Thursday, August 31, 2006

Who goes to Purgatory?

Unfortunately, we will not have Adoration this Friday (9/1) because of a previously schedule event in the Church. Adoration will resume next Friday, 7 pm.
Here are final notes from the talk that I give on Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. Many thanks to Rev. Thomas Morrow and his booklet, "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory"

Purgatory (cont.)

c. How long does it last?

see Mt 25:34-41 : general judgement will only have 2 states, Heaven and Hell, so Purgatory will not continue after the general judgement

Council of Trent (1551): Purgatory is a state of purification which frees one from what is called the “temporal punishment” of sin (Hell is eternal punishment)

- so, we understand Purgatory to be temporal, “in time”; while it may not be in 24-hour days as on Earth, we do associate a soul’s stay in Purgatory with a number of days

- the amount of “time” a soul stays in Purgatory is based on the amount of purification needed

- we stay in Purgatory until we “love as God loves” (Msgr. Hill, SSM pastor)

- we can do works (of mercy, penance, prayer, almsgiving, gain indulgences, etc.) on Earth to remove days from our temporal punishment in Purgatory for ourselves or for others; but, once in Purgatory we can’t lessen our own punishment

d. Who goes there?

Scripture (see notes from Tuesday's post)

Catechism (CCC) - “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified; (they) are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven” (# 1030).

Council of Florence (1439): “souls who die with true repentance and in God’s love before having rendered satisfaction for their sins of omission and commission by the worthy fruits of penance”

- what about the person who dies just after having gone to Confession and completed the penance? He / she would go to Purgatory to satisfy the temporal punishment due to his / her sins (kind of like a criminal who still has to serve his prison sentence, for the sake of justice, even if he is truly sorry for the crime he has committed)

- serious reparation is needed for serious sins, especially

- can repair those sins in this life through a penitential life (like the saints), acts of faith, hope, and love, corporal and spiritual works of mercy, etc.

- Mt 19:21 – “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; then, come follow me

- Mt 5:48 - “ Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Why the intercession of saints?

On the Feast of the Assumption, Steve asked, "Why ask Mary (or any Saint, for that matter) to intercede on our behalf, when we have a personal relationship with Jesus (God) himself?... Desi (his wife) used the analogy of a child going through his/her mother as a way of ultimately approaching dad. Here was my reaction. God is not like my dad (or like me!). He doesn't need to be "softened up" by Mary, or doesn't look more favorably on our needs when we go through Mary. His love and grace are perfect and not conditioned on Mary's (or anyone else's) involvement...So I guess my question is actually a very narrow one. Why would a devotion to Mary (or to any Saint) include asking them to intercede on my behalf before Jesus (God)?"

Steve, thanks very much for this important and direct question about the intercession of saints. My starting point in talking about intercession, especially the Blessed Mother, seems to always be the Incarnation. God could have come to us as a man in any way He wanted. He could have just appeared as a baby, young man, or adult. The fact that, in his Divine Plan, he chose to use a human instrument tells us a lot not only about the significance of intercession, but also about the human instrument herself.

Mary is the perfect vessel through whom God entered the world. The whole reason for her existence was to be the Mother of the Savior. God preserved her from all traces of Original Sin from the moment of her conception (SHE is the Immaculate Conception) so that she would be a perfect vessel for Christ to enter the world. She is now our perfect vessel to go to Him. Everything about Mary leads to Christ; our prayers never end with her. We don't worship Mary, and we don't pray to Mary only. We pray to Jesus through Mary.

Now, about the intercession of saints in general, there are countless examples of intercession in Sacred Scripture. In the Old Testament, God could have freed his people, the Israelites, from the Egyptians on his own, but he chose to use Moses and Aaron as his instruments. Really, all the prophets and priests are intercessors on behalf of their fellow man to God. One example clearly shows this: the Book of Jonah, Chapter 3.

The people of the city of Nineveh repent of their evil ways at the urging of the prophet, Jonah. "When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out" (v.10). It is because of the intercession of the prophet Jonah that God changed his mind about the people of Nineveh. In many other places in Scripture, God is "softened up" by the intercession of saints.

Also, in our Christian Tradition, there are numerous examples of miracles that have come about through the intercession of saints. That is concrete evidence that the intercession of saints is part of God's Plan. In addition, think about the apparitions of the Blessed Mother that have been approved by the Church. In some of them, Mary has asked us, her children, to pray to Jesus through her Immaculate Heart. These are messages from Heaven to go to Mary as a powerful intercessor.

Throughout Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, then, God has revealed to us that his Divine Plan is for us to turn to our Mother, brothers, and sisters for help in living out our faith in Him, our Father.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What is Purgatory like?

To continue our recent discussion about Judgement, here are some of the notes I use when I give my talk about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. I've posted the notes on Hell and Heaven. Here are the first half of my notes on Purgatory. Hope it helps!
-the term is not used in Scripture; comes from the Latin word, “purgatorium” (place of purging fire or purification)

a. Does it exist?

– refers to situations where a punishment / purification must occur:

-Mt 18: 34-35 – the unforgiving debtor
the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all this debt, and that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”

-Lk 12:59 – being in prison
I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny

-Jn 16:20 – “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy

-Mt 12:32 – “Let anyone speak against the Holy Spirit and he will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next” (implies that some sins can be forgiven in the next life)

2 Macc 12:46
- the valiant Judas “had this expiatory sacrifice offered for the dead, so that they might be released from their sins
- shows that the Jewish custom was to pray for the dead; must be for souls in a state other than Heaven or Hell - don't need to pray for the souls in Heaven, and it does no good to pray for the souls in Hell
- custom continues whenever someone prays for all the souls in Purgatory

-1 Cor 3:14-15 (salvation through a purifying fire)
The Day which dawns in fire will make it clear and the fire itself will test the quality of each person’s work. The one whose work stands up to it will be given his wages; the one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved as someone expects to be saved from a fire

-1 Peter 1:7
“your faith, more valuable than gold and which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved”

Magisterium: “a cleansing fire, a purifying fire” (pain suffered is comparable to the pain of fire on earth)

b. What is it like?

Scripture (see above)

St Augustine: “this fire of Purgatory will be more severe than any pain that can be felt, seen or conceived in this world”

St Thomas Aquinas: “In Purgatory there will be a twofold loss, namely the delay of the divine vision, and the pain of sense, namely the punishment by bodily fire. With regard to both, the least pain of Purgatory surpasses the greatest pain in this life”

St Francis de Sales: “The greater part of those who dread Purgatory so much think more of their own interests than of the interests of God’s glory; this proceeds from the fact that they think only of the sufferings without considering the peace and happiness which are enjoyed by the holy souls”

*Rev. T.G. Morrow: “there will be tremendous suffering accompanied by a tremendous sense of peace and joy knowing that the soul will be united with God”

- after death, the soul sees that it is not yet spotless, and “would cast itself into a thousand hells rather than find itself in the presence of the Divine Majesty with that stain on it” (St Catherine of Genoa)

she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, holy and faultless” (Eph 5:27)
* A special note of thanks to Fr. Morrow, who contributed greatly to all of my notes on H/H/P with his booklet: "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory"

Monday, August 28, 2006

The big picture about Confession

In the past week, on two different occasions, people have told me to post my answer to the common questions, “why do I need to go to a priest for Confession? Why can’t I just go to God directly?” In answering this, I ask you to take a step back with me and look at the big picture here. It starts with Adam and Eve, and what happened in the Garden of Eden. They committed Original Sin (the first mortal sin): they broke the relationship between God and man, lost their state of Original Grace, and the gates of Heaven were closed.

For thousands of years after that, God’s people tried to achieve union with God by making offerings, sacrifices, etc. for the forgiveness of sins. They were unable to do so; man could not achieve forgiveness of his serious sins on his own (and so, no one went to Heaven before Christ).

God became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. He offered his life on the Cross as a sacrifice for us. “My blood …will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven”. Christ’s sacrifice on Mount Calvary becomes the only acceptable sacrifice to the Father for the forgiveness of sins. The gates of Heaven are re-opened, and salvation is offered to all who participate in Christ’s death and resurrection.

