Sunday, August 23, 2009

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

20th Sunday - homily

When I was young, I worked as a rectory aide at my parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda. For four hours every Thursday, I answered the phones, answered the door, and locked the Church. It was a pretty good gig: I made $7 cash plus two Cokes! The highlight was whenever the priest would come to visit me or check in. I was at the far end of the rectory, so I would always hear the priest coming. This gave me time to straighten myself up, turn off the TV, and look holy or something. One night during the summer, I heard a priest coming to see me. I got myself in order and then he popped in. He was wearing a t-shirt, swimming trunks, a funny hat, and had a towel draped over his shoulder. He said, “Hi, I’m Father Wells, the new priest”. “Hi”, I said. “I’m going to a pool party. You wanna go?”, he asked. “I have to answer the phones”, I replied, kind of mystified that he would even ask. “Ok, see ya later”, he said. Then, he was gone. I was thinking to myself, ‘what just happened? Who was that?’

That was Father Wells. We hit it off after that and for many years remained good friends. We reunited years later when he was the pastor of St Mark’s in Hyattsville and I was helping out with the youth group there. We hung out quite often for golf, with friends, vacations, and Church events. He was a great priest – very faithful, holy, brilliant, and a ton of fun. I would pick his brain all the time, trying to gain some of his wisdom. One day - I remember it so clearly – we were sitting in his office, shooting the breeze. At one point, I said, “well, you know, Father, the Eucharist is just a symbol”. “What?”, he said, with a look of total shock. Now, this was a man who completely believed in the Eucharist – that the bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass. “It’s a symbol?”, I said shakily. Then, he said something that changed my life: “Greg, this is my body means this is my body”.

After 21 years of going to Church every Sunday and after 12 plus years of Catholic education, this was the first time I really ever heard the teaching about the Eucharist. It finally hit me. So, I had to pursue it. I started to go to daily Mass (in addition to Sunday) to hear the words I had heard so many times before. In hearing those words anew and in seeing the faith of the priest and people, I realized that this is for real. It really is the Body and Blood of Christ! I also started going to Eucharistic Adoration which they had perpetually at St Marks. What was going on was a relationship. I was entering into a relationship with Jesus Christ who is truly present in the Eucharist. And so, I began to say to Him, “Lord, you gave me your life, I want to give you my life”. It was not long after that that thoughts of the priesthood began to enter my mind and heart. The funny thing was when I went to tell Fr Wells that I was “sort of, kinda having some thoughts, maybe, about the priesthood”, He said, “Can you hold on?”, and then picked up the phone, called the vocations director, and said “Hey, Mark, it’s Tom. Yeah, we got one”! (A year later, I was in the seminary).

My vocation came from the Eucharist; the Eucharist is the source of my vocation. It is the center of my vocation. I have dedicated my priesthood to the Eucharist. I have dedicated my ministry to the Eucharist. So often in ministry, I refer to these lines from today’s Gospel. When kids ask me, “why do we have to go to Mass every Sunday?”. I’ll say it’s mainly to receive the Eucharist. I’ll ask them if they want to go to Heaven. They’ll immediately respond with “Uh huh, uh huh”. Then, I’ll tell them that Jesus said we need to receive the Eucharist at Mass if we want to go to Heaven. My point is based on John 6, verses 53-54: “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. We need the grace of the Eucharist and Baptism to get to Heaven, to have eternal life.

Now, the Eucharist is not just our ticket to Heaven. It is our chance to have Heaven on Earth: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”. That means that in a few minutes we will have Heaven dwelling within us because we will have Jesus dwelling within us, and Jesus is the Kingdom of Heaven. At that moment, we will have the happiness, joy, peace, and all the things of Heaven in our bodies and souls.

Finally, it is not just about what we get from the Eucharist. It’s about what the Eucharist helps us to do. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus says that, “whoever remains in me and I in him bears much fruit”. He makes it clear in today’s Gospel that the best way to remain in Him and Him in us is in the Eucharist. So, if we remain in Him and Him in us in the Eucharist, we will live fruitful lives. We will live the lives we truly want to live. If any of us is struggling with faith or virtue, we should go to Eucharist. It will help us to bear much fruit.

