Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eternally grateful

Today is my last full day at the Newman Center.  I continue to rejoice in the Lord for my 5 1/2 years here, and will for the rest of my life.  I am eternally grateful to Almighty God, Cardinal Wuerl, GW Catholics, parents, alumni, friends, and benefactors for the most incredible gift of being the chaplain here. You are in good hands with Father Park, Julie, the missionaries, and leaders going forward.  The Holy Spirit will continue to bless and grow this community!

I will be stationed for the next six months at St. Mary of the Mills in Laurel, Maryland, helping out at the parish and doing hospital ministry, starting January 5.  My email is  Please pray for me, and trust in my daily prayers for you.  Until I see you all next, I will see you in prayer!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Homily: "What's the point of Confession?"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.

Reflecting on the past five and half years at GW regarding Confession, there are many highlights.  The most humorous one involved my Confession policy which is similar to 7 Eleven stores: I'm open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for Confession.  It took students a little while to realize I wasn't kidding, and some called at 1 or 2 am for Confession or a shoulder to cry on.  My favorite highlight was Ash Wednesday Masses.  I brought in 6 priests to hear confessions at the Masses, and about 100 students went to the priests.  Awesome! In the first year or two, it had been many years since students had been, on average.  Now, the average is a few months, In general, there has been such a change in culture regarding Confession, thanks be to God.

This sacrament is the perfect preparation for the Lord's coming.  The Church gives us tonight's readings to say it's a great Advent preparation for Christmas.  We focus on St. John the Baptist's preaching on the forgiveness of sins.  We hear about being "found without spot or blemish before him" from St. Peter in the second reading.  Even Mass itself is like a mini Advent: we begin by confessing "to Almighty God....that I have greatly sinned".  We ask the Lord to remove our spots or blemishes before He comes to us in the Eucharist.  This forgives venial sins...again, spots or blemishes.  But, for big blotches - mortal sins - we need to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

We Catholics see the need for priests in other sacraments.  We call a priest for Baptism or Anointing of the Sick.  We come to Mass with a priest for the Eucharist, recognizing we don't have the power to do it on our own.  Why do we think we don't need a priest for Confession?

Catholics approach this sacrament differently than the others because we focus on what we do, and not what God does.  If it was just all about what we do - being embarrassed time and again by admitting our darkest secrets and failures - then I can understand why so few go to Confession...what, 10% of Catholics? But, it's more about what God does...more about what we receive.

This has been the shift in approaching the sacrament by GW Catholics.  You have received a good experience of peace, love, kindness, and mercy.  You have received good advice from the priest - and not just me because many priests have heard your confessions - that really helped.  In general, you received the deep experience of being forgiven by God, and the immense freedom and peace it brings.  A few minutes of embarrassment and humility is worth receiving all that!

People who go to Confession hear that they are forgiven. This is a huge, healing aspect of the Sacrament. When we hear from someone else that we are forgiven, then that sin is done.  It's over. We let those sins go. I know people who say they go to God directly for their sins, but still talk about sins from many years ago. This is one of the reasons Jesus gave us the sacrament. In John 20:20, Jesus gave the first priests the power to forgive sins. When we go to the priest for confession, we are going to Jesus.  It is really Jesus who absolves of our sins.  It is really him who forgives us. We hear “I absolve you of your sins”, just like we here at Mass, “this is my body”.  It is Jesus who celebrates the sacraments through his priests.

The Lord has given us the Sacrament of Confession mainly to forgive our mortal sins. If we die in mortal sin, we go to hell. The Lord has given us the Sacrament, then, to keep us out of hell! A mortal sin is a grave offense done with full knowledge and full consent. This means it is seriously wrong, we know it is seriously wrong, and we freely choose to do it. For example, skipping Sunday Mass is a mortal sin.  It is a grave offense against the third commandment. We know that we need to go to Mass every Sunday. And, if we freely choose to skip Mass, then we commit a mortal sin.
Fulfilling the Sunday obligation means being present for the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. So, if someone comes to Mass on Sunday after the Gospel, then they need to find another Mass to fulfill the obligation.  Coming in late but before the Gospel or leaving early is a venial sin.  We don't really have a problem here with people leaving early, but always keep in mind that Judas left the first Mass early.  We don't want to go there!    
It's a serious thing to go 24 hours on the Lord's day and choose not to come to Mass. In that instance, the person chooses everything else ahead of the Mass and the Eucharist. It's like saying, "Jesus I don't need you today, I don't need the Eucharist." Only one time can bring this break in our relationship. Look at the first mortal sin by Adam and Eve.  One major sin broke their relationship with God and closed the gates to Heaven.  Christ came to mend the broken relationship between God and man. 
So, if we've left the state of Grace because of a mortal sin, we need to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist. Receiving the Eucharist in the state of mortal sin is a mortal sin…it's sacrilege. If a person can't go to Confession before Mass, they should remain in their pews to make a spiritual Communion, or come up to receive a blessing. Don’t worry about what other people will think; worry more about what Jesus thinks.  Please respect the Eucharist.   

The priest to whom you go to Confession is a sinner too. He goes to Confession himself. (He doesn't go to confession to himself… "bless me, me, for I have sinned… I have absolve me of my sins".  Yeah, that doesn't work!).  I go to another priest for Confession once a month because I am a great sinner, and I need God's mercy regularly. I would recommend going to confession once a month even if there's no mortal sin.  Confession keeps us clean and in a state of grace, helps us to live the virtues, and more easily forgive others when they sin against us.

All of these points about Confession are what you, GW Catholics, have come to realize and understand... and, now you live.  You get it that the Sacrament is real and it's awesome.  You seek it out.  I'm guessing that a few thousand confessions have been heard here the past five years.  That is so awesome!  As your spiritual father, I am so proud of you for this and so many other things.  I love what you have done, and more importantly, who you are.   I have such great love and respect for you.  You are salt of the earth and light of the world.  These are my words to you tonight, but also the words of Jesus Christ to you tonight and the rest of your lives.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Homily - "Are you awake?"

Click HERE to listen to Sunday's homily.