How do we participate in Christ’s death and resurrection? Primarily, through the sacraments. Christ has given us seven ways to receive his Sanctifying Grace which we need to get to Heaven. He has instituted Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, etc. through his priests. He gave them the power to baptize, celebrate the Eucharist, anoint the sick…and, he gave them the power to forgive sins (John 20:20-23): “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained”.

Every time a priest celebrates a sacrament, he is acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). It is really Christ who is baptizing an infant, consecrating the Eucharist, etc. That is why we hear “this is my body” at Mass, and not “this is his body”. While we believe that transubstantiation takes place with the bread and wine, we also believe that it takes place with the priest. For example, it is no longer Fr. Greg celebrating Mass, even though it looks like me and sounds like me; it is Christ.

The same is true when we go to Confession. It is Christ in the confessional- hearing sins, offering counsel, and granting absolution. This is how we go to God directly, through the person of the priest, for the forgiveness of sins. We take our sins to the Cross, where they are wiped clean by the blood of Christ, and we receive Sanctifying Grace. If we had been in mortal sin (Confession is primarily for the forgiveness of mortal sins), we are one with God again. Just like we would turn to a priest to celebrate the Eucharist or the Anointing of the Sick, we turn to a priest for Reconciliation ... we turn to Christ.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

21st Sunday, Ordinary - Homily

Imagine that you’re on a hillside 2000 years ago with thousands of people, listening to Jesus. You have been following him every day. You’ve seen his miracles, witnessed his healings, and heard his teachings. His words have moved your heart and mind like no else’s. You’ve seen the crowds that follow him grow larger every day. There is a great buzz in the crowd…people are wondering, ‘is this the Messiah? Is this the One whom God has promised to send to us?’

On the hillside, Jesus is introducing a new teaching. He is talking about bread…and referring to himself. “I am the bread of life…I am the bread that comes down from heaven”. Now, it is a large crowd, and it takes a while for everyone to hear what he says; they didn’t have the sound systems like we have today. By the time everyone hears what he has been saying, some people start to question Jesus. ‘Bread from heaven? You are the son of a carpenter!’ Jesus hears this, and continues, becoming even more emphatic. “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life….my flesh is real food, and my blood is real drink”.

Now, when the people around you hear this, they become angry. They take Jesus’ words literally, and don’t buy it… so they left him. They had been following him every day, but now they are walking away from him and returning to “their former way of life”. Jesus didn’t stop them. He doesn’t say, ‘wait, you all misunderstood me. I wasn’t speaking literally; I was speaking symbolically’. He does that elsewhere in Scripture: when he says to Nicodemus about being “born again”, Nicodemus asks if he needs to reenter his mother’s womb. Christ says that he is not speaking literally, but that one must be born of “water and the Spirit”. But, he doesn’t do that here. He IS speaking literally.

You look down at the closest friends of Jesus, the Apostles, and move down the hill closer to them. Jesus says to them, “do you also want to leave?” You look over at Peter, who appears to have a very dazed and confused look (like ‘Lord, I have no idea what you’re talking about…no clue’) but says, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life”. When you hear Peter say these words, you think to yourself, ‘has Jesus just been speaking the words of eternal life? Is this a message from Heaven? Is this new teaching from the Father? Do I believe what I am hearing?’

The Jews and all those on the hillside were right about two things in the Bread of Life discourse (John 6). They were right 1) to take Jesus literally and 2) that this is a hard teaching. This is a hard teaching. I don’t understand how bread and wine becomes Christ’s Body and Blood…no clue! But, I believe that it happens because Jesus says so. The Church has taken this teaching literally for 2000 years….“this is my body” means “this is my body”.

Some in our family or among our friends have left the Catholic Church and gone to other Christian churches, thinking it's the same Eucharist wherever. It's not! Only in the Orthodox and Catholic Churches do we have the Eucharist. "To whom shall we go, Lord?" Also, many of our family members have stopped coming to Church altogether. When I run into them on occasion, I ask them, "how can you live without the Eucharist?" Just like our bodies need bread in order to live, so our souls need the bread of Life in order to have life.

I think the reason that most Catholics don't believe this teaching is because they really don't know it. We don’t hear much about this teaching in homilies; maybe a couple of times a year. It’s like a great secret or something in our Church. Some priests don’t show great faith in the Real Presence, at least by their outward gestures during Mass. Some priests show great faith in the Eucharist and that helps us to believe.

One priest who lived in Italy around 700 A.D. really struggled with this teaching. He prayed that the Lord would help him in his lack of belief. So, Jesus worked a miracle in the Eucharist for him, his parishioners, and the Church. One day at Mass, during the Consecration, as the priest elevated the Host, the Host began to bleed. Drops of red liquid began to fall from the Host. The priest preserved the Host and gave it to the Church. The Church preserved it and tested it scientifically. When the results of these tests came back, the red liquid was determined to be human blood. Jesus has worked several miracles of the Eucharist in the past 1300 years to help us to believe in the Eucharist. To help us believe that it is really Him under the signs of bread and wine.

So, we come to this Mass to say, “thank you, Jesus” for this awesome gift! He gave his life for us on the Cross, and continues to give us his life in the Eucharist. We thank him for his life and his love, the great love he has for each and every one of us. Thank you, Jesus!!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Risky business

"What do you do if you know someone is commiting mortal sins and is still recieving the Eucharist? She will not go to confession." This was the question of an anonymous blogger last week who is obviously and rightly concerned about a loved one. Anon, thanks very much for your concern, and for bringing this question to our forum. Unfortunately, just about each one of us could ask the very question you have asked.

Please keep in mind that we can judge actions, but we can't judge hearts. In other words, you can say that your friend is committing grave sins, but you can't say definitively that she has full knowledge and full consent. She might appear to know what she's doing and freely choosing it when she commits serious offenses against God, but onyl she and God know for sure. So, none of can say that "so-and-so" is in a mortal sin; we can only go by external behavior.

So, if you raise the issue about her receiving Holy Communion in her state, be prepared for her to ask you how you can judge her like that. The way that I do it is to say, "now, I'm not saying and I cannot say that you are in this state, but you know that if we are in a state of mortal sin, we have to go to Confession before receiving the Eucharist, right?" She might say, 'who are you to judge me?'

I would reply, " I'm not judging what's in your heart and mind. But, I have seen you (get drunk, take the Lord's name in vain, skip Mass on Sunday, or whatever)...and those are serious sins. No matter what your sins are, Christ will forgive them in Confession. Please do not risk receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin. That act itself is mortal sin; it is serious business!! Do you know what the Bible says about receiving the Body of Christ unworthily?

"Whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27) and that he/she "eats and drinks judgment on himself" (v.29). What that means is that your friend would share the responsibility for the death of Christ. As one commentator has explained it, the soul in mortal sin is like a “chamber of death”; if Christ enters this soul, he enters death. It is like bringing about his death."

I would be surprised if your friend persists in her attitude of receiving Jesus in the Eucharist even though she has committed grave sins, and maybe even mortal sins. It's entirely too risky! I hope that she has a change of heart. I encourage you to pray for her, and witness to her about the absolute treasure that the Eucharist is, and how we are to handle it with the greatest care. As I wrote in one of my early August posts, "one of the biggest things that each of us will be judged on is how we respected the Eucharist while here on Earth".

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Catholicism 101 for Adults"

Friday night Adoration: All are invited to spend at least a few minutes with Jesus in the Eucharist tonight in the SAA Church from 7-8 pm.
An anonymous blogger wrote recently, "I am looking for some reading about faith development. I am someone who has somehow managed to avoid the topic for almost my whole life and now find myself feeling empty and sometimes worthless. I cannot relate to saints or holy people who are well in the swing of it. I need to learn where to look, where to turn my attention. Any reading suggestions?"

While I am sorry that you have had these feelings of emptiness and worthlessness, Anon, I greatly appreciate your comments and question. My hope is that you see this blog site as one place where to turn your attention because it is something like "Catholicism 101 for Adults". Here on this site and in general, I try to meet people where they are, and present our Catholic faith in Jesus Christ as it truly is.