May each of make the Eucharist C.O.O.L. (center of our lives). May we center our lives on the Eucharist, bear much fruit, and have eternal life through the Eucharist.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

19th Sunday - homily

Is there any difference between Communion that is offered at a Catholic Mass and Communion that is offered at a Protestant service? I’ve heard many people, including Catholics, say no, there is no difference. A good friend of mine, Ken, would answer differently. Ken was a Protestant who came to RCIA when I was leading it in my last parish. On the first night when everyone introduced themselves to the group, Ken made it very clear that he had no intention of becoming Catholic. Married to a Catholic with two kids in a Catholic school, he said that he simply wanted to go deeper in his study of the Bible; he had studied the Bible extensively before RCIA.

So, RCIA began and was rolling along for Ken until we got to the teaching on Communion…the Holy Eucharist. I presented the teaching of the Church that is based on the Gospel we hear from today and these weeks: John 6. We especially focused on the words of our Lord, “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”, and how we take them literally. In other words, Jesus says that the Eucharist really is his flesh and blood and we believe him. Now, this was a problem for Ken. After reading John 6 with us, he realized that the Eucharist is not just something the Church came up with. This is straight from the lips of our Lord himself. We talked for a while after the next few RCIA meetings, particularly about the difference between the Eucharist in the Catholic Church and in Protestant denominations.

My basic point to him paralleled the one Christ makes to the Jews: the difference between the Protestant Eucharist and Catholic is the same difference between manna and the Bread of Life. The Protestant Eucharist is just bread in the same way that manna was just bread. It is natural food only. The Catholic Eucharist is the Bread of Life to which Jesus is referring in John 6. It is supernatural food. Ken and I focused very much on the stark difference that Christ presents: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven…whoever eats this bread will live forever”. There is a huge difference between manna and the Bread of Life. There is a HUGE difference between the Protestant Eucharist (which is just bread) and the Catholic Eucharist (which is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ).

This was the turning point for Ken. In these talks, I could literally see the scales drop from his eyes. As I said, he was very much a student of the Bible. But, this was all news to him. And, it was good news! He realized that he had to receive the Catholic Eucharist, so he realized that he had to become Catholic. He struggled with some of the other teachings of the Church, but over the next several months…well, I straightened those out for him! It was an exceptionally beautiful and powerful process to witness for me and the others in RCIA. The climax was about two weeks before Easter which is when those in RCIA become Catholic. Ken was still struggling. He told the group in a very personal way how difficult it would be for him to become Catholic – mainly because he could never received Communion in his Protestant denomination again. It was very anguishing for him, something that made a huge impact on me and the others. He decided to come into the Church and is now one happy Catholic who received the Bread of Life weekly. He is very active in the parish and will be a solid teacher of the Catholic faith to so many.

Finally, the last line of today’s Gospel, verse 51, is so incredibly powerful. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”. Our Lord is saying that the flesh and blood that we receive in Holy Communion is the same flesh and blood that was on the Cross. We can make this line an equation to show this. “The bread that I will give” means the Eucharist… “Is” can mean equals…”my flesh for the life of the world” means the flesh and blood that he shed on the Cross because it is on the Cross that Christ gives his flesh for the life of the world. So, the Eucharist = Christ’s flesh and blood on the Cross. Christ doesn’t die at every Mass; death has no more power over him. It is His risen Body and Blood that is re-presented to us at Mass through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharist truly is the Bread of Life to which Christ is referring. ”Whoever eats this bread will live forever”.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Fixing up the Newman Center

I've been getting thoughtful emails and notes from former parishioners and friends, asking how things are going here at the Newman Center. A few of them have made the comment that it's probably quiet here now, with the students away on summer break. Sha! I understand their thinking, but there has been much going on here this summer. We've undertaken many projects to fix up the Newman Center; most to address structural problems in this 100 year-old home and some to improve things aesthetically.

