has been with the Eucharist.  We talk about the Real Presence all the time, that it really is the Body and Blood of Christ.  It's really Him! Students have responded: Sunday Mass attendance has quadrupled in the past five years, thanks be to God.  Also, more students are coming to daily Mass and Adoration than ever before.  They come to "put on the mind of Christ" and to think as God thinks.  When we ask God what He thinks of us, He often sums it up in one phrase: "you are good and you are loved".