I would primarily recommend looking for opportunities to grow in your faith through personal experiences. For me, it was getting involved with a high school youth group when I was in college; I learned so much about the Faith as a leader in that group. Also, I got together regularly with a priest, picked his brain constantly (that's why priests are there- to teach), and learned from his example. Seeing the witness of true Christians in our community can be the best way to learn the Gospel.

One of these opportunities is the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) here at St. Andrew's, or any parish. Yes, it is a program for those who wish to become Catholic, but it is also for those Catholics who wish to learn more about their faith. I will be leading our weekly discussions which begin on Wed., Sept 13 in the Rectory. We will provide a book, "We Believe" by Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, that is an excellent, brief, and readable survey of the Catholic faith (for beginners). You are most welcome to join us!

Some additional recommendations for spiritual reading beyond those in my August 7 post are:
1) The Gospel accounts - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Reading one chapter a day of the Gospel can be very helpful because there are so many characters there to whom we can relate. One example is the Prodigal Son (Lk 15) - he "squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation" and then came back to his father... "He was lost and has been found".

2) "Welcome Home", edited by Victor Claveau - it's the story of 11 fallen-away Catholics who have come back to the Church. I haven't read it, but it looks good, mainly because it has the story of Fr. John Corapi who was a millionaire playboy in Las Vegas before becoming a very powerful priest. Let me know how it is!

3) "The Darkness Will Not Prevail" by Fr. John Corapi. It is the dramatic story of Fr. Corapi which I have only heard on tape - he is someone to whom most people can relate.

4) "From the Pastor's Desk" - a collection of the writings of Msgr. Thomas Wells, who was my spiritual father and mentor. If you read my post from Wed. which is one of his columnns, then you see that he is very easy to read and relate to. He was a great teacher! Finding a copy of the book is not easy, but I have a few and would be happy to give you one. Many people have come back to Church after reading it.

5) "Surprised by Truth" - I may have put this in my initial list of books, but it is worth mentioning here again. It is a collection of inspiring stories of people who became Catholic after being anti-Catholic, basically. It runs the gamut of Catholic teachings with which they all struggled. Many Catholics have related very well to the experiences of these great converts.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Examination of Conscience

Recently, an anonymous blogger asked if there are different examinations of conscience for different people. I have only seen examinations 1)for all adults and 2)for children. An examination of conscience helps us to reflect on how we have been doing in our relationship with God and neighbor, mainly by going through the Ten Commandments. I have been leaving copies of the pamphlet, "Guide to Confession", which is a good examination of conscience, in the vestibule of the SAA Church.

Here is another solid examination, from very Rev. James Alderione, S.S.P., S.T.D. (the site is
[1] I am the Lord your God. You shall not have strange gods before me.

Do I give God time every day in prayer?
Do I seek to love Him with my whole heart?
Have I been involved with superstitious practices or have I been involved with the occult?
Do I seek to surrender myself to God's Word as taught by the Church?
Have I ever received Communion in a state of mortal sin?
Have I ever deliberately told a lie in confession or have I withheld a mortal sin from the priest in confession?

[2] You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Have I used God's name in vain: lightly or carelessly?
Have I been angry with God?
Have I wished evil upon another person?
Have I insulted a sacred person or abused a sacred object?

[3] Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.

Have I deliberately missed Mass on Sundays or Holy Days of Obligation?
Have I tried to observe Sunday as a family day and a day of rest?
Do I do needless work on Sunday?

[4] Honour your Father and your Mother.

Do I honour and obey my parents?
Have I neglected my duties to my spouse and children?
Have I given my family good religious example?
Do I try to bring peace into my home life?
Do I care for my aged and infirm relatives?

[5] You shall not kill.

Have I had an abortion or encouraged anyone to have an abortion?
Have I physically harmed anyone?
have I abused alcohol or drugs?
Did I give scandal to anyone, thereby leading them into sin?
Have I been angry or resentful?
Have I harbored hatred in my heart?
Have I mutilated myself through any form of sterilization?
Have I encouraged or condoned sterilization?

[6] You shall not commit adultery.

Have I been faithful to my marriage vows in thought and action?
Have I engaged in any sexual activity outside of marriage?
Have I used any method of contraception or artificial birth control in my marriage?
Has each sexual act in my marriage been open to the transmission of new life?
Have I been guilty of masturbation?
Have I sought to control my thoughts?
Have I respected all members of the opposite sex, or have I thought of other people as objects?
Have I been guilty of any homosexual activity?
Do I seek to be chaste in my thoughts, words and actions?
Am I careful to dress modestly?

[7] You shall not steal.

Have I stolen what is not mine?
Have I returned or made restitution for what I have stolen?
Do I waste time at work, school or at home?
Do I gamble excessively, thereby denying my family of their needs?
Do I pay my debts promptly?
Do I seek to share what I have with the poor?

[8] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Have I lied?
Have I gossiped?
Have I spoken behind someone else's back?
Am I sincere in my dealings with others?
Am I critical, negative or uncharitable in my thoughts of others?
Do I keep secret what should be kept confidential?

[9] You shall not desire your neighbor's wife.

Have I consented to impure thoughts?
Have I caused them by impure reading, movies, conversations or curiosity?
Do I seek to control my imagination?
Do I pray at once to banish impure thoughts and temptations?

[10] You shall not desire your neighbor's goods.

Am I jealous of what other people have?
Do I envy the families or possessions of others?
Am I greedy or selfish?
Are material possessions the purpose of my life?
Do I trust that God will care for all of my material and spiritual needs?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"How do you know if God is calling you for a vocation?"

I will assume that this question, asked recently on the St. John's blog site, pertains to a vocation to priesthood or religious life. Check out this site to find the main ways to discern God's Call:

In addition, the following is a column written on April 24, 1994 by the late Msgr. Thomas Wells, who was tragically murdered six years ago in his Germantown rectory. This is taken from the book of Fr. Wells' writings, "From the Pastor's Desk".
"How did you know you wanted to be a priest?" How I dread hearing that question! I suppose it is sort of like asking someone, "How did you fall in love?" What does one say? It just happens; and in terms of priesthood or any religious vocation, each person's story is unique and individual. As I have thought about answering that question for myself, however, I think there are two important parts to the answer.

First of all, I confess that, by personality, I am a person who lives pretty much in the here and now. I am pretty good at responding to the crisis of today; much less good at planning for the future. I suppose no one has everything, so I'll have to live with who I am. At any rate, as I grew up, I pretty much lived day to day: from grade school to high school to college (never even got around to applying to college until February of my senior year). I was the type (I do not recommend this) who would get up at 5 a.m. to study for a test because I had put off studying until then.

The point is that I never gave much thought to vocation until my last year of college: I was just not that worried about the future (plus college was a lot of fun). But I think deep down, I always kind of knew that I would end up a priest. I never talked about it to anyone, I never even thought that much about it, but I think it was always there. In other words, God knew my personality and He just waited until I was ready to pay attention to His call.

The second, and much more important thing, has to do with the Eucharist. In a variety of ways that space does not permit me to describe here, God led me, through influences at home, in parish and in Catholic schools, to a real faith in and love for Christ present in the Eucharist. I truly believe that perhaps the greatest spiritual gift of my life is that God has allowed me to deeply believe in the power and strength that are in the Mass. Therefore, since the celebration of the Mass is so central to priesthood, I suppose it did not knock me to the ground in shock when I came to face the possibility that God wanted me to live my life as a priest.

I cannot, of course, speak with any authority about the call to be a sister - though this call, too, is one of service to and for the Church - but I can say, that for me, at least, the Eucharist is at the heart of the matter. I really believe that if we are a people who are centered on the Eucharistic Sacrifice, there will be no shortage of those willing to give their lives to the Church. And, so, perhaps, our prayers for vocations should begin with prayer that we become, ever more completely, a Eucharistic community."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"If we had no priests, we would have no Eucharist"

Deacon Kevin Mukri preached (on John 6:51-58, my favorite Gospel) at the Mass I celebrated this weekend. His words which are below were clear, profound, and inspiring. Believing that what I had just heard was from the Holy Spirit, I whispered to him when he returned to his seat, "awesome"!
"The Jews are scandalized by Our Lord’s command to eat His body and drink His blood. This was cannibalism. They could not believe. Two thousand years later, most still do not believe Our Lord. With over 26,000 Christian denominations in the United States, only... the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox) ensures that believers eat His body and drink His blood. But far more tragic are reports that 70% of Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Eucharist is only a symbol of Our Lord.