Here are pics of the Center - these qualify as "before" pics - and some of the projects that we are working on. I will post their "after" counterparts in the next few weeks. It's very exciting!! Btw, we welcome donations - these are expensive repairs and improvements.

Let's just say that the Center will get a facelift!

We'll spruce up the front yard with some flagstone and new landscaping.

We'll clean up the mess in the backyard and build a brick door at the pit. Also, the University will be replacing the broken fence.

If you've been in the kitchen anytime in the recent past, you've seen the mold problem on the wall. The basement has some pretty bad water damage. We're waterproofing the foundation as much as possible and then putting up new drywall. Also, we just got a new stove! Score!

Ewww..dirty kitchen floor. We'll clean it and make it shine as much as possible. Also, we'll replace broken tiles.

Water has been leaking from the balcony roof into the parlor ceiling...not good! We'll fix that, and then maybe even rearrange the parlor a bit. I want the Center to have a mini-library of cool Catholic materials (brochures, pamphlets, booklets, books, etc.). The parlor is my first choice, but it may disturb the "lounge area" of the parlor, so we would just put the resources elsewhere in the Center.

The deck on the roof will be looking sweet in a few weeks after some repairs, powerwashing, and staining.

One change we did not wish to make has to do with our beloved campus minister, Alecia. Alecia and her husband, John, are moving to North Carolina this month because John recently accepted a position at Wyngate University. We will miss Alecia very much! She has given her heart, mind, soul, and strength to GW students for the past four years. We wish her and John well. We will never replace her, but hope to find someone to fill her position asap. Please pray that God sends us the right person.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

"Quo Vadis Days"

Next week, the Archdiocese is hosting a retreat for high school young men, "Quo Vadis Days". This retreat has been held in other dioceses, with 100 boys attending in at least two dioceses. Currently, there are less than 30 signed up to go next week. We need more guys going! It will be a GREAT experience for the boys to enjoy some fraternity and grow in holiness. Please encourage any high school boys who you think may be interested to go...and bring their friends!

Contact Fr. Rob Walsh at the # below, and tell him that Fr. Greg said to waive the $100 cost. Money should not stop any boys from attending. Thank you very much!

High school young men: Quo Vadis: Where are you going?

Legend tells us St. Peter asked Jesus this question on the outskirts of Rome. We know where Jesus went in response to His Father's will. He knew that only by doing what the Father asked of him would there be true joy and fulfillment in this life.

Where are you going?

What is the Father's will for you?

Want to learn more?

Quo Vadis Days will give you the opportunity to learn more about discernment of your vocation. A four-day camp for high school young men, activities will include prayer, hiking, games, sports, talks, and lots of great food. Sign-up now as space is limited.

Quo Vadis Days will be held August 9-12, 2009 at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat Center in Sparks, MD. The cost is $100, which includes room, board and transportation.

Father Rob Walsh
PO Box 29260
Washington, DC 20017-0260

Monday, August 03, 2009

18th Sunday - homily

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life”. This teaching from our Lord reminds me of a friend of mine. When I met her a few years ago, she basically admitted that her life was all about food that perishes, it was all about this world. She was living a secular lifestyle and pursuing a secular career. It wasn’t all bad, but she wasn’t happy. At the same time, she wanted to go deeper in her Catholic faith. It was so cool to see her go deeper during those weeks and months and begin to work for food that endures for eternal life. It didn’t surprise me, then, when she called me sometime later to let me know that she was entering religious life as a sister. Very cool stuff! It is so amazing to see young people go deeper in their faith, be open to God’s Call, and then follow it. Now, we don’t need to enter religious life to live out this teaching of Christ’s, but my friend is a great example to us. We should all look at our lives and see if they are just about this world only or if they point to something else: eternal life.

