Monday, March 31, 2014

Homily - "Be light in my darkness"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

We have a speaker series after dinner every Tuesday, and I am excited about our speakers coming this week.  They are two ladies from “Isaiah’s Promise” and “St Joseph’s House” who work hand-in-hand to help children with disabilities.  “Isaiah’s Promise” works with parents whose unborn babies have been diagnosed with disabilities; they help the parents carry the babies to term.  “St Joseph’s House” helps children with major disabilities.  I went to a fundraiser for both of these charities a couple months ago.  They each showed a DVD which blew us all away.  The work that they do is heroic, but to especially see these kids…they are sooo happy!  Because they are sooo loved.  It really was incredible; they will show the same videos Tuesday night. 

I’m excited to have them anyway but particularly with tonight’s Gospel  (Jn 9:1-41) about the man who is born with a disability (blindness) which Jesus removes.  He is asked why the man was born blind, basically the same as why did God allow him to be blind.  The Lord’s answer: “so that the works of God might be made visible through him”.  This gives some understanding to why some people are afflicted with disabilities or disorders – either physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, or spiritual.  Now, this may not be the answer some would like, and they will say it’s still not fair that these people have to suffer so much.  But, it is a profound experience to see the works of God through them.  It was profound and moving to see the joy of those kids on the video; it was the joy of Christ!  I was watching the NCAA tournament last night.  One of the players has a sister with Down Syndrome.  They showed her in the stands cheering so loudly for her brother who was playing well; she was going crazy!  They kept talking about her, saying she had such a “big heart”.  This is what I’m talking about.  Seeing the works of God through them raises us all up; it raises the human spirit to another level.  It’s so inspiring…and significant. 

Many people when they hear this Gospel will say, ‘if God only worked a miracle like that for me’, I would believe like the blind man did.  A student sais this very thing to me the other night.  I get this.  We all want to see God work a physical miracle in our lives.  We are visual people, so this makes sense.  But, I would ask you to think about other “miracles” God has worked in your life.  And again, not just physical, but psychological, emotional, sexual, or spiritual.  If you spend the rest of Lent looking back on your life, I guarantee you will find something major God has done for you.  I don’t think you wouldn’t be here if there wasn’t.   But, maybe we have taken it for granted, or even forgotten about it.  If you’re like me, you have trouble remembering things more than 24 hours ago.  As a society, we seem to have memory loss after 24 hours!  Do remember what God has done for you, and the “miracles” he has worked in your life.

The fact that you are here - choosing to come to Mass every week – is a “miracle”.  We have students who are becoming Catholic at Easter…choosing that in college is a “miracle”.  Waiting until you’re married to have sex is a “miracle”.  Okay, technically, these are not miracles because God does not change the laws of nature to do them.  But, He has changed human nature in them.  God changing a heart is more powerful than a miracle… every time.  I just ask you to think about how God has worked powerfully in your life as he did with the blind man.

Finally, be open and honest.  Be open with God.  That’s a huge part of this Gospel.  The difference between the blind man and the Pharisees is that he is open to Christ and His Power and the Pharisees are not.  Be honest with God.  Be brutally honest with Him especially if you’re in darkness in general or in a specific part of your life with Him.  Throughout Scripture and Tradition, God’s closest friends are so honest with him; respectful, but brutally honest.  As you see Him tonight in the Eucharist – where He is made visible to us through the eyes of faith - tell Him what you need.  Tell Him, “Jesus, give me some light.  I’m in darkness.  There’s some blockage here.  You are the light of the world.  Be light in my darkness”. 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

President Obama to meet with Pope Francis Thursday

US President Barack Obama to Visit Pope Francis Thursday
Global and Domestic Issues Among Topics Expected to Be Discussed
By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY, March 26, 2014 ( - The world will be watching tomorrow as US President Barack Obama will have his first meeting with Pope Francis. The president’s wife, Michelle Obama, along with US Secretary of State, John Kerry, are also expected to be present.
A representative from the US Embassy to the Holy See told ZENIT that President Obama would likely raise "global poverty and inequality issues” with the Pope. The representative also said that Obama will “discuss a range of global issues” with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
One of the major international issues that will probably be discussed are the rising tensions between the US and Russia. The US, along with several European allies, have laid sanctions on key Russian politicians after the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
While specifics on what will be discussed are very limited, many are speculating that the disputed Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate will be among the topics discussed. The mandate was discussed in January during Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to the Vatican. Following that visit, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said that the Holy See “expressed its concern, shared by the bishops of the United States, regarding rules regulating the health reform relating to guaranteeing freedom of religion and conscientious objection.”
The Health and Human Services (HHS) federal mandate requires employers to pay for insurance that provides abortion-inducing drugs, contraception, and sterilization procedures to employees. Although an exemption was made for religious institutions, many Catholic organization or Catholic-run businesses are forced to abide by the regulation or face heavy fines.
Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned arts and crafts store, is fighting the mandate saying that certain contraceptives result in abortions, thus contradicting their religious beliefs. Currently, the case is before the US Supreme Court and a decision is expected in June.
Commentators have noted that polls show Pope Francis is significantly more popular among US citizens than President Obama is.