The Eucharist is an incredible gift, the gift par excellence, for it is the gift of Our Lord Himself. But what happens to us when we receive the Holy Eucharist? One way to understand is to look at natural law. It is a fact of natural law that lower nature is always assimilated by higher nature.

Plants assimilate the chemical elements from the ground. The chemicals receive a higher existence in the plants. Plants are often eaten and assimilated by animals. The plants receive a higher nature as part of animal nature. We eat beef/pork/fish and it is assimilated into a higher nature, our human nature. When we receive the Holy Eucharist, we don’t change the body and blood of Christ into our nature, but Our Lord changes us into His higher, divine nature.

This is amazing.

In 2003, Pope John Paul II, of his blessed memory, released his encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” in order to rekindle the Eucharist “amazement” by the faithful. It is a marvelous letter on the Eucharist, but there are two points that are extremely important: The first is that the Eucharist is an expression of our communion with Our Lord, both the visible dimension and invisible dimension. We express our visible communion with Our Lord by attending Mass today and saying the Nicene Creed.

Our invisible communion with Our Lord is our own spiritual life and attempts for conversion. Because the Eucharist is the supreme sacrament of the living, this communion cannot be obtained by those “dead” through mortal sin. This is why Our Lord established the sacrament of Reconciliation to ensure we have His help and forgiveness on our earthly journey—a close bond exists between the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation.

The second point is that Our Lord did not leave us without giving us the means to receive His body and blood. Through His command to “do this in memory of me,” Our Lord left us a great gift, the priesthood, received through Episcopal succession going back to the apostles, and perfected through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

Because the Eucharist is a sacrifice, if we had no priests, we would have no Eucharist. Could it be that the growing shortage of priests is a result of the high percentage of Catholics who say that the Eucharist is only a symbol? I think so. But the Holy Father said we can reverse this trend by praying for vocations and inspiring young men to answer Christ’s call by our conscious, active and faithful participation in the Eucharist.

If we strive for conversion, Our Lord thorough His body and blood will absorb us into His Divine Nature, give us His peace, love and joy, and use us to bring his peace, love and joy to our family, friends, society and world. When our journey is over, He will keep His promise that “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day”" (Jn 6:54).

Monday, August 21, 2006

Who goes to Heaven?

To continue our recent discussion about Judgement, here are some of the notes I use when I give my talk about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. I've posted the notes on Hell (8/11, 8/14), and the first half of notes on Heaven (8/18). Here are the second half of my notes on Heaven; I'll post notes on Purgatory soon. Hope it helps!
3. How long does Heaven last?

-speaks of heaven many times as "everlasting life…eternal life…living forever"

St. Paul (1 Cor 9:25) + St Peter (1 Pet 5:4): "imperishable crown"

-"the enjoyment (of those in heaven) has continued and will continue without any interruption and without end until the last Judgement and from then on forever" (Pope Benedict XII, 1336)

4. Who goes to Heaven?

Scripture- Jn 3:16- "everyone who believes in (God’s only Son) may not perish but may have eternal life"

- Jn 6:54, 58 – "whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…and will live forever"
- Mk 16:16- "whoever believes and is baptized will be saved"
- Mt 25: 35-36-whoever feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, etc.
- Lk 10: 25-28 (the lawyer) / Mt 19: 16-22 (the rich young man)- whoever keeps the Commandments

St. Paul
- "it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God" (Eph 2:8)

St. James
- "if good deeds do not go with (faith), (faith) is quite dead" (2:17)

St. John
- "whoever does the will of God remains for ever" (Jn 2:17)

- "the people who have been through the great trial" (7:14)

-"those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ" (CCC, #1023)

-baptized by water (#1228), by desire (#1260), or by blood (#1258)

-in union with the bride of Christ, the Church (Eph 5:25-27): Heaven is the wedding feast of Christ and his bride, the Church (Rev 19:7-8, 21:9-14, previewed in Isa 61:10-11)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

20th Sunday, Ordinary

This is the main gist of the reflection I gave Friday night during Adoration, based on this Sunday's Gospel, especially John 6:53-54:

On behalf of the Lord, I want to thank you for coming out on a Friday night to Church. We will have Adoration every Friday night from 7-8 pm here, and all are invited.

What a great part of the cycle of readings at Mass we are in these 4-5 Sundays: John, chapter 6, the Bread of Life discourse. This is where Jesus teaches us about the Eucharist. He spends more time on this teaching than on any other. It is a matter of life and death, as he tells us in John 6:53-54. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life”.

In the Eucharist, then, we have eternal life! Now, someone may hear these lines from Christ, and think that the Eucharist is how we get to Heaven when we die. Certainly, that is part of what this means. But, the Lord says that when we receive the Eucharist, we have eternal life. At that moment! So, as we walk back to our pew after receiving Holy Communion, we have eternal life dwelling within us…in our bodies and our souls! We have the Kingdom of Heaven in us. We are tabernacles of Christ, carrying Him with us.

For us tonight, these verses mean that we are in the Presence of Eternal Life. We come out on a Friday night to be in a chamber of Heaven, gazing upon our Lord. We come to adore Christ, who is the Kingdom of Heaven. We have come to be in the Presence of Peace…in the Presence of Joy…in the Presence of Happiness…in the Presence of Love. As we look upon the Lord in adoration, we can see Peace and Love with our own eyes. We can see our God!

We also think about who else is here with us in the Eucharist. Where there is the Son, there is the Father and the Spirit. God is truly One. The Blessed Mother is here and all of the saints and angels. The Eucharist is where Heaven and Earth unite. All those who are in the Kingdom of Heaven are with us tonight, spiritually, and at every Mass. This amazing reality is what we call the “communion of saints”.

I celebrated my first funeral Mass as a priest this morning…for an infant. While it was very sad, it was also a beautiful celebration! This beautiful family of Baby Ikesi’s is a family of faith. Faith makes all the difference. They had baptized Ikesi, so we truly believe he is a saint in Heaven! I explained to them about the communion of saints, and how he would be spiritually present during the Mass in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It’s an awesome reality…he is still with them!

So, we come tonight to say, “thank you, Lord. Thank you for this amazing gift of the Eucharist. Thank you for allowing us to be in your presence tonight. We ask you to bring us your peace, your joy, and your love. This is a peace and joy and love that we can’t find anywhere else in the world. Help us to experience Eternal Life on Earth. Help us to come to you more faithfully in this Eucharist so that we might experience happiness on Earth. So that we might experience Heaven on Earth”.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

"Jesus is either God or a blasphemous liar"

Last week, Anony wrote: "I had an interesting conversation the other day with my non-Catholic friends. I asked them if they believed in the risen Christ and they said they did. Actually they believed all the aspects of Jesus. I then asked why didn't they convert to Christianity and the answer was they believed in all prophets that came to the world whether it be Muhammed, Buddha etc. Their fundamental belief was that all religions were the same. They went on to say that all the prophets have said "Follow me and you will attain salvation." What are your thoughts on this?"

Thanks for the question, Anony, and great witness! My first reply to someone who puts other prophets on the same level as Christ is, "how many of them have risen from the dead?" Christ is the only one. That's what separates him from any other prophet or religious leader. The Resurrection of Christ shows us that he has power that no other human person has: power over death. It reveals that Christ is not just a man, like all the other prophets are. It shows that all that he taught is true, and that He is the Son of God and the Savior for whom mankind has been waiting.

St. Paul says that if Christ isn't risen from the dead, Christianity is pointless. "If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith" (1 Cor 15:14). C.S. Lewis wrote, "In the face of foolishness that contends that Jesus was a good man or a prophet or a wise moral guide, but that He was only a man, that Jesus is either God or a blasphemous liar". Msgr. Thomas Wells added, "Let us play no games of trying to make Him into a teacher of unforgettable sayings. He is either the God who will judge me or a liar".