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life”. The reaction of the crowd to this teaching might have been our reaction: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” We would probably have been focused on we need to do, how to get involved. It is important for us to get involved – in the Church, in our family, in our community, in our country. It is important for us to get involved, for example, in the current health care debate. We should contact our representatives in congress and the senate and ask them what the Bishops’ Conference has asked: keep health care “abortion neutral”, please. Right now, it’s not. This is part of what it means to work for food that endures for eternal life.

But, Jesus tells the crowd and us, first things first: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” It all starts with faith. It’s all about faith in Christ. This is what it means to do the work of God: to believe in Jesus. Now, I would guess that many of us here would say, ‘Lord, we already believe in you. What do we do next?’ But, there is one thing that we Catholics have a hard time believing in: the Eucharist. A study from years ago found that 70% of Catholics do not believe in the Eucharist. 70% believe that it is only a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. Personally, I believe that most if not all of them haven’t really heard the teaching from John 6 which we are hearing these Sundays and from the Church. That might be a fault of the Church not preaching it clearly and consistently.

It is a hard teaching. It takes a lot of faith to believe that a change happens in the bread and wine at Mass even though our senses don’t pick up a change. It still looks like bread and wine. It still tastes like bread and wine. Why do we believe in the Eucharist? Because of four words: “This is my body”. Jesus didn’t say, “This represents my body” or “This symbolizes my blood”. He said, “This is my body”. The Apostles believed Him, the early Church believed Him, and we believe Him. It really is Him! It’s an amazing thing that will happen here in a few minutes – Jesus will become present on the altar through the words I will say and we will receive Him in Holy Communion. What a gift!

Again, it takes a lot of faith in Christ to believe in the Eucharist. This is what our Lord is asking of us. It is no coincidence that his line about believing in Him is in the middle of his teaching of the Eucharist. We are hearing these weeks from John 6, the Bread of Life discourse. He is laying out the teaching and the crowds are having a hard time believing Him. He is saying to them and to us: believe in me and what I am teaching you here. In a couple of weeks, we will hear Him get much more specific and emphatic: “my flesh is real food…my blood is real drink”. It is certainly not a discourse that can be taken symbolically.

Back to my friend: at the heart of her story is the Eucharist. Her faith took off because she went to the Eucharist more. She focused on the Eucharist at Mass, began attending daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. It really is like the parable of the mustard seed for her or any of us whose faith grows because of the Eucharist: at first, it’s small but then grows and grows and grows into something very big. The Eucharist is the center of it all for us Catholics. It is the center of our faith in Christ. It is the center of our lives. If any of us is struggling in our faith, we should go to the Eucharist. It really is the best way for us to live out this challenge from our Lord. It is the best way for us to work for food that endures for eternal life. It is the best way for us to believe in the one God sent.

Friday, July 31, 2009

"Abortion neutral" health care, please

The following is a news release from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) dated July 30, 2009 regarding the health care reform bill that is now before Congress. Please pray and fast that the introduced bill - which is pro-abortion as Cardinal Rigali makes clear in his letter - does not pass.

Cardinal Rigali Urges House Committee to Support Pro-Life Amendments to Health Care Reform Bill

WASHINGTON— Cardinal Justin Rigali, Chairman of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, wrote on July 29 to the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee urging them to amend “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act” (H.R. 3200) to retain longstanding government policies on abortion and conscience rights.

Cardinal Rigali reiterated criteria for “genuine health care reform” set forth by Bishop William Murphy, Chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Policy, in his letter to Congress on July 17. He described health care as “a basic right belonging to all human beings, from conception to natural death” and said that “the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is working to ensure that needed health reform is not undermined by abandoning longstanding and widely supported policies against abortion funding and mandates and in favor of conscience protection.”

The Cardinal enumerated several problems with the bill as introduced: It would be used to mandate abortion coverage in private health plans, expand abortion funding, override state laws that limit or regulate abortion, and endanger existing laws protecting the conscience rights of health care providers.

“Much-needed reform must not become a vehicle for promoting an ‘abortion rights’ agenda or reversing longstanding current policies against federal abortion mandates and funding,” he wrote. “In this sense we urge you to make this legislation ‘abortion neutral’ by preserving longstanding federal policies that prevent government promotion of abortion and respect conscience rights.”

