Friday, June 30, 2006

The Eucharist is Jesus' risen body

Summer softball for SAA Young Adults: any SAA young adults interested in playing some softball this summer, please email me (go to my profile for my email address). We'll play games on the Athletic Field, and then maybe get together for some refreshments afterwards!
When I introduced myself the first weekend here, I mentioned that for the first twenty years of my life, I thought that the Eucharist was just a symbol of the Body and Blood of Christ. I'm sure, at some point, that I'd been taught about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, having been raised in a strong Catholic home and gone through fourteen years of Catholic school. I just didn't get it.

Years ago, a study revealed that about 70% of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is merely a symbol, a representation of Christ's flesh and blood. From where did I get this erroneous understanding? From where do the 70% get it? There are, at least, a few possible answers, but these are more rhetorical questions than anything for my purposes here.

It was pretty much one conversation with a priest that changed my understanding, and changed my life. Fr. Tom Wells was a good friend with whom I played golf regularly (the 19th Hole was our favorite), went on beach trips, and discussed everything under the sun - religion, politics, sports, etc. He was a great priest who was brilliant, funny (probably the funnest person I've ever met), holy, and a 100 % believer in the Eucharist.

One day when I was twenty-one, I was sitting in Fr. Wells' office, shooting the breeze with my buddy. I somehow blurted out, "well, you know, Father, the Eucharist is just a symbol". "What??", he said. "It's a ...symbol?", I said very shakily. He replied in a very casual but firm manner, "Greg, 'this is my body' means 'THIS IS MY BODY'". I was simultaneously dumbfounded, intrigued, inspired, and curious the moment these words registered in my mind and heart. That was the moment the light bulb went on: FINALLY, I GOT IT!

We continued talking about how the Eucharist is really Jesus' Body and Blood. Fr Wells explained to me that Jesus doesn't die over and over again at every Mass; Scripture says that Christ died once and for all (see Rom 6:10, Heb 7:27). The Eucharist that is present on the altar at Mass, in the tabernacle in the Church, and that we receive in Holy Communion is the RISEN body of Christ. This realization changed my life (I will write more about this in a future post).

"The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world" - Jn 6:51.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Do you believe in the Resurrection?

The most fundamental question of Christianity is: "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" In fact, it is the THE question that separates Christians from non-Christians. Quite simply, anyone who answers 'yes' is saying that he is a Christian; anyone who says 'no' is saying that he is not. So, what does it mean to say that Jesus rose from the dead? What does it mean to believe in the Resurrection?

If I say that I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then I believe that he has power over all things, even death. If I stop and think about what it means for a person to rise from the dead, it is mind-blowing! Jesus died a terrible and cruel death. He hung on a cross for at least three hours, and then died of suffocation. The death of Jesus of Nazareth is an indisputable, historical fact; even the most ardent atheist would admit that Jesus shed his flesh and blood on Mount Calvary.

His life had ended. "He breathed his last" (Lk 23:46). This is confirmed by all of the Gospel writers, as well as the reaction of the disciples: "(they) were mourning and in tears" (Mk 16:10). We can only imagine the tremendous sorrow and grief the disciples felt. Was Jesus not the Son of God? Not the Messiah? Was he a false prophet? Was he a liar and a blasphemer?

As they pondered these serious and somber questions for three days in their mourning, they received startling news from Mary Magdelene on the third day. "He has risen from the dead" (Mt 28:7). Those who went to see the empty tomb where Christ was buried were amazed at what they saw, and believed. He is risen!!

To believe in the Resurrection of Jesus is to believe that He is the Anointed One...He is the Christ. No one has risen from the dead before Him, and no one has done it after Him. He is the Resurrection (Jn 11:25). He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn 14:6). Everything he said is true, and he is God's only Son. He offers us his life, and all those who believe in Him and live the Gospel share in his Resurrection (life after death). Do you believe?