Anony, this is a direct challenge to your friends who believe "all the aspects of Jesus" but only on a level of being a good prophet or something. Either he is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14:6) or he is not. Either "no one comes to the Father except through (Christ)" (Jn 14:6) or not. Either Christ is "I AM" (Jn 8:58) -the God revealed in the Old Testament - or he is not. Either he is the "living bread that came down from heaven" (Jn 6:51) or he is not.

If we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the one to follow. All of the Old Testament points to Christ, and the New Testament looks back on Christ. Christ is the Word of God. He is written about indirectly in the Old Testament and directly in the New. If someone rejects Jesus as the Christ, then they reject that the Bible is the written Word of God. Either Sacred Scripture is the Word of God or it is not.

What would Jesus say about others who claim, "follow me and you will attain salvation"?
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them" (Mt 7:15)

"If anyone says to you then, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or 'There he is!' do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect" (Mt 24:23-24).

Friday, August 18, 2006

What is Heaven like?

Friday night Adoration: All are invited to spend at least a few minutes with Jesus in the Eucharist tonight in the SAA Church from 7-8 pm.
To continue our recent discussion about Judgement, here are some of the notes I use when I give my talk about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. I've posted the notes on Hell (8/11, 8/14). Here are half of my notes on Heaven; I'll post the other half in the next few days, and then Purgatory. Hope it helps!

1. Does Heaven exist?

Gen 1:1 "In the beginning, God created heaven and earth" (Heaven is as real as earth)
Exodus 16: manna – "bread from heaven"
Mt 3: 16-17: – "And suddenly there was a voice from heaven…this is my beloved son"
Jn 1:33 – "I saw the spirit come down on him like a dove from heaven and rest on him"

Jesus refers to Heaven about 170 times in the Gospels
(Heaven, Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, Life, and Eternal Life)
-"how blessed are the poor in spirit: the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs" (Mt 5:3)
-"there will be more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner repenting than over ninety-nine upright people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7)

St. Paul
"God…gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6)

Acts of the Apostles
"This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven" (1:11)

Revelation: "Then, in my vision, I saw a door open in heaven" (4:1)
" Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth
" (21:1)

Early Church
St Cyprian (3rd cent.) "to delight in the joy of immortality in the kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God’s friends

Magisterium of the Church
Pope Benedict XII (1336): "According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints…have been, are, and will be in heaven, in the heavenly kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ" (Benedictus Deus)

2. What is Heaven like?

Kingdom of heaven is like:
- " a buried treasure"
- "a great pearl" (Mt 13:44-46)
- "a wedding feast" (Mt 22:1; Mt 25:1); "wedding feast of the Lamb" (Rev 19:7)

- "the upright will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father" (Mt 13:43)
- whatever we sacrifice for Christ in this life, we will receive " a hundred times as much…now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life" (Mk 10:30-31)

St. Paul
"what no eye has seen and no ear has heard, what the mind of man cannot visualize; all that God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9)

St. John
"see him as he really is" (1 Jn 3:2)

Revelation: 21: 1-4

Saints / doctors of the Church
St Catherine of Siena:"The indescribable sweetness of this perfect union cannot be told by tongue, which is but a finite thing"

St John of the Cross: " Were (the soul) to have but a foreglimpse of the height and beauty of God, she would not only desire death in order to see him now forever, as she here desires, but she would very gladly undergo a thousand singularly bitter deaths to see Him only for a moment"

Magisterium of the Church
- "perfect life with the most Holy Trinity – this consummation of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1024)
- "Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness" (CCC, # 1024)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Falling in love with Christ

Friday night Adoration: All are invited to spend at least a few minutes with Jesus in the Eucharist this Friday in the SAA Church from 7-8 pm.
"I know what the Lord has done for all of us and yet there is some resistence to say the rosary, go to the Eucarist, go to Mass and all it is plain laziness nothing more. How can I overcome this?" I greatly appreciate this question from an anonymous blogger that strikes a cord for all of us more than we'd like to admit.

During my college years, I had great trouble waking up in the morning (I love sleep!). When I first started to go to Adoration as a junior at Maryland, I committed to the 6-7 am hour on Thursdays (in those days, St. Mark's in Hyattsville had Perpetual Adoration - this is when Jesus is exposed in the Blessed Sacrament 24/7 - at least one person has to be there every hour of the day). I woke up every Thursday morning at 5:30 to be there by 6...a minor miracle! I was highly motivated to spend time with Jesus. It was the best hour of my week, outside of Mass!!

The spiritual life of any Christian is all about a relationship with Christ. If it's on this level, I really can't imagine someone being lazy for too long. If you fall in love with someone, you WANT to be with them. So it is with Christ. When we enter into a friendship with Him and try to get to know Him better (which is different from knowing about Him), we find ourselves falling in love with Him. We fall in love with the peace and joy that only He can give us. We fall in love with the Truth that he brings us. We fall in love with Him who is Love.

If we have a REAL experience of His peace and joy, then we want more. An example of this involved a woman from another parish. I was walking her to the rectory door after our meeting, and as we walked past the door to the rectory chapel, she asked, 'what is in there?'. I said 'Jesus'. We went into the chapel, and prayed in the presence of our Lord for a few minutes. Something happened to her in those brief moments. She experienced a REAL presence in that chapel. She experienced a REAL peace that moved her. Since then, she has spent many hours with Christ in chapels around town, and at one point said, "I just want to be with Him all the time!"

I would suggest to a person suffering from laziness, then, that he/she make a commitment (no matter how small) to consistently spend time with Christ. An idea would be to come to what we're doing now at St. Andrew's on Friday nights: Adoration! We will expose the Eucharist on the altar in Church every Friday from 7-8 pm. Make a commitment to stop by and spend at least a few minutes with Christ each week with an open heart and mind. Trust me, He will reward you.

"If but a pin is given in homage, and given with a good heart, it will be enough for Jesus, Who loves only the good will" - St. Louis de Montfort.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Christ and the Church are one

Friday night Adoration: All are invited to spend a few minutes at least with Jesus this Friday in the SAA Church from 7-8 pm.
An anonymous blogger wrote recently, "I was wondering one thing. What do we say to anti-Catholics who think our relgion is from an evil entity?" While it is a very broad question, I appreciate you asking it here. First of all, I would need to know the person or group to whom I'm speaking. What is their background with faith? In what church do they worship? What do they know about the Catholic Church? These and other critical factors are things that I find out about those who are being critical of the Church.

I can give a few general points that could be used, and used effectively. First, I would point out how some people viewed the person of Christ. Specifically, some people called Christ himself evil. "This man drives out demons only by the power of Beezebul, the prince of demons" (Mt 12:24). They continually called him a liar and blasphemer, and wanted to kill him long before Good Friday. We see in Jesus' passion and death that many of the people surrounding him thought that he was so evil that he must be crucified (punishment for only the worst crimes in ancient times).

Next, I would say that Christ promised similar treatment for those in the Church. "If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first" (Jn 15:18). The Apostles especially experienced this because they continued to perfom the works of Christ (forgive sins, cast out demons, e.g.) and teach as He taught. So, all of them (except John) received the same treatment as Christ: they were hated and put to death.

Also, I would remind those to whom I'm speaking that what we say about the Church, we say about Christ. Christ and the Church are one; Christ is the head, the Church is the body (see Col 1:24, Eph 5). St Paul even says in Ephesians 5 that Christ is one with the Church as a husband is one with his wife. "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church" (v.25). The Church is the visible sign of Christ on Earth.

Finally, the living tradition of the Church shows a living tradition of love. For 2000 years, there have been numerous examples of devout men and women who faithfully lived according to the precepts of the Church. They lived heroic virtue; we call them saints. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is a great example. Here was a woman who believed and lived everything that the Church teaches. She lived heroic love that the world has never seen. Yet, some called her a phony. Some called her evil...just like Jesus.