“Several federal laws have long protected the conscience rights of health care providers,” Cardinal Rigali added. “President Obama recently stated that he accepts these current laws and will do nothing to weaken them. Congress should make the same pledge, by ensuring that this legislation will maintain protection for conscience rights.”

The Cardinal closed by urging the House Energy and Commerce Committee to support amendments by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) to address these problems in H.R. 3200. The full text of his letter is available at:
Keywords: Cardinal Rigali, USCCB, U.S. Bishops, pro-life, health care, health care reform, abortion, abortion funding, abortion neutral, conscience rights, conscience protection

For more information on the USCCB position on Health Care Reform, visit and

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I am away until the end of July.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"Very rich in graces and virtues"

I wrote a while back about one of the best Marian devotions that I have found, “Total Consecration” by St. Louis de Montfort. Pope John Paul II once called this devotion “ a turning point in my life”. I would echo that sentiment! “Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary” is a 33 day prayer that is renewed each year. I began my consecration in 1999 and am now renewing it for the 10th year. God has given me so many amazing graces in being able to answer His Call to be a faithful priest during these years; I am convinced that the consecration has played a huge role in obtaining these graces. Just as there are so many graces when Jesus comes to us through Mary (e.g., Incarnation), so there are many graces when we go to Jesus through Mary (e.g., Consecration).

The first days of the consecration begin with a reading, either from the Gospel or from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis (great book!). Here is the reading from the sixth day which really struck me as powerful and profound. Also, it dovetails my homily from the Sunday before last.

Sixth Day

Imitation: Book 1, Chapter 18

On the example of the Holy Fathers

Look upon the lively examples of the holy Fathers in whom shone real perfection and the religious life, and you will see how little it is, and almost nothing that we do. Alas, what is our life when we compare it with theirs? Saints and friends of Christ, they served our Lord in hunger and in thirst, in cold, in nakedness, in labor and in weariness, in watching, in fasting, prayers and holy meditations, and in frequent persecutions and reproaches. Oh, how many grievous tribulations did the Apostles suffer and the Martyrs and Confessors and Virgins, and all the rest who resolved to follow the steps of Christ! For they hated their lives in this world, that they might keep them in life everlasting. Oh, what a strict and self-renouncing life the holy Fathers of the desert led! What long and grievous temptations did they bear! How often were they harassed by the enemy, what frequent and fervent prayers did they offer up to God, what rigorous abstinence did they practice!

What a valiant contest waged they to subdue their imperfections! What purity and straight forwardness of purpose kept them towards God! By day they labored, and much of the night they spent in prayer; though while they labored, they were far from leaving off mental prayer. They spent all their time profitably. Every hour seemed short to spend with God; and even their necessary bodily refreshment was forgotten in the great sweetness of contemplation. They renounced all riches, dignities, honors, and kindred; they hardly took what was necessary for life. It grieved them to serve the body even in its necessity. Accordingly, they were poor in earthly things, but very rich in grace and virtues.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

16th Sunday - homily

When I was growing up, my family and I would go down to the beach every August. We were able to use a house of a friend of my Dad’s in Bethany Beach for two weeks. It was the highlight of every summer! When school finished in June, we couldn’t wait to get to the beach. During the days, we went to the beach and enjoyed time in the ocean or went to the pool. At night, we played board games – lots of board games! – or went to the boardwalk or something fun. It was such a great time! It was good, quiet, family time. Of course, there were a few disagreements here and there, maybe some arguments; I didn’t have anything to do with them…ok, so I did. Overall, though, I look back on those vacations with such fond memories because they were some of our best moments as a family.

In today’s Gospel, our Lord invites the disciples to get away and rest: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”. For us, this can be an invitation to make a retreat which is something that we should all do. But, it can also apply to vacations. Pope Benedict, who we should all be praying for now as he recovers from surgery for his broken wrist, gave us some very good vacation advice recently: “We must set aside time in life for God, to open our life to God with a thought, a meditation, a small prayer, and not to forget Sunday is the day of the Lord”. I would like to offer a few suggestions on how we can make time for God on our to make Christ involved in our vacations.