"If Christ has not been raised, your faith is pointless and you have not, after all, been released from your sins" (1 Cor 15:16, 17).

Saturday, June 24, 2006

First Mass of Thanksgiving!

(Originally written on May 30, 2006)

"God is awesome!!" That was one of the first things I said at my first Mass of Thanksgiving this past Saturday evening after being ordained a priest of Jesus Christ earlier in the day. It was an AWESOME weekend!! God is very good! Here are some pictures from the first Mass (no pics from the Ordination online yet). I will try to write about the Ordination experience asap. Please pray for the 12 of us newly-ordained priests!

1) Before Mass
2) Residents of Gift of Peace / Missionaries of Charity
3) My friend, Katie, becomes Catholic by making her profession of faith
4) Offertory with my nieces and nephews
5) Full Church!
6) Eucharistic Procession in front of the youth
7) God is awesome!!

Friday, June 23, 2006

The experience of Ordination day

(Originally written on June 4, 2006)
Ireland '06!! In the spirit and tradition of our good friend, Msgr Thomas Wells, some buddies and I are going to Ireland today until June 14. Should be a fun trip...lots o golf and seeing God's Country.
It's still hard for me to put into words what happened last Saturday, May 27, at my Ordination to the priesthood and first Mass of Thanksgiving, but I'll try. In general terms, it was an experience of the Holy Spirit...the glory of God...the kingdom of Heaven. It was awesome!!

I was moved powerfully by the Spirit at the Ordination. During the Rite of Ordination, the twelve of us lay prostrate while the Church sang the Litany of Saints. I internally made my promises for my life as a priest to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. It was intense. I laid down my life as I laid on the floor, and asked the Holy Trinity to help me live out my promises. It brought many tears because it was one of the most profound and serious senses of intimacy I've ever had.

Then, after the laying on of hands (the moment of ordination), all of the priests - about 200 - laid hands on each of us twelve. Tears again! The picture from The Washington Post didn't show them which was probably cool. Again, I really can't put into words why I was crying and was moved so much, other than to say it was the Holy Spirit. What that means is that I was open to receiving the Spirit in the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and was REALLY receiving the Spirit (I remember reading once that the gift of tears is a gift of the Spirit). So, at the Ordination, when I wasn't shedding tears of joy, I was smiling with great joy!!

After the almost 3 hour Ordination, I gave "first blessings" for over an hour. That was intense, too! The coolest and most powerful part was when people kissed my hands. My hands were anointed with sacred Chrism just after the laying on of hands, and now are the hands of Christ (when I perform the sacraments). That was one of the moments that told me things were different, and that now I'm a priest!

The first Mass which was later that evening...I was never really nervous - too happy to be nervous. We had many different things going on in the Mass, and I was very focused on them. Everything went so well, thanks be to God, and it really was a glorious liturgy. It was a normal Sunday vigil Mass with a few things added: a friend of mine coming into the Church, and Adoration and Procession of Jesus in the Eucharist in front of about 200 youth around the altar area.

From what I've gathered, many people at the first Mass had a very powerful spiritual experience. Again, it was an experience of the Holy Spirit. At one point in the Adoration and Procession, I could feel all 1000 sets of eyes on Jesus in the Eucharist. If that's true or even close to being true, then we all had the same experience - a powerful encounter with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit in the person of a newly ordained priest. Faith is awesome stuff!! It's all about faith!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ordination pictures

Here are some photos from the Priesthood Ordination of 12 of us on May 27. Many thanks to my friends, Mary Lee O'Connell and her daughter, Kathy, for all of their help!
1) Processing in
2) The Cardinal's homily
3) Just after the laying on of hands (I'm a priest now!)
4) The priests (about 200 of them) lay hands on us
5) Being vested as a priest (my good friend, Fr Dan Leary, vested me)
6) Concelebrating the Eucharist
7) The 12 of us - largest class of DC priests in 33 years!