At the heart of Christ is Love. At the heart of the Church is Love. At the heart of the saints is Love. Anyone who says differently doesn't know what (or Who) Love is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

To Jesus through Mary

Last week, Christine Regan wrote: "One area I really have never explored or understood very well is the topic of Marian devotion. I have been told as Catholics, part of our faith that distinguishes us from other denominations includes special attention to the Virgin Mary. Though this has interested me, this area of our faith was never really explored or explained in my years in Catholic school, though very important, and has made it difficult to learn more. I have been thinking about it lately and would really enjoy reading up on the importance of our Holy Mother in our lives and how I can learn from her example. Any suggestions?"

Thanks, Christine, for your timely question about our Blessed Mother. Today is the day we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; this feast commemorates Mary being taken up into Heaven, body and soul. It is such an important event that the Church has made August 15 a solemnity (the highest feast) each year, and a Holy Day of Obligation. The Assumption is a beautiful celebration of Mary's immaculate life on Earth and entry into heavenly glory.

When we think about Mary's role in our own lives, we can think about how important our own mothers are to us. It is through the 'yes' to life that our mothers said so many years ago that we exist. It is through the 'yes' to love that they said in raising us that we are the people that we are today. We are the results of their love. Put in a more spiritual way, we are the fruit of their wombs.

Mary said 'yes' to God her whole life; she never sinned. Specifically and most importantly, she said yes at the Annunciation when God asked her to give birth to his Son. She was a teenager (b/w 14-16 years old)!! By the power of the Holy Spirit (see Lk 1:35), Mary conceived Christ in her womb. It is through Mary that Christ entered the world. It is through her that Salvation, Love, Peace, Mercy, and Truth entered the world. It is through her that Eternal Life entered the world.

Christ (and Christianity) is the fruit of Mary's womb! We say in the 'Hail Mary', "blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus" (cf Lk 1:42). What fruit she bore in her womb! She conceived, gave birth, nurtured, cared for, and raised our Savior! How important is Mary in God's Plan of Salvation! Everything we have in Christ comes about through her. We have life in Christ through her.

Mary is the Mother of God and our mother (cf. Jn 19:26-27). Just like with our own mothers, we give thanks to God for our Mother in Heaven and regularly turn to her for help. Christ comes to us through Mary. So, we are to go to Jesus through Mary*.
*I will post in the near future about how to go to Jesus through Mary; one way is to pray the Rosary. In answer to someone's recent question, we should pray the Rosary (five decades, at least) every day, as Mary has requested in her apparitions.

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Hell is not spoken of anymore" (cont.)

This is a continuation of my post from Friday which responded to a blogger's question about Hell. I will post my notes on Heaven and Purgatory in the near future. Once again, we have nothing to fear in we live in the Grace of Christ.
c. How long does Hell last?
- “eternal fire, eternal punishment, eternal separation

- Lk 16:19-31 The rich man and Lazarus
- “a great gulf has been fixed, to prevent those who want to cross from our side to yours or from your side to ours

d. Who goes there? (we know there are souls in Hell, but can’t know specifically whom)


Jesus : see notes from previous post +

- “all evil doers” (Mt 13:41)
- “many take the road that leads to destruction” (Mt 7:13)
- “the elect are few” (Mt 22:14)
- “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 19:24) - referring to someone whose god is money

- is Judas in Hell? can't say for sure, but Jesus says it is “better for that man (by whom the Son of Man is betrayed) if he had never been born!” (Mt 26:24)

-“anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a branch-and withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and burnt” (Jn 15:6)

St. Paul
- "those who behave in these ways (sexual vice, impurity and sensuality, the worship of false gods and sorcery, antagonisms and rivalry, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels, disagreements, factions and malice, drunkenness, orgies and such things) will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:18-21; cf. 1 Cor. 6:10)

St. John
- “sin that leads to death” (1 Jn 5:16) - i.e., mortal sin

-“those who die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, # 1033).

- mortal sin:
1. grave offense (it's wrong) -mainly, direct offenses against the Ten Commandments
2. full knowledge (I know it's wrong)
3. full consent (I freely choose to do it)

CCC, 1861:
- "mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace.
- "if it is not redeemed by repentance and God's forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ's kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back.
- "However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God" (in other words, we can judge an action as a grave offense, but only God can judge what's in a person's heart; that's why we can never say that "so and so" is in Hell; also, we don't know if at the moment of death that he/she showed some sign of repentance-'Lord, have mercy' - that God would take into account in his infinite Mercy)

4 distinctions of Hell:
a) damned - eternal punishment
b) limbo (Abraham’s bosom) - holy souls (from OT) there until Christ freed them
c) limbo (infants) – not official teaching; but "Holy Innocents"?
d) purgatory - temporal punishment

-“God predestines no one to go to Hell" (CCC, #1037)

- Hell is the result of free will, and ultimately, God's Love
- God loves us so much that He has given us free will in order that we will choose to be with Him in Heaven
- He respects our free will so much that He allows us to choose to reject Him; He helps us so much in our lives (with His grace) to choose Him, but won't ever force us to love Him
- our free will is REAL (the "power to make choices for ever, with no turning back")
- God wills each of us to choose Heaven, but allows us to choose Hell
Fatima prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

19th Sunday, Ordinary - Homily

It’s interesting to think about how much time we spend each week or even each day watching movies or television…listening to music…surfing the internet. There are a variety of reasons why we spend so much of our free time on these different media. We might feel that movies make us laugh or make us cry. We might experience certain emotions through a character or like a particular actor. Movies entertain us. But, the question is, are movies real? For the most part, no they are not. And yet, we invest so much time, money, and energy in them.

Then, we ask the question that many people don’t like to answer. How much time do we spend with God each week? I trust that it's at least one hour a week…at Mass. So, the question is, is what happens at Mass real? Yes!! If we have some understanding of what takes place during Mass, then we know that what happens here blows away any movie that’s ever been made. God appears before our very eyes! In probably my favorite line from Scripture, Jesus tells us in John 6:51 from today’s Gospel that this is true: “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world”.

What happened on Mount Calvary was real. Even the most ardent atheist in the world would agree that Jesus of Nazareth shed his blood and died on a Cross 2000 years ago. It’s an historical fact. It was really his flesh and blood on the Cross. We differ with the atheist, of course, with what happened three days later in the Resurrection. Christ teaches us in John 6:51 that the same flesh and blood that was on the Cross is the same flesh and blood on the altar at each Mass.

If we put John 6:51 into an equation, we see that “the bread that I will give” (the Eucharist) “is” (equals ) “my flesh for the life of the world”. So, the Eucharist = flesh. The Eucharist that is on the altar at Mass is the same flesh and blood that Jesus offered for the life of the world on Good Friday. People will ask, ‘so, does Jesus die over and over again at every Mass?’ No, Scripture says he “died once and for all”. His sacrifice on Mount Calvary is re-presented on the altar under the signs of bread and wine.

The only difference has to do with what happened since Good Friday: the Resurrection. The Eucharist is the risen body and blood of Christ. It is the same Jesus. What happens at Mass is real, and it is awesome, baby! Awesome!!

So, we come to this Mass and every Mass to give thanks to God the Father for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. In a special way, we give thanks for the Eucharist. Eucharist comes from the Greek word, ‘eukaristeion’ (sp?), which means ‘thanksgiving’. We thank Jesus for this incredible gift. Thank you, Jesus, for your sacrifice for us. Thank you for giving us your life. Thank you for the Eucharist. Thank you for your life. Thank you for your love. Thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


All comments of sincere bloggers on these sites are welcome on this site, even ones that contain personal attacks and judgements on Fr. Greg. This is an open forum. But, recently, we have had an enormous amount of unwelcome comments: those by spammers. These have been comments which contain links to all kinds of sites; yes, all kinds of sites.

So, I was forced to install "word verification" last night. What this means is that you simply type in the word that comes up on the screen when you try to publish a comment. Sorry that we have had to do this, but it's the best way to prevent the filth that these spammers bring.

Thanks for your patience and support (especially my SFA backers!!).