First, make a quiet, family vacation. I know it’s hard, but it is possible. It is very fruitful to spend time as a family and try to limit the use of cell phones, iPods, internet, TV, etc. It is so good to just have fun together, talk, and pray together as a family. We really can have an experience of God through our family; kids especially experience God the Father through their fathers and mothers. Second, go to Mass on Sunday on vacation as a family. Some of you are here today on vacation, so you get this point. We can’t take a vacation from God; we can’t take a vacation from Sunday Mass. Being on vacation is not an excuse to miss Sunday Mass. What a strong statement it makes to children when their parents plan ahead to make sure that they will be able to get to Mass, and that they all go, no matter where they are. It makes the statement that the Sunday obligation is most important and non-negotiable.

Also, if you have the chance, hit a daily Mass. What an excellent experience for anyone, but especially on vacation. Most people who have attended Mass during the week enjoy it more than Sunday Mass – it’s shorter, there are no collections, and there’s less singing! Seriously, it is more intimate and less distracting. It is a powerful experience with the Eucharist which is even more impactful on vacation, especially for kids. Also, if you go to a different city or country and go to Mass, then you experience the universality of the Church – the Mass is the same wherever you go. Again, this is a powerful experience for all of us, especially young people. What a great statement it makes to kids about the importance of the Eucharist!

Another suggestion is to pray together. Pray at the start of the trip for a safe trip and pray at different times during the trip. Praying the rosary is such a great family prayer! If you can’t pray a whole rosary, just pray a few decades together. It is highly recommended for families to pray the rosary together – the family that prays together, stays together. Also, you can read Scripture together, talk about the saints, or talk about our faith. It is so important to make time for God on vacations as a family and as individuals.

We all seek rest and peace when we go away on vacation. We need to make Christ a part of our vacations for us to find that peace. The second reading tells us that Christ is our peace. Only in Christ do we find peace and rest on vacation.

Finally, I will be going on vacation this week…I’m getting excited with all this talk about vacation and will heed my own advice. I will be going to the beach with a family who are dear friends. The highlight will be what we do every day in the house for about 15 minutes: Mass. If you’ve ever had the experience of vacationing with a priest and participating in a Mass that he celebrates in the beach house or hotel room or lodge, then you know it is the best! It is the best part of the vacation because it brings the Eucharist into your vacation. Jesus will be in our beach house! It will be the best moment of rest and peace for us this week. May all of us include Christ on our vacations. May we all find rest in Him who is our peace.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"A Pastor With Guts"

A friend sent me the following story about a courageous and inspiring prayer that was given by a minister in Kansas. Some powerful stuff!

"A Pastor With Guts"

Thought you might enjoy this interesting
prayer given in Kansas at
the opening session of their Senate. It seems
prayer still upsets some
people. When Minister Joe Wright was asked to open
the new session of the Kansas Senate, everyone was expecting the usual generalities, but this is

what they heard:

Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask
your forgiveness and to seek your direction and
guidance. We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those
who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we
have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed
our values.

We have exploited the poor and called it
the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it

We have killed our unborn and called it

We have shot abortionists and called it

We have neglected to discipline our
children and called it building self esteem..

We have abused power and called it

We have coveted our neighbor's possessions
and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and
pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values
of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh, God, and know our hearts
today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

The response was immediate. A number of
legislators walked out during the prayer in
protest. In 6 short weeks, Central Christian
Church, where Rev. Wright is pastor, logged more than
5,000 phone calls with only 47 of those calls
responding negatively. The church is now receiving
international requests for copies of this prayer
from India , Africa and Korea

Commentator Paul Harvey aired this prayer on
his radio program, 'The Rest of the Story,'and
received a larger response to this program than any
other he has ever aired.

With the Lord's help, may this prayer sweep
over our nation and wholeheartedly become our
desire so that we again can be called 'one nation
under God.'