Pope Accepts Resignation of Controversial German Bishop
Calls on Faithful of Limburg Diocese to Regain Climate of Charity and Reconciliation
VATICAN CITY, March 26, 2014 ( - The Holy See today announced that Pope Francis had accepted the resignation of Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg, following an investigation into the construction of a new residence.
The German bishop was heavily criticized when it was revealed that an estimated €31 million ($42 million) was spent on the construction of a new residence and offices. Much of the spending had been authorised by his predecessor.
The German prelate was later placed on administrative leave pending the investigation carried out by the Congregation of Bishops.
"Awaiting the diocese of Limburg to ascertain a situation that impedes the fruitful exercise of his ministry on the part of Msgr. Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, the Holy See has accepted the resignation presented by the prelate on 20 October 2013,” a communique from the Holy See stated.
The Holy See has named Bishop Manfred Grothe, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Paderborn, as Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. Bishop Tebartz-van Elst will receive another assignment “at an opportune time," the Vatican said.
Knowing that the scandal has caused much divisions within the diocese, the communique stated that Pope Francis has asked the faithful “to accept the decision of the Holy See with docility and to commit to regain a climate of charity and reconciliation." (J.A.E.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Where Eve said no... Mary said yes"

                          Happy Feast of the Annunciation!!

“The Church Fathers were fond of exploring the relationship between Eve, mother of all the living, and the new Eve, Mary the Mother of God. Where Eve grasped and lost, Mary surrendered and received; where Eve said no to the alluring mystery, Mary said yes. The angel of the Lord — an agent from a realm beyond what can be seen and known — appears to the maid of Nazareth and greets her in what Balthasar describes as the language of heaven: ‘Hail, full of grace.’” (Fr. Robert Barron)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Homily - "Life-changing encounter"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Tonight’s Gospel (Jn 4:5-42) is one of my favorites: the Samaritan woman at the well.  It is all about an encounter with Christ. The Church puts this Gospel strategically on the 3rd Sunday of Lent which is also the first scrutiny for those coming into the Church at Easter.  It is to emphasize that to be Catholic is to focus on this personal encounter.  The Church herself has said that it’s not about a religion; it’s about a person, Jesus Christ.  I can relate to this Gospel story because it’s one conversation that changes her life.  It was one conversation in college with a priest that changed my life.  We were talking about the Eucharist and he said, “Greg, this is my body means this is my body”.  I don’t know if it was just one line that changed her life, but it was one encounter that changed her heart and life forever.

We see it in the way she addresses the Lord.  First, it’s “Jew”.  Then, it’s “Sir”.  Then, “prophet”.  And then, “Christ”.  She goes from this conversation to tell others that she has met the Christ and they come to believe.  She is seen as the first Christian evangelizer…she converts a whole town!  It may have been what Jesus said about her personally that changed her heart about who he is.  She could see that he was a prophet; then told others what he told her about herself. 

The encounter begins with and is centered on water.  She comes to Jacob’s Well which has great significance in the Old Testament.  Water symbolized the life God has given us.  When she comes with her water jar to draw from the well, Jesus offers her greater water…”living water”.  She basically asks him, ‘who do you think you are! Are you greater than our father Jacob?’  He replied by saying that whoever drinks the water from that well will be thirsty; whoever drinks the water from his well will never thirst.  She begins to be attracted to what he is offering (as anybody would), and asks for that water.

The living water He is offering is the Holy Spirit.  We can see clearly an allusion to Baptism.  For it is in the waters of Baptism that we first receive the Holy Spirit.  Again, this amazing Gospel is given for those who are preparing to be baptized at Easter.  He is offering them what he offered the Samaritan woman: the water that wells up to eternal life!  She wants this water, and seems to drink from it during their conversation.  That is, she gets a taste of the life in the Spirit. 