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Hell is not spoken of anymore"

Confessions and Adoration, tonight (8/11), 7 pm, SAA Church - We will expose the Eucharist and I will be available in the Church booths for Confession this Friday, starting at 7 pm. All are welcome!
An anonymous blogger wrote last week: "This is not pertaining to the theme but I was wondering one thing. When I was growing up and going to CCD classes, Hell was a big component of it. If you didn't go to Mass, didn't listen to your parents etc. were all roads that led to Hell we were taught. Hell is not spoken of anymore. Have the standards changed as to what could lead you there or has it become more symbolic?"

Thanks for this important question! Here are some of the notes I use when I give my talk about Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory (Judgement). I will post the notes on Hell first over the next week or so, and then Heaven, then Purgatory. Hope it helps! Please keep in mind that if we live in the Grace of Christ, we have nothing to fear.

a. Does it exist?

- refers to Hell 28 times and eternal punishment about 90 times in the Gospels
- uses the terms Hades, Gehenna, Eternal Fire, Field of blood
- Mk 9:43-48, e.g.
- Mt 10:28-“fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell
- Mt 25:46- those who don’t care for the least of Christ’s brothers and sisters “will go away to eternal punishment

-“wailing and grinding of teeth
- the good-for-nothing servant (Mt 25:30)
- children of the kingdom (of darkness) – Mt 8:12
- the man not dressed for the wedding feast – Mt 22:13

St. Paul
- for those who “refuse to accept the gospel of our Lord Jesus…their punishment is to be lost eternally, excluded from the presence of the Lord”(2 Thess 1:9)

St. Peter
- “when angels sinned, God did not spare them: he sent them down into the underworld and consigned them to the dark abyss to be held there until the Judgement”(2 Pet 2:4)

Book of Revelation
- “all those who worship the (devil) …will be tortured…forever”(14:10)

– early Church Fathers described Hell as “eternal punishment”; affirmed by early Church councils and Pope Benedict XII (1336)

- St Teresa of Avila: "I was at prayer one day when suddenly, without knowing how, I found myself...plunged into Hell...I felt a fire within my soul the nature of which I am incapable of describing. My bodily sufferings were so intolerable...and these are nothing by comparison with the agony of my soul, an oppression, a suffocation and an affliction so deeply felt"

- Fatima* – vision of Hell by children: sea of fire; demons and souls with burning embers, black and transparent; terrifying looking animals; children cried out for all to hear

b. What is it like?
-we only know what’s been revealed to us

Scripture (described above)

Church- “hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned and in which they are deprived of the sight of God and are in dreadful torments for all eternity” (Baltimore Catechism)

pain of loss
- being separated by God, rejected by Christ (“I know you not”-Mt 25:12)
- shame, regret, despair

pain of sense (torments)
-“fire” (of Gehenna) – “the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out” (Mt 3:12)
- principal means of torments that will be different than earthly fire because it will affect both body and soul

- the pain of the sense will be as nothing compared to the pain of loss

- “We must not ask where hell is, but how we are to avoid it” (St. John Chrysostom)

- Hell is eternal separation from God (Catechism of the Catholic Church)

- “hell is not a punishment imposed by God…it is the natural consequence of an unrepentant sinner’s choice against God” (Pope John Paul II)

- basically, when the person dies, he sees the face of God and he realizes at that moment that he is not worthy to be with God for all eternity; he realizes that he chose hell during his life (GWS)

*Fatima prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of thy mercy."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7)...

Confessions in the SAA Church tomorrow night (8/11), starting just after 7 pm.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Great discussion on suffering!

Wow, what a great discussion on the SFA site on suffering from my August 1 post, 'Why does God allow suffering?'! Really good insights! In particular, someone asked about how to help his/her sister who suffers much. As we all do, the sister struggles to handle suffering the moment it hits in a Christ-like manner.

Might I suggest meditating on the seven "words" that Christ spoke from the Cross. Please check out my post on the SFA site from April 14, 2006, "The Seven Last Words of Christ".

I would specifically point to the word Christ cries out when he is experiencing some of his greatest pain: "my God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" At this moment, Anon, He is uniting himself to your sister (and to any of us) who feels "so alone in her suffering", as you wrote.

Does this mean that Christ lost his faith in the Father on the Cross? No. One of his next words is "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit". He is one with the Father always. But, he is showing that, in his human nature, he is truly one with us, even experiencing the greatest pain of all: the pain of feeling alone.

Christ knows exactly how your sister feels, and is probably the only one who really does. And, she knows how He felt. She is united with Him in a very intimate way. If she can unite her words at the moment of agony to his "words", then I would say she is being about as Christ-like as a person can be in her Grace-filled situation.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"If you miss Mass..."

Confessions and Adoration, Friday (8/11), 7 pm, Church - We will expose the Eucharist and I will be available in the Church booths for Confession this Friday, starting at 7 pm. All are welcome!
Yesterday, someone asked, "if you miss a Mass or you haven't been to Mass for a few weeks, are you allowed to take communion?" Good question! If someone intentionally misses Mass on Sunday or a Holy Day of Obligation, then he/she should not receive Holy Communion until he/she goes to Confession. The reason for this is because we can never receive the Body and Blood of Christ in a state of mortal sin.

How is intentionally missing Mass a mortal sin? Well, let's review the three conditions of a mortal sin: 1) Grave offense - it's seriously wrong, 2) full knowledge-I fully know it's wrong, and 3) full consent-I freely choose to do it. It is a grave offense to miss Sunday Mass. Catholics know they need to go to Mass on Sunday. So, if they freely choose to skip, then all three conditions would be met, and the act would be considered a mortal sin. [But, if someone does not freely choose to miss, - e.g., on vacation and no Mass is offered where they are, or no way of getting to Church, or too sick, or homebound - then it's not a mortal sin.] As I wrote in my post last Friday, "receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is itself a mortal sin".

Any time we are not sure - or have any doubt at all - if a particular sin that we committed during the week was a mortal sin, we should not receive (still come forward, but cross your arms over your chest, and receive a blessing). While this isn't ideal (I would recommend going to Confession asap), the most important point here is to respect the Body of Christ. I have great respect for those who respect the Eucharist, and are not worried about what others in Church might think.

With this in mind, we recall a great blog made here in late July by Pete S, a SAA teen. Pete wrote a pretty amazing post about John 6:53; I agree with most of what he wrote. But, keep in mind that Christ speaks to us here as individuals, and telling us that He is the life of our souls. Without Him, our souls die. Just like if our bodies don't eat food, they will die, so, too, our souls will die without eating spiritual food.

The Eucharist is our spiritual food. It is "eternal life" dwelling within us. It is Heaven on Earth! "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life" (v.54) is referring not just to when we die, but Sunday. I can experience eternal on Earth.

But, if we consistently live without the Eucharist, we consistently live without eternal here on Earth. If done knowingly and freely, it brings darkness and death to our souls: "no life within you".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Spiritual reading

Recently, someone asked for a list of books that I would recommend for spiritual reading. Here are ten solid recommendations for those in the beginning and intermediate stages of the spiritual life. If anyone is looking for more advanced spiritual reading, please let me know.

1. "Introduction to the Devout Life" by St Francis de Sales (Tan books).
2. "The Story of a Soul" by St Therese of Lisieux (Tan books).
3. "The Sun Danced at Fatima" by Fr. Joseph Pelletier, A.A.
4. "Treasure in Clay" by Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Doubleday).
5. "St Francis of Assisi" by Omer Englebert (Servant Publications).
6. "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis.
7. "The Life of Christ" by Fulton Sheen (Image books).
8. "Modern Saints" by Ann Ball (Tan), Books One and Two.
9. "True Devotion to Mary" by St Louis de Montfort (Tan).
10. "The Lamb's Supper" by Scott Hahn (Doubleday).

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Transfiguration - Homily

Recently, we’ve been having a great discussion on the blog site about modest dress. Many people have written some excellent questions and comments, including two female teens who gave some good insights into why dressing modestly is important. The discussion led to how we should dress for Church. Someone asked, ‘Fr Greg, is there a dress code for Church?’ I said, “yes, wear your Sunday best”. Please check out the blog site for this and other discussions. People have made some really good comments and questions… it is really good stuff.