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holy Spirit: Third Person of the Trinity

1) Someone recently sent me the link to the video that the Washington Times produced during the DC ‘Hood (basketball team of priests and seminarians of Washington) game at Verizon Center ’08. It is very well done! Many thanks to the Times, especially the videographer, Barbara Salisbury. Please check out the video by clicking on today's title.

2) Next DC ‘Hood game: Sun., Aug. 16, 4 pm vs. Sacred Heart, LaPlata, at Archbishop Neale school (104 Port Tobacco Road, La Plata, MD 20646). Go ‘Hood!!

3)Anon posted the following:

“I have a hard time understanding the Holy Spirit as the third “person” of the Trinity. I understand Jesus as fully God and fully man, but I’m fuzzy on my understanding of the Holy Spirit. In the Bible the Spirit comes as fire, wind, clouds, dove, etc. It conjures up the image if the Spirit being something akin to a force (reminds me of Star Wars). St. Paul calls us to be in fellowship and communion with the Holy Spirit, but I don’t quite know how to understand that happens.”

Thanks for your comment, Anon. The following article from addresses your points in an excellent way:

Third Person of the Trinity
By James Akin

Jehovah's Witnesses deny that Christ is God. When they go door-knocking they're usually well-coached on how to discuss their views on this matter. That's why, when they knock on my door, I talk about something they're less prepared to discuss-the Personhood of the Holy Spirit.

You see, they also deny that the Holy Spirit is God. In fact, they deny that he is even a Person, claiming instead that he is "God's active force by which he accomplishes his purpose and executes his will" (Insight on the Scriptures, 2:1019). Official WatchTower publications even compare the Holy Spirit to impersonal forces such as radio waves (ibid., 2:1020).

But for someone who makes an unbiased reading of the Scriptures, references to the Holy Spirit's Personhood leap off the page. For example, Paul speaks of it being possible to grieve the Holy Spirit: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). Of course, it is not possible to offend or displease impersonal forces.

Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit as knowing the thoughts of God-indicating that the Spirit has an intellect: "For what person knows a man's thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor. 2:11).

He also speaks of the Holy Spirit exercising the faculty of will, as in the distribution of spiritual gifts: "All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills" (1 Cor. 12:11).

Scripture also teaches that the Holy Spirit serves as a Paraclete (Greek parakletos) on our behalf. This term, often translated as "Comforter," "Counselor," "Advocate," or "Helper," refers to a person who is called or summoned to aid one, especially in legal settings, where he serves as an advisor, or advocate for the accused.

Jesus repeatedly speaks of the Holy Spirit as a Paraclete whom he will send to help us: "The Advocate [parakletos], the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name-he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (John 14:26; cf. 15:26, 16:7-8).

A facet of the Greek text not obvious in translation is that in the three verses just mentioned (and others), Jesus applies the masculine pronoun ekeinos to the Holy Spirit. The personal character of a paraclete is further illustrated by the fact that Jesus also serves as our Paraclete before the Father: "My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an Advocate [parakletos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1)

There are also many passages in Scripture that refer to the Holy Spirit communicating with us-again, something an impersonal force cannot do. For example, when testifying before the Sanhedrin, the apostles refer to the Holy Spirit as their co-witness: "And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him" (Acts 5:32). Later in Acts, Paul states that the Holy Spirit testifies: "The Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me" (Acts 20:23).

This testimony sometimes came from the mouths of New Testament prophets who attributed the words directly to the Holy Spirit: "And coming to us he took Paul's girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, 'Thus says the Holy Spirit, "So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles"'" (Acts 21:11; cf. 1 Tim. 4:1). Note the formula "Thus says the Holy Spirit" is modeled on the frequent prophetic formula "Thus says the Lord"-indicating not only the Spirit's Personhood but also directly equating him with Yahweh.

Sometimes even the biblical books' narrative directly quotes the Holy Spirit. In Revelation we read, "And I heard a voice from heaven saying, 'Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth.' 'Blessed indeed,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!'" (Rev. 14:13).