If you noticed, she left her water jar at the well and went off to tell others about Christ.  That was the very reason she came to the well!  This might be the experience of many of you in coming to GW.  You brought your water jar looking for all of the natural benefits that GW offers with a major, career, or internships.  These are all good like the water of Jacob’s Well.  But, you have had an encounter with Christ, and have left your water jar at the well.  In other words, you have seen what the woman saw: that the supernatural transcends the natural.  That what you are really looking for is found in Christ and through His Spirit (for it is only in the Spirit that we know and live Christ).  The living water that He offers is truly satisfying.  It’s on another level.  Life in the Spirit is supernatural.  It transcends the natural.  Just like with her, the natural leads to the supernatural and is fulfilled by it.  This is what Christ offers her.  He heroically crosses the lines of gender and culture to reach her; he wants her soul and heart that much.

I am offering you an experience with the Holy Spirit this coming Saturday at St. Stephen’s from 1 to 4 pm.  This is for GW Catholic students and their friends.  It’s called the “Healing of Families” seminar.  An African priest has written a book with the same title and brought this to the United States.  Over the past  couples of years, many, many people have experienced healing of family wounds.  We all have family problems.  They are intense.  This will be intense in looking at the wounds that are there from childhood trauma, unforgiveness, unhealthy relationships with friends, involvement with the occult, and family tree issues.  The first two hours we will understand where problems come from in families, and then identify them in our own.  The last hour will be to bring all of our family wounds to the Holy Spirit for him to heal them.  I know this might sound hokey to some of you; it did to me in college.  But, it’s like the Healing Masses we started here years ago: at first people were wondering, ‘what is this?’.  But, now they are very popular.  Basically, people see it’s the Holy Spirit and it’s awesome and helpful. 

Please be open to coming on Saturday to experience the power and healing of the Holy Spirit.  It really is the same opportunity that the woman at the well had: an encounter with Christ and the living water He offers: life in the Spirit that wells up to eternal life.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Tonight: Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and the BIG GAME!

Join us tonight at Newman for:

Stations of the Cross, 5:30 pm
Eucharistic Adoration, 6-7 pm

Then, watch GW men's basketball in the NCAA tournament, 7 pm, St Stephen's rectory.  Go GW!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

"Joseph is the model of the daddy"

On St. Joseph
"St. Joseph is the model of the educator and of the daddy, of the father"
VATICAN CITY, March 19, 2014 ( - Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ address this morning at the general audience, which in light of today’s solemnity, he dedicated to St. Joseph.
* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today, March 19, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and Patron of the universal Church. Therefore, we dedicate this catechesis to him, who merits all our gratitude and our devotion for his having been able to take care of the Holy Virgin and her Son Jesus. Joseph’s characteristic is to be a guardian: it is his great mission, to be a guardian.
Today I would like to take up the topic of guardianship according to a particular perspective: the educational perspective. We look at Joseph as the model of educators, who takes care of and supports Jesus in the course of his growth “in wisdom, age and grace,” as the Gospel says. He was not Jesus’ father: Jesus’ Father was God, but he behaved as a father to Jesus, he behaved as a father to Jesus to make him grow. And how did he make him grow? In wisdom, age and grace.
We begin with age, which is the most natural dimension, physical and psychological growth. Joseph, together with Mary, took care of Jesus especially from this point of view, namely, he “brought him up,” taking care that he did not lack the necessary for a healthy development. Let us not forget that the diligent looking-after of the life of the Child entailed also the flight into Egypt, the harsh experience of living as refugees – Joseph was a refugee, with Mary and Jesus – to escape from Herod’s threat. Then, once they had returned to their homeland and were established at Nazareth, there is the whole long period of Jesus’ life in his family. In those years, Joseph also taught Jesus his work, and Jesus learned to be a carpenter with his father Joseph. So Joseph brought up Jesus.
We pass to the second dimension of education, that of “wisdom.” Joseph was for Jesus an example and teacher of this wisdom, which is nourished by the Word of God. We can think of how Joseph educated little Jesus to listen to the Sacred Scriptures, above all accompanying him on Saturdays to the synagogue of Nazareth. And Joseph accompanied him so that Jesus could hear the Word of God in the synagogue.
And, finally, the dimension of “grace.” Referring to Jesus, Saint Luke says: “And the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Here, certainly, the part reserved for Saint Joseph is more limited compared to the ambits of age and of wisdom. However, it would be a grave error to think that a father and a mother can do nothing to educate their children to grow in the grace of God. To grow in age, to grow in wisdom, to grow in grace: this is the work that Joseph did with Jesus, to make him grow in these three dimensions, to help him to grow.