In today’s Gospel, we hear about the clothing of Jesus. He goes up on the mountain with Peter, James, and John, and among other things, “his clothes become dazzling white”. This vision fulfills so many Scriptures, including the first reading from the prophet Daniel. There are so many parts of the Old Testament and New Testament that speak of the radiance of the clothing of the Son of Man, and how it reveals the glory that will be his in the next life. So, this feast of the Transfiguration is a preview of the glory that Christ will have in its fullness in the Kingdom of Heaven.

If we use clothing to represent our souls, can our clothes become dazzling white? Can we be transfigured? Can we share in the glory of Christ? Well, on the day of our Baptism, this is what our soul looked like (I hold up a white t-shirt). Clean, pure, dazzling white. Ok, so maybe this shirt is not dazzling white…but it is clean! Actually… my laundry is washed here by others, and it’s done quite often. That takes some getting used to…! Anyway, the shirt IS clean!

But, we don’t stay this way for too long, unfortunately. As we get older, we start to make choices that aren’t the best for our souls. We begin to put dirt and filth on our souls. We lose our dazzling whiteness. (I hold up a white t-shirt with some dirt and mud on it) This is what venial sin does to our soul. Sins like gossiping, cursing, dressing immodestly, being an Eagles or a Giants fan...!

Now, very unfortunately, some of us, maybe many of us, make choices that are very bad for our souls. We do things that are seriously wrong and bring serious filth, dirt, and junk to our souls. (I hold up a white t-shirt that is completely covered with dirt and mud) This is what a soul in a state of mortal sin looks like. Yuk!! We can lose our whiteness completely due to sins like deliberately missing Mass on Sunday, drunkenness, fornication, being a Cowboys fan...!

If our souls are in either state, can we become dazzling white? Yes, through Him (I point to the tabernacle) and in Him. If we come to Mass looking like this (I hold up the dirty shirt), we ask God to forgive our sins (at the beginning of every Mass). Then, when we receive the Eucharist in Holy Communion, we go back to our pews looking like this (I hold up the dazzling white shirt). If our souls look like this (I hold up the shirt caked with mud) and we go to Confession, we confess our sins to Christ through the person of the priest. No matter how much filth we have, no matter how long it’s been, if we are truly sorry, Christ will forgive all of our sins. We walk out of the Confessional, and look like this (I hold up the dazzling white shirt). We cannot do this on our own, though. Only Christ can make us dazzling white. The Gospel says that no human cleaner on Earth could have made his clothes that white. Only He can make us totally clean and pure.

In a few minutes, Christ will appear to us in a different way. Just as he appeared differently on the mountain to Peter, James, and John, so he will appear differently to us on this mountain, the altar of God. He will appear to us in the form of bread and wine. As I elevate Him, let each of us call to mind the words of the Father from the Gospel: ‘“This is my beloved Son, listen to Him”…look at Him…through Him, may you all know that I love you’.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"In one day the Eucharist will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it."

- St. Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1869)

Friday, August 04, 2006

"Let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord"

Mass and Adoration tonight: All are invited to join us for Holy Mass (7 pm) and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament (from 7:25 to 8:25) in the Church tonight to honor the First Friday of the month. We'll have quiet prayer, music, and I'll give a reflection. Come for some of it or come for all of it. Please join us!!
Just before Holy Communion at every Mass that I celebrate, I say, "Let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord". One SAA blogger wrote the following comments in response to hearing that invitation:

"When I heard the invitation to communion you offered, I was taken aback. Was I not a 'good and faithful' Catholic because I hadn't been to mass last Sunday? Did your invitation not include me, should I stay in my seat? If I did stay in my seat, would people wonder what I had done that made me not a 'good and faithful' Catholic? I had never heard such an invitation in my many years of attending Catholic masses at various parishes. Perhaps my reaction is the exact one you are looking for- that parishoners should approach communion in a contemplative state- questioning whether their actions were those of a good and faithful Catholic".

The first time I celebrated Mass at the different times here at St Andrew's, I made the following announcement before Holy Communion: "Just as a reminder about who may receive Holy Communion...reception of the Holy Eucharist is reserved for Catholics who are in a state of Grace. If you are able to receive, please come forward and receive either in the hands (with one hand on top of the other, making a throne for our King) or on the tongue. If you are not Catholic or not in a state of Grace, please still come forward and cross your arms over your chest, and you will receive a blessing".

Having given this explanation once at each of the Masses, I don't see the need to reiterate it. However, it is necessary for me to briefly remind those in the congregation at each Mass about the guidelines for reception of the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ. It is very serious business! Keep in mind the words of St. Paul: "whoever eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Cor 11:27) and that he/she "eats and drinks judgment on himself" (v.29).

None of us is truly worthy to receive Jesus in the Eucharist; but, Christ himself commands us to “take this all of you and eat it”. It is the Grace of Christ that makes us worthy. Grace fills us with God and His life, and thus makes us clean and pure. Our souls need to be clean in order to receive our Lord in the Eucharist. They need to be free of the filth that mortal sin brings. If we lose the state of grace through mortal sin, we cannot receive the Lord in Holy Communion; receiving Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is itself a mortal sin.

The soul that is in a state of Grace has life; the soul that is in a state of mortal sin (“deadly sin” – 1 Jn 5:16) does not. As one commentator has put it, the soul in mortal sin is like a “chamber of death”; if Christ enters this soul, he enters death. It is like bringing about his death… this is what St. Paul means about having to “answer for the body and blood of the Lord”.

So, Anon, thank you for your great question and giving me the opportunity to expound on my invitation at each Mass. One of the reasons I give it is because there are probably non-Catholics at every Mass (I met a Lutheran woman who had been receiving the Eucharist for 2 years; she didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be). Another reason is what you said which echoes St. Paul that “a person should examine himself” (v.28) before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.

One of the biggest things that each of us will be judged on is how we respected the Eucharist while here on Earth. It is also one of the greatest things Christ will judge me on as a priest and “guardian of the Eucharist”: did I treat the celebration and distribution of His Sacred Body and Blood with great reverence and care?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" - Jn 8:12.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"In all truth I tell you, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy" -Jn 16:20.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

'Why does God allow suffering?'

First Friday Mass and Adoration, August 4, SAA Church:
Holy Mass at 7 pm, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to follow. Please join us!
Six years ago, I had the great privilege of spending a few weeks in Calcutta, India, with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters). I was there with a few other seminarians working and praying each day with the sisters. One night, the nun who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the order said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “Greg, those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most.”

Obviously, we saw widespread suffering on the streets of Calcutta. Thousands of people everywhere, even little kids, suffering tremendously from hunger and disease. There was so much filth and heat; such oppressive conditions which I had never fathomed, much less seen. That experience has helped me to better understand suffering. For example, reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah (from today's first reading at Mass) when he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought: “ my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword…look! those consumed by hunger”(Jer 14: 17-18). He’s essentially saying to God, 'Lord, do you see this?' His cries are similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’

Jeremiah arrives at an answer a few lines down in this passage. “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you”(v.20). Suffering is a natural result of sin. The Israelites had sinned against God. They had broken the covenant. They worshipped false gods, didn’t keep the commandments, and didn’t love their neighbor as they should.

God’s feelings about those who suffer are most likely the same as Jeremiah’s. God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing His children in pain. Ultimately, His answer to the question of suffering is that He sends His Son to suffer for our sake. He has not only remembered His covenant with us, He has created a new covenant. This new covenant is centered on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. If anyone wishes to live the new covenant with the Lord, he or she must center their lives on the cross of Jesus Christ, on which He suffered tremendously. Jesus himself says, “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Lk 9:23).

The reward for those who suffer is not found in this life. Jesus says,“my kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). All those in Calcutta, those here in America, the sick and the dying, those in our family, our friends, ourselves, anyone who endures suffering in any form for the sake of love is a great friend of Jesus Christ. Jesus promises eternal rewards for His close friends. For all those who have imitated Him so well and united their suffering to His, Christ proclaims in today's Gospel: “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).