If it were objected that this quotation is found in a book of prophecy, which often uses figurative language, the topper is Acts 13:2:"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'"

The doctrinal force of this passage is unavoidable. Here we have a direct quotation of the Holy Spirit-not in a prophetic book, not in the mouth of a prophet, not in a parable, not told by a character in a historical book. We have the Holy Spirit directly quoted by the narrative of a historical book-just like the other real persons who speak in the book. And the same thing happens in Acts 8:29 and 10:19.

Even if one tried to explain away all of Scripture's other personal references to the Holy Spirit as somehow being symbols or figures of speech, the direct quotation of an individual in the narrative of a historical book unmistakably shows that the individual in question is a real, literal person, not just a force or symbol.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

15th Sunday - homily

Years ago as a seminarian, I was privileged to spend a few weeks in Calcutta, India with the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s sisters. It was an incredible experience being able to be with the sisters and serve the poorest of the poor. One image that stands out from that trip is the day that two of the sisters were sent off to different countries to do mission work. They were only allowed to take one box of things. One, little box! I moved here 10 days ago and had a whole lot more than one box (Msgr. Filardi said that I had more stuff than he did…but, he came back for another load in the afternoon, so he might have had more!). These sisters definitely live the simple, detached life that our Lord calls us to live in today’s Gospel.

Living simply brings freedom. I remember when I sold my house to go back to the seminary (one of the times!) and sold my stuff to charity. It was the most freeing experience I’ve ever had. When we are detached from the things of the world, we are free to give ourselves to Christ and others. When we are attached to people or things, it is much more difficult. This is what many people are experiencing with the recent deaths of celebrities. If we are attached to someone or thing, it is hard to let go of them. I’ve heard some commentaries say that people “worshiped” this star or “idolized” that star. The Bible – pretty much in the Ten Commandments – tells us to worship God alone and to be attached to Christ alone. We are to love people and enjoy things, but not to be attached to them. When we are attached to Christ alone, then we are free to give ourselves to Him. This is what the Missionaries of Charity experienced and this is what the Apostles experienced. Their only attachment was Christ, so they were free to go out and proclaim him to others.

Simplicity brings freedom and happiness. We don’t know too many people who are really happy because they have a lot of stuff or have a house full of clutter. In fact, it’s usually the opposite: people are much happier when they have gotten rid of stuff or removed it from their home. Those who try to live simply are happy people. The sisters didn’t seem to be sad that they could only take one little box of things with them. In fact, they were smiling from ear to ear; they looked so happy. The saints – those who live Gospel simplicity – are the happiest people we know.

The rewards of simplicity are freedom, happiness, and also power. The Apostles were called by Christ to radical simplicity – no food, no second tunic, etc. – and were given radical power. They drove out evil spirits, performed healings, and cured people. They were clean, open vessels through which God’s grace poured. Because they were detached and free by living simplicity, the Apostles as well as the Missionaries of Charity had great power in bringing Christ to others.

Finally, when we live simply and are free of worldly attachments, we are able to enjoy and participate in the many “riches of (God’s) grace”, as St. Paul writes in today’s second reading. God offers so many riches to us; chief among them is the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the greatest treasure on Earth. When we are attached to Christ alone, we approach the Eucharist with a… “whew, what a gift”. We appreciate the incredible gift of God in the flesh! As we gaze upon our Lord and receive Him in Holy Communion, let us realize how rich we are to receive such a treasure. For when we receive the Eucharist, we are the richest people on Earth.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Puns of fun"

Keeping things light from time to time is strongly encouraged on our sites! Here is a list of puns that a friend sent me. Hope you enjoy these “puns of fun”:

1. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: "Keep off the Grass."

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work.

5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

7. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

8. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

9. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

10. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, "You stay here; I'll go on a head."

11. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

12. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption.

13. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When his Grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, "No change yet."

14. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

15. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
16. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

17. A backward poet writes inverse.

18. In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.