Dear brothers and sisters, Saint Joseph’s mission is certainly unique and unrepeatable, because Jesus is absolutely unique. And yet, in his taking care of Jesus, educating him to grow in age, wisdom and grace he is a model for every educator, in particular for every father. Saint Joseph is the model of the educator and of the daddy, of the father. Therefore, I entrust to his protection all parents, priests – who are Fathers – and those who have an educational task in the Church and in society. In a special way, I would like to greet today, Day of the Father, all parents, all daddies: I greet you from my heart! Let’s see: are there some daddies in the Square? Daddies, raise your hand! But how many daddies! Best wishes, best wishes on your Day! I ask for you the grace to be always very close to your children, letting them grow but being close to them, close to them! They are in need of you, of your presence, of your closeness, of your love. Be for them like Saint Joseph: guardians of their growth in age, wisdom and grace. Guardians of their path; educators, and walk with them. And with this closeness you will be true educators. Thank you for all you do for your children, thank you.

Many good wishes to you and happy Daddy’s Feast to all the daddies who are here, to all daddies. May Saint Joseph bless you and accompany you. And some of us have lost our daddy, he has gone, the Lord has called him. So many who are in the Square do not have their daddy. We can pray for all the daddies of the world, for the living daddies and also for the deceased and for our own, and we can do so together, each one remembering his daddy, if he is alive and if he is dead. And we pray to the great Daddy of us all, the Father. An “Our Father” for our daddies: Our Father …
And very best wishes to the daddies!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Friday, March 07, 2014

Ash Wednesday homily - "Be generous with God this Lent"

Click HERE to listen to Wednesday's homily.

In one of his first audiences, Pope Francis made a statement of what it means to be a Christian that I want to be our focus as we begin Lent. He said,  "Being Christian... means being in Christ, thinking like him, acting like him, loving like him; it means letting him take possession of our life and change it, transform it and free it from the darkness of evil and sin". This is a strong statement.

Our Pope preaches a strong message about being Christ-like.  And, he practices what he preaches! It is so refreshing to see our shepherd be Christ-like in his own unique way! He represents what the Church is all about: Jesus Christ.  The person of Christ is the center of our religion.  Being more Christ-like is what each of should strive for this Lent.  I'd like to focus on three ways to be more Christ-like, with the Holy Father in mind.

First, be detached.  What we see with Pope Francis is a man who is free, detached from the things of the world.  It is so inspiring to all of us to see him live so simply and detached.  He has said "bag that" to all of the bells and whistles of the in the nice Popemobile for a '84 clunker, getting rid of the Prada shoes, and foregoing so much of the grandeur of the papal office.  He says bag that, I just want to live simply, live like the poor, and serve them.  We try to be more detached during Lent, taking on small penances and fasts so that we will be more attached to Christ.  Christ himself fasted from food and drink for forty days in the desert.  He was totally detached from the things of the world. We try to imitate his detachment so that we will be more attached to Him.

Second, be humble.  When the Holy Father was first interviewed as Pope, he was asked to describe himself.  He answered, "I am a sinner".  That is the Pope! Humility means honesty.  He is simply being honest.  Each person who courageously goes to Confession tonight or during Lent is humbly saying what's true: "Lord, I'm a sinner.  Please forgive me".  Look at the humility of Christ: He came down from His throne in Heaven to be born of the Virgin Mary...into our mess.  He got gritty.  He got dirty for us.  He lived a poor life, humbling himself, even "to the point of death, death on a Cross".  During Lent, we want to come down from our thrones, get dirty, get gritty, and humble ourselves for Christ.

Third, be spiritual and religious.  Last year on Ash Wednesday, I made the same challenge and asked GW Catholics to focus solely on attending Mass every Sunday during Lent.  And, you responded! We had record attendance last year.  I issue the sake challenge.  Even if you fail in your fasts, or forget to go meatless on Fridays, if you attend Mass every Sunday, that's a good Lent!

Jesus says we need to be spiritual and religious.  In John 6:53-54, he says we need to receive the Eucharist if we want to go to Heaven.  When little kids ask me why we need to go to Mass, I tell them it's to get to Heaven, and then quote John 6.  "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.  Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life within you".  We need to be religious and receive the Eucharist at Mass in order to get to Heaven, but also to live like Christ.  Jesus is talking about Grace: "you have no grace within you".  Grace is a share in God's life.  It is a share in His power and strength, His love, mercy, kindness, generosity, and patience. His Grace makes it possible to be like Him! The primary reason we go to Confession or Mass is to receive Grace.  When it comes to bring Christ-like, it's all about Grace.

Finally, be generous.  Be generous with God this Lent.  The saying is, "God is never outdone in generosity".  We see this played out in the small sacrifices we make for Him during Lent; He gave us the biggest sacrifice of all - His life on the Cross.  Be generous with Him this Lent in your prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  He will surely reward you because He is never outdone in generosity.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Ash Wednesday Masses @ GW

Masses tomorrow at 12 noon, 6 pm, 8 pm - Marvin Center, 3rd floor, Grand Ballroom.

Can you donate $20 for our Appalachia service trip?

A group of 15 GW Catholics, Amy (our campus minister), and I will go on a service trip to Appalachia (rural West Virginia) over spring break from March 8-15. It's called "Alternative Spring Break". We will be building and renovating homes for low-income families.

The students have to raise over $10,000 in order to go on the trip. This covers their transportation, housing, project fees, tools, food, gas, etc. Can you help them meet their goal?

You can help send these students on the trip by donating through our website. Click here to go to our site. Click on the orange PayPal "donate" button. Your donation will go to the GW Newman Center which will put it toward the Alternative Spring Break trip.

A donation of $20 will pay for a student's housing for a night.

A donation of $50 will pay for a student's tools and equipment for the week.

A donation of $100 will pay for a student's transportation for the week.

On behalf of the students, thank you very much for your generosity!

Monday, March 03, 2014

Homily - "Our lives are in God's hands"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.
I was reading about a study on that involved 68 college students and analyzed the relationship between spiritual meditation and anxiety. Some of the students were trained to do a spiritual meditation for 20 minutes a day for two weeks while others were trained to do a non-spiritual relaxation technique for 20 minutes a day for two weeks. After the two weeks, all if the students came to the lab.  The researchers had the students do their meditations for 20 minutes, and then had them put a hand in a bath of cold water for as long as they could.  They measured several things including anxiety.  The results showed that the students who had practiced spiritual meditations had lower levels of anxiety than those who had practiced non-spiritual meditations.  Many studies have been done over the years, and the majority have come to the same conclusion: those who practice religion or spiritual meditation have lower levels of anxiety than those who don't.

Two points to make on this tonight. The first is the importance of daily, spiritual meditation.  Every GW Catholic should be meditating for 20 consecutive minutes every day.  It takes at least that much time to get quiet with the Lord and out of the noise of the world.  Two solid daily practices that take about 20 minutes are Lectio Divina and weekday Mass.  And, these are awesome practices to do during Lent! We have sheets in the back of Church to teach you how to do Lectio, and daily Mass times in our bulletin.

The second point is the importance of spiritual meditation with regard to anxiety, as the study points out.  College is a time of stress and anxiety for most people; it's off the charts here at GW! I don't know how you all deal with it and still stay as composed as you are.  I just hope that it's within the realm of reality...that you're not escaping reality to "take the edge off". If you're keeping it real, that's amazing. Christ takes the edge off and gives us peace and calmness like no other.  He says in Matthew 11:28 to come to Him, "all you who labor and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest".  In other words, all you who are stressed out or anxious or worried, give that to me.  Give God your worries! He will give you rest... He will give you call...He will give you peace.  It's a peace that the world cannot offer.

Jesus says in tonight's Gospel: DO NOT WORRY.  He says it over and over again.  It reminds me of John 6 when He teaches over and over again about the Eucharist.  It's like what marketers say, that consumers need to see an ad 7 times before they will buy the product.  That's why I talk about the Eucharist and Confession so that you will get it.  It took me 20 years to get it! The Lord is saying it over and over again so that we will get it.  DO NOT WORRY.   He's not saying do not work or do not plan.  He is saying that your worry should not exceed your work.  Do not overworry.  Give your worries to Him! Live in the present, let go of the past, and don't worry about the future. Living in the present has been a helpful focus for many students with whom I work in spiritual direction.  Consider doing spiritual direction which can help with letting go of anxiety, developing a prayer life / spiritual meditation, and living according to God's Plan.

That last point is what I will close with.  If we put together tonight's first reading and Gospel, we get to the idea of Providence.  Providence is God's protection and governance over all creation.  It means God has a plan for your life...and that He hasn't forgotten you.  The major part of that word is "provide". He will provide all you need.  Jesus says that the Father knows all you need.  He will provide all you need to do well with your mid-terms, your internships, your relationships, your careers, your vocations, your finances...everything.

Our lives are in God's hands.  Meditate on this during Holy Communion tonight. Your life is in His hands.  Give Him your worry.  Give Him your heart.   Give Him your life.  Say, “Jesus, I trust in you.  You will provide.  My life is in your hands”.